Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Golf And Guns Give Me The Fits

I’ve been interested for some time in buying a shotgun from a fellow up in Maine. But it wasn’t until I recently smacked several successful shots with a PING G15 driver at a “demo day” that an equipment shopping trip began brewing in my brain.

My nephew Patrick D., written up in Cold Duck here, here, and here, bought a house last year near Albany. He’d invited me to stay with him if I ever headed East on one of my trips. Since he’s located about half-way to Maine, his digs were the perfect place to overnight on my out- and in-bound legs. When I discovered a great PING fitter located about half-way to Patrick’s, the itinerary wrote itself.

I hit the road around 10 a.m. on Wednesday for the drive to Greater Golf in Endicott, NY. I’d read about GG’s talent for club fitting, specially Mizunos and PINGs, so I thought I’d get their opinion on whether my 12° G10 driver was still the best option for me.
Co-owner Craig Mabee greeted me at the counter, and I was soon limbering up on his state-of-the-art simulator. After a half dozen balls, Craig noted that my G10 was launching at 14° to 16°, a bit higher than optimal. So he disappeared and came back carrying a G15 with a low spin Serrano shaft. The sim noted scant improvement after I hit several balls. Craig disappeared again and came back with a different head for the Serrano shaft. My ball started launching at 12° to 13°, closer to what Craig was looking for; the cone of my left-right misses narrowed; and roll-out distance increased markedly. I was delighted to see that the lessons I’ve taken in the last two years, and the practice behind them, had changed my swing enough to earn me a “younger man’s club” - the new driver’s loft was 10.5°. I placed my order with Craig, popped back into the Subaru, and headed to Patrick’s.
Pat and his friend Emily met me at the door. We exchanged pleasantries and a cold beer, then headed out for dinner and a fine night out.
After driving through rain all day Thursday, I arrived in Freeport around 4 p.m. I’d previously made a date to have dinner with old friend Beth G. and her husband Paul. We met at the Azure Cafe and had a great meal while we did some catching up. Thanks for a great evening, you two!

I’ve previously expressed my affection for the 20 gauge over/ under. Having shot it in several flavors, I remain most pleased with Beretta’s 686 line. The more I’d read about Rich Cole’s custom Beretta work, the more I reasoned that a gun from him, cut to my size, would be money very well spent.
Rich spent 2.5 hours fitting me on a sunny Friday morning. I’ve done this dance before, and he was by far the best partner I’ve ever had. After a “dry” fitting in the shop to set the try gun with preliminary dimensions, we went outside to attack the pattern board. I’m afraid that the board, of all things, is not my strongest suit; and poor Rich tried to hide his disappointment with my inconsistent mounts and too-fast shots. But, with time and interaction, we got the numbers close enough to satisfy us both.
Then came the fun stuff: picking options! I ordered a 20 gauge 686 with 28” barrels (and since it’ll be a grouse and woodcock gun, I chose Cylinder, Skeet1, and Improved Cylinder for my 3 choke tubes). I asked that the gun fall within an ounce of 6 lbs. 3 oz., so Rich selected several blanks that he said were a bit lighter than average. Since the gun will earn its keep hunting, I wanted a stock with strong grain in the wrist; and after considering the several blanks Rich had selected, we agreed on a lovely piece of walnut with just enough visible grain.
I’d previously noted on his website that Rich offers a lovely Prince of Wales grip. After handling one in his inventory, I found it tactilely and visually appealing, and ordered it for my gun. Here’s an approximate picture of what the new gun will look like:

My gun will have two important differences from the one pictured above. It will have a blued receiver 

and a black Decelerator to match.

I'll post photos and an initial review of the new Cole 686 after it arrives after August 15. Heroic tales of the hunt, I hope, will follow soon after Northern grouse open on September 20.

Cold Duck won't show any photos of the new driver, though. There wouldn't be much interest in a "glam shot" of what appears to be a stick with a toaster glued to its far end. But expect a story if titanic drives suddenly start flying off its face, presenting me with the novel problem of seeing whose ass I've just kicked.