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Second in the series on my current set, this time the wedges.

My current pitching wedge is the one (surprise) from my set of irons, the Mizuno MP-37s.  This lovely little shovel has 47 degrees loft, and you already know the other specs for the set.  Nothing too surprising or revelatory here, but I will note that 47 degrees is, historically speaking, relatively strong for a pitching wedge.  Having come from an old set of Hogan irons, where the Equalizer (a somewhat — sorry, Ben — cheesy appellation they put on their pitching wedge) had 50 degrees of loft, so this newer one is actually practically a 9-iron [sigh].

For too many years recently, I played with just two wedges in my bag, a pitching wedge and a sand wedge, usually a 56 degree. More recently I must have sobered up enough at some point to realize this left me with an enormous yawning gap between these two clubs (in this case 9 degrees), and this created a double No Man’s Land: one between those two clubs and one under a full normal sand wedge.  Hence the “gap” wedge to fill in the former. Curiously, in my earlier days I DID carry a 55-degree Wilson Staff wedge along with a 60-degree sand wedge, so my set made sense: 50-55-60. Not sure why that ever changed as much as it did. I blame parenthood. Moving on.

To fill this pivotal gap, I chose the Snake Eyes 52 degree (same specs as other irons).

Now, this is the Original Snake Eyes, the amazingly solid wedge the company was founded on. As you can clearly tell from the phenomenal photograph, it has a reasonably narrow sole, not a lot of bounce, and is in general a functional example of modern art and purity.  While my current one is getting a little smooth in the grooves, I haven’t replaced it yet or purchased a backup from eBay.  My pathetically spartan playing schedule should keep this in my bag another decade or so at my present pace.

Next, the sand wedge, that most versatile of clubs.  Thank you, Mr. Sarazen, you wacky plus-fours-wearing genius/magician, may you rest in peace.

Gene Sarazen at Winchester (MA) CC. 1930's

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

For this probably-most-used of the iron weaponry, I have gone through a significant trial-by-error/experimentation/”science” process over the years.  My favorites were the original Cobra Phil Rodgers ones (dating myself here).  I think I wore out the grooves on three of those in high school and college, one chrome and two Rusty’s.  What a glorious weapon it was: sharp leading edge, just the right amount of bounce.  Sigh.  Of course, the fact that I used to hit 100 sand shots a day, plus hours of weekly short game practice (some involving wagering with other course rat friends of mine) had nothing to do with my being completely besotted with this club, or anything to do with why the bottom three grooves were gone.  Nope.  Nothing at all.

From the marvelous Mr. Rodger’s design, I was adrift for many years.  I spent quite a few years in a stable relationship with a Cleveland 56 (the 588, I believe, I’ll have to look in the storage bag).  Things were good, great at times, but never amazing.  More Clevelands, something in BeCu (MacGregor?), a few others I can’t remember, a lot of time playing with different shafts and grips and even grinding (read: ruining) one or more along the way until my gear-head pal in Michigan (Hi Slight Draw!) told me about Snake Eyes wedges, and I bought a handful of those.  Up until recently, I carried the 52 and either a 56 or a 60-degree.

The current love of my life is a Vokey Wedgeworks TVD-M 56 (same length/shaft/grip specs as other irons).

It is simply the best all-around wedge I have ever played, great from pretty much any kind of lie: soft, hard, long grass, short grass, open faced, flop, flip, punch, chip, you name it.  Some sort of wizardry in the sole design, I don’t know what it is, but it never ceases to amaze me how solid and versatile this club is.  The grooves, after many years of use, are STILL so sharp my ball look like it needs a haircut after.  When my 52 is ready for retirement, this little guy is gonna get a companion.

Final note on wedges.  While I will cover this in a future post on custom fitting, in my experience having the same shaft in ALL your irons is worth every penny.  That means either custom-ordering your sand/gap wedges with the right shaft in them or taking them somewhere and having the shaft replaced to match (or you could, of course, do it yourself.  It’s not that difficult.)  What you do not want to do (or go ahead, I’m not your Mom) is grab a new wedge out of Bob’s Barrel O’Wedges and just think it will work fine with whatever shaft happens to be in there (unless, of course, it coincidentally already IS the same shaft as the rest of your set, duh).  Every iron in my set has the same shaft and grip, and I feel like it has changed my game significantly, especially with the wedges and on partial shots.

