As an amateur, I started off in high school with old persimmon wood hand-me-downs from my Dad’s old college set before replacing them with a box set from Wal-Mart. After college I went through my first custom fitting.
Since turning pro at age 27 in 2003, I was fitted for more conventional sets from both major and mom-and-pop manufacturers, I had an Adams Golf tour department set, and I played single length irons from four different companies as well.
I’ve also been an adult-aged 14-handicap golfer, a tour player, a professional long driver, and professional speedgolf competitor.
So I’ve experienced and can speak from a broad equipment spectrum.
When I competed in the Speedgolf World Championships, I usually carried 6 clubs that included a driver, long iron (or hybrid), mid-iron, short-iron, wedge, and a putter. For example, a driver, 3-iron, 6-iron, 9-iron, sand wedge, and putter…or a driver, 2-hybrid, 5-iron, 8-iron, gap wedge, and putter. This gave a nice even spread of clubs that enabled me to hit almost about any shot I needed while still keeping my golf bag fairly light.
I used rain gloves to keep my hands from slipping on the club (you sweat a lot when running), running shoes and/or minimal trail running shoes from New Balance, and a Sun Mountain or Orlimar "Sunday" type bag that had a small pocket for my hotel room key and 3-5 extra golf balls. I kept a handful of tees in one of my shorts pockets.
Here is a short video clip of me tying the World Championship for golf score at Bandon Dunes with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds in 2013:
I haven’t competed since 2007 but I still keep up with the sport and know many of the competitors.
Back then we didn’t have the same technology and knowledge that we do today, but if I were to compete again I have a much better understanding now of what I would use.
I would certainly test with the competition balls, but in testing I'd guess I'd probably need approximately a 3.6-degree head to get the spin I need for maximum total distance (for example for a firm grid) and 6.0 degrees to get my spin right for maximum carry distance (for a wet grid, for downwind conditions, etc).
Most major manufacturers don’t make heads with this low of lofts. Long drive companies come and go. In 2019, the most popular are probably Krank Golf and Callaway Golf.
Shaft-wise, I would want to test what's ever out there to see what works best for me. It would probably be an XX or XXX. Length-wise, some guys will use up to 48-inch USGA-measured (50-inches the way they are measured in long drive) shaft lengths, but last I competed I did well with a 46.5-inch USGA-measured shaft for a good blend of maximum club length and the ability to hit the sweet spot consistently.
For regular golf, this is what I presently have in my golf bag.
Nick at Club Champion in Washington, DC helped me optimize my bag about as well as we could. For full swings, I wanted everything to have a peak height of about 120 feet (I like to have my stock shot be a high ball flight), with sufficient distance gapping, and having as tight of dispersion as we could with each club.
Club Champion has approximately 80 locations in the US. I'd definitely recommend it because the fittings are brand agnostic and purely performance based.
NOTE: Mention you were referred by Jaacob Bowden, PGA and you'll get 5% off any fittings or purchases!
Over the years I have dabbled with lots of different combos. Sometimes I've had a draw and a fade driver, sometimes a long drive driver and an accuracy driver, sometimes I maximized for total distance, sometimes I optimized for carry distance, etc.
Presently I have a 7-degree Callaway XHOT (actual 6.5 degrees) with a Paderson KG860-D40 graphite shaft. There's also a little hot melt in the toe of this head.
It's 44 inches to help me hit the center of the face consistently.
Swing weight is D4.
The grip is the 65-gram Avon Jumbo Chamois 1/8 OS black grip. The grip isn't the best looking grip, but it absorbs shock well, it performs in all weather, it lasts a long time, and the jumbo version doesn't callus my hands as much as a normal size grip.
For a fairway wood, I use a 43” Callaway Rogue 15.0-degree fairway wood with X-Flex Fujikura Speeder Evolution IV graphite shaft at D4 swing weight.
The grip is the same 65-gram Avon Jumbo Chamois 1/8 OS black grip as on my driver.
My hybrid is a Titleist 818 H2 17-degree with Fujikura Atmos Tour Spec Black 95 X-Flex hybrid graphite shaft at D4 swing weight.
The grip is again the 65-gram Avon Jumbo Chamois 1/8 OS black grip.
Similar to the fairway wood, the hybrid also has a high COR face for distance and graduated roll technology.
Irons & Wedges
Many of those who have been following me over the years know I’m a fan of single length irons.
Having played and sold single length sets, I knew the consistency advantages of single length irons. But I felt the existing offerings at the time all had flaws, so I decided I wanted to make my own brand that kept the good and fixed the bad. Tom Wishon agreed to be my designer and after 2.5 years of research and development, Sterling Irons® were launched in April 2016.
In my personal set, I have a 4-iron through sand wedge. Each club uses a 115 gram (raw weight) Wishon Golf S2S Stepless Steel S-flex shaft. They are all 36 5/8" long, D4 swing weight, and 2.5 degrees upright. The SW is bent from 55 to 57 degrees and the GW is bent from 50 to 51 degrees.
Here’s a photo of the very first Sterling Irons® of the final prototypes (5-GW) we made that I use.
I later switched the grips from in this photo to the 65-gram Avon Jumbo Chamois 1/8 OS black grips that I've liked for years. I've also taken the stickers of my shafts as a personal preference. Putter
I’ve been using the same putter since I got fit for it in the Adams Golf tour department in November of 2011. Nick from Club Champion in DC and I tried to find something that could outperform it, but nothing newer could ever beat it…so in my bag it stays!
It’s a Yes! Putter Victoria-II C-Groove Mallet Putter – 34.5-inches, 2-degrees upright, and 1-degree loft with a Yes! oversize grip (which is old and beat up now but I keep it on there because my hands just know it so well).
The mallet head and shaft bend work well for me because I like to see the putter moving more or less straight through impact immediately on either side of the ball. The mallet head and counter weight give the putter overall more weight. It’s bent and cut to fit my stroke with the 1-degree of loft helping me get the ball rolling right away versus a normal 3-degrees. I have large hands and the oversize grip helps me get more of my hands on the grip.
The ball I use is the Snell Golf MY TOUR BALL.
Dean Snell co-designed/designed the Titleist ProV1 and was recruited by Taylormade to start their entire golf ball line. When it comes to balls, to say he knows what he’s talking is to say the least.
In 2015, he took his skills and started his own company. This ball plays similar to the Titleist ProV1x, which is what I had played most of my career, and I’m very happy to now play this ball and support his small business.
If you would like to try them use code Jaacob during checkout and you'll get 10% off your order.
For those of you interested in how far I hit my clubs, that’s a little difficult to say because my maximum driver club head speed during my career has ranged from 105 mph to the low 140's depending on how much or how little I’m working on my speed.
However, I can tell you that it more or less correlates with what is in this chart I created for you below. These numbers are calculated algebraically based on the average PGA TOUR Trackman distances per club for tour players. The LPGA numbers are also actual Trackman averages.
Note: Professional long driver usually hit drivers farther than indicated above due to more optimal launch conditions relative to PGA TOUR players.
As you can see, club head speed plays a huge factor in how far you hit the ball, which is one reason why swing speed training is so important if you want more distance.