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Wishon: How to choose the right club head

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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.

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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.

Related

Tom Wishon

  1. What length should your clubs be?
  2. What lofts should your clubs be?
  3. Face angle is crucial for a proper fitting
  4. The best way to fit lie angle
  5. How to choose the right club head design
  6. Tom Wishon’s keys to set makeup
  7. Getting the right size grip, time after time
  8. What shaft weight should you play?
  9. What swing weight should your clubs be?
  10. What shaft flex should I use?

This story is part of a 10-part series from Tom Wishon on professional club fitting.

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Tom Wishon is a 40-year veteran of the golf equipment industry specializing in club head design, shaft performance analysis and club fitting research and development. He has been responsible for more than 50 different club head design firsts in his design career, including the first adjustable hosel device, as well as the first 0.830 COR fairway woods, hybrids and irons. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: February 2014 Tom served as a member of the Golf Digest Technical Advisory Panel, and has written several books on golf equipment including "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club" and "The Search for the Perfect Driver," which were selected as back-to-back winners of the 2006 and 2007 Golf Book of the Year by the International Network of Golf (ING), the largest organization of golf industry media professionals in the USA. He continues to teach and share his wealth of knowledge in custom club fitting through his latest book, "Common Sense Clubfitting: The Wishon Method," written for golf professionals and club makers to learn the latest techniques in accurate custom club fitting. Tom currently heads his own company, Tom Wishon Golf Technology, which specializes in the design of original, high-end custom golf equipment designs and club fitting research for independent custom club makers worldwide Click here to visit his site, wishongolf.com

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. dime bag

    Feb 4, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    When my 4 year gets crabby we put him in a special chair called the “pouty place”. Does Keith need to sit in the “pouty place” for a while until he can act like a big guy?

    • Keith

      Feb 4, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      Yes, I think I do…but I just had a Snickers bar so I think I am better now.

  2. JOEL GOODMAN

    Feb 4, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    why the negativity from these guys? If you don’t like it , go away. Tom Wishon has forgotten more about golf clubs than 99% of people will ever learn. He is pure genius and is worth listening to and reading his views. WRX is a superb vehicle for information not available through the “how to cure your slice”media. I love it and think Tom Wishon is terrific. Disclosure-I have purchased and built clubs using Wishon components and am using one of his drivers. I also play Mizuno MP68 irons, and wedges. I live in south Florida, age 79 index 7.7 and play 5 days every week, 52 weeks a year–JEALOUS?????

    • chris

      Feb 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      I could agree more, being new to this site I have found Tom’s articles to be the most informative that I have read here. Keep up the good work Tom.

    • Keith

      Feb 4, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      Yes, I am jealous…and…Yes, I agree Mr. Wishon is a genius and makes a great product.

  3. Benny

    Feb 4, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Awesome stuff Tom, makes complete sense. I have a couple friends of mine who bought Wishon that were properly fitted and while very high handicappers their games have really improved and feel it’s from proper fitting. Most amateur golfers are very steep in their swings. They stand very up right and close to the ball so the angle is steep and adding the radius helps them. Add this to your adjustable hozels on your woods/drivers and you really have the best fitted clubs money can buy. Never mind priced way below most manufactures. You just cannot beat it and I am extremely excited to be getting my woods from one of your builders this spring.
    Please keep this info coming because even the negative talk on here is helping get your points across. Thanks Tom, thanks WRX!

  4. Bob

    Feb 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Is he saying the wider the sole the better it is for all players.

    • Shallowface

      Feb 4, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      You can certainly have face to back radius or camber in a narrow sole, so I don’t think Tom was saying that the sole has to be wide.

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 4, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      shallowface

      Not sole width – I was talking about the sole radius in the direction from front to back across the sole being good for all players. Add a rounding of the leading edge from sole around to face and that is better for everyone too. Such sole designs stand up better for those with more downward angle of attack into the ball, and they can help slightly for shots from the rough because the greater front to back sole radius offers less surface contact to the grass for a little less chance of the sole hanging up in the rough.

  5. myron miller

    Feb 4, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Tom, I notice you don’t talk about CT time for any of the clubs, especially the driver as being important. Is it because you don’t feel its a factor or what?

    I’m asking because at least one driver manufacturer tries to emphasis its higher CT time as being critical to improving distance. Personally I don’t see how CT time on the face makes that much difference especially considering all the differences in golf ball hardness.