Finally, the putter.  My current putter is a Never Compromise (the black/gray/black) GM2, the one that looks like a Ping Anser.  Easily the most “technological” putter I own (and one of two not-inexpensive ones.)

Putter_backBecause I am a golfing nomad and play at so many different courses, I have the one with the adjustable weights.  Extremely helpful.Putter_bottom

I go to the practice green before the round and assess the speed of the greens and then adjust the weight of the putter if necessary: more weight for slower greens, less for faster.  This model is adjustable from 330 to 360 grams.  I find it makes a surprisingly big difference. No adjusting once on the course, of course.

Never Compromise, like far too many of the manufacturers whose gear I respect, has gone through multiple owners, each gradually less interested in anything other than churning out as many sticks as quickly as they can for as much money as they can, has now landed in the Srixon family (along with Cleveland Golf. Sigh.) and makes some of the least aesthetically-pleasing putting creations I have yet seen. The “Dinero Series”? Really?  (Sorry.  I did promise to be positive on here.)

There are about a dozen putters in my storage bag, mostly older non-milled, non-grooved, wing-free, under $250 type stuff.  I have one Scotty Cameron (Newport Beach, Studio Stainless) I got for a present which, like the original Ping Anser (brass), is so light its awesomeness is only really appreciated on super-fast greens.  There are several Pings: Anser, Anser 2 (stainless), B60, and a Pal. An Acushnet Bullseye Pro, Wilson 8813 & 8802, and the trusty Zebra mallet in the original gray with white stripes (and the little black & white sock cover).  All these older models are simple, are amazing putters, and have been through the rotation at one time or another for extended duty. A few have been ground (and are now dandy canes), some have been reshafted (crazy difficult with a Ping), most have been regripped or at least covered with multiple layers of white athletic tape ala Scott Verplank.  (I thought that was genius, back in the day.  Grip slippery? Peel off a layer.  Or, hey, add another one. Boom. Done.)

Exit Poll: Why can’t I still buy the classic Anser 2 in stainless steel without grooves or colors or other sorts of tomfoolery?  WHY PING?  WHY?  That was an amazing putter, just ask Greg Norman.  Why does every putter today have to be “milled” of some insane alloy developed by a joint venture between NASA, Boeing, the Ukrainian Technical Institute, and a hobbyist engineer named Irving from Pasadena?  Or be some unnatural color(s) or shaped like a bizarre spaceship or prehistoric insect?   Or, if it’s NOT a combination of those things, it still MUST cost a minimum of $200, and preferably $350.  WHY?   Rhetorical question, children.  Because people who have too much money are willing to spend $350 on a putter.  And there are apparently a LOT of these people.  I am not one of them.  Perhaps you’re one of them.  It’s a semi-free country, go right ahead.   Free market, I get it.  But does that mean these creations have to be the ONLY choice I have?  Can’t Ping dash off a few of the classics each year?  Please?

Next up in this series: Marmaduke and The Truant.  (The next post chronologically will more likely venture off into the rough on a different topic, though.)

This is the first in a series based on the clubs I currently play, beginning with the irons.

I have hit many, many different types and brands of irons over the years. I prefer blades for many reasons. The purity of the feedback.  The ability to work the ball.  The simple, functional, and (generally) aesthetically pleasing design.  Mainly it’s the indescribably satisfying feeling when you hit one well.

The look of most cavity-back irons, and most non-blade irons, does not appeal to me.  The fat top lines.  The offset.  The curiously similar feeling with each shot, no matter where on the clubface contact was made.  The more difficult and less predictable workability.  Let me be clear: this is my personal preference and I am not criticizing these clubs as choices; play whatever you like that makes you happy.

When I decided the time had come for a new set, I looked at all the then-current blade offerings. One sad part of this overly-lengthy tale is that Hogan no longer made a nice, compact player’s blade (and then promptly went away altogether in 2008, although the name will be revived in 2015! )  So I looked at Mizuno and Cleveland and Wilson and Titleist and KZG and everyone else who still made something in the blade category. I ended up choosing the Mizuno MP-37 because I had played a couple rounds with some MP-33’s years ago and found them very solid (but out of production), and because the Titleist blades for that particular year I didn’t find aesthetically pleasing. (I did almost order the KZG ZO blades, which are so puritanically beautiful, but that’s a story for my post on club-fitting, so stay tuned.) I ordered the Mizunos to my specs through a local pro.

