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.)
When it comes to correcting a slice with the driver, do you prefer more adjustability (i.e. movable weights) or straight-forward draw-bias drivers? —@DavisWebster5
The first step to solving the problem is admitting you have one, so congrats for not being so stubborn and continuing to yell “Fore, right!!!!!!” with regularity. It’s actually an excellent question. Basically there are two ways to go about combating the banana ball—shove weight in the heel or go with a face that’s closed.
In our years covering the equipment beat, the general consensus among R&D folks has been that a closed face is a more effective means of preventing the ball from slicing than movable weight—the reason being there’s usually only so much weight you can put in a weight track without compromising other areas of performance. So go with the straight-forward draw-bias driver, right? Not so fast. First, do you have a big slice or more of a gentle fade? If the latter, most drivers with movable weight will get the job done. But if you feel you need the equivalent of a bar of gold bullion in that weight track to make any difference, a driver with a shut face likely makes more sense.
There’s also your own brand preferences. Most of the more popular drivers on the market do not come in a closed-face version (although some such as the TaylorMade SIM Max D or Callaway Mavrik Max do while others can be adjusted to that setting). But only you can answer what your threshold is for that. Bottom line, closed-face drivers work. One of us regularly plays with a 10-handicapper whose game of the tee was rescued by an old Bob Burns No Bananas driver. And if you’re playing a driver called “No Bananas,” we’re pretty sure you’re good at admitting you have a problem.
I usually "cheap out" when it comes to buying balls (i.e. not spending more than $20/dozen), still shoot high 70s/low 80s. Would buying tour-quality balls (ProV1/TP5/Chrome Soft) really help me get down into low 70s enough to justify the costs? —@chadwzimm
Let’s start with the fact that a golf ball switch has about as much chance of shaving half-a-dozen strokes off your game as one of us being next year’s Super Bowl halftime entertainment. I mean, have you seen our videos (if not, click here for the latest episode). But we digress. While a ball change might possibly help your score, there are things to consider. First question: What shot is preventing you from shooting in the low 70s. If you’re blasting three OB a round then a ball with more spin is probably not what you’re looking for. You also won’t enjoy dropping $12 for a sleeve each round, either. But if the short game is where you’re bleeding strokes, it might be. But not necessarily. You need to consider how you get around the golf course. On your short game do you toss it up in the air and look for some grab? Then a tour-caliber ball could help. But if you play bump-and-run and like to keep it along the ground, that extra greenside spin is worthless. The point is, this is an exercise in complete self-examination that includes making sure that while you’re fixing one problem, you’re not creating another.
Am I imagining that I can hit a driver with a heavier shaft farther? --@sean_claycamp
If you are imagining that you can hit a driver farther with a heavier shaft, you have a problem. Not with your driver. With your imagination. I don’t want to go all Ravi Shankar transcendental meditation on you, but if your mind only wanders as far as your driver specs, you need to seriously explore some other life dreams. Like the Butterfinger milkshake at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Or the relative stress levels of the Kamchatka Sea Otter. Or a typical Saturday night for ARod and J.Lo. Be that as it may, let’s see what personal fulfillment we can achieve for you with your driver imaginings. It is certainly not always the case that a lighter club will either produce a faster swing or faster ball speed (leading to more distance). One reason that a slightly heavier shaft might help is it might keep the start of your downswing more on plane. With many average golfers having a tendency to come over the top on the downswing, a heavier shaft could help you hold that position and more naturally drop the club on a more consistent path to impact. But why imagine what the effect would be at all? A good fitter with a launch monitor should be able to produce hard data between the alternatives of a heavier and lighter shaft. All that said, I still think for most average golfers Tom Wishon’s advice of playing the lightest, most flexible shaft you can control is a valid starting point. For better players with faster swings, a little heavier shaft is going to likely help you more, or at least hurt you less, than a little lighter one. But I’d worry less about the right weight and more about the right shaft, and by that I mean the shaft that breeds the most consistently centered impacts. But mostly I’d just worry about your imagination and maybe getting a little more REM sleep.