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Equipment Report
  • EQUIPMENT

    Richard Bland explains wild equipment setup, including a 5-wood from 2010

  • A look inside the bag of Richard Bland. (Courtesy of GolfWRX)A look inside the bag of Richard Bland. (Courtesy of GolfWRX)

In his debut match at the 2022 World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play on Wednesday, 49-year-old journeyman Richard Bland of England tied eight-time PGA TOUR winner Bryson DeChambeau.

They couldn’t be more different in almost every way, including their bag set-ups. 

DeChambeau is constantly honing his equipment week-to-week, searching for the best possible engineering and specifications to ensure his game is precise and optimized.

Bland, on the other hand, rarely switches equipment. He isn’t necessarily sold on the popular opinion that new club technology is better for his performance, either. Sticking to his tried and true favorites, Bland still uses a TaylorMade Burner SuperFast 5-wood that was released in February 2010, and he’s been playing it since it came out.

As an equipment free agent, he has a mixed-and-matched setup with irons made by different brands. While it’s common for golfers to use different model clubs throughout their iron set (for more forgiveness in the longer irons, typically), it’s less common for a golfer to have an iron set that consists of two completely different brands, with a cutoff in the middle of the set.

Bland uses Honma T-World “Rose Proto” short irons (8-PW), which were co-designed by Justin Rose back in his days as a Honma staffer (Rose is now a free agent). Bland completes the rest of his iron set with Callaway Apex Pro irons (3-7 iron).

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Richard Bland's 8-iron. (Courtesy of GolfWRX)

On Tuesday, prior to his first-round matchup against DeChambeau, GolfWRX.com’s Andrew Tursky caught up with Bland. Unsurprisingly, the man with one of the most intriguing bags in golf also had fascinating things to say about his equipment.

GolfWRX: So, you have one of the coolest bag setups that we’ve seen at GolfWRX in a while…

Richard Bland: It’s a bit of a mixed bag.

GolfWRX: Let’s start at the top. You have some new TaylorMade Stealth woods, including a 7-wood, and you still have an old Burner SuperFast 5-wood in the bag?

Richard Bland: I’ve got a (Stealth) 7-wood, which I recently got. It’s just to give myself more options. I like to play with four wedges if I can, but I’ve got a 3-iron, as well. If I feel like it’s windy, maybe there’s a couple shots I need to hit 3-iron, because a 7-wood is not going to do it. Yeah, it’s just having options, really.

GolfWRX: When did you put that Burner SuperFast in the bag, and how long has it been in there?

Richard Bland: It’s been in the bag a long time, since the club came out around 12-13 years ago. The first time I took it out of the bag was at (the U.S. Open at) Torrey Pines last year, where I put a 7-wood in and I took out the Burner, but aside from that, it’s been in my bag every single round. So yeah, it’s a bit of a relic, that one.

GolfWRX: You think the technology still holds up? How has it stayed in the bag over all these years?

Richard Bland: I think with 5-woods and 7-woods, that can kind of thing, I really don’t think technology, when the ball speed is down (compared to a driver), I don’t think it makes a huge amount of difference. I think if I took a Stealth 5-wood against (the Burner), I think they would come out pretty even.

You see a lot of guys, they might be playing with a 3-wood that’s 5 or 6 years old. I think, like the fairway woods, it’s not necessarily about the technology, it’s about the flight that you get. That’s what I like about that 5-wood; I can hit it high, I can hit it low, it gives me a bit of versatility. I was a TaylorMade player for years. They were trying to get it out of the bag for God knows how many years. It stood the test of time.

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Richard Bland's 7-wood. (Courtesy of GolfWRX)

GolfWRX: With the irons, you see different models throughout the bag, but you don’t often see two different brands. So you have Honma short irons and Callaway mid and long irons. How did that happen?

