Updated: Aug 23
Hello one and all and welcome to my latest blog. Good to have you here again and we're tantalisingly close now to the announcement of the "final roadmap" and whether we will open up fully on June 21st. What will that mean for us golfers? Will we be able to touch the flag again and will there be rakes in the bunker again. Anyone remember attending a flag on the green?
As we edge ever closer to fully re-opening and club competitions continuing to come thick and fast I have decided to do the ubiquitous "What's In The Bag?" I last did one on the Three Off The Tee Youtube channel (click here to see my videos and please subscribe while you are there) and plenty has changed since then. Watch the original video here before we go any further.
So why have I asked for your help? Well the answer is simple. My World Golf Handicap playing index is currently 12.1 and I still harbour an unerring belief I can get to single figures. What I'd love to know, especially from those already off single figures, via comments on the blog or via my social media links is do you think there is anything I should change in that pursuit. Before anyone chips in with the obvious "its not the equipment it's how you use it" I totally get that and agree. If it helps, after a lesson (read about it here) I was playing some very good golf in tricky conditions and so there is a solid base to work upon. Sadly it has waned a little in recent weeks but there are still positive signs to encourage me that I can get much lower.
Let's start with the big dog. In June 2020 I changed from a Ping G series driver to a Ping G410, purchased off the shelf from the professional shop at my home club Royal Ascot. It has the stock Alta CB shaft in an R flex and the shaft is 55 grams. The head is currently set to 10.5 degrees. I guess the first question for the wise sages is would I see any benefit from lofting up (weren't Taylormade all about that a few years ago?) and would I see gains in from a longer carry? It is something I was hoping to play around with (as was moving the weight at the back of the club) so I guess I'll have to tinker with the settings and see what happens.
My fairway woods (three and five woods) are keepers and are Ping G25 again with the stock shaft (Ping TFC 189 R shaft shafts). I was fitted for these as new and I love the way these sit behind the ball. The three wood has been a faithful fairway finder on tight holes or long par threes and the five wood has been a consistent long stick. I am not a long hitter by any stretch of the imagination and so the three wood only goes around 220 yards and the five wood around 200-205 yards. It means at times the long par fours or par fives are out of reach in two but the five wood tends to get me in position nicely. They are definitely not going anywhere soon.
And now we come to the first point of issue in my bag, the 3 hybrid. I have a G25 version in 20 degrees (TFC 189 R shaft) and a G series at 19 degrees (Alta shaft in R flex). I had been using the G series as I have found in testing on Toptracer that it is 5-9 yards longer than the G25. However I have always had a love hate relationship with it and when it is on it is great but when it is off it is really off. There is a real struggle with consistency so I changed back to the G25 version once we returned from lockdown. It is definitely shorter (going around 185-190 yards) but easier to hit. The bad shot with my G series is a wide high slice and yet with the G25 it tends to be a hook. Of course pilot error is to blame but it is a club I need at my course for several par 3's and for positional shots. Do I grind it out with the longer but more inconsistent G series or accept losing a few yards and the odd trip left with the hooks from the G25?
The next two clubs are new additions in my bag from the 2018 incarnation and it is something I should have done many, many years ago. I have dropped both the four and five irons from my bag and replaced them with the equivalent G400 hybrids which are 22 degrees (four hybrid) and 26 degrees (five hybrid). Both have the Alta CB 70 gram shaft in R flex. I was never a great long iron player but the hybrids have been so much more consistent than the irons ever were and I can also get far better contact from the semi-rough. These hybrids have been so more versatile. The 4 hybrid is going around 172-178 yards and the 5 hybrid is around 162-168 (maybe 170 if I step on it). These have been a revelation when playing into par threes with a higher flight than the irons. Again I have no plans to change these soon.
This brings us to the bulk of the bag and the irons. Now the astute amongst you will have realised the irons now start with the six iron and go up to a pitching wedge. These are the Ping I series (have you seen a pattern with the manufacturer?) and these have were new additions when I last did the What's In The Bag. These were off the shelf, bought second hand from Golfbidder, although when I got them they had barely had been hit and I assume were an ex-demo model. They are blue dot (one degree upright). They are fitted with stock CFS distance shafts. I recently regripped them with Golf Pride Multi Compound grips.
In general terms I am happy with the iron set up. The lofts aren't as cranked as many later models (not just Ping) which I like. Distance wise they blend nicely into the hybrids and so the 6 iron is around 155-160 down to the PW which averages around 100-105. I guess at this juncture I need to pause to give you a chance to ponder my bag to date. What do you think of the set up so far? Balanced or am I missing something obvious. Let me know what you have in your bag and why.
