Golf equipment truths: Should you spend $400 on a putter?
Nothing against your neighborhood golf store, but our experts are the most knowledgable golf gearheads around. 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 this space 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.)
Do I need to spend $400 on a putter or nah? --@Sam_Beishuizen
Do you “need’ to spend $400 on a putter? No one truly needs to spend $400 on a putter. Of course, if you’re willing to spend $500-plus on a new driver, you could investigate the value of a higher end putter because you might be better fit at that price point than one from the bargain barrel. But fact is, most putters on the Golf Digest Hot List are well below that, and we’ve even had putters that go for as little as a hundred bucks make the list. And tour players have won with putters they picked up on sale or even used at the local golf shop or Golf Galaxy. If you’re the type of golfer that appreciates the quality of materials and the craftsmanship that comes with a $400 putter then you might not need to, but you might want to. It’s no different than the person who drives a Tesla or a Mercedes. They don’t need it to get where they’re going. A Honda CR-V will do just fine. But there’s a certain chest-puffing attitude that comes with knowing you have something special. Same applies to putters.
I can’t wait. 80 mph swing speed. 57 years old. What driver is best for me? And you can’t answer, “Go get a fitting.” Thank you. --@CrupiRocky
No, sir, thank you for this tragically misinformed question. It is like asking a doctor “I’m 57 years old and I’m coughing. What antibiotic should I take?” You have not provided enough information, nor could that information circumvent a physical examination. First, age and swing speed, while helpful, are only slightly more useful in finding the right driver than hair color and favorite tour player. Would an aging, moderate swing speed player like yourself play better with an extremely heavy, low-lofted head with stiff flex shaft? Probably not. Does that mean you should only be looking at the lightest weight models with high lofts and soft shafts? Hard to say. There are lots of ways to deliver the club at 80 miles per hour. A long, languid 80 miles per hour will necessitate a different shaft than a compact swing with late wrist lag. Weight settings, face settings, even the right grip are all variables that need to be pursued with a fitting. Heck, you might only want to spend $200, in which case, you should look at the used market, but only after getting some guidance from your fitter or club pro. To choose not to take advantage of the expertise of a fitter is to decide that no, you really don’t want to find the best driver for you. But I get it your stubborn: So here are three guidelines: Loft is your friend. Choose consistency of impact over the one long ball. The best driver for you is probably one with a shaft shorter than what’s being sold.
Oh, and go get a fitting.
With all that’s going on with the testing of drivers, I golf a lot in a hot country, the face of my driver gets very hot. Have any tests been done in these circumstances? --@scotgoodtogo
First, manufacturers do a lot of durability tests, making sure clubs lasts through thousands and thousands of hits, extreme temperatures and other generalized overuse. Same is true for grips and shafts and balls. But this concern is a new one on us. We’ve heard of hot faces before but heating up a face to a degree that would change how flexible the titanium is had us reaching for the experts on our Hot List Technical panel. The consensus is that a driver face that was heated up to 120 or 150 degrees in the trunk of your car dozens of times might have its flexibility change by a percentage that theoretically could be measured by a number that would involve an awful lot of zeros after the decimal point. In other words, that would be pretty much a no. Consider this: Titanium’s casting temperature is well over 3,000 degrees. You might be rightly concerned about the epoxy that’s holding your graphite shaft in your driver’s hosel but only if you’re using something with pretty shoddy workmanship or a cheap counterfeit. But unless you routinely play your golf at Proxima Centauri Dunes, your driver should hold up just fine and remain perfectly legal. That said, there is one benefit to all that heat. The team at Trackman reports that going from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit will add at least nine yards to your drives because of the effect on air density. Lighter clothes, increased muscle flexibility and the elasticity of the golf ball could add even more yards. (Of course, the opposite is true as temps decrease, as well.) So the next time you tee it on Proxima Centauri, when you really nut one, you might hit it approximately 497 yards farther, gravitational effects notwithstanding. Assuming you don’t spontaneously combust on your downswing, of course.
Does/could using lead tape make a club non-conforming? --@BryanDFuller
Fortunately, an easy part of your answer here is covered clearly in the Rules, which allow “features for weight adjustment,” such as lead tape. Obviously, you can’t make those adjustments in the middle of a round, just like you can’t tweak the setting of your adjustable driver to help you hit a fade on a dogleg right or a draw on a dogleg left. That being said, you can do things with lead tape that would make your club nonconforming, like piling it up in the heel or toe in such a way that would change the shape and extend the measurements beyond the size rules that require a club to fit within a five-inch square box. But since we’ve been talking a lot about CT testing these days, there is some evidence that the CT test is sensitive to weight. So theoretically, if you had a driver with a very high CT measurement (at the high end of the tolerance zone) excessive weight from lead tape could push that driver a few points over the limit and make it nonconforming. This is why manufacturers routinely test their players drivers for CT just to make sure a much used driver has not crept over the limit. That “CT creep” is under careful study by the USGA and PGA Tour for the coming season. There is a belief that highly used drivers that already were close to the limit could be played into a non-conforming state. The advantage of doing that might be 0.1 mph of ball speed, but as we’ve said before a speed limit is a speed limit. That’s why more testing on the PGA Tour, as done by the USGA, is a good thing. But it does make us wonder about all those drivers at retail and whether some hard-swinging elite players who got their clubs not from a manufacturer’s representative on tour but from a retail store, might just be seeing the same sort of CT creep in their drivers. As they say in the big city, “Watch this Space.”
Are shafts such as Aerotech Steelfiber better in irons for men with arthritic joints? Or are there steel alternatives? --@BobRoge321
We’re fans of the Aerotech Steelfiber shaft on many fronts and certainly graphite has its benefits when it comes to shock absorption. But there are steel alternatives. Ping for years has produced steel iron shafts with shock absorption traits and this year True Temper introduced its Elevate shaft with an internal shock absorption mechanism called VSS, which is a strip of foam that winds around the inside of the upper portion of the shaft. Depending on which weight shaft you use, True Temper says VSS can reduce vibration between 56 and 71 percent compared to a standard steel shaft without it. A cushier grip could be another way to reduced unwanted vibration, too, and give those aching joints a break from the rigors of impact.