The black parka that I slipped over my shoulders while saying goodbye to Roger Cleveland last week is old and ugly with goose down occasionally flying out from rips in the outer portion, but what it lacks in fashion, it makes up for in function.
It had certainly served its purpose on a cool, blustery day at the Launch facility in northwest Toronto and that wasn’t lost on Cleveland, who admitted he was envious of the warmth provided by the jacket.
It was even suggested to Mark Dottori of Callaway Golf Canada that the company should spring for a similar coat for the next time Cleveland visited Canada. “It would have to have the Callaway Golf logo though,” said Cleveland, being the company man.
Such a parka would have come in handy for the renowned club designer, who ventured through those chilly temperatures to the Air Canada Centre that evening to take in a Toronto Maple Leafs game.
There, he would have seen a game in which the emphasis is often put on scoring, with the final shot usually being paid more attention than the play that set up the goal, which is entirely different than the game in which Cleveland circulates.
In golf, the emphasis for many starts at the beginning of the hole, a big shot off the tee that hopefully goes a good distance, but also stays in the fairway. It seems that getting the ball into scoring position is more important than the actual scoring.
That presents a good window of opportunity to golf professionals, according to Cleveland, who says golf wouldn’t hurt by being like hockey through more emphasis on the short game and scoring clubs such as wedges.
Emphasis on the short game is a good niche for professionals in terms of teaching and fitting, according to Cleveland.
“You’ve got to have the facility and a pro that understands the mechanics of (teaching the short game),” said Cleveland. “If somebody does that and takes the time and takes a little area and puts in a green and a bunker, they’re going to do really well.
“It takes time,” he added. “The person needs to want to do it too.”
While wedges may not get the attention they deserve in a golf bag, that may start to change, according to Cleveland, who points out that hybrid clubs are increasingly replacing the hard-to-hit long irons in many sets, so three and four irons are being discarded by many consumers.
“A lot of people start with their five iron,” said Cleveland. “That’s because things are getting stronger. That’s opening up the area for wedges.”
So, the short game offers opportunities in teaching and at retail, where many golfers are confused about which wedges are best for them.
“One of the great questions is, `What wedge do I start with? How do I get my set? I need three wedges, maybe four. Where do I start?’” said Cleveland.
“The answer is if the person doesn’t hit the ball very far, doesn’t have a lot of strength, I’ll go to a maximum of 58 (degrees) because with a 60, he just doesn’t hit it hard enough to go anywhere.
“I’ll go with a 58 and you go with a pitching wedge which is 46 and you take that value and you divide it by two if you want a wedge in the middle, or three if you want four wedges,” said Cleveland, a proponent of even gapping between wedges.
These days, consumers also need to be aware of rules affecting the grooves on wedges if they are playing competitive golf. Another topic being considered by the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient is lofts over 60 degrees, particularly on the tours.
“They are most concerned with a little flop over a bunker and you really have a hard time, even with maybe a 60, but a 64, you just swing at it and it pops over the bunker and it stops relatively soon,” said Cleveland.
“I hope, if they do something, they’ll leave the 60 in and they’ll look at everything beyond 60,” he added.
“(The 64 degree) allows you to be aggressive, which is terrific. You have to swing at it harder, which is only going to create more spin and if you swing hard, it gives you more confidence. You don’t have to de-cel the shot,” said Cleveland, adding that such high lofts were intended for tour pros.
“Phil (Mickelson) is the reason why we introduced our 64,” said Cleveland. “It takes a lot of skill and time to gain confidence in that loft. If you mishit it all, you’re going to leave it in the bunker. You’re not going to get it over.”
Still, consumers are tempted to go with what tour players are using, which puts emphasis on golf professionals to steer them in the right direction, which makes them a valuable and marketable resource for teaching, fitting and purchasing.