WHEN TO RING THE CHANGES
I am always open to new equipment ideas and technologies, but I will only make a change in my bag if it can be proved to improve my game
’m no equipment geek – the only thing that really matters to me is that anything new has to be an improvement. I’ve used Callaway my entire career, so I’ve got a lot of confidence in its products, but I’m rarely going to change unless a club can be proved to improve me – so if it goes further, dispersion is better or I’ve got more feel or control.
The new gear is always technically better, but it’s more about custom fitting to make the bigger gains. The sweetspot is getting bigger and that becomes a little harder to test, but it is way more important and beneficial to scores. Optimisation of spin, launch and shaft characteristics go above my head, so I don’t really get into the tech. In fact, I spend most time working on my putting with Paul Hurrion. We’ve worked out what my stroke tendencies are over the years, and I’ve gone to a counterbalanced putter to help that. It also helps me get a little more forward lean in my set-up so I can lock my left wrist. I’ve always putted with mallet-style models based around the 2-Ball and had a lot of success with them. Learn what works and stick with it.
How many bad rounds can a putter survive? Well, for me, I would say it’s earned its place in the bag, so it’s also earned some leeway. But if I had a month of bad putting and couldn’t understand why and couldn’t get to the bottom of it technically, maybe I would look to change. In fact, the 2-Ball Fang putter was one club that did go in straight away when it came out because it felt different, I liked the look of it and I had the data to confirm it was an improvement.
With my wedges, I’ve been working with the guys on the van to get the grind right so I’m really happy with the bounce. My lob wedge is always ground a little different to the standard one, so on links courses, for example, I can still open it up and get the leading edge sat low enough for me to feel I can get the club under the ball, yet still interact with the turf how I like it to on a full shot.
I’m not one to change my wedge line-up for different courses. It’s amazing how in tune with a club we can be. I spend so much time using them, I’d notice even minimal changes, certainly with my putter or lob wedge, because they are the most ‘feel’ clubs in the bag. The slightest change and it just won’t feel right. If your club’s got bent in travel, you put it down and it just doesn’t look right. It
Imight only be half a degree out, but half a degree with a lob wedge – and certainly a putter – makes a big difference. Callaway irons have been great for a long time so I’m never too worried about changing them when the time comes, but woods can be trickier. I’ve still got an original 21˚ Heavenwood in my rotation – everyone has that old favourite go-to club, right? It doesn’t always make it in, but it’s always there because it’s one of the best utility clubs that’s ever been made and I just love it. It replaces my 3-iron, so if the rough is thick I like it because it’s a 3-iron that I can dig out of anywhere. I also have a newer, stronger-lofted Apex 20˚ utility which goes five yards further, so I have three clubs that go similar distances but have differing capabilities. Then I have a 5-wood, 3-wood and driver that I rotate depending on the course.
The 3-wood is definitely a tough one for most guys, probably because people use them in different ways. Guys who maybe don’t hit it off the tee that much are more interested in something that offers a higher, softer flight into par 5s. Guys who do use it more off the tee want something they can get out there a long way. I’ve had my current XR 3-wood for 18 months and I’m really happy with it as I can hit all the shots I want to. However, I am in the process of putting a strong 3-wood in the bag as a back up for when my driving isn’t feeling good, as this is my area of weakness. Let the equipment do the work for you instead of having to manufacture a shot – that’s the modern game.
As for the driver, you can never really tell exactly how good it is until you put it into competition play. You can test them all you want, narrow it down to a couple of options on TrackMan, take them onto the course to pinpoint the best one… but you’ve then got to try it in a tournament to see if it performs the same as in practice. Even if it’s longer and straighter on the range, the tempo and timing of your swing changes a little in competition and even more when you’re under the gun. That’s when you need to be able to trust your driver 100 per cent and know that a bad shot is not going to be that bad. It’s all about how good your bad shot is. If you know what your bad swing does, you can play great golf.
“Even if it’s longer and straighter on the range, the tempo and timing of your swing changes in competition and even more when you’re under the gun”
2008 Ryder Cupper, Oliver Wilson, is now into his 12th year on the European Tour, during which time he has enjoyed the support of long-term sponsors, Callaway Golf, Hugo Boss and Orion Group