Editors' Blog
December 31, 2008

Equipment: To Buy or Not to Buy?

Golf World readers, being the traditionalists that they are, responded with spirit to Mike Johnson's column about replacing "old" equipment in the Dec. 19 "Gear Up" issue:

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Dear Editor:>

Although I am appreciative of Mr. Johnson's efforts to promote the products of the fine companies that support your excellent publication, I would like to offer a different perspective to his premise for playing better.

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Employing equipment that masks the swing's mistakes, such as the "game-improvement" clubs mentioned in the article, seems to be akin to trying to learn how to play a guitar without any strings. A true "game-improvement" club would be the classic, forged, muscle-back blades and persimmon woods that when miss-applied, provide immediate feedback as to the error.

Further, the notion that new clubs are the panacea to an improved game neglects the basic premise that dedicated, specific practice is the key element to improvement. Perhaps another article citing available statistics on the changes to USGA Handicaps since the introduction of these new clubs would be of interest With four pages of just new putters I can't help but wonder how the average putts-per-green dynamic has improved today from say, twenty years ago.

I love your magazine; by far it's the best out there.

Bob Slavonia

Pittsboro, NC

Dear Editor:>

Who'da thunk it? Equipment lobby promotes consumption of clubs! I'm for a yearly men's club event that requires wooden woods, a titleist K2 ball, no hybrids, and no wedges over 56 degrees. These engineers/equipment companies have enough money to sue the pants off the USGA, but they have made the game "more enjoyable" for more folks (consumers). It's hard not to feel like it's more of a video game than ever before, new gimmicks every day. Golf as a sport suffers when tech advantages become a major variable, and when money buys the advantage, its a sad day for true sport. At least we'll get to watch this unseemly battle amongst tech and Golf play out, another episode of hilarious human folly. Lawyers, engineers, courts, dragging our game through some sleazy capitalist phase, coinciding with a seeming nadir of market economy. Actually, with the economic downturn, maybe the tech trendoids 'll be loading craigslist up right about now. Tech boy, I got you for 5's, and when you hear that sublime flush of persimmon through my ball, you'll remember what got you golfing.>

David Shumann>

Seattle, WA

We'd love to agree with you fellows and harken back to that day when our Spalding Dots fluttered out there 190 yards and we nearly lost our eyesight trying to align the blade of our Kenneth Smith 1-iron. We'd especially like to agree with you because this editor's bag was one of the inspirations for Mike's column. But I've tried hitting persimmon and blades--our club has one of those tournaments, too--and my hands are still ringing. And, David, if the equipment manufacturers had really made the game too easy we would have won our Member-Guest last year because I would not have missed the 18th green from the middle of the fairway by twenty yards. The game for most of us remains a challenge and it's no sin to want to add a yard or two off the tee or survive a mishit. That's my stand. But Peter Aronstam has a different take on the column, one I suspect we may be hearing more of in the coming year. He says, in effect, "It's about the money, stupid!"

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Dear Editor:>

I would take Micheal Johnson's griping about bad form at golf demo days--to try equipment but never to buy it--more seriously if magazines like yours presented readers with the full picture about new clubs. But as long as you report only on equipment made by the large OEMs, I am going to be one of those many who try, don't buy, and then turn to an option you choose to ignore - custom clubs made from reputable component manufacturers (not the knock offs!).>

Why fork over $500 for one of the OEM drivers displayed in when I can build a set of woods or irons, equally good, for the same price using components from one of the reputable component manufactures like Golfsmith, Wishon etc? Using component manufacturers, I can get exactly the fit, feel and performance I require for my game, at prices much lower than the clubs you push on your pages. >

If you are serious about helping golf and golfers in these tough economic times, then also present an option that offers equal or better performance at a lower price. If you cannot give the full picture (afraid of biting the hand that feeds you?), then quit complaining.

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Peter Aronstam

Boca Raton, FL

Peter, I think this is a question of DNA. Is one a builder and a tinkerer, like yourself or my buddy, Port. St. Lucie Hammer, or, like most of us, just an impatient consumer? You say the driver is $500. But by the time you say that, it's been reduced. And in another couple of weeks, it's up on Ebay, slightly used, for half that. What's more, last year's model is already less than half and if you want to by a used set, irons and wedges included, there are tons of deals. Poor economy or not, bargains abound. There's a joke in my wife's family that whenever one of the three girls needed something, their Mom would say, "We can make that!" Sometimes it's easier and almost as cheap not to. You are right about fitting, of course. A brand new, carefully fitted set of clubs will be pricey. I'm not sure, though, that most of our readers require either brand new or the kind of fitting you're describing. That, and space, is why we do not cover components the way you suggest. But more power to you. If building a set feels half as good as re-gripping my clubs, I'm going to try it when I retire, which apparently is going to come a bit later than I planned a year ago.

--Bob Carney