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Opinion & Analysis

Golf 101: What makes a good golf club?

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Best of…hottest…longest, most forgiving…and on, and on, and on…

This is the common dialogue around golf clubs. Let’s pause for a minute—What actually does a good club do? Go a long way? Get you closer to your target? Feel good? Look good? I mean, what the hell?

In my own way, I want to explain exactly what a good golf club will do, or better yet, what it needs to do to earn a place in your bag. Remember this and never forget—clubs earn spots, not just get spots because they are clubs. If you want to get better, you have to adopt that philosophy.

Every great player took complete ownership over their sticks. From Tiger’s almost overwhelming precision around spin and launch windows, to Greg Norman pulling apart every club in his bag and reassembling them to match the exact weight and even spine angle, even to the extreme with players like Ben Hogan who started their own companies to control every aspect of what went in his bag. The stories are damn near bedtime fairy tales for gear heads.

In my studies, I have found that there are five things all clubs must do to earn a spot in your bag, but before I get to that, I wanted to ask five people who I trust what they think makes a great club…

Chris Trott (TaylorMade Tour) – “The combination of parts that make the swing weight correct for the player which in turn impact the proper dynamic loft.”

Aaron Dill (Titleist/Vokey) – “A good golf club is a balance of versatility and forgiveness with a physical shape and color that draws you in and makes you feel confident every time you lay your eyes on it.”

Roger Cleveland (Callaway Golf) – “It has to be properly fit, feel good, and visually it has to inspire. If clubs look good, they perform well.”

Jimmy Walker (2016 PGA Champion) – “Sound and feel are HUGE, especially in the metal woods. I want a heavy hammer sound and feel ”

Steve Elkington (1995 PGA Champion) -“I want my golf clubs zeroed out. No frills. Just square to the eye, stiff stable shaft, and a club that puts me in the driver’s seat to do all the magic.”

So let’s get into the nitty-gritty…

Here are the five main things a golf club must have no matter what to make it in the bag. In no particular order, this is what makes a good golf club.

  1. Optics: Club has to look good to your eye. If it doesn’t, and you are having to stare down at something you hate, it’s not gonna work. Yes, you may still play with it, but are you willing to give up real estate to something you hate looking at? No. The answer is no. Look good. Feel good. Play good. Simple life lesson as well.
  2. Feel: Boardy, dense, clicky, hollow, loud, etc. All red flags for a golf club. First of all, sound is feel, if you don’t like the music turn off the radio. If you hit it out of the middle and don’t get that feeling like your winning life..its gotta go.
  3. Fit: All parts of the club have to work in harmony to deliver the club properly for you whether you make a perfect swing or not. Elk calls it “sweet spotting itself.” You ever have a club that was your go-to because it just always worked and you always seem to hit it solid? All 14 should be that way, no matter what your handicap index is. Fitters and parts are so good these days that if you can’t find it, you are asking the wrong questions. And when I say parts, I mean the whole build—head, shaft, grip, weight, etc. It has to be dialed. You want an easy friend, not a drama queen.
  4. Gapping: Driver is your thunder stick. It’s the one club in your bag that needs to go as far as you can make it go. Past that, it’s a gapping game. From 3W to LW you need to know exactly how far the clubs need to go. 1) Center hits 2) Your predominant miss. For example, your flushed PW goes 128 but for normal people, you only do that 2/10 times. Get honest and figure out what your predominant face contact is and gap from that shot. So, if you are like me and hit it center thin 5/10 times, get that yardage and use that in your gapping as a baseline.
  5. Versatility: The club has to give you places to go to. Up, down, left, right, hard, soft, and everything in-between. Each club should add tools to your repertoire not limit them. The driver is the only club you can really isolate in regards to what it can do. If big, nasty, violent bombs are all it can do, that’s just fine.

Happy hunting.

 

 

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Johnny Wunder is the Director of Original Content, Instagram Manager and Host of “The Gear Dive” Podcast for GolfWRX.com. He was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. John is also a partner with The Traveling Picture Show Company having most recently produced JOSIE with Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. In 1997 Johnny had the rare opportunity of being a clubhouse attendant for the Anaheim Angels. He now resides in Toronto, On with his wife and two sons. @johnny_wunder on IG

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. geohogan

    Aug 29, 2020 at 11:48 am

    “What makes a good golf club?”… IMO the golf shaft.

  2. SV677

    Aug 28, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    I am not sure how this exactly fits in, but one thing I find that makes finding a good club difficult is demo availability of irons. You are generally asked to make a decision based on hitting a demo 7 iron. Why not have 4, 7, and pitching wedge to try? This way you can get a better idea if the set is right for you.
    Also, give left-handers a chance. Many times I have wanted to try something (driver, fairway, hybrid, iron or wedge) that I know is available left-handed, but no demo is available. I don’t know if this in on the seller or OEM, but it is exasperating.

