I am playing better golf these days, partly because I am getting out more often, but also because I am using equipment which maximizes my strengths, and minimizes my weaknesses. While I have pretty much resisted buying gimmicky stuff (like Rene Russo's character in "Tin Cup"), I realized earlier this year that I needed certain new "tools" if I was to significantly improve my game, and consequently my enjoyment.
Here's a brief inventory of what "stuff" has lowered my scores, and made golf a lot more fun:
a. Irons/hybrids: When I transitioned from 35 year old Ping Eye 2 irons to Adams AOS12 hybrid/irons, I was able to reach a lot more Greens In Regulation than I ever had before. It has taken me some time and practice to start striking the ball with anything like mid-handicap consistency, but better than 60% of my shots are either on the green, or very close. I used to dread having to hit my irons...now I get excited! In fact, one of my most reliable clubs is the sand wedge I picked up for $22 on E-Bay; it's the women's version of my irons, and maybe channels Annika Sorenstam considering how accurate it is. Adding 30-50 yards to my iron shots hasn't hurt either.
b. Fairway Woods: I have named my only fairway wood "Kristen" in honor of one of my golfing gurus, "The Golf Chick". (Check out her excellent golf blog: www.thegolfchick.com ) Even on bad days, the one club which always comes through in the clutch is my Ping G-15 5-wood. I can reliably hit a draw shot off the tee, and have launched a ball over 200 yards from the fairway at least half the time I've used it. While the G-15 model is several years old, I predict it will stay in my bag for the rest of my golfing days...it makes me appear to be a much better golfer than I really am. (That quality comes in handy during tournaments, especially in "best ball scramble" events.
c. Balls: All testicle puns aside, balls are really important to consistent play. One of my golf coaches, Molly Miller, strongly urges her students to find a single brand/model of ball that works for them, and use it exclusively. I hadn't really considered that bit of wisdom before, and had stocked my bag with a mixed lot of whatever was on sale or I had found on the course when looking for my own lost ball. Again, Molly's wisdom made perfect sense, because how else was I going to develop consistency if the ball characteristics were not? Now I only play Wilson "50 Elite" balls, in high-visibility orange color. Yeah, a lot of my playing partners and my brother give me a bit of crap about playing an orange ball, but who cares? I can find my ball in the rough or undergrowth, and also track its flight and roll so much easier than with traditional white or optic yellow varieties. I can knock it just as far as any other ball out there, and with my military discount at Puetz golf stores, I pay just about $10/doz., so what's not to like? (I add a black shamrock mark using a "Tin Cup" stencil, making it 99% certain no other golfer will successfully claim my ball as theirs.)
As an addendum to this category, I recently discovered a product called "Flex-Head Tees". These are miniature marvels of engineering, allowing me to consistently tee up my ball at the same height for whatever club I'm using. They come in different lengths, but all feature a solid, fluted pointy end and a flange, plus wide prongs to hold the ball solidly. They are guaranteed to be unbreakable, and are easy to find after I've hit my drive. You can find these awesome tees at www.flex-head.com and they are reasonable priced.
d. Cart and Bag: I prefer to walk whenever possible, but carrying my bag over a hilly 18 holes on a hot day saps my strength. I acquired a Clic Gear folding 3-wheel cart and matching bag last year, and couldn't be more satisfied. It's a great combo; keeps my clubs from bunching up, there's plenty of storage pockets in the bag, and the cart rolls like a dune buggy, handling all terrain with ease.
e. Other Accessories: I just got a super deal on a Bushnell "Neo-X" GPS watch, which has some 3,000 courses pre-loaded on it. I've used it twice, and both times I've shot lower scores as a result. Now that I have a really good idea of how far I hit every club in my bag, knowing exactly how far the front, middle, and back of the green is from wherever I'm standing has simplified my club selection. Again, more Greens-In-Regulation means more pars, and fewer bogies.
By the way, I haven't received any compensation from any manufacturer or retailer for shilling any item mentioned here, and although I've gotten most of my gear on sale, none of it was free. I just enjoy sharing some of the good quality equipment out there which has led to making golf a lot more fun. The one downside to that fact is that I am seriously looking forward to retirement (and playing several times a week on a regular basis) more than ever!