2015 Golf Equipment Guide.

Hate to Say It...

Hate to Say It…

First blog post since before the NFL playoffs.  How did they turn out by the way.  This would have been a niche post back when people actually visited the blog, and now I’m mostly just doing it for my own amusement.  I do love golf equipment.  Even if I never actually buy any of it…

DRIVERS:

 

A G30 For All Occasions.

A G30 For All Occasions.

Callaway has a campaign out there right now called “Pathway to Distance,” the thought being that there are only a few ways to gain distance with the driver and they have a driver for each category.  I hate to parrot advertisements, but there is some truth to what Callaway is saying.  We are running out of ways to get longer with the driver.  The spring of the face has been maximized.  The size of the club head has been maximized.  So, the bad news could be, if you have an R11s, or a G25, or 910D3 and you hit it consistently with low spin you probably aren’t going to find much distance in a new driver.  The only way to gain distance anymore is by reducing the spin for a high spin player, or to give a vastly more forgiving club to someone who is not a consistent ball-striker.  For me, that puts drivers into two categories.  Easy to Hit and Low Spin.

Easy to Hit Rankings: 

  1. Ping G30 Standard & SF Tec
  2. Callaway XR
  3. Nike Vapor Speed
  4. TaylorMade Aeroburner
  5. Callaway Big Bertha 815

Ping took a really forgiving driver in the G25 and improved on it with the G30.  I can’t honestly say I’ve seen the turbulators add a lot of club head speed for many golfers, but the performance across the entire face of the G30 is remarkably consistent.  The SF Tec head, which stands for Straight Flight, is a draw-biased head that will help slicers a good bit more than any hosel adjustment.  Elsewhere, the Nike Vapor lineup has some of the best feel I’ve felt on a driver in years, and the Aeroburner is a no-frills, non-adjustable offering that with remind you of the originall RBZ.

Low Spin Rankings:

  1. Callaway 815 Double Black Diamond
  2. Ping G30 LS Tec
  3. Nike Vapor Pro/FlexFlight
  4. TaylorMade R15
  5. Callaway XR Pro

Note 1: These rankings are based not on my preference, but on the ability of the club to reduce spin for a golfer who makes no other changes.

Note 2: The rankings omit the still unseen Titleist 915 D4.  The Titleist 915 D2 and D3 are both very good drivers, but don’t quite make either list.  Neither is the most forgiving and the D3 cannot compete spin wise with some of these other options, but the drivers would still fit many players.

Taking away spin is all about sacrifice.  How much forgiveness can you give up?  What about launch angle? I prefer the drivers on the lower portion of this list and the 915 D3, because I launch the ball quite low.  The G30 LS Tec launches like a low knuckleball for me and rolls for days, but I don’t carry it anywhere.  But, take someone who easily launches a driver at 13-16 degrees and the club can turn into an absolute cannon for them.  The Double Black Diamond is the least forgiving head on this list by a margin in my opinion, but if you must reduce your driver spin, it is a must try.  And, TaylorMade is back this year with a much better line of drivers.  The R15 has all the positives of the SLDR, but is much easier to hit for a mid-handicapper.

Sleeper Driver of the Year: Nike Vapor Flexflight

If you happened to stumble upon this post from last year, you would have seen me touting the Bio Cell Plus as last year’s surprise driver.  For me, it was one year ahead of its time.  Very low-spin, but not impossible to hit.  This year’s Cobra offerings, the Fly-Z series, is still quite good,  but perhaps suffers from comparisons to the Bio Cell, which felt like a real jump in technology.  So, this year’s Bio Cell for me is the Nike Vapor Flexflight.  I picked this driver up with almost no expectations.  There is no bigger Nike equipment hater, so I wasn’t surprised to not like the decal on the head or the stock shaft offering.  Then I hit the club.  It feels like you are crushing it–every time.  It launches easier than the Ping, or the Bertha and keeps the spin lower than the R15.  It’s not markedly longer than any other driver, but for me it was a lot easier to get my best hit out of it.  Put it, or any of the Vapor family in the running is all I am saying.

