PRODUCT REVIEWS

Clubs and Driving Ranges:
Both Come in New or Traditional Styles

Scott Behmer, Cactus Golf Daily

November 16, 1998
The best part about testing clubs at a "demo day" is that it's always the club's fault when you hit a bad shot. In Tucson this past weekend, two demo days took place, on Saturday at Jack Conrad's Driving Range then on Sunday at The Practice Tee. Both venues had numerous club manufacturers either showing off new clubs or claiming that nothing beats their "old reliables." Demo days provide a helpful exercise in determining which brand and style of clubs to hit.

Jack Conrad's is on River Road between La Cholla and La Canada. Demo day there was half the size of The Practice Tee's. Yet, with approximately 15 club manufacturers represented, it provided a more personal setting to pose questions to the club reps. Taylor Made was the premier attraction, selling the Ti Bubble 2. Testing it out, the ball jumped off the clubface, resulting in more distance than any other driver I tested over the two days. Then I chose a very different driver, 48 inches in length. After hitting a few bananas, the club rep explained that even though it's a stiff shaft, my swing is much too fast to use it. Seems it's specifically made for slower swing speeds. My swing is 110 MPH. That's why players like Rocky Thompson on the Senior Tour use long shafts, while no one on the regular tour does.

The irons that impressed me were Ram's blade irons with the rifle shaft. Tom Watson's clubs, this 1972 design is a fine example of a simple golf club without any gimmicks. The rifle shaft connects directly to the club without any offset. A small club face helps centralize hits on the sweet spot. Even if you miss the sweet spot, the shot is surprisingly solid for a blade. In comparison, Taylor Made's irons with the rifle shaft were extremely unforgiving, stinging my hands with a bad shot.

One aspect missing from Jack Conrad's driving range was holes to aim at. Like the old traditional ranges, balls are hit into dirt with markers down the center at 50-yard increments. Specific targets would have helped me measure the accuracy of the different irons. The Practice Tee, besides offering 100 stalls, double Jack Conrad's and boasts eight different greens, complete with bunkers and water. This makes it easier to visually measure both distance and accuracy. Additionally, they have a large, well-kept putting green, a chipping area, and a sand and pitch shot green as well.

At The Practice Tee, located off Thornydale between Ina and Orange Grove, about 30 club manufacturers were represented. I was especially interested in testing the Adam's Tight Lies fairway woods and Orlimar's tri-metal woods. Tight Lies' woods appear similar to an elongated mallet-head putter. The 16 degree 4-wood went much higher than I prefer. For a club that prides itself on being strong to achieve longer distances, I found that too much heel weight forced the ball up too high. I preferred Orlimar, the Senior Tour's #1 fairway wood. A small head with two rails on the bottom helps make solid contact. I knew that the tri-metal design is supposed to add extra distance. In fact, the driver was one of the longest clubs of the day.

The best club I hit was the Ti Bubble 2, 2-wood. Consistently long and straight, it performed better than my own driver in both categories, without even teeing it up. The small head made it feel like my trusty old Taylor Made 4-wood. At $280 it was the only club I felt convinced was truly worth adding to my bag.

The Practice Tee's demo day was bigger and better if you wanted to spend over an hour testing out the different clubs. It's also an ideal setting to work on your every facet of your game. Balls run from $3 for thirty to $10 for 150, about a dollar higher than Jack Conrad's. You do have helpful targets to aim for, though, and golf pros always teach that you should practice as if you are playing a round. With water and sand guarding target greens, this advice is much more applicable to The Practice Tee.

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