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Equipment changes come full circle for Choi

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By Zak Kozuchowski

GolfWRX Managing Editor

There’s a simple rule most golfers follow when making equipment changes – don’t mess with success.

And golfers certainly shouldn’t switch from a set of clubs that helped them win the biggest tournament of their lives – at least not for a while. But that’s exactly what K.J. Choi, winner of The Players Championship last year, has done in 2012.

In early March, Choi put away the set of Miura CB-501 irons that he used in his victory at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course for a set of Cleveland 588 CB Forged irons. Just a few weeks later he sampled another manufacturer’s clubs, Ping i20 irons. But as the one-year anniversary of Choi’s win approaches, he again finds himself using the same set of irons that he used last year at The Players.

Many people will jump to point out that Choi’s tinkering was unnecessary – he should have been working on his game instead of trying to catch lightning in a bottle with an equipment change, they might say. But there’s another way of thinking about equipment changes. Bill Choung of CompuGolf Center in Dallas has been working with Choi on his equipment since March 2010. Since Choung opened CompuGolf nine years ago, he has been seeking to answer a simple question,

“How does an equipment change impact the golf swing?”

He’s found that changing equipment has a very real impact on a player’s swing, especially with tempo and rhythm.

The goal of Choung’s work with Choi has been to give Choi a higher trajectory and more spin on his iron shots. Choi felt that he wasn’t hitting the ball high enough or with enough spin to control his distances at major championships – setups that generally have firm greens and tight pin positions.

There are several different ways of achieving that goal, and Choi and Choung have tried just about all of them. Choi played the 2011 Masters with a 6-iron hybrid, which gave him a higher trajectory, more forgiveness and more spin. But Choi felt that he was sacrificing workability and feel, which led to more experimenting.

Choung hit paydirt when he built Choi a set of Miura CB-501 irons just days before the 2011 Zurich Classic. To create Choi’s desired ball flight, Choung used KBS Tour parallel tip shafts, which are different than the taper tip shafts used by nearly every other PGA Tour player. Whereas taper tip shafts are precut to a specific length for a certain club (6 iron shafts are generally used in 6 iron heads), parallel tip shafts are uncut, which means that they can be trimmed to fit any iron head. This allows the club builder to trim the shafts to the exact stiffness that a player desires.

Shaft stiffness, which is measured by the frequency of a shaft, is important because according to Choung it changes the way a player loads and unloads the club during the swing. When trimming Choi’s parallel tip shafts, Choung cut more off the butt end of the shaft and less off the tip, creating a “softer” tip that allowed for a higher trajectory and more spin. Choi liked the combination of the parallel tip shafts and the Miura CB-501 head, and the results proved it. That week he put the clubs in play to finish in the top 5 at the 2011 Zurich Classic, and of course, to win The Players two weeks later.

There are at least two reasons why Choi decided to change from the iron set that brought him a $1.7 million payday and a new level of fame in the golf world. First, he received information that parallel tip shafts were not generally played on the PGA Tour, which made him interested in trying taper tip shafts. Second, he changed because he was in the process of trying out different iron heads and shaft combinations that he thought might improve on the results of the Miura set he used to win The Players.

When Choi changed to a taper tip shaft, he was forced to use a softer flex to give him the trajectory he wanted. While this resulted in the desired higher flight, he lost consistency and control.

Science or art?

Talking about Choi’s golf clubs in terms of shaft frequency, spin rate and launch angle creates the assumption that his swing is always the same. While Choi does have one of the most consistent golf swings on Tour, even he falls in and out of bad habits. That’s why it’s Choung’s belief that no matter how technically sound a golfer’s fundamentals are, the golf swing is still an organic movement.

“When [golfers] change clubs, what they are really doing is changing their swing,” Choung said. “More than anything, they are inducing a change in tempo and rhythm.”

