Golfers don’t enjoy the game when they struggle to keep the ball in play. There is no question the primary causes of inaccuracy result from errors in the golfer’s swing path and/or rotation of the club face back to the ball. However, through accurate clubfitting, it is possible to make changes in a number of specific fitting specifications of the clubs to visibly reduce the golfer’s misdirection tendencies.
It is also probable for changes in the some of the fitting specifications related to accuracy to be able to allow golfers to benefit more from lessons to more easily make changes in swing path and/or delivery of the face to the ball to result in accuracy improvement. Making swing changes in the path and face delivery change are much more difficult to accomplish when the clubs are too long and/or are the wrong total weight and swing weight for the golfer.
There is a limit to what clubfitting changes can do to achieve an improvement in accuracy. If the golfer’s slice or hook is too consistently severe, lessons to improve the golfer’s swing path and face delivery should always be the first priority. In general, if the golfer consistently slices or hooks the ball more than 30 yards of sideways movement, lessons should be always advised before a fitting change. But for golfers who slice, hook, push or pull the ball from 10 to 30 yards, accurate fitting for the specifications which do have a significant effect on accuracy will enable them to experience a definite level of accuracy improvement.
The fitting changes that can improve shot accuracy do not typically CURE or completely eliminate the inaccuracy of the golfer’s shots. They act to REDUCE the severity of the misdirection shots and tighten the overall range in shot dispersion for the golfer.
To do everything you can to improve shot accuracy through clubfitting changes, the following are the key fitting elements which have a bearing on accuracy. Through our research we have been able to identify which fitting specifications have a major effect (“A effect” specifications) and others which have a medium effect (“B effect” specifications). In addition, some of the fitting specifications show their effect for accuracy more with one segment of the clubs than with others. In the chart accompanying this article, we have identified which fitting specs have more of a major “A effect” on accuracy, which have a medium “B effect” and which have “no effect” on accuracy.
The most significant “A effect” fitting specifications which have a direct effect on shot accuracy are:
- Lie angle in the irons, wedges and putter.
- Face angle in the driver, fairway woods and hybrids.
- Club length, particularly so in the driver and fairway woods.
- The shaft weight, total weight and swing weight.
The “B effect” fitting specifications which have a little less of an effect, yet which still can bring about improvement in accuracy are:
- The face progression/offset, the center of gravity (CG) location.
- Lie angle in the driver and fairway woods.
- The torque, flex and bend profile of the shaft.
- Grip size.
- The set makeup selection of the clubs.
The A Effect: Fitting specifications for accuracy
1. Lie Angle
The higher the loft of the club head, the more the misdirection angle caused by an improperly fit lie to the golfer will translate into an off-line shot. The lower the loft of the club head, the less this is a visible factor for accuracy. Without question, every golfer needs to have each of their irons, wedges and yes, the putter correctly fit for lie angle for their physical stature, swing characteristics and posture/hands position through the ball. Without question, lie fitting must be done in one of the two dynamic lie fitting methods – either with the lie board or the ink on the back of the ball method. And the reason the putter lie is so important even though it has the lowest loft of all club heads is because the target for the putt is so small (4 1/4-inch small!).
2. Face Angle
Proper fitting of the face angle of the driver, fairway woods and hybrids is the number one most effective means to reduce the golfer’s misdirection tendencies with the driver, woods and hybrids to bring about visible improvement in accuracy. Using a more closed face angle to reduce the severity of a slice or a more open face angle to reduce the amount of hook is not a “Band-Aid” for the golfer’s swing path and face delivery errors. A change in the face angle acts as a direct 1:1 correction for the number of degrees the golfer leaves the face open or closed at the moment of impact. How much does a face angle change correct for a slice or hook? Based on a carry distance of 200 yards, a 1-degree change in the face angle from the face angle the golfer has results in a 4- to 5-yard reduction in the slice or hook. For a golfer with a 20- to 30-yard slice or hook, a face angle that is 2 to 3 degrees more closed/open THAN WHAT THEY CURRENTLY PLAY can easily be the difference between the ball being in play or out of play.
