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What really determines feel in an iron?

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This story was selected as one of the 15 best GolfWRX stories of 2015!

How a golf club feels is usually a very important attribute for golfers, especially better players, and there are clearly very big differences in feel across clubs. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what really causes a particular feel.

It is important to note that the golfer defines what feel means to him or her and whether a club feels “good” or “bad.” The following is my attempt to explain a bit more about where feel comes from.

What are we actually feeling?

It’s probably best to start with a quick summary of what you feel when you take a swing. It’s basically a combination of two things: the sound created by high-frequency vibrations in the club head due to impact with the ball — typically a few thousand Hertz — and the vibrations that travel up the shaft, through the grip and into your hands. Those vibrations are much lower, typically tens to hundreds of Hertz.

Much of the sensation that is attributed to feel is actually the sound of the head. Any club has a distinct natural frequency and therefore a sound “signature.” Furthermore, off-center hits change that sound slightly and give a player the ability to discern the mishit, or what you would call feedback. We ran a test about 10 years ago that involved players hitting shots while wearing noise-cancelling headphones, and it became very difficult for them to distinguish any differences in feel from shot to shot or club to club.

The vibrations felt in the hands after impact are still an area of active research for us, but since they come up the shaft and through the grip they are actually more a function of those two components than the head. We still offer the Cushin insert, which dampens vibrations in the shaft after impact and helps a lot of golfers for whom those vibrations can cause pain and injuries. Also contributing to feel is the force felt in the hands during the swing and this is basically a function of the club weight and flexibility of the shaft.

These days in our player tests we will ask for feedback on how a club feels with regard to the weight and balance as they pick it up, how it feels during the swing, and also how it feels and sounds at impact. They can all be quite different.

What can be difficult for a club manufacturer is the range of sensations people want to feel. Some players want a lot of feedback to let them know they didn’t catch a shot in the middle of the face. Some don’t. Some like a powerful sound, others like something a bit more muted.

Do forged clubs really feel better?

There are some significant differences in sound and feel between most forged blade irons and most cast cavity-back irons. These differences, however, aren’t the result of manufacturing technique. Take a look at Figure 1 comparing the frequency response (basically the sound signature) for a forged 5-iron versus a cast 5-iron of exactly the same design from a paper titled “The Comparison of Forged Heads to Cast Heads for Golf Clubs” written by the Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech University. The conclusion of the paper was that for clubs with a similar material and a similar geometry there isn’t any real difference in sound or feel between forged and cast club heads.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 12.30.14 PM

Figure 1: Forged head (left) and cast head frequency analysis showing almost identical sound pattern for both clubs.

We ran a similar experiment that has become semi-legendary over the years in the engineering department. We made S59 6-irons using the same basic material and geometry in cast and forged versions. A test was conducted with 15 of our tour staff and only one player was able to successfully identify which iron was forged and which was cast.

It’s about material and geometry

So if it’s not the forging process that leads to the soft feel, what is it? The properties that really affect the frequency of vibration are mass and the elastic modulus of the material. Elastic modulus is essentially the force needed to permanently stretch or compress a substance. This is similar to, but not the same as hardness. Within reason, harder and softer metals won’t necessarily sound much different — it depends on the elastic modulus. Titanium alloys can be made to have a similar hardness as steel, but a much lower elastic modulus. On the other hand, many of the different types of steel used in golf clubs have a somewhat similar modulus, but vary quite a bit in hardness.

The other property I mentioned, mass, makes the biggest difference in irons. If we’re comparing two 7-irons, the total head mass is likely to be very similar, but the placement of that mass will change the sound significantly. Figure 2 shows toe views of a typical cavity iron and a blade iron. It’s not hard to imagine that the iron with perimeter weighting (the cavity back) will vibrate at a different frequency to the iron with more mass in the middle of the club (muscle back). It’s the geometry of these clubs that differentiates their sound, not whether they are cast or forged.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 12.30.52 PM

Figure 2: Typical cavity back iron shape (left) and typical blade iron shape (right).

The historical context

Clearly, the perception is still out there that a forged club feels softer than a cast club. Even here at PING we did an experiment recently where we took two identical S55 irons and etched “forged” on one of them. In the test, one in three players reported a softer feel from the club that had forged written on it, so just the word “forged” creates a particular thought in a golfer’s mind. The reality is that both forging and casting technology in golf have come a long way in the past few decades, and the lines between what manufacturers can do with forged and cast products have become very blurred.

I do still run into a lot of golfers who have the perception that cast clubs are harder and therefore can’t be bent for lie angle. They must have not seen PING’s 10-degree color code chart, which made its debut in the 1970s. The point is that perceptions take a long time to change.

The best thing golfers can can do is keep an open mind and actually experience the feel of different clubs themselves.

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Paul is the Vice President of Engineering at Ping, coordinating a department responsible for club design, development, innovation and testing. He moved there in 2005 after completing a PhD studying Solar Flares in the Mathematics Department at St Andrews University, Scotland. He has spent most of his time with Ping in the research department working on the physics of ball flight, the club-ball impact and many other aspects of golf science. Some of his projects at Ping include the nFlight fitting software, iPing, Turbulators and TR face technology. The idea behind these articles is to explain a bit about popular scientific topics in golf in a way that is accessible to most. Hopefully that will be easier than it sounds. www.ping.com

118 Comments

118 Comments

  1. Leon

    Jul 6, 2015 at 11:23 am

    A solid strike, dead center contact determines the feel…

  2. christian

    Jul 4, 2015 at 11:42 am

    From the back of my mind I had the inkling that I have heard about a set that was made of both 1025 and SS..And now I remember, there was the Titleist 735 chrome (1025 steel) and 735 Stainless Steel irons! Both forged btw, but different kind of steel, otherwise identical.
    And the consensus, and even official line from Titleist if I remember correctly was that the Chrome version felt softer and the Stainless felt firmer. So there you go.

  3. Paul Wood

    Jul 4, 2015 at 11:40 am

    To Bob on facebook: I’m sorry I don’t seem to be able to reply directly to these comments on facebook without logging in on my personal account. I’d really like to hear more about your experiences trying to bend our irons. We bend 5 up and 5 down at the factory but I know we do it a little different. If you could call Ping’s customer service and ask to be put through to me I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. I’d like to better understand the needs of folks like you regarding bending. As I said, we’re aiming for strong and high performance but bendable.

    • birly-shirly

      Jul 4, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      Paul – an article on bending Pings for loft and lie would be awesome. Ping provides a great customer service, but there are some of us who still like to do our own work.
      There is advice out there about whether it’s best to use heat (and re-glue), or brute force and perseverence, or give up altogether, the fear that beyond a degree or two hosels are more likely to break, and the issue of “memory” or the club returning to original spec.

      An informed response addressing these sort of issues would be great. I’ve liked Ping irons going back years, but the perceived issues with adjustment compared to traditional forged heads are a disincentive.

