Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive GOLF.com series in which we field your hard-hitting gear questions.
What’s the best way to test clubs on my own? – Hunter S., Iowa
We’re going to assume you mean testing the distances, forgiveness and playability of your current clubs? That’s the kind of stuff we do all the time here at GOLF.com, as we put countless clubs through rigorous testing sessions.
We often employ launch monitors, rangefinders, impact tape/powder and other fitting tools to test scores of equipment. We even use swing robots which have been invaluable at taking the guesswork out of things. But, just because we do things the way we do, there are still plenty of alternative methods out there to test equipment on your own without investing huge money to do so.
Let’s look at a few tricks of the trade for you to test gear on your own:
You don’t need to spend a fortune on a launch monitor, but it helps to have one
Launch monitors have come down in price and there are some on the market that comparatively, are somewhat affordable. There are roughly three tiers — $10,000 and way up; $2000 and up; and $500 and up. Bear in mind the lower-priced ones tend to have fewer features, but for most golfers, it’s enough.
You want to see distances, spin rates and ball speed. And if you aren’t keen on buying any launch monitor, find a facility near you that has one. The only caveat is when using your own launch monitor, it probably means you’ll be hitting range balls as you test. So, bear that in mind. The ideal scenario is one where you can employ a launch monitor and use whatever ball you typically play, but we get that’s not always doable.
Use an app to track everything
Testing clubs isn’t just for the practice facility. Track all your distances and shot tendencies as you play to learn how far your ball flies with each club using your favorite golf app. We’ve tried several and are currently using The Grint — the shot tracer feature on it makes it a cinch to track distances from anywhere on the golf course. We also love to see the results of how each club performs. Also, don’t neglect short game testing, too. Wedges and putters are just as important.
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Use foot powder
Unless you can see where you’re making contact on the clubface, you won’t get an accurate telling of what your clubs are doing for you. Foot powder sprays on easily and wipes off clean, making it simple to see where you’re making contact with every club. Impact tape is still viable too, but admittedly, using tape is a lot more hassle than it is spraying on a light dusting of powder.
Get on the golf course
We like to sneak out early and play golf using new equipment. Some testers might try playing two or more balls at the same time, but we’re here to tell you not to do that. Just play one ball and go about your round as you normally would (but feel free to adhere to #2 on this list as you do.) The goal is to see and feel how clubs perform when you’re playing, not how it performs during testing and comparing clubs at the same time.
Doing multi-ball of testing is likely to throw you off your rhythm, and could create some bad habits the next time you play a round that counts. We say that because we’re guilty of this very thing. Stick to playing one ball, but make an effort to play a variety of courses where you use different clubs to hit different shots than you do at your home course.
Evaluate your clubs as though they aren’t yours
It’s easy to be biased when reviewing and testing your own gear. But if you really want to know if your gear is best for you, you have to let go of any attachments you have with clubs you like. Maybe you love your driver, hybrid or have a favorite wedge.
Only what if your favorite club(s) are skewing your set? You may have a hybrid that you like, but in your testing, you realize that it’s flying almost as far as your 3-wood does. So even though you love it, that hybrid may be too similar to your 3-wood and you might need to try a different model that fills your distance gaps a little better. Keep an open mind.
Don’t go through a bucket of balls with each club
When we’re testing clubs, we don’t feel the need to hit 75 balls with each club. Sometimes it’s far fewer than that. What we’re looking for is not only the types of shots we’re able to hit with a given club, but also how it sounds and feels. Some of us can get a feel for a club in as little as 4-5 swings, others a little more. Never do we feel compelled to overdo it and hit more than 20-30 balls per test.
Demo days are a great place to start
We love demo days. And no, we don’t means the Chip Gaines version where we tear down a house, rather we’re talking about the many equipment demo days located throughout the country, every week of the year. Take Cleveland for example. You can find Cleveland’s fitting day schedule on its website here. Best part is they’re free to experience and are great places to compare and contrast how different clubs perform. Also, some retailers actually have a try-before-you-buy program where you pay a deposit (aka trial fee) to try and demo golf clubs. If you decide to keep them, you simply pay the remaining balance. If you don’t, you send them right back.
Testing your gear and accumulating shot data on each club is not only fun to do, it’s downright essential if you want to play your best. You may think you have a baseline on how far every club flies, but unless you really know your shot tendencies with each club, you won’t know for sure whether or not you may need a shaft upgrade, new grip sizes, or a different hosel setting and so on.
Want to overhaul your bag and start seeing better results? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.