What The Heck Are You Playing?
Last week I wrote about the theft of your pitching wedge, so I'm going to stay on the subject of equipment because of two things I witnessed this week. It's all about the tools we play, and how so many golfers really do not have any idea of what is in their bags. Let me explain.

CASE #1. EIDOLON Golf has hired a summer intern who will be playing on the women's golf team at University of Houston-Victoria this fall. Whitley is a Junior College Academic All-American out of McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, and helped her team finish second in the National Championship, while she finished tenth overall. Quite a performance from a very golf-driven junior college (their men’s team won their national championship!). So, as Whitley is learning all about golf clubs, she brought her set of clubs in so that she could see just what they were. We put them through diagnosis - length, lie angles, swingweights and shaft frequencies. These are all "Regular" flex clubs, according to the shaft bands. All were stock products.

Now, this is a top level collegiate player, and her clubs were all over the place. Her driver was stronger than a men’s stiff flex, while her 3-wood was right at a Regular. Her two hybrids were way softer than ladies/seniors flex, and she confirmed my guess that she hit them all over the place as a result. Her irons were all in the senior flex range, but varied considerably from club-to-club. And her off-the-rack wedges were . . . of course . . . stronger than men’s stiff, and considerably heavier than anything else.

So, our next project is to get her equipment right before she goes to school in the fall. By taking apart her golf clubs and rebuilding them with shafts that are right for her, consistent from driver to wedges and with consistent grip sizes that fit her hands, we’ll make it much easier for her to continue to improve her performance.

CASE #2. One of local high school players is a dedicated young lady who really wants to play at a top level. She had as her role model, up until last year, another young local lady who now plays at Texas A&M, and Sarah Beth raised the bar for local golf with her achievements – 3 state championships and she won individual honors at her first collegiate event. Maddie has similar aspirations.

So, I took a look at her clubs and saw again that they were more “in the way” than helpful to her. We haven’t done a complete analysis yet, as she has a major junior event this next week, and I don’t want to shake her confidence. But at first glance, she’s playing highly offset irons, but fights a hook, so that iron design isn’t right for her. She’s also got long fingers but is playing ladies’ undersized grips, which further aggravates her hook tendencies. The fact that they were worn completely out is a whole other issue. There’s no telling what we’ll find when we really get into analysis of her set, but I’ll bet it won’t be pretty.

The moral of this story is that the weapons in your bag have a lot to do with your performance, and any golfer will benefit from club-to-club consistency. But most of us have put together our “set” in a relatively random fashion – a driver here, fairway woods there, toss in a couple of hybrids, and hope all matches our irons. And then a couple of off-the-rack wedges that are heavier and stiffer than all of them. That’s like putting a different tire on all four corners of your car!

I use that analogy because golf clubs are a lot like tires. They might look good sitting still in front of you, but at highway speeds, every little imbalance will become a glaring fault. And your car or truck will be fine with a number of different kinds . . . as long as they are all the same! A visit to an independent clubfitter for an analysis is a good investment of time and won’t cost that much money, and you just might find a quicker fix to some of your problems than working on your swing. Here are just a few things that you should know:
1. Worn out grips will cause you to clasp the club tighter and lose feel and suppleness that good golf requires.

2. Offset in an iron promotes a hook shot pattern – is that what you want your irons to do?

3. Aggressive cavity weighting in an iron head causes a higher ball flight – is that your goal? With the short irons, too?

4. Shafts that are too soft will cause you lots of control problems, while shafts that are too stiff will cost you distance in most cases. And in your set of clubs, I’ll bet dollars to donuts you have both.

5. Grips that are too large or too small will promote shots that hang right or snap left, respectively.
So, guys and girls, if you want to play better now, a good analysis of your tools should be in your immediate plans. I can assure you that it will be fun, enlightening and informative.


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[ comments ]
Bryan K says:
It sounds like the most important line in the entire article was "as long as they are all the same".

I think this was a great article, but I'm still not sold on custom fitting until a player has played long enough to have a swing that repeats most of the time. However, I would like to relay my story.

At the beginning of this year, I was shooting a whole array of different brands of clubs. From a Nickent 2h to a set of Adams Tight Lies irons to an Adams A4OS 9i to a set of Callaway Big Bertha wedges to a Ping G15 driver to an Adams 3w and on and on. While all of these clubs claimed to have "regular" shafts, I noticed a different feel between them all. I didn't know it, but I have a feeling that what I was "feeling" is what Terry just explained in this article.
6/11/10
 
Bryan K says:
This year, I have upgraded my clubs with an emphasis on keeping a consistent brand as much as possible. Right now, I play a custom fitted Ping G15 driver, a set of Adams A4OS hybrids and irons, a set of Callaway Big Bertha wedges, and an Odyssey putter. So that is one Ping, three Callaways, an Odyssey putter, and nine Adams A4OS clubs. I was struggling with inconsistency with my irons, and now that I have an entire set that is made the same, the consistency has started to come around.