So it’s no surprise to Choung that Choi has returned to his Miura CB-501 irons with parallel tip shafts. He was struggling during the time he was playing Cleveland and Ping irons, shooting only two rounds in the 60s during that period. Last week, when he returned to the Miuras, he shot two rounds in the 60s and finished tied for 39th. It wasn’t a huge improvement, but it was his best finish in relation to par since the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January.

Choung said that Choi’s performance since switching back to parallel tip shafts might have improved because of the increased tip diameter of parallel tip shafts — .370 inches instead of the .355 inch tip that taper tip shafts offer. So why don’t more Tour pros opt for parallel tip shafts if they offer more stability? According to Choung, it’s because parallel tip shafts are much more labor intensive to build. Choung and his staff at CompuGolf can build a set of taper tip shafts in about 30 minutes, while it takes them about three hours to build a set of parallel tip shafts.

A lot of independent club builders and even Tour vans can’t justify spending extra time to create frequency-matched sets either, but Choung’s research has shown the value in it. Because of the chaotic nature of the shaft industry, where one industry’s stiff flex is another’s x-flex, Choung places huge value in frequency matching, which streamlines the frequency throughout the set. For example, Choi’s driver shaft frequency, the base measurement Choung uses to find the frequencies for the rest of his clubs, is 271. As shaft length decrease, however, frequency must increase to match. Choung and his team did testing of exactly how many cycles frequency should increase as the shaft shortens .5 inches, and their researched concluded that four cycles is best. That’s why Choi’s 4 iron, which measures 38.5 inches, has a frequency of 314, while his 60 degree wedge, which measures 34.5 inches, has a frequency of 334.

So what does all this mean for the average golfer? Even if you don’t swing like Choi, Choung said that there is still good reason to go through a verifiable fitting process, especially processes like his that have an improvement guarantee.

“A lot of golfers come to me and they say I’m hitting my driver well, but can’t hit my irons,” Choung said. “Or they say that they’re hitting their irons well and can’t hit their driver. Often there’s a total mismatch between the driver and the irons. They’ve adapted their swings to either the driver or the irons.”

If you still can’t be swayed to go through a custom-fitting process, Choung has this advice for you. The club that you liked demoing so much – buy it. But don’t order it. Buy that exact club. Because chances are, the one you order will be slightly different.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. John

    Sep 19, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Jon, oftentimes players prefer softer wedges as they are not making full/all-out swings with those clubs. They are looking for more feel and control in the short, scoring shots. For this reason, we often build the wedges a little softer than the rest of the set.

  2. Jon

    Jul 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t understand the math. If 4 cycles per 0.5 inches is the rate, how do we go from a 38.5″ 4 iron at 314 cpm to a 34.5″ wedge at 334 cpm? Four inches is eight one-half inches, times 4 cycles, is 32 cycles. 314+32=346, not 334. The article makes no sense.

  3. Michael

    Jun 8, 2012 at 4:33 am

    Old news from the building stand point. I try to avoid using taper tip shafts, since you can’t make a set with a correct frequency slope. You would have to have to many sets in your workshop, to do it right and you would have to through away to many shafts, that just don’t fit into a matched set. This is why I always try to work with parallel tips.

  4. Tim

    May 17, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Mike, Really? That my friend, is how you frequency match a set of clubs.

  5. Ian

    May 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Bill Choung does great work. He did several clubs for me in Dallas years ago as well as clubs for many of my friends….the work was always first class

  6. Mike Krzewsky

    May 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    I heard this guy is not all that great and he had originally messed up KJ’s clubs by cutting the tip end instead of the butt end.

  7. Brian Cass

    May 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

    This is why Villegas and McDowell have struggled after seemingly nonsensical equipment changes (McDowell wins at Pebble then takes a signing bonus to Srixon…where’s he been of late?) Villegas wins Honda then switches to TMade (where’s he been of late???).

  8. Sam

    May 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Had that exact same thing done several years ago to a set (frequency matched parallel tip shafts installed). Initially felt soft but played some marvelous rounds with them. Went back to tapered tips and regretted selling the set ever since.

