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Equipment changes come full circle for Choi

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By Zak Kozuchowski

GolfWRX Managing Editor

There’s a simple rule most golfers follow when making equipment changes – don’t mess with success.

And golfers certainly shouldn’t switch from a set of clubs that helped them win the biggest tournament of their lives – at least not for a while. But that’s exactly what K.J. Choi, winner of The Players Championship last year, has done in 2012.

In early March, Choi put away the set of Miura CB-501 irons that he used in his victory at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course for a set of Cleveland 588 CB Forged irons. Just a few weeks later he sampled another manufacturer’s clubs, Ping i20 irons. But as the one-year anniversary of Choi’s win approaches, he again finds himself using the same set of irons that he used last year at The Players.

Many people will jump to point out that Choi’s tinkering was unnecessary – he should have been working on his game instead of trying to catch lightning in a bottle with an equipment change, they might say. But there’s another way of thinking about equipment changes. Bill Choung of CompuGolf Center in Dallas has been working with Choi on his equipment since March 2010. Since Choung opened CompuGolf nine years ago, he has been seeking to answer a simple question,

“How does an equipment change impact the golf swing?”

He’s found that changing equipment has a very real impact on a player’s swing, especially with tempo and rhythm.

The goal of Choung’s work with Choi has been to give Choi a higher trajectory and more spin on his iron shots. Choi felt that he wasn’t hitting the ball high enough or with enough spin to control his distances at major championships – setups that generally have firm greens and tight pin positions.

There are several different ways of achieving that goal, and Choi and Choung have tried just about all of them. Choi played the 2011 Masters with a 6-iron hybrid, which gave him a higher trajectory, more forgiveness and more spin. But Choi felt that he was sacrificing workability and feel, which led to more experimenting.

Choung hit paydirt when he built Choi a set of Miura CB-501 irons just days before the 2011 Zurich Classic. To create Choi’s desired ball flight, Choung used KBS Tour parallel tip shafts, which are different than the taper tip shafts used by nearly every other PGA Tour player. Whereas taper tip shafts are precut to a specific length for a certain club (6 iron shafts are generally used in 6 iron heads), parallel tip shafts are uncut, which means that they can be trimmed to fit any iron head. This allows the club builder to trim the shafts to the exact stiffness that a player desires.

Shaft stiffness, which is measured by the frequency of a shaft, is important because according to Choung it changes the way a player loads and unloads the club during the swing. When trimming Choi’s parallel tip shafts, Choung cut more off the butt end of the shaft and less off the tip, creating a “softer” tip that allowed for a higher trajectory and more spin. Choi liked the combination of the parallel tip shafts and the Miura CB-501 head, and the results proved it. That week he put the clubs in play to finish in the top 5 at the 2011 Zurich Classic, and of course, to win The Players two weeks later.

There are at least two reasons why Choi decided to change from the iron set that brought him a $1.7 million payday and a new level of fame in the golf world. First, he received information that parallel tip shafts were not generally played on the PGA Tour, which made him interested in trying taper tip shafts. Second, he changed because he was in the process of trying out different iron heads and shaft combinations that he thought might improve on the results of the Miura set he used to win The Players.

When Choi changed to a taper tip shaft, he was forced to use a softer flex to give him the trajectory he wanted. While this resulted in the desired higher flight, he lost consistency and control.

Science or art?

Talking about Choi’s golf clubs in terms of shaft frequency, spin rate and launch angle creates the assumption that his swing is always the same. While Choi does have one of the most consistent golf swings on Tour, even he falls in and out of bad habits. That’s why it’s Choung’s belief that no matter how technically sound a golfer’s fundamentals are, the golf swing is still an organic movement.

“When [golfers] change clubs, what they are really doing is changing their swing,” Choung said. “More than anything, they are inducing a change in tempo and rhythm.”