But the question I have for the Wedge Guy is...these clubs that were analyzed...were they all the same set? Same brand? Different brands? If we have discrepencies between different brands, that is understandable. If there are discrepencies among different clubs in the same set, that is a huge problem that I think would need to be addressed. I understand if you can't give us specific brands, but knowing a little bit more would be extremely helpful.
6/11/10
 
Banker85 says:
i jost got stiff flex irons this year and lost about a club on each iron. I had reg flex, maybe i need reg flex? again nice article TWG
6/11/10
 
ElGalloGigante says:
I'm currently playing a complete set from Prince, the tennis company, and although I'm way too new to the game to really have any helpful input, when I put a good swing on them, they perform better than the old Tight Lies set I had.

According to Prince, they use a patented dynamic swingweight technology that basically replicates the feel throughout the irons range. It's seemingly working for me, since I hear I'm playing decently for a brand new player.

Any additional info on this, Wedge Guy?
6/11/10
 
Ward says:
so what are we supposed to do if manufacturers give us spec's that are all over the place even when all clubs are allegedly the same spec's?

it's not in everyone's budget to re-shaft all their clubs, and without proper testing, who's to say the new shafts would be any more accurate to flex than the ones that are already in your clubs
6/11/10
 
TeT says:
Once you can strike the ball consistantly solid you can get your clubs fitted. Better fit = faster improvement
6/11/10
 
flannery says:
I believe anyone can benefit from club fitting. Club builders are all around and can build a high quality, custom fitted set for the same price or less than a name brand set. Why start out with clubs that aren't consistent? Get them fit first and then tweak or replace once the golfer develops truly consistent problems (slice, hook, low trajectory, etc...). Anyone can benefit from this whether they are consistent or not.
6/11/10
 
JDoughMO says:
@TeT - What if you're not striking the ball consistently because your clubs aren't properly fit? Chicken first? Egg first?
6/11/10
 
Bryan K says:
@JDoughMO: I've seen some players play some pretty dang good golf with some pretty dang crappy clubs. A good golfer can hit almost any club consistently. It's when you are hitting your club consistently while getting varied results that a fitting, IMHO, becomes necessary.

I personally think it's a huge mistake to get fitted while still developing one's swing. Now, I'm anxiously awaiting Terry's response to whether or not the clubs tested with different specs were from the same set. Personally, my opinion is that if different clubs from the same set have different specs, then something is seriously wrong with the company's quality control.
6/12/10
 
atxtraveler says:
I have always been a good ball striker, but was playing with the wrong shaft and club head. When I went to the Ping factory in Scottsdale, the guy fit me correctly, and I have seen a dramatic decrease in misses. I am even hitting my chicken stick straighter and longer than everything but my driver. My driver is definitely the wrong flex for me, but I have adjusted to it, so I don't want to reshaft until I Have time to practice with the new shaft.
6/12/10
 
flannery says:
atxtraveler has a good point. In order to get a club that is properly fit to him he will have to first find time to practice with it. Wouldn't it be better to get clubs that are properly fit first so that a new golfer can practice with clubs that fit them properly instead of learning a bad swing to adjust for poorly fitting clubs? I recently got a properly sized set of clubs. With my previous set I would swing a pray and I could never really figure out why the ball would sometimes hook and sometimes slice but never go straight. With my new set I am much more consistent with nice straight drives and iron strikes. With improperly sized clubs, my problem was consistency and accuracy, especially with the long clubs. With my new set my problem is distance with the short irons (in that I don't know my distances well and end up too long or too short). With the old set I focused really hard on the swing yet still had big issues. With the new clubs I can focus on my real problem, putting!
6/13/10
 
SingleDigits says:
I'd decide based on how much money I can afford to spend on golf.

If money wasn't a question, I'd get fit early & often, get a swing coach, etc.

(btw, the following assumes you're of average height, have decent hand/eye coordination / athletic ability and don't have any serious physical impairments).

If tight on cash, I'd buy one of those "complete sets" from eBay or TGW.com and sign up for group lessons at the local Parks & Rec. For the first year or two I'd keep taking group lessons or splurge on private lessons if I could afford it.

Then as I got better, I'd start to replace the clubs in my set starting with my driver & putter followed by irons/hybrids/woods. I'd get fit for the driver & putter. Many golf stores will give you the fitting for "free" if you buy the driver or putter at list price, etc. (and maybe buy one of those drivers that are lie & loft adjustable).
6/13/10
 
SingleDigits says:
Once I got into the 15-20 handicap range where my swing started to get repeatable,I'd follow Terry's advice and try to get all my clubs matched from driver all the way down to lob wedge.

