Yo, Gear Guy! What’s the biggest difference between a modern driver and one from 2012?

December 7, 2017

Welcome to another edition of Yo, Gear Guy!, an interactive GOLF.com series in which our resident dimplehead (a.k.a., GOLF’s deputy editor of equipment, Mike Chwasky) fields your hard-hitting questions about clubs, fittings, gadgets, bounce, lofts, CG, MOI, and a bunch of other scary acronyms. Got a question for Gear Guy? Hit us up on Twitter or Facebook.

@Ray209 on Twitter: In a previous mailbag, you said your swing should determine your grip size, not your hand size. Can you explain why?

Traditionally a lot of players naturally assume that proper grip size is determined by the actual size of your hands and length of your fingers. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but there is a lot to be said for matching your grip size to your swing type as well. Here’s the basic fact – a smaller grip often promotes more hand action because it’s easier to hold in the fingers and release freely, while a larger grip often precludes hand action, because it’s harder to hold in your fingers (a bigger grip tends to fit better in the palm of the hand). So if you’re a player who struggles with too much hand action, which can lead to all kinds of problems like chronic hooking, you might want to try a slightly larger grip, or even a midsized or oversized model. Conversely, if you struggle to fully release the clubhead and tend to slice a lot, a smaller grip might help you significantly. Unfortunately, like a lot of things in golf, you’ll have to do some experimentation to find what works for you.

Scott McCain on Facebook: I walk a lot and I’m considering a pushcart. Are there any that you would recommend?

I typically don’t like to recommend specific brands here but I can tell you that there are a number of excellent push/pull carts out there that are lighter, easier to use, and more convenient than ever before. Some key things to consider are your budget, size of your car trunk, conditions of use (bad weather, rough terrain, standard muni course, etc.), and basic needs. If you don’t want or need a cart that can hold your electronic devices conveniently, propel itself with a motor, or provide GPS directions to nearest beverage cart, feel free to buy a basic model. There are some decent ones that cost under $100. However, there are some really great models, notably those made by Big Max (full disclosure – they’re the only ones I’ve really tried). While the Big Max carts are a bit pricey, running anywhere from $180 to over $300, they’re exceptionally well designed, easy to use, and can fit a wide range of players. It’s a good place to start if your budget allows.

Djlawrence3557 on Reddit: What are the actual, real-life benefits between spike and spike-less shoes? Does one actually grip better? Result in less damage to putting surfaces? Have any impact on lower body torque?

The answer to this question depends largely on your swing, playing conditions, and overall athletic ability. For pro-level players who possess an enviable combination of speed and flexibility, metal spikes are sometimes preferable because they want to be as firmly connected to the ground as possible. Because they often possess the flexibility to keep their front foot grounded throughout the swing, this works for them. However, a lot of world-class players are more than comfortable with plastic spikes or even those with built in traction elements. For those who don’t have a ton of speed in their swing, and maybe face some challenges with their flexibility, plastic cleats or spikeless designs are typically a much better choice. Bottom line – unless you’re a very accomplished player who can tell the difference (your feet are slipping during your swing, for example), go with plastic spikes or spikeless shoes, meaning those with built-in traction elements. They’re easier on everything they touch, including greens, walkways, and carpets, among other things, and will probably be more comfortable for you in the long run.

Gerry A Cassel Jr on Facebook: What are the biggest differences between a driver from 2012 and today? Do the updates really justify spending the big bucks to upgrade?

Yes, the improved designs and technologies in today’s new drivers do for many players justify an upgrade. While some might argue that since COR and ballspeed limits, which are regulated by the USGA, were maxed out years ago, there’s no real reason to upgrade, I’d strongly disagree. Modern drivers offer a variety of new technologies including vastly improved clubface designs, aerodynamics, custom tuning options, and multiple clubhead options (some like Ping have three variations of the G400 that provide significantly different performance), that weren’t available five or six years ago. My recommendation is to see the proof for yourself by taking your old gamer to a custom fitting studio and putting it up against the latest and greatest. Though it’s possible you’ll come away feeling OK with your current club, it’s much more likely you’ll see improvements in distance, dispersion, and consistency that convince you to make an upgrade.

MolotovMan1263 on Reddit: What are the best ways for a beginning golfer to keep their swing over the winter months? Is there anything for indoor use that can help?

For those who live in a cold weather area, maintaining their golf swing through the winter is always going to be a challenge. As a beginner, the challenge is probably bigger than it is for a more experienced player who, for better or worse, has an ingrained move that they can call up on demand. In your case there are a few simple things you can do at home to make sure you don’t lose your relatively new swing completely. First, I recommend swinging regularly (a couple of times a week, if possible), either with your standard driver and seven iron, or with a weighted club. This will both help maintain your motion and also keep your newly forming golf muscles in shape. The Orange Whip, which is a flexible club with a weight on the end, is another great tool for both in and out of season training. Obviously you can also video your swing and watch it regularly while attempting to mimic it, but the best thing is to find a place where you can actually hit balls on at least a semi-regular basis. Even if it’s only once or twice a month, the key is to keep the feeling of your golf swing at least somewhat fresh in your body and mind so when the season comes around you don’t have to start over.

Temo723 on Reddit: What’s the difference between the SW I got with my XR 16s vs. my Vokey SW?

I can’t tell you specifically because I don’t know the exact specs of either club you own, but I can tell you that there are typically some significant differences between a set extension wedge (your XR 16), and a dedicated wedge (your Vokey). In the case of a wedge that’s designed as part of a set, you typically get a club that is made to fit, both visually and performance-wise, with the irons it accompanies. That means if you have a game improvement set of clubs, like the XR 16s, the wedge will typically feature a game improvement design with a wider sole and more bounce. In the case of a stand-alone wedge like a Vokey, there’s a wide range of loft, bounce, and sole configurations available that are aimed at fitting the complete range of players from beginner to Tour pro. What this means is you’re going to get a much more specific fit from a stand-alone wedge, and a much more general fit from a set extension wedge. In my experience, set extension wedges have gotten significantly better over the years and often provide more than adequate performance for average players. In your case, you should simply practice with both until you determine which one works better for your game and typical playing conditions. Getting fit for wedges is also a great idea if you want to optimize your short game performance.