Golf equipment truths: How often should you replace your irons?

We are lucky to have two of the most knowledgable golf gearheads in our office. And they are sharing their knowledge with you. Golf Digest’s equipment editors, Mike Stachura and E. Michael Johnson, have covered the golf equipment business for decades, and there are few who know the equipment industry better. We’ve asked them to answer your questions in a weekly equipment round-up. Tweet them any equipment questions you have, and they might answer your questions next week.

How often should you replace your irons? Mine are approximately 10 years old, but I only play twice a month. How much life is left in them? They are TaylorMade Burner 2.0. @doak_liam

Let us start with how much life is left them. Golf clubs have a very long life. It takes a lot to bust a club, and there are plenty of people playing irons that are 10 years old. So it’s not like they’re about to disintegrate in your hands at impact. But fact is if you’re not swapping out your irons at least every five years you’re leaving a fair amount of improvement on the table. At 10 years, well, it’s like handing your opponent in a $5 nassau an extra stroke a side. Today’s irons compared to your current ones are faster and considerably more forgiving. Shafts—even stock shafts—have gotten better, too. And if you don’t feel like ponying up full boat for a new set, try a used-club outlet such as the U-Try program at GlobalGolf and consider a set that’s only two or three years old. At least that’s an upgrade from what you’re currently playing. Oh, and twice a month isn’t something we’d use the word “only” with. That’s 24 times a year, my friend. That’s worthy of having some more current irons.

In raising a kid in golf, should our kids be trying to drive the ball 350 yards or should they be content with having a complete game? –@DavidBHooten

Short answer: Yes. Now, unless you’re trying to raise the next Kyle Berkshire (the reigning world long-drive champ), we think there’s more to this answer than how far your youngster needs to hit the ball. Distance off the tee is a tremendous advantage in golf. Distance off the tee without a solid iron game, superior short game and reliable putting stroke is nearly useless. After all, even Happy Gilmore had to learn how to putt. Focus on a complete game. If the individual has the potential to hit the ball that far, a good instructor will unleash that potential along with everything else. Just ask Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson. Plus a complete game lasts a lot longer. Not many guys in their 50s and 60s are bombing it 350. That said, we know college coaches who tell us that if they see a kid who’s not generating 170 miles per hour of ball speed, they quietly whisper to themselves, “Better practice folding those quarter-zip pullovers.” If you’re going to compete at the highest level, you need that extra gear. In the first two events this year, there were 263 drives of 350 yards or more. Last year 201 players recorded a drive of 350 yards or more on the PGA Tour, or about 50 more than kept their playing privileges. Even Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover had 350-yard drives. On the Korn Ferry Tour last year, there were 271 players who hit at least one drive 350 yards. Less than 10 percent of those gentlemen were good enough to get to the PGA Tour. just like there aren’t that many 225-pound left tackles in the NFL anymore, physicality is a factor. And while not many Corey Pavins are making it all the way to the Big Show anymore, if you want to get there, it helps immeasurably if you have his resourcefulness, his will, his hands and his tenacity. Indeed, of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup regular season last year, only 15 averaged more than 300 yards off the tee (admittedly, seven of the top 10), and five (Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner, Francesco Molinari and Chez Reavie—all of whom won tour events) averaged less than 290. How retro. Of course, if we’re talking about your daughter, that’s a different story. She doesn’t need to hit it 350. Yet.

I’m buying a set of Callaway Epic Flash Woods online. How can I tell if they are authentic? –@duntagolfer

Thrilled you ask this question because this is really important. First, “buying online” can mean a lot of things. (Truthfully, it’s a bit like searching for a mail order bride, rife with uncertainty and deceit and occasional serendipity. There’s a lot to unpack there.) There’s buying online from Golf Galaxy or PGA Tour Superstore or any number of highly reputable retailers. Then there’s buying off eBay or similar sites. If the latter, here’s some advice. The internet is a haven for counterfeiters. It offers them a wide audience of people who are willing to buy on faith. Not that you can’t find legit product, but you need some safeguards. First, look at the photo and the seller profile. If the seller is offering multiples of the same item and the photos all look like a glam shot, that’s a sign it could be iffy, especially with a newer model such as Epic Flash. It’s not often someone is trying to dump current models at a steep discount. But let’s say you’ve purchased the club and aren’t sure. Here are some things you can do afterward to see if you’ve been hornswoggled: Check the font of the logo. Counterfeits are often slightly off (usually thicker). On a club like the Epic Flash driver, tap a coin on the crown. If it rings like the Liberty Bell you’ve been had—that crown should be carbon and it will only ring if it’s titanium. And, believe it or not, you can smell the grip. Counterfeiters use very cheap rubber, and it has a distinct, pungent smell to it. But best to simply stick to Rule No. 1: If it’s not purchased from an authorized dealer, the risk isn’t worth it. Be honest, not cheap. You’re worth it.

