The annual PGA Merchandise Show just wrapped up a little over a week ago with more than 1,100 vendors showcasing their equipment, apparel, accessories, etc. to the more than 40,000 people in attendance. This is the chance for golf manufacturers to show their “latest and greatest” to golf Professionals and buyers, who will in turn offer the equipment and products for consumers. Every year Golf Digest magazine hosts a “Hot List Summit” at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, Arizona where clubs are tested and evaluated for the Golf Digest Hot List. A full detailed list of clubs and their ratings will be in the March 2017 issue of Golf Digest or can be found online at GolfDigest.com.
Here’s a sneak peak of what to expect for 2017 for each club category (those earning GOLD ratings):
Last week we talked about the importance of getting ready for the 2017 golf season and to evaluate your golf club grips. This week it’s time to look at your golf shoes – most golfers will walk anywhere from three to five miles during an 18-hole round. If you play two rounds of golf a week, you would walk more than 500 miles a year. Due to swinging, twisting, torque, balance and walking on all kinds of turf and pavement, the need to replace your soft spikes increases even more.
Here are some helpful hints for taking care of your golf shoes and more importantly, your feet.
An advantage of two pair of shoes allows you to have waterproof shoes if you tend to play early morning when the dew is still on the ground or to have a “nicer” pair of shoes that you can wear to guest day events or for tournaments. Plus, most women golfers I know are experts at having multiple pair of shoes that “match every outfit!” Technology has come to golf shoes as well - designed to keep your feet comfortable and dry - while still looking good.
Finally, take a personal golf shoe inventory of your collection of golf shoes. Most golf manufacturers offer a one or two year waterproof warranty – meaning if your shoes are older than two years, you may benefit from investing in a new pair with a new waterproof warranty. Whether you replace spikes or purchase new shoes, make sure they are comfortable and keep your feet stable during your golf swing.
If you are in a part of the country where golf is seasonal, one of the best ways to get ready for the new golf season involves some simple maintenance. Take a look at your golf grips – if the grips are worn or haven’t been changed in the past six months, it’s time to get new grips.
To get ready for a new season, clean your grips with a wet, soapy towel and wipe them thoroughly. If your grips are slippery or appear worn, you need new grips. Slippery grips cause you to hold the club with more pressure and this interferes with making a good golf swing. A general rule of thumb is to re-grip your clubs once a year, so the beginning of the season is a great time to re-grip.
Visit your LPGA or PGA Professional for help in getting the proper size grip for your hand. He or she will ask your glove size or will measure from your wrist to your longest finger-tip. Next your Professional will ask the types of climate conditions you play in – is it wet/humid conditions, fair weather or dry, sunny weather? Do your hands sweat when you play? Do you prefer a soft or firm grip or one with a smooth or rough texture?
Grip technology is constantly improving and manufacturers now offer grips designed for a number of variables - some with cushion under the grips and some designed to absorb moisture (perspiration, rain, etc.) Grips come in a variety of fun colors - which allows you to add some color and personality to a normally boring grip.
Once you have new grips, your clubs will feel new again and you will notice an immediate improvement, which leads to better shots and lower scores.
Most of us know it's important to have our golf equipment properly fit. For example, using the correct clubs that are fit to your swing and body-type can vastly improve your score and your enjoyment of the game. But did you know that there's more to "fitting" than just the clubs themselves? Take your game to the next level by making sure you've been fit for the correct golf ball.
If you think about an average round, most scoring opportunities happen around the green. Many women have difficulty reaching the green in regulation, so when looking for more distance, they select a low spin golf ball that helps with additional distance but isn't designed to hold shots into the green. Most golfers can benefit from a softer ball that is designed to land softly and stop on the green rather than hit and skid off the green.
Many golf ball manufacturers offer golf ball fittings, however how the assessment is completed may vary. Some manufacturers use online fittigs - where you answer questions about your game and the computer determines the best ball “fit” for your golf swing, shots, etc. Alternatively, you may be lucky to participate in a ball fitting at a local demo day – where you can actually hit and compare golf balls using actual measured data. One added benefit of completing a ball fitting is that you will typically score a sample pack (usally two golf balls) for to try and test out the results!
Most companies have moved away from "compression" golf balls and offer two and three-piece golf balls designed to help players score better. When you are shopping for golf balls, look for a ball with more spin and stopping power. Go through a golf ball fitting and you will find and be able to tell the softer feel of the ball coming off your clubface. They are designed to offer more stopping power and to help you shoot better scores.
Keep the fun going and lower your scores - talk to your local Professional to help you find the best golf ball for your game.
Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, you likely have goals when it comes to your golf game. As we discussed last week, you may want to practice a specific part of your game (short game or putting), take additional lessons or maybe shoot a specific score or achieve a certain handicap. As part of starting the 2017 golf season properly, make a list of some goals you’d like to achieve this year.
Before you play your first round of golf, make at least one trip to the practice tee. PGA Professional Chris Foley offers the following hints to include during your first session:
Start your session by doing some general stretching of your shoulders, back, hips and legs. It is important to get your golf muscles loose anytime you go to the course or practice facility, but especially the first time back or if you haven’t been very active. A good way to loosen up is to take a couple of short irons, holding them together and swinging them back and forth slowly. Also hold a club behind your neck on your shoulders and do a few twists at the waist to help loosen your back.
The short game is the hardest area of the game to get your feel back. Good putting is critical to scoring well and spending some time on the putting green important. Begin by finding a putt with very little break on the putting green. Place several balls at a distance of about three feet and work on hitting solid putts into the back of the hole. Try to make 10 to 15 in a row before ending your putting practice.
