Gimme Three Strokes:~Upgrade Your Game

The 2013 PGA Merchandise Show signals the start of the golf season, and we at Back9Network covered the litany of new products from top to bottom.

With all of this new stuff to choose from, how are you going to pick the best equipment for your game, let alone the correct tools to shrink your handicap?

Playing golf with old equipment is a bad habit, and the first step in breaking a bad habit is admitting you have a problem. But don’t admit you are still swinging a persimmon driver. Nobody needs to know that. Keep that to yourself.

While the old cliché “it’s the archer, not the arrow” certainly holds true in golf, playing with outdated or compromised golf equipment may be costing you strokes on the course. Clubs and golf balls lose their effectiveness over time, especially if they are more than a decade old. Golf equipment has never been as technologically-advanced as it is now, and there are some true benefits to purchasing new clubs. You may even be able to lower your handicap seemingly over night.

Before stocking up on new gear and equipment this winter, first ask yourself this question: what is it that you are trying to improve about your game? Are you looking for more distance, more accuracy or a combination of both?

How often do you plan on playing this year? If pesky things like work or family commitments have taken away from the number of rounds you play a season, replacing your tour-quality blades (which you could never hit properly in the first place, Slugger) with a cavity-back iron may be a good idea. Not only are they easier to hit and more forgiving, but cavity backs can also give you a boost in distance.

Looking for a few extra yards of the tee? No problem. Most of us amateurs could use a boost with our driver, and all of the biggest retailers are happy to oblige. Nearly every major company offers multiple driver options from which to choose. But before you drop $400 on the Biggest Colossal Cheetah Crusher Boomstick, remember to double-check your club specification needs. Be honest with yourself; there is no shame in choosing a driver with a higher loft to gain accuracy. Besides, a 300-yard banana slice isn’t going to help you one bit.

Speaking of which, remember when I wrote about picking the right shaft flex for your clubs? The importance of this subject cannot be understated. Furthermore, make sure the flex you’ve always used is still the correct setting for your current game. If you always used a stiff-shafted driver in college but are now swinging more slowly, switch to a regular flex. Your playing partners don’t care about your club specifications, unless they are stuck-up nerdy golf types who you shouldn’t be friends with anyway. Forget them. I’ll be your friend.

Don’t overlook your golf attire, either. Clubs and golf balls are usually the first items on your radar when you walk into a pro shop, but a properly fitting pair of golf shoes can benefit your game as well. We all know you have an old pair of Footjoys lying in your car trunk. You’ve probably got a pair of old socks in them, too. I know I do, and I’m still going to therapy for it. A new pair of shoes will bring comfort and stability to your next golf round.

Finally – and most importantly – set a budget for yourself before you walk into the store. A new set of golf clubs can be pretty pricey, especially if you are interested in the latest and greatest. Expect to spend upwards of $600 or more for a full iron set from a name brand, and hundreds more on fairway woods, hybrids, putters and a driver. Throw in a couple new golf shirts, shorts and hats and you’re suddenly taking out a second mortgage on your home. Spacing out your club purchases over time will make these costs more manageable, plus you can get a new club every year!

New gear and equipment can definitely improve your game, especially if you’ve been using the same sticks for multiple presidential terms. When coupled with a proper club fitting and a few lessons with your local golf professional, you’re well on your way to lowering your handicap and enjoying the game more than ever before.