We are lucky to have two of the most knowledgeable golf gearheads in our office. And they are sharing their 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 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.)
What trends in woods, irons and wedges do you guys predict for the coming five years? Also, how would you rank the top five game-changing moments in terms of equipment? @3PuttNoMore
Without getting into jumps in equipment tech from a century ago, lets focus on more recent times, say from 1960. Why then? Because we already did the exercise a few years ago with our bracket challenge to determine the biggest leaps since that year. Our final four was the Ping Anser putter (the original heel-toe weighted blade and the most copied club ever); TaylorMade’s original M1 driver, which provided unmatched levels of adjustability, and its r7 driver, which brought to market in 2004 the concept of movable weights in a clubhead, paving the way for all others in adjustability; and the original Callaway Great Big Bertha, which launched the game into large-headed drivers. The Odyssey 2-Ball putter also could get a nod for its inventive approach to alignment, which made mallets fashionable again. As for trends, in drivers and irons expect manufacturers to continue to improve performance in the off-center parts of the clubface and in wedges, look for surface roughness to be a likely area of continued development.
Is it worth getting fit for clubs I already own? I am 28, never been fit for clubs before. I currently use an off the shelf Ping set that I’ve had for about four years. I’m 5-5 and sometimes feel certain lengths of clubs might be a bit too long. @a_gunzy
This is a great question because it addresses something many people don’t think about. And the answer is absolutely yes, it’s worth getting fit for clubs you already have. Especially if you’re 5-foot-5, since a stock set of clubs isn’t likely to have the proper lie angle for you. Luckily, if that’s the case, it’s not a difficult fix. Now if the shafts are a bad fit, that could become an expensive proposition, and you might look at new clubs as the cost could be comparable. But if you can make the changes easily enough, there’s probably still some miles left on your irons before you need to swap them out. (By the way, this also applies to anyone who has had their irons for a few years and perhaps has undergone a swing change. If that sounds like you, clubs that once were fitted to you might not be now. Get it checked out.)
I’m new to golf (practice range only, never been on a course). Should I start with budget equipment or should I go for the big brands. So far I have a driver, 3-iron, 4-iron, 3-wood and putter. @Roman_Parra
Although it is not uncommon for those new to the game to grab a handful of sticks and head to the range, you might have picked some of the most difficult clubs to hit with that 3-iron, 4-iron and even the 3-wood. The issue with much of the budget equipment out there is that it’s simply not very good and could make it harder for you to enjoy the game, even on the range. A typical “short set” would be a driver, 5-wood, 5-iron, 7-iron, pitching wedge and putter, or something along those lines. Instead of buying from a budget brand, do some online shopping of used clubs from reputable retailers. Used clubs from a reliable brand are probably a better start to your game than a new set from a budget brand.
I don’t have access to a club-fitter, I have a 10.5-degree driver adjusted to 9.5 degrees, my swing speed is 105 mph. Is it a good idea to get an 8.5-degree lofted driver? Would I gain more distance? @Richiono22
Unless you’re in prison or conducting experiments on the International Space Station, you always have access to a fitter. Start with our directory of America’s 100 Best Clubfitters, which highlights hundreds of places to get the proper analysis of what driver is right for you. What those fitters will tell you is that the relationship between loft and swing speed is real, there is not a direct correlation. For instance, there are way more players on the PGA Tour playing 10.5-degree drivers than there are playing 8.5-degree drivers and the average swing speed on the PGA Tour is nearly 10 miles per hour faster than yours. You might need a different shaft to help cut down your excessive launch angle and spin rate, or (gads!) you might need a lesson.
We recently spent some time at Club Champion and the fitting process there shows you how something like dynamic loft is much more important than the loft of your clubhead. Dynamic loft has to do with how you’re delivering the club to the ball at impact. If you’re adding loft by flipping your hands and swinging up at the ball, less loft may be the only answer, short of a swing overhaul. But needing less loft can be true if you’re swinging at 105 miles per hour just as easily as 90. One current equipment editor we know once was fit for a 7.5-degree model reserved for long-drive competitors when the longest drives he was hitting barely cracked 200 yards. Even if you don’t have access to a fitter, at the very least, demo an 8.5-degree driver through a service like Global Golf’s UTry feature. It lets you try almost any club for a couple weeks for a rental fee. Test it out against your current club and not only see whether it’s longer but how consistent those long hits are in terms of distance and direction (how big is the range between your shortest and longest hits). The tighter that window, the better off you’ll be, regardless of which one produces that the hit that goes the farthest.