Whenever I haul out my clubs it’s like having a round of drinks with a group of old friends.
There’s a golfing ‘agony aunt’ whose column I frequent. Recently he received an email from a single-figure handicap South African golfer that stated, in part, ‘To date my performance seems to have improved because of advanced technology and buying new equipment every two years or less.’
And now comes the zinger: ‘I would like to get better and improve my distance.’
It’s weeks later and I’m still laughing. He needs three wishes from a genie, not an agony aunt and certainly not new equipment every other year.
Far be it from me to impugn our world-class golf equipment retailers and club pros, but it seems to me there is a threshold beyond which there is only one way to ‘get better and improve my distance’. It’s called practice, or in the wise words of Ben Hogan, ‘The secret’s in the dirt.’
Maybe I’m wrong. Heaven knows, my wife tells me I am several dozen times a day, and maybe there’s a handicap below which equipment matters. Having never been lower than a 16, I’m in no position to judge, but I did know a club pro who kept a rusty-headed, hickory-shafted 3-iron in his shop. Whenever some starry-eyed individual with dreams of playing the Tour asked for advice, he would give him the 3-iron and say, ‘Take this to the range. When you can hit it properly come back and see me.’
He would leave the fellow to stew for a while, then turn up, take the club and cream half a dozen balls 250m. Then he would say, ‘It’s not about the equipment.’ In that respect, you may remember Lance Armstrong’s autobiography: It’s Not About the Bike. His sequel was titled Every Second Counts, and were he to write a third instalment, he could borrow the marketing phrase of a well-known sports energy drink: ‘It’s what you put in.’
Be that as it may, we come back to equipment. My own clubs leave the garage half a dozen times in a good year, and whenever I haul them out it’s like having a round of drinks with a group of old friends. There’s the driver and 3-wood combo I inherited from a Scottish pro. He qualified for the SA Open 20 years ago and was given the clubs on the driving range by an equipment marketing gofer who mistook him for someone who could play.
Then there’s the putter my wife won for nearest the pin on the Montagu Course at Fancourt in 2003. It wasn’t good enough for her, but it’s perfect for me, and it doesn’t talk back. There’s the 9-iron with the rat-chewed grip. The pinky finger of my left hand nestles perfectly into the rodently sculpted groove. I can’t hit any other 9-iron because my finger is looking for that groove.
And then there’s ‘The Whistler’, a Bobby Locke 5-wood with a piece of string that is gradually unravelling on the hosel. It makes a whistling noise that gives the illusion of exceptional clubhead speed.
It’s worth a hole or two in match play until my opponent works out that my ball flight does not coincide with the sound effects.
Now, dear single-figure handicap golfer with constantly renewed equipment, how could I look myself in the mirror if I were to leave those old friends in the garage?
– Andy Capostagno is a monthly contributor for Compleat Golfer where he writes for the dedicated hackers out there