Oh Mizuno, You Little Devil.

Oh Mizuno, You Little Devil.

IRONS:

Irons fall into more categories than drivers.  There are the true blades, which I don’t review, because I’m not good enough to play them and if you are you don’t need any help.  There are the small cavity backs, the game-improvement clubs and then the category which I call, “Big Ole’ Bag of Hybrids.”

Player/Poser Irons:

  1. Mizuno JPX 850 Forged
  2. Callaway Apex Pro
  3. TaylorMade RSI TP
  4. Nike Vapor Pro Combo

Mizuno has always made great irons, but many of their offerings had always been a bit penal for me. Please see my failed MP-14 Experiment of 2003, and they tend to only offer one game-improvement club that was too far on the other end of the spectrum for my taste.  So, while the MP-15 is a great iron and the MP-4 is a leading blade, I’d never have them even if I was about to spend $1000 on irons. The 850 Forged is a different story.  Small enough to feel like you’re playing a real Mizuno, but you don’t immediately lose 20 yards if you’re 1/8″ off the sweet spot.  Plus, Mizuno has a great shaft program going, where you can pretty much get anything you want–short of Steelfiber–for no upcharge.  The Callaway Apex line is a carryover from last year, but still a must try for anyone who wants forged distance.  The RSI TP and Vapor Pro Combo are both EASILY longer and more forgiving than the AP2 and feel incredibly solid as well.

Game Improvement Irons: 

  1. Callaway XR
  2. Ping G30
  3. Titleist AP1
  4. TaylorMade RSI 1
  5. Nike Vapor Speed

I had a conversation with a Callaway rep a couple weeks ago and we were talking about the stronger lofts of modern clubs.  The constant refrain on these news clubs being, yeah you hit your pitching wedge____yards, but it’s 44 degrees!  What they told me is that while the decreased loft does add distance, they are fitting trajectory windows.  If you picked up an 845 PW (48 degrees) and and G30 PW (45 degrees) you would likely hit them on a similar trajectory.  A 48-degree modern club would go straight into the air.  So, for game-improvement sets, the stronger lofts are a good marketing tool, but also a bit of a necessity.  Which brings me to the Callaway XR.  It’s a 44 degree PW!  But, I’ve never seen people consistently gain distance with a club as much I’ve seen with this one.  If you want to hit the ball longer, this is your first stop.  I have no doubt it’ll be the iron of the year and continue TaylorMade’s woes.  The rest of the clubs on this list are all good, almost laughably good on mis-hits, and you really couldn’t make a bad decision with any of them.

Big Ole’ Bag of Hybrids:

  1. Callaway Big Bertha
  2. Cobra Fly-Z XL
  3. Ping Karsten
  4. Various Adams Discontinued Sets

No real advice here.  Pick your price point, and try out those hybrids.  A good mid-priced option if you can find a set around is the Callaway Edge from last year.  Very easy to hit/high launch.  Unfortunately discontinued.

Titleist Makes an Appearance.

Titleist Makes an Appearance.

Fairways and Hybrids:

I’d love to see people get a little less distance oriented with these clubs.  Consistency and trajectory are so key.  A 3w going 260 is great, but how much of that is roll?  How often is that hybrid going a mile left?  Unless you cannot hit a driver, I wouldn’t use distance as a deciding factor on a fairway wood.  Also, the 3-wood is becoming a bit like the 3-iron for average to below average players.  A lot of them would be better off going to something with more loft, a 4 or 5-wood.  This can also save you money or save you some room for an extra wedge.

Overall Fairway & Hybrid Rankings:

  1. Titleist 915
  2. Callaway XR
  3. Ping G30
  4. Adams Tight Lies
  5. TaylorMade Aeroburner

Titleist gets the nod here for taking a big step forward from the 913, while also offering two different shapes and a mix of stock shaft offerings that should fit most players.  This is a nice feature, even though, I am tired of hearing, “Is that a real white board?”  If you have to ask….Anyway, the 915 brings competitive distance and ball speed to the always reliable look and consistency of Titleist.  If you are thinking distance the XR and AeroBurner are both very long and high swing speed players should not be scared off by the Aeroburner line–try the TP shaft.  Ping and Adams offer incredible forgiveness and easy to launch options.

