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PGA Merchandise Show: Big Boxes Get Big Break From USGA

Sometimes, even when you live and breathe the game of golf, the lure of the shiny toys at yon local golf superstore can be hard to resist.

I like to wander the hallways early on Saturdays, looking in vain to see if the Pro V1s are on sale, fiddling with the belly putters and scanning the demo barrels for new recruits.

One place Ive learned to avoid is the rows and rows of irons, woods and hybrids that congregate down near the Repairs desk, a place where Ive spent more than a few dollars over the years getting shafts pulled, extended and regripped.

Thats usually because I prefer midsize grips for my meaty paws, and a steel shaft different from the one that comes in the vast majority of off-the-rack irons and wedges. I also need irons that are a half-inch longer than standard and bent two degrees upright.

Selection the big-box stores do well. Customization, they do not.

Enter the USGAs decision to allow clubs and shafts designed for quick-release exchangeability _ a move that had already spawned a variety of twist-&-switch driver combos at the PGA Merchandise Show, which wrapped up Saturday at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

In this day and age of personalized clubfitting, no one should be buying clubs off the rack. Every serious golfer should know his or her personal club specs, no matter the handicap, and play with the appropriate gear.

But now that clubs with interchangeable shafts are making their debut, the large-scale retailers have a critical tool in their efforts to keep up with the custom-club craze.

Its now easier than ever to get fitted for a set of clubs, and if technology has taught us anything useful, its the ability to carefully match equipment to players, to within the smallest tolerances.

Before long, the advent of quick-change shafts will see shaft manufacturers become high-profile allies in the fight for lower scores. It will perhaps also mark the beginning of the end for the traditional clubmaker, whose craft is about to lose a lot of its mystique.

Watch for more from the show in the next few days.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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