As the 2013 golf season struggles to get off the ground out in Hawaii, I thought this would be a good time to check out the state of golf equipment usage on the world's biggest tours. Thanks to Sports Marketing Surveys – SMS is the company that tracks the gear that each player uses in European Tour events – we have a pretty good snapshot of the clubs that many of the game's best players are favoring these days.
Here are some of SMS's observations from the whole of the 2012 European Tour season:
--Drivers: Players used 22 different driver brands and a total of 111 different driver models. On average, each player used 1.46 different drivers over the course of the season, but one player used six different driver models.
--Fairway woods: Players used 27 different fairway wood brands and a total of 140 different fairway wood models.
--Utility clubs: Players used 27 different utility club brands and 120 different utility club models.
--Irons: Players used 31 different brands of 3- through 9-irons and 139 different models of 3- through 9-iron. A total of 42 percent of players didn't have a 3-iron in their bag.
--Wedges: Players used 33 different wedge brands and 181 different wedge models.
--Putters: Players used 40 different putter brands and 454 different putter models. On average, each player used 1.76 different putters during the 2012 season, but two players used 11 different putter models. And for the year, 14 percent of the players carried a long or belly putter.
I don't have a lot of perspective on some of these numbers – for example, is the use of 22 different driver brands high or low? It seems fairly high to me – and just for comparison, if you go to Golfsmith.com, they carry 18 different driver brands. I'd love to see a list of all those 22 different models.
I also found it interesting that there were more different fairway models used (140) than utility clubs used (120), simply because it seems like there are more companies marketing hybrids than fairway woods. And it's also interesting that 42 percent of players didn't use 3-irons. I wonder if that number will continue to rise – and at what point will there be more players without 3-irons than with them?
And finally, whether the number of different club brands has risen or fallen in recent years, I'm a little pleased to see the numbers so high. Golf these days is dominated by a handful of companies, all of which make fantastic equipment -- but I have a soft spot for the smaller companies fighting for their sliver of the golf gear pie. Some of life's greatest inventions come from the most unlikely sources, and I hope there's always a place in the golf equipment universe for little guys with a dream.