If You Must Try Something New.

If You Must Try Something New.

Putters & Wedges:

All the counterbalancing, large grip stuff just feels a bit like a gimmick to me with the putters.  People are always desperate for something new in this category, though, and that’s probably why I’ve seen the Odyssey Works line take off.  They are nice putters, but I don’t know, maybe I’m just a doubter from way back on the putter.  If you want to try something new for your short game, aside from inserts and groove technology, you should track down an Edel fitting location.  If you end up buying any clubs, it’s going to cost you a good bit, but the fitting itself should be eye-opening.  Edel uses a totally different way of fitting a putter that might open your eyes even if you don’t buy a club.  The wedge system is a lot more simple, but equally intriguing.  It can take you one step past, “Give me the TOUR GRIND!”

***

I think that’s it for now, feel free to leave any questions, especially about older or more affordable stuff…

Golf Equipment Guide.

For Those With Cabin Fever.

For Those With Cabin Fever.

I’m not sure when the tees are going to go back in the ground in Pennsylvania.  It’s going to be a while.  I’ve never been one to play golf through the winter, but by Mid-February you start to think about possibly stealing a round. Not this year.  So to pass the time a bit, quench the thirst, I thought I’d offer up a little equipment guide for those with the itch.  I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m nothing if not opinionated.  Find the key to shaving zero shots off your game….

Drivers:

It's Callaway's Year.

It’s Callaway’s Year.

It seems like TaylorMade is finally suffering some backlash from consumers who don’t appreciate their short product cycle.  If you ever really want a T-MAG driver, be patient, it’ll save you a bunch of money.  Along with killing the value of their clubs in trade, TaylorMade is now well into the life of its “speed pocket” technology.  What felt like a revolution with the original RBZ woods barely moves the needle in the Jetspeed driver.  On the other hand, Callaway is making a huge push with its Big Bertha marketing campaign and has a piece of real innovation with the gravity core in the Big Bertha Alpha.  Unfortunately, that driver will cost you half a stack ($499 retail).  

Best New Driver:  Callaway Big Bertha.  

The Big Bertha, just released on Valentine’s Day, is creating more buzz than any driver I’ve seen in past two years.  For most consumers, they’re simply looking for yardage, and for an average player that means more distance from all spots on the face.  Spoiler, if you are a 18-handicap you probably don’t center it up THAT often.  The Big Bertha accomplishes this forgiveness and still gives the player several adjustability options with a sliding weight on the back of the club and two adjustable weights for the heel and toe. 

Best Drivers for Better Players:  

*The Titleist 913 series remains a standard in this category, but since it’s been over a year since its launch, I’m not going to include it on this list.  

For a lot of good players the quest for a driver involves reducing carry-robbing spin.  If you’re on the PGA Tour and have this problem you can get hooked up with a $500 shaft and all is well, but we’re starting to see some lower spinning clubheads that allow high-speed players to use a bit more loft and start maxing out their carry potential. There are two leaders in this category…

Big Bertha Alpha: The Alpha’s gravity core can lower spin by several hundred RPMs without any other adjustment to the golf club.  This is a huge technological advancement.  But, since the Alpha is $499, and the lower spin won’t benefit the average player, beware buying this driver just because it is the latest and greatest.  Most players will be better off with the regular Bertha, or even the X2Hot.  

TaylorMade SLDR TP/SLDR 430:  The SLDR is TaylorMade’s best advancement in a while and the driver has been incredibly popular with their Tour Staff.  The issue with the low-spinning SLDR is that it is not for every player and you need an experienced fitter to set you up with the correct loft, etc.  Again, most players will be better off with T-Mag’s Jetspeed line, but these clubs aren’t a huge departure from other recent releases.  

