Play What You Want
Before I say anything else, let me be clear that, above all, I believe in those four big words on the line above. Play whatever makes you happy. No one is paying you to play golf, no one is giving you free equipment, and, at the end of the day, no one cares what you play or how you score. You play for fun, so play whatever clubs make the game fun. Now that that’s been said, on with the lesson.
…we judge golfers by what they have in the bag. Knowing this, we want to have great looking stuff in our bags: blade irons, custom putters, hot aftermarket shafts, the whole works. Golf forums make this even worse because now our gear is judged not just by the guys at our course but by golfers from all over the globe. If the length of my “What’s In the Bag” signature doesn’t rival War and Peace, people won’t think I’m a real golfer!
Yes, that last bit was sarcasm, but the rest of it was dead serious, whether we admit it or not.
The Mysterious Appeal of Small Golf Clubs
Blade irons. Sub-460cc drivers. Tiny fairway woods and hybrids. Traditional putters.
These are the things of the golf forum wet dreams. And the appeal isn’t mysterious, regardless of what that heading says. The appeal is that they make us look like players. We want them for the same reason that weekend warriors at the YMCA wear Jordans – the gear connects us to our sports idols.
Where this becomes problematic is when our preferences run into a web of rationalization about why we should play those clubs. Every golf forum on Earth is full of guys insisting, “I just can’t play with ____ (offset, a big driver, a mallet putter, etc)” despite the legions of PGA Tour players with 460 cc drivers, GI or SGI irons, and potato-masher putters.
Stock Shafts vs. Aftermarket Shafts
An aftermarket shaft increases a club’s sex appeal by a factor of 10. That’s just science. If it weren’t true, people wouldn’t pay $300+ for them. But are they necessary? Not always.
Stock shafts can be pretty good. Whether we’re talking about drivers, irons, fairway woods, or hybrids, the stock shaft was designed to work well with that club head for the majority of golfers. Do some of us fall outside the middle of the bell curve? Absolutely. There are guys who swing really fast, guys who swing really slow, aggressive swingers, and lazy swingers. Those guys on the edges really benefit from aftermarket shafts, but those of us who are pretty average could probably play pretty fine golf with the stock option.
Does this mean I’m going to stop searching for the holy grail of driver shafts? Not likely. And I’m not suggesting you should either. What I’m recommending here is that you look at the performance of the stock option rather than presupposing that it’s garbage and must be replaced.
Where Preference and Performance Meet
How can we reconcile the things we want with the things that make us play well? The answer is surprisingly simple: by working with a qualified club fitter.*
The amount and variety of golf clubs available is absolutely staggering. There is simply no reason to compromise anymore. You can find something that blends what you want with what you need if you have the right fitter on your side.
A good fitter can also act as your best friend and voice of reason. You may love those blade irons, but your fitter can show you the “cost” in terms of distance and accuracy. Or you may find out that you truly play better with blades. Either way, you’ll have the facts to make an informed decision.
Performance and preference shouldn’t be an either/or choice when buying golf equipment. Get both.
*To my regular readers: admit it, you didn’t see that coming this time, did you?