If your gear has idly been sitting in the closet since the first snowfall, or if you've been enjoying year-round golf but failing to pay the attention your golf clubs deserve, then now's the time to give your set a serious once-over and look for ways to improve its performance.
A visit with a professional clubfitter is always the best medicine, but a few of our home remedies might keep your gear from a trip to the infirmary, from the shoes on your feet to the driver in your hand. So get your set out and follow these simple tips to ensure that your clubs are ready, willing and able to give you the best shot of playing to your potential, whether it's this week or when the first thaw hits. _Ê_Ê_Ê _Ê _Ê _Ê_Ê_Ê _Ê _Ê_Ê_Ê _Ê 1. Make Your Mark One of the most important accessories you should carry in your golf bag is a permanent marker (like a Sharpie_¨). Even more important is using that marker to make a recognizable identifying mark on your golf balls–all of them. Being able to quickly identify your ball is an often-overlooked responsibility and one to which more recreational players should adhere. It's in the Rules, after all. Plus, it's a fun way to personalize your game. Many a Tour pro has honored his or her family, country, etc., with a creative mark.
2. Give Your Grips New Life If your grips have begun to crack, and/or show serious signs of wear, then it's time to replace them. Opt for grips of similar diameter and weight, or consult a clubfitter as to what's best for you. If your grips are crack-free and show just a few signs of wear and a loss of tackiness, start by washing your grips with rinse-free dish soap. (Don't use hand or body soap–you need a cleaning solution that leaves no oily residue.) Dish soap works best. Then roughen them up a bit with low- or fine-grit sandpaper. This will make them good as new.
3. Shorten That Putter Shaft Most putting experts agree that at address, your eyes should be over the golf ball and the arms should hang directly underneath the shoulders. This provides the best stance to judge the line and move the putter on the correct path. Most putters, however, are offered with shafts in the 35-inch range, making this setup a near impossibility. Trim your putter shaft to 30 to 32 inches and you'll be surprised at the results.
4. Iron Check When looking at a new iron, be realistic about your needs. Regardless of looks or what people say, most golfers have better results with irons that feature at least a moderate degree of offset, simply because they're easier to square at impact. Sole design also is very important–irons with wider soles have more bounce and will tend to be more forgiving. Irons with narrower soles and less bounce tend to dig more, especially with swings that are somewhat steep. Finally, cavity design and CG location should be a consideration. Irons with larger cavities (and wider soles) tend to have a lower CG, which makes it easier to get the ball airborne consistently.
5. Rust Out Some wedges are designed to rust. With most irons, however, rust is unsightly and can negatively affect performance. To remove rust, use an old toothbrush and vinegar. Scrub briskly, rinse, then dry. Sure, there are more advanced rust-removal solutions, but the vinegar method should get the job done.6. Get A First-Aid Kit Nothing is worse than a great round ruined by a headache or backache, or the occasional blister. Keep pain at bay and pack a small first-aid kit (available at your local drugstore) in your golf bag. Make sure there are pain relievers, bandages, gauze and disinfectants.
7. Buy The Right Ball Premium-priced, multi-layer, urethane-covered models are great and certainly won't hurt your game. However, if you're a mid- to high-handicap player, you might be better served with a less-expensive model that spins less, launches higher and is easier to hit far. Also keep in mind that there are now a number of multi-layer golf balls available that provide better distance for the average player without sacrificing too much in the spin and feel department.
8. Freshen Up Your Flatstick Sometimes the key to better putting isn't more or less weight, but in finding a grip that suits your stroke. If you're getting too handsy, try a bigger, thicker putter grip. If you prefer a wrist-driven putting stroke, consider one of the popular skinny, pistol-style grips. Check with your local clubfitter for insights on the numerous grip options. No doubt there's a shape, texture and even a particular color that's perfect for you.
9. A Tip On Trimming If you've ever reshafted your driver or set of irons, the question of butt and tip trimming probably came up. Although it sounds like something highly technical, the concept is pretty simple. If you want to shorten a shaft without significantly affecting the flex profile (the way the shaft will feel and perform), you trim the butt end of the shaft (the portion where the grip resides). If you want to stiffen the flex of a shaft (and change the feel as well),_Ê you trim the tip section. All aftermarket shafts come with trimming instructions provided by the manufacturer, so the guidelines are generally clear. Just keep in mind that_Ê if you tip-trim a shaft, it's going to feel and perform differently than before.