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 4, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Myron
      In the article I did say this. . .
      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.

      Thus the comment about highest COR as a part of a clubhead recommendation for a golfer who needs/wants the utmost in distance. CT/COR is a non issue with drivers and has been for a long time because virtually every titanium driver made since the late 90s has been maximized for COR to be as close to the limit as the company’s production of the head will allow under normal +/- tolerances. Of course if the golfer wants to eek out the absolute most in driver COR, he can hit several models and look for the one that records a smash factor of 1.49-1.50 which is the max possible for an 0.830 COR/257 CT face measurement.

      CT is just a different form of test to enable the USGA to assess the ability of the face to flex inward at impact more quickly than it takes to run an actual air cannon COR test. With driver heads, CT is correlatable to an actual COR test measurement. It is not in irons. So the reason CT is pertinent to distance is because the more you get the face to flex at impact without deforming, the less energy is lost in the collision between the face and the ball. That right there is the basic science behind COR. From this comes the higher ball speed in relation to the clubhead speed – aka smash factor. So if you have a driver with a CT of say, 260 and one at 240, without question the ball speed in relation to clubhead speed for the 260CT will be higher than the one at 240, and from this will come more distance if the loft and everything else is fit correctly to the golfer.

      Let me explain how this works with respect to different ball compression types and ball construction. With a low COR head, in the collision between the face and the ball, 80% of the energy loss from the impact comes from the compression of the ball against the face. Squash the ball more, you lose more energy. 20% comes from the face flexing inward only a tiny bit as a low COR head. If you allow the face to flex inward more, what you do is you greatly reduce the amount that the ball squashes against the face. So the ball’s energy loss is much less than the increase in energy loss from the face flexing inward a little more.

      To grasp this, realize that the face of an 0.830 COR driver flexes inward just short of 1/16″ at impact. The face of a low COR (0.780) driver flexes inward a little less than 1/32″. So just for an additional 1/32″ of face flexing, the energy transfer is much greater due to a lot less squashing of the ball so the ball speed can increase quite a bit in relation to the clubhead speed.

      With a soft ball like a Noodle, with a low COR head, that ball at 100mph clubhead speed will squash around 30% of its diameter. Change to a high COR head and that same ball now squashes around 20% of its diameter, thus reducing the energy loss and increasing the energy transfer to the shot to get more ball speed. With a hard solid ball, with a low COR head, that ball at 100mph clubhead speed will squash around 20% of its diameter. Change to a high COR head and that same ball now squashes around 12% of its diameter, thus reducing the energy loss and increasing the energy transfer to the shot to get more ball speed.

      So the high COR face design works to increase ball speed and distance no matter what the ball construction.

      • chris

        Feb 4, 2015 at 8:33 pm

        That was a very informative reply for those of us who don’t have a strong grasp of what happens to the and the club face at impact.

  6. Keith

    Feb 4, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I am slightly confused by these articles…are these just long advertorials as a point of differentiation from other manufacturers? It seems like a conflict of interest to have a manufacturer of golf clubs writing articles for your site without slugging this as an advertisement…especially if you drive to his site at the bottom of the page.

    You may not be explicitly selling his product, by you are advertising his process and have alluded to others not being as thorough in previous articles. Being part of the Conde Nast family you would think your editors would know this is not okay….but alas you will probably delete this comment and continue as usual.

    • Zak Kozuchowski

      Feb 4, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Keith,

      First off, GolfWRX is independently owned and operated — not part of the Conde Nast family or affiliated with Conde Nast in any way.

      Secondly, this is not an advertisement. Tom Wishon is a GolfWRX Contributor and part of our Featured Writers program. We’re working with him on this series because we think he can help our readers better understand club fitting and their club fitting needs. He does not pay us to publish this stories.

      Last, we only delete comments that are wildly off topic, use inappropriate language or personally attack or authors. If you’ve had a comment deleted, that’s why.

      – Zak Kozuchowski
      GolfWRX Managing Editor

      • Shallowface

        Feb 4, 2015 at 12:05 pm

        I consider myself to be highly sensitive to the things Keith mentions, and I consider Tom’s articles to be just fine. Anything that helps us be more educated consumers is most welcome, and from a lot of what I read here is sorely needed.

        Looking forward to the rest of the series!

