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 At the 19th

Forced to the custom-fitter
It was the accidental disappearance of assorted golf clubs all around the world rather than a desire to be at the cutting edge of things that led our correspondent to decide to upgrade his equipment

Whether it’s age, a lack of fish oil in the diet or too many late nights, I don’t know, but the inescapable truth is that my memory, like my putting, is not as sharp as it once was. That’s why I frequently forget to pick up the club that I left lying by the side of the green and most rounds nowadays involve several stock-taking checks on which clubs are still in my bag, frequent attempts to recall when I last played whichever club appears to be missing and numerous walks back up the course to try and locate it.

Partly because I’m rarely able to remember when I last played a club and partly because it’s more likely to go missing when taken to the tee but discarded in favour of another, these searches don’t always result in a joyful reunion. Call it an ill wind if you like, but the happy consequence of all this forgetfulness is that my bag has grown progressively lighter over the years.

Because I’m extremely fortunate to visit various delightful overseas’ destinations to write travel features, my penchant for losing clubs has an international dimension to it so that now only two continents – not including Antarctica – can’t claim to have at least one of my clubs.

What was originally a complete set of perfectly matching Cobra irons has, as a result of this war of attrition, been effectively reduced to a mere half-set. Even so, I was prepared to battle on bravely until the 8-iron recently went missing in action. This was a particularly severe blow because the neighbouring 7- and 9-irons had already been inadvertently left behind in North Africa and South East Asia, respectively. A yawning gap thus opened in my armoury that left me devoid of options between a 6-iron and a wedge. In effect, I had nothing that could, on a good day at least, hit the ball between 90 and 155 yards and my previous fondness for short par-threes soured into an almost pathological hatred. Despite a huge reluctance to spend money, there was no alternative to investing in a new set of irons.

Terry Sims, the Director of Golf at Kingswood and renowned custom-fitting expert, was recommended to me. And so, with my 6-iron for company, I set off for Surrey. Terry immediately identifies an incompatibility. Either my arms are too short or the club is too long. One interesting but rather distressing explanation is that I may have shrunk in the 12 years since I bought it. Already struggling with failing memory, I now have to come to terms with a shrivelling body as well. Age is clearly taking its toll and it’s no wonder my handicap is hurtling south.

Despite the fact that I’m not contracted to them, I proudly declare that I would like to stick with Cobra. This has the happy consequence of reducing the options to more manageable proportions. Dismissing blades, which Terry and I agree are inappropriate for an ageing 15-handicapper, trims them further. Cobra’s S2 cavity-backed irons split into three types – S2 Forged are better suited to low-handicappers as the superior control would be totally wasted on me; S2 Max have forgiving game-improvement qualities desperately needed by highhandicappers, but not me (yet); and S2 ‘offer improved accuracy, distance and forgiveness in a high-performance package’, which is precisely what I’m after, I think.

With a couple of dozen shafts tucked under my shrunken arms and Terry carrying boxes of heads, we pop along to the range. Hitting golf balls in front of other people is embarrassing; hitting them in front of a pro is worse. Despite my anxiety, we chat happily and I declare that I’m not an equipment nerd and ask Terry to explain a few things such as, what’s special about forged heads, is graphite better than steel and why do tee-pegs sometimes fly backwards?

My clubhead speed that I had previously estimated at roughly 125 mph, turns out to be a rather more sedate 75 mph – yet further evidence of the ravages of time. Although Terry deploys a brilliant device that measures variables such as ball speed, side spin, launch angle and all that clever stuff, he uses his instincts and experience more than gizmos, which pleases me. In fact, since I no longer trust myself, I’m happy for him to take all the tricky decisions about angles, shafts, heads, loft... everything.

His intuition suggests that I’m happier hitting a hybrid than a long iron and I genuinely enjoy smacking balls with Cobra’s latest offering, the ‘Baffler Rail.’ In the end I opt for two to replace my 4- and 5-irons. Terry worries that there might be the golfing equivalent of a black hole opening up, as the distance I will hit my new 6-iron will be a tad too far behind what I will achieve with the loftier of my new hybrids. He could take an inch off the shaft of the latter to reduce its power and close the gap but I figure that my shrinking arms will obviate the need for that.

Confident that we’ve made all the right decisions and excited at the prospect of a new and complete set of Cobra irons, I shake hands with Terry and am walking to my car when one of his assistants chases after me. “You forgot this,” he says, proffering my old 6-iron.

July 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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