Golfers feast on clubs at demo day

It was golf's version of a buffet, and players filed by one after the other to sate their appetites.

Some golfers came looking for big-headed drivers, the better to pound it down the fairway. The clubs came with a variety of shaft flexes, weights and colors. Some were square-headed, the better to hit it, well, square and straight. Other players sought hybrids to eliminate gaps where their irons end and woods begin, or they looked for iron sets, from cavity-backed to muscle-backed.

Some clubs looked funny. Some sounded strange. But many were there for the testing at a recent demonstration day at Centennial Golf Club.

"I don't care what it looks like, it goes," Scott Thomas, of Medford, said after belting a series of powerful drives with a Callaway FT-i, which has a head as square as a wallet. "I'm always looking to buy something that will improve my golf game."

His own driver is a Hogan.

"The ball feels better coming off this one," he said of the Callaway. "It seems to have more pop."

The session at the club's practice facility featured representatives from Nike and Titleist and their wares. Centennial had its own Cobra rack and fitting equipment, and it pulled a number of Callaway clubs from the pro shop to add to the variety.

The demo day was one of several that will be scheduled throughout the area, said equipment reps Steve Fowell of Nike and Len Collett of Titleist. Future gatherings will include other manufacturers as well, and judging by the turnout for this one, there isn't likely to be a shortage of interest.

"This is a great idea," said Jim Schoenbachler of Medford, who used to live in Arizona and had a club-fitting facility close to his home. "You can read all the stuff, and you hear that the pros play this and that, but when you start hitting them, you might find a big difference. You have to find out for yourself because we don't swing like the pros. This is the only way to buy clubs: Go out and hit them."

Schoenbachler was in the market for a hybrid with 20-degree loft, something to fit between his 3-wood and 2-iron and something that would allow him to make like Houdini and escape from tough rough.

Later in the day, he looked up from a swing.

"They made a sale," he grinned.

It wasn't the only one.

Herstle Jones was there with his daughter, 7-year-old Kiana, a first-grader at Jacksonville Elementary. She'll begin group lessons soon, and Nike had just the fitting scheme for her. She fell into the "red" category, and will soon have a starter set — driver, mid-iron, wedge and putter — just her size.

"She's pretty excited," said Dad, as Kiana smiled broadly.

So was he.

"This is great," he said. "We've got four good, solid carriers here. There's good stuff to look at."

Not all the fittings were as easy as Kiana's.

While some players simply grabbed club after club to see what they liked best, others worked with the specialists, showing their swings and swapping out clubs as they went, or hitting off contact boards to evaluate the lie of the club.

They chit-chatted about things such as "characteristic time," referring to the clubface collapsing ever so slightly at impact and improving ball speed; or MOI, the moment of inertia, of which there are several, it turns out, in one swing.

What's a little small talk between golfers?

Collett, who teaches out of Salem Golf Club, encourages anyone who's going to buy a driver or a set of clubs to be fitted.

Sometimes the player has a misguided notion about what club suits him or her.

Collett has customers swing three or four times and can tell by the swing speed and spin on the ball which direction to go.

He pointed to the southern horizon, where layers formed by the mountain ridge, a cloud blanket and blue sky provided a frame. Balls that rose to the blue with a "penetrating look" had the optimum launch angle, he said.

One player Collett worked with had designs on a driver with a stiff shaft and 8.5 degrees of loft, but was happier after being steered to a regular-flex shaft at 10.5 degrees.

Another sale.

Jim Pendre of Phoenix was thankful to test clubs in an outdoor setting versus hitting into a net indoors.

"It's hard for me to judge where the ball goes" with the latter, he said.

He insisted he arrived at the demonstration with an open mind and tried the square-headed Nike Sasquatch Sumo2. If he hit it better and it felt as comfortable as his traditional Titleist, he might have been swayed into a purchase.

But there was no significant improvement, he said, before admitting, "I just can't get past the look."

He ordered another Titleist, the 907 D2.

Nike's yellow-plated drivers, which create a loud "pop" on impact, were not without fans.

Terry Lavigne, from Reedsport, needed a 3-wood but couldn't resist trying the drivers.

"Not too bad," said the 10-handicapper, whose smooth swing indicated she is at home on the driving range. "I was just curious about these. I've seen and heard a lot about them. I hit my driver fairly well, but it's always fun to hit new clubs."

Especially when there are so many on the menu to choose from.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail

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