      • Keith

        Feb 4, 2015 at 3:18 pm

        I appreciate the response, but respectfully disagree with what you have said here. This is absolutely an advertisement and your readers should know that. You are driving to his company site in which his whole sales pitch is custom fitting. I find it hard to believe that site traffic and conversion (lead) is not being tracked on wishongolf.com from GolfWrx.com.

        I don’t have an issue with the article and agree it may be helpful…but it is without a doubt advertising.

        Also, does your partnership with Golf Digest for content production and distribution not count as being affiliated with Conde Nast? Perhaps we are forgetting about this comment

        “Joining forces with an established and authoritative brand such as the Golf Digest Properties will resonate with the passionate community we’ve cultivated with GolfWrx,” said Richard Audi, president of GolfWrx. “We welcome the contributions of its editors and look forward to creating innovative new offerings for advertisers in the conversational web.”

        • Zak Kozuchowski

          Feb 4, 2015 at 3:38 pm

          Keith,

          GolfWRX is no longer associated with Golf Digest, and has and always has been independently owned and operated.

          We have and will continue to have contributors write for us about things we consider to be valuable to our readers.

          Let’s not muck up this comments section with unrelated comments any further.

          • Keith

            Feb 4, 2015 at 3:43 pm

            Zak…come on..really…no longer affiliated? I will let it go because I am a fan of the site, that is fine.

    • Steven

      Feb 4, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Where the f@#$ did you get the idea WRX was part of Conde Nast?

      And who the f@#$ still uses the term ‘but alas’?

      Since you don’t know, WRX was started and still run by a few guys in Detroit, with a handful of very involved contributors across the country.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBIt-p5ruBM

      • Keith

        Feb 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm

        Hahahaha thank you for sharing that link, one of my favorite episodes and I 100% agree. You seem like a real stand up guy Steven!

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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Golf Hall of Fame resumes—what does it take?

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We are back from last week, and Knudson is finally a father! Steve asks what it takes to get into the Golf Hall of Fame, how much do majors count? Knudson talks about his last round and how much fun he had. Finally, we talk about the Rory and Keopka beef that is starting to play out.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Getting more out of your wedges

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When I started SCOR Golf in 2011 and completely re-engineered the short end of the set, I took on “the establishment” and referred to our line of clubs not as “wedges” but as “scoring clubs”—I felt like the term “wedge” had become over-applied to clubs that really weren’t. While I’ve tempered my “respectful irreverence” a bit since then, I still think we are shackled by the terms applied to those high-loft clubs at the short end of our sets.

Think about this for a moment.

It all started with the invention of the sand wedge back in the late 1930s. This invention is generally credited to Gene Sarazen, who famously had metal welded onto the bottom of a niblick to give it bounce, and introduced the basic “explosion” sand shot. Over the next few decades, the sand wedge “matured” to a loft of 55-56 degrees and was a go-to staple in any serious golfer’s bag. In his 1949 book, “Power Golf”, Ben Hogan described the sand wedge as a very versatile tool “for certain shots” around the greens, and listed his maximum distance with a sand wedge as 55 yards.

Even into the 1970s, the pitching wedge was considered the ‘go-to’ club for short recovery shots around the greens. And because the typical pitching wedge was 50-52 degrees in loft, it was very versatile for that purpose. I remember that even as a scratch player in the 60s and early 70s, I would go days or weeks without pulling the “sand wedge” out of my bag—we didn’t have bunkers on that little 9-hole course so I didn’t feel like I needed one very often.

Fast forward into the 1980s and 1990s, people were hitting sand wedges from everywhere and the wedge makers began to add “lob wedges” in the 60-degree range and then “gap wedges” of 48 degrees or so to fill in for the evolutional strengthening of iron lofts to a point where the set match pitching wedge (or P-club as I call it) was 44-45 degrees typically. Along the way, the designation “G”, “S”, “L” and “P” were dropped and almost all wedges carried the actual loft number of the club. I think this was a positive development, but it seems we cannot get away from the pigeon-holing our wedges into “pitching”, “gap”, “sand” and “lob” nomenclature.

So that history lesson was a set-up for suggesting that you look at all your wedges as just “wedges” with no further limitations as to their use. I think that will free you up to use your creativity with each club to increase your repertoire of shots you have in your bag…more arrows in your quiver, so to speak.

For example, long bunker shots are much easier if you open the face of your 50- 54-degree wedge so you don’t have to swing as hard to get the ball to fly further. You’ll still get plenty of spin, but your results will become much more consistent. Likewise, that super-short delicate bunker shot can be hit more easily with your higher lofted wedge of 58-60 degrees.

