April 1, 2005
I stopped by Clubhouse Golf the other day to talk to Boyd Russell and Ed Larkins about clubfitting. They passed along quite a bit of information, especially about the triumph of hope over reality.
It seems that many golfers, especially the males of the species, have a curious perspective about their ability to hit long drives—a mostly skewed perspective, surprisingly enough.
Their comments dovetailed with the information provided by Tom Wishon in his new book, The Search for the Perfect Golf Club (Sports Media Group; $24.95 SRP). As he points out, some basic physics principles limit how far a golf ball will travel, no matter what kind of shaft or what the clubface loft of the driver.
For example, Wishon says the average male golfer tends to have a driver swing speed of around 90 miles per hour. Russell and Larkins agreed with that assessment, based on the hundreds of customers that use the Clubhouse Golf simulator to test-swing their new club selections.
At 90 miles per hour with a 9 degree lofted driver, the carry distance in yards is 206 yards. At the same speed but with an 11-degree driver, the carry distance increases to 211 yards. With a 13-degree driver (or 2-wood, which is what this loft usually signifies), the carry distance reaches 213 yards.
As you can see, that difference isn’t much, but it definitely favors a higher-lofted driver for the average golfer. Nonetheless, the folks at Clubhouse Golf and Ruddo’s Golf have a hard time convincing many of their customers to go that route. What many of these golfers see the PGA Tour pros use tends to be their club of choice also, no matter what. The fact that these pros can also hit a golf ball at 115 miles per hour doesn’t seem to hit home with these amateur players.
The golfer’s perspective doesn’t improve much out when standing on the tee box, either.
A gentleman who worked as a starter at a public course for several years told me a great story to illustrate this point. The names and places are not disclosed, in order to protect the not-so-innocent.
The first hole at this course has a sand trap on the left side of the fairway, about 270 yards from the white tees. About 30 yards short of that point, the cart path crosses the fairway. The starter (we’ll call him RC) had just cleared a foursome to begin their round, but one young man balked at taking his first swing. RC asked him what was the hold-up, and the young man said that the foursome in front was next to the sand trap, placing them at risk with his drive.
RC quietly suggested that if the young man was that good, he should play from the blue tees, which made the other members of the foursome laugh.
The young man continued to insist he would hit his drive 275 yards, however, so RC decided to test that assertion. He went back to the nearby pro shop and returned to the tee box with a fresh new box of Titleist Pro-V1s.
RC then offered a friendly wager. For every drive that the young man hit up to the sand trap, there would be a substantial payment. For every drive that failed to travel that far, however, a payment would come back to RC.
After much ribbing from his playing partners, the young man agreed to the test. JR set out the dozen Titleists, and they all watched the young man’s efforts.
None of the drives came within 30 yards of the sand trap. Only one drive even reached the cart path.
RC gathered up his winnings, and told the foursome that the 12 new golf balls were a gift, with his compliments. RC returned to the pro shop, paid for the Pro-V1s, and pocketed the difference.
There are some distinct advantages to maintaining a keen grasp of human nature.