So it’s no surprise to Choung that Choi has returned to his Miura CB-501 irons with parallel tip shafts. He was struggling during the time he was playing Cleveland and Ping irons, shooting only two rounds in the 60s during that period. Last week, when he returned to the Miuras, he shot two rounds in the 60s and finished tied for 39th. It wasn’t a huge improvement, but it was his best finish in relation to par since the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January.

Choung said that Choi’s performance since switching back to parallel tip shafts might have improved because of the increased tip diameter of parallel tip shafts — .370 inches instead of the .355 inch tip that taper tip shafts offer. So why don’t more Tour pros opt for parallel tip shafts if they offer more stability? According to Choung, it’s because parallel tip shafts are much more labor intensive to build. Choung and his staff at CompuGolf can build a set of taper tip shafts in about 30 minutes, while it takes them about three hours to build a set of parallel tip shafts.

A lot of independent club builders and even Tour vans can’t justify spending extra time to create frequency-matched sets either, but Choung’s research has shown the value in it. Because of the chaotic nature of the shaft industry, where one industry’s stiff flex is another’s x-flex, Choung places huge value in frequency matching, which streamlines the frequency throughout the set. For example, Choi’s driver shaft frequency, the base measurement Choung uses to find the frequencies for the rest of his clubs, is 271. As shaft length decrease, however, frequency must increase to match. Choung and his team did testing of exactly how many cycles frequency should increase as the shaft shortens .5 inches, and their researched concluded that four cycles is best. That’s why Choi’s 4 iron, which measures 38.5 inches, has a frequency of 314, while his 60 degree wedge, which measures 34.5 inches, has a frequency of 334.

So what does all this mean for the average golfer? Even if you don’t swing like Choi, Choung said that there is still good reason to go through a verifiable fitting process, especially processes like his that have an improvement guarantee.

“A lot of golfers come to me and they say I’m hitting my driver well, but can’t hit my irons,” Choung said. “Or they say that they’re hitting their irons well and can’t hit their driver. Often there’s a total mismatch between the driver and the irons. They’ve adapted their swings to either the driver or the irons.”

If you still can’t be swayed to go through a custom-fitting process, Choung has this advice for you. The club that you liked demoing so much – buy it. But don’t order it. Buy that exact club. Because chances are, the one you order will be slightly different.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. John

    Sep 19, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Jon, oftentimes players prefer softer wedges as they are not making full/all-out swings with those clubs. They are looking for more feel and control in the short, scoring shots. For this reason, we often build the wedges a little softer than the rest of the set.

  2. Jon

    Jul 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t understand the math. If 4 cycles per 0.5 inches is the rate, how do we go from a 38.5″ 4 iron at 314 cpm to a 34.5″ wedge at 334 cpm? Four inches is eight one-half inches, times 4 cycles, is 32 cycles. 314+32=346, not 334. The article makes no sense.

  3. Michael

    Jun 8, 2012 at 4:33 am

    Old news from the building stand point. I try to avoid using taper tip shafts, since you can’t make a set with a correct frequency slope. You would have to have to many sets in your workshop, to do it right and you would have to through away to many shafts, that just don’t fit into a matched set. This is why I always try to work with parallel tips.

  4. Tim

    May 17, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Mike, Really? That my friend, is how you frequency match a set of clubs.

  5. Ian

    May 12, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Bill Choung does great work. He did several clubs for me in Dallas years ago as well as clubs for many of my friends….the work was always first class

  6. Mike Krzewsky

    May 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    I heard this guy is not all that great and he had originally messed up KJ’s clubs by cutting the tip end instead of the butt end.

  7. Brian Cass

    May 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

    This is why Villegas and McDowell have struggled after seemingly nonsensical equipment changes (McDowell wins at Pebble then takes a signing bonus to Srixon…where’s he been of late?) Villegas wins Honda then switches to TMade (where’s he been of late???).