10. Towel Off Keeping your golf ball clean (especially in damp conditions) is critical. The act of spitting and/or plopping the ball in your mouth to remove dirt is disgusting. There's a thing called a towel, folks, and it's great for removing mud and dirt. Plus, the mouth method is potentially dangerous.
11. Spike Up Alternative spikes are no longer the alternative; they're the requirement, and the designs run the gamut from grabby to cushiony to a combination of the two. While today's spikes are as durable as ever, they do wear out, and long before it's time to throw any golf shoe in the garbage.
12. Show Shoes You Care Two things about shoes: 1) If you're still playing in $30 bargain-bin spikes, buck up for a pair of premium, high-tech golf shoes from one of the major manufacturers. You'll be doing your game (and your feet) a big favor. 2) Once you make a purchase, treat your golf shoes like the serious piece of equipment they are. Store them in a dry environment, have them cleaned and polished regularly and make religious use of shoe trees. Yes, premium shoes come at a premium price, but if you give them proper care, they will last for several seasons.
13. Remember Aesthetics If your driver and fairway-wood heads have nicks and scratches, try using nail polish or car touch-up paint to make repairs. Make sure the surface is clean and dry, and apply the paint sparingly without excessive buildup. Allow the paint to dry before you slip the headcover back on. Of course, aesthetic improvements to your clubs won't help your shotmaking, but there's nothing wrong with taking pride in the appearance of your gear.
14. Lengthen Headcovers Although we love your gorilla driver headcover and that pink flamingo you have on your 3-wood, you may want to consider sticking with a longer-length headcover. When a club breaks, the most common break is in the shaft just above the clubhead, making it even more important to protect this critical area on the shaft. Make sure you have a long enough headcover to protect those delicate and high-priced graphite shafts.15. Alter Your Tee Height Today's drivers are designed so golfers can take advantage of the "hot zone," which typically is located just above the sweet spot of the clubface. This is where gear effects are the highest, promoting a higher launch with less spin and, as a result, longer carry distance. If you're craving extra yards, buy the longest tees you can, without exceeding the four-inch USGA limit, to maximize the power capabilities of your driver. This especially goes for 400cc to 460cc driver heads. To accommodate your need for over-length tees, check out the offerings from Pride Sports, which sells color-coded pegs in lengths of 2 1__ã8, 2 3__ã4, 3 1__ã4 and 4 inches. For more info, visit www.pridegolftee.com.
16. Get Into Your Grooves If you play with debris-filled grooves, you severely limit your ability to produce shot-stopping action on approaches, pitches and chips. In order to spin, a golf ball must "climb" up the face, and that takes the grabbing ability of sufficiently deep grooves. Whether you use a groove-cleaning tool (preferred), a tee or even an ice pick, use it often and always make sure the face is as pristine as possible.
17. Heat Up Loose Ferrules When ferrules become loose (and they often do), it can be distracting both to the ear and eye. To fix a loose ferrule, try heating them with a hair dryer. The heat will cause the plastic to expand and firm up on the shaft. If all else fails, use bonding adhesive or a similar glue.
18. Iron Finder Whether you left your trusty 7-iron somewhere on the 16th hole last week, or are interested in purchasing vintage irons, visit www.ironfinder.com. It's an amazing site.
19. Match Your MOI Virtually all golfers who play regularly have noticed they have a favorite club or clubs within their current or previous set of clubs. A favorite club is a club with which the golfer is most consistent and has the utmost confidence in his or her ability to hit the ball solid and on center more often than the other clubs in the set. After research and testing, Tom Wishon Golf Technology (TWGT) believes that a very good reason for the fact that golfers have favorite clubs is that the MOI of those clubs happens to match the strength, tempo and swing mechanics of the golfer noticeably better than that of the other clubs. Therefore, the concept of TWGT MOI Matching is based initially on asking the golfer to bring forth a favorite club from any set he or she may own or has used. The favorite club is measured for its MOI using the TWGT MOI Matching System, after which the other clubs are then built to match the MOI of the favorite club(s). The results, according to TWGT, indicate that MOI matching may very well be the next big thing in custom clubfitting. For more information, visit www.wishongolf.com.
20. Upgrade With Graphite Design YS-II Graphite Design is well known for its extremely high-quality YS Series of shafts, all of which are made with top-notch materials for premium performance. Like the majority of high-quality aftermarket shafts, the YS Series also carried a relatively premium price, making it inaccessible to certain golfers. To remedy this problem, Graphite Design introduced the YS Type II Series, which offers quality performance at a value price. Available in a range of weights as well as in a hybrid model, the YS Type II is a great option for players looking to upgrade the performance_Ê of their clubs without spending an arm and a leg to do so. For more information, visit www.gdintl.com.