  4. Jayw

    Jul 4, 2015 at 4:42 am

    I believe that in the near future variable face thickness irons will be more the norm rather than the solid thick forged or cast irons. Most people, both Professional and amateurs have migrated from the old solid wooden and steel head drivers and fairways to variable face thickness. Some of the reasons are because of the better ball flight, feel, off center forgiveness, and in most cases, added distance. Some of the discussion is whether someone can really tell the difference between forged and cast irons. The answers are probably ~50/50 that you can or cannot tell the difference. I’d like to add one more iron to the discussion and that is variable face thickness irons. I believe that in the near future variable face thickness irons will catch on just like the Drivers and fairways. The VFT irons have most all of the benefits as VFT Drivers and fairways. You can use graphite or steel shafts and there is little or no vibration or shock on off center hits. Also, they do have feel. They are not muted so much that you can’t tell when you’ve hit it off center. I play the Wishon 771csi Variable face thickness irons and they feel and play great. I know for myself that I don’t ever want feel that occasional harsh toe shot that I felt in my old cast irons. I believe that most people can feel a distinct deference been a cast or forged iron to that of VFT iron.

    • Christosterone

      Jul 4, 2015 at 9:07 am

      I have Srixon u45 2 and 3 irons…
      I gotta say they are amazing to hit…
      I can see a whole,set being like them at some point in the future…
      I think Japan already has a titleist set like that right now.

  5. DJ

    Jul 3, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    you can use the same club head, but switch the shaft, and that’s where you’ll “feel” a difference.

    • RG

      Jul 4, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      The article is so correct. So much is in a golfers head. Yes the feeling is different from head to head, some people like steak and some like sushi. What I wouldlike is for Paul to do an article on shaft flex and how little it matters in performance, but how important it is in feel.

  6. TonyK

    Jul 3, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Maybe there is not much difference between cast and forged irons made from the same material, but showing frequency responses of the two does not convince me that much. I see a quite notable difference in the high frequency range (5+kHz) that can make enough difference in sound perception. Besides, Human perception of sound is extremely delicate and hard to be defined by a few frequency response lines. In this kind of logic or effort to define the sound, every violin would sound “basically the same” because their frequency responses are not much different. The truth is, there is a hugh difference that trained ears can easily tell between musical instruments of $100, $1000, $10K.

    I am more interested in the experiments that Ping’s engineers couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Also interestingly Mizuno once said that people with ears plugged couldn’t tell the difference in the irons feel.

  7. dcorun

    Jul 3, 2015 at 11:01 am

    I play the 588 MT irons with a forged face applied to a cast body and they feel great when hit solid but you know when you haven’t by the vibration or feel of the hit. How does this apply to a completely forged club and a investment cast club?

  8. Perry Gill

    Jul 3, 2015 at 10:50 am

    I’m sorry but this feels like BS. If the feel was the same between cast an forged, why does every cast ping iron have a shock absorber? Even the wedges. They have to be in there to not feel harsh.

    • M

      Jul 3, 2015 at 11:44 am

      If you are talking about weights in the heads, those are called CTP (custom tuning port) weights. They are there to dial in swing weight as well as help pull the CG lower and back.

      If you are talking about Cushin, that is a custom option to help soften certain vibrations which give some arthritic golfers pain in their joints.

    • Paul Wood

      Jul 4, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Christian, thanks for sharing. That’s a useful website and a decent explanation of some of the features, pros and cons of forging and casting.
      Paul

  9. kloyd0306

    Jul 2, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    Regarding the head – Paul has pretty much nailed it…….
    Mass directly behind the ball absorbs shock. The greater the mass, the greater the shock absorption.
    Whether cast or forged – if the degree of mass is the same, the degree of shock absorption is the same.
    The shaft plays a major part in feel as well.
    A slow swinger will find a C Taper X flex feels very harsh while a fast/strong swinger will find an A flex (steel or graphite) very mushy.

  10. Christosterone

    Jul 2, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    FYI: Ping uses deflationary protracted recession forging….it is forging but differs in its ability to “form” a wider array of metals.
    I play Japan Tour issue Srixon Z945 forged blades and, frankly, I love the chrome 🙂
    Make a cast club with a small head that is chromed and I’m game to try it…
    -Christosterone

  11. Gorden

    Jul 2, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    Hard to tell difference between a good casting and a good forged club, but you can tell the difference between a poorly cast club and a good one in seconds…….That was one of the big selling points for PING years ago, they called it investment casting….

  12. Walter

    Jul 2, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Great articles and comments.

    Thank you all

  13. BigBoy

    Jul 2, 2015 at 12:53 am

    Thanks, but I’ll keep hitting my real forged irons 😉

  14. Roger in New Zealand

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Great article ! Liking my S58’s more and more !!!
    Love the S55 and S59 test results !
    Recently bought a G10 3 wood and that sounds great too !!
    Especially when i hit it in the centre and it lands in the centre !!
    I have had softer forgings, harder forgings(710mb) and S58,s.
    Great to see the results are in !!
    Play your Best !!

  15. alan

    Jul 1, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    i own and practice with a set of i25s(cast) and play with ap2’s forged. i dont feel a difference in them, at all

    • BigBoy

      Jul 2, 2015 at 12:56 am

      AP2s, not a true forged iron.

      • Joe

        Jul 2, 2015 at 12:07 pm

        (another reminder you are reading GolfWRX). Tell us why the AP2 isn’t forged… Because it wasn’t a full moon and there wasn’t powdered unicorn horn sprinkled into the slurry? The club is a true forging with added technology. In fact the club couldn’t be MORE forged.

        • ABgolfer2

          Jul 2, 2015 at 4:36 pm

          Added technology? Clearly the club could be more forged.

        • Nathan

          Jul 3, 2015 at 4:10 pm

          Ahh the ap2 is pieced together with a forged face. True forged is from one piece of steel e.g mizuno.
          Cmon dude

          • SKip

            Jul 7, 2015 at 5:25 pm

            LOL you lose Joe. Probably plays AP2 and had his feelings hurt.

            • Jack

              Jul 8, 2015 at 3:28 am

              That’s what I play and it doesn’t feel that great. But I can’t argue with the results.

  16. Sean

    Jul 1, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    I’ve played both. A well struck shot with both feels great. I cannot tell the difference.

  17. Rich

    Jul 1, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    I haven’t read all 55 odd posts here so unless someone has already said it here goes. It’s not the manufacturing process that defines the difference in feel. It’s the material. Casting involves pouring molten metal into a mould and forging involves punching out a shape using force. If the same material is used in each process, of course there is little difference. However, I don’t care if your are a PhD of anything, you can’t tell me that if you were to cast one iron head of 17-4 SS and one of S25C carbon steel (if it could be done) that the S25C wouldn’t feel/sound softer than the 17-4 SS. It would be ridiculous to suggest that they would feel/sound the same. Feel is mostly about the sound and there is no way carbon steel heads sound the same as stainless steel heads, even if the same manufacturing process is used. People associate forging with carbon steel, not stainless steel, that’s why people say forged irons feel softer. While this article is fundamentally correct in a lot of ways, feel is not scientific, it is subjective and no matter how science tries, there is no way to measure or test a subjective point of view.

    • Large chris

      Jul 2, 2015 at 7:33 am

      Maybe have another go at reading the article then…..

      • Rich

        Jul 2, 2015 at 11:13 am

        What’s your point?

        • Large chris

          Jul 3, 2015 at 2:42 pm

          My point is that the article does an excellent job of explaining how a lot of ‘feel’ can be evaluated and measured scientifically, in direct contradiction of your meanderings and prejudice.