Richard Bland: Yeah, I was using the Honma irons from 5-iron through wedge last year, or for the last 18 months. But I was using the Callaway 3- and 4-iron, then I put the 5-iron in and I’d had the other set made up.

There were just a few times last year where if we played a bit of a hilly course, and I was hitting maybe a 6- or a 7-iron into an elevated green, I was just struggling a little bit. The flight was maybe a hair flat. I just wanted something, certainly through the 6- and 7-iron, that launched a little higher. I liked the Callaway Apex iron. Yeah, it’s a bit of a chunky blade, it still looks like a blade, but it’s a bit thicker. With the 8, 9 and wedge, I like them. I can control the flight a little bit better. So, with the blades, it’s kind of a bit of a mix and match. But that’s fine.

GolfWRX: I saw the Honma irons. I’m assuming that they’re the Rose Protos, but you have the Rose scratched off? That’s hilarious to me…

Richard Bland: Yeah, I kind of had them made up; they gave me a set and they came with Rose on them. Then when I took them to the guy that looks after my clubs with all the lies and lofts, he must have spoken to them and they must have said, ‘You need to scratch that out.’ So when I went to pick them up, there they are. He had to just scratch the Rose out of them.

GolfWRX: Who do you work with on your equipment? Who does your fitting and building?

Richard Bland: At home, a guy called Jason MacNiven. He used to work for Callaway, then he worked with TaylorMade, then he went out on his own. Or, I think it’s Club Champion now? They just bought him out, even though he’s still working. He’s still working for them, still in the same place, but yeah, they’ve bought his business. He’s done really well. He’s a great club-fitter.

GolfWRX: How did you end up with so many different brands throughout the bag?

Richard Bland: I was TaylorMade for 15 years, and then when adidas sold TaylorMade, I was in my last year with the contract. We were basically told there would be no contracts being issued, so I just became a free agent, and I quite like it.

I quite like the fact that at the start of the year, you speak to the lads, and they say, ‘Oh the new Ping driver is awesome.’

Well, OK, I have to try it.

Or, then they’ll say, ‘The new Titleist driver is great.’

Oh, great, I’ll go try that, too.

I’m never going to sign a contract that Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are signing for, millions of dollars, so the contract for me is – don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of money and it’s nice, but it’s not the sort of change-your-life contract. … I’d rather just use what I want to use and know that what I’m playing with is what I’m confident with, and I know what I need to do.

GolfWRX: Yeah, I’m sure it’s nice to have that freedom. When you became a free agent, did you have clubs just showing up at your doorstep?

Richard Bland: No, not really. Like we said, I’m not a massive changer. I was still using the 2016 M2 driver last year. I still carry the head around with me, just in case. Just to let the Stealth know, look, if you perform badly, you’re out. That was a great driver, and I’m sort of someone that if I’m going to change, it’s got to give me something. If it just comes out exactly the same, I’ll go, ‘What’s the point of changing?’

I know obviously TaylorMade wants you in the new stuff, and I understand that, but it’s got to show me something. But I think it’s very, very hard these days because I think we’re sort of at that stage with technology – if you want to see a 2 miles per hour speed increase, the speed has to come from you now. It’s not going to come from the driver. I think any increase in speed is going to come from the work you do (with your swing and body).

I think we’re at that stage where you might be able to hit a shot a little easier, or the spin’s a bit more consistent, but that’s all you’re going to find. The days of, ‘I just found 15 yards,’ are long gone.

GolfWRX: But you like the new Stealth driver and woods?

Richard Bland:
Yeah, the 3-wood is great. The driver, yeah, it’s pretty much the same shape as the SIM, which I always liked. I did try the SIM and the SIM2, but I just felt the performance was really disappointing. I’d hit one and think, ‘Oh, that looks really good.’ And you look down and you go, ‘Really? That’s 5 mph slower than what I think and what it looks like.’ We’ve all got a good eye of what we think it should be. And the Stealth feels great and it performs pretty good. So yeah, I went with it.