5 Tips for Getting More Out of Your Equipment
Terry "The Wedge Guy" Koehler is in Las Vegas today teaching a group of 150+ LPGA teaching professionals. Since he's out of pocket, he asked us to re-post one his old columns. This was originally posted September 4, 2009. Enjoy!
As you might imagine, I get many emails from golfers asking all kinds of questions about their equipment. These range from set make-up to shafts, to fitting specifications to ... well, you can just about name it. Compared to just about any other sport or activity you can get into, golf does have a mind-numbing array of things to learn and understand, doesn't it? Rules and etiquette alone can boggle the mind, but let's stay focused on the equipment for today. I want to sound off with some thoughts I have, and then ask all of you to chime in with your ideas and opinions, OK?
- Do you really need a full set? I think a great number of golfers are doing themselves a dis-service by carrying a full complement of 14 clubs. When I was just starting out at about 6 years old, I had a 2-wood, 3 iron, 7 iron and putter. What more did I need on that little 9-hole golf course? I could get close to the green with 3-4 shots with the 2-wood and 3-iron and then chip and putt to finish it off. Worked fine as I remember. Then I graduated to a set that had a driver and 3 wood, and 3-5-7-9 irons and putter. That took me all the way to consistently shooting in the low 40s for nine holes.
The key is that until I could hit the ball far enough to experience a 10-yard gap between irons, then I didn't need them all. And that applies to many golfers today, particularly women, seniors and juniors that don't hit it all that far. If you fall into one of those categories, might I suggest you take out about half of your clubs and go play a few rounds. Remove the odd or even numbered clubs and see what happens. I think you'll find, at the very least, it makes the game simpler, and at the best, lowers your scores by reducing your confusion.
- Do you really need a driver? It's the very hardest club to master without a doubt, and my experience is that too many golfers really can't handle a club of that length with that low of loft. Check your testosterone at the door, please, and honestly answer this question, "Is your driver one of your most consistent clubs?" If not, then play a few rounds hitting your 3-wood off the tee and see what happens. Even the tour pros drop back to the 3-wood from the tee when the hole before them really, really requires a shot in the fairway to score. If you want even more proof of what your driver might be costing you, play a few afternoon rounds and hit two tee shots on each hole, one with your driver and one with your 3-wood. Keep track of how many times your 3-wood set you up for a better approach to the green, even if it might be a little further back. Oh, and I'll share something with you from the golf club tech side – if you don't hit driver longer than 200 yards, you probably will actually get more distance from your 3-wood on the average. It will optimize your carry distance.
- Do you really 'know' your irons? If you've bought a new set of 'high tech' irons in the last few years, chances are that you are playing a set with jacked up lofts, so that you no longer really have a pitching wedge. The iron manufacturers have been altering lofts and lengths so that they can advertise their clubs are longer than the competition. But if your new set has been "re-numbered", so that the same length and loft you used to call a 9-iron now has an "8" on the bottom, what have you really achieved? Visit a clubfitter or golf shop that has a loft/lie machine and length board and learn what you really are playing.
- Have you had your putter fitted? I have been through a number of putter fittings the past few years, and am a believer that of all the clubs that should be fitted, this one should. The science has been developed to match the putter to your visual alignment tendencies, and putting is just so much easier if you start out with the putter aimed accurately at the hole! Seems simple enough, right? But if you will watch your buddies when they putt, you'll find that most start with an alignment error then make up for it with the stroke. Doesn't that seem to make this part of the game that much harder? A properly fitted putter will put you in the right alignment more consistently, and fit your stroke so that it is much more likely that you will make a good back and through motion, with the face square. It WILL shave strokes, I assure you.
- What ball do you play? If your answer is "whatever I can find" or "whatever is on sale", then you are not optimizing the science of the golf ball that is available to you. And you'll never get the most out of your putting and short game by playing a variety of balls that feel and react differently off the scoring clubs. All of the balls today go plenty far, but you can personalize them to whatever degree you want. The tour pros spend hours and hours matching their ball to their game, monitoring spin and launch angle. You might not be able to do that, but if you find a ball you like, STICK WITH IT!! And I'm a big proponent of playing a softer, higher-spinning ball as it will not cost you yard, but it will sharpen your short game. And that's what scoring is all about.
So, there you have my five tips for getting more out of your equipment. I'm looking forward to hearing from all of you with those that you think should be added.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf
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