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Gear essentials for desert golf

The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale has played host to the Waste Management Phoenix Open since 1987.

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Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, sponsored by Cleveland/Srixon Golf, an interactive series in which we field your hard-hitting gear questions.

I’m heading to Arizona for golf, football and more golf. Should I make any tweaks to my clubs before I go?

The lure to head south to warm and sunny skies for a golf vacation is at its peak, and few places in the country are as enticing as the Phoenix/Scottsdale area in February.

Speaking of the Grand Canyon state, the Sonoran Desert is about to be the hottest sports destination in the world for two huge reasons. First is the Waste Management Open, happening Feb 6-12th. This wild event is the PGA Tour’s version of a party with a tournament — not the other way around. Next is the granddaddy football game of ‘em all, happening the same weekend on Sunday the 12th, only 30 miles from TPC Scottsdale. Crazy!

To make your Arizona golf trip the best it can be, we’ve got some tips for you from a gear standpoint. Let’s get on it.  

Tip 1: Try a low-bounce wedge

This one is pretty obvious, but if desert golf is new to you, get ready for some of the tightest lies you’ve seen in a while. If you have one, consider packing a wedge with less bounce to ensure the sole is able to slip under the ball without rebounding off the firm ground.

Tip 2: The bunkers are sandier

If you’re an East Coaster or you play on golf courses with thick silica granules in the bunkers, you’re in for a totally different feel in the desert. The sand is usually much finer and less coarse. Despite that, it still makes sense to carry a low-bounce wedge, but be sure to open the face to activate the sole of your wedge when hitting shots in the bunker.

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Tip 3: It’s true, the ball does go further here

The air is crisp and dry in the desert, and the ball often rolls when it lands so expect to tack on a few more yards than normal. This might be a decent time to ratchet up your adjustable hosel to a higher-lofted setting to promote a higher launch. Adding loft also adds backspin, so doing so might help you hit it straighter, too. (That’s a must when playing target-style golf courses.)

Tip 4: Play a ball that spins more

You think your summer greens back home are firm? You haven’t played a desert track in the morning in the winter in Arizona. To hold the greens (which are often elevated) you’ll need added spin from pretty much anywhere. Also, be ready to lose a few sleeves. It’s bound to happen when playing in the desert, so either pack more than usual or buy some additional balls when you get there.

Tip 5: The desert rocks are mean to your clubs

It’s common to see players carrying a wedge or short iron to use to hit shots from the rocks, dirt and desert areas (usually to chip or pitch the ball back into play). If you have a beater club that you’re okay with scratching, scuffing or denting, then bring it. The rest of your irons will thank you. 

Tip 6: Protect your skin and stay hydrated

Frankly, this is advice for whenever or wherever you play. And because it’s sunny in the desert and drier than you’re probably used to, sunblock, lip balm and lotion are downright musts. Your skin can dry out in a hurry, and even though it may feel cool out, you can still get a sunburn. And finally, drink plenty of water. Even if you’re not thirsty.

Tip 7: Arizona is a great place to get fit

Not only are there countless golf courses to play, there are some tremendous club buying and clubfitting options scattered throughout the desert. For instance, True Spec‘s flagship location is based in Scottsdale, where golfers can take advantage of indoor fitting bays, a putting studio, and the industry’s first quadroscopic launch monitor, Foresight’s GCQuad.

BONUS: Don’t forget to tip

Phoenix and surrounding towns thrive on hospitality, which includes many young people who need cash tips to survive. Don’t forget to swing by the ATM and bring some cash to tip the outside services, servers, etc. 

Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.

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