21. Get Tour-Preferred Clubs with a "Tour" or "Tour-Preferred" moniker generally have similar features as the regular model, but with differences that make them appealing to professional or other high-level golfers. When it comes to drivers, this means a square or even slightly open clubface (regular-model drivers feature slightly hooked or closed clubfaces), a CG that's neutral (not promoting a high draw like regular models) and sometimes a slightly smaller clubhead size. If you're not a true Tour-type player, these seemingly small differences will cause you to hit the ball low, to the right and not very far. With irons and wedges, "Tour" or "Tour-Preferred" models tend to feature little or no offset, soles with little bounce and CG locations tending toward the high side. Again, if you're not an accomplished player, these characteristics will probably lead to poor results.22. Get Dynamic Many players have added distance without any sacrifice in accuracy by finding the right combination of loft, head CG, shaft and golf ball (with the help of a professional fitter). Driver loft is the single most important factor when considering how far a club will hit a ball, but the CG of the head also plays an important role. A club with a CG closer to the face or one with a CG higher in the head will result in lower launch angles. This is not good for most players. The majority of golfers can immediately add distance with a higher launch angle. This can result from either a higher club loft or a CG lower in the head or farther away from the face. Many of today's drivers feature weights toward the back of the head to help increase launch angle through a change in head CG.
Today's shafts are made with specific launch characteristics in mind. While flex is important, the launch parameters of the shaft are keys to how far a drive can be hit. Composite shafts allow manipulation of kick points to create specific launch angles for each shaft. You can't discover what these manipulations can do for you if you don't get on a launch monitor.
Finding the best match between head, shaft and grip is what launch angle optimization is all about. Experiencing a launch monitor fitting session will provide you with this information. The session consists of hitting different balls with a combination of driver lofts, head designs and various shafts. You'll also hit your driver to compare your current launch angle with your ideal launch angle. The 30-minute session is well worth the the results it will provide.
23. Match Frequency If you're genuinely serious about your game, a shaft frequency test is in order. Each club is placed on a frequency machine and the shaft is vibrated. The number of times the shaft oscillates is its cycles per minute (cpm). Through the set, there should be consistency. Any club showing a higher cpm rating than expected will play stiffer; one oscillating at less cpms than expected will feel softer. The frequencies of all of your shafts will be compared to determine how well your clubs match not only to each other, but to your swing as well. Your repair specialist will be able to explain any shaft changes that should be made to help you play more consistent golf.
24. Remember The Reminder When checking out new grips, pay very close attention to materials, patterns and textures. There's a wealth of different options, and it takes time to find the one that feels the best in your hands. Also, don't forget that grips come in two distinct shapes: round and reminder. Round grips are, well, round. The less-common reminder grip features a slight bulge on the backside of the handle that guides your fingers into proper position around the center of the grip. Some golfers, after making the switch to a reminder model, never go back to round.
25. Divide And Conquer It's a new season, so why not treat yourself to a new golf bag? We recommend lightweight models (get out there and walk) with kickstands, plenty of pockets and, most important, full-length club dividers. Instead of a slot for each of your 14 clubs, at least three dividers that stretch from the top of the bag to the bottom will go a long way toward protecting your gear from the jarring that occurs when the bag is in your trunk, on the back of a golf cart or on your back.
26. Bounce Back One way to improve your ability to play well at a variety of courses is to buy another wedge or set of wedges with different bounce angles than those featured in your current set. If you currently play with high-bounce wedges (presumably for soft or wet surfaces), try a few wedges with a low- or mid-bounce angle for rounds played on firm and tight surfaces. Using a high-bounce wedge off tight hardpan is difficult, as is a low-bounce wedge on soft, muddy terrain.27. Check Your Breaks We've all suffered complete gear malfunction where the club breaks right in your hands. Not only does this situation present a major inconvenience, it's also very dangerous. So, it's always a good idea to give all of your clubs the once-over and look for the telltale signs of potential breakage. First, examine your graphite shafts. Look for abrasions at the point where the shafts rest against your bag or for any fraying near the hosel. Such damage indicates that the shaft is weakening. On your steel shafts, feel for bends. Run your fingers from the grip to the hosel, paying attention to any suspect dips in the shaft. If you find any, replace the shaft immediately. Next, check the ferrules. A loose ferrule requires an easy fix (as mentioned before). If the ferrule is angled to any degree away from the shaft, however, it's an indication of a bend where the shaft enters the head, which is quite common if you practice on mats at your local range. Again, replace the shaft immediately._Ê
28. Putt With The Lines A trip down the putter aisle at your local golf shop will provide you with a dizzying array of materials, shapes, sizes, inserts, shaft bends and other performance features. And while all of these options must be investigated thoroughly, don't forget about a putter's natural lines. Some flatsticks are inherently easier to align because of their shape, which usually includes a lot of natural lines both perpendicular and parallel to the target line. One of the reasons the PING Anser shape has been copied so extensively is that it's a cinch to align with its rectangular base. While curved mallets and old-school blades may be a bit more aesthetically pleasing, nothing should ever stand in the way of your ability to properly align the face.
