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Don’t fall for the revolutionary con

 

No equipment reviews this year. Nothing new of note has happened, so my old advice to get clubs that fit your game from someone you trust and then find the time to learn how to use them, or quit, or keep your expectations low until you have the time, still holds.

The equipment companies go through phases in their attempts to convince you if you just buy this one club all of your worries will be washed away with a swipe of your credit card. Ten years ago it was materials. Drivers were just starting to be made of titanium and if yours wasn’t you were a loser.

The heads got bigger and that was supposed to be the answer and then the heads were made with two or more types of material.

You had the hump shaft and the bubble shaft.

Companies were fighting about who had the narrowest fairway woods for awhile.

There was the tri-metal and bi-metal and the inverted head. Irons made totally of titanium and others made totally of carbon. Prices grew with the size of the heads with some drivers approaching $1,000 and sets of irons going for over $2,000.

A few years back, size was once again “the” answer. The driver went from 300 cubic centimeters to 350, then to 400, 425. One company had one out at 500cc, and then golf’s governing body said enough already, and set a limit on size of 460 cubic centimeters.

The equipment companies next tried to obfuscate the issue with an argument of who had the higher co-efficient of restitution reading. They even started testing for this at PGA tour events. (What is it? Don’t worry about it. If it was that meaningful it wouldn’t have been dropped from their advertising patterns after its six months in the spotlight.)

Marketing got really shallow for a couple of cycles, when all they were really pushing was colours. Yellow shafts, and then red, orange, and eventually the last word went to the pink one.

Anyway the reason I’m revisiting all these past “breakthroughs” is that there is a new buzz phrase, “moment of inertia,” in the air. Moment of inertia (m.o.i. for short) is a term used to describe a golf club’s resistance to twisting on shots not hit in the center of the club.(hereafter known as the sweet spot) It is real.

There definitely is a measurement you can take to determine this. (I’ve done the reading. Look it up on the internet if you’re having trouble sleeping some night.) The problem is the difference from one company’s club to another is so small it that renders the measurement useless.

It has been a few years since I recalled some learnings of the great Dennis Tuff, the Television Arts teacher at West Park secondary school. He taught us about the language of advertising. If Ping claims to have the “highest m.o.i.” in its irons, just what does that mean?

It sounds impressive at first but it would be the same as saying they have the “biggest headed” driver. It is not a lie but everyone else can also make the same claim.

If a club company goes further and says their irons have a higher moment of inertia than anything else on the market, this sounds even more impressive, but again does it mean anything? Not when it comes down to playing the game. It’s not higher enough to make a difference.

Every reputable company makes quality golf clubs and I have no problem with them trying to sell their product. What I don’t like is the fact the companies know they have reached the point where any improvements in technology are minuscule and if they happen to come up with something revolutionary which makes the game drastically easier the USGA will outlaw it anyway. Instead of spending hundreds of millions cannibalizing each other’s customers, why not spend this money to make the game more affordable for the masses.

There have been studies and focus groups by the dozens in the last few years trying to figure out if golf was growing or contracting. All kinds of handwringing about who was starting up in the greatest numbers and who was quitting and why. All this concern and uncertainty and the economy was humming along on an all-time roll. Now that the Wizard of Idiots down south has started the ball rolling on a funky little recession, what do you think the prospects for golf are now?

When people have a hard time paying their mortgage, putting food on the table, and filling their vehicle up with fuel, it probably isn’t the time to be telling them the problem with their golf game all these years was their sweet spot wasn’t big enough and they should really have two shafts for their driver so they can switch depending on how high they want to hit it on a particular day.

Have a marketing truce and lower the cost of the game, for crying out loud. Mr. Tuff taught me to be skeptical and why. When I went into the golf business, I made a pledge to never tell a customer I could do something I knew I was incapable of achieving. I lose business to others willing to make claims, but so what?

Hold us accountable for our claims. It is in all our best interests in the long run.

 

John Piccolo is the golf instructor and runs Piccolo’s Custom Club Shop at Eagle Valley Golf Club, in Niagara Falls. Email him with comments and questions at [email protected]

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