I've been lamenting the biggest holes in my golf bag in recent years.
Ever since my favorite driver conked out and my go-to fairway wood snapped a shaft, I've been searching for their magic replacements with little success. Losing them has magnified the biggest weaknesses in my game - the lack of distance off the tee and the inability to hit a quality hybrid or wood off the ground (whether that be fairway or rough). I tend to hit and hope when facing an approach shot longer than 185 yards to a green or second shots where I need as much distance as I can muster on a par 5. While my playing partners chew up par 5s like candy, I scuffle along happy to make bogey and often tossing up dreaded doubles and triples. I wreck a lot of decent rounds as my par 5 scores soar.
Why have I not found the right replacements? I'm finicky about which clubs I play. I don't like testing clubs on the range or inside a superstore. It's just not the same as "playing" them. So I turned to next best option where you can "try before you buy", the U-try program at GlobalGolf.com. I had my pick from dozens of drivers, fairway woods and hybrids (and now irons, too) offered for a 14-day trial period on the company's website. Although I didn't end up buying anything - yet - I enjoyed the whole experience renting two clubs that almost filled in the gaps in my game. Here's how U-try works:
Ordering the clubs
Honestly, the hardest part was picking which clubs to order. U-try allows customers to "rent" up to two clubs for two weeks for $25 per club. The $25 rental fee is used toward the final purchase if you decide to buy.
Being a middling handicap - ranging from 8-14 my whole career - I've always found the TaylorMade brand to be the best mix of forgiving club design merged with the latest technology, i.e. hot faces and adjustability. I could have ordered something dramatically different, but I went with what I thought I would like: A TaylorMade M6 driver and an M6 hybrid. I got to choose between three different shaft flexes.
The website was simple to understand and easy to use. The only word of caution I would offer is to make sure you order in plenty of time for when you need them. I was hoping to get my clubs for a week-long golf trip in upstate New York. Even though FedEx guaranteed they would arrive before I left, they missed me by a day, and I didn't get to play as many rounds with them as I had hoped.
Playing the clubs
One of the best parts of U-try is arrival day. It's like Christmas. I've got two BRAND NEW CLUBS that feel like mine, even if they aren't. I get to unwrap them - what a joy! - and tinker with them. U-try sent a golf tool wrench to adjust the driver to my preferred settings and directs you to a tutorial video online if you've never done it before.
Both came with head covers, and a little surprise, two two-packs of the latest TaylorMade balls.
The first round trying new clubs mixes anticipation with a little bit of nerves. I fell hard for the hybrid right away. On the first hole, a downhill par 5, at the private Boulder Ridge in San Jose, I blasted my approach just short of the green. The terrain certainly helped, but the good vibes with the club lasted most of the day. I used it off the tee on a 185-yard par 3 and again just missed the green. Anything between 180 and 200 yards is my mental black hole, so just hitting a solid shot was fine by me.
I didn't unsheathe the driver because the course is really tight in spots, and I was playing well. I didn't want to ruin my mojo, and my first chance at breaking 80 this summer. Unfortunately, I shot 80, the worst best score in golf.
A couple days later, I peeled off the plastic of the driver on the first tee at the Santa Teresa Golf Club, a county-owned muni in my neighborhood. My first swing was a tepid one, a 220-yard push fade up the right side (my usual miss). The second drive I aimed further left and pulled it where I aimed. After that I found a bit of a grove. Although I didn't like the low ball flight, it was easy to feel that the face was live. The ball would jump, once producing a 280-yard monster that my current driver could never sniff.
In a perfect world, I would have played 6-8 rounds, or more, with the new clubs, not just two. The more testing you do, the more comfortable you can feel about investing in the purchase.
Returning the clubs
You would think sending the clubs back would be a pain. It wasn't.
I got a call from a U-try customer service agent about four days before they were due to see if I had any questions on buying or returning. I also received multiple reminder e-mails in the days leading up to the deadline. It was clear U-try wasn't trying to cash in on my mistake of not returning the clubs on time. The e-mails require you to make the final decision: Click to buy or return.
I was tempted to keep the hybrid but ultimately didn't.
To send the clubs back, I simply reused the original box. There's already a pre-paid return label inside. I made sure to send EVERYTHING back ... the tool, the head covers, the clubs ... to avoid any unwanted charges. I have a FedEx store near my home, so adding the drop-off as part of my to-do list that day wasn't a big deal.
When I checked my inbox later that day, I noticed another e-mail from U-try. It was an offer to use the $25 I had already spent for another two-week trial on a different club, their way of encouraging me to shop until I found what I wanted. I didn't bite on the offer, which was only good for a week, but if I decide to get serious again, U-try will be the first place I look.