Gear & EquipmentJune 13, 2011

U.S. Open week means it's time to fix what's in your bag, too

We know golf weather in the northeast, and perhaps just about everywhere has been slow to fully materialize, but now that we're at U.S. Open week, you've probably started to realize that those holes in your game are no longer the result of early-season rust. It could be the indication that you've got some problems that practice won't fix.

So with that thought in mind, here are five things you probably haven't thought about, but should seriously consider investigating before the season gets too far along:

  1. Driver survivor. It is surprising how many average golfers have not been fit on a launch monitor for their current driver. Surprising mainly because__ it is so easy today to find and get on a launch monitor__. Still, the insidious problem with a driver that doesn't fit is that most golfers don't know how bad they've got it. Ken Collins at the Kustom Clubs Fitting Center in Manchester, N.H., one of America's 100 Best Clubfitters, explains: "Most amateurs golfers are notorious for making swing compensations for something that is not right.  They will buy one of the latest and greatest drivers driver off the rack (with the wrong shaft type, flex,  length, loft and face angle) and spend half of the season adjusting their swing to hit it better. Then, with next driver they buy off the rack, the same process will start again. That is why most amateur  golfers never play to their full potential."

                2. Putter fitting. Find a qualified fitter who specializes in putter fittings and see whether your putter is working against you. He'll make sure you've got the right lie angle because the wrong lie angle can mean a good stroke will actually result in a shot that starts left or right of the intended target. At the very least, he'll make sure your putter grip is on straight. Tom Morton, director of the Player Performance Studio at Haggin Oaks Golf Super Shop in Sacramento, Calif., says [__at best one in four golfers are using the right putter__]( "Maybe. And that's mostly by luck."

(Related: Putters on the 2011 Golf Digest Hot List.)

  1. Are you using enough hybrids? KJ Choi played the Masters this year with what amounted to be a 6-hybrid. He carried four that week, all with an eye toward increasing the maximum height of his approach shots. Generally, more height is going to help approach shots get to and stay on the green. One cool way to check to see if you're maximizing the efficiency of your approach shots is to run through the TrackMan Combine program at a fitting center that uses TrackMan. The Combine is a hitting test that evaluates your consistemcy at various distances and compares that performance to pros, top amateurs or even other players at your skill level.

(Related: Hybrids on the 2011 Golf Digest Hot List.)

  1. Wedge gapping. Many of today's pitching wedge lofts are 45 degrees, sometimes even less. If your next wedge after that is a sand wedge at 56 degrees, you need to reevaluate how you space out the gaps. In addition, it's worth spending a little time with your teacher to see if the bounce angles on  your wedges match your swing and your usual course conditions. More bounce can work better on the fluffier sand and heavy rough around the greens. Less bounce is better when the sand on your course is more compact and the lies around the greens are routinely tight. You can learn a lot about wedge fitting from programs initiated by leaders Cleveland and Titleist, as well as the swing-specific designs offered at select locations by Scratch Golf.

(Related: Wedges on the 2011 Golf Digest Hot List.)

  1. Golf ball fitting. Not that long ago in a discussion with the researchers at Titleist, it was revealed that when asked about what golf ball they played, the second most common response for average golfers was "whatever is in the bag." In other words, there's a sense that average golfers haven't fully appreciated how tailoring the golf ball to specific needs can enhance your game. Nick Paez, a PGA professional at the GolfTEC facility in Cleveland, another 100 Best Clubfitters location,  says, "The golf ball will play a role in a good Driver Fitting session. We can really fine tune the spin rate with different golf balls." But remember the ball fitting should be a multiple stage process. Launch monitor sessions help dial in the driver, but you'll probably benefit by taking a couple of the leading candidates out on the course for some evaluations around the green to help you make the final decision. One of Golf Digest's Top 50 Teachers in America Rob Akins has some sound advice in this area.

(Related: 2011 Golf Digest Hot List-Golf Balls.)

We're not saying your game needs help in all these areas, but look at one or two and you might find a way to improve your score without making a single swing change.

--Mike Stachura

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