|The No Bananas line has extended into irons, which allow for customization of lie, loft, weighting and spin. (Courtesy of Bob Burns Golf)|
A couple of years ago, veteran club-builder Bob Burns made a splash with his No Bananas driver. The driver, aimed at the 80 percent of average golfers who slice off the tee, featured several extreme adaptations to combat the dreaded banana-ball: 7-degree closed clubface, exaggerated heel weighting and a .5-inch offset clubhead.
Perhaps most newsworthy, though, was the unabashed appeal to slice-bedeviled golfers.
Most equipment companies' off-the-rack golf clubs incorporate various degrees of anti-slice technology, but they don't advertise it. Instead, they try to camouflage the features to spare golfers' egos. Seriously, do you think your driver has a square clubface? Or that the 9.5 degrees of loft stamped in the sole is really 9.5 degrees? Chances are, your driver face is closed a degree or two, and the loft is a degree or three higher than advertised. Even stock off-the-rack "stiff" shafts are generally more like R-flex, compared to custom-fit shafts.
For those of us familiar with the hypocrisy, err, little white lies in today's equipment market, Bob Burns and his No Bananas line are refreshing in their honesty.
The flagship of the 2009 No Bananas line is the 460cc No Bananas DAT driver (for Draw Alignment Technology). The beta-titanium clubface is shallower than the original incarnation, and the clubhead is lighter (196gr), with weight distributed toward the heel and toe for stability. The clubface is closed 7-degrees and offset .5" to keep the hands in front of the ball.
Most striking, though, is the inside-out sightline, created with three raised ridges atop the clubhead. These "swoop" from the face back to the heel in a curve that mirrors the ideal inside-out swing-path. The golfer thus gets tactile and visual cues to swing from the outside in. In addition, a line of No Bananas fairway woods matches the driver, including a 2-wood that packs all of the DAT's features into a 285cc clubhead, along with No Bananas hybrids and irons.
To test these anti-slice wonders, I had to find a golfer who sliced. (My natural hook wasn't going to be of much use.) I quickly located Don Hicks, a 60-something, 25-handicapper from Indiana whose slice has worsened with age, costing him not only fairways hit, but also significant distance.
Within a couple of rounds using the Bob Burns DAT driver (base price $350, 10.5 degrees, Fujikura 370 R-flex shaft ($50 extra)), and 2-wood ($249 base price, Aldila NV shaft ($50 extra)), Hicks began hitting fairways on about 80 percent of his tee shots. More importantly, his weak 185-200-yard slices had turned into straight 225-yard drives, even with an occasional slight draw.
More impressive, however, was what he found he could do with the 2-wood off the turf. Where he had been laying up on 400-yard par 4s, he was now on or over them in two, and even scoring some shorter par 5s in two.
"I love that 2-wood," Hicks said. "I hit that thing 200 yards easy, and I don't even feel like I'm swinging hard. I was in a scramble last week, and we had an eagle putt thanks to that club."
When I thanked him for his input and tried to take the clubs back, he screamed, "Senior abuse!" until I relented and slunk away under police observation. At last report, Hicks was shooting the occasional 40 for nine holes in his men's league and sandbagging for the first time in his long golfing career.
Woods aren't the only No Bananas clubs. There are also No Bananas hybrids (base price $130) and a line of No Bananas irons (base price $900), all of which feature pronounced off-sets and a weighting scheme that helps close the toe by impact.
Around the green, Burns uses other tactics to deliver game-improvement. The Bob Wedge ($106) is practically an instruction book on a shaft, with multiple loft options and alignment aids milled right into the club face for easy set-up.
The Burns Golf Web site includes a wedge-fitting sheet, and anyone ordering a club can request custom-grinding of any sort on the +/- Wedges ($125) and the Master Grind Wedge ($125) (or any of Burns's custom-built irons).
Finally, on the putting surface, the Bob Burns Roll-In Putter ($125) has been ranked highly by several independent testing labs. It features the proprietary "Big Fat Grip" (BFG). The shape of the grip - a hugely oversized paddle - puts the grip higher into the palm, theoretically eliminating additional grip pressure.
Unlike most oversized and jumbo putter grips, this giant grip is overweight. Weighing in at 205 grams, the grip adds to the static weight of the club. It moves the pivot point (balance point of the club) higher up, toward the center of the shaft. Equaling out the weight positioned at each end of the putter is more conducive to the true pendulum stroke, according to the company. But I found it practically impossible to gauge speed with this putter and could not get used to the BFG.
Rather surprisingly, Burns, who has been custom-making clubs for decades, also produces lines of forged blades, all custom-ground and fitted for even scratch golfers.
But it is the No Bananas line that has gained notoriety, and these clubs are far from gimmicky. They are solid, top-rate sticks, with all the options afforded "players' clubs." It's about time that an equipment company acknowledged that its clubs are designed to help duffers duff less and play better.
Before I tried to reclaim the No Bananas clubs from Don Hicks - and before he called the cops on me - I asked for his overall impression of the line.
"I don't know who this Bob Burns is, but he should run for president," he responded. "I'd sure as hell vote for him."
For more information, visit www.bobburnsgolf.com.
August 7, 2009
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.