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Let’s put an end to the term “women’s golf clubs”

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As someone who works in the golf industry and writes about equipment, but who has also worked as a clubfitter and club builder, I believe there is one part of the vernacular we need to eliminate—the idea of “women’s clubs.”

“Women’s golf clubs” have been around for as long golf clubs have been marketed, and for a period of time, like so many things I’m sure, they had a significant purpose: helping female players find what they needed to hopefully improve their golf games. But in this modern era of club fitting and customization, I think we need to put an end to identifying clubs by sex.

I remember my experience at the Titleist Performance Institute, and one of the first things I was told by my fitter Glenn Mahler was

“I don’t fit clubs based on gender, age, handicap, or physical abilities. I fit clubs for golfers, period—to allow them to achieve their absolute best results”

I believe this is the best way for people to start thinking more about the segments of clubs made for players across the board. Male golfers don’t walk into a big box store and say “I’m looking for men’s clubs,” they say “I’m looking for clubs,” and then they get fit. If a female long drive golfer (yes, I realize it’s a small market segment) walked into most big box stores and asks to try a driver, I’m willing to guess that 90 percent of the time someone is going to give them a very poor fitting club based solely on sex—and that’s wrong.

This is where the custom club fitting industry has been ahead of the curve for a long time. Golfers, regardless of sex, walk in with clubs. They are assessed, and then a fitting begins. I have built enough clubs to know that sex is not a discussion point when building a set. This is also where OEMs need to start figuring out ways to better communicate options instead of just offering some clubs in different color options.

Yes, there are OEMs that make wonderful sets of clubs designed exclusively for women—one of the best is Ping and its G Le series. Ping is currently in the second generation of the series, but the first generation G Le driver even won a major championship thanks to Pernilla Lindberg at the ANA Inspiration. But for some manufacturers, beyond a different shaft and grip options, there really isn’t anything else that makes the club itself truly different—and if we are just talking a shaft change, that can be made through custom order.

So, why call it a women’s club?

One of the best examples of building a unisex brand is Accra Golf shafts. They don’t identify their shafts by stiff and regular, they identify by a numeric code from M1-M5+. It’s extremely helpful for a couple of reasons, not just with women but with men in need of a softer flex (there always seems to be a lot of ego involved for some reason). It’s a lot easier to say “you are an M1 or an M2” rather than “sir, you need senior flex shaft”

As the demographics in golf continue to evolve—don’t forget women are still the fastest-growing segment of the golf population—I believe that more companies will be taking notice, and soon we won’t be talking about women’s clubs anymore.

I discussed the subject of “women’s golf clubs” on my podcast, On Spec, which you can check out below.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Urban Golf Performance owner Mac Todd

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In this episode of The Gear Dive brought to you by Fujikura, Johnny chats again with his old pal Mac Todd Owner and Operator of Urban Golf Performance in Los Angeles. They cover the growth of the business, what the new Club member experience may look like and much much more.

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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The Gear Dive WITB Edition: Adam Scott

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In this WITB edition of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with JJ VanWezenbeeck and Aaron Dill of Titleist Golf on the ins and outs of Genesis Invitational Champion Adam Scott’s setup.

Adam Scott WITB details below

Driver: Titleist TS4 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting, 2-gram weight)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

  • Scott put the Kuro Kage in play this week. Per Titleist’s J.J. VanWezenbeeck, “Adam Scott switched to the TS4 driver at the ZoZo Championship due to head size, shape, and improved launch to spin ratios. This week, after discussions with Adam, he went to a shaft he had previously played for increased stability. He felt the shaft went a little far and he lost head feel. We went on course with lead tape to get the feels to match up then weighted the head to preferred swing weight after testing.”

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (16.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Rombax P95 X

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (3-iron), Titleist 680 (4-9 irons)
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48.08F, 52.08F, 56.10S), Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (60.06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Xperimental Prototype Rev X11 (long)

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Scott marks his ball with dots in the pattern of the Southern Cross, which is featured on the Australian flag.

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

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