The Mizuno MP-37 blades, 2-iron through wedge, are in my bag today. I would link you to them on the Mizuno site, but sadly they don’t make them any more. Not too sadly, however, as the MP-4 in the current lineup is gorgeous. For the MP-37, you’ll have to make do with the glorious photo, above, of my eight iron.

My set of MP-37’s is slightly customized based on a fitting I had done through a Wishon club fitter I found on his website after reading his book The Search for the Perfect Golf Club.

My specs are pretty close to standard: 0.25″ long, standard loft & lie, one wrap oversized grip. Shafts are True Temper’s awesome Dynamic Gold Sensicore, X100 flex. Grips are Golf Pride New Decade Multicompound White, mounted label down.

Why did I pick the Mizuno MP-37? We’ll get to that, but first some history.

Since I was a lad, I have played Hogan irons. The first golf book I read, and one of the only instructional books I have read, was Ben Hogan’s Power Golf, recommended by my father. With that, I became a huge Hogan fan.

My first full, real set was a new set of Hogan Radials I paid for with my own money. (What I was thinking, looking back, I have no idea. So ugly. Google it if you want to see the horror show.) I traded those in after a few years on a used set of 1978 Hogan Medallions, which had clearly been used by a pretty good player as the sweet spots were little convex circles. I happily played with those for a few years, until a friend of mine sold me a set of Hogan Apex PCs out of the trunk of his car, brand new. I played with those through college, despite the fact that the sweet spots on them was a fraction the size of the Medallions. After college, once I had a real job, I discovered this phenomenal place called The GolfWorks, which did iron rechroming. I used a hole punch, a hammer, and a roll of electrical tape on my garage floor to remove the pins, pulled the heads, and sent them off the The GolfWorks to be rechromed. One of the little bronze Hogan head inserts was missing from the back of one of the clubs, and they even found a replacement for that (like I said, they’re amazing), and when the clubs returned they were pristine. I had the local chaps pop some Apex 5 shafts in, throw on some grips, and off I went with a brand-new set of nearly-20-year-old irons (at the time.)

I played with those up until I read Tom Wishon’s book.  I have always been a club tinkerer, re-gripping clubs in different sizes, grinding things (a disaster, mainly), switching shafts, and playing (again, badly) with lead tape.  I loved the detail and logic of his book so much – finally I got answers and science!  – that I then promptly scampered out and got fitted properly by a local fitting ninja I found via the Wishon website. I’ll be doing a post on my experience with clubfittings and why I found it so very very helpful.

In terms shaft selection, for the Mizunos I chose the Dynamic Gold Sensicore for the vibration reduction, in X100 flex. I love them and they work for me. If I were a Tour Pro, I could spend days on the range with a launch monitor and four guys with pocket protectors and clipboards and racks of clubs while one of my minions placed each ball for me just so and hit dozens of different shafts and figure out the absolute optimal choice. Sadly, I am not a Tour Pro.

I switched to extra-stiff shafts (first the Apex 5 and now the X100) to hit the ball straighter, even though it does cost me some distance versus a more flexible shaft like an S300. I will happily sacrifice distance for accuracy in irons. I hit a normal 7-iron 165 yards, which is plenty far enough.  Hitting my irons farther just leaves me with a bigger and bigger “no-man’s” land into the green where I have to hit partial shots. I don’t like partial shots.  I don’t need or want to hit a pitching wedge 150 yards like I used to.  (Stay tuned for a piece I have in the queue on loft inflation in irons.  Very edgy, controversial stuff to come here on CG.)

I chose the white Golf Pride grips, they’re standard .600 round, but I did have them mounted label down just to minimize that particular distraction. If you’ve ever played with a crooked label grip, you know what I mean. I used to do my own regripping, so I may be overly familiar with this flaw.

In the end, one of the best parts of getting the new clubs was when I brought them to the Dominican Republic for a tournament I had been invited to play in. This was in March, so it was the first time I had hit a ball in six months, and the first time I had hit any of the new clubs. My playing partner met me on the range before the first round, and I proceeded to take all the plastic wrap off each individual club.  It was like opening nine awesome birthday presents.  His commentary was highly entertaining (as it generally is). I have been playing them ever since.

Up next in this Series: Wedges.  Or maybe woods.

