Welcome to Wall-to-Wall Equipment, the Monday morning gear wrap-up in which GOLF equipment editor Jonathan Wall takes you through the latest trends, rumors and breaking news.
With the U.S. Open on tap, we’re switching things up with the weekly gear notes and taking a closer look at some of the clubs inside Viktor Hovland’s bag as he prepares to tackle The Country Club. Let’s get to it.
Small change, big difference
Hovland isn’t afraid to modify his favorite club in the bag — provided the tweak produces results. In February, Ping reps attempted to increase launch and combat a lower-than-comfortable spin rate on Hovland’s Ping G425 LST driver by removing the shaft tipping from his Fujikura Speeder 661 TR TX shaft to soften the overall build.
Head loft also increased slightly from 8.4 to 8.6 degrees and hot melt (three grams) was positioned in the toe to keep Hovland from overdrawing the ball since his path started moving more right. In the end, the changes resulted in a consistent launch around 11-12 degrees with roughly 2,300 RPMs of spin.
The tweaks provide another important benefit: Hovland doesn’t have to worry about spin dropping to dangerous levels on the occasional mishit.
Sharing is caring
When Hovland’s clubs were lost in transit on his way to Kapalua for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, arrangements were made to have a fresh set of Ping clubs built for him in the meantime until his gamers surfaced in Hawaii. A pro has to practice!
But what about the non-Ping clubs in the bag? It just so happens that Hovland and his caddie, Shay Knight, play the same 3-wood build — the only difference is a Fujikura Ventus Blue 7X shaft — all the way down to the Golf Pride New Decade MultiCompound grip.
Assuming it would have a temporary stint in the bag, Knight gave Hovland the 3-wood — and then watch as he got attached to the setup. When Hovland’s sticks finally arrive, he chose to keep Knight’s club.
Five-plus months into 2022, there’s no sign of Hovland giving it back.
“Far as I’m concerned, it’s his club now,” Knight told me earlier this year.
Clean it up
There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple when it comes to the setup. Prior to the Memorial, Hovland was like a lot of Tour pros who adjusted their club makeup based on the setup and playing conditions. Depending on the situation, he’d regularly rotate between a Ping G425 Max 7-wood and long iron — either a 3-iron or utility iron — most weeks.
At some point along the way, Hovland decided to stop the constant game of musical chairs and begin the search for a club that could serve both roles and offers a high launch with a versatile profile. Working with Ping Tour reps, Hovland settled into a 19-degree Ping G425 hybrid that splits the difference between the 7-wood and long iron and still carries around 240-245 yards.
While some players prefer the wide sole of a fairway wood to extract the ball from the rough, Hovland found the hybrid to be a worthy option from the short and long stuff. It’s a club that’ll surely see a lot of action this week as he attempts to topple the U.S. Open.
If there’s one thing you take away from this piece, let it be this reminder that one of the best players on the planet wields a set of irons with a profile that deftly toes the line between better-player and game-improvement. With a thicker topline and wider sole than Ping’s better-player offerings (i59 and Blueprint), i210 is geared for a wide range of players — from scratch to the mid-handicapper.
Hovland’s setup highlights the importance of trying other iron offerings before defaulting to what’s currently found on the professional circuit. In Hovland’s case, he found the i210 to be a good fit in the mid to short irons because of the lower, more controlled flight they produced. In the 4- through 6-iron, the wide sole keeps the head from needlessly digging into the turf.
What’s interesting is Hovland isn’t the only Ping staffer in the i210 camp. Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton — two high-level ball-strikers in their own right — rely on the clubs as well. Maybe they’re onto something.
Cowboys and Norwegians
Hovland was born in Norway but chose to leave home for the states when it came time to attend college. More specifically, golf powerhouse Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Stillwater is your prototypical college town, which suits Hovland’s fun-loving persona.
Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he still resides in Stillwater and regularly plays out at Karsten Creek Golf Club — Oklahoma State’s home course — along with several other pros in the surrounding area.
In a nod to his Norwegian and Cowboy roots, Hovland carries headcovers featuring Pistol Pete, Oklahoma State’s mascot, and the national flag of Norway. In Hovland’s eyes, it’s important to always remember where you came from.
Hovland’s decision to add a Ping PLD DS72 mallet to the bag last season wasn’t made in an effort to shake things up. Hoping to stay in the shape he was playing during his amateur days, Ping created the DS72 in an effort to keep things consistent for Hovland. There was no reason to reinvent the wheel — with one exception.
Hovland’s putter features two alignment lines, one on the flange and another on the topline. It’s a small addition that’s made it easier for Hovland to achieve consistent alignment.
“I’ve had different putters with those [alignment] lines,” Hovland told GOLF.com. “One would have a line on the topline, one would have the bottom line. So that’s where it came from. I just asked the guys at Ping if we could add both. It’s an easy way to help me line up the putter. If the top line and bottom line aren’t aligned, I know something is off.”
Mix it up
Our Ryan Barath highlighted this yesterday while looking at the ascending weighting in Rory McIlroy’s wood shafts, but it’s important to point out that pros sometimes vary the weight in their irons and wedges as well. Going slightly heavier in the wedges can add a bit more control and feel around the green. In some cases, players will even go to a softer flex in their wedges when adding weight.
Hovland doesn’t prescribe to the softer and heavier recipe. In his case, he’s fine going up in weight while maintaining the exact same flex.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2022? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.