Tad Reeve and Aaron Barber play Hazeltine with retro club and Reeve reports on the round.
Normally, I'd hit a 3-wood off the tee at No. 10. That's a metal 3-wood. This time, I needed all the distance I could get, so I pulled out the driver. You see that little wooden club head behind the ball, and you can't help but think of all the things that could go wrong. It felt clunky. Naturally, I hooked it deep into the woods, but that isn't unusual for me on that hole. Only this time, I was a good 50 yards shorter than normal, about 175 yards out.
Normally, Aaron would hit an 18-degree hybrid here. Instead, he pulled out the driver, too. He was uncomfortable, too, saying it felt heavier than his driver. His shot flared to the right and settled into the edge of the rough 235 yards away, quite a dropoff from the 277 yards he averaged with his driver on the front nine.
"Oh, geez, that's the swing I make with my regular driver," Aaron said after making contact. "I've got to slow things down."
After that, he did. He adjusted quickly. Each of his next three drives went more than 250 yards, and he averaged 244 for the nine holes. But more importantly, he adapted to the nuances of the old clubs.
"All through the back nine," he said, "I only thought about scoring and not about how the shot looked."
He hit the set of Wilson Staff irons as well as the Titleist DCI 962 irons he normally plays with. He lost maybe five yards in distance with each club, but he is used to hitting pro-style irons that have smaller sweet spots, which elite golfers like because of added control and feel. He was quick to admit that he was hitting pretty well that day, and on a day when he didn't feel so much in the groove, the results wouldn't have been so ... well ... groovy.
He had a couple of three-putts on the back nine, caused by poor lag putting, but he didn't feel overly hamstrung by the old-style putter. It reminded him of the putters he had as a kid. And, to be fair, Aaron Barber is good. You don't get to the level he reached without talent.
"Guys who play for a living," he says, "have to adapt real quick."
There was also a video that accompanied the piece online...