As I was stepping into a bunker at my favorite local course, tour-designed sand wedge in hand, it occurred to me that I had the wrong instrument for the job. Not that I needed a pitching wedge or a nine-iron. The sand wedge indeed was the right club. It’s the “tour-designed” part that had me thinking.
The aggregate material that occupies the bunkers at my local track in no way bears any resemblance to the sand that I’ve seen at tour stops like Oakland Hills, Warwick Hills, or the TPC Dearborn. Their sand is soft, and smooth and fluffy. Mine is chunky, irregular and hard (see photo above). When I try to splash the ball out, I’m just as likely to hit hard clay bottom as anything.
What some aspiring club company needs to do is to create a line that’s “public course”, not “tour”, inspired. These clubs need to be designed for the kind of conditions that your average golfer plays.
The tee boxes at my local course are by this time of year pitted with the divots of tens of thousands of poorly struck drivers. It doesn’t matter for the clubs, since you’re teeing it up, but finding an even, stable spot for the feet is challenging.
The fairways are grown in, but the ground beneath is hard. If you try to take one of those tour divots, your club will bounce back up and hit you in the shins. At the very least, they’ll give you a bad case of golfers’ elbow from the repeated shocks. The rough consists mostly of weeds (although they’re well-mown weeds) and the ground is even harder.
I have to give the grounds keepers credit for the greens. They’re wonderfully maintained. But they’re not nearly as fast as private clubs I’ve played, and those are not as fast as tour stops.
The sand traps? Well, that’s a story in and of itself.
What all of this adds up to is that I—and other public course golfers—need equipment that is “six pack”, not “tour” inspired. The equipment companies need to stop asking the Tour guys for help and start haunting the clubhouses at local municipals.
I need shoes that are designed to keep my feet stable when I have to plant them on the edge of a deep divot because there’s no other flat spot. I want well-padded insoles, because I’m not walking on a tour level carpet. And while they’re at it, shoe makers should make models with bigger toe boxes. We don’t get custom fitted like the tour guys, so most of us need a little more give. Keen brand shoes are a good model.
I need irons that won’t take a tour divot. I need nine- and eleven- woods because they’re the most practical thing for hitting off harder ground. In fact, every line of fairway clubs should include seven, nine and eleven woods as a matter of course.
I need a putter specifically designed for distance control on slower greens. The focus should be on designs that get lag putts close.
And I need a sand wedge designed for three quarters of an inch of aggregate, with an underlying layer of concrete-hard clay.