Not Laying Over the Auld Sod

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Im just back from Scotland, where the dust kicks up with every iron shot and your frustration level kicks up with every stop in your national tour of bunker walls.
 
Dont get me wrong; I love playing over there. But there must be something in the water (more likely the beer) that delays learning for hapless players like me. Whereas a baby learns right quick to pull its hand away from something hot, golfers are another story. Our playing and equipment habits are so ingrained that it takes awhile for the lessons to sink in.
 
Once they do, though, golf in the games home makes eminent sense. Herewith, a capsule summary of my latest tuition. (With any luck, well explore these issues more deeply in a future edition of Whats In The Bag?)
 
Less is more. While packing, I removed four clubs from my bag. Whatever good they do you is probably not worth the weight when youre carrying. If you dont believe me now, call me from the 16th hole. Besides, if you cant create shots and get it done on hard, fast Scottish courses with ten clubs, stay home and play Overwatered Acres GC.
 
Ego? What ego? Even if youve cured yourself of pulling driver on every tee, you may need some remedial work. When the wind starts, irons may be the way to go. Throughout East Lothian ' at Gullane, North Berwick, Luffness New ' a wet spring had spawned waist-high grass in the rough, below whose oat-like tendrils lay wiry junk that makes you want to slit your throat. Ive never seen grass turn a clubhead so dramatically. I started hitting off the toe of my wedge just to avoid a dead shank.
 
But the best thing is to never get in the stuff. And if that means 5-iron off the tee, so be it. Macho gets you nothing if youre knee-high in the foliage.
 
They skimp on the Stimp. It seems to be O.K. to rap it on Scottish greens. They felt like 7 on the ol meter to me, and none of the natives thought that was out of whack. Putts required authority.
 
Dont hold back. Authority. That may be the No. 1 lesson of the trip: Commit to the shot. A shot struck with any sort of tentativeness will likely suffer. Steer jobs apply elsewhere. Example: After driving into the central bunker at North Berwicks excellent par-5 eighth hole, I got out well and had the classic Scottish shot in: A low, running 7-iron that I planned to bounce on the front and watch roll up, right past the left greenside bunker. But I was the tiniest bit doubtful in my striking, and even though the shot looked good as it took off, I knew immediately that a more confident effort was required to get it past the bunkers roll-in area. So in it went. And oddly, it felt like golf justice.
 
The sand is not as grainy as you might believe. So dont necessarily leave your high-bounce sand wedge at home. But I found a low-bounce gap wedge more useful generally, especially from greenside lies, which tend to be a little tight. In the more powdery bunkers, I just opened up a little more, and it worked fine.
 
Its not a home game. Thats the whole reason for going, right? Dont expect everything ' from the fronts of the greens, the fairway lies (brown is fine to hit from, believe me), or even the beer to be the same. (Although some Scottish bars, believing theyre catering to the U.S. crowd, now offer cold and regular. Reg for me, thanks, with that nice, creamy head.) Explore, adapt and enjoy.
 
On and off the beaten path. Play the classics, but also check into these gems, played by some or all of our party this time around (some are private, so inquire before showing up): The New Course at St. Andrews, all three courses of Gullane Golf Club, North Berwick West Links, Panmure (in Barry, near Carnoustie), Royal Montrose, Monifieth.


IN THE PIPELINE: A slew of new products are on the way from Bridgestone, led by a line extension of the J33R driver. This one will be 460 cc (its predecessor is 420), the effective size limit under the Rules of Golf. The coefficient of restitution (C.O.R.) is also maxed out on this model, says Bridgestone.
 
The popularity of the 420 cc model moved Bridgestone to bring the larger model to the market, and the company is confident that its primary target, mid-handicappers, will buy in.
 
What weve found is that tour players and low- to mid-handicappers want that 460 size, but they dont want it to look like that, said Mike Moxie, Bridgestones club marketing manager. The size is masked underneath the crown, so its an understated 460.
 
The curvature of the crown does more to generate a pleasing shape than a flatter design would, Moxie said. Look for the club at retailers this fall; suggested retail will be $499. Lofts: 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 degrees. Standard shaft: Aldila NV65. Grip: Golf Pride. Custom options are available.
 
Also from Bridgestone: J33 hybrid utility woods, which are numbered in a way that clearly shows their mission of replacing irons: the No. 1 has 15 degrees of loft, No. 2 has 18 degrees, and No. 3 has 21 degrees. The standard shaft is Aldilas NV85, which is made especially for hybrids. The camber on the sole of these clubs allows for some workability both up and down and side-to-side, Bridgestone says. Suggested retail will be $249 per stick; they are also coming when the leaves change. And finally, for those who like a low-glare look at their wedges, Bridgestone will have a series of J33 Black Satin Forged Wedges in 52-, 56- and 60-degree lofts. A softer leading edge will reduce digging, Bridgestone says, and a long hosel raises the weight (and therefore the center of gravity) to produce spinny, low trajectory shot thats easier to control. These come with True Temper S300 steel shafts standard, as well as Golf Pride Tour Velvet grips. Also due in the fall, these clubs will retail for $159 each, suggested.
 
True Temper already has its new Black Gold steel shaft on tour, and plans are to introduce it to the golf masses this September. An extension of the popular Gold family of products, the Black will satisfy the needs of those who like a stepless design whose weight decreases as the clubs shorten.
 
Dynamic Gold is constant weight, meaning that the 3-iron shaft weighs the same as the 8'iron shaft, said Scott Hennessy, True Tempers president and CEO. While Dynamic Gold continues to be the overwhelming choice of professionals and top amateurs, there is a segment of players who prefer descending weight shafts because of their distinctive feel as the clubs progress into the shorter irons.
 
True Temper uses a proprietary manufacturing process to control not only the weight but also shaft frequency ' the tolerance is plus or minus two cycles per minute ' and that guarantees consistent feel, the company says. The shafts, which feature a satin nickel finish, will come in regular, stiff and extra stiff flexes, both tapered and parallel.
 
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