IF I could go back to the beginning and start my golf career all over again knowing what I know now one thing is for sure, I wouldn’t be so obsessed about keeping up with so-called equipment advances. Changing my equipment too often has been one of my most expensive mistakes.
Why did I ever think that new equipment, by itself, would give me an edge and make me a better golfer? It never did and it never will.
The number of times I traded in perfectly good equipment for something inferior was matched only by the late, Dr Michael Roberts who was just as fussy as I was that his clubs should always be the latest, greatest and shiniest.
There’s no doubt that advancements in technology (especially the ball) has made golf an easier game - helping to reduce the dispersion of poor strokes and allowing us all to be ‘somewhat flattered.’
But, the game itself hasn’t improved and in most cases we ourselves haven’t improved either.
In spite of the precision involved, golf is not an exact science and the best way to play it once the basics have been mastered is with your gut instincts and as subconsciously as possible.
It’s not only amateurs who switch their equipment at the drop of a hat. Ryder Cup debutante, Jamie Donaldson, who played the winning shot at Gleneagles with a PING wedge, the ball travelling 146-yards in the air before landing ‘stone dead’ beside the hole, has signed with TaylorMade to play with their equipment next year.
I hope Jamie does not spend a whole year of adjustment as Rory McIlroy did when he changed from Titleist to Nike.
Every new season, retailers want to know in advance which driver or set of irons will be the most sought after because it’s impossible to sell a new driver without allowing it to be hit first. If it isn’t sold before the next, new model appears it’s worth nothing very quickly.
By introducing new technology too regularly, TaylorMade has made a mess of the golf market, squeezing it to death for every last penny. Steady sales are no longer enough.
It always has to be growth, growth, growth but infinite growth is not possible. Retailers will tell you that business could hardly be worse. The principle of ‘high frequency trading’ has been a recipe for disaster.
If you buy a new TaylorMade club, you can be sure it will be out of date in a few months.
If, the goods are not moving, the price is reduced (and with it the profit margin.) Instead of the manufacturer sharing ‘the loss’ they supply MORE of the product at no charge to get it off their hands.
Now, the retailer is stuck with even more unwanted equipment that he cannot sell. Shops are forced to buy stuff that they might not want e.g. hats, gloves, towels, balls, bags, umbrellas etc. Retailers are constantly being bullied.
I was in a shop in Dublin a few weeks ago and got snow blindness from looking at all the white TM drivers. Hundreds of them - all of them claiming to be the newest, greatest, longest-hitting driver ever. They couldn’t all be.
Callaway started ‘the new driver every 3-months’ mentality. We’d all be hitting our drives 500-yards by now if we had believed the advertising. The easiest way to boost sales is seen as release “new” products every couple of months.
There have been only three major innovations in golf club manufacture since the 1960s - cavity back irons, metal woods, and hybrids.
Buying a new driver every year (or sooner) is nonsense. Golf has become a never-ending pursuit of gimmickry instead of a test of skill, character, nerve and sportsmanship. Except for drivers and putters, custom fitting is over sold and not really as good as is claimed.
Don’t look on this as a cry for help from the consumer but a sympathetic peek into the difficulties that those trying to earn a living by running a golf shop face daily.
Looking at the big picture, I’d go further and say that the only thing that will break this cycle of greed is one, or more, of these overheated, global behemoths going ‘bust.’
Unfortunately, from my point of view, Adidas owns TM and it’s like a Bank - too big to fail. As a result, golf as an affordable and enjoyable game is suffering.
Why don’t I just go out and play and make the clubs do what I want them to do?
My endless supply of new golf clubs don’t know anymore about ‘what to do’ than my old ones!
If I really, really wanted to improve, I’d practice more or find a coach whom I trusted and take regular lessons.
Words of the Wise
The Titleist sponsored Mid West Alliance dates for Season 2014/2015 are as follows:
Dromoland November 9 & 30 and February 8 & 22. The format will be gross stableford for both handicap categories (0-3 & 4-9.)
After completion of the 4th round, the top-9 players in each category (lowest 3-scores to count) will tee it up at Galway Bay on March 8th.
Ring 061 368444 to reserve your tee time; entry fee is €30 per round for non-Dromoland members.