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Monday, October 9, 2017

Do the Clubs Really Matter?

TaylorMade and Sergio Garcia part ways after 15 years… where to next? | via GolfWRX.com

...it seemed to be only a matter of time that TaylorMade and Garcia would soon part ways. That day has now come, as TaylorMade announced in a statement today that the Garcia-TaylorMade marriage has ended after 15 years.

The consensus is that Garcia will soon be switching to Callaway. Nothing wrong with that. Players are certainly free to go with any manufacturer they choose.

Whenever this topic comes up it causes me to wonder if the top players really see their sponsored equipment as truly critical to their performance? It would seem that if there was a particular manufacturer turning out equipment that was superior in any significant way all of the top players would be using those clubs. However, that is clearly not the case. Are there players on tour using equipment from manufacturers because they are paid to use them even though they know there are other clubs that would improve their game?

It is fairly well known that much of the equipment used on tour is massaged to the player's exacting standards. These tweaks go well beyond what the typical consumer reasonably has at their disposal. "Prototype" equipment is a term thrown around often. Usually, that really means that while the player is using equipment that is labeled to match a brand sold to the public, it has been modified to a specific spec that doesn’t match the commercially available product. Sure, some of those prototype experiments may make their way to the average consumer down the line, but, many of these experiments are really meant to make the sponsored player happy with equipment that they might not otherwise be willing to play.

The idea that a player will use equipment from Manufacturer X as long as it plays and feels like equipment from Manufacturer Y is one of the tour’s little secrets.

It is impossible to truly know why Garcia has decided to move away from TaylorMade after such a long relationship. I’m not here to imply that he specifically is doing anything inappropriate. Clearly, one reason could be that he believes that his new equipment sponsor is making superior equipment for his game and they are willing to pay him a fair fee for using them.

Switching to a different manufacturer in order to make more money isn’t evil. It just raises the question of whether the equipment provided to top players really makes any difference to their performance. If the equipment doesn’t really matter, then the companies trying to convince us that their stuff is the best have a problem. If the equipment does matter, and players are switching to equipment just to make a bigger guaranteed sponsors check, in exchange for possibly not performing as well on the course, then the professional game has a problem.

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