'Qui es muy macho?,' Billy/Fernando would intone, and then pit Tom Cruise's coolness against, say, Mr. T, or Gerald Ford, or Boy George.
Something similar happens in modern golf, but with less comic results. A common refrain on practice tees and development center ranges from Carlsbad to Croton-on-Hudson, invoked to explain why old club habits die so hard even in the face of proven better technology, goes like this: 'Well, you know how it is...the macho factor and all.'
Most recently, the MF has been seen as the glue that keeps 2-irons in bags whose owners' ability doesn't justify a place among the Elite 14. Hybrids, despite their ball flight advantages and their acceptance at all levels of the game, can't dislodge tradition and ideas of male toughness in every precinct of golf.
There's a good reason for that. Twos, and even the occasional knife, are good for a very narrow pie slice of the golfing population. And tradition is so strong in this game that some people consider a mere sacrifice of trajectory a small price to pay for the privilege of carrying golf jewelry.
But if you're not part of that elite group, and you agree with me that hitting fairways and greens is all the macho anyone really needs, you have to honestly assess your equipment choices. So here's a quick rundown of some macho options versus those that are less so (read: more effective for all but the most skilled players). If you have the game or the desire to go the macho route, there's nothing wrong with that...but my Handicap card and I will be waiting for you on the first tee.
Driver. Macho: About 350 cc's (if you can still find one), 8 degrees loft, stiff shaft. Non-macho: Enormous head, probably right at the 460 cc limit. Eleven, 12 or even 13 degrees loft. Regular flex shaft, maybe an A-flex for seniors whose swing speeds have slowed a bit. Non-macho advantage: Bigger head, bigger effective hitting area for people who can't hit it in the same spot on the face every time like professionals. A shaft that flexes easily and imparts as much energy as possible to the ball. The shaft's low kick point and the increased loft throw the ball up in the air and add hang time. While the ball is up there, it's going forward.
Long-shot clubs. Macho: Four-, 3-, 2-, and (yipes!) 1-irons, complete with their undeniably cool and classic look. Non-macho: A well-thought-out, fitted mix of two to four fairway woods and hybrids. Non-macho advantage: Like modern drivers, today's fairway woods and hybrids have weight low and waaaay back, which drops the clubhead's center of gravity way below the equator of the ball. As a result, impact drives the ball into the air rapidly, which is especially beneficial from rough. As for shots from good lies, see the driver section above regarding what the ball is doing while it's up there. And sole designs these days account for the fact that most of us don't hit down on the ball as much as we should, but rather sweep it a bit. These new soles give a sweet feel through the turf.
Irons. Macho: Player's blades, thinner than a bad alibi, complete with the razor top line and all the panache that comes with. Non-macho: One of the many models of irons available that feature low-and-back mass properties, often artfully hidden in the hitting position beneath a clean top line that has substance without undue width. Non-macho advantage: As with the longer second-shot clubs, the lower centers of gravity found in clubs with cavity backs, undercut channels and cut muscles encourage the ball to get airborne. Perimeter weighting fights dispersion. And here, going non-macho need not involve a cosmetic sacrifice. There are a great many very good-looking iron models out there now, and for all levels of player. Examples from a sea of choices: Titleist's forged line (especially those with precisely engineered cavities or muscle-like weighting features), Mizuno's MP 60s, and Cleveland's TA line.
Golf balls. Macho: A three- or four-piece tour ball with a urethane cover. Non-macho: A two-piece ball with a large, highly responsive core. Non-macho advantage: For people with lower swing speeds, the large-core models tend to go farther; tour-ball distance often comes from a core that is so deep in the ball that only really fast clubhead speeds can take advantage of it.
However, this is one area where the general rules of macho/non-macho don't always apply. Ball performance is so complex, and the demands we make of balls so diverse, that you may be better off going against type. That is to say, if the spin characteristics and distance of a tour ball work better for you (or just please you more) than the ball that fits your swing speed, have at it.
One last note: I don't mean to be sexist, but it's pretty well accepted that the so-called Macho Factor in golf is a phenomenon perpetuated by us men. Women, unconstrained by such primal golf forces, seem much better at building bags that give them the best chance of achieving their golf goals. Anyone in the grip of MF would do well to change his mindset and remember the object of the game: Less strokes, more fun.
And what's muy macho than that?
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr