3 observations from GOLF’s 2021 ClubTest player testing in Arizona

ClubTest 2021 player testing

A tester participates in GOLF's 2021 ClubTest at The Silverleaf Club in Arizona.

Zak Cedarholm

The dust has finally settled on the player testing portion of GOLF’s 2021 ClubTest. More than 40 golfers put the newest equipment through the ringer and offered their detailed feedback on looks, sound, feel and performance to GOLF staffers and expert fitters from GOLF’s sister company, True Spec Golf. You’ll have to wait until the March issue of GOLF Magazine hits newsstands to get the full rundown on every product, but here are three early observations from testing at The Silverleaf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The come down

You can tell a tester numerous times to focus on providing feedback for the club in their hands and not compare it to something they hit previously, but it’s human nature to want to pick a winner. Testing each product in a vacuum simply isn’t possible with a metric ton of would-be suitors positioned behind you on the range.

Which brings us to an interesting observation we picked up on during iron testing. For many golfers who went through our testing protocol, once they found a product they liked, literally everything they tested from that point forward wasn’t nearly as good as their top choice — even if it checked every box.

“It’s a great product, but I just can’t let go of how that other one felt,” said a single-digit tester. “It continues to stick with me.”

When the tester was asked to expound on the comment, he had trouble coming up with a legitimate argument for one over the other.

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What we realized is how difficult it is for golfers to simply move on and refocus on testing once they’ve found a perceived winner. Some were able to do so, but a majority struggled mightily.

To each their own

Sound is one of those categories that produced some interesting results. Depending on whether you prefer, say, a louder sound off the driver or more or a muted thud, a particular club could rank higher or lower on your list. This isn’t a groundbreaking piece of analysis, but’s still fascinating to watch a golfer take a swing with a club and say, “It sounds like a wooden bat at impact— I love it!” Only to have the next tester say, “It sounds like a wooden bat at impact — I hate it.”

The sound hasn’t changed, but it still elicits wildly different responses. It just goes to show you that no matter how hard equipment manufacturers try, they’ll never be able to please everyone. It’s all about trying to find a happy middle ground. Judging by the responses to sound at impact, it may be the toughest area to nail during the design process.

Sleepers

Every test provides a few sleeper products. While we wouldn’t call Srixon’s ZX Series irons a sleeper by any means — Cleveland/Srixon is one of the bigger brands in the industry — a number of testers mentioned it was their first time hitting a Srixon product. Some even admitted they were being introduced to the equipment manufacturer for the first time. With all the positive feedback that was heaped on the ZX5 and ZX7 during testing — specifically the feel and consistency — the brand is now firmly on the radar for a number of testers.

Another super sleeper was upstart Haywood Golf, who blew a number of testers away with their latest irons. One tester asked if he could take the 6-iron home. Another wanted to know if we had their number on hand so he could place an order. This is definitely a brand worth watching in 2021.

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Jonathan Wall

Golf.com

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour.