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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 [email protected]#$ did you get the idea WRX was part of Conde Nast?

      And who the [email protected]#$ 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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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: It is early season WITB time!

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Played some golf recently and the “gamer” bag is getting a little more settled in. Time to do an early season WITB, what is staying and what is on thin ice to maybe be replaced!

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Your wedge shafts DO make a difference

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Over the past few decades, golf shafts have come to represent an extremely broad and deep segment of the golf equipment marketplace. And the major manufacturers spend countless hours evaluating shafts – within an acceptable cost range, of course – for their product offerings in irons, drivers, fairways, and hybrids. As a result, the custom-fitting layer of golf club retailing is myopically focused on shaft selection — often at a premium price.

Special shaft technologies are even finally working their way into some of the newer putters — but not your wedges.

Take a stroll down the seemingly endless display of wedges in any big store, and you’ll see numerous brands, models, lofts, finishes and sole grinds — but nearly every one of them has been fitted with the same type of heavy, stiff steel shaft. I’ve always thought that was really shorting golfers where feel and performance need to be pinpoint perfect.

I have learned from countless observations of golfers of all skill levels that getting the right shaft in these super-important scoring clubs can reap huge rewards in performance. Just like in your driver, the material, weight, and flex of your wedge shafts have to be exactly right for you to optimize your scoring range skill set — whatever that might be.

Stop to realize that, when it comes to the shaft in your wedges, you’re asking a lot. They have to stabilize the heaviest clubheads in the bag at full swing speed, in order to give you full shot trajectory control so that your distances are consistent. But they also have to give you precise feel and control of those touch shots around the greens where clubhead speed is only a few miles per hour. That requires the shaft to have the ability to flex or move a bit in order to give you optimum motion feedback — the sensation back to your hands of exactly where the clubhead is and what it is doing.

I think it is very important that wedge shafts should be fitted to the individual golfer’s strength profile.

Every week on television, we see the tour professionals exhibit an unbelievable display of short game mastery, hitting greenside wedge shots with absolute control of trajectory, spin, and distance. And while most all of them play a steel shaft that is the same weight as that in their irons, most all also opt for a bit softer in flex than the shaft in their irons.
But you have to also realize that these guys are top-level athletes who are extremely strong in the forearms and hands, so they can do things with a wedge of that overall weight that very few recreational golfers can even dream about – simply because you do not have the arm and hand strength to allow that level of precise manipulation of the club.

To solve this dilemma, I strongly advocate the following: Select a shaft for your wedges that closely approximates the weight of your short iron shafts. If you play lightweight steel or graphite shafts in your irons, by all means, demand the same in your wedges. This, of course, means you need to retrofit the wedges you have, or buy from a company that will accommodate your needs.

Your wedge shafts, however, should be a bit softer overall than your iron flexes to give you the feel you need around the greens. One way to achieve that is to select the same type of shaft as your irons, but in a softer flex, then cut back some of the tip section if you can.

And finally: test everything! Trying new things is one of the fun aspects of playing golf, and wedges are no different. You can experiment with different shafts in your wedges at a pretty low cost, so do it! I think you’ll have fun, and you’re likely to stumble on a formula that really improves your scoring.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Focused Phil does anything but flop at the PGA Championship

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That was fun. Through 55 holes, it looked like Brooks Koepka was ready to return from injury and establish his dominance with three wins in four years at the PGA Championship. Instead, his putter went dead cold and Phil Mickelson did the improbable.

Despite having poor form in recent weeks, Mickelson felt like he was on the verge of a breakthrough. He spent much of his recent practice working on focus. Staying present in the moment. In the end, golf is a mental game where a single uncommitted swing or distraction can lead to disaster and cost a tournament. There is no doubting Mickelson’s tremendous talent, but he is notorious for losing focus at the worst possible moment. Not this time. Between his practice and timely advice from his brother and caddie, he was able to remain dialed in down the stretch and outlast a star-studded leaderboard to win the PGA Championship at 50 years old. Incredible.

So, how did he do it? Well first, he hit bombs.

