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Should you get new clubs or lessons for quick improvement? Here’s some data…

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So I think I have solved the age old question: “do you need new clubs or lessons?” And I have data to back up my suggestions!

First, let’s look at the clubs I am using for this article.

You will see that I used an old Tommy Armour 845 Silver Scot, a forged TaylorMade Burner Forged iron from 2009-2010, and my current P790 from TaylorMade. Of course, we know that the lofts are different between these clubs, and there’s been years of engineering enhancements; we know it’s not an apples to apples comparison, and that’s the point! We are only looking at overall performance to see if we can get away with using older equipment for an extended period of time, or do we need to get rid of them and take lessons? How old is too old?

The Data

Dispersion

Trajectory

TrackMan data

From a dispersion standpoint, the P790 and the Burner have a tighter clustering. Obviously, the older club had the biggest miss pattern since it has the least amount of forgiveness. Therefore, I would say that the older model necessitates upgrade, but not necessarily the Burner.

As we look at the distances, we can see that there are huge differences in the three clubs: 161.1, 171.5, and 183.5 yards. Now from a club vs. lesson standpoint, if distance is a real issue in your game, then I would suggest changing since there is 20 yards difference between the old and the newest club. If not, then you can stick with your old bats and use the extra money to buy a few lessons, as long as your dispersion isn’t totally off.

The final thing I would look at is the height and landing angle of the clubs, and you can see that the last two clubs hit the ball about the same height and have basically the same landing angle into the green. But as we could guess, the older club is not even close.

Conclusion: If your clubs are more than 10 years old, I would suggest an upgrade from a technology standpoint. However, if your clubs have the somewhat newer technology that hits the ball higher with less loft, then you are safe…for now. I would say that unless there’s a serious issue with your clubs (not fit properly, dispersion is terrible, etc) then you should take lessons. To the guys with completely outdated sticks, I would suggest buying newer technology asap. And obviously, if your grooves are completely worn, it’s time to upgrade!!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Gerald Teigrob

    Jul 4, 2018 at 11:57 am

    I still have a good part of my Adams A7 irons but are gradually moving more to Redline irons and have replaced my irons with the Cobra Bio Cell in both stiff graphite and stiff steel. I left some clubs of mine behind to pick those up and I nearly have a set of Cobra Baffler XLs. Not everyone has the luxury of upgrading like I do with our golf course but as long as you leave some clubs behind, you, it appears to be the honor system…these are demo irons. So with that in mind, I won’t need to upgrade for a while! I’m glad to have both stiff graphite and steel in the Bio Cell irons!

    • geohogan

      Jul 7, 2018 at 9:44 am

      Unless the shafts are identical in all of the irons tested, then you can bet your testing difference in shafts more than iron heads.

  2. Tom

    Jul 2, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Let’s talk about shafts.

    Just how much clubhead speed/distance is gained for every, say 10 grams, less shaft weight? Maybe 2-3 yds with a 7 iron?

    How much distance/ dispersion difference is there between stiff and flexible shaft tips? Maybe 2-3 yds distance, 5-10 yds dispersion difference with the same 7 iron?

    • Tom

      Jul 2, 2018 at 11:27 am

      On shaft weight, I way overstated the distance gained for 10 grams lighter shaft .5 to .7 yards is probably closer to reality.

  3. Dr Tee

    Jul 2, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Do both. Lessons and new clubs are not mutually exclusive. No new club will correct a bad swing path

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Jul 4, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      I have managed lessons at GolfTec, so now I need to apply those principles to my own game with newer clubs! Fortunately, I can go back to previous lessons and see what I did online and what the purpose of that lesson was! Lessons and club fitting can go along well…that way you get to see how well your playing with your current irons is in relation to newer irons!

  4. Lane Holt

    Jul 2, 2018 at 8:25 am

    This is not a serious test / comparison. Their is nothing in a iron head that will make a ball go further other than it’s loft. If folks ever learn that the shaft is the engine and it ‘s performance is many times more iimportant that the head these Mfgts. will not be able to charge their ridiculous prices .
    When are we going to learn ? Iron heads ( faces ) have not changed in 50 years. How many tournament did Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson win ? The ball only stays on the face 1/20 th of a millisecond. Think about that and tell me what difference the head makes?
    Now- could a shaft with a flexible tip make a difference ? You betcha it does!

