PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Doug Lair doesn't want to confess how many sets of golf clubs he owns.
"C'mon Doug, your wife knows," I said.
"Oh no she doesn't!"
Eventually, Lair, a native of Oklahoma City who now lives in Austin, Texas, admitted to owning 10 sets that date back to the early 1980s, but I have a feeling that in the back of his garage, tucked behind the lawn mower and some old boxes, I might find a few more.
He's a true gear geek, and this week Lair is totally in his element at PGA National Resort & Spa because he's attending his ninth ClubTest.
Six weeks before he arrives at Golf Magazine's annual golf equipment test, Lair plays the front nine at Twin Creeks Country Club with one set of irons and then switches to another set at the turn. The idea is to get used to switching back and forth between clubs.
With his slow Oklahoma drawl, Lair told me that when he applied to become a ClubTester he knew he could do the job. "I had been a big fan of the article for years," he said. "I filled out an online form, started e-mailing back and forth with Rob [Sauerhaft] and then got invited."
"He's incredibly thorough, has attention to detail and has a passion for equipment and testing," says Sauerhaft, Golf Magazine's managing editor for equipment. "There are so many subtleties among the different clubs, and Doug makes it his business to determine what those subtleties are."
But that doesn't mean Lair's experiences at ClubTest have all been smooth sailing. "My first year was during the infamous monsoon at Innisbrook," he recalls. "I think we got about three inches of rain that first day. I found out the hard way that cheap rain suits are not the way to go."
When Lair started participating in ClubTest, he was a 13-handicap. But after his first year, when Lair admits to running out of gas, he vowed to be better prepared for the following year's ClubTest.
"I went out and bought two sets of irons, one total game-improvement and one a player's cavity-back," he says. "After I'd put my daughter to bed, I'd head over to the driving range and hit one set, then the other set. After a while I felt like I could hit pretty much anything, and my handicap dropped to a seven!"
The short video below shows Lair hitting a yet-to-be-released Callaway iron from 177 yards to 12 feet on Tuesday.
When asked about some of his all-time favorite clubs, Lair offered these words:
"The drivers get better and better every year. But The Callaway FT-3, that had that crazy sound, is one. As for fairway woods, the original Cleveland Launcher fairways, with that gold shaft, were great—springy and long. The gold standard for irons was the Mizuno MX-23. Everyone loved those things -- high, low and otherwise."
But that doesn't mean he'd recommend those clubs, or any of today's, for everyone. "Everything they build today works, and these guys [the club makers] are smart and they know what they're doing," he says. "But the clubs work for a certain type of swing style and a certain group of people. Some clubs just aren't going to work for you. That doesn't mean it's a bad club—it's just a bad fit."
- Go to ClubTest 2010