Mickelson has been all over social media discussing his “hellacious seeds” and “bombs.” Over the past several years, he put in a tremendous amount of work to go from average in terms of swing speed on the PGA Tour to fast. All of this at 50 years old. While this has separated him from fields on the Champions Tour, it has been difficult for Mickelson to keep it in play on the PGA Tour. Not this week. Mickelson may have only finished 29th in terms of strokes gained: driving this week, but he kept the ball in play and gave himself chances to hit the green. On a difficult, windy Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, that is more than many can say. In fact, he hit the longest drive of the day on hole 16 on Sunday. Take that Bryson. Using V1 Game’s driving distance analysis, Mickelson averaged over 300 yards across all drives for the week. This allowed him to dismantle the par 5s, which were critical to getting his overall score under par.

Mickelson did most of his damage on the front nine and in particular, holes two and seven above where he was 7 under for the week. V1 Game’s Hole History view gives a Shotlink-like view of how he played the two holes. Long drives in the fairway allowed him to be aggressive into the greens with easy chips or two-putt birdies. At a course as difficult as Kiawah, you have to birdie the holes you’re supposed to to give room for mistakes on the more difficult holes. Typically, the winner of each PGA Tour event makes very few mistakes. However, at Kiawah, mistakes were unavoidable. Between narrow fairways, wind, and difficult conditions, the week was more like a U.S. Open than a PGA Championship. Mickelson made mistakes, but he was able to minimize them with his amazing short game and tremendous lag putting.

The Virtual Coach in V1 Game details the mistakes Mickelson made throughout the week. Despite playing well all week, when the pressure was ratcheted up on Sunday there were more mistakes. Still, Mickelson did a great job of turning doubles into bogeys to minimize the damage. He was off to a shaky start on Sunday. He 3-putted the first hole and took 4 to get down from just 36 yards on the third hole. Around that time, his brother Tim told him to start committing to shots if he wanted to win. Mickelson was able to do that and didn’t make another mistake until the 13th hole by which time he had a five-stroke lead. Sometimes golf is a game of survival.

Not enough will be said about Mickelson’s putting this week. Phil is notorious for struggling with the short ones in pressure situations, and one observation from tracking his rounds — his lag putting was phenomenal. He consistently left himself inside two feet for his clean-up. This takes a tremendous amount of pressure off the putter when nerves are at an all-time high. This may not show up from a strokes gained perspective where you are rewarded for making longer putts, but not missing short ones is important as this was the downfall of both Louis Oosthuizen and Koepka. Mickelson may have finished 37th in strokes gained: putting for the week, but he made it easy for himself on the greens. So, if he finished in the 30s for driving and putting, how did he win the golf tournament?

If Mickelson is known for anything, it’s his prolific short game. He certainly shined when it mattered, gaining strokes on all four days around the green. He finished 18th for the week in strokes gained: short and made critical up and down time and again to minimize big numbers and save par. However, Mickelson truly separated himself with his strokes gained: approach gaining 4.4 strokes on the field with his irons and finishing fifth in the field. Add it all up and Phil is the winner in strokes gained: total and gets the Wanamaker.

It was a brilliant display of golf and focus. The scene at 18 was incredible as the crowd chanted “Lefty” and circled the green to watch the historic moment as the oldest man to ever win a major championship tapped in the final putt. Mickelson was focused. Golf is a mental game after all. The golf course was difficult and he played it better than anyone else.

Mickelson knew what he needed to work on these last several years to stay at the top of the game and has been able to do it through not just working on speed and hitting bombs, but improving his mental game along the way. V1 Game can help you understand what you need to work on to get better at any age and any skill level. Mickelson’s performance was inspiring as is his desire to use every tool available to get better. It was interesting late on Saturday to listen to both Oosthuizen and Koepka discuss their play. Louis was frustrated with his ballstriking, despite leading the field on Saturday in strokes gained: tee to green. It was his putter that was letting him down. Koepka complained about his putting after a late short miss when his iron play was below average for him. Even the best in the game can be confused on which area of their game is impacting their score. Strokes gained and V1 Game take the mystery out of game improvement. Whether you’re a young gun or closer to the Champions Tour, advanced analysis from V1 Game can get you following in Mickelson’s footsteps. What a great game golf is.

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