          • Rich

            Jul 4, 2015 at 1:09 am

            Prejudice? I currently play TMAG R9 TP irons and my spares are TMAG tour preferred MC (with the slot) and Ping S57’s. What prejudice would you be referring to? The one where I only play forged irons? Wrong pal.

    • Nevin

      Jul 2, 2015 at 9:13 am

      “We made S59 6-irons using the same basic material and geometry in cast and forged versions. A test was conducted with 15 of our tour staff and only one player was able to successfully identify which iron was forged and which was cast.”

      • Rich

        Jul 2, 2015 at 11:12 am

        Exactly. They used the same basic material, they just forged one and cast the other. Of course they are going to feel the same. It’s not the manufacturing process that dictates now soft and iron sounds/feels. It’s the material that is used to make the iron head. As I said before, it shouldn’t be a question of forged vs cast, it is a question of what material are the irons made from.

        • christian

          Jul 3, 2015 at 9:46 am

          Exactly. But casting soft carbon steel like 1020 or 1025 is apparently not ideal. So most cast clubs are SS. And forged clubs can take advantage of using the softer carbon steel, which from what I undestand is better suited to be forged.

    • Tom

      Jul 2, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      from your reply, “Feel is mostly about the sound and there is no way carbon steel heads sound the same as stainless steel heads, even if the same manufacturing process is used.” From the author, “The reality is that both forging and casting technology in golf have come a long way in the past few decades, and the lines between what manufacturers can do with forged and cast products have become very blurred” I guess you two will have to agree to disagree.

      • Rich

        Jul 3, 2015 at 4:13 am

        No, I don’t have to. I agree with him on that statement but that statement has no relevance to the quote you used from my reply. Read my reply again and you’ll see I’m saying it’s the material being used to make the iron that determines the feel as opposed to the manufacturing process.

        • Tom

          Jul 3, 2015 at 10:47 am

          “It’s about material and geometry

          So if it’s not the forging process that leads to the soft feel, what is it? The properties that really affect the frequency of vibration are mass and the elastic modulus of the material. Elastic modulus is essentially the force needed to permanently stretch or compress a substance. This is similar to, but not the same as hardness. Within reason, harder and softer metals won’t necessarily sound much different — it depends on the elastic modulus. Titanium alloys can be made to have a similar hardness as steel, but a much lower elastic modulus. On the other hand, many of the different types of steel used in golf clubs have a somewhat similar modulus, but vary quite a bit in hardness.”

    • M

      Jul 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm

      What is majority of Carbon Steel made of? Iron.

      What is the majority of Stainless Steel made of? Iron.

      The largest constituent of the metal will dictate the feel and the sound if they are made to the same dimensions like Paul says in the article regardless of process.

  18. Mo Betta

    Jul 1, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Sound is feel. Feel is sound. But Sound != Feel && Feel != Sound. Burma Shave.

  19. Jang Hyung-sun

    Jul 1, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    The two best feeling irons in my equipment room are 1972 Hogan Apex, and Miura Giken MB5003. Both of these are hand forged and by far the softest, heavy feeling, butter smooth irons I have hit.

  20. Joe

    Jul 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    GREAT Article. I’d call it GOSPEL.

  21. FlyPhish

    Jul 1, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    The frequency spectrum graphs are similar, but far from identical. There is much more noise in the cast, leading to a less crisp or defined sound and “feel” profile.

    This article is at best skewed, at worst misleading.

    • Boh

      Jul 1, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      The graphs may look slightly different, but from what I understand there was not a statistically significant difference.

      • FlyPhish

        Jul 1, 2015 at 5:50 pm

        It is a log based scale, please take that into account when pointing out small differences. Further, I’m sure all sound profiles of a steel golf club striking a ball “look” similar.

        It’s the details that distinguish them. The cast version is much noisier even with the naked eye. This is also not taking into account and signal processing that may have been performed.

        • KK

          Jul 1, 2015 at 9:45 pm

          No mention of the sole shape and turf interaction affecting feel. I think it, as well as sole size, does have an observable contribution.

    • Paul Wood

      Jul 2, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      I would agree with your general interpretation of the graphs. However, the conclusion of the authors of the paper at Virginia Tech, who are certainly more experts on this subject than I, was that the two clubs sound basically the same. Again, I’m not trying to make an argument for or against forging or casting. This was meant to say that the club’s geometry is a much bigger determinant of feel than the manufacturing method.

  22. Paul Wood

    Jul 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I’m really pleased that a lot of people have enjoyed the article and that a lot of people have had a comment to post on it. I’d love to reply to all but I’m not going to be able to – sorry. I would like to say that the intent was not to say that forged is an inferior way to make an iron. Forging is a very good manufacturing technique and so is casting. In the past, forging had massive limitations in terms of trying to create certain geometries but that has changed a lot as forging techniques have got better. Casting used to have limitations such as the available materials to use but that has changed a lot too. Even in my time at PING I’ve seen both manufacturing methods improve a lot. My aim was to try to explain a little more about what is happening when you feel a particular feel, not to try to deny anyone feels what they do at impact.

  23. Dave n

    Jul 1, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Regarding the legendary test: seems like something was wrong with the test if only 1 in 15 guessed correct. With so few permutations, I would have expected it to be around 50%…complete random selection could have done better than 1/15. Or maybe 25%. Any math/stats guys want to chime in on this?

    • Paul Wood

      Jul 1, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      In the test, 14 out of 15 reported they couldn’t tell a difference. They didn’t have to guess if they didn’t know.

    • petie3_2

      Jul 2, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      The way I understood it was the errors were random with regard to 14/15 subjects; the other guy could tell the difference correctly a significantly greater percentage of the time. BTW having played Cobra s2 cast and s2 forged they look very similar but have a much different feel; I prefer cast. Forgings and blades/musclebacks cater to the lower handicap (5 or better) player and wannabes. Those of us older than 70 just want to get the damn ball in the air fairly straight.

  24. chuck hackett

    Jul 1, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Still have a set of Hogans, 1-pw Apex 2. Must have had 6 other sets from Wilson to current Touredge full hybrids. Nothing ever felt as good when hit smack on the sweet spot. The comment on the soft tip Hogan shafts was dead on point!

  25. Tom Wishon

    Jul 1, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Paul, extremely well done and very pleased you introduced the golfers to the matter of clubheads having their own unique natural frequency – supported by the VaTech information. Very well done !

    Back in 2002 when I was working for a year as a production consultant for a major forging factory, we tripped across this almost by accident when we inaugurated a 5th step into the forging process. We did it chiefly to reduce the amount of material the workers had to grind from the heads to achieve a more consistent head after head profile shape in production for a major OEM’s forged iron model.

    Later on we found this 5th forging step not only tightened the weight tolerance of the raw forgings to allow for higher consistency in overall production, but in packing the carbon steel more densely in the die, the photo micrographs showed a significant reduction in the internal voids and inclusions within the steel. This in turn changed the natural frequency of the heads upon impact which was detected in the form of a change in impact feel by the tour players who used the irons before with only a 4-step forging process vs the same iron model after the 5th forging step was added.

    Great contribution here to add more basis for the weight distribution/geometry having more to do with the impact feel of the iron head. Well done and thanks for your time.

    • Cliff

      Jul 2, 2015 at 8:19 am

      This comment leads me to believe that forged irons are superior to cast if forged correctly.

