Technology Is Only Part Of The Equation

Plain and simple, I love golf equipment.  I am always intrigued by what golf club engineers can come up with next.

However, I do understand that there is a limit on what golf equipment can do to help you play golf better; I wish others did.

It’s a common theme almost ever year – people trying to buy a golf game while others who play well continue to show exactly what got them to be a successful golfer.

A couple incidents last week again hammered this home for me; I just wish a few more golfers had access to what I saw and understood the implications for themselves.

First…to the range.

A typical scene in the spring time.  I watch a golfer approach a spot down the range from me with just one golf club and I know exactly what club it will be even without seeing it completely.  I have never seen a golfer head to range with just a single stick without it being a driver.  That held true in this case as well.

Out of the corner of my eye I watched the guy (who looked somewhat athletically built so I had hope for what I was about to see) dump his extra large bucket of balls next to his mat and proudly whisk off the the cover of his shiny new white driver in a theatrical manner – as if to say “look at me I’ve got the same driver as a lot of the pros.”  A cursory twirl of the club that I am sure he counted as warm-up followed and in seconds he assumed a hunched, stiff-armed posture over the ball – complete with intense stare.  Anticipating a thunderous strike I kept my eyes glued to him.  Whooosh!  A mighty swing followed that left the ball……exactly where it had been seconds before.  Yep, a true whiff which he obviously attributed to a flexibility issue as it set him off on a more detailed (at least 15 seconds this time) stretching routine.

It had to have helped as he struck the ball on the next two swings…or at least parts of it as each ball took off on ground-hugging ball flights.  “New driver,” he says to me as he catches me watching his antics.  “Just getting used to the weight of it.”  “Yah, getting used to new clubs can be tough,” I say reassuringly, knowing in my heart that the “3-D” tuning of his new club currently has little chance of helping this guy.

I return to hitting balls, managing a few decent drives that prompt my new range buddy to engage me some more.  “Wow, you’re hitting those pretty deep; what club is that?”

It’s my opening.  I talk to him about clubs a little bit and to little surprise he tells me about his purchasing journey.  The one that lasted just seconds as he walked into a local golf shop, grabbed his new driver off the rack and headed for the checkout.  “Do you think I got the wrong one? ” he asks me. I tell that is might not be the case but a fitting always helps.

I also inform him (as delicately as I can) that he has a few swing issues he might want to take care of first.  You can tell by his body language that he instantly expected great things from his new clubs – a little “magic” if you will.  Since he tells me he is about to spend some more cash on a matching three wood I ask him if he would like a little advice.  Expecting a recommendation on a hot new club I break his heart and tell him to take the money and seek out the local pro for a series of lessons.  It’s not the “sexy” thing to do but I assure him that the effort will pay off more than making more faulty swings with a new club.

Whether he takes my advice or not I will never know but hopefully I gave him something to think about.  And maybe if you are reading this, for you as well.

Just days later I was covering the 63rd Eastern Provinces Championship in Kingston, Ontario.  There I was joined by several people, all following along as 13 year-old Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ontario was playing her way to a championship.  In doing so she hit drive after drive deep into the fairways.  It didn’t take long for one spectator who I knew to ask a familiar question.  “Boy, she’s hitting some great drives; what driver is that she is using?”

I watched his eyes closely as I prepared to give my answer – I know he was a big gearhead who is always seeking an improved golf game at the pro shop.  “It’s a PING ISI-Tec driver,” I said nonchalantly.  “It came out in 2001.”

The look on his face, needless to say, was priceless.  Here was a 13 year-old hitting one impressive drive after another with a golf club that first hit golf shops when she was still in diapers.

“I guess I better practice more,” he responded.

Another golfing soul saved from the brink of destruction…