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Equipment

What GolfWRXers are saying about stronger players using a 7-wood

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In our forums, our members have been discussing the strategy behind playing a 7-wood. WRXer ‘Sabzor’ kicks off the thread, saying:

“Lately I’ve been interested in possibly swapping the hybrid for a 7-wood and wanted to see if there were any stronger players who did the same? Often you hear of it going too high, but I feel that even the 4w is pretty optimal for me.

 My thought process is mainly around having 2 versatile distance woods starting around 250yds down – I figure off the tee if I need more than 250 I’m hitting driver anyway. Just curious with some of the pros we’ve seen lately doing the same thing.”

And our members have been having their say on the subject in our forums.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • demeeksDC: “Big fan of the 7-wood. Main thing is to get the right shaft — stiff enough — as they often come with softer shafts. Easy to hit and easy to stop. I have landed many 7-woods on greens that stopped dead.”
  • uglande: “I’ve got a TS2 7 wood with a Ventus Blue 7x shaft, and it’s phenomenal. Nice height but no ballooning. Shaft is important, but so is the clubhead. Brands that are more game-improvement focused have 7-woods with COG that are too low, and you can get high spinny flights. But the Titleist 7-woods (esp. TS2) have not been a problem for me. And obviously, some of the TaylorMade guys are doing well with the SIM 7-wood.”
  • VNutz: “I’ve played the 7w on and off for quite some time, SS is probably around 110 nowadays so a bit behind you. For me, it plays like a 5w and was better than a hybrid for my game as those tend to hook on me. I’ve since taken it out of the bag in favor of the modern more hittable driving irons, but I wouldn’t hesitate to put it back in the bag.”
  • L29: “I love the 4w, 7w combo. Still have the Cally xr16 in both and can’t get them out of the bag. My only issue with the 7w is when there is a significant amount of headwind. I do have a little bit of difficulty flighting it down. This problem, however, is nowhere near bad enough to have me thinking of any kind of change. That 7w lands like a raindrop on the green.”
  • Chazb: “The Callaway heaven wood has been my go-to club for over a year, and it’s been a Scoring difference. I even use it to tee off at times as it has very good distance and direction.The people I play with call it my magic club because it always puts me in a good place on the course.”

Entire Thread: “7-wood for stronger players?”

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Equipment

GolfWRX Classifieds (09/29/20): Raw Miura irons, lefty Ping G400, Titleist T100s blackout set

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member Baroo – Titleist T100s “Blackout” irons

The theme for today is “reduced glare” and you’re certainly going to get that with this set of Titleist T100s irons. Going from 4-iron through 48 degree, the only thing more stealth than these would be a camo set.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: T100s Blackout

Member Techgolfer61 – Raw Miura CB1008 irons

A little rust means no glare and a very unique look. Considering the price of these Miura’s, don’t expect them to last long on the open market.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Raw Miura irons

Member LeftyCabe – Ping G400 LST

I’m going to call this the LLST (Lefty Low Spin Technology). This driver head is in fantastic shape and ready for a shaft. Did I also mention it’s going for one heck of a price?

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Lefty G400 LST

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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Equipment

GolfWRX Classifieds (9/28/20): Nike irons, FlightScope Mevo, Ping G410 LST

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member RedWings1 – FlightScope Mevo

With fall here and winter on the horizon, a MEVO is a great way to get some indoor practice over the offseason—you just need a net!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: FlightScope Mevo

Member Bigdaddy78 – Ping G410 LST driver

In need of a low spin driver designed to still maximize MOI and forgiveness? The Ping G410LST is your ticket! This club is in great shape and ready for your golf bag.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Ping g410 LST

Member beatarmy02 – Nike Vapor Pro Combo Irons

The pictures don’t do these irons justice! The Nike Pro Combo irons are a fantastic set that offers extra forgiveness in the longer irons while transitioning to smaller workable short irons. Check out the full listing for more pictures, including the included rare 2 iron!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Nike Vapor PC Irons

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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