This is the fourth in a series, a back nine of thoughts cultivated from a recent fall golf trip to the Pinehurst and Southern Pines areas of North Carolina. What started as bullet points grew into substantial realizations. I hope you enjoy reading them.
Headcovers are a myth. A grift. A pure canard. The byproduct of herd mentality cross pollinated by the one of the most successful, irrelevant marketing initiatives of all time. We don’t need them, and I’m mostly done with them.
To minimize the steerage space occupied by my golf clubs, bags, and shoes for the drives to Pinehurst, and Hilton Head Island a week later, I removed all of my head covers. I left them at home for the first time…ever.
They may end up staying home forever.
That I was even hesitant to remove the covers from my driver, five-wood, hybrid, and putter says all you need to know about how deeply ingrained the concept that our golf clubs must be “protected” at all times. As if the titanium heads on my clubs are strong enough to mash a ball at 100 mile per hour, but the incidental knocking around in my golf bag on a walk would render them hideously scarred or functionally obsolete, or both.
It was liberating, not having to undress and re-dress my clubs every time I used them, especially the putter. I carried my clubs in Hilton Head, and the noise coming from my old Sun Mountain Four Five bag really wasn’t much different than when I did employ all of the head covers.
The time savings was very real, especially with the putter. I recently re-organized my bag to make putter ingress-egress more efficient (and to stop fraying the edges of my midsize P2P grip), and I love this as the next logical progression. I set my driver in the top row, middle slot, with the wood to its left and hybrid to its right. After a little further walk-and-carry experimentation, I’ve discovered that I can achieve optimal noise cancellation by simply putting my 5-wood cover on, and leaving the rest of the clubs naked.
I’m sure if I really worked at it, I could position one of my giant golf towels around the heads and necks of my woods in some configuration that would render my bag practically silent, but I like the cold efficiency of a single fairway wood cover doing all the work for me. For my putter, especially, a several seasons old Ping Anser 2, it was so nice to play a few rounds without having to take the cover off, decided where to leave it, then put it back on, it’s snug fit accentuated by the strong magnets that gripped the hosel. It’s the most used club in the bag, and it took me the longest to remove and return to the bag, an absurd, unnecessary process that I’d taken for granted for at least a decade.
None of this should be understood to mean that I didn’t like my head covers; I did. They were small little expressions of different silos of my style and interests. The University of Kentucky putter cover put everyone on notice that I was an irrational fan of college sports. The Kentucky Golf House hybrid cover demonstrated a show of support the men and women running our state professional and amateur golf governing bodies. And my Pine Needles poof-ball driver cover was a bit of a throwback, and reminded me of one of my favorite places in golf.
Yet none of that sentimental attachment warranted further use of the covers. My clubs are modern and practical, their function far exceeding their form in order of importance to me. If I played more antiquated clubs from another era that carried more artistic flair, protecting their beauty would surely justify a little extra time, care, and cloth to uphold their appearance and structural integrity. Today, however, saving a few ounces and a few minutes is worth my clubs having to suffer through the elements the same as my face does.
It makes me wonder how we golfers got suckered into the idea that we needed clubhead covers in the first place. There are plenty of photos of the greats of the early golf era with nary a single club covered. All the way through Hagen, when clubs’ hosels and shafts likely actually needed protection, they’re all naked. Yet, by the time of Hogan and Nelson and Snead, drivers and woods seem to be cozy and warm inside either knitted wool or fine leather headcovers.
It was the 1960’s before Amana Corporation realized the enormous marketing potential of having professional golfers wear their logo during competition, spawning the age of the apparel sponsorship.*** I wonder how long it took for club makers and marketers to put their heads together to come up with the branded headcover.
Makes no difference, as those days are now behind me. Of course, the real downside now to only having one small headcover in my bag is that from a distance, no one will know how big a fan I am of Pine Needles, Tobacco Road or the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Guess I’ll just have to tell them about it the old fashioned way.
***For more on the history of hat and apparel sponsorships on the golf course, check out Connor Lewis’ lovely piece in McKellar Journal Number Five from the Summer 2021 edition.