Sleeper Driver: Cobra Bio Cell/Bio Cell+

You may have not given a second thought to Cobra since you saw your grandfather playing the original King Cobra Offset woods in the nineties, but with an increasing presence on Tour, Cobra is responding with some serious clubs. They may look awful, and you may not be craving an orange driver in your bag, but if you are looking for pure distance, the Bio Cell is a must try.  Solid stock shaft option as well.  

***

Fairway Woods: 

I Like My Fairway Woods Like I Like My...Nevermind.

I Like My Fairway Woods Like I Like My…Nevermind.

My general advice on fairway woods is that you should never, EVER, abandon a fairway wood like you like and consistently get in play in pursuit of a few extra yards.  Does it matter if you hit your 3-wood 235 or 241?  Not really. And that is true regardless of the wood and how far you hit them.  However, if you are in the market for a new fairway wood…

Best (Newish) Fairway Wood:  Adams Tight Lies

As I said, most of this is personal preference.  Size of head, depth of face.  I actually prefer the look of a little bit deeper faced fairway wood.  I like the XHot Deep Series (X2Hot Deep Coming Soon) and the 913 FD, but I found it tough to argue with the performance of the Tight Lies.  It has velocity slots on the top and the bottom of the club, making it not the most beautiful club at address, but this thing is a rocket.  And, it launches surprisingly high and offers forgiveness as well.  Great all-around club.  And, this is coming from someone who equated the original Tight Lies club with the Alien wedge.  

Longest Fairway Woods (In Addition to the Tight Lies): 

  1. TaylorMade Jetspeed
  2. Callaway Big Bertha
  3. Cobra Bio Cell
  4. Callaway X2Hot

The TaylorMade Jetspeed is undoubtedly a monster.  It carries forever.  The Callaway Big Bertha is also a very long club as is the X2Hot, but I don’t see the technological advancement in comparison to the original XHot to make the upgrade.  And again, the Cobra is a sneaky long and quality option.  

***

Hybrids:

Touch 'Em All, You Just Went Yard.

Touch ‘Em All, You Just Went Yard.

My advice for fairway woods holds true here as well, though I would encourage seeking out more carry distance in your hybrids.  These are some of the most important clubs in the bag as executing from 175-230 can drastically improve your game.  If you can suddenly get to a 210 yard par-3 instead of hoping to get somewhere around the surface, that can be a big help.  

*Much like the 913 Drivers, I must mention the Ping G25 Hybrids.  These are probably my favorite hybrids on the market right now and the whole G25 line, while not brand new is great equipment.  Unfortunately Ping has a long product cycle and it can sometimes feel like you aren’t getting great value paying full retail for a club more than a year after its release.  

Best New Hybrid:  Callaway x2Hot.

If you are starting to think I’m a paid advertiser for Callaway, I’ll just mention that I thought the original Xhot hybrids were mostly garbage.  I didn’t like the shape (I prefer  my hybrids to look like mini-fairway woods as opposed to driving irons) and I didn’t see anything noteworthy in the performance.  The X2HOT changes that.  Callaway has put their cup face fairway technology into the hybrids and the result is more distance.  A LOT more distance.  

Best of the Rest: 

  1. Adams XTD
  2. Taylormade Jetspeed
  3. Nike VRS Covert 2.0

Adams makes a really good hybrid and I’ll be anxious to see the new Pro Series that will launch later this year.  For now, the XTD is a monster but probably only for better players with some wallet ($300 for a hybrid).  TaylorMade has always done well in this category, and don’t be afraid to try an original RBZ if you are new to this market.  The performance will be comparable for half the price.  I have vowed in the past to never say a positive thing about a Nike club, this came on the release of their fabled Slingshot irons years ago, but they’ve come a long way and the Covert 2.0 hybrid is a solid option and the 2.0 Driver isn’t terrible either.  Won’t be in my bag, but trying to be fair here.  Also, for the average and recreational player, don’t be afraid to re-explore the Cobra Baffler or Adams New Idea.

***

Iron Sets:  

If You Ever Wanted to Try Mizuno...

