It is well proven that golf prolongs one’s life and is good for one’s health. One doesn’t give up golf because one is getting old, one gets old because one gives up golf!
I’m in my mid-70s now and at my age I’ll never be an improving golfer again but I’m still striving to shoot in the 70s by playing what might be termed ‘decent’ golf from tee to green. You would think that part of that effort would involve keeping up with technology? Well, I found that it isn’t! Going backwards has helped me more. For over-60-years, I have unfailingly upgraded to the most technologically advanced golf clubs available. This used to be every 2/3 years; not every six months (like today).
Hitting the ball further off the tee in order to be nearer the target and improve one’s chances of sinking the next shot is not of much help if one cannot hit good approach shots with the iron clubs. A once taken for granted ability had become hampered by not attaining the ‘right’ (high) trajectory with my irons. Controlling trajectory is essential for hitting approach shots adjacent to the hole.
So-called game-improvement clubs with less loft, closed-in club faces to avoid slicing, wider soles and higher bounces to minimise fat shots do not optimise the efforts of a slow swinging, senior golfer who can strike the ball cleanly with traditional blades. Today’s low spin golf balls do not help either. Without high club head speed applied (in excess of 100mph) the low spin ball dips prematurely.
Technology is a fascinating subject that confuses the most studious of golfers but, be warned, it has its limitations. So, I resolved to find an open-minded fitter with the patience to embark on a process of experimentation regardless of how long it might take to conclude a sale. Padraig Dooley, Drive Golf Performance Cork, convinced me what I needed most was ‘loft’ (Not that kind of L.O.F.T. many of you might be thinking!)
After trying (too many to count) contemporary brands and shafts without any satisfaction, we came up with the brainwave to recommission a 22-year old set of Titleist 690 CB irons (I had forgotten I still had them) by re-shafting them in low-kick, regular, Mitsubishi MMT, 70gms, graphite with lofts, lies and swing weights duly adjusted individually to give me a higher ball flight and trajectory without losing distance.
The average loft on a 7-iron these days is 32º (I even tried one model that was 28º) such a low loft has the knock on effect (for me) of requiring an extra wedge in the bag when what I really need is an extra fairway metal or rescue club for those demanding 170-180-yard approach shots. The retro-2000, higher loft (36º/7-iron) combined with a softer shaft and traditional narrower soles helped me enormously and I recovered (valuable) trajectory control immediately. Morale: an old, favourite set of irons re-built may bring you more joy than any shiny, new stuff!
Not content with the 690 CBs rebuild, I also tackled the low-spinning ball issue head-on by speaking to Dean Klatt, of Seed Golf balls. Dean, who was brutally honest, said: “Dimple patterns are optimised to help keep balls in the air for longer by reducing spin but a slower swing needs more spin to keep the ball ‘up’ and flying. Lower compression balls are more about feel than extra ball speed and won’t give everyone optimum hang time and distance.
“Achieving both optimum distance and keeping ‘spin’ around the greens is a tricky business. The core of the modern ball is the engine that provides speed and distance, the mantle layer (the thin material layer between the core and the cover) helps to provide feel and control. The mantle helps with compression too, and works with the cover to grip the iron club face at impact to give you greenside control.
“What you have highlighted is one of the main problems with golf today. Modern equipment is often optimised for the modern tour player, and they are getting the maximum performance benefits. It’s one of the reasons why they hit it 350 and ‘normal golfers’ struggle. Seed (based in Carlow) designs balls for a ‘regular’ golfer’s performance but you will have to figure the solution out for yourself through trial and error. I’ll be very curious to see the results.”
CONCLUSION: by recommissioning a long-retired, favourite set of irons with last century lofts and having them re-shafted by a competent fitter, I have found the trajectory I need. I am now in the process of being fitted for the ‘right’ golf ball by taking Dean Klatt’s advice that each individual must carry out his own experiments. The correct combination of clubs and ball will definitely help me to keep on playing to my potential (allowing for septuagenarian disadvantages, of course) and I will live longer (and happier) as a result.