Gear for your Game
June 24, 2014
The golf industry has invented just about everything needed except a self-swinging club and a golf ball with its own homing device when it goes into the weeds. (Whoever figures out these two will make the late Steve Jobs look like a pauper.) ¶ Short of these miraculous inventions, here's a checklist of what should be in your bag.
Before we even get to a club or a golf ball, a reminder that you are playing at altitude. ¶ That means sunscreen and layers. While being at 6-9,000 feet helps your shots go further, you are closer to the sun. A minimum of SPF 30 is required up here and reapplying it at the turn isn't a bad idea. You can turn into a lobster very quickly on our local courses. ¶ And while the weather is generally pleasant during the summer — the high 80s without humidity is a serious heat wave — things change quickly in the mountains. Keep a rainsuit and a fleece in your bag. Showers roll through the Rockies pretty quickly, but keeping yourself from being drenched to the bone during that quick rain is a good idea. An extra layer after said shower drops the temperature about 15 degrees allows you to finish your round in comfort.
By and large, you're in cart country in Eagle and Summit County. Even if you have a stand-up bag it's likely getting strapped to the back because cart fees are generally included with your greens fee. ¶ The one major exception is the Vail Golf Club. Though the views of the Gore Range are spectacular, it's a flat course, and very walkable. Again, a reminder to tourists that even walking 18 holes at 8,000 feet is a bit different than at sea level. ¶ Bottom line: Feel free to bring your Rodney Dangerfield "Caddyshack" cart bag.
One can go bankrupt here. One uses this club maybe 14 times per round, but the golfer spends endlessly for the 300-yard drive. It's probably your swing that keeping you from tour distance, so maybe it's time for a lesson. On the other hand, if you have a TaylorMade R5, as in 2005, you deserve an upgrade.
The most-maligned club in the bag rarely has a correlation to actual performance. Your putter's awesome after you sink a 40-foot bomb and you want to snap it in two after consecutive three-putts. It's all about personal comfort with the flat blade going from the lucky one you picked up at a rummage sale to the Scotty Cameron,
and hitting the practice green early and often.
If you can hit your 3-iron like a rope, Godspeed, and skip this section. For most of us, the 3-iron is a decorative club used only for punch shots out of familiar trees. ¶ Hybrids have come a long way in the last 10 years, and are great substitute for those mid-irons. They swing like a short iron and can shorten a hole significantly. Demo days at local courses are a good place to try these bad boys out.
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We are now getting into the territory where it might not be the equipment, but your swing. Gasp, it just might be you. This is where we put in our standard notice that getting a lesson from your PGA pro at the golf course of your choosing is really a good idea. These people teach for a living, and they can probably figure out that slice, hook, etc. ¶ That said, the pace of technology is moving quickly. Once every five years is not a bad idea to get a new set. The author finally discarded his trusty Ping Eye 2 Blacks for some nice cavity-backed irons on a golf safari two summers ago. It does make a difference. ¶ If you do have a standard set of irons, consider adding a 60-degree wedge, not to mention a gap wedge, if you don't already have one. With the ball traveling further here, not to mention those dicey short shots over a greenside bunker which seem to happen often, the 60 is a good add to the bag.
What you hit actually does matter, regardless of your ability, but not in the way you think. We know that you love your Titleist Pro V1, your Nike Black, your Calloway Hex and Bridgestone Tours, but 90 percent of you don't swing your club fast enough to benefit from these pricey models. ¶ Choosing a golf ball is all about how fast you swing the club. You can get your speed measured at just about any local golf course, but we'll bet most of you fall into the "medium" range. You can still play your brand of choice, but just play a softer compression version of the ball. For Titleist, that means going from a Pro V1 to an NXT. For Calloway, that's the Hex to the Diablo. ¶ If you're a high handicap, do yourself a favor and go to an even softer ball, like the Titleist SoLo, the Nike Power Soft or the author's favorite, the Precept Laddie. ¶ The bonus here is that not only will you hit the ball further, but you're also spending less money per dozen by using the right ball. Win-win, people.