The pros reveal the tools their trade

When asked which golf club was the most important club in the bag, the legendary Hall of Fame golfer, Ben Hogan, replied that there were actually three: the driver, wedge and putter.

Certainly the game’s equipment has dramatically changed since the 1950s when Hogan dominated the PGA Tour. The only golf clubs made out of iron in the 1950s were actually irons – a metal or composite driver had not been even imagined. A belly-putter would have been laughed off of the Tour and the idea of adding a third wedge did not come along until the 1970s when Tom Kite first popularized the use of a third wedge to give him more scoring options around the green.

New space-age materials allowing extra large, lightweight club-heads, computer research and ingenious inventions in both drivers, wedges and putters have made the game easier to play for golfers of every skill level. Players are hitting it longer off of the tee, closer to the hole with the new 60-degree wedges and making more putts with the latest model putters. It’s no surprise that scoring averages are also dropping, especially for the Tour Professionals.

What’s great about the game is that the golfing public can still play with the same equipment as the best players do. We thought it would be interesting to look at what clubs the champions of the first three professional events on the Aloha Swing used to help them win.

First to win this year in Hawaii was Swedish professional Daniel Chopra at the Mercedes Championship held at Kapalua. Chopra, who represents Ping on Tour, chose to use a TaylorMade Burner Driver with 9.5 degrees of loft. The popular Korean professional, KJ Choi, then used a Nike SQ SUMO 5000 driver to win the Sony Open at Waialae. Fred Funk, consistently the most accurate driver on Tour, then tamed the generous resort fairways of Hualalai with a TaylorMade R7 Super Quad 8.5°.

Each of the three winners used a three-wedge system with a traditional pitching wedge and two higher-lofted wedges. Chopra added two Ping Tour Wedges, with 54 and 58 degrees of loft. KJ Choi added a Nike Pro Combo 54 and Nike SV with 60 degrees of loft. Funk used a TaylorMade Rac wedges with 54 and 58 degrees of loft.

For putters, Chopra went with a traditional, ever-popular Ping Anser 2, and Choi used the brand new Odyssey Tri-Hot 2 with an oversizedSuperStroke putter grip. Funk went with the oddly named, but true-rolling Rife “Mr. Beasley” model. All of these clubs are currently available in pro shops near you.

To win a championship in Hawaii, a player has to not only master these three important clubs; they also need to be able to play in the wind. This year, that was exceptionally true as strong trade winds blew scores higher than normal in each event.

When playing in the wind, remember that a good attitude is just as important as having good swing mechanics. Tough windy conditions always make scoring higher, so the first thing you need to do is lower your scoring expectations. Expect some bad shots caused by the wind and learn to love the added challenge that the wind represents. It’s not a surprise that Tom Watson, who was known for relishing the challenge of playing in bad weather, won five British Opens and his one U.S. Open at Pebble Beach all at seaside links courses.

Mechanically, you do need to learn to control your trajectory, the direction and amount of curvature in all your shots. For all three of the most important clubs — the driver, wedges and putter — the key is being able to hit the ball solidly. In putting, this is probably the most important factor as miss-hit putts rarely go in. A good way to putt in the wind is to grip down slightly on your putter, really widen your stance and crouch lower. This will serve to shorten your stroke, stabilize your stance and minimize the chances of being blown off balance. A great tip from Chi Chi Rodriguez for putting also holds true. His favorite tongue-in-cheek tip for putting was to always, “Keep the ball low!” Good luck and good golfing!