Buying Smart

February 21, 2007

The May issue of GOLF Magazine hits newsstands and mailboxes this week. I’m psyched about it because the cover story — ClubTest 2006 — is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work.

This is our 15th year of ClubTest, a process that involves 40 handpicked, hard-core golfers who try out the latest and greatest clubs, then tell you their faves. I’ve overseen ClubTest since its birth, and am amazed at the things I learn each year from our testers. These folks have a unique perspective on what’s out there — what works, what doesn’t and why.

We’re running tester tips in the magazine to help you become a smarter, savvier shopper. You can get started right here and now with additional advice (courtesy of our testers). Enjoy.

Jim Hurley (handicap 9):
“Buying clubs should be a multi-step process. Use them on the range to get a general feel and find out what they can do. Then, take them to the course. It’s more target-specific so you can’t fudge on whether a shot finds the fairway or green. After picking one or two models, get on a launch monitor to see the numbers to confirm subjective impressions. And do yourself a favor: Be properly fit by a pro.

You may find a driver that impresses you as being long on the range. But it may miss more fairways. On the other hand, a driver that doesn’t seem particularly long on the range may keep the ball in play on-course. This info might cause you to purchase a driver that’s a few yards shorter on the range.”

Randy Rochefort (2):
“The majority of woods have built-in draw bias. That’s great for the majority of golfers who fight a slice. Other cool options are offset woods and high-lofted ones. Those sticks aren’t for me but don’t be afraid to try them. They could really straighten out your game.”

Mike Nastasi (7):
“Forget buying clubs after having them taped up in the golf shop, and hitting into a net 10 feet away. Seeing ball flight characteristics and the ability to hit repeated, predictable distances under normal playing conditions is a must. Go out of your way to find a facility that can accommodate your wish to test clubs on the course.”

Rich Bernstein (15):
“Hybrid clubs are so versatile. They can bring consistency in the longer clubs back to your game. Anyone who’s 45-years old or higher is doing their game a great disservice if they don’t try hybrids.”

Jim Esther (20):
“There is no substitute for playing holes with the clubs you are thinking of buying. Varying wind conditions, sidehill lies, uphill and downhill targets are all very hard to duplicate on the driving range. The driving range is okay, particularly if you set very specific targets and move around a bit to find differing winds. But playing 18 holes really tells you if the clubs (irons, woods, or hybrids) belong in your bag or not. It’s also imperative that you take a wedge to the course before you buy it.”

Jeff Bones (10):
“Your swing and mental process change when you try to hit a green from 150 as opposed to hitting to a range flag. So try and hit your two favorite irons on-course if you can’t get a whole set. Remember to hit chips from various lies-clubs have different sole grinds that make it easier or more difficult to use around the green, depending on your swing.”

Robert Record (16):
“Early on, hybrids were tuned toward accuracy. Many of the ones tested this year were long and jumpy-more likely to replace a fairway wood. There’s nothing wrong with this. But it’s something to consider when deciding what to put in the bag.”

Jon Tate (4):
“If it is not possible to test on-course, then go to the range with a clear idea of what you’re looking for. Have a purpose. Play games at the range-pick off certain yardages, can you get a consistent yardage out of a club, is there the right amount of yardage between clubs, how do yardages compare to your current set. Also, look for the trajectory to see if it will suit your game and the course you normally play, try hitting shots off the toe/heel and see what distance percentage you lose compared to a good shot. And be sure to check that the club is conducive to the type of turf you’ll most likely encounter (hard, soft, resort). You don’t want to buy a set knowing there are either courses or types of shots that they do not suit.”

Rich Sullivan (12): “Go the eBay route if you can’t find anyone to let you try fairway woods on the course. Buy it used, hit it, maybe sell it-it’s an extended on-course test. Tiger always talks about ‘Ranger Rick’ and he’s correct. Hitting on the range is different than hitting on the course.”

Rob Sauerhaft is the Managing Editor of Equipment for GOLF MAGAZINE. E-mail him your questions and comments at [email protected]