      • Tom Wishon

        Jul 21, 2015 at 10:50 am

        Cliff – not really. Both methods of production have their plusses and minuses in different areas related to quality and performance. With straight forging, you can’t make the iron with as deep of a back cavity to have as high of an MOI as you can with casting. But then if you forge a blank back head but then CNC machine the entire back cavity, you then can achieve the same high MOI that is so routinely possible in a casting. Problem is, that costs a lot more to do that so not all golfers are going to spring for such an iron.

        While a few years ago it was not possible to cast the same 10 series carbon steels used in typical forging of iron heads, today some factories can cast 10 series carbon steel alloys. So that offers a reason to say the superior weight distribution creation capability of casting can combine with the softness of carbon steels to offer a good performing iron design.

        In the end, it is up to the designer and the production factory as to the final quality and final performance of any head design. But no matter what, no clubhead can work as well as it was intended to perform unless it is combined with proper fitting of all the other specs to each different golfer. That part will never change no matter where head design goes in the future.

    • Paul Wood

      Jul 2, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      Thanks Tom. Very nice to get an encouraging comment from you. Clearly this topic has interested folks and inspired some debate which has to be a good thing.

  26. other paul

    Jul 1, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I played xhot tours for a year and switched to titleist CBs and I can’t tell the difference at all on a perfect shot. Bad hits obviously felt better with the frying pan Xhots.

  27. Stephen Zap

    Jul 1, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    I certainly have no problem believing that a forged and a cast club made of the same material and geometry feel the same, especially with same shaft and swingweight, and as interesting as this is, I am not sure what the value is. Does anyone make a forged club and a cast club with the same material and geometry?

  28. Leanord Hofstatder II

    Jul 1, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    I think you hit on the key when you wrote “The other property I mentioned, mass, makes the biggest difference in irons. If we’re comparing two 7-irons, the total head mass is likely to be very similar, but the placement of that mass will change the sound significantly.” Using modal analysis to evaluate golf club performance as far as feel goes, a lab at Iowa State U sought to differentiate why some clubs feel good and others clunky. This was not standard frequency analysis. What they clearly found was mass distribution impacted the factors of “feel” more than anything. Muscle back designs by nature are more desirable for low vibration feel (and sound since they’re twins) by virtue of their inherent mass distribution (whether stamped “FORGED” or not). But cavities can be designed to perform that way too. They also found that the torsional component more than linear ones contributed to feel, so hitting it that sweet spot to reduce twisting is #1 for optimal feel… but of course everyone knew that from experience! (ref Sound and Vibration magazine March 1995)

  29. Kelly

    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks, Paul. This was a really fascinating, informative read. I believe everything you say in this article completely! I had intuitively made the connection between sound and feel but had no concrete basis for it. I’m glad to actually have this confirmed by someone with your knowledge/background.

  30. Ryan

    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Paul,
    I work at a golf shop and every person that wants a cast iron’s lie angle changed, besides Ping, we always say that there is no guarantee that we can get more than a degree either way. Cast clubs have a tendency to break or the lie angles will snap back, whereas forged clubs can be easily adjusted. Does the heat treatment that Ping uses make the difference in their adjustability?

    • Kelly

      Jul 1, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      I don’t think it has anything to do with it being cast or forged; it has to do with what metal is used in the casting. For example a 17-4 stainless steel is very hard and difficult to bend. But other metals, such as the 303 stainless steel, is easily bent. My SMT 303MB/CBs bend without a problem. In fact, over consecutive bends, my 7, 8, and 9 irons got to be as far as 6 degrees from the original manufactured lofts. I bent them back to the suggested lofts a while back — that was an eye-opener let me tell you! Turns out I can’t hit a 9-iron 150 yards. 🙂

    • Paul Wood

      Jul 1, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Ryan, yes it does. It’s like baking a cake – the oven settings are just as important as the ingredients. It’s very much the same with materials. In particular, we want to get the heat treatment to provide a material that is strong but will still bend without breaking.

      • john

        Jul 1, 2015 at 11:57 pm

        that’s funny since ping’s are well known as the hardest to lie angle bend lol

        there’s a pro in a club not far from me who heats them up to glowing red then bends them, only way to do it.

  31. Jim M

    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Awesome recent tags by Chuck,Wendell….with same iron head, regardless of shape & steel properties; it’s gotta be shaft. As this site tried (in some vane!) to compare blades in shootout (they 4got FEEL, Workability, Looks @ Address!) recently, a better feel test should be made with iron shafts of Same Wts. class. Try all S flex steel from 120g-132g in one category, all S flex steel from 105-119g next, and S flex steel <105g last. That's the one that would end feel differences, they could put them all on a common Ping iron head for all I care.

  32. random guy

    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    ” We made S59 6-irons using the same basic material and geometry in cast and forged versions. A test was conducted with 15 of our tour staff and only one player was able to successfully identify which iron was forged and which was cast.”

    Why not test feedback for different levels of carbon in the cast vs forged irons? Scientifically, one is softer than the other and could definitely have an impact on sound; which is apparently the only deciding factor in feel….

    • christian

      Jul 3, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Exactly, one of the heads should have been cast SS and the other 1020 forged. And the two heads should be identical otherwise.

  33. Robert

    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    We still have forged Anser fitting heads in our Ping fitting cart! There is no bias from the article-they make both cast and forged heads. He is trying to educate the consumers to what is actually happening. Sounds like readers are biased and can’t change their minds after an unbiased article.

    • Boh

      Jul 1, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      even if article is biased, the scientific study was conducted by a university. Some may still feel there is bias, but they could probably go find the study, read the details, and see there really isn’t a measurable difference.

  34. Alex T

    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    If what’s written in this article is true, and I see no reason to disagree with or disbelieve it, then why do manufacturers still even make forged clubs? What’s the point? Surely it would save everyone involved (producers and consumers) loads of money to just cast everything? Either way, I won’t be trading in my MP-64s any time soon, I’d just like to know…

    • Boh

      Jul 1, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      marketing

      • random guy

        Jul 1, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        so mizuno and miura, who do very little marketing, forge their irons only for marketing purposes? makes sense

        • Boh

          Jul 1, 2015 at 2:42 pm

          marketing doesn’t just include money spent on advertising. At one point they built their supply chains to do forged irons. When I think Mizuno I think forged, that is marketing. People associate the mizuno name with forged and that is why they continue doing it.

          Same would go for any forged JDM. When you are known for doing something you will continue doing it until it is not successful. If they were truly struggling companies and couldn’t sell a forged offering, they would probably look to cast clubs.

          Mizuno did come out with the JPX EZ which I believe was cast, and they followed it up with a Forged version. I don’t play Miz, but seeing sales numbers would be interesting

    • christian

      Jul 3, 2015 at 9:55 am

      Because the softest carbon steel is not very suitable to being cast. Otherwise Ping and others would cast clubs in 1018 or 1020 steel. And forging still gives the tightest tolerances and most uniform grain.

  35. Doc

    Jul 1, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    I don’t know anyone who REALLY cares what sound an iron makes. If the ball flight is good and it has solid strike feel across the face nobody will care what frequency the sound is. To me, “feel” is 95% more about the head/shaft balance and swing weighting. I can pick up a great club from a tour pro and still not like it before I even make a swing.