This brings me neatly to the wedges. The scoring zone. Now if you have read my previous blog (Three Off The Tee) you'll know that the short game is not a strength. It is one area (along with putting) that I'll be working hard on in practice in 2021. My pitching wedge is 46 degrees and so I opted for a gap wedge at 52 degrees, the Ping Gorge (with stock CFS shaft) which comes in at 12 degrees of bounce and the Ping SS sole. These are the original wedges I was fitted for (well the 52 and 58 Gorge model in standard sole). The grooves are well worn but provide a consistent degree of spin and run out. My biggest issue with buying a more up to date model would be the extra spin I'd get and then trying to learn to control that on approaches and around the green. Is that a mistake?
I also have a 58 degree Ping Gorge wedge (same CFS shaft) but I actually have three models of the 58 degree wedge in TS (thin sole at 6 degrees of bounce which I use of tight lies - for example links courses or bone dry summer lies), the SS (standard sole with 10 degrees of bounce which is my all rounder for most conditions) and the WS (wide sole with 14 degrees of bounce which is what I tend to use of the wet winter lies and or in the summer when the bunkers have fluffy sand). The obvious question would have to be am I over complicating this?
As I've said I am aware of my weakness around the green and so I need to work hard on getting better. In the past I have been a strong advocate of getting one to one lessons and indeed my regular golf teacher, Andrew Piper at the Lavender Golf Centre in Ascot has been good at moving this on. However I have also looked online and found a teaching pro on Youtube called Danny Maude. His short game videos have struck a key with me. Check out one of those here
And so that brings me to the putter (nearly done dear reader) and this is the major conundrum I alluded to in the title. I have a real problem, and have had for some time, deciding on a putter style and keeping to it. I have a blade with a Ping Anser Cadence (which I covered in a review - Ping Cadence) and a Ping mallet style, the snappily titled Ping Sigma G Wolverine (which admittedly looks like a school metalwork project) and again I have previously reviewed this putter (Ping Wolverine).
As if that isn't complicated enough I also have a milled half mallet, the Odyssey Protype #9 which out of all of the putters in contention definitely has the best feel. I fitted it with a Superstroke 3.0 grip as I prefer a bigger grip. Check out the My Golf Spy original review from way back in April 2012 - (Pro type tour 9)
The problem doesn't stop there though and the final putter vying for a place in the bag is another snappily named (where do they get these names?) is the Odyssey O-Works Red 2-ball Fang. Again it's a mallet putter and I'll take you to the Odyssey site so you can see their take - (O-works 2 Ball Fang).
Now all of these putters have worked at different times and as you can see I've covered most bases in terms of styles. Each has their own strengths and weak points in relation to my game. I grew up with an original Ping Anser 2 putter so in effect always had a small arc to my stroke. This is clearly suited to the Cadence Anser. The Protype# 9 is definitely designed for a stronger arc putter I found by having it close to the body I could overrule the need for a stronger arc and get it working on a shallower version. Of course the two mallet putters are definitely a straight back and through design and again I have been able to train myself to do this and so use these as designed. The Ping Wolverine definitely produces a the firmest feel of all whereas the O-works comes out much softer.
The simple answer would be to pick one and stick with it through thick and thin. Of course it is but given I have these putters at my disposal (and no I can't guarantee my head won't be turned by another new release) how do I base my decision. Give me your opinions. I could get a fitting but this isn't viable at the moment so my plan was to pick one and drill it at home using my Visio putting template and gates (check my product review of these here).
My personal favourite has always been the Odyssey Protype#9 as the milled face gives a sublime feel. It needs a new grip (easily rectified and I am tempted for something a tad thinner) but the issue has always being holing out in that 2-3 foot area. I have a tendency to miss a lot right (with the odd pull left for good measure). In terms of holing out, the 2-ball Fang is by far the most stable and consistent but I struggle with the distance control especially on slower greens. The Ping Wolverine is also good for holing out but it has the opposite effect and has a solid face and so distance control on anything but winter greens is a problem. The Anser Cadence is the lightest of the lot and again this has caused distance control problems and is excellent in the 3-6 foot area but again can be a problem in the shorter 2-3 foot area. What is a man to do? How do I choose from that lot?
Rest easy dear reader, that is my bag done. A lot of it has changed since my 2018 video. What do you think of the set up. We have to take a leap of faith and assume I am back playing regularly and decently (say 33-36 points most rounds) are these the tools that can get me to single figures. Any glaring omissions in there. How would solve the putter conundrum and what about those wedges? Pick one and work on it and would you take the standard sole (mid bounce).
Thank you so much for reading this rather long blog (not sure there was a way to get all the details in any other way). I really do value any comments you leave here or on social media so please give me your opinions and also let me know what is in your own bag and more importantly why.
I'll let you take your leave. Hopefully we'll be back to a sense of "normality" and as I mentioned at the very start, back to touching the flag, raking bunkers and even having ball cleaners back on the course. I'll be back for another blog soon. Your support since I moved from the old Three Off The Tee site to this brighter and bolder version has made a real difference. Please be sure to keep checking the site for the next update. See you soon. Stay safe