Trade Secrets

How the pros get the most from their equipment
By Andy Brumer

Lee Trevino once claimed to have cut open ten persimmon drivers to find out why he hit some well and some poorly. Arnold Palmer has pointed out that during his early years on Tour, he won golf tournaments with 14 different clubs in his bag on Sunday from the ones he started with on Thursday. And any visitor to the range during the practice rounds of a Tour event will discover a beehive of activity, as pros make critical equipment choices to match their game to course conditions.

Even so, amateurs continue to take their gear for granted, perhaps with too much trust in the notion that, by simply playing with the same basic stuff as the Tour pros, their games will improve by a kind of technological osmosis. What they do not consider is just how extensively Tour players adjust, bend, weld and weight their clubs to customize them for their specific body and swing types and their overall style of play.

Many pros use different clubs depending on course conditions and setup. They might use a lighter putter with more loft when playing a course with slow greens and a heavier putter with less loft to reduce skid when playing fast greens.

Pros sometimes change the size of their grips to alter release—using thinner grips for a fuller release and a draw, and thicker grips, like those used by Jack Nicklaus, to quiet the hands and promote fades. Oversized putter grips reduce hand action throughout the stroke. Full cord grips actually stiffen the shaft a small but significant degree, and grips with ridges built down their length help players position the hands on the club the same way every time.

For their drivers, pros are moving toward lighter clubs and more loft than ever before. It is now common to see Tour pros with 10 or 11 degree drivers, whereas in years past that would have been unthinkable. They are doing it because modern golf balls come off the clubface at a much faster speed and with less spin than ever, so the pros need more initial loft to maximize launch angle.

Tour pros, for the most part, play with more lofted irons than the industry standard because they want to control the distance of iron shots, not hit each one as far as they can. But too often ego gets in the way on the amateur level—playing irons with insufficient lofts makes it difficult to hit shots high enough to hold greens. Moving to weaker, or less lofted irons also returns more bounce to the soles of the clubs, reducing the average player’s tendency to hit fat shots.

N inety percent of Tour players use raw or unchromed wedges because they produce more spin and consequently offer greater control. Players who feel they spin the ball too much, on the other hand, turn to chromed wedges. It’s also not well known that Tour players often use wedge shafts that are one step softer than those in their irons, because they offer more feel on half-swings and other finesse shots.

The last major component to dial in is the golf ball. Tour players choose their ball by starting from the green and working back to the tee. First they putt and chip with different models, paying close attention to each ball’s spin characteristics and feel. Next they move back about 100 yards and study the trajectory, checking the release as it hits the green. They repeat this step with shots from 150 yards, and choose the ball that performs best for them on scoring shots, not the one they hit the farthest
—as most amateurs will every time.

Sometimes, though, a pro will take a step back in time to kick-start his or her game. LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott, for instance, once won back-to-back tournaments with a putter that she found at a miniature golf course—one with a lime-green tennis racket grip on it. If a club feels good and gives confidence, then use it!

Back to Matchplay

Site designed by Shahna Garg