    • Carlito

      Jul 1, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      But if the sound directly translates to the feel, doesn’t that mean we should all care about it?

  36. Stephen Zap

    Jul 1, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Interesting article. Is this just talking about the difference of a forged or cast club made of the same steel or does it include the difference in feel between a 17-4 stainless steel club and a 1020 carbon steel club? I have worked doing club repair including loft and lie alterations for several years. My experience is that the 17-4 club is much harder to bend than the 1020 carbon steel club.

  37. Ronnie

    Jul 1, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Have you tired Miura Irons, Try and compare Ronnie

    • LR - France

      Jul 1, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      Yes I tried. Too expensive. Not a big feel difference with other good forged heads.

  38. Victor K.

    Jul 1, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for a clear and concise article Paul. The myth that forged clubs are softer than cast clubs has been an oft-repeated marketing dictum. Having said that, while I have bought many sets of modern clubs both cast and forged, my personal preference is playing a set of old Jack Nicklaus forged clubs with traditional lofts.

    • christian

      Jul 4, 2015 at 6:02 am

      If anybody ever believed that just forging something would make it softer then I feel sorry for them. What is true, and is the basis of the marketing you refer to as being false, is that a 1020 iron head will feel softer than a stainless steel one. And SS i really rather unsuitable for the forging process (to much wear on the die) and soft carbon steel does not cast well. So the marketing saying forged 1020 or 1025 or 1030 irons feel softer than cast SS is completely true.
      Forged = almost always soft carbon steel. And only very rarely 8620 or even stainless, but it’s VERY rare.

  39. Adam

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:50 am

    I’ve tested numerous clubs, cast and forged. I will tell you this, that a flush shot is a flush shot is a flush shot. Some clubs (like the 5 iron in the i25 and RSi2 sets which are cast) felt better across the board because of forgiveness on mishits compared to forged blades. I chalk this up to a bigger difference between cavity backs and blades then it is a difference between forged or cast. I went into my last fitting expecting to buy the forged AP2s and walked out with cast i25s and couldn’t be happier!
    But I will say that the i25s feel a million times better than my old i5s. Maybe its the geometry of the club or slightly different materials, but it’s a massive difference and I couldn’t ask for any more “feel” out of my new clubs

  40. Nor

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:50 am

    So are you saying expensive casted clubs made by Ping are no different from cheaper casted sets such as SpeedBladez?

    • Scooter McGavin

      Jul 1, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      Since when are Ping clubs more expensive than Taylormades? Speedblades are only cheaper because they are like 1 or 2 years old. Their current RSI 1 is the same price as the G30 irons. $800 for an 8 piece steel set.

      • Nor

        Jul 1, 2015 at 7:47 pm

        And Ping keep their irons on sale for 2 years so compare them to discounted TaylorMade is fair game. And it can be any iron, some bargain basement at a bigbox store is as good as Pings as long as the shape is similar!

        • Scooter McGavin

          Jul 6, 2015 at 12:55 pm

          When it comes to feel, maybe, but that is all the article addresses. Your comments say that other clubs are “no different” or are “just as good” if they have the same head shape. They might have the same feel, but I wouldn’t say no different. There is overall build quality to consider. A bargain bin iron will use worse materials and components including epoxy, badges, shaft, grip, etc. That’s why cheap clubs break or fall apart. He even says that the shaft plays a role in the feel. And as a side note, yes, TMAG discounts their old clubs, but so does Ping. A more accurate comparison would be Speedblades to G25s. But to imply as you did in your 1st comment that Ping clubs are more expensive than other major OEMs is just not accurate. They are around the same price, and they also discount their old clubs. It’s just done over a longer span of time.

          • Nor

            Jul 7, 2015 at 11:22 pm

            Pings are more expensive where i live i based my comment on that.

            If Ping and Taylormade are roughly the same price, then the feel, construction quality and performance should be similar, yeah?
            Yet all i saw around here was people bashing Taylormade and praising ping, totally in contradiction with the article.

  41. LR - France

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:49 am

    The article is partially true. It is not the process that makes the difference (cast vs forged).
    Shape of the head has an impact on feel (cavity vs muscle) but also the properties of the material.
    Most of the time forged heads use “softer” material than cast heads.
    Casting process cannot accept “soft” material used for forging process.

    • BcavWecllh

      Jul 1, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      Not true. Feel is mostly sound. The ball is on the club face foe about 1/2 second per round. You can’t feel that.

      • LR - France

        Jul 1, 2015 at 12:36 pm

        Yes I can

        • Carlito

          Jul 1, 2015 at 9:33 pm

          So did you just read the article and completely dismiss it? He even gave an example where tour pros could not differentiate the two based strictly on the feel. Not saying you couldn’t be the rare person who can accurately discerne the difference but the article clearly states that using similar material with the different processes there is not a difference in sound or feel.

    • M

      Jul 2, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      Vokey casts from 1025 carbon steel which is typically a forging grade for the golf industry.

      Stainless steels (like 17-4) can also be forged. However it takes more force to shape the metal since heat cannot permeate the body of the metal as well as carbon or low alloy steels (like 8620 or 1025). The added alloy elements that decrease corrosion and increase strength are what cause the lower heat transfer.

      It can be done but it takes more forging stages and longer heating times.

      • christian

        Jul 3, 2015 at 9:59 am

        Vokeys are cast 8620. Softer carbon steel like 1020 and 1025 is really not suitable for casting. Vokey DO have the JDM cold forged wedges that are forged 1025.

  42. Lindsay Morrison

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Great article. I’m a crappy golfer looking to change my Hi Bore Clevelands for something that goes further. I’m reading everything I can find. It seems that forgiving irons don’t go as far as unforgiving irons. For Tom above it’s GUCCI no Cucci;) I’d drive a Porsche if I had the money.

  43. Max

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I have alternated between Mizuno and PING for the last 25 years. My experience/perception is that nothing comes close to the feel of a pured forged blade long iron. None of my PING clubs have ever come close in that regard. I also believe that the less of a divot you take, the more you can tell the difference. I cannot tell a difference in wedges, short irons or even down to 7, or even 6. But, sweeping a 3,4,5 iron off the turf (and especially off a tee on a par 3) and forged just feels better. I grew up playing blades before all this ‘forged feels better’ marketing and that has been my experience. However, I recently had the i25’s and they were pretty good so the gap is closing for sure.

  44. Jonny B

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:19 am

    I play cast irons – X2 Hot Pros. They didn’t feel as great as my previous forged set (Titleist 804), but the added distance and forgiveness was worth it. To compensate for the lack in feel I swapped the DG shafts for KBS and installed some foam shaft inserts right below the grips. They feel great now!

  45. chad ryan

    Jul 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

    I agree the differences are not dramatic. But i would also say that perception is reality. And if you perceive a club to feel better, then to you, it does.
    *It should also be noted that this is not an unbiased article it’s written by a guy who works for a company that doesn’t make forged clubs. So naturally he would present evidence that there is no difference.

    • J

      Jul 1, 2015 at 11:41 am

      They don’t? Huh.

      • M

        Jul 1, 2015 at 11:45 am

        Chad – what about forged Anser irons? Although they haven’t released one in a few generations.

        • chad ryan

          Jul 1, 2015 at 12:01 pm

          I know those are forged. But currently PING does not make forged irons. They are the only premium manufacturer i can think of that doesn’t.

