Our Golf Clubs Ourselves

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I got irons in the fire. I just don't want to get burned by my irons.
 
It's part of my job -- a fun part -- to occasionally try irons. Although my swing is like one of those pop radio station promises -- you know, no repeats all day -- there's still a lot I can learn by swinging the latest innovations. I swing, I ponder, I pass the clubs on to other players at TGC for their input.
 
This can cause problems when I return to my own set, which of course has been fitted for me. Whatever compensations I made to get good contact out of standard-length-upright can complicate a game based on inch-long and two degrees flat. And one thing my game does not need is more complication.
 
O.K., enough about my game. (Proposed golf axiom: Whoever you are, nothing is more fascinating to you and more boring to the rest of the world than the details of your game.) I bring it up only as an introduction to some thoughts about who -- or what -- is really responsible for that perfectly struck 5-iron you just pushed into the bunker.
 
So I submit: When it's time to get bent, it's time get bent.
 
Your irons, that is. Or wedges. Or woods. Loft, lie angle. Shaft choice, flex, kick. Whatever.
 
Golf is a game of many variables. Everything from what you had for breakfast to a renegade gust of wind can divide success from failure. Why, then, have we been so thoroughly conditioned to blame ourselves every time things go wrong? You know the old saw: With everything that can go screwy in the swing and the flight of a golf ball, its astounding that anyone can do it, ever.
 
A more virulent strain of the It must be me disease is the tendency some golfers have to attribute all good results to luck (instead of their ability) and all bad breaks to their inadequacies alone. But if theres one thing Ive learned in years of covering golf equipment, its this:
 
Its not always your fault.
 
Yes, your gear can betray you. Poor fitting, swing changes, age, fatigue ' all these things and more can change what were once the answer to your prayers into a set of devil sticks. The real challenge for any golfer, especially those who like to fine-tune their bags, is judgment. When is it me, and when is it the gear?
 
And if you think about it, that fits. Golfs deepest allure rests in judgment. Hitting the ball, seeing it go where you aimed it, beating the course or your opponent ' thats all great. But the greatest obstacle, the one thats most satisfying to overcome, is judgment in everything from club selection to grip pressure. When do you pummel a drive instead of feathering an iron around the corner of the dogleg? How much do you add to the break because it hasnt rained in weeks? When do you go for it, when do you lay up? What is the wind doing, and will it do it until the ball lands? Just how good is this guy youre playing down the stretch in the city championship?
 
This issue, or rather the feeling you get when it arises, will not be unfamiliar to most of you. How many times have you indeed put an excellent swing on a 5-iron on a non-windy dayand seen the ball tail into a bunker? How many times have you nutted a drive and not cleared the 150 pole? You look at the club, scratch your head, feel the disconnectoh, and wait a sec, the same %$&# thing happened on 8 and again on 12. Dang. I wonder if
 
At this point, you may do what I did and put the club down in the hitting positionand sure enough, the toe is in the air. Or the leading edge looks funny. Or something. Its always something.
 
But that something may not be you.
 
Now, in most cases, we all know that the perfect swing and the completely defective result dont always happen together. Chances are theres some combination of factors ' a slightly anemic swing, a trashy ball flight ' that come together to make you wonder. Its the recurrence of the bad result that really gets us thinking.
 
Well, it should. This is what drives tour players to the range after rounds. They are doing what we should do ' eliminating variables, making good swings, and watching. Watching, listening and feeling to see whats happening. I have seen golfers of all skill levels do this. Some actually talk to themselves, under their breath.
 
Oh, oh; I was coming at it from ' [another swing] ' thaaats better. O.K., again. [swing] Hm. Still pushing. But when I took that lesson[swing]. Push. Darn.
 
Now, I have as much, maybe more, tendency to blame myself than anyone. But when this last happened to me, I took my stance, looked at my irons, and there it was. You could fit a ham sandwich under the toe. These are great irons, so I wondered what could cause this. Swing change? Sure; I got flatter on purpose. Stance better? Could be. Weight loss? Maybe.
 
In the end, I went to my local golf shop, got some advice, and got bent. Two degrees down. The hardest part was waiting for the next chance to hit the irons. I dont know about you, but I lay awake at night worrying about this stuff. The mortgage? Who cares? Hows my seven gonna fly?
 
I wont bore you with the details, but so far, so good. Bottom line: Sure, take responsibility for your game. But that doesnt mean you have to take all the blame. Have the patience not to jump to conclusions. Go easy on yourself. Get information.
 
And when its time to get bent.
 
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