7 things I noticed inside NBA champion J.R. Smith’s golf bag

January 31, 2020
J.R. Smith has been playing some strong courses.

J.R. Smith has done it all during his professional basketball career — from winning an NBA title with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 to earning 2013 Sixth Man of the Year honors and topping the Chinese Basketball Association’s scoring list during a brief stint in 2012. A free agent at the moment, Smith can be found on the golf course these days, and judging by the equipment currently in his bag, he knows a thing or two about gear.

Prior to taking part in the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open Pro-Am, we had the opportunity to peek inside Smith’s bag.

Below are the 7 most interesting things I found.

1) Smith is a big-game hunter

Andrew Tursky

Judging by the headcovers Smith has on his woods, he doesn’t have trouble getting access to some of the best courses in the world. The driver was protected by a Pine Valley cover — the top dog on GOLF’s biennial course rankings — and the fairway woods by mementos he picked up from Philadelphia Cricket Club and Tiger Woods-designed Bluejack National. That’s a big-game hunter right there. Respect for using something other than the standard headcover.

2) He’s definitely gone through fitting sessions

Andrew Tursky

You can tell a lot about a golfer by simply looking at the shafts he’s using. The biggest takeaway for me is that Smith doesn’t buy his stuff off the rack. Most likely, he’s getting fit — something you should already be doing if you read GOLF.com or listen to Fully Equipped — in advance of putting something in the bag, which is the way to go about finding the optimal setup. Fujikura Ventus Black 6X, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 and Graphite Design AD-DI 8X are premium aftermarket shafts. There’s a specific reason why he’s using each shaft model.

3) Smith doesn’t play favorites

Andrew Tursky

Callaway’s Apex irons are pictured, but don’t assume he plays one brand through the bag. In fact, he has five different brands represented — Callaway, Ping, PXG, TaylorMade, Titleist. It’s six if you include the Bettinardi Tour Department cover on his PXG putter. I’m going to go ahead and call J.R. Smith a total gearhead.

4) He has an interesting fairway wood setup

Andrew Tursky

We’re always told to mind the loft gaps when it comes to every club in the bag. The last thing you want is a yardage hole that’s difficult to fill. With that in mind, Smith has a fairly curious gap near the top of his set, where he employs a 14-degree TaylorMade M5 Rocket 3-wood and a 15-degree Titleist TS3. Both are locked in the neutral setting, so unless anything funny is going on (and we doubt it), he has a one-degree gap between the woods. Maybe he enjoys hitting 3-wood.

5) The man takes big divots

Andrew Tursky

Judging by the X-Grind on Smith’s Callaway MD5 Jaws lob wedge, he doesn’t have any trouble taking a big pellet from inside 100 yards. The narrow, high-bounce crescent sole is designed for golfers who are steep and take a big divot. With 12 degrees of bounce, Smith doesn’t have to worry about hitting it heavy. In fact, more golfers should take a page from Smith and consider adding more bounce to their wedges. Go ahead and see how much your short game improves.

6) He’s using a blade cover for a mallet

Andrew Tursky

Smith’s PXG Lucky “D” is a mid-mallet putter. This right here is a Bettinardi Tour Department headcover made for a blade putter. It’s not impossible to fit a mid-mallet in a blade cover, but let’s just say it’s a snug fit. It’s a curious combination. Smith must really like this headcover.

7) He’s a sightline kind of guy

Andrew Tursky

Clean crown or sightline? There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the alignment aid — or lack thereof — on your putter. For Smith, he prefers a single black sightline on the flange of his PXG Lucky “D” putter. The alignment aid likely helps zero-in on the target without much trouble. The black line certainly stands out against the silver finish on the putter head.

To hear more gear insights from Jonathan Wall and True Spec’s Tim Briand, subscribe and listen each week to GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast: iTunes | SoundCloud | Spotify | Stitcher