Finally, I'd set aside $200/year for the following: 3 lessons at the beginning, middle & end of the season ($50 each) and $50 for loft/lie fitting for my irons mid-season. Even pros change their posture & swing plane from year to year. The mid-year check up would keep my clubs in sync with my current swing.
6/13/10
 
wedgeguy says:
There are three topics swirling around here. The first is the value of custom fitting. While I agree that the more accomplished the golfer, the more value they might derive from custom fitting, playing ill-fitted clubs can retard the learning process. On the other side of this is the confusion over the set being matched or not. What I'm referring to is the consistency in specifications and shaft performance from driver down through the set. Even with clubs from the same manufacturer, unfortunately, we see variations that can be impactful in the golf swing. There are no industry standards for what "regular" or "stiff" flex might be, and with so many shaft options out there, you can have a wide variation in performance.
6/14/10
 
wedgeguy says:
To answer several questions, the clubs in both sets mentioned came from a variety of brands -- which is more common than not in golfers' bags. We use our measuring equipment to try to achieve consistency, and it is totally OK for a golfer to play a variety. In my own bag, for example, I have an Alpha driver, Sonartec 3, 4 and hybrid, Reid Lockhart irons (4-9), and of course, EIDOLON wedges. But all are built on UST shafts and are frequency matched to ensure a consistent performance all the way through.
6/14/10
 
wedgeguy says:
Finally, I won't take "a shot" at the major brands' quality, but a factory that produces tens of thousands of clubs a day simply cannot build them the same way smaller brands and independent clubfitters can. No more than an off-the-rack suit can ever fit as well as one that was made from scratch or re-made by a qualified tailor.
6/14/10
 
Scott Shields says:
Wedgeguy ... do you know of any good clubfitters / builders in the metro detroit area?
6/14/10
 
mjaber says:
@wedgeguy... Would it make sense, if a complete custom-fitting for a complete new set is not an option, to get my irons built to the by the manufacturer with an aftermarket shaft, instead of whatever stock shaft would typically come "off the rack"? This would at least be a starting point, would it not?
6/14/10
 
wedgeguy says:
Try the ICG - International Clubmakers Guild -- for a directory of members. These guys are good. Also the AGCP is a good organization, too.

For mjaber, I think the first step is to visit a good independent fitter/builder to have your current set analyzed. You might not have a problem at all, or only one that is minor. That's what you want to know. The problem isn't the stock shafts, but the way the set is built in mass production that might cause the problem.
6/14/10
 
Bryan K says:
Terry,

I don't mean to be difficult, but at the same time, I like to give you a challenge:) What I would really like to see is a test analyzing the discrepancies between different clubs in the same set. While I totally understand how different sets would create such a varying degree of uniformity, I find it hard to believe that a complete set of high quality clubs would suffer from such a wide discrepancy. Until I see some test results proving otherwise, that's how I stand.
6/15/10
 
eventHorizon says:
bjohn, sorry I'm not TWG and I realize my comments won't change your mind but I'll throw you my two cents. You might feel your game is not consistent enough and/or not good enough but that is because of your expectations. As your game improves, your expectations get more difficult and consequently you will continue to see yourself as not hitting the ball consistent or good enough. A club fitting isn't the magic solution to your game but instead a step to help you improve. I realize in two years that possibly your swing will be drastically different and your clubs will need to be changed but if you never make the adjustments needed now, you might never get to that point in two years. Unfortunately this game can be expensive but the equipment can make a significant difference. Also, remember that every club and shaft manufacturer has manufacturing tolerances. Two clubs on opposite ends of this tolerance can make for a drastically different feel.
6/16/10
 
wedgeguy says:
Bjohn13, I don't think you are being difficult at all. But I know what I've seen over the years. The biggest variations come in the woods and graphite shafts, and most often the "disconnect" is between clubs of different brands or even models. But you will see variances within a set of irons for the reasons eventHorizon says -- manufacturing tolerances and assembly line production. That said, understand that the difference between an "X" and seniors shaft is really quite small in the grand scheme of things. And a 5% variance is a full flex in shafts.
6/22/10
 
bydbuy says:
I can see how a custom clubfitter could diagnose a problem, but how is it fixed? For example, if iron shafts are inconsistent within a set can that be fixed through rebuilding somehow or does it require a new set of shafts? Also, you mentioned that larger manufacturers can not build the same way as smaller brands or club fitters. But the source of shafts is the same for all. So is this really a matter of building? If so, how - spine alignment? trimming? Perhaps a more detailed discussion of club-building practices would make a great article.
2/2/11
 
wedgeguy says:
The quick answer is that a clubfitter can sometimes tweak shafts to get them right, but not always. Steel are easier to fix than graphite, as the variances typically are not as wide. Depending on the precision wanted, spine alignment can be part of the formula, as can a wide range of frequency matching techniques. I promise to keep exploring this topic with all of you.
2/2/11
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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