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!
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