Golf style, like any other personal way of doing things, always contains some degree of subjectivity and endless variation. However, as someone who studies the game profusely and has a pretty good sense of style (at least I like to think so) and basic human/golf nature, I’ve come to certain conclusions about golfers and their equipment and style choices. After over ten years of playing golf competitively and recreationally with just about every variety of person I can imagine, I feel qualified to give a semi-authoritative view of what one’s golf bag says about the golfer. There are exceptions to all of the “rules” I will put forth, but in general they are tried and true observations. Through a combination of equipment choice, its arrangement, skill level and attitude, I have divided golfers into five main categories.
The first category will be termed “the duffer”. This golfer sort of gets a pass, because they play maybe three to five times a year and only out of some random invitation or obligation such as a business meeting or charity event. For example, this is someone who has a little golf experience but cares very little about the game, plays with the same set of clubs their whole life, and could really care less what score they shoot. Dead giveaways are: 1) Old clubs–these golf clubs may well be in good condition due to lack of use and they are often at least 8-10 years old, 2) A Shortage of Equipment–Not until the pro shop or first tee does the duffer realize they have no golf balls, no tees, no golf glove, or perhaps even a seven or eight iron, etc. They don’t play enough to know or even care that they only have eight clubs in the bag, 3) Not wearing golf shoes–The duffer often employs running shoes or sometimes “cleats” from another sport such as baseball. Overall, the duffer (despite the obvious defeciencies) can be a joy to play with if you don’t mind the continuous lost balls and occasional broken window. They don’t care enough about their golf to get angry or frustrated and that’s always refreshing.
The second character is “the hack”. This golfer shares a lot in common with “the duffer” except in that they play golf more often. They might only get out there once a month or so, but they have a definite set of clubs, golf shoes, golf balls, etc. This poor character can’t break 100 to save his life. He’s got a slightly different swing every round and none of them ever come close to producing a great golf shot. The best shot the hack has ever hit wasn’t because the shot itself was good, but because it happened to ricochet off just the right tree, roll twelve yards up the cart path and eventually come to rest three feet from the hole. Now that might be a bit of an exaggeration, because oddly enough a lot of hacks make hole in ones. However, I can assure you that none of them are purely struck shots that land past the hole and spin back in, etc. They are bonified clankers off the heal or toe that “dribble” into the flagstick at twenty miles an hour off a hybrid from one forty.
The third character is “the poser”. This player is a pseudo-hack. Head to head versus a top level hack and the scores could look pretty similar. Or, “the poser” might actually be able to break ninety consistently. However, the one glaring characteristic of this player is that everything from their attitude, to their clothing, to their equipment, etc. (and even sometimes their handicap) screams want to-be scratch player… everything in their actual performance proves completely otherwise. The poser takes a hard swing at it and when they really catch one with the driver it can go two fifty. But, according to this player they never actually hit well because when they do it’s three hundred plus. The poser has the latest driver with the latest shaft and despite never breaking eighty-five, plays to a four handicap. He tries to keep up with the young guns and ironically always has swing advice on tap for those severely whooping his tail. He wins the most annoying playing partner award every year.
The fourth category is the “good player”. This golfer has developed a fundamentally sound swing over many years of toil and consistently breaks eighty. They have a solid short game and count all of their strokes, even the penalty shots. They may not have the absolute newest clubs, but what they do have is generally fit for their game: stiff to x-stiff shafts that are actually a necessity in their case, and muscle back or thin cavity back irons constructed more for feel and performance than forgiveness. This player respects the game and never gets too excited or too frustrated, well aware that golf can bite him or her in the rear at any moment.
The final category is the “pro”. And, I don’t mean teaching pro. I mean the player who is or was once able to break par consistently and for an extended period of time. It takes a lot of practice and ability to break par on a legitimate golf course. To do so repeatedly and on different golf courses and in competition shows another level of commitment and ability. The pro is pretty self explanatory. They play with equipment fitted for their game and often look very similar to a “good player”. The difference is the intangibles. Over many years of practice and experience the pro has obtained exceptional course and mental management skills. They do not throw stokes away and often get up and down whenever they miss a green.
In conclusion, here is a list of bag characteristics indicating, for simplicity’s sake, a good player versus a bad player (of course there are real life exceptions).
1) A club cleaning brush: Bad players have them, good players don’t.
2) A towel attached to the bag by clip: Bad players have them, good players don’t.
3) A medium-large, often all white towel hanging amongst the clubs to be used for cleaning: Good players have them, bad players don’t.
4) Perfectly clean grooves: Good players have them, bad players don’t.
5) Headcovers: If you don’t have them for your woods, you are most likely a bad player.
6) Lead tape: Good players often use it, bad players don’t.
7) Premium, premium golf balls: Good players always use them, most bad players don’t.
8) Stock shafts: bad players have them.
9) Cabretta leather glove in good condition: good players have them.
10) A matching lob wedge and san wedge: good players have it, bad players don’t.
11) A headcover on their putter: almost all good players have it. 12) Alignment aid sticks: many good players have them, most bad players don’t. 13) A chance in heck at breaking eighty from the tips: good players have it, bad players don’t.