The Expense of Golf Clubs

Golf ClubEach year the major manufacturers tout their new lineup. This one has a 460cc face, best MOI and blah, blah, blah… So now you’re so enticed to buy the best driver EVER (and it’s white, how cool is that!?) and you just bought the best driver ever LAST YEAR!

Will that new driver (or iron set, wedge, hybrid, fairway wood) actually improve your game by measurable strokes? Haven’t we always been told that it’s the swing not the club? Crappy swing equals crappy result. Right?

Maybe not. The technology that goes into each new club design may be marginally better than the previous issue but it IS better. Game improvement clubs are just that – they help your game improve. Your unorthodox swing and impact is helped out by more forgiving clubs which produce better and more accurate ball flight. If your swing isn’t as terrible as some, that only helps the game improvement clubs work even better.

The problem more advanced golfers have with game improvement irons is that they’re harder to “work” due to their characteristics. That is solved by going to blades or less of a cavity-back iron. The more advanced player doesn’t need game improvement – he wants to hit a slight draw or bend a 5-iron around a tree. Blades and non-cavity back irons help the player do that instead of a game improvement club which will be so forgiving it’ll straighten out the ball flight.

But at what cost do we finally put our foot down and say “NO MORE!” Do we balk at $120 wedges that are now “conforming” even though we bought the last wedge only years ago because it had better grooves! Or do we play it like we used to play records “til the grooves wear out.”

I’m very happy with my current set of clubs. They’re about 4 years old now and I still like them. I bought a new driver last year and am in no hurry to buy another one. It keeps me in the fairway about 80% of the time and I’m fairly confident with it. My putter is probably 15 years old – an old Taylor Made Nubbins Mallet. I like the soft insert. It’s great for my play. I’ve tried others and spent hundreds looking for that ONE perfect putter. But the Nubbins keeps finding it’s way in my bag.

Are you OK with spending a couple hundred on a new club every year? How much are you willing to spend – and how often – to get the best, newest club EVER? Does the manufacturer make a difference? Is name recognition a deal breaker? Do endorsements carry any weight?

Less Than Average Play

golfCoinciding with the slow players are the “less than average golfers” who compound slow play. They’re at the course to have a beer with the guys and think hitting a golf ball is child’s play. Little do they know – because they haven’t hit a ball in years if ever – that hitting a golf ball is an athletic motion and one that must be practiced. These “once in a blue moon” golfers are a joke to behold. From wearing jeans and tennis shoes to using persimmon laminates found in “dad’s garage,” they’re also a big nuisance. Most don’t even know rules and hold up play by their near total inability to play golf.

Again, this needs to be addressed. I know courses can’t limit the type of player – that creates a whole ‘nother issue. But clearly, these “less than average” golfers should be educated to the rules and etiquette of golf. Let faster and better players play through at the forefront. But also reminding them to fix ball marks, keep carts on paths and don’t shout “YOU DA MAN” everytime one of their foursome hits a 150 yard drive off the tee!

Perhaps a mandatory “lesson” in etiquette prior to their round and a marshal check-up every few holes would help. It couldn’t harm!

The Most Comfortable Shirt

Living and playing golf as I do in the San Joaquin Valley in California, I’m always searching for the most comfortable – and cool – polo shirt. I used to swear by pique polo shirts if they were 100% cotton. I still wear them on occasion though they’re getting harder and harder to find.

A few years ago, somebody came out with moisture-wicking fabric – usually polyester or a polyester blend. The problem I had with the first versions were they seemed to be too narrow in the body and the shirts clinged to the body when wet.

Eventually over time, manufacturers perfected the design of the fabric and the “build” of the shirts themselves. While it was ever more possible to get “athletic cut” shirts for the thinner waist golfers, it was also fairly easy to get a more natural fit shirt.

I thought I’d finally found the best golf shirts possible in the Nike Dri-fit, Adidas Clima-cool and Greg Norman Play-Dry products. I was happy as can be.

But then…

While on a golf weekend into Northern California, I played Northwoods Golf Club in Rio Mesa (see the review here). As is typical, I checked out the Pro Shop and found a logo’d polo shirt by a brand I’d never heard of, The Skins Game. It was nice looking and when held was light and smooth to the touch. I bought it, tossed it in my car and played the round.

I didn’t think about it until I got home several days later. I tried it on and was amazed at how supremely comfortable it was. It had a nice drape to it, didn’t cling, had ample room and the color (blue) was bright. I looked at the maker and discovered to my surprise that it was a polyester/recycled bamboo blend.

The following weekend I played a round at my home course and wore the shirt. Mind you the temperature that day was in excess of 100 degrees and I was wearing a darker shirt which typically isn’t a good thing when playing in the heat of the sun!

The shirt performed better than I did! While I confess to being hot, I was not overly so. The shirt stayed tucked-in and looked as crisp after the round as it did at the beginning.

I’ve worn it to work and when playing golf. It’s an extremely nice-looking, great-fitting and comfortable shirt. I’ve since bought two more from the company. I plan on buying more!

I can’t say anything bad about the shirts nor the company. I ordered online and the shirts were sent the next day. I received them three days later. That’s quick shipping!


