This Fred Couples club-testing video went viral. Here’s what you didn’t see
PGA Tour Champions
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Affixing a mic to a popular pro with one of the most coveted swings on the planet is a sure-fire way to generate social-media engagement. Throw in a rarely-seen golf club and some inside baseball from a recent testing session and you have all the makings for a viral video.
In a video posted on the PGA Tour Champions social feed last week, Fred Couples offered golfers an inside look at a club-testing session on the range at the SAS Championship; as of this writing, the video had garnered more than 300,000 views. Only this wasn’t just any testing session. Working alongside Couples, Champions Tour senior club technicians Brian Rhattigan and Mike Bertha (black hat in the video below) attempted to find a replacement for a club that’s almost non-existent in the professional ranks: a square-shaped 15-degree Callaway FTi “Squareway” fairway wood that’s been in Couples’ bag for more than 14 years.
Outside of Henrik Stenson’s Callaway Diablo Octane Tour, Couples’ 3-wood is without question one of, if not the, oldest fairway wood in professional golf. The club’s overall build hasn’t changed much since Couples put it in play early in 2008 and still features the same Harrison Mugen Prototype 75X shaft from the initial testing session.
“I’ve worked with clubs for 25 years and can tell you it’s the hardest club to fit a tour player in,” Rhattigan told GOLF.com. “They want it to be low and long off the tee but high and long off the ground. They also want it to be able to execute a variety of different shots. It has to do it all.”
Rhattigan should know. As Couples’ trusted club builder on the PGA Tour Champions, he’s one of the only people who’s allowed to handle the former Masters champ’s 3-wood.
“I don’t know how I became that guy,” Rhattigan said. “All I can say is whatever [Fred] feels comfortable doing, that’s what he does. That’s Freddie. He’s very particular about who he gives his [clubs] to.”
What makes the video of Couples working with Rhattigan and Bertha so interesting is the fact that you don’t know exactly what’s going on from the footage. It’s easy to gather Couples is testing fairway woods with different shafts, but little context is provided to give viewers an idea of why Couples chose to go through the process.
Here’s where Rhattigan comes in to clear things up.
“He’s such a feel player,” Rhattigan said of Couples. “He can three-finger that club 245 yards with a slight cut when the 5-wood can’t get there, but he can also hit it stock about 250-255 yards. I’ve done this for 25 years and can tell you it’s the hardest club to fit a tour player in.”
For Couples, the 3-wood checks all of those boxes — with one exception. Before the SAS Championship, Couples and Rhattigan had been discussing the idea of adding extra distance to his trusty club to get it beyond 260 yards, while still allowing him to throttle back when needed. But with Couples no longer playing a regular schedule, their testing meetups were limited.
Couples also kept running into another issue: Finding a 14-year-old club in the wild requires a little bit of luck. Not wanting to mess with his gamer build, Couples needed to track down a backup version in decent condition.
Thanks to an eagle-eyed friend who was perusing the discount bin at a local golf store recently, Couples wound up becoming the proud owner of a new FTi Squareway retail head with a 60-gram regular flex shaft that proved to be the perfect test subject.
“I was amazed how good the head looked for its age,” Rhattigan said. “The club was pristine.”
The backup head allowed Rhattigan to build up a second 3-wood with a longer 43.5-inch Fujikura Speeder NX X 70-gram shaft (tipped 1.5 inches) at D3 swingweight. The new build proved to be 12 yards longer during testing — Couples uses a few choice words in the video to describe the extra distance — but the “tingy” sound at impact wasn’t exactly pleasing to the ear. To dampen the sound, Rhattigan added 2 grams of “hot melt” to the interior cavity, via a port in the head, for acoustic purposes.
The video also highlights Couples’ throwback testing tendencies. Similar to Tiger Woods, Couples leans on his otherworldly feel to gain a sense of how the club is performing instead of pouring over launch monitor numbers.
“If you listen to what he’s saying in the video, he doesn’t get into technical numbers very much,” Rhattigan said. “For me, I’m just trying to listen to what he tells me and then take it from there. It sounds simple, but it works with a feel guy like Freddie.”
Despite gaining more than 10 yards with the new build, Couples ultimately chose to stick with his gamer. There’s a chance he could use the other 3-wood down the road — Couples felt the new club was slightly more upright, which was due to the longer shaft — but as is usually the case with Couples, familiarity and feel tend to win out in the end.
“You have all this new technology, and Freddie is content to play that square-shaped club,” Rhattigan says with a chuckle. “We’ve suggested some other options but he’s content to keep going with that one for good reason. It works. There’s no reason to change.”
No reason, indeed. On Sunday, Couples shot a 12-under 60 and won by six.
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