Next, get a feel for distance. Pick out the two holes farthest away from each other on the putting green. Take several balls and putt the balls back and forth, trying to get all of the balls to stop within a foot of the hole.
The motion made chipping the golf ball is a miniature version of the full swing. Hitting crisp, solid chip shots will translate into solid hit shots with the full swing. Remember, the correct technique is to set-up with a narrow stance, weight on the front foot and the ball position off the instep of the back foot. Grip down on the handle of the club and make a short, brisk accelerated stroke. To make the ball go up in the air, let the leading edge of the club work down to the ground.
Start your practice of the full swing with your shortest club (lob wedge, sand wedge or pitching wedge) and make short, easy swings. As you start to get a feel for finding the center of the clubface, start to make full swings. Progress your way through your clubs by hitting a series of shots with every other club in your bag. Move from sand wedge to nine iron to seven iron, etc. Finally, hit a hybrid, a fairway wood and then the driver.
Going through this type of practice session will give you a good idea of where the golf ball is going and give you a feel for hitting the ball solidly. Confidence plays such a big role in how we play, so starting the season off properly will make lowering those scores much easier.
As we just flipped the calendar from 2016 to 2017, many people start the New Year with a list of New Year’s Resolutions. Common resolutions include the typical things like exercising more, eating smarter, losing weight, etc. but how many of you have Golf Resolutions? Who doesn’t want to play more? But have you taken time to sit down and plan some golf resolutions? Do you want to practice a specific part of your game (short game or putting), take additional lessons or maybe shoot a specific score or achieve a certain handicap?
Golf, unlike most sports, involves a new start and reset at the beginning of every year. The professional Tours reset with the official money earnings starting over and the golf manufacturers launch new equipment, new golf balls, new apparel, etc. all designed to help golfers improve and play their best.
Last year at an LPGA event, I heard LPGA Founder Shirley Spork challenge everyone to play 9-holes of golf once a week. If you live in a part of the country that allows year-round golf, that’s a great challenge to accept since playing more golf will generally lead to playing better golf.
While many golfers like to say they will play more golf, a better golf resolution for a new year should focus on game improvement. Start with a realistic goal of practicing the part of your game that causes you the most trouble. Do you struggle getting off the tee? Perhaps you shy away from using fairway woods? Do you have confidence hitting bunker shots both from the fairway and around the green? Do you routinely have more than 36 putts during an 18-hole round? Make a plan to practice on your trouble area for 30 minutes once a week for a few weeks. Many golfers prefer to play vs. practicing – when in fact, the best way to lower your score is to actually practice. Establish a one-hour time frame to practice your short game – spend half an hour chipping, pitching and practicing shots from the bunker, then practice putting for half an hour. You will gain confidence in your short game as well as save a few strokes each round.
Other common golf resolutions include working on your game by taking additional golf instruction from your local PGA/LPGA Professional. You may have specific things you want to work on with your Professional (not hitting a slice, gaining more distance, hitting hybrids better, getting out of the bunker on the first shot, etc.) so be sure to explain your goals and have them incorporated in your lesson plan from your Professional. By seeking additional golf instruction, practicing and playing, you will be on your way to lower scores and meeting your 2017 golf resolutions.
Last week I shared golf accessory gift ideas for golfers on your list that included golf balls, distance measuring devices, travel bags, sunglasses, grips and push carts. The gift ideas continue this week with great stocking stuffer ideas:
EWGA Membership – give the gift of fun for the entire year! Introduce a friend to EWGA golf events and programs. All new members you recruit will save $20 off the Classic Membership by entering the discount code 2016-RECRUIT when they join online. Share your love of the EWGA with others!
Golf Instruction – Grab a friend and register for golf instruction together. Your local PGA or LPGA Professional may offer Get Golf Ready (designed to welcome new golfers to the game) or other small group instruction. Some Professionals will let you even set up your own group of golfers – so get some friends together and have fun working on your game. Visit your local Professional or find a PGA Professional or an LPGA Professional.
Tickets to PGA or LPGA TOUR events – Did you realize your EWGA membership card grants you complimentary admission to domestic LPGA Tour events, you may consider purchasing tickets for friends. Tickets to golf events fit nicely in stockings!
Are you headed to the 2017 Solheim Cup in West Des Moines next summer? Visit Solheim Cup for a variety of daily and weekly ticket packages as well as hospitality and special Gala information.
To purchase tickets to PGA TOUR events if they play in or near your hometown, visit PGA TOUR.
For information on tickets to the U.S. Open in Erin, Wisconsin or U.S. Women’s Open in Bedminster, New Jersey, visit USGA.org.
If the golfer on your list would like to attend the Sr. PGA Championship in Washington, D.C., the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in Olympia Fields, Illinois or the 2017 PGA Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina or 2018 Ryder Cup in France, visit PGA.com.
Stay and Play Packages – This is the time of year many golf resorts nationwide are offering attractive stay and play packages. You may have a bucket list item of visiting Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, Whistling Straits, Pinehurst, The Greenbriar, Reynolds Lake Oconee or destination golf meccas like Scottsdale, Arizona; Palm Springs, California; Orlando, Florida or Maui, Hawaii. If you live in the part of the country that has seasonal golf, planning a warm weather golf trip is always fun.
Additional items that make great stocking stuffers include golf belts, golf gloves, golf towels, rain gloves, golf tees, sunscreen, ball markers, hat clips with magnetic ball markers, divot repair tools, head covers and putter covers.