Most golfers have to like the way their clubs look at address, so the psychological side of club head selection is very important. If golfers don’t like the way their new clubs look, the success of the overall fitting can be in jeopardy — regardless of how much improvement there is.
That’s why it’s important to fit golfers into club heads that have the potential to improve their performance (misdirection tendency, overall launch conditions/trajectory, etc.), but also keep the shape and style of the club heads a priority.
Clubhead shape/style elements to identify and match to the golfer’s preference typically involve height and blade length of the head, sole width, topline width, topline slope, leading edge radii, offset/face progression, sole radius/bounce/design, back design, and so on.
But while most of these aspects of the “look” of the head may be judged on an esoteric or qualitative manner, there are most definitely performance-based elements of the head design that have to be a very important part of the fitting of the clubhead. As such, there always has to be a balance in the clubfitter’s recommendation and the golfer’s acceptance of the head model.
That’s why when we teach clubhead model fitting, we begin the process by stressing the following guideline to clubfitters:
- Within all of the clubhead models that satisfy the golfer’s personal preferences for shape features, style, finish and cosmetics, recommend the ones that have the highest MOI and the best off-center hit performance.
- If the golfer also needs the utmost in distance and forgiveness for his ability and game-improvement goals, expand your recommendation to include the ones with the best face design for highest COR and best variable thickness construction.
When it comes to the pure performance side of clubhead fitting, the more experienced clubfitters will also keep these points in mind:
- For golfers with a definite need to reduce a slice or hook, recommend driver, wood and hybrid models that are available in different face angle options or those can be adjusted or bent to achieve the correct face angle to reduce the misdirection tendency.
Center of Gravity (CG) changes — either higher/lower or closer/further back from the face to achieve trajectory, shot shape, spin and shot height fitting goals — certainly can be attempted in the head recommendation. The effect of such CG changes may not bring about as much shot shape improvement as hoped, however, because they are so much affected by individual golfer characteristics of clubhead speed, consistency of the delivery of the head to impact and swing error tendencies.
In other words, don’t expect too much change in shot shape from a CG difference in a clubhead unless you are a more accomplished player with a higher-than-average clubhead speed and a proper impact position.
This does not mean that the clubfitter should ignore the benefits of a lower or more rearward-located CG for golfers with slower swings speed or those who need help keeping the ball in the air. Just don’t expect a big change in doing so.
While the final decision for the clubhead is always in the hands of the golfer, clubfitters should do their best to diplomatically explain the tangible benefits for using a clubhead model with a higher level of game improvement features than the golfer may think they need. Golf is a tough game to begin with and using a clubhead that cannot reduce the negative effects of swing errors is not the wisest decision if the goal is to play to the best of your ability.
What matters, what doesn’t
It usually takes BIG differences in head design technology to bring about small-to-medium differences in shot performance.
- A COR difference of 0.030 or more is significant for distance increase. A difference of 0.010 is not.
- An MOI difference of more than 1000 g-cm2 is significant for improvement on off-center hits. A difference of 600 g-cm2 or less is not.
- A vertical CG difference of more than 5 millimeters is significant for shot height and spin differences. One less than that is not for the vast majority of golfers.
- A face-to-back difference in CG of more than 8 millimeters can be significant for shot height and spin differences, but only for golfers with later-to-very-late releases. A face-to-back difference in CG of 5 millimeters or less is insignificant even for later release players.
- The more radius on the iron sole from face to back, the better the sole design is for EVERY golfer to very slightly help reduce the degree of “fatness” of a slightly fat shot. More face-to-back sole radius is also good for more consistent sole-to-turf interaction with Bermuda-type turf as well as for shots hit from the rough.
- What length should your clubs be?
- What lofts should your clubs be?
- Face angle is crucial for a proper fitting
- The best way to fit lie angle
- How to choose the right club head design
- Tom Wishon’s keys to set makeup
- Getting the right size grip, time after time
- What shaft weight should you play?
- What swing weight should your clubs be?
- What shaft flex should I use?
This story is part of a 10-part series from Tom Wishon on professional club fitting.
The Gear Dive: TrackMan’s Tour Operations Manager Lance Vinson Part 1 of 2
In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with TrackMans Lance Vinson on an all things TrackMan and its presence on Tour. It’s such a deep dive that they needed two shows to cover it all.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
An open letter to golf
I know it has been some time since we last spoke, but I need you to know I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.