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Flatstick Focus

Flatstick Focus: Interview with Joe Legendre – Legend Golf Company

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In Episode 26 Glenn is back and we interview the owner of Legend Golf Company, Joe Legendre.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole Episode 141: The (golf) show must go on!

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Host Michael Williams has breaking news on The PGA Merchandise Show going virtual in 2021 from Marc Simon of PGA Golf Exhibitions. Also features John Buboltz with the latest putters and irons from Argolf.

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Opinion & Analysis

Barney Adams: Ball rollback isn’t the right move to combat “The Golfer of Tomorrow”

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The announcing crew at the 2020 U.S. Open seemed obsessed with “the bombers”—players who drove the ball extreme distances with little regard for the occasional tee shot into the rough. TV has selected Bryson DeChambeau as their representative, given his length and victory.

I thought I’d wait a bit to see what the industry sources had to say. I can’t say it’s unanimous, because I haven’t seen everything, but the theme is: “Get Ready for The Golfer of Tomorrow”

  • 350-yard carry
  • Clubhead speed which tears through the rough allowing the ball to launch high and carry to the green
  • The ‘new’ instructor who teaches distance be it ground up or whatever new method is used
  • Gym sessions producing athletes who look more like football players
  • And last, a whole new shelf of steroids for golf

At the same time the USGA and its organizational allies are planning meetings focusing on not if the ball will be rolled back, but when—clearly, influenced by visual evidence from a great Winged Foot course in our national championship.

Let’s look deeper!

A hypothetical: go back a few months. You are on the planning committee for the U.S. Open to be held at Winged Foot, one of America’s great venues. This year because of COVID-19 there will be no galleries, something never experienced at a USGA major golf event. I repeat, your committee is planning for the U.S. Open. That implies “Open Rough” a term that is significant on its own. You don’t play from Open Rough, you escape…maybe.

The nature of Open Rough is a thick chunky base with long tendrils reaching skyward. These make it very difficult to find your ball in the best of circumstances and when attempting to advance these tendrils wrap themselves around your hosel closing the face, sending your ball deeper into hostile territory. That’s if you can even find it, Open rough has “disappeared” many balls over the years and done so within full view of gallery spectators aiding course marshals. The rule of thumb for competitors has always been to find the most reasonable patch of fairway and get out.

But this is the year of COVID-19. No galleries. Marshals, but relatively few because of no galleries. Now, considering that normal U.S. Open rough will produce many searches where marshals are important, the shortage of them will cause endless searches—which don’t make for great TV viewing. So, a decision is made, cut the rough down so shots can be found. Still in the rough but sitting on the chunky base and very often can be played. A tough call for the purist but an objective economic evaluation leaves no choice.

The announcers regale us with astonishing distances and swing speeds that allow escape from Open Rough that used to be impossible! The golf publications jump on this theme and predict that the Golfer of Tomorrow will be “DeChambeau-like” not sweet swingers but physical hulks rewriting the book on distance strongly influenced by no fear of the rough.

My point here is those publications and instructors, jumping on the “longer and slightly crooked is better” bandwagon have added 2+2 and gotten 5 when using the 2020 U.S. Open as a premise.

DeChambeau is a great and powerful player, however, I don’t think he’s known for his putting. Now I may have dozed off but I don’t remember him being widely praised for his putting. He should have been, it was terrific, probably influenced his score! He is our National Champion, an unsurpassable honor. But his style has me betting that the USGA is working on dates to discuss changing the golf ball, as in making it shorter.

I’m 100% against such a move. Golf is a game where amateurs can go to the same course play the same clubs and given a huge difference in skill achieve some measure of affiliation with the pros. A birdie is a birdie, not a long or short ball birdie. From a business perspective, the overwhelming majority of those golfers financially supporting golf are over 50. And we want them to hit it shorter?

Well, Mr. Adams what would you do? I know zero about golf ball manufacturing, but keeping the distance the same I’d change the dimples to increase curvature—just enough so it doesn’t affect slower swings that much but very high swing speeds so it’s in the player’s head

More thoughts. As an admitted TV viewer, get rid of those yardage books. Fine for practice rounds but when the bell rings it should be player and caddie, not an “on green” conference. What’s next, a staff meeting?

I’ll conclude with a note to the PGA Tour and, importantly, an admonition. To the PGA Tour: The minute a tee goes into the ground on #1 every player is on the clock. Stroke penalties, not fines, will get their attention.

To the rest of the golfing world: Let’s not blindly pursue the Golfer of Tomorrow concept without considerably deeper study.

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