GolfWRX: With irons, you see different models in the bag, but you don’t often see two different brands. So you have Honma short irons and Callaway mid and long irons. How did it happen?
Richard Bland: Yeah, I was using Honma irons from 5 iron to wedge last year, or for the last 18 months. But I was using the Callaway 3 and 4 irons, then I put in the 5 iron and had the other set made.
There were a few times last year where if we played a bit on a hilly course, and I hit maybe a 6 or 7 iron into an elevated green, I just had a little trouble. The flight was perhaps a flat hair. I just wanted something, definitely through the 6 and 7 irons, that launches a bit higher. I liked the Callaway Apex iron. Yeah, it’s a bit of a big blade, it still looks like a blade, but it’s a little thicker. With the 8, the 9 and the wedge, I like them. I can control the flight a little better. So with the blades it’s a bit of a mix and match. But it’s good.
GolfWRX: I have seen the Honma irons. I guess it’s the Rose Protos, but you scratched the Rose? This is hilarious to me…
Richard Bland: Yeah, I had kind of made them up; they gave me a set and they came with Rose on it. Then when I took them to the guy who takes care of my clubs with all the lies and lofts, he had to talk to them and they had to say, ‘You need to clear this. So when I went to get them, they are there. He had only to scratch the Rose from them.
GolfWRX: Who do you work with on your equipment? Who takes care of your layout and construction?
Richard Bland: At home, a guy named Jason MacNiven. He worked for Callaway, then he worked with TaylorMade, then he went out on his own. Or, I think it’s Club Champion now? They just bought him out, even though he’s still working. He still works for them, still in the same place, but yes, they bought his company. He did really well. He is an excellent club builder.
GolfWRX: How did you end up with so many different brands in the bag?
Richard Bland: I was TaylorMade for 15 years, then when adidas sold TaylorMade I was in my last year with the contract. We were basically told there would be no contracts issued, so I just became a free agent, and I like that.
I like the fact that at the start of the year you talk to the guys, and they say, “Oh, the new Ping pilot is awesome.
Well, okay, I have to try.
Or they’ll say, “The new Titleist rider is awesome.
Oh great, I’ll try that too.
I will never sign a contract that Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson sign, millions of dollars, so the contract for me is – don’t get me wrong, that’s a lot of money and that’s fine, but it’s not the sort of life-changing contract. … I prefer to just use what I want to use and know that what I’m playing with is what I’m confident with, and I know what I have to do.
GolfWRX: Yeah, I’m sure it’s nice to have that freedom. When you became a free agent, did you have any clubs right on your doorstep?
Richard Bland: Not really. Like we said, I’m not a massive changer. I was still using the M2 2016 driver last year. I always carry the head with me, just in case. Just so the Stealth knows, listen, if you play badly, you’re out. He was a great driver, and I’m kind of someone that if I have to change, it has to give me something. If the result is exactly the same, I will ask myself: “What’s the point of changing?”
I obviously know that TaylorMade wants you in the news, and I understand that, but that has to show me something. But I think it’s very, very difficult these days because I think we’re kind of at that point with the technology – if you want to see a 2 mph speed increase, the speed has got to come of you now. It will not come from the driver. I think any increase in speed will come from the work you do (with your swing and your body).
I think we’re at that point where you might be able to hit a shot a little easier, or the spin is a little more consistent, but that’s all you’re going to find. The days of “I just found 15 yards” are long gone.
GolfWRX: But do you like the new Stealth driver and the woods?
Richard Bland: Yeah, the 3 wood is great. The driver, yes, it’s pretty much the same shape as the SIM card, which I’ve always liked. I tried SIM and SIM2 but just felt the performance was really disappointing. I was hitting one and thinking, ‘Oh, that looks really good.’ And you look down and say, ‘Really? It’s 5 mph slower than I think and what it looks like. We all have a good eye on what we think it should be. And the Stealth feels good and it works pretty well. So yes, I did.