  5. JThunder

    Jul 1, 2018 at 2:07 am

    The distance question isn’t answered at all in this article; from what I can gather, the clubs were 5 irons? So, compare the 845s 4 iron to the 790 5 iron – loft and length are likely closer. If the dispersion and trajectory are better on the 790, then it is an improvement. Also, compare the 790 PW and 845s 9 iron – again, probably similar loft and length. If the 790 dispersion is better, then you’ve gained something. If not, then really all you’ve done is re-number the clubs, which is meaningless.

    For dispersion, I would double the number of balls. Either it will close the gap – make them more similar, or if the older clubs is less forgiving / harder to hit, the gap will widen.

    • NB Solets

      Jul 1, 2018 at 10:47 am

      Agreed. If the test did not reasonably match loft and length, then the test results are fairly meaningless. Most of these “tests” get this wrong.

      • Geohogan

        Jul 2, 2018 at 1:49 pm

        and use identical shafts both length and cpm. Then test all irons with the identical high end shaft.
        If they did that and new irons proved not to be significantly better than the old, would golfers stop buying new irons?

    • Johnny Penso

      Jul 1, 2018 at 7:25 pm

      There is a 4.5 degree difference in lofts between the 7 irons of the 845’s and the 790’s. That’s a whole club plus a bit. But your point is well taken. You’d think that someone in the golf business would now that you test dispersion at fixed distances not based on the arbitrary number on the bottom of the club.

  6. Tony

    Jun 30, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    845’s were my first irons. Shot my lowest round ever, 74, with those clubs.

  7. Dan

    Jun 30, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    readinf this I’m not thrilled I just dropped $1300 replacing my old irons

  8. SV

    Jun 30, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    Maybe it’s my eyesight, but dispersion for the 845s and P790s both distance and left to right appear to be about the same. The Burner has tighter dispersion. Trajectory is definitely better with the newer irons.
    If you want to improve find an old blade iron and practice with it. Add a real wooden driver also. It really does make a difference.

  9. K

    Jun 30, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Usually far from a quick improvement but Im a BIG believer in the old “true blades are the best teachers”. I know it can be tough for some people coming from GI irons to stick it out and make it work. Though once it clicks in their head how to strike it perfectly they are on a whole new level of lower scores. Everyone is capable of making it work. They might not hit the blades as far due to lofts and club speed at that point they should switch back to the GI clubs when on course and want distance/lower scores. I think everyone that wants to improve should at least get a few (if not a whole set) of decent used bladed irons and start practicing.

    • Richard Douglas

      Jul 1, 2018 at 9:51 am

      When I see tennis players practicing with Wilson T-2000 rackets I’ll agree. Until then, practice with what you’ll play.

      • Johnny Penso

        Jul 1, 2018 at 7:30 pm

        When I see professional golfers playing with blades I’ll agree…oh wait…

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WATCH: What to do when you’re short sided

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney shows you how to avoid compounding a mistake when you’ve missed the ball on the wrong side of the green.

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Why flaring your left foot out at address could be a big mistake

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In his book “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” published in 1957, Ben Hogan recommended that golfers position their right foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line, and then position their left-foot a quarter of a turn outward at a 15-degree angle (Note: He was writing for right-handed golfers). The purpose of the left-foot foot position was to assist in the “clearing of the left hip,” which Hogan believed started his downswing.

Through this Hogan instruction book and the others he wrote through the years, there four categories that defined his advice;

  1. He accurately described what was occurring in his swing.
  2. He described a phantom move that never occurred.
  3. He described something that occurred but to a lesser degree than indicated.
  4. He inaccurately described what was happening in his swing.

As evidenced by today’s modern video, Hogan did not open up his left hip immediately as he described. This piece of advice would fall into the fourth category listed above — he inaccurately described what was happening in his swing. In reality, the first move in his downswing was a 10-12 inch shift of his left hip forward toward the target before his left hip ever turned open.

SPINNING OUT

Those amateur golfers who strictly adopted his philosophy, opening the left hip immediately, ended up“spinning out” and never getting to their left foot. The spin-out was made even worse by the 15-degree angle of the left foot Hogan offered. That said, based on Hogan’s stature in the golf world, his advice regarding the positioning of the feet was treated as if it were gospel and adopted by both players and teachers. Since that time his hip action has been debated, but the positioning of the left foot has remained unquestioned — until today.