Golf Simulators: Are They Worth the Money?

golf simulatorThe best way to improve your skills with a club is clearly to spend as much time on the course as possible but that’s not to say that there aren’t ways of honing your technique from the comfort of your home. Golf simulators have come down in price in recent years and are viewed by many as being the perfect practice tool. There can’t be many golfers who haven’t tried a simulator of one type or another. They have existed for over fifty years and regularly crop up at The Open Championship and other events where large numbers of golfers congregate. They have even given rise to an increasing number of ‘golf bars’, where players can enjoy food and drink whilst playing a simulated round. The question is, ‘do they really work or are they simply glorified computer games?’

The Pros

The obvious advantage that golf simulators have over the real thing is that there is no chance that you will damage your equipment or injure either yourself or a member of the public whilst playing a simulated game, meaning that it is safe to use them even if you don’t have golf club insurance. They also provide the opportunity to play in a convenient, controlled environment, free of pressure, green fees and tee times.

The Cons

Installing a golf simulator in your house means that you may miss out on the social and competitive aspects of the sport. Using a simulator at a golf bar can ensure that this does not happen but will mean that players feel just as pressured as they would if they were taking their shots on an actual golf course. No matter how realistic the graphics are on these simulations, they will also never be able to perfectly mimic the visual sensations associated with playing the game on a course and the player will not receive the same level of exercise. Players will not miss out on exercise altogether though because, as golf professional and simulator enthusiast James Day pointed out in an interview with The Telegraph in 2010, ‘Golf is all about balance, and flexibility. Plus it’s good to work on your back, hips and hamstrings in any case, as it will stop you having problems later.’

Are They Realistic?

Modem-day simulators vary in their accuracy and realism depending on how much money you are willing to spend on them. Whilst the simulators at the bottom end of the market might not play anything like an actual game of golf, some of the more expensive systems have received widespread praise for their closeness to the real thing. New technologies such as auto ball feed and changes in the degree of slope in the hitting area now allow the golfer to experience the sensation of playing the ball where it lies no matter what position it is in. This helps to further the idea that you are playing on a golf course rather than in your living room.

Practical Factors

One of the perks of playing golf is that the clubs do not take up much room in your house. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of golf simulators. Getting these machines ready for use can take up to half an hour so it is advisable to find a permanent area to install them. Most simulators do not work outside so you will inevitably end up having a room dominated by your system. They also tend not to work in places where a bright light is present, which limits the amount of places where they can be played. As well as needing sufficient space to install the simulator, players also need enough room to swing a club. There are a number of technical requirements to consider as well. Most simulators require a computer with a decent graphics card and some require a projector screen. Some simulators are available with a projector and computer as a full package but these simulators are likely to set you back a minimum of $2400.

The Conclusion

Whilst using a golf simulator can clearly never fully replicate the experience of playing the game for real, it can still create a realistic, golf-like experience that is not too dissimilar to actually playing a round. Using these programs with friends means that the social element is not lost and installing them at home can help players to improve their skills at times when they cannot get on the course.

Golf and Low Back Pain – Try a Recumbent Exercise Bike To Stay Fit

low-back-painOne of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise around is biking, which makes a recumbent stationary bike one of the best pieces of exercise equipment you can add to your home gym. Recumbent bikes are like old school exercise bikes, with one significant upgrade – they provide support to your lower back, thus virtually eliminating the risk of strain or other injury. With a stationary recumbent bike, you pedal while seating in a seat that is similar to an automobile seat. The pedals are elevated, so that your feet are at approximately the same height as your hips when you pedal. Because the seat is like a chair, rather than a small bicycle seat, you are able to sit back comfortably with no need to balance yourself. This makes reading or doing crossword puzzles while exercising very easy.

A good bike will come equipped with a battery powered computer and screen containing program settings that enable you to vary and change up your workout. For example, some models have hill settings, that are intended to approximate a bike ride over hilly terrain, interval settings, that increase the intensity of your workout for short intervals, random settings, that provide a mix of different workouts, as well as other settings. As a result, a recumbent stationary bicycle will prevent the one thing that causes most people on an exercise regime to skip or miss workouts – boredom with the repetitiveness of the workout routine. A typical bike’s “on board computer” will also keep track of your speed, the amount of calories burned, the number of calories you will burn in an hour, the time you have been exercising and will even notify you when your timed session has ended.

A recumbent stationary exercise bike is an excellent addition to a family home gym because it is suitable for every member of the family. According to the American Heart Association, all healthy people should engage in some cardiovascular exercise, and this is the case whether you are old or young, male or female. For this reason, purchasing a bike represents an investment in the health of your entire family, rather than a purchase that only one member of the family will be able to utilize and enjoy.

Finally, for people with knee, back and ankle problems, there is no finer piece of cardiovascular fitness equipment than a recumbent stationary bike like Schwinn 230, because these bikes are so low impact and easy on the joints. Indeed, many people who have had physical therapy following surgery or to rehabilitate an injury know that the primary piece of equipment used to strengthen the quadriceps muscles is the recumbent bicycle.