There were two big stories this past week. The first was Rory McIlroy putting a bag full of new equipment into play. And the second was the fact that he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi - by quite a margin.
You can’t blame the arrow for the aim of the archer. Rory had a week of bad timing and two-sided misses, but it certainly didn’t help that he didn’t have a go-to club in his arsenal, one that he could fall back on; one he had plenty of good memories of hitting.
That is the biggest lesson you can learn from Rory’s experience last week. When putting new equipment into play, work your way into the process. Start by replacing one club and then two, and then a few more. You can certainly replace the entire bag at once – manufacturers would certainly love it if you do – but you can expect there to be a transition period. The new clubs might be perfect for you, but until you get reps under your belt, you probably won’t feel as comfortable with your new set as you did with your old one.
Here are some other things to consider when putting new equipment into play:
1. Get some baseline numbers with your old stuff. Launch monitors are cheap and readily available, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find your ball speed, launch angle, spin ratios, angle of attack, and smash factor.
2. When testing new equipment, make sure the ball speed increases and that your spin and launch angle match up. A PGA professional can help you in analyzing your speed, spin and launch.
3. If you find a new driver that you launch higher with less spin and greater ball speed, put it in play immediately and enjoy your new game. But a club’s look, sound, and feel are important elements in those numbers remaining consistent. Make sure you are as comfortable with how a club looks and sounds as you are with the numbers it produces.
4. If you’re putting new irons in the bag, make sure the bounce fits your angle of attack. Anybody can fit you for loft and lie, but how the club passes through the turf where you make contact is crucial when making a change.
5. Know your gaps – the gap in distance between your shortest hybrid and your longest iron and the distance gap between your wedges are things you will want to know and consider when assembling a set. It’s not crucial that you have a club for every distance, but it is important that you have a shot for every condition. When testing new equipment, hit a lot of less-than-full shots with every club.
No matter how much testing you do, understand that, just like Rory, you'll never know everything about your new clubs until you test them in a stressful situation. So lower your expectations. Nobody is looking for you to set a course record your first trip out. Even if you're the world's No. 1 ranked player.