By E. Michael Johnson
As many of us are confined to our homes during the coronavirus pandemic, the mind easily wanders about the game we love. Though playing the game may be a non-starter in many areas, it doesn’t mean we can’t plan for our future golf rounds, whenever those might be.
To help occupy the mind, consider these thoughts for ways to freshen up and upgrade your equipment.
Re-grip your clubs
What’s that you say? You don’t know how to do this? Come on, man. We’re in the age of do-it-yourself tasks. All you need is some two-way tape, solvent and grips. Remove your old grips and the tape underneath and clean the area with solvent. Place two-way tape on each side of the shaft. Pour some solvent in the grip (with your thumb covering the hole on the butt end) then put the solvent over the two-way tape then slide the grip on. Adjust it so it is on straight, then cut away any excess tape that is exposed. See, we knew you could do it.
Do a ball fitting … at home
You would think fitting might be one of the least likely activities you can take advantage of in these stay-at-home days, but with a little creativity and some technology, you’d be surprised. For example, there’s ball fitting, a complicated process that seemingly requires a launch monitor and your own personal data analytics team. Well, with Bridgestone’s VFit ball-fitting app, you can get a ball recommendation based on the swing data obtained from your smartphone’s camera. The system works best when you’re hitting a real ball, but you can hit a ball into a net or any other type of backstop. The VFit video is uploaded to Bridgestone’s ball-fitting team and a recommendation is returned within 24 hours that includes not only the right Bridgestone ball for you but also your swing data, including clubhead speed, ball speed, launch angle, spin rate, carry distance and total distance. As Bridgestone’s golf ball fitting manager Adam Rehberg said, “It’s simple and effective.”
Or a clubfitting with Ping via Zoom
Interesting times make for interesting ways to solve problems. In the case of Ping, how do you conduct clubfittings when you’re supposed to be social distancing? The solution: do them via Zoom. Ping is making its fitters available for 30-minute one-on-one fitting sessions where its fitters will use tools at their disposal as well as look at video of your swing and/or putting stroke to get you into the right clubs, shaft and set makeup. The Tele-Fittings are available in North America only and can be scheduled at ping-golf.appointlet.com. Watch the video below for more.
Get #customfit by Master Fitters from the PING Proving Grounds. We are excited to introduce the PING Tele-Fitting Experience, a one-on-one fitting session via @zoom_us. (North America only)— PING GOLF (@PingTour) April 15, 2020
Schedule your experience here: https://t.co/wfsGW6bzNg pic.twitter.com/41H3IaNK7d
Clean your grooves
You’ve just hit a shot with one of your wedges and some of the dirt from impact is in the grooves. But instead of cleaning the dirt out, you just give the face a quick wipe with your freshly cleaned towel (see below) and leave it at that. That’s what we call an unforced error. Now, if you’re playing from the fairway, it won’t make much difference. But if you’re in the rough, the grooves are designed to channel away water and debris and assist spin. But that’s difficult to do if the groove is filled with dirt. And seriously, it’s not like you’re ripping the ball back on shots out of the rough. You need all the help you can get.
Wash your golf towel
You’ve spent the last month wiping down everything known to mankind, but still that towel adorning your bag hasn’t seen the inside of a washing machine since the first term of the Obama administration. In the meantime, you’ve wiped off many a filthy clubface and—come on, admit it—probably blown your nose in there once or twice. When we’re busy cleaning everything else, it’s time to throw the towel in as well.
Empty your bag of unnecessary items
Never has there been a better time to get rid of dead weight in your bag. Walking or pushing a cart are likely to be the norm for some time, so take everything (and we mean everything) out of your bag and only put back in what you absolutely have to. That means six balls max; two gloves, a scorer’s pencil (because it might be a while before those are distributed) and maybe 10 tees, a ball marker and a rangefinder along with your 14 clubs. This will lighten the load considerably. Trust us, your back will thank you.
Throw out last year’s gloves
Parting is difficult, but gloves that have holes in them, have the cuff unravelling or are all crusted up are of zero value—even if they’re the only gloves you own. Toss those puppies out and start anew, buying two or three gloves that you can use in a rotation.
