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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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No matter what our experience, ability and handicap, all of us golfers have one thing in common–we want to play the best we can every time we tee it up. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. Having a bad day on the course is just part of the game, it seems, regardless of your skill level. But there are things we can do to make that happen less often, and other ways to get back on track when a round begins to go awry.

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Setting up a good round

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Give yourself a chance to perform your best golf right from the first tee

If it’s worth taking a few hours out of your day, it’s darn sure worth taking an extra 10-15 minutes to give yourself a chance. Stretch your legs and back/shoulder muscles that have shortened up from a few days or a week at the office and/or even a few hours of sleep. This is crucial to performing your best. Take a dozen or two back and forth horizontal swings with your sand wedge to get the blood flowing. These aren’t “practice swings” but more like baseball swings to further stretch out your shoulders and back and upper arms and get the feel of the club in your hands.

And for Pete’s sake, hit at least a dozen or so shots before you go to the first tee. At least a few chips and/or pitches and some putts. You have to get the feel of impact refreshed to have a chance.

Getting the derailed train back on track

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Reach for the 3-wood. If you have hit a couple of bad drives, drop back to the 3-wood, and get one in the fairway. It won’t be all that much shorter than your driver, and it will build some confidence. If the driver is the problem, in fact, bench it for the rest of the round.

Play to the “safe” side. If your iron shots are not sharp, play to the safe side of the greens and give yourself a chance to avoid the big number and put a par or two on the card. When you get your “mojo” back, you can fire at the flags again.

Play the fault. If you are blocking shots right, or a hook has raised its ugly head, play it! That is, if you can’t find the fault and fix it quickly. The range is the place to fix things, the course is for scoring. Unless you can find the fix quickly, just “dance with who brung you.”

Loosen up. A few bad shots will cause us to build body tension, and the first place that manifests is in our grip pressure. You cannot hold a golf club lightly enough, in my opinion–your body won’t let you. But you sure can get into a death grip quickly when the tension mounts. Run a mental check on your grip pressure and lighten up, particularly in the right thumb and forefingers. It will change things immediately.

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And as always, if you have a topic you would like me to address in a future column, just shoot me an email to [email protected].

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