If You Ever Wanted to Try Mizuno…

Iron technology moves faster than you might think.  Thin faces and strong lofts have created a boom in iron distance.  If you are at home swinging a set of 10-year old irons, I promise you will gain at least a club in distance just by going to the new technology.  You can put your same horsebleep swing on it–promise.  Part of this is what used to be a 5-iron is now almost a 7-iron, but also the equipment companies are making thinner iron faces while not sacrificing the solid feel that most golfers crave.  

*Note on Blade Irons:  If you play blade irons, you probably don’t need any advice from me.  On the other end of the spectrum I wouldn’t encourage anyone to get into blade irons from a CB model just feel like a player, or in pursuit of “feedback.”  If you want blades, the same companies have been making the best for a while.  Mizuno, Miura, Titleist…

My Favorite Irons Across A Few Categories:

(Mostly) Players Iron: TaylorMade TP CB.  One of my favorite iron sets ever was the Taylor Made 300 Forged. If someone ever wants to get me a present, you can track down a set of these for me.  I could probably no longer hit the 3-iron, but they were gorgeous.  And the feel was incredible.  I don’t know if TaylorMade has reached that height since, but the most forgiving of their new TP line is my favorite.  Unfortunately, these are not forged, but still offer pretty solid feel.  

Forged Forgiveness: Mizuno EZ Forged.  Mizuno with their forging and weak lofts isn’t for everyone, but you aren’t going to find many better or consistently made forged clubs out in the market–especially from a major manufacturer.  The new EZ line opens up Mizuno to a new cast of players.  Longer than previous iterations of their game improvement irons, the EZ line reminds you of some of Ping’s best work.  The EZ Forged doesn’t look like a traditional Mizuno forged club, but the feel is there and they are surprisingly easy to hit.  

Runnner Up: Callaway Apex–Long and Forgiving for an iron of their shape and construction.  

Players Cavity Backs: Titleist 714 AP2.  I’ve heard some lament the new AP2 saying it’s not forgiving, doesn’t go anywhere, among other things.  Personally, I think the club looks great and feels great–when you flush it.  I am probably looking for a bit more forgiveness at this point and maybe trying to squeeze a few yards as well, but there is nothing wrong with this club.  Beautiful package.  

Worth Noting: Callaway X2Hot Pro:  A much more forgiving and longer iron in a pretty compact package.  

New Irons to Buy if You Aren’t Good:

  1. Ping Karsten
  2. Taylormade Speedblade
  3. Adams Idea Hybrid Iron Set
  4. Cobra Baffler XL

The majority of these clubs will look hideous at address, but if you don’t know any better–who cares?  They’ll get it in the air, they’ll correct your mishits, and make the game more fun.  The Ping Karsten is one to watch, the first iron Ping has made where they are focusing on distance.  Could be a winner for them.  The Speedblade is not a super game-improvement iron, but is the most forgiving club currently in T-Mag’s lineup.  Always a contender when seeking distance in this category.  

***

Wedges:

The World Eagerly Awaits.

The World Eagerly Awaits.

There isn’t much to say on wedges.  Instead of recommendations, I’ll offer a few tips for getting your wedges:

1.  If you have custom specs, or are a low-handicap player, do not buy wedges off the rack.  If you have a Dynamic Gold x100 in your pitching wedge, you probably shouldn’t have a basic wedge flex shaft in your sand wedge.  Also, if your other clubs are long/short or have a lie angle adjustment, it makes sense to do this to your wedge also.  

2. Don’t get too bogged down in sole grind.  Different grind options on the sole are the newest things we’re seeing in wedges, but this matters more to very good players, or players who can afford to switch out their wedges based on conditions.  You probably want the wedge that is most versatile for the conditions you usually play in, not a wedge that Phil had specifically designed for Augusta.  The grinds that offer a variable bounce angle are worth looking into. 

3. Mid-Bounce is almost always the way to go.

4. Check your spin.  For most players the spin of a wedge is the most important factor.  Don’t just buy a Cleveland or Vokey because you think you are supposed to, go somewhere you can see how they perform for you.  

***

Putters: 

You've Seen These Heads Before.

You’ve Seen These Heads Before.

