Once the fall season is over, the first thing I do with my Tour players is go through their bags and check all their clubs. The off-season is the time when Tour players work with their equipment, and the end of the year is a good time for you to check your sticks, too.
You don’t necessarily need to buy new equipment in the off-season, you just need to make sure that your equipment is still right for your game. The first thing to do is to take your clubs to your local clubfitter and check the lofts and lie angles, which can change with use. (Learn about See, Try, Buy and visit a clubfitter at GolfTEC or Golfsmith.) It’s critical to have the correct lie angle, because if the lie angle of your club is too upright, you’ll tend to hook or pull the ball; too flat and misses to the right will result. You should be making a uniform divot with your clubs from heel to toe. If you notice that your divots are uneven -- deeper toward the heel or the toe -- your lie angle could be the problem.
Next, check your grips. Slick, worn-out grips can cause your grip pressure to increase, as can grips that are the wrong size. The conventional wisdom is that if your grips are too large, you’ll limit your hand and wrist action in your swing. But be warned: If your grips are too small, you may feel as though the club is twisting too much, which can cause you to grip the club tighter, a move that limits your hand speed. It’s better for your grips to be slightly too large than slightly too small.
The next thing to do is to make sure that the distance gaps are consistent between your clubs, especially between your wedges. If you’ve recently made a swing change, these distance gaps can sometimes change.
You can test your gaps by getting on a launch monitor at your local golf shop. Hit 20 shots with each club and make sure that the gaps between each club -- whether it’s 10 yards, 15 yards or 20 yards -- are consistent. With your wedges, you can also just walk off the distances. We do both. But please: Use your average yardage, not your maximum!
The next thing we do is look at ShotLink, the PGA Tour’s database of every shot hit in competition last year, to see where our misses are. Are we missing more shots left or right? Do we tend to miss our approaches short or long?
You probably don’t have access to a database of all your shots, but go over in your mind the last five rounds you’ve played and think about your misses. This knowledge should impact your equipment decisions. For example, if you’ve struggled with 4-iron and 5-iron shots, it might be time to replace those long irons with hybrids. If you’ve had trouble with carries, you might need more loft in your driver, 3-wood and 5-wood. (Buy now at Shop.Golf.com.)
The reason to do this now is that if you need to make changes in your bag, you’ll have time to work with your new equipment so that you’re comfortable before your next match.
One final note: If you decide to get fitted for a driver this year, don’t just grab the one that gives you the most clubhead speed, ball speed and distance. Sometimes the driver that gives you the most distance also gives you the worst misses. Play with the club before you buy it and make sure you can live with the misses. A lot of Tour pros sacrifice maximum distance for consistency. That’s a choice you should consider making, too.