PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Forty golfers are getting a chance to hit the newest clubs here at ClubTest 2011, but millions more will see advertisements featuring equipment from big companies with multimillion dollar marketing budgets.
The brands wouldn't spend that money if it didn't deliver benefits, but ClubTesters say marketing isn't what makes them reach into their wallets.
Mike Gorski, a 15-handicapper from Glendora, Calif., says advertising makes him aware of what's out there, but he relies on research when it comes to finding the clubs that are ideal for his swing and game.
"I'll look at the magazines, I'll look online at blogs and if someone seems to know what he's talking about I'll take that into consideration," he said Wednesday morning. "I'll talk to friends who are golfers too. I'll watch and see what the pros are playing but I'll take that with a grain of salt because I assume they're getting paid for it. But a lot of it is my own research. I want to go to a Demo Day and try these things."
Lynn Altadonna, who is taking part in his eighth ClubTest, echoes that sentiment. "The advertising gives you a place to start, but the proof is in hitting the clubs," he says. In fact, Altadonna thinks that it can easily take more time to find the ideal set of irons than it does a new house. "It can take a few months worth of researching and hitting."
However, that doesn't mean that the golfers at ClubTest are immune to flashy ads and endorsements from top players.
"For me, the No. 1 thing is still the marketing," says Tom Jennings of Athens, Ga. "What we hear, what we see, what the pros are playing. That's where I go first—probably just because I'm stupid and lazy. I go, 'Okay, Titleist and TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike … let's go look at those.' From there I might go on to an Adams, probably because I've tested it and I'm aware of who they are, but my first reach would probably be to a big brand."
Listening to Jennings, Bud Adler from Gold Canyon, Ariz., shook his head. "Not for me. For instance, I use Sonartec hybrids because I hit them the best. I hit them best back when I first tried them at ClubTest and when the company went out of business I went out and bought a bunch of them."
For years Adler says he played MasterGrip irons because were inexpensive and he hit them well. But he recently made a switch to another brand. "Not because of the advertising, but because I hit them better," he said. "Before I bought them I tried Callaway, Titleist, and Adams."
Adler says that he still hits a driver he bought it 2007 because he hasn't found anything better, but he thinks he may have found something at ClubTest 2011 that could replace it.
All four players agree that their playing partners are not as vigilant about trying clubs before buying them. They cite a combination of laziness and a desire for instant gratification as the main reasons for the quick decisions.
"We've had the chance to be fitted for drivers and shafts that are supposed to work for us," Gorski says. "They don't always, but they're supposed to. So our range of errors has been narrowed greatly and [golfers back home] don't know that. I see so many guys who have drivers that have bad shafts and terrible lofts for their swing. I try to preach to them that all you need to do is have a reasonable fitter or teaching pro narrow things down for you."
Sounds like a great tip for golfers across the country.
- Go to ClubTest 2010 See-Try-Buy: Schedule your own fitting with GolfTec. Related: Follow David Dusek on Twitter | Facebook