Should I buy new clubs or book a lesson?
That's one of the most common questions I get asked. I'm sure it must be the same for golf pros up and down the country. So what is the answer? Should a golfer look at new equipment to try and improve their golf? Or should they focus on their improving their technique and skills via lessons to bring their handicap down?
My answer: Usually it's both.
Let me explain why.
When I'm working with players in a coaching capacity I can't help but take note of the equipment they are using. Partly because I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to clubs, but more so because I know the huge difference equipment can make to a golfer's shots. One lesson from a couple years ago stands out in my memory.
An elderly gentleman booked a lesson looking for more distance off the tee. Fair enough. A few minutes into this lesson the golfer seemed to be making pretty decent contact with his drives, but the TrackMan was showing really poor ball speeds and carry distance. I asked to quickly look at the spec of his driver, and was shocked to see it had 9.5 degrees of loft with a stiff shaft. This golfer had a pretty typical swing speed for a senior player, somewhere in the 60-70mph range with his driver. This driver was too stiff for his swing speed and he needed more like 11-13 degrees of loft. So I therefore explained how his equipment was causing him to lose speed and causing his drives to launch too low. His reply? He wasn't going to buy any new equipment, so I had to make him hit it further with this driver!
I tried my best, but needless to say I can't imagine he has won any long drives contests recently.
But equipment isn't the only answer.
I've also had many club fittings over the years where a golfer is struggling with their game and hoping that a £300+ purchase is going to magically change their fortunes. The club fitting that stands out is a member came in complaining about his driver recently, but once I got him hitting a few drives on TrackMan I could see the club wasn't the problem. Not only that, I told him his driver was perfectly set up for him! Any move away from that spec was only going to make his driving worse. As much as I like selling golf clubs, this golfer did not need to change his driver, he needed to work on his swing to deliver the club better.
When a golfer is in my Pro Shop asking this age-old question, the best way I answer is to quickly draw a pie chart (like the one pictured). Very roughly I like to think perhaps the golfer's technique accounts for 2/3 of how their ball flies, and his or her clubs influence 1/3 of the outcome. Now that's completely unscientific and would vary from golfer to golfer, but it's my way of saying both have a big influence on your golf shots.
If your swing is poor new clubs won't really fix the problem. Similarly if your swing is sound, poorly fitted clubs will reduce the quality of your shots.
That's where the PGA Professional comes in. As experts in all aspects of golf, we have the knowledge and experience to watch your swing, examine your clubs, and help blend the two together to help you hit the ball better. Sometimes that may mean a swing change, other times that might be a new club. Whichever the recommendation, I'm in the business of helping people play better, and gaining more enjoyment from their golf.
Before you purchase some new clubs, or embark on a course of lessons, please keep an open mind - your pro only wants you to hit the ball better.