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Drew's Cool Golf Revue
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By Drew Millard • Issue #2 • View online
This is all probably incorrect on some technical level but it doesn’t really matter.

I like to buy a lot of golf clubs. This is mostly because I am an idiot who hates the idea of looking at anything resembling a big number in my bank account. But also, different golf clubs work well for different people, and once you reach a certain skill level, like the point at which your swing’s sequence, tempo, and speed are consistent and (vaguely) set, the equipment that allows you to hit your shots consistently straight may very well cause a horrific slice/hook/ when I try it out. Now, for most people, and by that I mean “serious golfers who, unlike me, are smart” address this issue by getting professionally fitted for their clubs — i.e., paying a person to help them pick out the right combination of clubhead/shaft/grip/lie angle best suited for their body, skill level, and a whole bunch of other factors that are unique to them. Tend to miss right? You’ll probably want a club with some draw-bias offset so that your face is a bit more square on impact. Is your swing really slow? Then stop using those stiff-ass shafts in your driver, nobody’s asking you to be a hero over here. Having the right clubs won’t magically fix everything, but having the wrong ones can be like insisting that you have to drive stick even though you don’t know how a clutch works.
Because I am an extremely advanced brain genious, I have only gotten fitted for my irons but refuse to get fitted for anything else. Instead, I just buy a shitload of clubs, try them out for a couple of rounds, and then when I inevitably learn that they offer me no utility whatsoever, either sell them or I stick them in the extra golf bag in my living room and try to ignore them until they no longer exist. Could I have saved a lot of money in the long run if I’d just paid some dude at Club Champion to tell me what my ideal specs were so that I knew what to buy? Yes, but then I would never have had the experience of buying a brand-new club, hating it, trading it in for a new-ish used club, hate that too, trade that one in for an older used club, and so on and so forth until I’m stuck with a club that’s worth like 50 cents. What I’m saying is that I like buying golf clubs for the same reason that people like playing the lottery so they can win less and less money until they go broke. Besides, most of the time doing this only costs me like $10-$75 a pop, so I fall into the trap of *feeling* like I’m saving money despite the fact that cycling through clubs is very clearly bleeding me dry.
pictured: me with all the golf clubs i don't actually use
pictured: me with all the golf clubs i don't actually use
One thing I have definitively learned through all of this trial and error, though, is that club technology hasn’t really advanced all that much in the past 15-ish years. The biggest innovations that companies have made are basically figuring out how to make the heads of drivers really big without them being too heavy or really flimsy, which means they’re better at making the ball go far even when you don’t hit it good, and they’ve also made the heads of irons bigger and sometimes kinda hollow while still retaining an iron-y shape, which also means they’re better at making the ball go far even when you don’t hit it good. There’s probably some fancy new stuff involving shafts that I would be impressed by if I understood anything about physics, but I don’t so I’m not going to talk about it. 
The main thing is, the golf clubs are big now. At some point, the USGA decided that the golf clubs could only become so big without looking like clown shoes on a stick, so golf club companies made their big golf clubs be square-shaped for a while, but then the USGA decided that was against the rules so they don’t do that anymore. The big golf clubs are big and that makes it easier to not miss when you swing, and since they’re not going to make the golf balls themselves smaller any time soon, this is really as good as things are going to get.
So over the past decade or so, the golf club companies have done their best to make their clubs lighter and make-the-ball-go-far-ier, but really, all they’ve been able to do is make incremental improvements on clubs that are no longer designed to stand the test of time. For example: There is a 37-page thread on the GolfWRX forums dedicated to golfers nerding out about the TaylorMade V-Steel, which is a fairway wood that was first released in 2001. At the time, the company was owned by Adidas, because Tiger Woods was a thing and it was probably cheaper to compete with Nike by buying an existing golf company rather than trying to build one from the ground up. People still play these things, mainly because they are good as hell. Now, TaylorMade is owned by a private equity company, Tiger Woods is sponsored by them, they sell 15 different types of fairway woods, and it’s nearly impossible to figure out which one of them is going to work for you without spending an hour in a hitting bay with a fitter.