    • Tom

      Jul 1, 2015 at 11:45 am

      The bias card already. I have read similar articles from writers/testers who are not affiliated with any club producers.

    • BcavWecllh

      Jul 1, 2015 at 12:28 pm

      I used to work for a major ball mfg. we did the same sort of testing for ball hardness. When wearing headphones, players couldn’t tell the difference between a balata ball and a two piece surlyn ball because they couldn’t hear impact. If you think you can tell a difference it’s because you think there is one.

  46. Lee H.

    Jul 1, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Why does it seem like cast irons hit the ball further than a similarly styled forged iron? I’ve tried different brands that make a cast cavity back model and then a similar cavity back pro model that’s forged.

    • Boh

      Jul 1, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Could be the loft, shaft length, shaft, spin rate, launch angle, plethora of other metrics not contributed by the club.

  47. duckjr78

    Jul 1, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Great article by one of the sharpest minds in the golf club business. Thank you for sharing a bit of your expertise with us Paul!

  48. J

    Jul 1, 2015 at 10:33 am

    So who’s going to be the first to tell the man with the PhD that works at Ping that he’s wrong?

    Cool article. Nice read.

    • Tom

      Jul 1, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Don’t worry some JDM lovin, muscle back carrin, Porsche drivin, Cucci wearin poster will soon be on a rant.

    • Boh

      Jul 1, 2015 at 11:34 am

      People who don’t believe in science. I like my forged clubs, but it is personal preference.

  49. Chuck

    Jul 1, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Very nice article, and very well conceived. Bravo.

    I’d like to add one other point, or at least one other data point. For years, the standard in forged “feel” were the old 1970’s – 80’s era Ben Hogan Apex lines. Young golfers might not even know about those clubs, except by reputation. There was something important about those clubs, which led to their reputation for great “feel.” It was this; while they were certainly forged, and they were the truest of true blade designs with narrow soles, a high center of gravity and no perimeter weighting, they also used the Hogan proprietary Apex shaft, which had a very soft tip. (Apex shafts were numbered, 1-5, instead of R-S-X.) It was a low-hitting forged blade head married to a soft-tip higher-hitting shaft. The shaft essentially made the head feel soft.

    • wendell

      Jul 1, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      i agree with this… the right shaft can make a club Feel better and the the wrong shaft can make a club feel horrible. Not enough focus on the shaft and what it does in relation to the feel of a golf club.

    • golfprotj

      Jul 1, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      The Apex shafts were mid kick/mid tip/118 grams, You stand corrected lol

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Plenty to be thankful for

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golf course sand bunkers

This has always been my favorite week of the year, well, at least since I got old enough to understand that Christmas gifts do not just “appear” out of nowhere. I think that was about 60 years ago! This is the week of the year where, hopefully, we all take time to ponder the wonderful blessings of our lives.

No matter what 2022 might have brought you, I’m sure you can find at least a handful of blessings to be thankful for. My favorite holiday movie is a 1942 Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film called Holiday Inn. If you haven’t seen it and enjoy old movie musicals, you might make it a “must see” this season. Besides being the movie where the classic White Christmas was introduced, there is a wonderful song for Thanksgiving called Plenty To Be Thankful For. It’s also a favorite of mine.

As I ponder my own year and the 70 years before it, I realize I have so many wonderful things to be thankful for. That starts with my blessing of good health. I find it remarkable to be on the north side of 70 and still have no issues. No prescription drugs. Only one visit to the hospital in my life, the result of a motor scooter incident when I was 13. A fabulous Mom and Dad, small town upbringing. A lifetime of great friends and the blessing of living in a small town on the Texas coast. And most recently, the entry of a great lady into my life that makes it all so very much better.

I have the opportunity to run a fledgling custom wedge company, Edison Golf, which allows me to challenge the entire category with different thinking. And I love writing this column every week to share the many lessons learned and observations made in this 40-year career in the golf club industry.

There are just so many things I cannot list them all. But right there with them is the blessing of the strength and flexibility to still move the golf ball around pretty good. To be able to still play to a low single digit handicap from the regular tees (no ‘senior tees’ for me, thank you), and test courses from the back tees occasionally is fun.
That last blessing comes straight from God, of course, but I “help Him out” by making stretching and fitness a part of my daily regimen for over 30 years. And that is something anyone can do to improve their golf scores.

As we all face the “off season” (even here in South Texas it gets cold and rainy occasionally), you can make the decision to have lower golf scores to be thankful for this time next year. Just because you are cooped up inside for the next few months doesn’t mean you have to forego golf and preparation for next year can begin right now.
I believe flexibility is more crucial to stronger shots and lower scores than strength. A simple internet search can turn up dozens of good guides to stretching for a longer, fuller and stronger golf swing. If you add a bit of endurance and strength training to that, it’s amazing what will happen to your golf fortunes. Nothing more complex than a daily walk and swinging a weighted club daily or several times a week will pay off big dividends when you can get out on a winter golf vacation or next season starts.

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving, and I look forward to another year of being able to share my lessons from a lifetime in golf and over 40 years in the golf equipment industry. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Fortinet Australian PGA Championship: Betting Tips & Selections

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Is Cam Smith in Oz the Jon Rahm of the Spanish Open?

The recent, dominating T2/winner of the DP World Tour Championship went off at around 9/4 to beat Tommy Fleetwood, Min Woo Lee and company in Madrid in October, eventually sauntering home by six shots and delighting home fans supporting his third win at his home Open.

This week, Smith looks like going off at much bigger (at 7/2) to beat a slightly fuller depth of field, again including Min Woo, to win his third Australian PGA, after going back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

There is little left to say about the winner of the 150th Open Championship in terms of class, summarised by the run of T2/T10/T3 at the three most recent Masters, as well as wins at the Sony Open, Tournament of Champions and The Players.

Of course, his career year has also been hot with controversy, denying a move to LIV and then vehemently defending his right to join the Greg Norman-led tour a couple of weeks later, but that’s not our concern as bettors. Indeed, look at the way his presence has been received back home.

Smith’s local Brisbane Times reports that the 29-year-old superstar was the first golfer to be awarded the ‘keys to the city’ and will also probably get his desire of a LIV event in Queensland.

He’s huge news back home, and if we are looking back at that Rahm comparison, looks pretty big at over 3/1.

Smith, though, is a grinder, no matter how good of one, and whilst wins have come in decent numbers under par, he tends to win when the short game simply outlasts everyone else in tough conditions. I’m not certain he gets that here, where the winning score was 22-under last time (in January 2022), and examining his impressive victories, it’s worth noting that none of his six PGA Tour victories have been by more than a single shot, with his second Oz PGA by just a stroke further.

You can count the LIV victory as better than I do if you like. No complaints on that score, but following that win he’s gone 42nd and 22nd on LIV – beaten by a lot less a player than he faces this week.

The filthy each-way doubles look certain to be popular, with Smith across the card from Joburg fancies Bezhuidenhout and Lawrence, but in a light betting heat, I’ll take a chance with just a couple of wagers.

Just one outright for me this week.

Golf form site, tour-tips.com  rates Ryan Fox the number one this week, a short-head over Smith, and whilst he isn’t quite that elite class, his form shows he is plenty good enough to beat the favourite on his day, and hasn’t that much to find in comparison to Adam Scott, MIn Woo and Cam Davis, all of whom are rightfully respected and popular.