Also, it's a good idea to inspect an oft-forgotten putter design element: the hosel. Knowing the difference between one hosel design and another can be of value when choosing a new putter (certain types of configurations tend to work for different types of strokes) and also can provide some insight into your stroke.
Plumber-Neck: The plumber-neck is characterized by a horizontal bend just below where the end of the shaft and the hosel meet. This design, which generally provides a medium amount of offset, does a great job of keeping the hands ahead of the putterhead through impact. This tends to make the putter more forgiving and easier to use, which is the reason it's so popular. Flare-Tip: The flare-tip is typically a "shaft-over" hosel, meaning the shaft covers the top of the hosel where the two connect. Putters with flare-tip hosels generally have less offset and are more blade-like in their design. These putters tend to be quite a bit toe-down in their weighting scheme and usually work best for golfers who like to rotate the blade open and shut through the stroke. No Hosel: Face-balanced putters often have no hosel, but instead, an S-bend shaft that goes directly into the putterhead. These putters are designed specifically for golfers who want to take the club straight back and straight through in a piston-like motion. If you typically like to rotate the clubhead during your stroke, these types of putters probably won't work as well for you. Slant-Neck: These hosels often are plumber-necks that bend back from the shaft line. Usually, this type of putter is used to create a more substantial amount of offset, which promotes more of an upward strike into the golf ball.
29. Pack Right While you'll never forget the golfing necessities of clubs, balls, gloves and shoes, every golf bag should contain the following items to ensure you're prepared for whatever the day throws at you: tees, ball markers, pencils, divot tool, sunscreen, lip balm, water and some cash (you'll never know when you'll need to tip, and you should never be sans dough when it comes time to settling a Nassau). _Ê 30. Hang Your Gloves Out To Dry How many times have you reached into your bag for your golf glove only to find a bundled wad of hardened leather? Blame yourself, as it's your sweat that causes the glove to harden as it dries. Also, expect built-up dirt to make the leather slick (the opposite of what you want). Extend glove life by adding your leather golf gloves to your clothes pile in the washer. Use a soft detergent and the cold wash cycle. This is a great way to remove dirt and oil buildup. Hang-dry to prevent shrinkage. _Ê 31. Go The Distance Not every golfer has the means to be custom-fit, and certainly most players' sets consist of irons, wedges and woods bought off the rack at different times. These realities typically add up to length discrepancies throughout the bag. Ideally, there should be half-inch increments between all of your irons, from the 2-iron all the way down to the lob wedge, as well as between each of your fairway woods. Now, before you get your ruler out, simply line up your clubs against the wall and visually check for any noticeable length gaps. You might be surprised to find a wedge or two longer than your 7-iron. Consult a professional if any gaps exist. Otherwise, you'll suffer distance control problems on the course.
32. Give Counterbalancing A Go So much of playing well has to do with proper feel. While it has regained in popularity, counterbalancing (the act of adding weight to the grip area to offset clubhead weight) isn't anything new. Nicklaus reportedly counterbalanced all his clubs by using lead tape beneath his grip. Today, companies like Balance Certified (www.balance-certified.com) provide alternatives to lead tape for a more precise measurement. Whether counterbalancing actually increases performance is a hotly contested subject, it nevertheless produces a dramatically different feel and is certainly worth a try.33. Get In Touch With MPF MPF stands for Maltby Playability Factor, which is a concept developed by GolfWorks founder Ralph Maltby to rate golf club forgiveness. Based on years of experimentation and study, the process for determining MPF for irons is based on specific mass and dimensional qualities of the iron head itself. Things like vertical and horizontal CG locations and MOI are used in conjunction with a mathematical formula to group irons in the following categories: Ultra Game Improvement, Super Game Improvement, Game Improvement, Conventional, Classic and Player Classic. If you're interested in learning more about MPF and how your current or perspective irons rate, visit www.franklygolf.com/mpf.
