In this week's Equipment Report Mailbag, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider Jonathan Wall discusses game-improvement irons on TOUR, equipment chatter, re-grooving wedges and PING irons.
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How much do pros talk to each other about their gear? -- Philippe Black
Based on what I've seen, I can tell you players talk about equipment on a regular basis. If you want an example, just a few weeks ago at the Northern Trust Open, I passed Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover on the range discussing putting styles and putters.
The conversation ranged from Matt Kuchar's arm lock method to different head models the players had tested recently.
Discussions like that -- especially between friends -- occur on a week-to-week basis; however, you likely won't see any equipment talk come Thursday when everyone in the field is playing for first place.
Depending on their contract, some players have flexibility with clubs in the bag -- meaning they may have an 11 or 12 club deal that allows them to tinker with a hybrid or fairway wood from a different equipment manufacturer.
In those situations, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a player ask another player for his thoughts on a particular club.
Do any players play what would be considered game-improvement style irons? -- Brian McCullough
Game-improvement irons -- irons usually geared for mid-to high-handicappers -- exist on the PGA TOUR. While you'll rarely see a player put a full set in the bag, I've noticed a trend over the last year-plus of players putting game-improvement long irons in the bag.
Keegan Bradley (4-iron) and Graeme McDowell (3-iron) have used Cleveland's 588MT that has a hollow head design that allows weight to be distributed for a lower, deeper center of gravity. "It says 4 on the bottom of the club, but it's actually a 3-iron," Bradley said last season of his 588MT 4-iron. "The loft's a little stronger than my other 4-iron and I hit it as far if not farther than a 3-iron. It has a great flight and it's easy to hit."
Brian Harman started using a couple TaylorMade SpeedBlade long irons (4- and 5-iron) at The Honda Classic because they were easy to hit and had a high trajectory. Sean O'Hair also had a SpeedBlade 3-iron built recently that has 2-iron loft.
Bottom line, game-improvement irons aren't just for weekend hackers. Players on TOUR see the benefits of using them as long irons. They're longer, more forgiving and have a higher launch angle.
How often should I get my wedges regrooved? -- Timothy Clark
Wedges are very personal. Once you find a particular grind and look, you're going to do everything in your power to keep that wedge in the bag. I get that. However, instead of forking over money to have your old wedge regrooved, you may want to consider buying a new one.
Sure, it may cost a little more, but according to Kyle Cronkright, the director of club fitting at the Jim McClean Golf School's Texas Golf Center (Ft. Worth) facility, you may benefit in the long run from some fresh grooves.
"A lot of things can happen when you regroove an old wedge," Cronkright said. "Regrooving the wedge incorrectly can make the grooves non-conforming. Not only that, regrooving multiple times can make the face thinner and lighter -- to the point where you lose head weight you can't get back -- and the tolerances might not be the same.
"Today's wedges, like the [Titleist Vokey Design], have heat treated faces so the grooves last longer. I always believe wedges are the one club you should replace often if you play and practice regularly, because you know what kind of consistency and performance you're going to get with a fresh set of grooves."
What's the ratio of PING S55 irons to PING i25 irons on the PGA TOUR? -- Aaron Kristopeit
For those unfamiliar with the two iron models, S55 is a better player iron that features a more compact head, 17-4 stainless steel body and a tungsten toe weight that provides a higher moment of inertia (MOI) for greater forgiveness and an improved CG.
It also has a larger Custom Tuning Port (CTP) -- the CTP helps distribute weight to the perimeter of the club for improved forgiveness and feel -- and a stabilizing bar in the cavity that helps with feel at impact, and distance control in the longer and shorter irons.
S55 was unveiled last year at The Barclays and is already being used by Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Billy Horschel and Ryan Moore.
PING's i25 has a slightly larger profile than S55 and is geared for a wide range of playing abilities -- from mid-handicappers to five-time PGA TOUR winner Mark Wilson, who switched to the irons earlier this year.
Cast from 17-4 stainless steel, the irons have a vertical Custom Tuning Port (CTP) and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) insert that's positioned lower in the head, allowing engineers to reposition discretionary weight and fine-tune the launch angle in the long and short irons.
As far as the ratio is concerned, there were 9 sets of S55 in play at the Honda Classic, compared to 4 sets of i25. According to Pete Samuels, PING's director of communications, that's a pretty typical ratio week-to-week.