Ben Hogan, before teeing off at Riviera Country Club, was asked why he wasn’t carrying a 4-iron. “Because there are no 4-iron shots on this course,” he said.
Or maybe he didn’t say that. With sports anecdotes you can never be sure. Apocryphal or not, though, the point was a good one. No two golf courses are alike, so each one makes unique demands not only on golfers but also on golfers’ equipment. When Hogan benched his 4-iron at Riviera, assuming he really did, he made room in his bag for a club that he believed would be more useful on that particular course. Based on my own experience at Riviera, I would guess that the replacement was a sledge hammer, to be used for extracting wayward drives from the dense kikuyu rough.
I often tinker, Hogan-style, with my club selection, in an effort to tailor my equipment to my surroundings and my shifting abilities. My home course is short and tight, and, therefore, it usually rewards finesse more than raw power. When I play at home, I carry a putter, three wedges (60°, 52°, 46°), two hybrid irons (9, 8), six old-man hybrids (34°, 30°, 25°, 23°, 18°, 17°), and two drivers (a 10.5-degree Ping K15 and a 16-degree Nike Sumo Sweet 16—both antiques). All shafts are stiff.
The 17-degree hybrid and the 18-degree hybrid are both made by Nike and are both called 2-hybrids—but they’re different models, and the 18-degree one actually goes farther, although I find it harder to hit. (As I mentioned in my previous post, I think of it as a fairway wood.) It and the 16-degree driver probably seem redundant, or almost redundant, but they’re not. My longer 2-hybrid is at least theoretically easy to hit off the ground, but its head is so small that, when my ball is sitting on a tee, it gives me the heebie-jeebies, especially in the heat of competition. My course has a several short, narrow par-4s on which it might be the perfect choice for tee shots if it didn’t have a head that appeared to have been designed to slide between the bottom of a teed ball and the ground. For those tee shots, I hit my 16-degree driver, which I call Baby Driver. It goes about the same distance as the hybrid—200 yards, plus or minus ten percent—but has a head the size of a battleship. (I also have a 13-degree Mama Driver, currently in Time Out.)
When I first bought Baby Driver, five or six years ago, I used it only on short par-4s and tight par-5s. But it’s so easy to hit that, since then, I’ve found more and more uses for it. Last year, Rick and I played in a senior tournament run by our state golf association. The course had five par-3s, all of which were fairly long. I hit Baby Driver on all five of them, and in two rounds it and I were cumulatively two over par on those ten holes. In Northern Ireland last year, I hit Baby Driver on a downhill 134-yard par-3 and was the only player in our group to put a ball on the green. And sometimes I hit it off the ground.
If at least two readers will send me descriptions (with one or more photos) of their own equipment, I will create a permanent What’s In My Bag department, and publish them there, along with any future contributions. Send all that stuff to email@example.com.
To be continued. (Read Part One.)