Not a soul out there should be taking putting advice from me, not only am I a very average putter I don’t really feel the difference between a lot of the available options.  There are certain putters that could better fit your stroke, but other than that I wouldn’t be comfortable recommending one putter over another.  Of what’s out there right now, I like the feel (I think) of the TR line from Ping, the newest of which can be found in the Karstens you see above. Also the first putter I’ve seen available in that old copper finish in a long time.  I also reluctantly like some of the putters in the Nike MOD line, and new Scotty Camerons will be available this spring including the return of one of my favorite heads–the Squareback.  

Thoughts on Counter-Balanced Putters:  In response to the ban on long and anchored putters, a lot of manufacturers are offering counter-balanced options.  This is a putter in the 36-39 inch range with a heavy head and a heavy grip.  They are designed to be choked-up on, and the argument is they greatly stabilize the face.  I find these putters roll out very well, and do swing nicely, but whether or not they are here to stay remains to be seen.  

***

Golf Balls:

How's 38 Compression Sound?

How’s 38 Compression Sound?

Things have changed a lot since my days on the college golf team when I would proudly tee it up with a Titleist Professional 100 every time out.  Back in the day MEN used 100 compression.  Of course the golf balls had rubber bands in them…

Personally, I cannot tell the difference between most tour balls.  It is important to know however that if you want the performance of a tour ball there are now more options than there used to be.  Most players would benefit from exploring the Bridgestone B330 RX line, Callaway’s Speed Regime 1/2, and other balls that are designed for less than tour clubhead speeds.  

If you are an average player, who is looking for distance, doesn’t spend a lot of time on fast/penal greens and doesn’t want to spend a fortune, please buy the following:

  1. Callaway Supersoft (38 compression–goes forever)
  2. Wilson Staff Duo
  3. Titleist Velocity
  4. Maxfli Noodle
  5. Bridgestone E-Series

***

Shoes:

Footjoy Steps Up.

Footjoy Steps Up.

When I was in high school there was little I wanted more than a pair of Footjoy Classics.  This is what the guys on tour wore, they were leather soled, probably uncomfortable for the first 20 wears and the opposite of light.  But, they were also a status symbol.  I never got a pair.  They were QUITE expensive.  By the time I could afford a pair, the Classics were replaced by the ICON–Footjoy no longer making a leather soled shoe.  Even though I never got the Classics, my taste in shoes has remained traditional.  I still wear spiked shoes and play most of my rounds in Dryjoy Tours.  But, I’m starting to come around a bit on the weight factor as companies combine lightness with a look that doesn’t scream soccer or sweet, sweet skating…

My Top-5 Shoes:

1.  Footjoy DNA.  I wish I could still wear “nails” as they were called so I could dig in and take a pass at the ball.  This is why I try to get as much spike as I can for my money.  The DNA has serious traction, but is far lighter and more comfortable than the Dryjoy Tour.  

2.  Nike Lunar Control.  Rory’s shoe.  Very light and tons of cushion, but still feels substantial and stabilizing.  

3. Footjoy Dryjoy Casual.  Kind of like the old “shop shoes” which I also always wanted, but a bit more stylish and very lightweight.  

4. Ecco Biom Hybid.  I prefer the look of the Tour Hybrid (a dress shoe look), but the other style currently worn by Fred Couples/Graeme McDowell etc., are much more popular.  

5.  Adidas Adipure.  I’m pretty sure these are out of the line for 2014, and that’s a shame.  Adidas’s best shoe by a mile.  

***

That’s it…feel free to ask questions, I’ve hit them all (badly).  

 

Golf Technology: For Tour Pros Only.

This might be an odd post coming from someone who once wrote that golf was too hard, but I’m coming out in favor of a cap on golf equipment technology.  Maybe even a little roll back, but since that will never happen, I’ll settle for putting the brakes on.  Golf technology isn’t making many amateurs better players.  It’s just emptying their wallets.  New technology fuels what is probably a withering golf equipment industry, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of scores plummeting.

