You’ll likely never swing it like Viktor Hovland, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two about your own equipment (or your testing process) by following his example. During a recent trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma, I had the opportunity to talk about equipment with the 23-year-old Norwegian who is considered by most to be one of the best young stars in the game.
Below are 5 lessons I learned from the interview.
1. He walks with his stomach
Changing equipment is seldom easy, regardless of whether you are a tour winner or a 15 handicap. You need to be in a place where you realize that change is needed to improve and you need to be willing to get involved in whatever you throw in the bag.
It can take time to trust a new club in a game situation. Because of this, most tour players spend a lot of time on the court putting a club through its paces before sealing the deal.
But before you get to the point where you are comfortable swapping your gamer for another one, you need to trust that you are making the right decision. For Viktor Hovland, he tends to roll his stomach when it comes to changing gears. It’s not enough to just see better numbers on a startup monitor.
“If it just feels good and I see it work better or differently the way I like it, that’s enough to convince me that it will work – and I’ll use it,” said Hovland. “But if you see that it is better but you still hesitate, you will have some problems. I have to commit myself to that. “
This is a good lesson for amateur golfers. If the numbers check out but you’re still questioning a possible move, go ahead and look at something else. If the numbers are good and you absolutely love the feel and look (aesthetics) then rest assured that you can stop testing and pull the trigger.
2. It prioritizes speed – up to a point
In the race for more distance on the Tour last season, Hovland tested 47- and 48-inch Ping G425 drivers in preparation for the Masters 2020. At 45.75 inches, Hovland already plays one of the longest drivers on the PGA Tour, which means he can generate a lot of club head speed. But the question still arose of whether an extra inch (or two) could bring him closer to Bryson territory.
Tests showed that Hovland was about 3-5 mph faster with the 47-inch compared to his player, while the 48-inch produced an additional 4-6 mph. Those are nice numbers to have in your back pocket, but as we’ve seen with many pros – aside from Phil Mickelson, who won the PGA championship on a 47.9-inch big stick – there’s a point at which the extra length doesn’t become a noticeable benefit on the course.
“The spread on the range wasn’t that bad, but the driving range is pretty tough,” said Hovland. “There are a lot of these courses where speed is important, but you still need a low one to fly out there and just hit the fairway. I didn’t feel like I had these hits with these clubs. “
Sure, speed is important. But this is how the fairway is to be found. Unless you have the game of keeping a 47- or 48-inch driver on the map when you absolutely have to find the fairway, it’s probably best to leave the testing of the long driver shafts to the pros.
3. He’s not a great device tinkerer
Viktor Hovland received his 2019 PGA Tour card with four different iron compositions. What makes the performance even more impressive was the fact that Hovland turned pro in June and ended his Tour status in late August. It’s easy to look at the numerous iron sets and assume that Hovland enjoys tinkering with his racket composition, but it’s just the opposite.
When Hovland plays well, he prefers to stand still and stick with what works. This is not the case with every professional; some are still running tests even when they are at their peak. (We look at you, Hideki.) There’s nothing wrong with seeing what else is out there, but that’s not how Hovland works during the season.
“When I do the things that I should be doing, I don’t really see the need to change much,” he said. “Of course, when new things come out or [Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates] have an idea that would work for me, I’ll be open to try that out. I try to keep an open mind. But at the same time, I’m pretty stubborn to change. I have to see that it is better and test it. “
In other words, screwing up success when you are dealing with a “hot hands” situation is silly.
4. He does not (always) blame himself
A large majority of golfers tend to blame the club for a bad swing, but it was interesting to learn that Hovland used to do the opposite. For years, Hovland blamed bad mechanics alone, even during his college days. It wasn’t until he started working with Pings Tour staff after turning pro that he realized that simple gait optimization could solve his problems.
“I used to think if I hit a shot it was my fault,” said Hovland. “It is to some extent, but when you have a club that has a tendency to do something specific … when you are trying to hit a slice or cut and have a club that flexes very softly or is closed, that makes it harder to hit that cut shot. It’s amazing what they can do to fix these problems. I won’t hesitate to ask [the Ping Tour reps] when I need help”
Nowadays, Hovland relies on Pings Tour staff to help identify potential problems with his equipment. During last year’s memorial, Hovland asked if something could be done to increase the launch and spin of his irons without changing the club design. The end result was a special “bounce grind” that allowed Hovland’s irons to interact more with the ground and make the ball hit higher on the clubface.
This is an extreme example, but it still underscores the importance of having a trusted clubfitter in your corner to help you troubleshoot equipment issues. Don’t automatically assume that your swing is responsible for this slice.
5. Driver has always been his favorite club
Like most children who grew up, Hovland loved to drive the driver into oblivion. Not much has changed since he turned pro. The Norwegian still hits the ball with great success, so it should come as no surprise that his favorite club growing up was a ping rapture driver.
Hovland was so taken with “that green looking thing” that he used the driver in every possible situation. Literally.
“I would just knock on everything,” he said with a grin. “From the fairway, from the rough – it was unbelievable.”
Those of us who grew up with a favorite club are likely to nod in agreement. Sure, attacking the green with a driver from the rough probably wasn’t the smart game, but it was our favorite club! You had to try.
It’s nice to know that with his favorite club in tow, Hovland grew up trying to take the impossible shots.
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Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and Managing Editor for Equipment at GOLF.com. Before joining the team at the end of 2018, he worked in the equipment division for the PGA Tour for 6 years.