After three days of
recuperating from my brush with heat exhaustion, I was up and about yesterday, rarin’ to go.
I was feeling much better,
thank you, but the real motivating factor was the unexpected arrival in the mid-afternoon
of the new custom-fitted driver I ordered three weeks ago. The FedEx guy no sooner pulled away
than I was out the door and on the range, tipping over a large bucket.
In 45-plus years of golf, I’ve never had a custom-fitted driver. My putter is bent to my specs and, a
year ago, I took my irons in to have them bent to the proper lie and loft to
But drivers? No. I’ve played the field, aimlessly flitting from driver to
driver, a steady succession of off-the-rackers -- new
and used -- that worked, semi-worked, worked for a time or didn’t work at
all. I have to admit, it has been
a failed strategy.
I finally sprung for this
new driver because it came down to two choices: start hitting more fairways or
quit the game for the sake of my blood pressure and my sanity.
My problems date back to a
year or ago when, for no good reason, I suddenly couldn’t drive the golf
ball. What had always been one of
the strengths of my game and somehow become my Achilles heel. The longer it went on, the worse it got,
and my self-confidence spiraled out of control.
On the tee, I would stand
over the ball with an electrical storm going on in my head. The result: my first shot would generally
sail OB right; on the reload, I’d over-compensate and snap hook it left. Even if I could find that second ball,
I’d be lying three in the left rough, usually under a tree limb, with a long
approach shot. You can only endure
that for so long before you begin spending your evenings sitting alone in the
Desperate for a fix, I have
gone through every driver in my considerable basement stash: TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist,
another Callaway, Cobra, my son’s Callaway, a newer Titleist. Each one had a little different
shaft, different flex, different loft, different torque, none of which were
actually fitted to me. And none solved
my tee ball problem.
Several revelations finally
convinced me to bite the bullet and spring for the $400 custom big stick. One was playing a recent round with a
golf writer pal from New York who was in town for the AT&T at Aronimink.
This is a guy who I have
seen plumb the depths of misery and self-loathing like no one else on a golf
course. On any number of occasions,
I have witnessed this man lying on a tee box, writhing in agony, often over
another wayward tee shot. And yet,
there he was a few weeks ago, pounding tee shot after tee shot down the middle
of the fairway, smiling and whistling as he went.
He showed me his new,
custom-fitted driver. Made all the
difference in the world.
My other justification was,
hey, you hit a driver 14 times during a round. Your tee shots are the foundation, the underpinning, of your
entire round. Along with the
putter, the driver is the most important club in your bag. Rather than waste time running through
more ill-fitting, off-the-rack and out-of-the-bin drivers, why not spend the
money once and for all to get one custom-fitted.
Three weeks ago, I did just
that. I went to my nearby big-box
golf outlet, found a Fitter Guy and admitted I was powerless over my
affliction. "My name is Joe and I
can’t hit a fairway," I confessed.
He nodded with understanding
Soon, I was pounding tee
shots into a net, as Fitter Guy and I studied the flight paths and patterns on
the Fitter Machine screen. My last driver was a Titleist, which I liked, even if
it didn’t like me back, so I opted to find something in the Titleist family of drivers. It really is a matter of preference;
every major manufacturer has an array of shafts and heads to suit your needs.
We quickly determined that
my driver swing speed is consistently in 90-93 mph range, meaning I still just
barely need a stiff shaft. It was
also clear that my tee shots were leaking to the right. I like to think of it as a Jim Furyk
power fade, although I don’t know who I think I’m kidding. Anyway, to compensate, I needed a shaft
with a low torque.
Next, we needed to take into
consideration launch angle and backspin.
I’ve hit a low ball all my life.
My natural swing is also a little steep on the steep side, especially
with a driver. Fitter Guy had me
try a half-dozen or more different combinations of shafts, lofts and head compositions;
then we compared the various ball flight data to determine which was producing
the best results for me.
Answer: Titleist 909 DComp, 10.5 loft, with Matrix Xcon5 shaft.
The idea was to create a club that helps me hit tee shots higher, with
less distance-robbing backspin, while also helping me control my rightward
Yesterday, the club showed
up and I could not wait to try it out. After a dozen or so 9-iron shots to
loosen up, I gingerly unsheathed my new weapon. I was a little apprehensive as I stuck the first tee in the
ground; this first shot with a new club is a lot like a first date. First impressions matter.
My initial swing was a little
tentative but I could not have been more pleased with what I saw: the ball
sailing dead-straight and higher than my usual tee shots.
I hit another, and another,
and another, and each was as good as the last. I was deep into the bucket before I hit my first truly lousy
shot, a big banana ball that could not be blamed on the club. By the time I got
to the bottom of the bucket, I was berating myself for not doing this sooner.
Today, I plan to get in a
late-afternoon round, my maiden voyage with the new lumber. I know that this
new driver is not going to solve all my problems. I will still miss fairways, I will still hit low
screamers. The game of golf will
find ways to test our budding relationship. But deep down, I will know that my new driver and I are made
for each other.