If you remember my ideas for making golf easier, none of them was a 750 cc driver.  I wanted a bigger hole, two flags per green, preferred lies in all bunkers, elimination of the O.B. stake, things of that nature.  That would actually help your score.  If you go buy a new set of irons today, I’m willing to bet you’ll shoot the same score as you shot last week.  The USGA is encouraging people to have more fun by playing a shorter set of tees, they haven’t partnered with Taylor Made to get a white driver in everyone’s hands.

Golf is a sport that is tied very closely to its equipment.  As opposed to something like basketball, which is all about the athletes, golf is part golfer, but also part clubs and part course.  I think one of the things that people like about golf is that they can play the courses the pros play.  They can use the ball the pros use.  Your Scotty Cameron belly putter can be almost identical to the one Adam Scott uses.  It’s something golf has going for it.  If I had the means, I could play Pebble Beach.  I can’t take batting practice at Wrigley Field, or try to kick a few field goals down at the Linc.

It’s the desire to be like the pros, though, that often gets golfers in trouble.  You might want to hit the same model of irons that Dustin Johnson has, but you couldn’t find the sweet spot with a treasure map.  You might want to play Torrey Pines from 7,500 yards, but the boxes on the scorecard aren’t big enough for that many digits.  The money from the new technology comes from the masses buying it up.  They want to buy it, because of what the pros are capable of doing with it, but the disparity between the pro game and the amateur game keeps getting more glaring.

Let’s say a stock par-4 is a driver and 7-iron.  Not too long ago on the PGA Tour this would have meant something around 400 yards with a high-end of 425.  At the same time, your run of the mill amateur might have hit those clubs 340 yards.  Now, I’d say the majority of guys on tour can hit those clubs in the 485 yard range and the high-end for a guy like Bubba Watson or J.B. Holmes might be 530 yards or more.  At the same time, your basic amateur has probably only bumped his number up to 360-375.  While the Tour pros are 40 yards longer off the tee and a club and half longer with their irons, the guy at the local muny has probably squeezed 15 yards out of his driver and not much else.

What if a whole course was made of stock par-4s?  Back in the day the total yardage for the pros would be 7,200 yards.  For the amateurs, 6,120 yards.  That sounds about right, doesn’t it?  Your standard championship tees and a nice friendly set of whites.  A course now made up of stock par-4s for the pros would measure 8,730 yards (9540 for Bubba).  The amateurs get a little bump to 6570 (365 yards per). Look at those numbers.  This is what golf technology is doing.  It’s making courses obsolete for the professionals and only marginally helping the everyday player.

We’ve gotten to the point where there are only three things that can keep scoring down in professional events, and Mother Nature is in control of two of them.  An incredibly firm golf course, a very windy day, or a tricked up venue are the only things that will keep any course in the world from being slaughtered by the guys on Tour.  The Byron Nelson event was one of the hardest of the year, because the wind blew 30 mph all week.  The U.S. Open was a pushover, because they couldn’t firm up Congressional.  Look at what happened at Aronimink.  It was playing fast and tough for two days, but heading into Saturday they either decided they wanted more birdies or the members wanted their greens to be healthy on Monday.  They watered.  The course record was broken twice in about a ½ hour.

You’d think the point of golf technology would be to make the game easier, but from a business standpoint the objective is to sell equipment under the ruse that you’ll get better.  The only players really reaping any benefit are the guys who are already elite.  Even if you happened to gain 15 yards, for an amateur that probably won’t help your score.  How many fairways do you hit a round?  Five?  So, on the other 9 occasions you are just 15 yards further into trouble.  Maybe you even blow one OB that normally would have stayed in bounds.  Maybe you hit a few iron shots to 15 feet instead of 25 feet, but guess what?  You 2-putt from both locations.

From about 1996 to 2007, I played the same set of irons. When I finally got new irons, there was no discernible change in my game.  The only real bump in distance I’ve ever gotten is from ball technology, but like I said, that extra distance never made me a better player.  I’ve never bought a golf club that has made me a better player.  That’s the bottom line.  And so if golf technology isn’t really helping people, it’s just draining your disposable income and making classic courses obsolete, what the hell are we doing?

Golf is hard, but it isn’t hard because you don’t have the right clubs.