Playing golf efficiently requires a precise match of your personal physical parameters and athletic skill to your equipment. Unlike driving a performance car to the club it is more than just a seat adjustment that is needed to give you the greatest pleasure of the experience. More important, the claims of the equipment goliaths who make the “new and improved” product are often hollow or misguided and will more likely create game frustration than game improvement.
Tom Wishon’s book, The Right Sticks, is a club maker’s valued attempt to educate golfers about the elements of club design, production, and fitting. He fingers through 37 equipment myths that will be surprisingly familiar to you and helps you understand what is really behind the technological improvement in equipment over the last 50 years and how to properly apply it to improve your satisfaction in playing golf every day.
You may not come out of reading this with all the answers but at least, for the first time, you will have the right questions to ask of the guys selling or fitting you for the newest equipment offerings.
The most consistent claim year-to-year from equipment makers is that they will add distance to your game with their latest changes. What they do not tell you is that all of these manufacturers, behind the improvements of cavity backed design, space aged club head materials, and a wider array of shaft fabrications, have made most of the gains in distancing by simply delofting your clubs. What he calls “the dreaded vanishing loft disease”.
This snippet from Wishon’s book says it all:
7-Iron loft over the decades:
60’s 70’s Loft 40 degrees
80’s Loft 38 degrees
Early 90’s 36 degrees
Since 1997 34 degrees
No wonder you can hit that 7-iron 15 yards farther than when you were a young buck. But also consider that your current five iron has the loft of an old three iron which explains why you can no longer consistently elevate any iron longer than that (ergo, the timely introduction of the new family of hybrids to address this elevation problem they created).
Enigmatic acronyms like CG (center of gravity), COR (coefficient of restitution), and MOI (moment of inertia) often dominate the ads or the reviews in your golf magazines. Keep in mind those reviews are really infomercials for the manufacturers whose ads underwrite the magazine or website you are reading. Wishon helps explain what these terms really mean to the performance of your golf shot and how appropriate or inappropriate they are vis-à-vis the claims of the shill masters.
In the end it is really about getting the modern equipment to be properly fitted to your individual physical and skill parameters. Proper loft, lie angle, shaft type, shaft torque, shaft length, swingweight, and grip size can make a world of difference in you getting what you deserve out of the thousand dollar expense for the latest full set of clubs.
Mostly out of a need to limit the inventory offerings required by club purveyors the manufacturers present a single average set of specifications for the clubs. The truth is that no one fits an average set of specifications and it is totally trying to fit a square peg into a round hole if you are silly enough to buy a set off the rack. It is equally bad if you go through an “inventory convenience fitting” in a golf super store by a quasi-educated operative (probably just a single digit player with little equipment fitting experience).
In my experience, consistent with Wishon’s claim, there is only one way to get golf equipment that properly suits your game and will enhance your every day golf experiences. You have to buy your equipment through a qualified and experienced club fitter who will make sure the right things are taken into consideration in picking the specifications for assembling your clubs and will verify that every club he delivers is consistent with those parameters. Yes, there is a fitter’s fee involved, they have a right to make a living. But this fee will be amortized quickly because the fitter will make sure you do not “overbuy” the product that is appropriate for your game and you will no longer be back seeking replacement equipment every year in a vain search for that holy grail of the right stuff.
This is true for golfers of all genders, age groups, or talent levels. A beginner, your spouse, or your uncle Harry will find tangible benefit and a faster improvement curve with equipment sized and assembled by a qualified fitter. More people fall out of the game from frustration exacerbated by improperly fitted equipment than you can ever imagine.
This book is chock full of “de-mythifications” that will help you stave off the annual pitches of the golf manufacturers and media producers who are currently preying on your ignorance about what will make a difference in your enjoyment of the game. I recommend you read it, highlight it, and go back to it regularly to help validate or discard the next set of claims you get from the brand name equipment purveyors.
The Right Sticks
Tom Wishon (2008)
(Note: If you search on line you are unlikely to find this new. Your best bet is to buy it used for under $5 and pay the shipping. This comes out cheaper than most paperbacks)