Fox is easy to precis.

In what has been a stellar season for the always-promising Kiwi, the 35-year-old has improved from around 200th in the world rankings at gthe start of ’22, to a current ranking well inside the world’s top-30, and certain of invites to all the most desired events.

Fox waltzed home by five shots in the desert at Ras Al Khaimah and won again by a stroke at the Dunhill Links, an event including tournament stalwarts Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood. In between, Fox posted eight top-10 finishes including running-up in Belgium, at the Dutch Open, Irish Open and, just a couple of weeks ago, by a shot to Fleetwood and one of the latter’s favourite courses, the Gary Player GC.

Fox went into last week’s DP championship as a live contender for the title, which, given his commitment to the European Tour, would have been richly deserved. Perhaps that’s too political for here, though.

Either way, despite starting slowly in Dubai, he made his way up to 19th after four steadily improving rounds, enough to hold off Rahm from swapping places at the end-of-year rankings.

The silver medal is the least Fox should have got, and with a strong game on the sand-belt and a significant win in Queensland at the QLD PGA in 2018, challenging here should be a formality.

Fox has always had a strong driving game, and finding greens has rarely been an issue. However, he’s now gone from being one of the worst with the flat stick to ranking in the top-10 for putting average at even the toughest of courses.

I have the selection at the same price as Min Woo, who may have needed the run-out when a beaten 6/1 favourite here 11 months ago, so that 14/1 is simply too big to resist, especially as the latter has not won since July last year.

Fox can continue a big year for the Kiwis following Lydia Ko’s brilliant victory and subsequent crowning as this season’s LPGA queen.

The only other wager that appeals as a value pick is defending champion Jediah Morgan over Marc Leishman in a match bet.

Leish is a bit of a hero of mine, but it may sadly be time to give up on him as a serious potential winner in this class.

After a lucrative career, the 39-year-old came off a Covid slump to once again show up at Augusta over the last couple of years, but this has been a poor year.

There have been highlights – top-15 at the U.S Open, maybe – but he played poorly at River Highlands, in an event at which he historically does very well, and followed that with missed cuts at the Scottish Open and Open Championships, and midfield, don’t-write-home-about-it efforts at the first two FedEX play-off events.

Leishman is now at LIV, doing nicely ‘thank you’ and collecting $3 million for doing nothing much. In fact, his individual results gained him less ‘sole’ money than Pat Perez, another who caught onto the coat-tails of his teammates.

Respect to him, but Leishman isn’t going forwards these days, and will need the weather to turn bad if he is going to be able to live with some of these birdie machines.

Count Jediah Morgan as one of those birdie machines.

Although he produced a 100-1 shock in January when winning this event in just his fourth event as a professional, Morgan did it in some style.

The 22-year-old recorded three rounds of 65/63/65 to take a nine shot lead into Sunday, and simply went further clear, crossing the line 11 shots clear of Andrew Dodt, himself with plenty of previous in this grade at home, and a further shot clear of Min Woo.

In 2020 Morgan had won the Australian Amateur around this course, beating Tom McKibbin (see Joburg preview for his chances over there) by 5 & 3, an event that has thrown up Cam Smith amongst other multiple international winners, and whilst he hasn’t shown his best lately, returning to a venue he knows so well should be to his big advantage.

Morgan was one of the surprise signings to LIV Golf, although, as he admits, he “didn’t have much in my schedule,” given his exemption to the DP World Tour didn’t kick in till the 2023 season, plus it gave him the chance to compete at Centurion Club for LIV London – “The field is nice and strong so it’s a cool format to see how I shape up.”

Morgan has played every event since, although mixing it up with sporadic entries and invites onto the PGA, DP and Asian tours do not help a young golfer settle.

His Dunhill Links effort wasn’t bad – a 76 on that horrendous day two the cause of his eventual missed cut – but 25th and 13th at the last two events are as good as Leishman produced at the same events.

Leish has the back-form and the class but looks on the way down, and while the attention of being defending champ could overawe the younger man, he has put up with ‘Golf, but louder’ for a few months now.

I have these much closer than the prices suggest, so take the 8/5 in a match.

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  • Ryan Fox 14/1 Each -Way
  • Jediah Morgan to beat Marc Leishman -72 holes – 8/5 
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Opinion & Analysis

TourPutt – The secret of the pros?

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Driver vs. Putter: Your Choice?

If you were granted one golf-related superpower, which would you choose? The ability to hit 300-yard drives straight down the fairway all the time, or never 3-putt again?

Bobby Locke, one of the greatest putters in the game, said to ‘drive for show, but putt for dough’ And when you consider that the putter is the most used club in the bag, it seems like a no-brainer. But then again, according to Mark Brodie and his ‘strokes gained’ method, a long, straight driver may be more important to saving strokes. So what would you choose?

For me, I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the putting skills as I am currently suffering from the worst case of yips I’ve ever experienced in over 30 years. Sure, it’d be nice to outdrive the guys in my regular foursome, but I don’t think I can live down the shame of missing inside of 3ft all day, every day. And with no genie in site, I have searched high and low for that perfect putter that can cure my woes.

After trying nearly 50 putters over the past two years and enduring numerous snide remarks to get putting lessons instead, I finally gave in. I bit the bullet and sought professional help from Jong-hwan Choi, Korea’s number one putting coach to the pros.

Choi’s resume includes LynnBlake Master Instructor certification, AimPoint LV3, PuttDoctor, MichaelHebron Neuro Learning for Golf, and many others.

Choi is an accomplished Tour putting coach who has made a name for himself through relentless research and dedication to master his chosen craft. Thus far, the pros and elite amateurs he helped have won a total of 350 tournaments, including KPGA, KLPGA, and LPGA wins. He is so popular that it can take up to a year to book a lesson with the man himself, but I was desperate. After pulling all the strings I can muster, I was able to get an interview with him in the hopes of getting some help
with my flat stick.

When the day finally came, I arrived at Choi’s academy armed with 3 of my current best-performing putters. I was eager to glean the secrets of the pros and to find out which of these best fit my stroke. I was greeted by Choi and briefly shown around the spacious academy, which had a large flat putting surface and some basic training aids that are common online. Upon chatting about Choi’s background and teaching philosophy, he reminded me of the motivational speaker Tony Robbins. He was constantly emphasizing positivity and proactive learning reinforced with hard work and dedication towards self-growth – that skills are built, not born. Sure, I get that.

But surely, preaching alone doesn’t improve (my) putting?

TourPutt: The Secret of the Pros?

When Choi offered (after some subtle arm twisting) to look at my putting, I was puzzled when he pulled out a tablet rather than some kind of putting trainer. I figured maybe he was going to film me first, then point out some flaws on the monitor. Nope.

We were going high-tech for this one. We were joined by his friend and business partner Chan-ki Kim, a software engineer who co-developed TourPutt, a state-of-the-art putting training system.

According to the dynamic duo, TourPutt was developed to accurately assess a player’s putting tendencies, habits, and skills utilizing big data and A.I. Rather than second-guessing and trying to identify the faults, Tour Putt acts like an MRI machine that shows the doctor where to problem lies. Once the diagnosis is made, Choi would bring to bear his extensive experiences to cure the ailing putter. Sounded simple to me. But how would it know what my problem was?