THE FLARED FOOT POSITION

The flared position of his left foot may or may not have been of assistance in helping Hogan achieve the desired outcome in his swing. That really is not the point, but rather that over a half-century there has never been a voice that argued against the flared foot position he advocated.

The rest of the golf world accepted his advice without question. In my opinion, the left foot position advocated by Hogan has harmed countless golfers who slowly saw their swings fall apart and wondered why. His well-meaning advice was a poisoned pill, and once swallowed by golfers it served to eventually erode what was left of their left side.

DEAD WRONG

The subject of this piece is not to debate Hogan’s hip action but the piece that accompanied it, the 15-degree flare of the left foot. I’m of the opinion that it is not only wrong. Because of its toxic nature, it is DEAD WRONG.  The reason has to do with the tailbone, which determines the motion of the hips in the swing. The more the left foot opens up at address, the more the tailbone angles backward. That encourages the hips to “spin out” in the downswing, which means they have turned before the player’s weight has been allowed to move forward to their left foot and left knee.

As a consequence of the hips spinning out, players move their weight backward (toward the right foot), encouraging a swing that works out-to-in across the body. You can see this swing played out on the first tee of any public golf course on a Saturday morning.

FOOT FLARE ISSUES

The problem with the 15-degree foot flare is that it promotes, if not guarantees, the following swing issues:

In the backswing, the flared left foot:

  1. Discourages a full left- hip turn;
  2. Encourages the improper motion of the left-knee outward rather than back
  3. Reduces the degree that the torso can turn because of the restrictions placed on the left hip.

In the downswing, the flared left foot: 

  1. Promotes a “spinning out” of the left hip.
  2. Does not allow for a solid post at impact.

STRAIGHT AHEAD

In working with my students, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most advantageous position for the left foot at address is straight ahead at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The reason is not only because it encourages a positive moment of the player’s weight forward in the downswing, but it also improves the player’s chances of making a sound backswing.

THE POWER OF THE LEFT HEEL

There is an inherent advantage to placing the left-foot at a 90-degree to the target-line. It is the strongest physical position against which to hit the ball, as it provides a powerful post at impact that serves to increase both power and consistency.

JACK NICKLAUS

A number of years ago, Jack Nicklaus appeared on the cover of Golf Digest. The byline suggested that in studying Jack’s footwork, they had discovered something that up to that point was unknown. The “secret” they were describing was that after lifting his left heel in the backswing, he replanted it in the downswing with his heel closer to the target line than his toe. The intimation was that this might be a secret source of power in his swing.  This was hardly a “secret,” and something that Nicklaus was probably unaware of until it was pointed out to him, but it’s a demonstration of the fact that his natural instinct was to turn his foot inward, rather than outward, on the downswing.

THE DISCUS THROWER

The discus thrower whirls around in a circle as he prepares to throw. On the final pass, he plants his left toe slightly inward, relative to his heel, because this is the most powerful position from which to cast the discus. This position allows the thrower to draw energy from the ground while at the same time providing a strong post position from which additional torque can be applied. The point is that as the discus thrower makes the final spin in preparation for the throw, he does not turn the lead foot outward. Why? Because if it were turned outward, the potential draw of energy from the ground would be compromised.

The same is true when it comes to swinging a golf club for power, and you can test the two positions for yourself. After turning the left foot into a position that is 90 degrees to the target line, you will immediately note the ease with which you can now turn away from the target in addition to the strength of your left side post at the point of impact. Conversely, when you turn your left foot out, you will feel how it restricts your backswing and does not allow for a strong post position on the downswing.

REPAIRING YOUR SWING

Do you have trouble cutting across the ball? You might look to the position of your left foot and the action of the left hip. The first step would be to place your left foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The second step would be to turn you left hip around in a half circle as if tracing the inside of a barrel. The third step would be to feel that you left your left hip remains in the same position as you scissor your weight towards your left toe, and then your right heel, allowing the club to travel on the same path. The combination of these changes will encourage the club to swing in-to-out, improving the path of your swing.

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Instruction

WATCH: Over-the-top vs. over-and-through: 1 destroys a swing, 1 can save it

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This video is about OVER-AND-THROUGH, which is very different than being over-the-top. Over-and-through is a great recovery from a backswing that is not quite in the right position. Over-the-top is flat-out a full default to the ball. See how you can bridge the gap with getting your swing to deliver better to the target!

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