Equipment innovations come and go. Some quickly gain popularity, and then fade when they don’t shave strokes off a player’s golf handicap. Others start out slowly, and then pick up speed when they prove they can help players cut their golf handicaps. Innovations that help golfers play better, like the sand wedge or the hybrid club, last until something better comes along.
The hottest innovation in golf equipment today is adjustable clubheads. Thanks to the United States Golf Association (USGA), the U. S. will be seeing more and more of these clubs in the coming year. In fact, players who attend my golf lessons are already asking about their benefits. With greater emphasis on matching swing tendencies to equipment these days, adjustable clubheads will get a thorough testing by weekend golfers in this country. The rest of the world won’t be far behind. The question is, will the clubs pass the golf handicap test.
The market for adjustable clubheads recently got a big boost from the USGA. Beginning January 1, the USGA is relaxing it’s clubhead adjustability rules. Under the new rules, adjustable drivers are permissible. You can start a round of golf with one clubhead, use it throughout the round, and then make an adjustment for the next round. However, mid-round adjustments to the club aren’t allowed.
The rules change is also paving the way for interchangeable shaft/clubhead systems. Theoretically, you could swap one shaft with different drivers heads from the same manufacturer to match specific courses and conditions. These systems allow golfers to change shafts quickly using a small wrench, no golf lessons or golf tips needed. However, since industry standards don’t exist for shaft-to-clubhead coupling and hosel sizes, these systems won’t allow you to switch between manufacturers equipment.
The new adjustable drivers and interchangeable systems will be hot in 2008. One club maker has already introduced an adjustable driver. Later this year, other companies will introduce their versions of the adjustable driver. Look for manufacturers to also introduce adjustable fairway woods and hybrids, with two or more interchangeable shafts, in the near future as well as more interchangeable shaft/clubhead systems. Club manufacturers are nothing if not aggressive.
Impact on the Game
Some experts are predicting that adjustable drivers and interchangeable systems will have a major impact on the game. That remains to be seen. There still are some major questions aboout them that must be answered as to how much that impact will be. Not all of these questions can be answered during a golf instruction session or on the course.
For the consumer, the big question is will they cost more. If the costs of these clubs are too high, many weekend players will be priced out of the market. Obviously, the answer to that question won’t be known until later in the year when more of them hit the market. But if the clubs prove popular, the laws of supply and demand say they probably will cost more than your average driver.
Another big question is how much will adjustable clubs improve play. That question will also remain unanswered until later in the year. But we can speculate. Any equipment change that helps tailor a club to the specific golfers swing should improve his or her play. So there’s a good chance that the clubs will improve play. But will it be enough to keep them around and to justify a manufacturer’s high price? Only time will tell.
Whatever the answers to these questions, one thing is sure. These club will continue to fuel the interest in custom club fitting, and why not? It’s still the best way of matching your equipment to your swing. If you go to a club fitter with a launch monitor even better. He or she can take your club fitting effort to the next level by telling you exactly at what launch angle you need to launch your drives and what shaft/clubhead combination best suits you. He or she can also tell you what ball you should be using.
If you want to drive down that golf handicap, you must get the most out of your equipment. Buying an adjustable driver and/or interchangeable shaft/club systems is a step in that direction. They will probably help your game every bit as much as a good golf lesson or golf tip, if not more. But if you want the ultimate in equipment fitting, custom clubs are still your best bet.