As Choi’s fingers danced over the tablet in his hand, the TourPutt sprang into action and a small circle the size of a hole-cup appeared on the artificial putting surface. As I surveyed the circle of light beamed from a ceiling projector, Choi asked me a question I hadn’t considered before. ‘Which breaks are you most comfortable with on short putts? What are the odds that you make them?’ Taking my blank look as his cue, Choi proceeded to explain the process of mapping my putting pattern to gauge my stren gths and weaknesses.

To begin, I was directed to putt a golf ball into a hole from 36 random locations ranging from 3 to 6 ft. A ball tracking camera with two projectors mounted on the ceiling rendered various crisp, clear images onto the putting surface. Prior to start, I was informed that the putting surface was sloped 3% from top to bottom. So if you were to imagine a clock face, the 12 o’clock location would be a 3° downhill straight putt, while 6 o’clock would be a 3° uphill straight putt.

As I am right-handed, all putts from the left side of the 3 o’clock would be a hook like, and the left side a slice lie, all to varying degrees. When I asked why it was fixed at 3%, Kim explained that tour regulation greens don’t allow for more than a 3 degree slope within 6ft of the hole. Also, most amateur golfers had a difficult time detecting such a small amount of slope, and thereby misjudge the breaks to a higher score.

Knowing Where to Tap

After the pattern test began, it took me a little over 20 minutes to complete a total of 36 putts at random locations. I was quite conscious of the many eyes on my performance and equally frustrated at how often I was missing putts despite my best efforts. After I was done, Choi pulled up my results, or key performing index (KPI), on a large screen TV where I was able to see exactly where I was effective in my short putts. In brief, I had a tough time with both hook and slice lie putts. I showed slightly better results with uphill straight and slice putts, but absolutely nothing to write home about.

Now, I’m sure many of you are familiar with the story of the plumber who was called to fix a steam pipe. After looking around the pipes and tapping a couple of valves, he charged $200 for his services. When the irate customer demanded to know why it cost so much and asked for a detailed breakdown of the services, the plumber replied, ‘$10 for tapping, $190 for knowing precisely where to tap.’

As such, my results from the pattern test were eye-opening. I’ve never known what lie I was more effective at, much less the percentage of probable success. For example, the more often I use TourPutt to practice or diagnose my putting, the more accurately it can diagnose my skills. Thus, I can pinpoint which area to improve through practice, as well as try to get the ball to an area I am more likely to save par.

Wow. This was tour pro stuff. Was this the secret of the pros?

The green area indicates a successful putt and the red is where I missed. The numbers show how long it took me to strike the putt after being instructed by a bell sound.

I was starting to get heady with the possibilities this digital marvel was able to provide. It took both of them to bring me down to earth again by informing me that knowing the areas of improvement is only half the battle.

For the actual tapping part, Choi and Kim then walked me through the many innovative features of TourPutt focused on helping me improve my putting. I was mesmerized by the detailed graphics that flashed all over the putting surface.

I was already impressed with the diagnostic aspects of TourPutt, but upon seeing the actual features to help me improve my putting, I was doubly blown away. From reading the green speed and breaks accurately to effective swing tempo and motion tracking, the system seemed straight out of the future.

Putting from variations of the 3% slope helps golfers to get a better feel the greens, a skill that can translate onto reading the breaks on actual greens.

Before TourPutt came into being, Choi was frustrated with the difficulty in collecting crucial data from an actual green as it was difficult to find a flat area to map his student’s patterns. When he discussed the matter with Kim back in 2019, Kim immediately became interested in ways to mesh modern technology and A.I. driven data to the art of putting. As an elite level golfer with extensive knowledge in the fields of VR and AR (virtual and augmented reality), Kim understood right away the issues faced by Choi and how he could help.

Delving deep into Choi’s experience and insights, Kim designed the TourPutt’s interface to yield accurate and reliable data that can be cross-checked, correlated, and compared across past and future performances. Best of all, TourPutt and its proprietary app feature the ability to keep track of all of my performance from any TourPutt system and access the data anywhere at any time. I could even replay all of my past putts and see the speed and the path it took, and compare them with other golfer’s data in the system. Mind. Blown.

Kim further explained that this feature of collecting real-world significant big data is one of the biggest advantages of TourPutt, and enables it to evolve further with every putt stored in its vast database.

The app can be used in both English and Korean, and can keep track of my performance and improvements.

The Student Becomes The Teacher

Once the flaws are identified, we moved on to the more traditional slow-motion video to see what I was doing wrong to miss the putts. For me, I kept too much weight on the back foot, and also needed more forward press to keep the putter head online through impact.

After several minutes of drill to correct the issues, I was holing the putts much better. The data from the second pattern test confirmed the improvement, and I was also shown the actual paths that my two putts took before and after the fix. All in all, being able to verify that the diagnosis was correct with immediate results, all backed by data was highly reassuring and enlightening. But what if these improvements were short-lived? That as soon as I walk out of Choi&#39;s presence, the magic evaporates and my crappy putting returns? I can’t tell you how often a club I thought was the answer to my prayers devolved into an ordinary stick as soon as I paid for it. It’s downright uncanny how often this happens.

To this end, Choi gave me a glimpse of hope. He assured me that since I was investing time into my skills and not money into more equipment, it will definitely last longer. Also, the coaching provided by Choi is reflected in each and every putt I had made since the lesson and recorded as part of my putting profile. So if I were to stray from the ‘good’ putts, the system can be used to bring me back on track. And if this cycle of improvement continues, I would be able to be my own teacher and
eventually practice effectively and independently on my own.

Honestly, I don’t know about this part. After all, I too know that the right diet and exercise will give me a six-pack; but knowing and doing it are two separate things. In the end, how effective any tool can depend on how well I make use of it, so it will have to remain to be seen. What I can say with certainty, however, is that TourPutt seems to work for a lot of people. Choi’s students continue to post wins on various tours with regularity, each crediting him with their improved putting performance. In turn, Choi credits his partner Kim and TourPutt’s growing database for accurate diagnosis and self-learning.

ToutPutt and its built-in sensors are capable of sensing where the lies have changed. The self-learning A.I. system actively adjusts for the changes to the putting surface, thereby eliminating the need for recalibration.

In Korea, the art of putting has found its poster child in Choi, with more and more golf academies and private studios installing TourPutt for its members. Several local tour pros and top amateurs have also installed the not-so-cheap system in their homes and have said to benefit from the move. Remember when Tiger showed up one day at the range with his own Trackman? I would imagine having a TourPutt in your basement is something like that, but I can only guess. I don’t have a personal Trackman either.

Choi attends seminars all over the world each year to continue his improvement in putting instruction.He is currently working on compiling his own training and certification program to impart to a new generation of would-be putting gurus.

Now that I know where I need to improve on, does this mean I will be taking money off my foursome buddies with alarming regularity? Well, let me see. I signed up for pilates a few months ago and found out exactly where I need to work on for more flexibility. But as I still creak all over when bending over to tie my shoes, I’d guess my putting won’t miraculously improve right away neither. But hey, that’s on me. I’ll just have to start working on the tapping part. Anyone looking to buy some used putters?

For more information on TourPutt from the man himself, check out the video below.

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