  8. Sam

    May 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Had that exact same thing done several years ago to a set (frequency matched parallel tip shafts installed). Initially felt soft but played some marvelous rounds with them. Went back to tapered tips and regretted selling the set ever since.

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Equipment

Should you be using a blade or mallet putter?

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‘Should I use a blade or mallet putter?’ It’s a frequent question, and here we will provide you with our essential guide to help you decide.

Blade vs Mallet: Which style suits you?

As far as golf equipment goes, your putter may be the most critical item in your bag. That’s why it’s crucial to know the key features of both blade and mallet putters and what they are designed to provide so that you can closely identify which style of putter your stroke and game require to help you lower your scores.

Blade Putter

Scotty Cameron Blade Putter

The traditional blade putter features a sweet spot positioned closer to the heel and designed to offer maximum feel to golfers on the greens

A blade putter contains a traditional head shape and is a favorite amongst golf ‘purists’. Blade putters are heavily toe-weighted with a sweet spot positioned closer toward the heel. This sweet spot position is because the shaft connects to the club head of the blade at the heel or sometimes center of the blade. This heavy toe-weighting and heel sweet spot means that blade putters will typically suit players who have an arc in their putting stroke.

Mallet Putter

TaylorMade mallet putter

A mallet style putter gives players stability and balance in their stroke.

The more modern style mallet putter is a flat-stick with a larger head. The heads come in various shapes and sizes, and because of the size, a lot of the weight is often distributed away from the clubface so that players find plenty of stability and balance in their stroke. 

The ‘game improvement’ style of the mallet putter means that the larger sweet spot will help players who struggle to strike the ball directly in the center of the face, and the added weight in the clubhead is designed to prevent the putter twisting during the stroke.

Mallet putters also offer additional aid when it comes to alignment, offering more prominent features than a blade such as longer or added lines and can also benefit golfers who struggle to hit putts hard enough due to its heavier weight.

Do pros prefer blade or mallet style putters?

With the 2020 season in the books, we can take a look at who were the top-10 performers in the Strokes Gained: Putting department for 2020 and see what style of putter they used:

  1. Denny McCarthy: Scotty Cameron Tour-Only FastbackMallet
  2. Matthew Fitzpatrick: Yes C-Groove Tracy IIBlade
  3. Andrew Putnam: Odyssey White Hot RX No. 5Mallet
  4. Kristoffer Ventura: Scotty Cameron NewportBlade
  5. Kevin Na: Odyssey Toulon MadisonBlade
  6. Matt Kuchar: Bettinardi Kuchar Model 1Blade (Wide)
  7. Ian Poulter: Odyssey Stroke Lab SevenMallet
  8. Mackenzie Hughes: Ping Scottsdale TR Piper C Mallet
  9. Maverick McNealy: Odyssey ToulonBlade
  10. Bryson DeChambeau: SIK Tour prototypeBlade

Blade style 60% vs Mallet style 40%

Should I use a blade or mallet putter?

Typically, this choice comes down to feel and stroke. Your stroke, just like the stroke of a professional, is unique, and your stroke will determine which style of putter will help you perform best on the greens. Like any other club in your bag, fitting and testing is a key element that shouldn’t be overlooked.

That being said, there are two prominent strokes and identifying which category you fall into can help identify where you fall in the Blade vs Mallet putter debate..

Square-to-square stroke vs Arced stroke

Square-to-square stroke

A square-to square stroke is when the putter face is lined up square to the target, and the stroke is straight back and through. If you possess a natural square-to-square stroke, you may be more suited to a mallet putter. The reason for this is that a mallet putter is face-balanced with the center of gravity positioned toward the back of the club meaning the club is designed to stay square to the putter path all the way through the stroke.

Arced stroke

An arced stroke is when the putter face will open and close relative to the target, and the stroke travels on a slight curve. Should you possess an arced stroke, then a blade putter may be more suited for you because of the natural toe-weighting of the blade-style putter.

