I’m using a true story for my “Lipouts” column in the August 2013 issue of Backspin Magazine (www.backspinmag.com). Subscribers to this blog can get a sneak peek below:
Regrettably, the following is a true story: As I sat there alone in my truck under the cover of darkness, I wondered how it had come to this point. I was barely into my forties with a wife and kids, but there was no turning back now. I quietly stepped out of the truck and wondered what mitigating circumstances determined “premeditated.” Reaching into the back seat for the bag of supplies I had picked up from the hardware store earlier (and stupidly paid for with my credit card), I admitted to myself that no one would see this as a spur-of-the-moment act. In truth, it had been spiraling out of control for a couple of years and this would be how it ended, for now—whether I wanted it to or not. Frustration has a way of creeping up on a person until it becomes too big to manage, options seem limited, and you feel trapped. Some can walk away from it, but that was not an option for me. Others go to more desperate measures. It seemed as though I would fall into that category this night.
I quietly walked up the driveway and slipped through the already unlocked door. There was just enough light from inside the house emanating through the window in the door and into the garage for me to make my way around the car parked inside, a stack of boxes, and a couple of bicycles to the corner where I paused, trying to talk myself out of it. What seemed like an hour was probably no more than a minute, but I sat there staring at the target of my “mission” until I could wait no longer. There simply was no turning back. I reach into the bag when, suddenly, the garage light came on—blinding me for a second—and I heard the door open and a dog bark. A woman’s voice echoed into the garage.
“Nathan,” she asked. “Is that you? What are doing in the dark?” My cover was blown and I had to come clean.
“Hey hon,” I said sheepishly. “I was looking for my old Ping Eye2 irons. I’m going to re-grip them and start playing them again.”
An almost cathartic feeling of relief washed over me. There it was. No more sneaking around. It was out in the open. I was finally ready to admit that I was in my forties and could not hit the ball the way I used to and was now willing to re-enlist a 25 year-old set of irons in a desperate plea for help. The plan went into motion at a Nike Demo Day at The Refuge in Flowood, Mississippi two days earlier. While talking to others who were trying clubs, I innocently grabbed a Nike Covert 6-iron from the demo bag and took a swing at a ball on the range. It flew high and true with a bit of a draw. Surely it was a fluke. So I hit another. And another. And another. I had been playing a set of Titleist cavity-backed forged irons for more than seven years, but as family and work obligations took precedence over time spent playing golf, my iron play had shown steady decline. Now here I stood in amazement at how well I had stuck the ball with a game improvement iron! Almost reflexively, I glanced at the shaft label…regular flex. How much more emasculated could I feel?
I put the demo iron in the bag and walked slowly back to the club house, shoulders slumped, with my tail between my legs. How did it come to this? Was I suddenly so old and so bad that I needed a game improvement iron with whippy shafts? As I sat in the grill pondering what had just happened and drowning my sorrows in a cocktail of Dr. Pepper and self-loathing, it dawned on me that I had a set of game improvement irons stashed away in the dark recesses of my garage. A set of irons that, if I was honest with myself, was the set that I played when I was striking the ball the most consistently I ever had in my life. I had always assumed that it was simply because I was younger and playing nearly every day from my late high school career through college, but now it dawned on me that it was the equipment! That’s when I decided to dig my 1988 black dot Ping Eye2 irons out of storage, re-grip them, and put them into play.
The first thing I noticed when I took the clubs to the course was that I did hit the irons much better than the forged irons I had been playing—and more consistently. Curiously, the lofts of my 1988 irons are slightly more than one club weaker than modern-day irons and that took some getting used to. For example, where I was hitting a smooth 7-iron before, I would now have to hit a hard 6-iron. Also strange was how the square grooves (these irons were before Karsten began rounding off the grooves that got him into a legal battle with the USGA) would shred the cover of the new Titleist ProV1x. After a few holes, the ball looked like every drive had landed on a cart path.
I don’t think I’ll keep the old Pings in my bag because there are so many newer options on the market today from multiple manufacturers (and I still cannot stomach hitting a “6-iron” from 155), but what I did learn was that sometimes we have to swallow our pride and dial down the testosterone. Golf should be fun and should be enjoyed…fanning iron shots, missing greens, and scrambling for pars on every hole is not fun. Understanding that I don’t get to play as much, I’ve begun the hunt for a more forgiving set of irons and will probably choose—yes—regular flex shafts. But all golfers know that cosmetics at address have a big impact on how we “feel” about clubs and I still prefer a thinner top line and smaller clubhead than the game improvement irons on the market. It took me a trip back to the future to prove it to myself, but now that I’ve admitted that scoring is more satisfying than an ego linked to yesteryear and I’m ready to make the change. And now I won’t have to sneak around in the dark stumbling through my garage to do it.
Copyright 2013 Nathan Crace. Nathan Crace (on Twitter @lipouts) is an award-winning golf course architect, published author, and member of the Golf Writers Association of America. You can purchase his book “Lipouts, The Best I Could Do From the First Two Years” from Moonbay Media on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and in the iTunes Bookstore.