Photo source: Custom Grinds

This is another golf blog, for which the world was crying out.  In answer, here I will be writing opinion pieces on golf things I feel strongly about.

Now, I don’t read golf blogs as a general rule, but I do follow the professional and amateur game domestically (here is the U.S.) and internationally, both men and women, and this space will be a fine place to make my opinions known to what I can only anticipate will be a miniscule audience.  Really though, I believe many parties in the golf world could benefit from my insights and some constructive suggestions for improvement, so this is kind of a humanitarian, feel-good, helpful, pay-it-forward kind of thing.  In any event, I shall strive to be positive, to highlight the truly marvelous, and to be constructive at least in my criticisms.  This Internet Machine thing is full enough of snark and negativity as it is.

How this came about: My friend [MAT], on a recent visit, stood in my study and oogled, aghast, at the scale of my golf cap collection.  He then made the ludicrous suggestion I start a “blog” about them.  “Do a post on each one,” he said.  “It’ll be fun,” he said.  I thought he was mad.  (He is quite mad.)  Naturally here I am, typing things.

While I do have a considerable number of golf caps, I couldn’t see making a blog about JUST my hats.  However much I might love each of them, and however fascinating such a narrow focus would prove to be, hats will only be an occasional topic in the broader golf-infused tableau in this thing I have too cleverly dubbed Custom Grinds.

In all my years of playing and following this ridiculous game, I have acquired quite a tidy packet of knowledge of this masochist’s delight of a pastime (if I do say so myself, which of course I do, as you’ll see and grow weary of.)  This packet of wisdom and experience has filled my concomitant bushel basket of opinion to overflowing with very specific opinions about various facets of the game of golf.  I am going to share them with you here, perhaps weekly.  Perhaps on Tuesdays.  Tuesday-ish, let’s say.  You’re welcome in advance.


What Will NOT Be Here:

1)  No instruction.  Other than potentially suggesting two or three books related to instruction, I will not be posting instructional advice of any kind here.  I don’t give unsolicited advice on the course, and I certainly won’t give blanket advice shotgun-style here.

2)  No fluff.  This is not TMZ Golf Edition.  I shall avoid gossip-y blather about professional golfers, their equipment contracts, where they live in Orlando, any of that “What’s In The Bag” stuff, what car(s) they own, what management company squabble they’re in, what their non-golf hobbies are, who their caddy is/was/might be next, or their cat’s maiden name.  I couldn’t care less what they are paid to play, or how their marriages are working out, or any combination thereof.  I DO, however, reserve the right to comment on particularly appalling clothing choices.

3)  No @#$%.  Cursing will be avoided with a Flanders-like focus.  The Interwebs have enough cursing and coarseness (if you don’t believe me, let me be the first to welcome you here on your first day, ever, online; thanks for stopping by), and, while I am fully-trained and accredited in this area, the simple fact is it’s unnecessary.

4)  I reserve the right to ignore any of the above at any time.  They’re goals, not rules.  This isn’t Russia, Danny.

What WILL Be Here:

So what does that leave us?  The rest of golf.  Opinions and stories and commentary.  Golf caps, yes.  I have a few of them.  Equipment preferences.  Commentary on televised golf.  Opinions on courses I’ve played.  Favorite tournaments.  Amateur golf.  Caddies and caddying.  LARGE golf issues involving august and important governing bodies.  Books/authors I like.  On the rare chance I find a video or external content I am particularly entertained by I may share that with you, too.  Pretty much anything golf-related that I feel like spouting off about, really.  You get the idea.  You’re operating a computer and can read, so I don’t feel compelled to explain further.

There will be Comment functionality, allegedly.  Should you agree or disagree with my opinion(s), feel free to comment in a civil manner.  Assuming the comment functionality has any.  (This is my somewhat passive-aggressive way of telling you I will moderate the Comments at my sole discretion.)  There are many ways to play this very individualistic game, and who am I to tell you what to do.   I’m just trying to share what I do and what I know and what I like.

One final note on viewpoint.  My username is Luddite for a reason.  I have come grudgingly along with the technology in golf, and, while I believe some advancements have made the game better (eg softspikes), personally I believe many have not (and many have taken something simple and just made it more expensive.)  I’m not saying I want to play hickory shafts and gutta percha, but just because technology makes something possible doesn’t mean you should do it.

And with that, Welcome to Custom Grinds.