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.
The Wedge Guy: Time for you to talk and me to listen
I’ve really been enjoying sharing thoughts and insights with all you GolfWRX readers the past few months. And as I expected, I’ve “won a few and lost a few” with regard to offering what you consider useful information. It is always difficult writing for an audience so diverse in experience, attitudes and opinions, but your feedback keeps me on my toes…as it should be.
So, this week the GolfWRX leadership agreed to allow me to give you a chance to tell us more about your own game and how you play it. At the bottom of today’s post is a link to the first “Wedge Guy/GolfWRX Survey.” I hope you will find the questions interesting and that you will share your own insights into the intricate relationship with golf that you all certainly enjoy. Please make note of your answers so that you can compare them to your fellow GolfWRXers when we begin to share the results of the survey in a few weeks.
On a current event note, however, I found Monday morning’s stories about Justin Thomas’ convincing victory over the field and Medinah #3 this weekend quite interesting. In comparison to his 25-under destruction of venerable old Medinah, Lou Graham won the U.S. Open there in 1975 with a score of +3, with the course just under 7,000 yards. Since then, Medinah #3 has hosted several other major championships—getting ever longer but still seeing the scores go lower and lower. It would be hard to argue that Thomas (and the field) completely dismantled the old girl at 7,600 yards, with the course record tied, then broken by two shots, then broken by two shots again. All in one weekend.
Some leading pros made very telling comments about the fact that “long” is not an obstacle for these guys anymore; that the drivers and balls of today are so forgiving they just swing as hard as they can. Add in “soft”, and they have a green light to tear down flags and shoot these ultra-low scores. This is just the way the game has evolved at the highest level—hit driver as hard as you can, find it, hit a towering short iron or wedge into a soft green, like throwing darts.
It’s just not the same game as was played at the highest level when the major venues challenged the golfers’ entire games—driver to long irons to wedges to putting. When was the last time we saw tour professionals tested at the long end of their bags? In contrast, when Johnny Miller won the U.S. Open in 1973 at Oakmont, I think he could only reach one par 5 in two shots and hit something like 13 or 14 approach shots with a 5-iron or longer…and he shot 63! That’s pretty amazing, huh? And a far cry from the short iron and wedge dominance of approach shots today.
Anyway, I’m not saying it was better or worse back then…just that it was a different set of challenges for the professional golfer. But I believe the rest of us pretty much play the same game as back then—testing every club in our bags every round we play.
But back to the Survey. Please take a few minutes and give thought to the 27 questions about you, your long game and your short game, and how you play the game in general. I think it will be quite insightful for all of us at GolfWRX, and for you all too, as you compare your answers to your fellow GolfWRXers.
Gear Dive Special Edition: Justin Thomas
Hot off his win at Medinah, Johnny has an in-depth equipment chat with BMW champion Justin Thomas.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
On Spec: Saying goodbye to the build shop | Mailbag!
Host Ryan Barath says a final goodbye to his build shop and explains the reason why shop number two is going to be a big upgrade. Also a fan favorite, answering audience question in the club builder’s mailbag.
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