Driving With Santa

Driving has always been the weakest part of my game. When I’m playing my best I put my drives in play at a decent length, but I rely on good iron play and chipping combined with acceptable putting. When I play poorly it’s a struggle from the first shot. Consistently bad drives make every hole a struggle to get out of the trouble my drive caused. I even gave up for several years and went through a phase where a three iron served as my driver.

My first new clubs were a set of Wilson Billy Casper Shotmaker irons, a Christmas present back in the mid 1960’s. They replaced my original hock shop, wooden shafted irons. I didn’t replace my hock shop woods for another year or so, and I used my old Calamity Jane putter until around 1995. I’ve always wondered if the choice of which clubs to replace first helped determine my golfing future, or if my choice said something about my skills. My iron play was the best part of my game early on, so I enjoyed it the most and that was what I wanted to make new and shiny.

Of course, that’s a totally bass-ackwards way to do things. It would have made a lot more sense to replace the woods I couldn’t hit and stick with the irons that I could hit well, but who wants to get a Christmas present that risks making you feel inferior and makes you work? I loved those Billy Casper irons and played them long past their prime.

I finally replaced those irons in 1999 when my wife and I were traveling in an RV and I got invited to play with a group of guys at the Florida RV park where we were staying. (The oldest person in the group was in their 50’s – this wasn’t the stereotypical Florida RV crowd.) My clubs were hundreds of miles away in storage, so I seized the excuse to get a new set. Once again, I got the irons I liked and chose the Hippo woods (metals, actually) that fit my impulse buy budget. As you would expect, I continued to drive poorly.

Since 1999 I’ve gone through the Hippo, a Big Bertha (used), a MacTec (new), an R7 (used), and I now have an R9 (new, but comped). I drive better than before, but it’s still my weak spot. I’ve never found a driver that feels as good my irons. Some days the driver feels OK, but it can begin to feel like I’m swinging a rake at a moments notice. (On the other hand, my irons are fitted to my swing and body while my driver just has a shaft flex presumably matched to my swing speed. Maybe there’s a clue there, Sherlock?)

I’m thinking I may ask Santa to leave me a prescription for a driver fitting. I played in a few inter-club tournaments during the past few years and was impressed with how well some of my opponents drove the ball. When I asked about their drivers I discovered that they all went to the same club fitter and club maker. Each of them had a different driver, obviously well designed for their particular swing.

I’ve thought about going to see that fitter for several years but I’ve been stalling, waiting until my game and swing feel stable.  I’m beginning to think that’s as bass-ackwards as replacing my irons instead of my woods that Christmas long ago. My swing will probably never settle as long as I’m swinging a lawn implement on the tee box.

I guess I’m ready, Santa. Put that ticket under the tree.

And may everyone have a very merry Christmas.

(Photo by Charles Prokop)

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2 Responses to Driving With Santa

  1. Brian Kuehn says:

    I have told myself for several years that I should get fitted. I know from a pre-computer age fitting that my short legs and normal torso call for irons a degree or so flatter than standard. Still, I just never found the energy to put myself through the process. That and a fear of letting a professional analyze the multiple moving parts of what I like to think of as a swing.

    Recently, the leading local clubfitting organization ran a special; one could purchase both a driver and an iron fitting for the cost of a driver fitting. As a noted chea … frugal golfer, I decided the deal was too good to pass up. The certificate I purchased expires 12/31/2012, so sometime next year I will know whether it has been the clubs or my swing holding me back (as if I didn’t know!).

    I hope Santa is good to you. I expect a report on your new driving prowess soon.

    • I have the opposite problem, and need more upright clubs. My fitted irons are 2 degrees upright and 1/2 inch longer than standard. Before the fitting the toe of the club tended to dig in, particularly with tight lies. I imagine that’s why I learned to sweep my irons, rather than take big divots. I don’t feel like I’m manipulating the club as much with the fitted irons.

      As long as the seemingly inevitable surprise expenses don’t get in the way (I’m on the “frugal” side, too) we’ll see how much my driving might improve with a fitting. Lord knows my swing can’t be at fault, right?

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