Gearing Up

Golf is a funny game, where you can be just as skilled at 17 years old as you are at 70…and at 37, and at 57, etc. It’s the most generationally competitive sport out there, other than bocce ball, maybe.

Golf is different than bocce, though, and in a beautiful way because Grandpa uses a completely different set of sticks to play his game than I do. Unlike bocce, we are differentiated by much more than the color and inscription of our instruments.

All the equipment in bocce ball can be treated the same. In golf, it cannot. A good friend of mine, who will remain nameless to ensure his Door County friends don’t use this tale as defaming ammunition, struggles with this concept. He loves golf, almost as much as I do. It challenges him, sometimes too much, but he feeds off that challenge like any competitive human being.

However, he tends to take that competitiveness in the direction of equipment, hoping that the next best set of irons, wedges, hybrids, etc. will make the difference in his steadfast goal of mastering the game. Naturally, his bag is filled with Titleist irons and a very new putter and driver.

The combination makes for a pretty-looking bag, I must say. There’s even a bit of jealousy that rings through my mind when I load his bag onto my cart. However, that jealousy is swept away before we’ve finished the front nine. The problem is he has geared his game toward his equipment when it should actually be the opposite; he should be gearing his equipment to his game.

So few of us are actually skilled enough to worry about the distance enhancements that certain clubs will offer us; the newest set promises more and more yards each season. So instead of shelling out for the newest and greatest, instead, golfers should be fitted for the clubs meant for their game, because certain sets of clubs are manufactured with certain types of players in mind.

My friend, for instance, tends to swing like he’s Babe Ruth, trying to hit a home run each time he addresses his ball. Regardless of club, he’s sure to get plenty of distance from the impressive impact he forces upon the ball. His accuracy of impact, however, is less than stellar. He could benefit from a set of irons with more leniencies on the clubface; more forgiveness for shots not struck in the sweet spot. What he gives up in pure distance he’ll receive in balls kept in play.

The best part is that golf companies know this and have created subsets of players toward which they design their products: good player, game-improvement player (like my friend) and super-game-improvement player. These are the general groupings by which companies will create their newest equipment.

Good players likely have a single-digit handicap. Game-improvement players probably range between 10 and 20, while super-game improvement players have plenty of room for progress and need the clubs to help them in a super way. A game-improvement player using the clubs of a good player likely won’t succeed quite like they could if fitted with clubs more suited for their game.

It’s a bit like trying to play basketball in shoes that are two sizes big. In the end, basketball is basketball, but playing in the right size shoes will make it a lot more enjoyable. Although it’s much more difficult to see in the game of golf, it’s worth thinking about when you take a look at purchasing your next set. It just might make you love this game more than you already do.