3. Club Length
The longer the length of the club, the higher will be its assembled club MOI. We’re not talking about the MOI of the head itself — we’re talking about the MOI of the fully assembled club. The higher the MOI of the club, the more load the club places on the golf swing for the golfer to overcome to be able to swing the club on the proper path and rotate the face back around to impact. The more load the club places on the swing, the more the weaker elements of the swing are subject to becoming more inconsistent.
For golfers with an outside-in path, a forceful transition move, a faster tempo and an earlier release, a longer-length driver and fairway woods will contribute to inaccuracy of the shot.
The reason that longer length is not as much of an accuracy problem with the irons is because irons as a group are much shorter in relation to the driver and fairway woods. In addition, few golfers play irons that are more than 1-inch longer than the old standard of 30-plus years ago. Not so with drivers where today’s “standard length” is 2 to 3 inches longer than the driver length standard of 30-plus years ago. That means that few golfers end up playing with irons that are more than 0.5 to to 1 inch off from what they should be playing. Today’s 45.5 to 46.5-inch driver lengths and 43.5-inch 3 wood lengths seen on so many retail models are much longer than what most golfers have the ability to control.
4. The Shaft Weight, the Total Weight and the Swing Weight
In combination together, the shaft weight, total weight and swingweight/MOI of the clubs can definitely be an “A Effect” for accuracy improvement. If the overall weight or feel of the clubs is too light or too heavy for the golfer’s transition force, downswing tempo, strength and individual perception for weight FEEL, more severe mistakes can be made in the swing path, release and on-center hit proficiency that will affect accuracy.
Of these, the swingweight/MOI (the headweight FEEL) is the most important contributor for effect on accuracy. The reason is because the swing weight/MOI can be increased to offset the effect of a shaft weight/total weight that is too light for the golfer. On the other hand, if the shaft weight/total weight is too heavy for the golfer, no swing weight/MOI adjustment can overcome the effect of a too heavy shaft weight/total weight on accuracy.
Remember, the weight of the shaft is the number one controlling factor for the total weight, so when you are fit for the shaft weight, you are covering 95 percent of the fitting for total weight at the same time. Hence from a fitting standpoint, shaft weight and total weight are considered the same thing. Only when an excessively heavy or extremely light grip is used does the weight of the grip show a noteworthy effect on the total weight of the clubs.
These combined “weights” of the golf club have to be fit to match each golfer’s unique combination of transition force, downswing tempo, strength and any personal preference for what the golfer perceives to be the “right weight feel.” If the weighting of the clubs is too light, either in total weight or head weight feel (swing weight/MOI), golfers with a stronger transition, faster tempo and greater strength can get too quick with their swing tempo and greater inaccuracy can result from the golfer not being able to achieve a consistent swing path and/or delivery of the face to impact.
Conversely, if the weighting of the clubs is too heavy in either the total weight or swing weight for the golfer’s transition, tempo, strength or feel, the golfer’s with the consistency of path and face angle delivery to the ball will also suffer. Either way, if the weighting of the clubs is matched properly to the golfer’s transition, tempo, strength and feel preference, the golfer can improve the consistency of the accuracy of the shot.
The B Effect: Fitting Specifications for Accuracy
The concept of the B Effect specifications on each of the game improvement factors is to say that on their own, each of these specifications may not bring about much more than a subtle improvement. However, if any of the B Effect specifications are poorly matched to the golfer in his/her current clubs, it then is more likely the change in the B Effect specifications can offer visible improvement. However, in combination, the proper fitting of several to all of the B Effect specifications can add up to be almost as important as some of the A Effect specs on a game improvement factor.
1. The Face Progression/Offset and the Center of Gravity (CG) location in the club head
The chance for the FP/Offset or CG to bring about any improvement in accuracy depends heavily on whether these elements were very poorly matched to the golfer’s swing characteristics in the present or previous clubs. Less face progression/more offset as well as a lower CG can generate a slightly higher ball flight with more spin, which for some golfers may combine with an open or closed face at impact to accentuate the amount of hook or slice spin on the ball.
