Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Let’s put an end to the term “women’s golf clubs”

Published

on

As someone who works in the golf industry and writes about equipment, but who has also worked as a clubfitter and club builder, I believe there is one part of the vernacular we need to eliminate—the idea of “women’s clubs.”

“Women’s golf clubs” have been around for as long golf clubs have been marketed, and for a period of time, like so many things I’m sure, they had a significant purpose: helping female players find what they needed to hopefully improve their golf games. But in this modern era of club fitting and customization, I think we need to put an end to identifying clubs by sex.

I remember my experience at the Titleist Performance Institute, and one of the first things I was told by my fitter Glenn Mahler was

“I don’t fit clubs based on gender, age, handicap, or physical abilities. I fit clubs for golfers, period—to allow them to achieve their absolute best results”

I believe this is the best way for people to start thinking more about the segments of clubs made for players across the board. Male golfers don’t walk into a big box store and say “I’m looking for men’s clubs,” they say “I’m looking for clubs,” and then they get fit. If a female long drive golfer (yes, I realize it’s a small market segment) walked into most big box stores and asks to try a driver, I’m willing to guess that 90 percent of the time someone is going to give them a very poor fitting club based solely on sex—and that’s wrong.

This is where the custom club fitting industry has been ahead of the curve for a long time. Golfers, regardless of sex, walk in with clubs. They are assessed, and then a fitting begins. I have built enough clubs to know that sex is not a discussion point when building a set. This is also where OEMs need to start figuring out ways to better communicate options instead of just offering some clubs in different color options.

Yes, there are OEMs that make wonderful sets of clubs designed exclusively for women—one of the best is Ping and its G Le series. Ping is currently in the second generation of the series, but the first generation G Le driver even won a major championship thanks to Pernilla Lindberg at the ANA Inspiration. But for some manufacturers, beyond a different shaft and grip options, there really isn’t anything else that makes the club itself truly different—and if we are just talking a shaft change, that can be made through custom order.

So, why call it a women’s club?

One of the best examples of building a unisex brand is Accra Golf shafts. They don’t identify their shafts by stiff and regular, they identify by a numeric code from M1-M5+. It’s extremely helpful for a couple of reasons, not just with women but with men in need of a softer flex (there always seems to be a lot of ego involved for some reason). It’s a lot easier to say “you are an M1 or an M2” rather than “sir, you need senior flex shaft”

As the demographics in golf continue to evolve—don’t forget women are still the fastest-growing segment of the golf population—I believe that more companies will be taking notice, and soon we won’t be talking about women’s clubs anymore.

I discussed the subject of “women’s golf clubs” on my podcast, On Spec, which you can check out below.

Your Reaction?
  • 104
  • LEGIT10
  • WOW3
  • LOL17
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP19
  • OB11
  • SHANK103

Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

Club Junkie

Club Junkie: The softest forged irons you’ve never heard of and the Cobra RadSpeed hybrid!

Published

on

Ever heard of New Level Golf? If you are looking for wildly soft players irons, then you should check them out. The PF-1 blades and the PF-2 cavity backs are as soft as anything on the market right now. Great irons for skilled players.

The Cobra RadSpeed hybrid is a solid mid/high launching hybrid with a solid Cobra feel and sound. Pretty neutral-bias ball flight with only a slight draw.

Your Reaction?
  • 2
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual

Published

on

Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

Your Reaction?
  • 14
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW2
  • LOL2
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP6
  • OB6
  • SHANK44

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

Published

on

I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

Your Reaction?
  • 91
  • LEGIT15
  • WOW7
  • LOL3
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending