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2014 Gear Trials: What are the best clubs in golf?

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“What clubs should I buy?” is such a loaded question, but it’s something all golfers find themselves asking at some point.

Ask 10 people their opinion on the best clubs in golf and you’ll get 10 different answers. And you can’t ask anyone who works for an equipment manufacturer. We’ve encountered very few OEM employees who won’t tell you that their company’s clubs will help you hit it “longer and straighter” than any other club on the market without hesitation.

So how can anyone actually figure out what clubs to play? It starts with an understanding that there are no “best” clubs, only the best clubs for you.

Our 2014 Gear Trials Best Clubs lists cut through opinions and marketing claims to help golfers choose the best drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons for their game. We rank the best clubs in three different categories — Distance-First, Forgiveness-First and Balanced-Performance — to help golfers gain a better understanding of what clubs will actually suit their needs.

Here’s a little bit more about how we break down our categories:

  • Distance-First: What clubs go the farthest? It’s a simple question that’s answered using launch, spin and ball speed. This category is skewed toward the needs of golfers with either really fast swings or those who create a lot a spin, because they are the golfers who tend to benefit the most from the low-spinning head designs that tend to create the most distance.
  • Forgiveness-First: It’s said that golf is a game of misses. The clubs in this category help minimize distance losses when golfers do miss the sweet spot. The formula here is more moment of inertia (MOI), which is what most golfers are talking about when they say forgiveness. A higher MOI helps your mishits fly more like your good shot, which means they’ll end up closer to your intended target.
  • Balanced Performance: Having top-level distance and forgiveness is the ultimate goal of club design, but it’s no easy task. This is our most stringent category that will fit the needs of the widest variety of golfers. Know that if you buy a club from this category, it is truly one of the best models in golf.

How could we possibly develop such a list? Read on.

Who votes?

In our past best clubs list, we relied on both the feedback of our equipment editors and an elite panel of custom fitters located across North America. For this year’s list, we decided we needed another component: mass player testing of every major manufacturer’s clubs performed by fitters at Miles of Golf in Ypsilanti, Mich. Those fitters spent eight days with 33 different testers of various ability levels evaluating each club from each category.

After that, we surveyed our five other top custom fitters located across North America: Carl’s GolflandModern GolfMorton Golf and two other custom fitters who chose to remain anonymous.

The scoring process

Unlike in years past, this year’s scores were entirely based on the performance of each club, removing the subjective categories of looks, sound and feel from the equation. What was left was the votes of our custom fitters (60 percent of the club’s score), the results of our mass player test (30 percent of the club’s score) and the votes of our staff members (10 percent of a club’s score).

The scores have been tallied and winners awarded. Below are the results, with the important areas of stress for each category.

2014 Gear Trials: Best Drivers

BestDrivers

2014 Gear Trials: Best Fairway Woods

fairwayredo

2014 Gear Trials: Best Hybrids

GTnewhybrid

2014 Gear Trials: Best Players Irons

ironfeatgt

2014 Gear Trials: Best Game-Improvement Irons 

gameimprvpic2-1

Click the links above or browse below to see the winners from each category. Read all about Gear Trial FAQ’s here.

See the 2015 Gear Trail Winners here

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

Whats in the Bag

Jeff Winther’s winning WITB: 2021 Mallorca Golf Open

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  • Jeff Winter’s what’s in the bag accurate as of the Mallorca Open. All photos c/o SMS_on_Tour

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Max (10.5 degrees @9.5)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black 60 6.0

3-wood: Callaway Mavrik Max (15 degrees @14)

Hybrid: Titleist TS2

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro ’19 (4), Callaway Apex MB ’18 (5-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (50-08F, 54-10S), Vokey Design WedgeWorks (58-L)

Putter: Odyssey Exo Two-Ball (White Hot Insert)

Ball: 2021 Titleist Pro V1x

 

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Whats in the Bag

Hideki Matsuyama’s winning WITB: 2021 ZOZO Championship

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Driver: Srixon ZX7 (9.5 degrees, flat)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Titanium (15 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 9 TX

5-wood: Cobra King RadSpeed Tour
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI

Irons: Srixon Z-Forged (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Wedges: Cleveland RTX 4 Forged Prototype (52-10, 56-8 @57.5, 60-08 @62)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (S400 in 52)

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Equipment

How did heavier or lighter shafts affect your iron performance? – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been discussing shaft weight and how it affects their iron play. WRXer ‘RoyalMustang’ kicks off the thread asking two questions:

“1) If you went lighter, how did it impact your game (down to 95-105g). Tempo changes, good or bad?   

2) If you went heavier (120-130g), same question? Good move?”

And our members have been sharing their experiences in our forum.

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.

  • gripandrip: “Average about 105 on my driver swing speed… not much more anymore. Currently playing to a ~2 HC. Switched from DGS300 to Steelfiber i95. No issues for me at all. I stayed with DG400’s in my wedges. Initially, I thought I had issues with dispersion, but after a couple of rounds, it was no longer a concern.”
  • mackepa: “I have found that around 120 grams is the “sweet spot” for my iron game. Anything heavier, and I start swinging hard to try to get the shaft to feel like it’s loading. Anything lighter than 120, and it starts to feel like a toothpick. I tend to also play my irons over length since I’m a little taller. I currently swing driver about 110mph, but I don’t really go after my irons with the same effort. I currently love the KBS $-Taper 120 Stiff.”
  • erikro: “Biggest difference for me is with the s300 shaft I feel it more the next morning. With a 105 gram shaft I have no trouble.”
  • Ri_Redneck: “I play graphite iron shafts, but only 115g and higher. I like a club with some heft. If they get too light, it throws my sequencing off, and balls go everywhere. I can’t say I’ve ever gotten too heavy in my irons, but 80g is the top of what I like in my driver and FWs.”

Entire Thread: “How did heavier or lighter shafts affect your iron performance?”

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WITB

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