Upend your bag
As part of that bag purge, let’s not forget about all the crap that gets into the bottom of your bag. Take the clubs out and turn that sucker over and give it a shake. Along with dirt and grass, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of tees, maybe a bag tag or scorecard and possibly a coin or two. You don’t want all that mingling with your grips and it takes seconds to do. Hint: Do this in your driveway unless you want to add vacuuming to your chores for the day.
Buy a small carry bag or pushcart
Walking is now almost mandatory. That makes that steamer-trunk of a bag you have a liability. Now is probably the time to get online and purchase a lightweight carry bag and/or a pushcart to help get you around the course without undue fatigue. Walking is more enjoyable with the right equipment.
Work on your course management
In many places, the only golf a lot of folks are playing is in their heads. That can be an effective way to better understand strategy, but it’s even more effective if you’ve got artificial intelligence and your own statistical profile to guide you. That’s where Arccos Caddie comes in. The GPS-based stat-tracking app that records performance data through club sensors uses its machine-learning powered analytics through its Arccos Caddie Preview mode to show each user the best strategy to play every hole on a course, taking you through the round shot by shot and showing the best percentage plays in each situation. The feature is available after five full 18-hole rounds and shows you ideal strategies for any hole on any course in the world. It even will let you replay certain historical shots with predictions of your own personal stat-based probable outcome. Pro tip: We’re not liking your success rate at replicating Bubba Watson’s shot from the 2012 Masters playoff.
Take a hard look at your set makeup
Can’t play golf right now (or as much as you would like)? Take some time and play some imaginary rounds in your head. But instead of holing out on the 18th at Pebble Beach to snatch the U.S. Open from Tiger Woods, play your home course and be realistic. What shots are preventing you from scoring better? Maybe you’re flaring those long irons every time. Maybe you have wedge shots that you don’t have a wedge for? Perhaps you can’t turn your driver over off the tee, but a majority of holes have trouble on the right. What we’re talking about is set makeup. Maybe you need hybrids in place of long irons or another wedge. Whatever it is, now is a good time to do some set makeup soul searching.
Change out the cleats in your shoes
Now’s a great time to get a grip. That includes with your golf shoes. If they’re worn-down, they’re easy enough to replace yourself. In fact, most online golf retailers offer a cleat pack that also comes with a cleat wrench. In other words, no excuses. By the way, don't wait for all the cleats to go. Cleats in certain parts of a shoe tend to wear out faster than others.
Clean your shoes
We know. Along with having the locker room attendant change your cleats, you also usually have them clean your shoes, too. But we live in a different time than we did a month or two ago. While easy to ignore doing these, some liquid soap and warm water along with a soft towel or soft bristle brush will get the job done. You’ll be so proud of yourself you’ll be tempted to drop yourself a few bucks as a tip.
Fiddle around with adjustability
If you’re playing, you’re not playing competitively. As such, it’s the perfect opportunity to tinker around with different settings on your adjustable clubs. Charles Howell III tries out his clubs in all the possible settings just to see what it does. There’s a lesson there. The settings might end up back where they were originally, but you might find something that’s a better option.
Trade in clubs
Now’s a great time to take inventory of all the clubs you will never use again and do a little research. The PGA.com Value Guide lists some 60 brands and more than 6,000 models that will be accepted as trade-ins, even online. And who doesn’t like free money?
Mark all your golf balls
We’re all guilty of it. We wait until we get to the first tee and then we mark our ball. If you still have those four dozen balls from the holidays, use your extra time to mark them as you normally would, leave them out for a few minutes, then put them back in their sleeves. Not only won’t you have to rush to mark your ball, but the marking won’t smudge on your first couple of shots.
Change the battery in your rangefinder
You know what sucks? Grabbing your rangefinder on the second hole and getting that flashing light that your battery is dead. Even if your battery isn’t at that level yet, unless you’ve changed the battery recently do so now. It beats the heck out of guessing at distances, pacing off yardages or looking for that 150 marker and holding up the groups behind you. --with Mike Stachura