Conversely, more face progression/less offset as well as a higher CG can generate a slightly lower ball flight with less spin, which for some golfers may combine with an open or closed face at impact to slightly reduce the amount of hook or slice spin on the ball. Seriously though, these are slight factors at best which border on being no factor for accuracy for many golfers.
2. Lie Angle in the Driver and Fairway Woods
The higher the loft, the more an ill-fit lie angle contributes to misdirection on the shot. Even though the driver and fairway woods are hit farther than the irons, because of their much lower loft, there is so much less of a misdirection angle of the face that the longer distance these clubs are hit does not cause a less than perfect driver/fairway wood lie to contribute very much to inaccuracy.
However, it should be said that for many golfers, modern fairway wood lies are too upright and can affect the solidness of the shot as well as a smooth travel of the sole on the ground through impact. As such, if the hosel design of the fairway wood will allow the lie to be adjusted to better fit the golfer and allow the sole to travel level through impact, by all means that should be done as a part of the fitting process.
3. The Torque, Flex and Bend Profile of the Shaft
In modern shaft design, 98 percent of the time the torque is designed to coordinate with the overall stiffness (Flex) of the shaft. In other words, you’re not going to find a 5-degree or 6-degree torque in an X-flex shaft and you’re rarely going to see a 2-degree or 3-degree torque in an A- or L-flex shaft.
Shaft designers realize that a substantial part of the swing characteristics that cause a shaft to bend more (the transition force to start the downswing along with the club head speed) are also the swing elements that cause the shaft to twist (torque). Hence when the overall stiffness (flex) is fit correctly to the golfer, rarely will there be a case when the flex is fit correctly but the torque is far enough off to be a cause of misdirection for the shot. Occasionally with VERY aggressive swingers, but not very often. From a shaft feel standpoint, yes, there are golfers who can detect the stiffer feel that comes from a lower torque, but from a pure accuracy standpoint, 98 percent of the time the golfer is correctly fit for the flex and the bend profile of the shaft, he will also be properly fit for the torque from the standpoint of accuracy.
There are some golfers who swear that playing too stiff or too flexible of a shaft will have a significant effect on accuracy. It is true that if a golfer with a later-to-late release were playing a shaft that was two full flexes too stiff or too flexible for his swing, there would be a visible change in the flight shape of the shot — higher and with a little more tendency for a draw. But even if a late-release golfer were to use a shaft that would be two full flexes softer than what he needed, the result would only be a visible increase in a draw only if the golfer’s natural flight tendency was to draw the ball. But rarely would the increase in draw be enough to hit the ball out of play.
The reason some golfers experience an accuracy problem playing with the wrong flex is chiefly because a feel-sensitive golfer’s perception of poor flex feel can cause the golfer to make swing errors/changes that result in a drop in accuracy. A bad feeling shaft can cause some golfers with a fine sense of perception to swing differently than they will when playing a shaft that feels just right. But this is not the case with the majority of golfers who do not have a specific perception of bending feel for the shaft.
The primary reason for properly fitting a golfer for the flex and bend profile of the shaft is to allow the flex/bend profile to combine with the loft of the club head to optimize the golfer’s launch angle, spin and angle of descent. In addition, as previously stated, proper flex and bend profile fitting is also important for fitting the golfer with the right bending FEEL that matches his preference for that type of feel. If the shaft flex and bend profile are fit properly for launch angle, spin and bending feel, it will have no significant effect on accuracy.
4. Grip Size
It is simply not true that all golfers who play with a grip that is too small will pull or hook the ball more, and all golfers who play with too large of a grip will push or slice the ball more because of the way the ill-fit grip size affects the golfer’s release. However, it is true that if the grip size does not feel comfortable to the golfer, this can translate into adversely affecting the golfer’s swing tempo, swing path and release, which in turn can affect the accuracy of the shot. Bottom line: Fit every golfer for a comfortable grip size and any possibility of the grip affecting the accuracy will disappear.
5. Set Makeup
How could the set makeup have an effect on accuracy? By replacing hard-to-hit clubs the golfer may be hitting more off line with clubs that are easier to hit by virtue of their design. That will result in better accuracy for the same distance.
For example, it is not uncommon for a golfer with an outside-in path and fast swing tempo to hit the fairway woods with some degree of inaccuracy, but be able to hit hybrids the same distance and more accurately because of the shorter length of the hybrids.
