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Category: Augusta National Golf Club

April 03, 2011

No course puts wedges to the test like Augusta National

Posted at 10:00 PM by David Dusek

Mickelson-Masters-2010-Beck_600x450 Instead of hacking chips and greenside pitch shots out of long, gnarly rough, as they do in a U.S. Open, the competitors at the Masters are forced to perform acts of short-game heroism off tight lies.
Really tight lies.
"Augusta National and the Masters put more of a premium on technique than a U.S. Open," says Roger Cleveland, who as chief of golf club design at Callaway Golf makes the wedges for three-time champ Phil Mickelson (right) and 2008 Masters winner Trevor Immelman, among others.
Cleveland notes that under U.S. Open conditions, the ball sometimes buries in the rough and other times sits up. Regardless, pros can swing steeply with a high-lofted wedge and pop it out like a bunker shot.
That technique won't work at the Masters, where tight lies make it hard to get under the ball. Only crisp, in-the-grooves contact will produce the spin a player needs to control the ball on Augusta's legendary greens.
Equipment preparations for the Masters usually begin in Florida several weeks before the tournament.
Bob Vokey, who designs wedges for Titleist and works with many of the company's staff players, was busy two weeks ago at Bay Hill. "[The pros] think it's going to be firm greens, so I switched out some [wedges] of staffers like Zach Johnson and Ricky Fowler and Charlie Hoffman," he says.
According to the man they call "Voke," the rule of thumb is to use wedges with slightly less bounce at Augusta National. The less bounce a wedge has, the easier it is to slide under a ball resting on a tight lie. But taking too much bounce off a wedge has a downside at the Masters.
"Sometimes I'll be working with the player and we'll talk about taking the bounce off,” Vokey says. "But the sand there, you know, it gets kind of fluffy. If you take too much bounce off to make the club work from the tight lies, you're going to take away from the benefits you get in the soft sand.”
Brandt Snedeker, who tied for third at the 2008 Masters, recently asked Cleveland Golf's Rob Waters to make him a new 60
° wedge with reduced bounce in both the heel and the toe.
Reducing the bounce in the heel allows Snedeker to open the face more while still being able to slide the club under the ball. Taking bounce out of the toe means Snedeker's wedge won't rebound off the turf as much as it swings through the hitting area. The bounce remaining in the middle of the head is helpful when Snedeker hits square-faced bunker shots. It's a subtle detail, but an important one.
Roger Cleveland also says that he gets many requests from Callaway staff players for Augusta-specific wedges in the weeks leading up to the Masters. He notes that both Mickelson and Ernie Els made modifications to their wedge setups, with the tournament in mind, a few weeks ahead of time.
Like playing a series of practice rounds at Augusta before Masters week, Cleveland says it's one of those things that veterans simply know to do, but some rookies don't.
Mickelson-Masters-2010-Biever_600x450 Another strategy to increase spin and control at Augusta is to add a super-high lofted wedge. Mickelson used a 64
° wedge to get up and down several times at Winged Foot in 2006 during the U.S. Open, and a few players now carry one all the time. Cleveland warns that it's not a magic wand.
"You have to practice with it,” Cleveland says. “You can't just put in a 64
° wedge. I mean, these guys are incredible, but it still takes a big commitment to swing as hard as you need to swing with that club. You've got to get used to it, especially under pressure. It's difficult, which is why I think a lot of guys are reluctant to use it.”
Vokey notes that adding a 64
° wedge also presents another challenge: What club is the player going to take out to make room?
One thing that Waters, Vokey and Cleveland all agree on is the necessity of fresh grooves. Regardless of the sole grind or the loft, the USGA's recent groove rule changes make sharp grooves critical to generating spin and control.
Reps and club builders from all the major manufacturers will be on-site in the days leading up to the opening round of the Masters. If players need last-minute tweaks, complete back-up sets of clubs are waiting in each company's tour van across the street.
They can work a lot of magic on wedges in those trucks, and they’d be happy to do some tailoring too if one of their players ends up with a new green jacket.

See-Try-Buy: Learn more about Callaway, Cleveland and Titleist clubs, and schedule your fitting with GolfTEC or Golfsmith.

Related: Follow David Dusek on Twitter | Facebook

(Photos: top, Robert Beck/SI. Bottom, John Biever/SI)

March 31, 2011

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's golf equipment

Posted at 10:55 AM by David Dusek

President Dwight D. Eisenhower didn't start playing golf until he was in his 30s, but he fell hard for the game. During his eight years in office he played more than 800 rounds. Over his lifetime Ike's handicap very between 14 and 18, and he broke 80 on a handful of occasions. When it came to equipment, the President was a Spalding man, in deference to his good friend Bobby Jones, says Art Kennel, a former superintendent of Gettysburg (Pa.) Country Club, where Ike was a member. Kennel became Ike's personal Gettysburg caddie from 1955 to '66. Upon his death in 1969 Eisenhower left two sets of clubs to Kennel. The set pictured below dates from the '50s and is one that Kennel gifted Ike's golf buddy Arnold Palmer, who loaned the clubs to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

DRIVER: Spalding Model 15. According to Kennell, when Ike was in his prime, he could hit his driver 250 to 260 yards.

FAIRWAY WOODS: Spalding Model 15. "Ike liked all of the fairway woods," Kennell says. "But the 4-wood was his favorite club. A lot of times he teed off with it."

IRONS: Spalding Robt. T. Jones Executive. Ike would carry as many as 18 clubs, as long as they said BOBBY JONES. "Once, a new set came," Kennell says. "I said, 'Ike, these don't say BOBBY JONES on 'em.' He said, 'Pet 'em back then. I'll play with the old ones.'"

10-IRON: Ike's 10-iron was the equivalent of a pitching wedge. His clubs always had GENERAL IKE or five stars or both engraved on them.

Ikes 10 Irons

PUTTER: "That putter was a 'personal' gift from Arnold," Kennell says, "but the Bulls Eye was Ike's favorite."

Ikes Putter

BALLS: Spalding Dot. In 1968 at El Dorado Country club in Palm Desert, Calif., Ike accomplished a longtime dream—a hole in one. He sent the ball to Spalding president Edwin Parker as a thank you.

Ikes Golf Balls
HEAD COVERS: "When Ike went to Augusta after Arnold's Masters win in 1960," Kennell says, "they gave him head covers with the club's logo and his name on them."

Ikes Headcovers

GLOVE: Ike wore a red glove to match his unbrella.

  Ikes golf glove

GAUZE: "Ike had very big hands," says Kennell, "and he used tape to build up his grips."

  Ikes gauze

CART: "When he was in office, Ike used a motorized cart to play fast, in two or three hours. But later he usually walked. Still, he always had a cart that he would let guests or Secret Service agents ride in.

Ikes golf cart

Related: Follow David Dusek on Twitter | Facebook

(Photos by Fred Vuich/SI)


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