34. Upgrade With True Temper Black Gold It's the rare golfer who has never experienced the performance of True Temper's famed Dynamic Gold iron shafts, which now include a new iteration, Black Gold. Featuring a stepless, descending weight design (shafts get lighter from long irons to short irons), Black Gold offers expected performance with the same ballflight as traditional Dynamic Gold, but with a new and unique feel. If you desire TT quality plus the ability to dial in the frequency of each shaft, then give Black Gold a try. For more information, visit www.truetemper.com.
35. Get "Hybridized" There are several reasons why a hybrid club is much easier to hit than its corresponding long iron. For one, the "wood"-type head of a hybrid positions weight away from the clubface, making it easier to get the ball airborne due to the deeper center of gravity. The smaller head size and added weight help the hybrid get through heavy grass when that need arises. Also, the shorter shaft makes it easier to control hybrids as compared to longer woods. These factors make hybrids a wise consideration in place of long irons. Most players have difficulty with 3-irons, and many have trouble with 4- and 5-irons. By replacing these hard-to-hit clubs with easier-to-strike hybrids, your control and distance will improve.
Hybrid irons and woods are available in a number of lofts, making it easy to determine which hybrids best match your set makeup. Many manufacturers of hybrids actually put a number on the sole of the club to tell a player what iron it replaces.
A key thing to remember when choosing a hybrid (or hybrids) is the loft gaps between the clubs in your set. You don't want to buy a hybrid that hits the ball the same distance as one of the clubs you're keeping in your bag. Compare the lofts of your irons–have them measured if need be–to determine which hybrids best fit into your set.
36. Upgrade With UST's Frequency Filtered Putter Shaft Featuring a butt section of woven graphite, a Frequency Filtered midsection and a steel tip, this shaft is the result of a joint venture between UST and Balance Certified. The goal was to design a system that significantly improved feel. This is accomplished with the Frequency Filter device integrated between the steel and graphite sections of the shaft. It's designed to allow certain vibration frequencies to pass through to the player's hands and block out others from coming up the shaft. For more information, visit www.ustgolfshaft.com.
37. Prepare The Most important Gear–You If your body doesn't have the right fuel, it won't perform properly. You need proteins to sustain you through 18 holes, so eat a balanced breakfast of fruit, cereal, skim milk, yogurt or maybe egg whites or substitutes. Skip the heavy bacon and eggs–it's too much for your body to digest and use.
At the turn, pass on that hot dog and chips and opt for fruit, a granola bar or a turkey or tuna sandwich. Better yet, bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich–it has the ideal mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Cheese crackers are a good second alternative, too.
38. Hybrid Hookup Did you purchase a hybrid with a graphite shaft, assuming it was more like a fairway wood so it needed a composite shaft? It's likely you did, but according to the experts, you'll get more performance from a steel shaft in a hybrid than a similar graphite shaft. Graphite is great for those who truly need it, and it affords longer length at a lighter weight, but you didn't buy the hybrid for distance. You bought it for its versatility and ease of use. If you're able, try switching out the graphite for steel.39. Travel Right Even if your clubs sit in the trunk of your car for months on end, or rattle against each other in your bag when you walk the course, your gear endures the most trauma as soon as you check it at the airport. Air travel is brutal on your clubs, even if you house them in a state-of-the-art travel bag. Wrap a heavy towel over the heads for extra protection, or do what some Touring pros do: insert your woods upside-down in your golf bag. This protects the most fragile part of your driver and woods (the shaft area just above the hosel). Also, consider a nifty travel bag accessory, the Stiff Arm, from Club Glove (www.clubglove.com) to keep your gear as safe as it can be. The Stiff Arm makes any travel bag collapse-proof.
40. Rethink Your Grips While you're likely aware that grips come in several different diameters, you may not be aware of the ramifications. Of course, if you have large hands, opt for larger grips, but also consider the effect. All other things being equal, larger grips limit hand action while smaller grips enhance it, which is why many gear buffs vary the size of their grips throughout their sets. Smaller-diameter grips in the longer irons and woods are effective in that more hand action is necessary to rotate the face through the hitting area to produce square contact. In the short irons and especially the wedges, larger grips can keep overactive hands from pulling short shots left of target. If you really want to personalize your set, experiment with different-size grips. It might make all the difference in the world.