Over the course of a wonderful golfing weekend in the Western Ghats, during which I played at the Oxford Golf Resort and Aamby Valley GC (more on that in my next column), I suffered a double whammy. First my trusty driver—a Ping G2—that’s given me more than a decade of confidence off the tee, cracked right down the middle of the face. And before I was done ruing the loss of that club, my five-wood, an ancient artefact with a whippy graphite shaft, made by some hole-in-the-wall golf shop in England, dropped off the cart somewhere in the deep recesses of dense rough, never to be seen again.
Since its hazy origins make it a much bigger loss, let me tell you a bit about this five-wood: a hand-me-down from my uncle to my father in the last millennium (I kid you not!), this well-worn club came into my bag when my father decided to get a shiny new set in 2002. Since its virtues were anything but skin deep, it stood, abandoned and forlorn in a corner of my apartment for years: with an indeterminate shaft and flex (possibly close to a senior flex), a scratched dull gray head, and a wound leather grip, it seemed more of a relic than a club I could actually put to any use.
I can’t recall the exact circumstances under which I decided to have a go with it: think that was the time, when inspired by Fred Couples, I was trying out the ‘smooth-and-easy’ swing thought. To cut a long story short, it worked: for some inexplicable reason, I felt tremendous confidence holding it in my hand and soon realised that I could hit it equally well from the fairway and the rough. It would fade and draw on command, soar high like a wedge and almost always get me 220 yards… longer if I really had a go at it. Within no time, it was my magical go-to club, and the sole reason I never felt the need to add a hybrid to my set.
Now that it’s gone I’ve been ruing the fact that I never took the trouble to demystify its magic: it could have been anything from shaft length and flex, to the lie angle, or simply the way it looked to me at address. In all likelihood, it was a combination of all these. So if there’s one piece of learning that I can pass on to everyone out there who has the equivalent of a go-to club, then it is that you must note down the specs; of course, there’s some intangible quality there, but it’s likely that at least some aspects of that can be transferred to the other clubs in the bag.
The Ping G2, by comparison, is an easier replacement; there are used clubs in decent shape with the same specs that I can order online; it is old (the current Ping line is a G25!), but not that old that I can’t find another one out there. In fact, I think I’ll get more than one. And that is one of the bigger takeaways of this entire experience—if you like a particular club then it might be a good idea to get a few to keep in storage. Most pros, for example, carry multiple wedges of the same kind, for practice and tournament play. In special cases, like with Jeev Milkha Singh—who still carries the two-decade-old Ping Zing wedge—it’s a good idea to get more than a couple: Singh apparently has a stockpile of his trusty wedge.
Often, there are times when you get seduced by a new club; my playing partner, Tarun, traded in an old Callaway 360cc driver for one of the bigger 460cc clubheads that are the norm now. Theoretically, the bigger clubface, with its more forgiving face and larger sweet spot should have—all other specs remaining the same—given him more distance and consistency. It didn’t quite pan out like that, and a series of demoralising rounds later, Tarun went running back to the old club, and is now in the process of acquiring a couple more, lest he loses this one.
My friend Sundeep ‘Chimmy’ Verma, coach to SSP Chawrasia, and the most well-known club-fitter in the country offered some sage advice when I went to him the other day seeking replacement clubs. “See, it’s the first thing I tell all golfers who come to me. You’ve got to have clubs that work with your golf swing—the shaft has to load and release when it’s swung at a tempo that’s natural for you and the lie and loft have to complement your set-up and how you naturally come into impact. This club was probably perfectly ‘fit’ for you,” he proffers sagely.
That’s in stark contrast to the way I and, I daresay, most amateurs go about it: picking up a new club and trying to swing at a pace that gives them results. Of course, there’s a lot to be said about the feel and look of a clubhead; and with the good old G2, I felt like half the battle was won even before I hit the ball. So I’ve proceeded to order a used head online, and will be taking it to Chimmy’s fitting centre at the Golden Greens Golf & Country Club, to adjust lie and loft, and get a shaft that works for me. And then perhaps, if I’m convinced of the merits of that exercise, get the same done for my irons. Meanwhile, if you have one, or more of these magical clubs in your bag, then, whatever you do, don’t abandon them for something new and shiny. If it works for you, then there’s something right with that club. Figure out what that is, and try and replicate it across all the clubs.
A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game