Thursday, April 12, 2007

Updating my golf bag - Golf Research in Play

The contents of my bag have been changing lately. Of course, the bag itself has been as well, but I'll talk about that in a future post. I'm also not talking about the crushed chips & crackers, tees I'll never use, gadgets I forget about or the orgy of heterogeneous golf balls I have collected from my forays into the weeds to find my originals.

No, this long post is about the guests of honor in the bag - my golf clubs.

Brand and designer names

I have mentioned in several previous posts that I'm a Taylor Made girl. Despite TaylorMade's apparent lack of interest in my endorsement of their products, I continue to give it. I draw the line at pimping, though, and don't wear or carry items advertising their logo. Or would that be whoring? Either way, I never saw the point or taste in wearing a designer item with the designer's name emblazoned on it and why would I do it for golf gear manufacturers? Unless, of course, they paid sponsored me. That being said, I'm still quite happy with my now nearly three-year old set of Taylor Made irons, wedges, fairway woods and driver.

New clubs, golf research

I have TM's RAC OS Pitching (45 deg) and Sand (55 deg) wedges. Awhile back, I decided to try out some new wedges because so much of my game is played from 100 yards and in and I wondered if carrying a couple more wedges might improve my precision. So I ordered some wedges from GRIP, or Golf Research in Play, which is exactly what I intended to conduct. I went with the Gap wedge (52 deg) - to fill the Gap between the P and W, and the Lob (60 deg) looking for a 75 yard club.

The dilemma that shouldn't have been

The trouble was, in order to really conduct this research out on a golf course, I'd have to remove two clubs from my bag (following the 14 club rule) in order to carry all four wedges to get a good comparison. Then, to add to my dilemma, GRIP threw a hybrid in the shipment for me to try. Well, I removed my left-handed club without a blink, but to remove two more would be difficult! The hybrid is a 5-H, which should theoretically replace my 5-iron, probably my favorite iron of all. See, the 5-I is my ~160 club, and I find myself in a lot of situations that require that yardage. I wasn't about to remove it for an untested replacement. I decided to take them all to the range, where the 14-club rule doesn't matter. I know, I'm such a stickler. Like I couldn't have just taken them all out and played a few rounds that I didn't post, right? Or replaced some clubs and played a test round and posted whatever the results were. That score would have been thrown out anyway. Stickler or idiot. You decide. ANYWAY...

Experimenting - the plan

Not that kind of experimenting, you dirty, dirty chipmunks! That's supposed to be done in college and I skipped that semester. Of course I'm talking about experimenting with new golf clubs.

I was excited to try my new wedges but not so much about the hybrid. (I bought a TM 3H over a year ago and hardly ever use it. I've thought about going back to my 3-iron.) For the wedges, my plan was ambitious and was meant to determine exact yardages for each and had something to do with vectors. As for the 5H, I was just going to take a few swings and kind of get a feel for it.

I need to find a better practice range. Tom Barber is a fine establishment and a quick stop on the way from anywhere, just off the road. Plus, I just load up my micro-key with credits, keep in on my key chain so I can just pull up, grab my clubs, pop it in the ball machine and go straight to a station. Trouble is, the stations are all mats. I hate mats. And it's almost always super windy there so it's hard to get an accurate read on distance. That and the fact that it's all downhill. I never said my plan wasn't faulty.

Funny how things turn around

The GRIP wedges felt okay - at least as good as any iron can feel off a stupid mat. Difficult as it was to judge distance, I went ahead and decided that the 52 degree Gap wedge was too similar to my SW in distance to justify its place in my bag. And I guess I have to face facts - I'm just not that precise. The jury was still out on the 60 degree Lob wedge, and I clearly needed some grass time with it.

What really surprised me was the GRIP 5-Hybrid. I was immediately impressed with its feel. It has a weight and balance that is extremely comfortable - natural, even. Every shot felt pure, even when my execution wasn't. Still, I felt that way about my TaylorMade 3 rescue at first, too, so I knew to take a wait-and-see attitude with this one.

