Of Lengths and Lies
I’ve received a number of emails the past few days from some of you asking about club lengths and lie angles, and how the two are interconnected. This is a hot subject with me, as I’ve watched the golf club industry move consistently to longer and more upright “standard” specs on golf clubs. In particular, the custom-fitting segment of the business seems to almost always “prescribe” a lie angle that is more upright than the “standard”. Until the majority of 6’+ professional golfers begin hitting quality golf shots with clubs that are 1” long and 3-4* upright, it isn’t proven technology to me. And I don’t think this is right for the vast majority of golfers.

Let’s dive into it.

First of all, length and lie angle are not independent of one another at all. The longer the club for any golfer, the flatter the lie angle has to be to deliver the club’s sole to the ground flatly and properly. So, when you make a club longer, you effectively make it more upright in relation to a club of the same lie angle but shorter. Does that make sense?

Length, examined in a vacuum, makes a club more difficult to master. You hit your 9-iron more consistently solid than your 6-iron; your 7-iron more consistent than your 4. And your 3- or 4-wood more than your driver. This is merely a function of the length of the shaft. The further you get “from your work”, the harder it is to deliver that relatively small clubface to the relatively small golf ball. Simple physics. So, fitting golfers with ever-longer shafts is just making it harder for them to make consistent contact.

My recommendation? Unless you are hitting over 75% of your fairways and are plenty long, you’ll do better with a driver that is at least 1” shorter than the one you carry now. Grip down on it the next time you play and see if your performance doesn’t get better!!

Lie angles are most commonly fit on a lie board, where the fitter puts a hard plastic board on the turf, sticks a piece of lie tape on the sole of the club and has you hit shots. I have two major problems with – and challenges to – this process.
  1. You are standing on the turf, but the ball is sitting on top of a piece of plastic that is some fraction of an inch above the soles of your feet. The ball is higher than it would be if it were also sitting on the same turf you were standing on, right?

  2. You are asked to hit down on the ball to leave a mark on the sole tape, which I believe subconsciously makes you have a steeper downswing than your normal.
What the numerical effect of these two factors are . . . well, I don’t know, but I have to believe they are significant. More importantly, however, is that this game cannot be played efficiently with clubs that are too long and/or too upright. That I believe from the bottom of my heart.

The golf swing is a rotary action, around the body core. The flatter the swing plane through the impact zone, within reason, the more direct blow to the back of the ball the club can make. If you are playing clubs that are long and upright, you have to make a steeper swing and therefore steeper approach to the ball, and this just isn’t an efficient transfer of energy with any club, but it gets worse as the clubs get shorter and the lie angle more upright.

With regard to the short clubs, if the lies are more than 1-2 degrees upright of standard, it is extremely difficult for golfers to get the proper swing path, and interaction of the sole with the turf, to consistently hit quality short range golf shots. These shots require a good technique, with the hands passing through the impact zone lower than with a mid-iron shot, so the lie angle of the clubs need to be flatter to accommodate this.

One of my favorite drills for sharpening my short range shots is to think about trying to feel the heel of the club make contact with the turf. If I feel the toe digging, it’s not a sign that my lie angles are too flat, but that my swing path is not where it should be. You might try that sometime.
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[ comments ]
brianshaffer32 says:
when sitting with your club at address should it be lying flat from heel to toe?
birdieXris says:
My clubs are just a touch upright for me. I like that because when i hit them at 80% and choked up like normal, they lay flat, but if i want to add another 10-15 yds, i can grip back and hit a gentle draw without much difference in swing.
TeT says:
My lie is standard with +2" irons, Lie tape and board say great,... probably going flatter this fall though...
bobhooe says:
i have been fitted twice at golf galaxy on their ping cart. first time i needed +1.5" and 2* up. the second time I they said I needed +2 and 2* up. Am I to understand that this is bull and I should have just left them. Im 6'5" and feel hunched over hitting a standard 7 iron. With standard clubs I have to be right on top of the ball and I feel like my arms swing too close to my body. I have a hard time thinking Dustin or Bubba play standard length clubs.
glngolf says:
The most undependable club in my bag has always been the 9 iron to the point that I would feel more confident in hitting a soft 8 or a strong wedge. I initially thought this was my swing (maybe) or the specs on the 9 iron in my set; but I have had several sets (Wilson Staffs, Hogan, Clevelands, Calaway etc.) with the same issue with the 9 iron. I have always thought the 9-iron was the transition club from the mid-irons (6,7,8) to the wedges; I would generally buy all new wedges with my sets. Your new set of clubs 4161 Scor seems to address this issue by seamlessly transitioning the clubs starting with the wedges working backwards instead of the traditional approach of starting with an 8 iron set (3-pw). You have moved the transition gap to the 41 degree wedge to the 37 degree (8-iron) club. What design issues have you undertaken to minimize the transition issues?
I recently purchased a two wedge set of Eidolon wedges and like them so much I order a third wedge. Nice clubs.
TeT says:
@bobhooe I am 6'7" so I feel ya... Standard off the shelf club fitting guy will measure your wrist and make em long and upright for you everytime...

I play my irons +2" Hy +1" and woods at standard (45" driver) all standard lie (but am going a little flatter on my irons, 2°)

Given your height: the 1.5" sounds fair but you need to find a fit guy that you can trust and who is maybe on the taller side of 6'. Get your 7 iron bent back to standard lie and see how you like it for a round or two...
bobhooe says:
I may try that TeT, Thanks.
snuffyword says:
Last year, I got fitted for Mizuno MX-300. When they came in, they looked a little upright at address. The golf shop owner said that Mizuno started to make their game improvement irons 1-2* upright as standard. He also explained that the centrifugal force of the swing will flatten the club a little at impact. I did the lie board test and had my irons bent flatter 1*. I think it made a difference and it seemed to help my ball striking. I can't wait to score on some SCOR because my EIDOLON wedges seem perfect at address.
TeT says:
He was right about the flattening with a full swing... The shaft flexes down.
mlf16507 says:
Since talking to Lee Trevino during a lighting delay at Players in 1977, I have had my long irons 1* upright and short irons 1* flat. Also have very soft shaft in my SW and now my LW. Lee's reasoning if you didn't make it a good swing on long iron it would go right and being upright would help it go straight. Short irons go left with bad swing and flat would help straighten it out. His sand wedge at the time was a ladies model(Wilson Helen Hicks). Soft shaft helps on shots around green. Since that day I have been setting up my clubs that way and my short game went from very good to GREAT!!!
dlygrisse says:
The age old question is do you fit for your current swing, or fit for the swing you want? If you are coming over the top the fitting board will probably tell you to go more upright....if you really want to improve the swing you should go flatter.

That being said if you are 5'7" with long arms you will need flatter sticks, if you are over 6' and have shorter arms you will need to be more upright....all I am saying is that flatter for one person may not mean flatter for the next guy. I am 6' and have fairly short arms, I have been fitted for 2* up, I have experimented with flatter clubs after reading threads like this but I start pushing right. I will say however some of the modern hybrids and fairway woods are even too upright for me, I tend to hit them left. I tend to gravitate to more upright irons and flatter woods and hybrids...does this make sense?
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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