Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Serious equipment: Part 1

I think one thing everyone can agree on is that your equipment is going to have an impact on your game. It doesn't matter your skill level, swing type, strengths or weaknesses - if you are using equipment it's going to impact your game.  Pros can play with a lot.  They can play WELL with a lot, but you'll never see a pro tee off at the masters with an old club or a stock club.  Let's not delude ourselves.. the ball the pros play is not the ball that you buy down the street at Golf n' Stuff. It's just not.  Realistically speaking, no two balls are even the same between players. They get paid for a name. Back in the late 90s, it was rumored that Tiger woods was playing an unmarked set of Mizuno irons even though he was signed with Nike. Not uncommon, as players will play what it takes to win. Winning is what they do and they will hit thousands of balls in front of a Trackman system to find the perfect compression, shaft, grip, and swing to do so.

With all this being said, there's still those people out there who say "it's the player, not the equipment".  OK, Socrates, there's a target 1000 yards away and you have to shoot it or you can never play golf again.  Your choice is a revolutionary war muzzle loader or this Barret .50cal with a scope. Unless they REALLY hate golf, they're going to go with the Barret. Even if they've never shot a gun before.
So easy a child could do it!!

Why do you think that is?  Even someone who has no idea what is in store for them with the Barret, it just looks cool and damn, it has a scope and a bipod, it's gotta be more accurate right?  Confidence inspires success --- and a little shoulder pain. It's the same with golf. When you have equipment that is fit for the purpose, engineered to do what it's supposed to do with little effort, and it inspires confidence in you that's a triple threat of goodness in your favor.  This is where club fitting and club technology come in. If you guy a set of clubs new - the fitting should come with it.  If it doesn't, shop somewhere else. There are two types of club fittings in my opinion:

Measurement Fitting  
 The pro or assistant will take your wrist to floor measurement. Measure your hands (or give you different grip sizes to try) and have you hit a few to see what your tendencies are with different length clubs depending on your body composition (Ratio of legs to torso, etc).  This fitting is very basic and is most suitable for a beginner who hasn't grooved any swing tendencies yet. Reason being that without swing tendencies, a club that is the proper length and standard lie will prevent any compensation from creeping in and allow the player to groove a good, repeatable swing. 

Custom Fitting
This is the fitting to end all fittings. Measurements taken same as above. This time, you hit balls and hit balls and hit balls in front of a launch monitor.  Spin rates are taken, lie boards are used, ball and swing speeds are taken and matched up to the right head and shaft combination to create optimal feel and performance from each club. When this fitting is over, the wand in your hand is tailored just for you and your swing. 

The pros do fittings on a weekly basis. I'm sure we all wish we had that kind of money, but if you're serious about playing golf, I recommend a club evaluation once every 2 years. Around these parts they're $50. A small price to pay to know you've still got the right sticks for your swing.  Of course... should things change there's the cost of making the changes, but we'll get into that in another page. 
Oddly enough, i'm not here to talk about club fitting. I'm here to talk about BALL fitting. If you're a serious golfer and want to play competitively then club fitting is a must. If you're a recreational golfer who just likes to buy clubs off the rack and play golf, you can get the most out of your game by doing a ball fitting. You owe it to yourself to not just play with any old ball. It's remarkable how much more fun the game is and how many strokes you can take off just by having a ball that works for you. It's very simple and a very cheap way to get more distance and accuracy out of your old equipment. I recently went for my yearly ball fitting as I've noticed my driver distances starting to come down. I was still scoring at the green but hitting 6 iron into a par 4 when i used to hit an 8 was becoming the norm. Here are the sheets:

Warm-Up - Page 1 (driver)
page 2 (driver)

head-to-head matchup
front runners VS my current(ProV1)  (Pitching Wedge)
My normal ball has been the Titleist ProV1 for the last 2 years. My swing produced low spinning shots from the long clubs and i was getting plenty of distance so the scoring area was where I looked the most.  This year, not so much.  With all the new technology out there the ball is one of the most re-designed items in the golf world. Materials, dimple patterns, and aerodynamic changes are always being discovered and the ball is doing things that the Gutta-percha never could. What i found out is that by using the ProV1 - a highly touted and used ball by tour professionals and amateurs alike - I'm actually losing distance AND accuracy. Considering I wasted about 7 strokes in the trees last round and still shot 76, I believe it's time to at least give something new a try and I did. Love the ball. Love having my distance back and for the price of 80 RPMs around the green I now have the 8 iron instead of the 6 iron as my second shot. I brought the long iron spin down and increased accuracy while maintaining the soft feel that I got with my old ball.  

Try it, you might find yourself playing the round of your life because of a little white ball. Of course, if you just like to drink beer and drive the cart around you're free to play whatever equipment you want. It's a free country - just remember to yell "fore", please. 

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