Buying Equipment and Knowing What to Look For
By Chris Warner
NRPGI™ Certified Golf Teaching Professional #W3044
Houston, Texas (713) 398-3456
With the constant quest to improve our performance and lower our golf scores, we continuously search for just the right equipment, helping us reach our goals.
Marketing specialists know this and utilize the opportunity to feed on the vulnerability of the ambitious consumer.
The problem with that is, with technology and research, each brand or manufacturer provides an unlimited number of promises claiming that their particular product will fix or override the shortcomings of the golfer, producing great results and lowering their overall scores.
The hype is about hitting it farther and out driving your golfing buddies.
The mental picture that comes to one’s mind only pulls the consumer in and feeds on their emotions and impulses. This strategy has even infiltrated the clothing market claiming if you wear a particular shirt that produces energy, you will lower your scores and play better golf.
When it comes to purchasing golf balls, you can look at the packaging they come in and you will see that every brand on the shelf boasts the phrase (Longer), (softer), (straighter), and (Better spin control).
Well, if every ball is the # 1 ball on tour and the best on the market, which one is really the best? How can that be?
One can only conclude that, either there is no real difference, the performance tests are inconsistent, or all but one are being less than truthful.
You’re probably thinking at this time about the fact that different players have different swings and strike the ball differently, so there is validity in these claims to a certain degree.
Yes, there is a difference in golf balls but unless one possesses a swing speed of 105 mph or higher, it is unlikely that they will really notice the difference between one or another.
In numerous conversations about this, I have heard people boast about a particular brand being their favorite, claiming anything else doesn’t feel or perform up to their expectation.
With this in mind, I decided to conduct an experiment with a number of players varying in skill levels.
Using a marker, I eliminated the brand names from a variety of golf balls making them non distinguishable by brand, instead, I marked them brand A, B, C, D, E, and F.
I cataloged them so that I would know the type of the ball, but the person hitting would only see the letters. I then had them take different shots, some around the green, some putting, then full shots with irons and finally with a driver.
As you can probably guess, they couldn’t distinguish one ball from another, yet they were so adamant about their ball being obviously superior in performance.
This experiment was an eye opener for them.
What this revealed is, we tend to establish a loyalty with a certain brand and pre-judge the rest of the competition based on belief.
In the mix were 2-piece, 3-piece, and 4-piece high and low compression balls. The only ball that seemed to have a noticeable difference was the Titleist Pro V-1 ball, which was described as “feeling a little harder,” but only with full irons and around the green. This was based on comments by the players. Other than that, they couldn’t distinguish any difference.
Understanding the difference in golf balls and how they are made helps in choosing one over the other.
The word “COMPRESSION” in the golf ball industry is related to a value expressed by a number from 0 to 200, assigned to each golf ball.
This number is derived by the amount of deflection that a golf ball undergoes when subjected to a compressive load, simply measuring the change of shape under a constant weight. During the manufacturing process, all three- piece and some two-piece balls are measured for compression.
A ball that doesn’t compress at all is rated as 200; and a ball that deflects two tenths of an inch or more is rated as zero. Those are the two extremes of measurement and between those, for every one thousandth of an inch that the ball compresses, it drops one point from 200 and the rating is established.
What you’ll find is most golf ball compression ratings will range from 80 to 100. The lower the rating is, the softer the feel. Even though a golf ball is assigned a particular rating, the actual rating can vary several points either way. Typically, balls that don’t fall into this range are sold as X-outs or range balls.
The truth is, someone with a slower swing-speed, never really experiences the core of a golf ball, doesn’t utilize the full potential of energy transfer, and can’t really tell the difference in one versus another.
This is based on similar circumstances, ball construction, aerodynamics, and cover dimple pattern, and the use of an automatic golf swing machine such as the Iron Man, the yardage difference between the different balls would vary less than two yards. This is based on research.
There are some differences in the soft feel from one brand to another on very delicate shots due to the materials used for the cover being Balata, Surlyn, Zylin, Elastomer, or a mixture of them.
My point in this is, one thinking that spending $50 to $65 per dozen for golf balls versus $15 to $25 per dozen comes down to how much you want to spend. Individuals tend to get the idea that they can purchase a better game by spending more on the equipment they use.
It is absolutely beneficial to get equipment that fits the player and their particular characteristics in their swings, however they need to realize that money doesn’t buy a better game.
Understanding clubs is important as well.
For instance, perimeter weighted clubs (irons) will perform very different from that of a forged iron. Perimeter weighted clubs, commonly referred to as cavity back clubs typically have a lower center of gravity, helping the ball into the air as well as creating a larger sweet spot thus allowing more forgiveness.
The “Forged” iron “Muscle Back” is less forgiving but allows an experienced player to manipulate the movement of the ball much easier. This becomes a personal preference and a deal of matching the equipment to the player’s style.
Having correct shafts and grips plays a huge part in fitting as well. When a player is looking at replacing or purchasing original equipment, it is important that the person do some research and get educated on how equipment works, as well as what best fits their particular game.
Something to keep in mind is, retail stores usually buy equipment from the manufacturers in bulk, receiving a better price per unit or set. Then, every patron walking through the door gets the same sales pitch. “These are the hottest clubs on the market today” or “This is what everyone is buying.”
Where there may be some truth in that statement, that’s because the store is over stocked with that particular brand and they are trying to move their inventory. Doing a little research ahead of time will usually avoid being caught up in this dilemma.
Another way to be sure of your purchase is to ask the retailer if you can take a few different brands or types of clubs home for a day or two, a “loaner” program, getting the same club of several different brands, say a 7 iron, to compare on the range against one another for performance and feel.
This will reassure the consumer that they are buying what best meets their needs, establishes comfort and confidence in their purchase, which in turn will help the player reach their highest potential playing level.
It is true that what appears to be a great bargain, may not always be a bargain at all if you’re giving up quality to save a few dollars. It is advantageous however to ask the right questions, do the research and know enough about the product to make a wise decision and not over spend.
Don’t just take the sales person’s recommendation or word for it. After all, it is a sizable investment and is worth the time to get it right.