When you get out further, and are facing mid-range shots of 40-75 yards, don’t automatically reach for your “sand wedge” out of habit, but think about the trajectory and spin needs for that shot. Very often a softened swing with your “gap” wedge will deliver much more consistent results. You’ll reduce the likelihood of making contact high on the face and coming up short, and you can even open the face a bit to impart additional spin if you need it.

Around the greens, your lower-lofted wedges will allow you to achieve more balance between carry and roll, as almost all instructors encourage you to get the ball on the ground more quickly to improve greenside scoring. For the vast majority of recreational/weekend golfers, simply changing clubs is a lot easier than trying to manipulate technique to hit low shots with clubs designed to hit the ball high.

Finally, on any shots into the wind, you are almost always better off “lofting down” and swinging easier to help make more solid contact and reduce spin that will cause the ball to up-shoot and come up short. Too often I watch my friends try to hit hard full wedge shots into our all-too-common 12-20 mph winds and continually come up short. My preference is to loft down even as much as two clubs, grip down a bit and swing much more easily, which ensures a lower trajectory with less spin…and much more consistent outcomes. It is not uncommon for me to choose a 45-degree wedge for a shot as short as 75-80 yards into a breeze, when my stock distance for that club is about 115. I get consistently positive results doing that.

So, if you can wean yourself from referring to your wedges by their names and zero in on what each can do because of their numbers, you will expand your arsenal of shots you can call on when you are in prime scoring range and hit it close to the flag much more often. And that’s really the goal, isn’t it?

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Opinion & Analysis

Autumn golf is the best golf

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For many, golf euphoria occurs the second weekend of April when the flowers start to bloom, courses begin to open, and the biggest tournament of the year is on television. But I believe the absolute best season for golf is the fall.

Let me explain.

SPRING

Spring is the season of hope and rebirth, and for most golfers, it’s the first opportunity to break out new clubs or take the game you’ve been working on all winter to the course for the first time in many months. Depending on where you are in North America or around the world, golf courses are just opening up and the ground is drying out from a winter filled with snow and ice.

Yes, spring is fantastic, you can shrug off the occasional mud ball since it’s probably your first round in four months and you’re willing to cut “the super” some slack for the slow greens, because you’re just happy to be out on terra firma chasing around a little white ball. Your game is rusty. Courses aren’t quite there yet, but it’s golf outside, and you couldn’t be happier.

SUMMER

The dog days. This time of year is when golf courses are the most busy thanks to the beautiful weather. But high temperatures and humidity can be a real deal-breaker, especially for walkers—throw in the weekly possibility for afternoon “out of the blue” thunderstorms, and now you’re sweating and drenched.

Unless you are a diehard and prefer the dew-sweeping pre-7 a.m. tee time when the sun breaks on the horizon, rounds tend to get longer in the summer as courses get busier. And you’ll often find more corporate outings and casual fairweather golfers out for an afternoon of fun—not a bad thing for the game, but not great for pace of play. Summer makes for fantastic course conditions, and with the sun not setting until after 9 p.m. for almost two months, the after-dinner 9 holes are a treat and you take them while you can.

FALL

As much I love nine holes after dinner with eight clubs in a Sunday bag and a few adult beverages in June, nothing compares to the perfect fall day for golf.

The sun’s orbit, paired with Mother Nature, allows you to stay in your warm bed just that little extra, since you can’t play golf when it’s still dark at 6:30 a.m. The warm, but not too warm, temperatures allow you to pull out your favorite classic cotton golf shirts without fear of the uncomfortable sweaty pits. We can’t forget that it’s also the season for every golfer’s favorite piece of apparel: the quarter zip  (#1/4zipSZN).

Courses in the fall are often in the best shape (or at least they should be), since player traffic and corporate tournaments are done for the season. As long as warm afternoons are still the norm, firm and fast conditions can be expected.

Last but not least, the colors—reds, oranges, and yellows—frame the green fairways and dark sand to make them pop in the landscape. Fall is the final chance to get in those last few rounds and create happy thoughts and mental images before the clubs go away for the inevitably cold, dark days of winter.

Fall is meant for golf! So take pictures, smell the smells, and make great swings, because golf season is quickly coming to a close, and now is the time to savor each moment on the course.

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