It was just a few months ago I walked crowded isles, stood shoulder to shoulder, and talked endlessly with likeminded individuals about you and your promising future in 2020 at the PGA Show. At that time, the biggest concern in my life was whether I had packed the perfect dress-to-casual pant ratio and enough polos to get through the mayhem of six days in Orlando. Oh, how the times have changed.
On a professional level, what started with the LPGA Tour a few weeks prior progressed quickly at The Players Championship, when you ground to a complete halt within days. As much as it was a tough decision, it was the right decision, and I admire the judgment made by your leaders. Soon after, outside of the professional ranks followed suit and courses everywhere began shutting doors and asked golfers to keep away.
This is the right decision. For now and for the foreseeable future, as much as I don’t like it, I understand how important it is we let experienced health medical professionals make choices and craft policies for the wellbeing of people everywhere. Although, judging by the indoor short game trickery I have witnessed over the last 10 days, handicaps could be dropping when you finally return.
As a game, you are over 200 years old. You have survived pandemics, wars, depression, drought, and everything else that has been thrown at you. Much like the human spirit, you will continue on thanks to the stories and experiences others passed down and enjoyed.
I know you will survive because I also plan on surviving. As long as there are people willing to tend to your grounds and maintain your existence, I will also exist ready to take on your challenge.
When you are able to return in full, I will be here.
Ryan Barath (on behalf of golfers everywhere)
The Wedge Guy: Improving your short iron and wedge impact
One of my most appreciated aspects of this nearly 40 years in the golf equipment industry is the practically endless stream of “ah ha” moments that I have experienced. One that I want to share with you today will–I hope–give you a similar “ah ha moment” and help you improve your ball striking with your high lofted short irons and wedges.
As I was growing up, we always heard the phrase, “thin to win” anytime we hit an iron shot a little on the skinny side (not a complete skull, mind you). When you caught that short iron or wedge shot a bit thin, it seemed you always got added distance, a lower trajectory and plenty of spin. It was in a testing session back in the early 2000s when this observation met with some prior learning, hence the “ah ha moment” for me.
I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, testing some wedge prototypes with a fitter there who was one of the first to have a TrackMan to measure shot data. I had hit about two dozen full pitching wedges for him to get a base of data for me to work from. The average distance was 114 yards, with my typical higher ball flight than I like, generating an average of about 7,000 rpms of spin. What I noticed, however, was those few shots that I hit thin were launching noticeably lower, flying further and had considerably more spin. Hmmm.
So, I then started to intentionally try to pick the ball off the turf, my swing thought being to actually try to almost “blade” the shot. As I began to somewhat “perfect” this, I saw trajectories come down to where I’d really like them, distance increased to 118-120 and spin rates actually increased to about 8,000 rpms! I was taking no divot, or just brushing the grass after impact, but producing outstanding spin. On my very best couple of swings, distance with my pitching wedge was 120-122 with almost 10,000 rpms of spin! And a great trajectory.
So, I began to put two and two together, drawing on the lessons about gear effect that I had learned back in the 1980s when working with Joe Powell in the marketing of his awesome persimmon drivers. You all know that gear effect is what makes a heel hit curve/fade back toward the centerline, and a heel hit curves/draws back as well. The “ah ha” moment was realizing that this gear effect also worked vertically, so shots hit that low on the face “had no choice” but to fly lower, and take on more spin.
I had always noticed that tour players’ and better amateurs’ face wear pattern was much lower on the face than that of recreational golfers I had observed, so this helped explain the quality of ball flight and spin these elite players get with their wedges and short irons.
I share this with you because I know we all often misinterpret the snippets of advice we get from friends and other instructional content that is out there. To me, one of the most damaging is “hit down on the ball”. That is a relative truth, of course, but in my observation it has too many golfers attacking the ball with their short irons and wedges with a very steep angle of attack and gouging huge divots. The facts are that if the club is moving only slightly downward at impact, you will get the spin you want, and if the clubhead is moving on a rather shallow path, you will get a more direct blow to the back of the ball, better trajectory, more distance and improved spin. Besides, shallow divots are easier on the hands and joints.
If this is interesting to you, I suggest you go to the range and actually try to blade some wedge shots until you somewhat groove this shallower path through impact and a lower impact point on your clubface. As you learn to do this, you will be able to zero in on the proper impact that produces a very shallow divot, and a great looking shot.
[TIP: If you will focus on the front edge of the ball – the side closest to the target – it will help you achieve this kind of impact.]
It will take some time, but I believe this little “experiment” will give the same kind of “ah ha moment” it gave me.
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