For the driver, fairway woods and hybrids, the key elements for maximum accuracy in the fitting process are the length, face angle and the combination of the shaft weight/total weight/swingweight (MOI) of the clubs. Within these three fitting elements, many golfers who presently suffer from misdirection problems most definitely can achieve a visible improvement in accuracy.
For the irons, the key elements for maximum accuracy in the fitting process are the lie angles along with the combination of the shaft weight/total weight/swingweight (MOI) of the clubs.
Get these fitting specifications perfectly matched to the golfer’s swing characteristics and pretty much everything that can be done to maximize the golfer’s shot accuracy will have been done. After that, if the golfer still suffers from a significant misdirection problem, the remedy will be lessons to work on improving the golfer’s alignment, posture, swing path and delivery of the face to impact.
On Spec: Interview with GOLFTEC VP of Instruction Nick Clearwater
In this episode of On Spec brought to you by Golf Pride Grips, Ryan talks with GOLFTEC’s Vice President of Instruction Nick Clearwater about his history with golf, teaching, and how he and his team at GolfTec help golfers play better.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
From the GolfWRX Vault: The day I met Ben Hogan
In addition to continuing to look forward to new content that will serve and engage our readership, we also want to showcase standout pieces that remain relevant from years past. In particular, articles with a club building or instruction focus continue to deliver value and convey useful information well after their publish dates.
We want to make sure that once an article falls off the front page as new content is covered it isn’t relegated to the back pages of our website.
We hope that you’ll appreciate and find value in this effort.
Industry veteran (and one heckuva writer) Tom Stites, who served as the Director of Product Development at Nike’s Oven, tells the story of how he landed a job as an engineer at the Ben Hogan Company and what his first meeting with Mr. Hogan was like.
Get a taste for Stites’ excellent piece from 2015 below.
Getting near my boy was the real reason I wanted to get to Texas, but the golf was a sweet attraction, too. With a perfect touch and timing, the Good Lord prompted the Hogan Company to advertise for a new product development engineer. On just the right day, I was changing flights at DFW and bought a copy of the Fort Worth paper. In the want ads I saw something like, ”Ben Hogan will pay you cash money to engineer and work on golf clubs.” So I applied.
My product development experience at Kohler got me the interview, but the Good Lord got me the job. It was truly a real miracle, because in 1986 I knew zero about club design and manufacturing. I was quickly made the boss of the model shop, and was to manage the master club maker Gene Sheeley and his incredible team of long-time club artisans.
Me as their boss? That was a joke.
I knew a few things about physics at that time, but these guys were the real deal in club design. I knew immediately that I was in over my head, so I went to Gene and professed my ignorance. I pleaded with him to teach me how to do the job right. At that, I guess he considered me harmless and over the next number of years he became my Yoda. His voice was even a bit like Yoda.
Why do Tour players prefer fades over draws from the tee box?
There is a growing trend on the PGA Tour and other professional golf tours where some of the game’s best players favor a fade from the tee box. Amateur golfers often struggle with golf shots that slice away from their target. These shots can lead them out of play and have them eagerly chasing a more neutral or drawing shot shapes. Additionally, a large fraction of low handicap and professional golfers play a golf shot that draws repeatedly onto their target. These thoughts can leave you wondering why anyone would choose to play a fade rather than a draw with their driver.
The debate over whether players should fade or draw their golf shots has been intensely lobbied on either side. While this is highly player specific, each particular shot shape comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. In order to discuss why elite golfers are choosing to play a fade and why you might as well, we must first explore how each shot shape is created and the unintended effects within each delivery combination. This article explores the ideas that lead some of the most outstanding players in the world to choose a fade as their go-to shot shape for their driver.
Before examining what makes each shot unique, golfers should be familiar with some common club fitting and golf swing terminology. Club path, clubface angle, impact location, spin-axis or axis tilt, and spin loft are all detailed below.