I recently got fitted and spent $400 on a putter. After a few rounds I went back to a 35-year-old Ping Anser 3. –@jamejonson

No one is in favor of modern technology more than us. But we’re golfers, too, and understand the confidence that sometimes comes from a familiar look on the greens. In fact, one of us (not @MikeStachura) is currently rolling it with a Never Compromise GM2 Exchange circa 2007 with a grip that’s about to fall to pieces. So we get it. All that said, don’t put that $400 flat stick up on eBay just yet. We love the fact you got fitted for your putter, and that has to pay off at some point. There’s also no reason your 35-year-old putter can’t be measured and tweaked to make sure it fits you and your current stroke. Then you have options. A good fitting doesn’t mandate you buy something new, but rather simply fix something old.



A look at the changes made to Quail Hollow for the 2017 PGA Championship

A professional golf tournament has not been played at Quail Hollow since James Hahn beat out Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson in the 2016 Wells Fargo Invitational in May. That’s because this year’s Wells Fargo Invitational was bumped to Eagle Point because of the upcoming PGA Championship at Quail.

Since that tournament, though, the golf course itself has undergone some serious renovations in front of hosting its first major championship. Let’s take a look at some of those with the year’s final major just two weeks away.

These changes to the course took place in a very condensed amount of time. As Hahn was finishing off his second PGA Tour win on the back nine of the course, the front nine was already undergoing treatment.

Few places in Charlotte are reimagined more frequently — and more privately — than the exclusive club on Gleneagles Road. This past May 8 (2016), as soon as the last group teed off on the final day of the Wells Fargo Championship, construction crews descended on the course and began a 12-week renovation process that would have taken five or six months on most other courses. But Superintendent Keith Wood didn’t have that kind of time. The club’s president, Johnny Harris, wanted to have the course open to members by the fall.

That led to one of the most remarkable renovations of a golf course in the country, involving three new holes, overhauled fairways, reshaped greens, and the addition of areas for grandstands and spectators — all in three months. “I don’t think I’ll ever come up with any project like this again in my career,” says Wood, a 20-year veteran in the industry.

Here are three other changes to the Quail Hollow track.

1. New Bermuda: A type of grass called Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass has been installed on the greens at Quail Hollow. It will be as pure as the driven snow, and it should erase all memories of that nightmare 2013 event at the course in which the bentgrass greens were as splotchy as any PGA Tour event in recent memory.

2. Thousands of trees removed: We will see a sparser Quail Hollow than when we last saw it in 2016. Many of these trees were removed to allow more sunlight to hit the greens, but some were removed to re-shape the golf course, according to the Charlotte Observer.

3. Four-ish new holes: The first and second holes were meshed into a single hole, a 540-yard par 4. The fifth hole was changed from a par 5 to a par 4. A new second hole was built, a par 3. The 11th was given extra bunkering. This is an oddity, for sure, but not much has changed in terms of the actual landscaping of the track.

Golfers will see a totally different front nine (and greens) than they have seen in past years at this course. Jimmy Walker thinks it could lead to higher scores because of thickened rough and a faster track.

Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer, said he was a bit dubious about reformatting the course some 16 months before this year’s major, but Quail Hollow nailed it.

“They lay out all these plans on the table, and thank God we were sitting down; 16 months before the 99th PGA Championship (they) want to totally rebuild three holes and change the green on No. 11,” Haigh told reporters. “I’m not sure anywhere else we could have had that faith to make such significant changes to what is already a fantastic golf course.”

This may not make a material difference in who wins the golf tournament. Quail Hollow has produced some big boy winners in the past including McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Fowler, and given what we’ve seen in the last few years at major championships, that’s not likely to change in two weeks at the 99th PGA Championship.