Written By: Tony Covey
A History Lesson
Before we get to the results of our Adams Tight Lies test, a history lesson is probably in order. When Barney Adams designed the original Tight Lies the idea was an easy to hit club to replace not so easy to hit long irons. That's right...the original Tight Lies, though generally regarded as a fairway wood, was conceptually a hybrid.
Once word got out, the Tight Lies became hugely popular with golfers who soon discovered that not only was Tight Lies easier to hit than long irons, it was actually the most versatile club in the bag. Tight Lies was the get out of the jail club; the safety club that could almost literally be hit from anywhere.
With the 2013 incarnation of the Adams classic the design team wanted to remain true to the original design (versatile, and infinitely playable) while raising the performance bar to competitive levels.
Adams will tell you that the Tight Lies isn't a launch monitor killer. That is to say it isn't designed to be the absolute longest fairway on the market. It's not that Tight Lies shouldn't be able to hold its own, but it's not about 13 or 17, or however many more yards either.
Tight Lies is about being easier to hit from everywhere without sacrificing that distance that most of us crave.
We wanted to find out if the 2013 Adams Tight Lies is really is better from everywhere.
How We Tested
The 15th is a brutal challenge. A hazard (complete with waste bunker) runs down the right-hand side while OB lines the left. The waste bunker is little more than dust-covered hardpan and the rough is long and gnarly.
For those in search of a nasty lie, the 15th has plenty to offer. Fortunately, nasty was exactly what we were looking for.
For this test, we asked our testers to hit a small series of shots from 3 distinct lies (fairway, rough, and waste bunker sand) to see find out how the Adams Tight Lies compared to their gamers.
To better replicate on course conditions (and to preserve the course) we had testers hit 4 shots with each club from each location. We didn't want to get our guys too dialed in with any one club, but we needed enough so we didn't use complete garbage shots as the basis for our conclusions.
In each case we tossed the worst shot (often a dribbler or a wild slice). Our averages were derived from the remaining shots.
An Imperfect Test
In a perfect world we’d go head to head and spec for spec, but a fairway wood originally conceived as a long iron replacement fills a unique niche. It's not like many of us actually carry a 16° club (our test samples were limited to the 16° model), so instead of trying to find something to match Tight Lies spec for spec, we asked our testers to hit the Tight Lies side by side against the club they’d be most likely to replace for it.
In some cases it was a club with more loft, in others it was a club with a little less. For some it was a fairway wood, for me it was a hybrid.
With that in mind our conclusions are based primarily on proximity to the centerline and shot dispersion. Now that the Tight Lies is in full release; between Tight Lies and Tight Lies Tour you should almost certainly be able to find a model that gets you to the desired distance.
That said, we know you guys love to see distance numbers, so I included them in our tables.
Let''s do this.
From the Fairway (Downhill Lie)
Just to make things a bit more interesting, we set our testers up with a slight downhill lie. The fairway almost always better, but that doesn't mean it's always perfectly level.
While none (myself included) could provide a concrete explanation why (a couple of the guys cited weight in a general sense) none of our testers actually preferred the Tight Lies to what was already in their bag. Actually, I think everybody would have preferred I let them hit from a perfectly flat lie, but what fun would that have been.
Disdain for the lie and a preference for their own club doesn't mean anybody hit the Tight Lies significantly worse than their gamer. In fact, our numbers suggest that most of us should probably think differently. In 2 of the 3 cases, the Tight Lies was, on average, considerably closer to the target line.
No doubt your eyes are nearly popping out of your head over the distance difference for Lou. The discrepancy in his distance numbers isn't as staggering as it appears, and can be primarily attributed to differences in launch angle. He's generally a very low ball hitter, and while he did a better job getting the ball in the air with his own club, he saw considerably more roll with with the Tight Lies. Lou is in his 60s, and like men of a certain age sometimes do, Lou had trouble getting it (Tight Lies) up.
From the Rough
When the lies get gnarly, that's when the real benefits of the Tight Lies upside down trapezoidal design start to shine through. As with our fairway test, 2 of the 3 testers actually proved more accurate with the Tight Lies, and the 3rd (as with the fairway test) was only marginally less accurate.
More interesting is the stuff that's difficult to quantify. Our testers were in complete agreement that the Tight Lies gets through the thick grass better than the traditionally designed alternatives we each currently carry.
If you're fortunate enough to avoid trouble...always, then perhaps there's no practical advantage to the Tight Lies. If however, you find yourself playing out of the thick stuff more often than you'd like, there's a case to be made for Tight Lies.
