We are lucky to have two of the most knowledgable golf gearheads in our office. And they are sharing their golf equipment knowledge with you. Golf Digest's equipment editors, Mike Stachura and E. Michael Johnson, have covered the golf equipment business for decades, and there are few who know the equipment industry better. We've asked them to answer your questions in a weekly equipment round-up. Tweet them any equipment questions you have, and they might answer your questions next week. (Click here or here to ask them a question.)
For a 7-handicapper, does the type of ball mean that much? —@netteKnows
Simply stated, the type of ball you play need not be driven by handicap in just the same way that the type of restaurant that serves a good meal is determined by the thread count on the tablecloths. Our rule of thumb on golf balls is the smartest, simplest equipment fitting guideline we’ve heard (and let’s credit Titleist ball wizard Bill Morgan for first sharing this wisdom with us at least a decade or two ago): Find the shot that is most important to determining how well you play the hole (tee shot, approach shot, short game or putt), and then choose a ball that optimizes your skill set or mitigates the lack thereof. That means if you’ve got a wicked slice and you don’t hit the ball high, maybe a lower-spinning two-piece ball might solve your needs. Conversely, if you’ve got a great short game, a multilayer urethane ball is the only way to highlight those skills. Once you’ve settled on satisfying the most important shot of the hole, move to the next and see how which balls that meet the first criterion fully meet the second criterion. That means if you’ve found a great short game ball, better make sure it’s not costing you the distance you crave, for example. If you’ve found a solution for your tee shots, make sure it feels ideal around and on the green. Even if balls have similar constructions (which usually means similar prices), even if they come from the same brand, there are differences and those differences are easier to detect and more meaningful the better the player. And a 7 by all accounts is a pretty decent player. Easy answer: Play 9 holes with a cheaper ball than your current model. Or a more expensive one. If you can’t tell the difference, you don’t need to spend the money. If you can tell the difference, then the decision should be just as obvious.
Where is all the high-pricing in golf equipment going to stop? I read recently how many courses were closing compared to the number of new ones. Closings far outnumber new openings. Is the average golfer being priced out of the game? —@DaveWil08816931
The word conflate means to mix up two ideas, usually in support of a conclusion that is only half right, or certainly confused at best. An example might be thinking that the movie White Christmas was the debut of the song White Christmas. That of course was Holiday Inn, and then again, actually in Blue Skies. That said, White Christmas is the definitive delight, minus of course the languid “Choreography” number. What you’re doing in the question above is conflating course closings as a sign that golfers don’t want to spend money to play golf or buy golf equipment. Point of order, but according to the latest figures from Golf Datatech, sales and rounds played are both up this year. Still, your point is valid. You can’t grow the game if you’re expecting the working man to pony up half a mortgage payment every time a new driver comes out. But then that’s not how it works, is it? First, most of us don’t buy a new driver every year. I’m going on three years since I’ve replaced my driver and that’s like saying the kid working in the candy store still hasn’t tried caramel M&Ms. (Yes, sacrilege, I know.) You don’t have to buy a new driver every year, and when you do buy a new driver, you’ll go for a fitting with a launch monitor and take your old club with you to make sure the technology upgrade that manufacturer has made is worth dipping into your rainy day fund. (Caramel, dude. Just sayin’.) Second, the price range of premium drivers in stores now, including some past Hot List-awarded products ranges from a little north of $200 all the way to, well, past your mortgage payment. Unless you swing at 110 miles per hour and you have a doctor’s prescription for a shaft made from the fuselage parts of a 787, you can get Dreamliner-like distance for People Express prices. Third, and this is a big point: The used club option is legit, particularly if you buy from a trusted resource like Global Golf. Right now, you can find drivers introduced this year (yes, 2019) for half their introductory price. Priced out of the game? That’s not an assessment justified by the current golf economy. Expand your horizons, my friend. Embrace the alternatives. In a word, taste the caramel.
Will we ever see pros using rangefinders to help with pace of play? —@ChrisTillery
My goodness we can only hope so. In fact, it’s mind-blowing it’s not already allowable. Almost every pro uses such a device during practice rounds to measure distance, so they certainly have no reluctance in using them. And how about the fact that everyone sitting at home watching on television knows the exact yardage, thanks to the PGA Tour's ShotLink technology, but the guy hitting the shot doesn’t? Even the ShotLink volunteers know the exact yardages, and the players are using the equivalent of paper, pencil and trigonometry. That’s messed up. The Rules of Golf even changed in 2019 to permit the use of distance measuring devices. Whereas before a local rule had to be employed to allow the use of distance measuring devices, now you need to put in a local rule to not allow them. If the use of such devices is OK by the Rules of Golf, then why are we banning them at the professional level? The rules allow only devices that measure distance, not slope, elevation or wind. There also have been pockets of use at pay-for-play level. The PGA of America allows distance-measuring devices at some of its state and section events, but not for its biggest tournaments, including the PGA Championship. The PGA Tour also had a trial run of sorts in 2017 when it allowed players at a few tournaments on the then-Web.com Tour, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie PGA Tour Canada to compete in tournament rounds using laser rangefinders and other distance-measuring devices. We don’t recall the earth spinning off its axis when that occurred, and we honestly cannot fathom what the objection is. It’s no fun for spectators either at home or at a tournament to watch players and caddies step off yardages and babble endlessly. Just zap the number and get on with it. Besides, any rule that leads to the disqualification of former NFL great Jerry Rice during a then Nationwide Tour event in 2010 is just wrong. And while we’re talking about the NFL, if a football team can get a play called in from the sidelines, relayed to the team, get the team in formation and actually snap the ball all within 40 seconds, then how can a golfer not hit a stationary object in the same amount of time? How strongly do we feel about this? We made this one of our 13 Dumbest Things in Golf last year.