Other factors to consider

Feel players will also usually opt for a blade-style putter, due to the desire to feel the way the ball reacts off the putter face which allows them to have more control over their putting and to gain confidence. Mallet putters make ‘feel’ less easy to attain due to the softer inserts on the clubface.

Don’t put aside the issue of aesthetics when considering the issue too. The look of a putter can inspire confidence, and each individual will feel different when placing either a blade or mallet-style putter behind the ball at address, so choosing a style which makes you feel comfortable is an important aspect to consider.

Hopefully, you’ve now got more knowledge as to how you can find the right putter shape for you and your stroke. At the end of the day, the right putter for you, whether it’s a blade or mallet, will be the one which helps and inspires you to make more putts.

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Equipment

It might be a good idea to cut down your driver

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There are a lot of ways to adjust your clubs at home with some simple tools, and one of the easiest jobs for the DIY golfer is cutting down clubs, especially cutting down a driver, and installing a new grip.

Cutting down a driver will have a number of impacts including making the driver more accurate because at a shorter length it is easier to control and make contact in the middle of the face.

PGA Tour driver length

Bryson DeChambeau testing a longer driver

On the PGA Tour, the average driver length is 45″, even though some golfers like Bryson DeChambeau with a Cobra SpeedZone and Adam Scott with a Titleist TSi4 *Prototype, have recently experimented with drivers close to the 48″ USGA limit to help pick up extra speed. Even Phil Mickelson has transitioned to a 47.5″ driver for extra speed, and has been using it on the Champions Tour and recently at The Match 3.

The longer driver theory works well for stronger and highly skilled players because of their ability to control a longer and heavier club at higher speeds, but for average golfers and most recreational players, this extra length means bigger misses and doesn’t always lead to extra speed—this is why playing a shorter length can help most golfers.

More on PGA Tour driver length: PGATour.com – Are long drivers here to stay?

Buying a new Driver

If you are buying a new driver, you can custom order any length you want through your retailer and the driver will be adjusted before final assembly. If you are buying a “stock” driver, most in the marketplace are now between 45.5″ and 46″ and many golfers struggle to control the club at those lengths. This is why many golfers choose to cut down their stock driver after purchase between 1″ and 1.5″.

What happens when you cut down a driver

When you cut down any club, especially a driver, it will feel lighter without any adjustment because you have moved the mass of the club closer to your hands. Just like a fulcrum scale used to measure mass, the closer the mass—in this case, the driver’s head gets to the fulcrum of the scale, the lighter it will “feel” to the golfer—this is called swing weight.

Thanks to adjustable drivers, it is easy to get extra weights from a manufacturer to help the driver feel the same before it was cut down, and as a general rule, for every 1″ you cut, you have to replace 12g back into the head,

To get an idea of what swing weight is, check out the video below that covers the subject.

TXG Driver length test

To see a shorter driver put to the test, check out the video by the team at TXG, where they compare a standard length 45″ driver to a 43″ driver and how they compare for distance and accuracy.

 

 

 

 

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Equipment

GolfWRX Classifieds (12/4/20): Scotty Cameron X6, Cobra Big Tour, TaylorMade P7MC set

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member coreyl – Cobra Big Tour 3-wood

If you are looking for a “big” off the tee alternative, the Cobra Big Tour 3 wood is a great option thanks in part to its larger head size and adjustable loft to get you dialed it.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Cobra Big Tour

Member JoeFrigo – Scotty Cameron X6 CS putter

The Scotty Cameron Phantom series is all about stability, and this X6 CS-center shafted model has been made even more stable with a BGT Stability shaft. With this putter, you’re going to run out of excuses for missing pretty quickly.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Cameron X6 putter

Member TigerInTheWoods – TaylorMade P7MC irons

Here is an almost new set of the hottest irons in golf, the TaylorMade P7MC’s. Going from 4-Pw and ready for your golf bag.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: TaylorMade P7MC

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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