The real test and the results

I went ahead and exchanged my 5-iron for the hybrid and the left-handed club for the Lob wedge in my bag for a few rounds. Of course I never had even one 75 yard attempt, let alone several in order to determine if the Lob wedge was the club. I usually use my PW for 100-115 yard shots and my SW for everything inside 100. In order to give the LW a chance, I decided to use it in place of my SW for everything under 75. I think it was all psychological, but I just couldn't get comfortable with it. I guess I'm just too loyal to my SW.

The wedges will probably get another shot at a place in my bag, but for now they're resting quietly. I have to say, they look really sharp. I like the smoke plating (even though I could do without the big white logo on the back) and the sharpness is also literal. The bottom edge is a lot sharper than the edges on my TM wedges, which might be why I couldn't get comfortable with them right away. The grip feels great and the shafts have a strong, confident feel (I got the men's clubs because I'm used to playing with steel shafts).

And now the good news

This all took place in January. My first round out with the clubs was in the bitter cold at Los Robles Greens. The new GRIP hybrid made its debut on the #1 handicap 3rd hole. A good drive would have left me with less than 100 yards to the flag, but good drives were scarce that day. So, after a less than great drive, I was in some ugly rough on the right, about 155 from the green which was guarded by a bunker from that angle. In the past, I'd probably have used my 4 iron in that situation because of the rough and the bunker at the end. From the fairway, it would have been 5 iron all the way. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try the new 5 Hybrid. Blammo. Nailed it clean, sailed over the bunker and ended up about 12 feet from the pin, whereupon I made the birdie putt. That was the beginning of my love affair with this new club that is still going strong.

Physically, it's not exactly my type with its blue color and its bumpy lines, but love isn't all about looks. Besides, as our relationship matures, I'm even starting to find it attractive. I use it from the rough, I use it from fairways, I use it from fairway bunkers and I'll use it off the tees on the right par 3's. After my initial skepticism, it has become my "go-to" club. Yardage-wise, it replaced my 4-iron instead of my 5 (probably because I hit it cleaner more consistently), so my 5 is back in the bag. I keep my 4-iron for low punch shots, but maybe if I get kinky creative with my 5H, it will handle those, too.

It's not like this is my first square-dance, either. Many people have great responses the first time they try a hybrid club. I did with my TM 3 rescue but it faded. I guess it's all in the design of the club. I think maybe that bulgy slot on the bottom - if you'll pardon my technical jargon - helps keep the club in its groove through the swing no matter the lie and provides the forgiveness that allows me to keep hitting good shots with it more than any other. As for the weights, I'm sure they play a part as well. Maybe I'm supposed to adjust them or something but it seems to be working for me the way it is. Anyway, I don't need to know how an engine works as long as I like the way the car handles.

Ironically, the amazing forgiveness also concerns me, because I can get sloppy with my swing and not worry about it. The rest of my clubs aren't that forgiving and I worry that I'll get sloppy with the rest of my game. Maybe I'll have to get as many GRIP hybrids as possible!

And to think the whole idea was to get new wedges. Why am I always wookin' pa nub in all the wrong places?

Next post.


Scott said...

Tom Barber's is FUN - it's like a shooting gallery out there...between the chipping baskets, the several greens, and even the palm trees and water hazards make fun targets, too!

I know what you mean about liking the hybrids - I got a Callaway 4H with a steel shaft in a charity tournament that is making ME smitten with IT, too...

Glad the new clubs are working out for you...

Double Eagle said...

Figuring out which clubs to drop in favor of extra wedges is tough. Being a huge Dave Pelz disciple, I feel like I need to grab a couple more wedges myself. I think I can probably drop my 3 and 4 irons, but that leaves a huge gap. But frankly, I don't feel like I use them that much anyway (I should start keeping track) and I can always work on a low power 2-iron shot to help fill the void.

Sean @ Deep Rough said...

Terry at The Wedge Guy had a nice post about the number of 'scoring' clubs vs the long irons/woods etc in one's bag. Pretty good read.

a short quote:

Analyze a few of your recent rounds of golf, and discount the drives on par 4 and 5 holes and all putts. You’ll probably find that you typically play at least 60-70% of your remaining shots - approaches, pitches, and chips - from 135 yards or less.

By the way, nice review of the Grip clubs, I had to laugh at the 'bulgy slot'..lol!