That case gets stronger when you consider that the Tight Lies actually gained relative distance from the rough. Not only can Tight Lies put you closer to the target line from the unfortunate areas of the golf course, for some, it could actually be longer than otherwise comparable, or even longer clubs.
From the Waste Bunker
The waste bunker that comes into play on the tee shot on #15 isn't quite hardpan. It's not quite sand either. It's garbage. Sidehill lies are abundant. Sometimes you have to hit out of weeds, and more often than not, overhanging branches force you to go more left than you'd like. It just sucks, and given how far away it is from the green, if you're in it and hope to have even the smallest chance of making par, you have little choice but to get as far out of it as you possibly can.
In most cases even a relatively safe 5 iron isn't going to get you anywhere close to where you want to be.
Once again the story is more or less the same. 2 of the 3 guys were significantly more accurate coming out of the waste bunker while the 3rd was only marginally less accurate. The distance gains we saw coming out of the rough didn't hold up, but remember, we're talking about an imperfect comparison from a distance perspective.
*Due to operator (me) error we don't have dispersion charts for Joe from the Waste Bunker
It was in the bunker that the difference between my hybrid and the Tight Lies, at least for me, was most noticeable. With my hybrid the margin for error is tight. It's easy to catch the edge and either dig or have the face flop open (nothing like going from the waste bunker into the the creek below it). The Tight Lies practically glides through the sand. It's much more difficult to get stuck, which means that even when the swing isn't the best, the result is often better than deserved.
It slides like it's been waxed and put on a track.
What to Make from the Results
Considering that some of our guys told us that they wouldn't normally play something like a fairway wood or even a longer hybrid from some of the lies we gave them we were curious to see if they'd feel more inclined to play Tight Lies from those same lies.
Universally the answer was no.
While each felt the Tight Lies did perform a bit better from the gnarly stuff, the advantages weren't so pronounced that they'd be more inclined to take the risk. They'd continue to play safe.
Me, I'm a risk taker. I've never met a lie where I didn't believe I could hit the longest club in my bag. Granted, I've been proven wrong quite a bit, but I'll probably never smarten up and stop taking chances. For a guy like me, I can't help but think that Tight Lies would increase the chances for success.
As I said, we all preferred our own clubs off the fairway. Perhaps it's a comfort level thing, perhaps there's something in the Tight Lies design that can lead one to believe it doesn't play as well from better lies (even if it actually does).
For many of you I'm reasonably certain the Tight Lies will be a an easy and direct replacement for a fairway wood or long hybrid. From everywhere else...the places where I play more shots than I'd like, the Tight Lies handled the nasty stuff a bit better.
Finding Room for Tight Lies
As we talked about the results we began to realize that we're perhaps too constrained by the notion of what the composition of the golf bag is supposed to be. We think about gaps, and carrying the perfect amount of whatevers. No more, no less.
Then I considered my gap wedge. Rounds go by when I don't hit it. I'm also extremely comfortable hitting a 3-quarter pitching wedge to what might otherwise be gap wedge distances. The point is, I could probably pull the gap wedge and not miss it. It sure as hell doesn't do me any good from that waste bunker on 15, but convention wisdom says I'm supposed to have one, so I have one. Do I really need it?
Let me be clear...very clear about something: I'm not actually suggesting you replace your gap wedge with fairway wood. The last thing I want is you walking into a pro shop and telling anybody that MyGolfSpy said gap wedges are stupid. I'm simply trying to get you think differently...maybe even rationally about what makes the most sense for your game. The gap wedge just happens to be my personal example.
Is there a club in your bag you rarely use? You carry it, it serves little actual purpose, and you could quite functionally achieve the same results with a different club. Maybe it's your gap wedge, maybe it's a hybird, or a fairway wood.
Whatever it might be, the question to ask yourself is this: Do I hit this club more often than I get myself into trouble?
If the answer is no, than the solution might be to make room in your bag for Tight Lies; the long club you can hit from nearly anywhere.
If the answer is yes, then it still might be worth looking into replacing one of your longer clubs (fairway or hybrid) with an equivalent Tight Lies. It's perfectly functional from the fairway, and our results suggest that for many of you the new Tight Lies will be easier to hit from those nasty places we wish we didn't have to hit from.
For the rest of you...the guys who play from the short grass all the time...all I can say is "it must be nice", but like I said, Tight Lies works pretty well from the fairway too.