Many Florida golfers take the winter off. Between crowded tee sheets and higher prices, many of us choose to let our games hibernate. By now, some of you are dusting off your clubs in anticipation of that first round since late last year. If you plan to play your best golf this spring and summer, it's important that your equipment be up to the task.
You need to take a good look at your clubs. Examine the heads, grips and shafts. Most importantly, make sure that they are as ready to play as you.
Start with your grips. Grips are probably the most overlooked part of a club. Since the grip is the only place that you actually contact the club, your grips must be in good shape for you to maintain control and hit good shots.
If your grips are simply dirty, wash them off. It's a good idea to wash your grips every couple of weeks in soap and water. Between the dirt and oil on your hands and the dirt and dust that settle into your golf bag, you'd be surprised how much crud you need to remove.
If your grips are hard or show wear in spots from where you hold the club, then it's time for replacements. When you replace your grips, take a look at your hand size in relationship to the grip size. Properly sized grips are an easy change to make and one that will make you a more consistent player. Larger grips take your wrists out of your swing and may help you if you're hitting an ugly hook. Smaller grips will help to promote a release and get rid of a push or fade.
Think about making sure that all of your grips, except for your putter, are the same. This is one way to allow your hands to have the same feel with every club in the bag.
The shafts are next. Check for rust. Surface rust can be removed with WD-40 or a No. 2 pencil. If the rust returns, it's time to replace the shaft before it fails. A more serious shaft problem would be a dent or ding in a steel shaft. These make the shaft weak and inconsistent, and should be replaced to avoid snapping it during a swing.
Make sure that none of your shafts are loose. To test your shafts, grab onto the head with one hand and the grip with the other and twist. Any movement or squeaks indicate a loose head. Shafts can become loose through normal play, especially if you store your clubs in your car. Extreme heat or cold can cause the epoxy to break down.
You want all of your shafts to have a similar flex. If all of your irons' shafts don't match, the playability of one club to the next could be compromised.
With graphite shafts check to make sure that the shafts aren't wearing where they touch the top of your golf bag. Over time, many graphite shafts will have a worn patch from rubbing against the bag. A good solution to this is using covers that protect that area or a bag designed to protect graphite shafts.
How do the clubheads look? Clean out the grooves with a brush. The buildup of dirt in the grooves prevents the club from imparting the proper spin on the ball. A ball with little or no spin acts like a knuckle ball in the air and doesn't penetrate the wind or fly very far.
Lastly, check the loft and lie. Clubs can get out of alignment through normal play. A two-degree change in loft can mean as much as 10 yards in distance. A properly lofted set will not have any distance gaps. Ever wonder why you hit your six-iron the same distance as your seven? Maybe their lofts are nearly the same.
A club that sits too flat will cause the toe to dig in, opening the clubface giving you a slice or fade. A club that sits too upright will allow the heel to dig in, closing the clubface, producing a hook.
If you're not sure how to check all of these items yourself, call your favorite shop. Most shops charge a small fee to adjust your clubs for loft and lie, and many will check them for free when replacing your grips. New grips typically cost less than $10 installed, and your entire set can be re-gripped in under an hour.
This weekend take some time to check your clubs and get them ready for the season. Who knows, maybe your swing isn't what needs to be fixed.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.