The curvature of a golf ball through the air is dependent on the backspin and sidespin of each shot. These spin rates are directly linked with each players golf swing and delivery characteristics. During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation. The relationship between the golf club face and the path of that club will determine much of how the golf ball will travel. A golf clubface that is closed to a club path will result in golf shots that either draw or hook. A clubface more open to the club’s path with create a shot that fades or slices. It is important that face angle measurements are taken in reference to the club path as terms like “out-to-in” or “in-to-out” can results in either of these two curvatures depending on face angle and impact location measurements.
Impact location should not be overlooked during this exchange and is a vital component of creating predictable golf shots that find the fairway and reach their maximum distances. As strikes move across the clubface of a driver gear effect begins to influence how the golf ball travels. In its simplest form, gear effect will help turn the golf ball back to the center of the golf club head. Impact locations in the heel will curve towards the middle and lead to golf shots with a more pronounced fading shape. Toe strikes lead to the opposite reaction and produce more draw or hook spin. Striking a golf ball from the upper half of the driver clubface produce higher launches and less spin, while strikes from the bottom create lower launches with higher backspin rates.
Spin-axis tilt or simply axis tilt is a result of the amalgamation of face angle, club path and strike locations. A golf shot will curve in the direction that its axis tilts during flight. Golfers familiar with launch monitors like Trackman and GCQuad, can reference axis tilt and spin-axis tilt measures for this measurement. Shots that curve to the left will have a leftward tilted axis, and shots to the right a rightward axis tilt. Golf shots tilting to the left and to the right are given names depending on which hand is dominant for that golfer. A draw or hook is a golf shot that curves in the air away from the golfers dominate hand. Right-handed players will see a golf ball hit with a draw spin from right to left in the air. Left-handed golfers see their draw shots spin from left to right. Fades and slices have the opposite shapes.
Spin loft is another critical component of creating and maintaining the flight of a golf ball. In concert with the spin-axis tilt of the golf ball, the spin loft influences the amount of backspin a golf ball possesses and will determine much of how stable that golf ball’s flight becomes. Golf shots hit with more backspin curve less violently than golf shots hit with too little spin especially in the wind. Spin loft is exemplified as golfers find themselves much more accurate with their wedges than their driver. More spin equals more stability, and this leads us to why professional players opt for their fade.
Modern drivers can be built to maximize the performance of each golfer on their best swings, but what about their misses? Golfers often lose confidence standing over their golf shots if they see the ball overdrawing or hooking too often. Overdraws and hooks create golf ball flight conditions that are unpredictable and lead to directional and distance detriments that can cause dropped shots and penalties. Because of this, elite right-handed players do not often like to see the golf ball going left from the tee box. By reducing their chances of hitting hooking tee shots, golfers often feel more freedom to swing the golf club freely and make smooth, powerful motions. This is never more evident than when watching Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson hit their drivers. While both players hit the golf ball both ways, their go-to shot from the tee is a left-to-right curving fade.
But wait, doesn’t a draw go further than a fade? While it is not inevitable that a draw will fly further or roll out more than a fade, the clubface and club path conditions needed at impact to produce each shape often lead to differences in spin rates and launch angles that affect distance. Less dynamic loft created by a closed clubface can lead to lower launch, less spin, and more distance. The drawback of these conditions is the reduced spin loft and decreased stability. So how much distance is worth losing to find more fairways? As we continue to see some of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour win tournaments and major championships distance is the premium.
Luckily, modern drivers and club fitting techniques have given players a perfect blend of distance and accuracy. By manipulating the center of gravity of each driver, golfers can create longer shots from their best strikes without giving up protection from their mishits. Pushing the weights more near the clubface of drivers has given players the ability to present more loft at impact without increasing backspin. The ability to swing freely and know that if you miss your intended strike pattern your shot will lose distance but not end up in the most dangerous hazards have given players better, more repeatable results.
While it can be advantageous for casual golfers and weekend players to chase as many yards as possible, players that routinely hit the golf ball beyond 300 yards can afford their misses to fall back if they will remain in play and give them a chance to find the green in two shots. More stability when things do not go as planned thanks to increased spin lofts and less violent curvature has allowed elite level golfers to perform consistently even under the most demanding situations and it is why we continue to see a growing number of players favor a fade from their tee shots.
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