In the place of genuine growth, we get specialization, which when we’re getting to the level of changing the shape by millimeters or weighting little bits of each club differently, means basically nothing. Once you hit a certain point in the inexorable march of progress, capital takes over and injects a bunch of made-up bullshit. This shift is an actual, quantifiable thing, it turns out. In a recent blog post for the LSE, economists Reda Cherif and Faud Hasanov assembled a neat little visualization of how from the late 1970s to today, the eggheads at the International Monetary Fund slowly stopped talking about building up sectors of a nation’s economy and instead started playing up the idea of privatizing some industries while deregulating others (this shift is most distinct during the post-Cold War fire sales throughout newly “liberalized” ex-Soviet Bloc nations, but the IMF is still on this tip, albeit to a slightly lesser degree). In other words, at some point the IMF began saying that more money couldn’t be made by building factories and stores and stuff, and so we had to “unlock” more economic potential through privatization and deregulation. Of course, these things don’t usually help regular, working people — instead, they provide an opportunity for rich people to get richer. But that’s not exactly a winning sales pitch to the people of a nation, so these terms get wedded to a narrative of “growth” and “development.”
We are currently in the middle of “new golf club season,” which is when all the companies that make golf clubs put out new ones. I enjoy this, in part because it’s fun to spend hours every week talking myself out of spending a rich person’s house payment on a set of new irons, but mainly because I like watching the marketing departments of all the golf companies bend themselves into pretzels trying to convince people that there’s a substantial difference between their clubs and everyone else’s. Callaway claims it uses Artificial Intelligence to design its Mavrik line of clubs, TaylorMade recently tried to get away with selling another set of hybrids by calling them “GAPRs,” and Tour Edge, aka the one that everybody on the golf forums like, just introduced a thing called the “Houdini Sole” which I’m pretty sure was just an excuse to refer to the golf club as “magic” in their ad copy. Cobra sells copper-covered muscleback irons that cost $2,500 and look like a Cyberpunk 2077 gun, another set of irons that are 3D-printed but look like last year’s irons, plus offer irons where they’re all the same length and the pitching wedge goes 150 yards but the 5-iron goes 175 (full disclosure: I fell for that last one then sold them after three weeks).
This is all cool and good, because you accept a certain level of overt lying baked into any and all golf club purchases. No club will make you better, and no club will work equally well for everyone. The closest a golf company has ever gotten is probably Ping, who in 2017 came out with a driver called the G400 that was really really good. They then came out with one called the G410 that was somehow even better, and it was so good that I almost bought one until I bought a different one that was five years old and just as good (for me). The draw of the Ping G400/410 is that if you try it, it will probably work for you. You won’t have to spend a million hours testing out a bunch of different brands and models, you just try that one, watch the ball go long and straight, and be done with the whole thing. It’s the Patagonia fleece of golf clubs.
The problem for Ping, though, is that these two clubs are so good that the company basically can’t iterate upwards, only sideways or down. And so, because you have to come out with new golf clubs so that you can sell more of them, askance into the great chasm of nonsense Ping must dive. After diving into the Ideas Lake while figuring out what makes their newest driver, the G425, different from the older two, the Ping people broached the surface of the water with the word SPINSISTENCY™  clutched between their jaws like a very proud Labrador Retriever. Translated into normal language, the fact that the G425 possesses SPINSISTENCY™ really means “you can hit the ball bad and it’ll still go good.” Which, to be clear, is the point of all modern golf clubs, and it’s a thing all the golf club companies have been pretty good at ever since they all made the golf clubs bigger.
SPINSISTENCY™ is the apotheosis of golf’s post-innovation era, even more so than the time all the companies realizing they could technically say their irons hit the ball further by just declaring that their old three-irons were now five-irons, the old five-irons were now seven-irons, the old seven-irons were now nine-irons, and so on and so forth until they had to invent a new club called the Approach Wedge to take the place of the Pitching Wedge. Like, Ping isn’t even trying here. They’re just like, “Hey, here’s a made-up word, please buy the new club even though it’s the same as the old club.” The fact that they chose to do this scrambles my brain so hard that I can’t even process it, let alone criticize it in any meaningful way. All I can say is that you sort of just have to step back and marvel at the sheer audacity of their laziness. As someone who would love to make a bunch of money for doing basically nothing, I must say that this whole thing is super tight and I have to go to bed soon so I should probably stop here.
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Drew Millard

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