You're almost there. After months of staring out the window at a sea of snow, the official start of Spring — March 20, to be exact — is right around the corner, which means it's almost time to dust off the golf clubs and get them ready for another season.
Depending on the age of your current set, you have a couple of options when it comes to getting your sticks in game shape. If everything appears to be in good working order, it's still worth giving the clubs a good once-over before you hit the first range ball.
"A tuneup, or blueprinting, is something everyone should do with before you even get on the course," said Hoyt McGarity, co-CEO of True Spec Golf. "Even if you're not getting fit for a new set, it's important to have a record of your specs so you know if they've changed."
The process shouldn't take more than a few hours and could save you a couple of shots on the course — especially if your loft and lie specs are off. It might not seem like a big deal, but the loft and lie angle on an iron can change over time, altering flight, distance and the ability to make consistent, solid contact.
"You don't want to start a season without getting your lofts and lies dialed-in," McGarity said. "You could be swinging great, but if your specs are off, you could spend months wondering why things are a little wonky when all you needed to do was have your clubs checked out by a fitter or at your local golf shop."
Just because you bought a set of irons 18 months ago that were 2 degrees upright, that doesn't mean they'll stay that way forever. The more you practice and play, the more likely it is your club specs will change over time. That's especially true if you spend a lot of time practicing on Astroturf mats where a forged iron or wedge can take a beating.
Grooves should also be inspected, particularly your scoring clubs where worn-down grooves can lead to a lack of bite around the green. If you find that it's time for fresh grooves, getting the wedge regrooved is an option, but it's an inexact process that's probably not worth the time and money.
Regrooving the wedge incorrectly can make the grooves non-conforming. Not only that, regrooving multiple times can make the face thinner and lighter, reducing head weight in the process. And the tolerances might not be the same.
The average wedge will run you around $100 and has better performance and more consistency. If it's time to replace your trusty wedge, consider spending the extra money to get new grooves.
Ferrules should also be inspected to ensure they are still intact. While it's uncommon for a ferrule to move during the offseason, clubs that are subject to extreme temperatures and humidity suffer from expansion, contraction and moisture that could weaken the epoxy bond prematurely.
If during the yearly inspection process you decided it's time to shelve your current set for something new, make sure you take the time to work with a club fitter before you plunk down $900 for irons that aren't built to your exact specs.
"To be honest, getting fit is trial and error," McGarity said. "You have to try different club setups to find out what fits your game. Not everyone is going to fit the stock shaft offering for a set of irons. You need to go in with a blank slate and understand that just because you use a better player iron with extra-stiff shafts, you may be better off playing a game-improvement with stiff shafts. That's why it's so important to get it."
The process can take a few hours and requires golfers to test a variety of club and shaft setups on a launch monitor to figure out the best fit for their game. Having a club (or set) that's built to your preferred length, loft and lie angle specs with the correct shaft not only leads to better scores but confidence on the course.
"Knowing your set is dialed in for your swing is huge," McGarity said. "When I work with Justin (Rose), I'd never consider giving him something to test that wasn't built to his specs. Now, he may want to tinker a bit, but if he's swinging well, the last thing he wants it to make a good swing and not hit the shot he's expecting."
Of course, launch monitor numbers don't tell the whole story. Feel also plays a key role in the fitting process and can be a deal-breaker for some golfers.
"You could be putting up great numbers, but if it doesn't feel good, you need to let me know during the fitting process," McGarity said. "It's easy to get over the look of a club if you're hitting it 20 yards past your gamer, but if the feel is off, that probably isn't the club for you."
Whether you decided to spring for something new this season or stick with your current set, make sure you take the time to get your clubs in good working order before heading off to the course. Your golf game will thank you.