The Other Side of Feel
On Friday I described the elements of what most golfers are talking about when the subject of “feel” is brought up. The sensation of impact . . . the feeling in your hands of the ball coming off the clubhead . . . is what most golfers are thinking about when they are asked how a club feels. But there’s a much more important aspect of feel that no one really talks about at all. It’s the overall feel and balance of the club in your hands, and a property called “motion feedback.”

In a golf club, what “motion feedback” means is the sensory feedback to your nervous system when the club is put into motion. In other words, the quality of input you have as to exactly what the clubhead is doing – how fast its moving, how far back you took it, the path of the motion of the clubhead, the face angle that is resulting, etc.

When you are over a short pitch, chip or any putt, you make practice strokes to “rehearse” the swing or stroke you envision making to execute the shot you are planning. You feel the club going back and through at a given pace and path that will produce the results you have in mind for this particular shot. And they are all different. The club’s qualities that allow you to really feel those practice swings or strokes with the intent of reproducing it for the shot are crucial to your short range performance.

So, what makes for improved motion feedback qualities in a golf club? First is the overall weight of the club. Generally speaking, an increase in overall weight will increase the quantity of motion feedback, but that needs to be tempered to each golfer. If some of your clubs are dramatically different from the others, you will have inconsistent feel in this area, and it will be difficult for you to develop consistent touch.

The second factor is the swingweight of the golf club. Historically, wedges and putters have heavier swingweights than the irons and woods, because they are used at slower swing speeds and more often with partial shots that require improved motion feedback to the hands to gauge those shots. Scoring clubs that are too light overall, or too light in the head, will compromise your experience measurably.

The final element in the equation are the shaft’s physical qualities. A softer shaft will flex more when put into motion than a stiffer shaft. But in the scoring clubs, that softness needs to be in the upper section of the shaft as opposed to the lower section, so that full-swing trajectories are not adversely affected. The shaft flex in the scoring clubs is not talked about by many, but I’ve always been a huge believer that it is critical to a good fit. And it’s not just about swing speed. A golfer with slower swing speed, but quicker short game tempo might need a little firmer shaft than a stronger player with a very slow tempo. Only trial and error will tell you what feels best.

The other side of the shaft equation is the material of the shaft itself. I’m a fan of graphite shafts in wedges, simply because carbon fiber has improved transmission properties than tubular steel. If you get the weight right, a good quality carbon fiber shaft is amazing. We’ve been out on the Champions Tour with SCOR clubs a few times this year, and even some of these guys are opting for our new GENIUS 9 graphite shaft in their wedges because of the improved motion feedback.

So, there you have the other half of the “feel” equation. Give that attention next time you are choosing scoring clubs and you’ll see immediate improvement in your short range performance.
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[ comments ]
Torleif Sorenson says:
Terry, thanks for writing this! Otherwise, I *never* would have considered graphite shafts in any of my irons.

One of the beautiful things about my six-string bass is the graphite neck - it has no "dead spots" anywhere and retains its size and shape in virtually any temperature and humidity. I think it is reasonable to assume that a very thin steel shaft might feel and behave differently at 39°F than it would at 99°F.
gpickin says:
That would make sense, since your golf balls behave differently, why not the shaft, and even the head of the golf club in different temps.
Just when you think you got something figured out in the game, it throws you a cold ball.
mjaber says:
I think there is a 3rd side, that doesn't actually involvethe sense of touch. The sound the ball makes coming off the club can affect how you perceive the shot. I switched to a different golf ball because the sound of one ball coming off the putter make me feel I didn't hit it well. The same can be said for any other club/shot. That sound got into my head and I couldn't get comfortable over the ball. I always felt like the shot wasn't right, because of how it sounded off the club. I gave away all those balls.
FiddySnead says:
Graphite splashite....u cant steal the feel from my steel!!!
Tim Horan says:
A couple of years ago my clubfitter was telling me that I needed a particular shaft for driver and fairway. Having tried them for several weeks I could not get on with them. They felt like broom handles, I lost touch with what the head was doing and to get any life out of them I felt I had to hit at 125%. By reading up on shaft specs I was able to select a shaft that was stiffer in the tip to give the stability at impact and softer mid and butt end to allow me to feel what was happening at transition and through the loading zones of the swing. I recently took this to a set of wedges re-shafting them in graphite. Much softer feel at the top and very stable at impact.
onedollarwed says:
Splashite x 2... Other materials just feel whippy and twisty, though I know they are right for many. @ Torleif, love the musical analogy. Usually it's cars w/golfers here. I use stiff steel shafts and no glove - I really want maximum feel in that sense - like racing with no shocks. In guitars, I prefer quite heavy strings because of the way they can transfer more energy into the instrument. More mass in the string = higher tension to get to the same pitch (frequency), and that means a more taught instrument and more percussive energy into the bridge. This strings sound, well... stringy and weak. However, if you're looking to shred and bend most easily, you've got to have thin strings.

Terry, would it be a good time to talk about golf in a heat wave? Do the club's and ball's properties change?
onedollarwed says:
Oops, that was... "thin strings sound, well... stringy and weak." And is there cause here to talk about hands here? I never wear a glove, and wonder why many do. I also have very tough, thick hands. Could this be why I'm looking for less cushion in the club material?
larrynjr says:
I never wear a glove for any shot within 100 yds of the green or on the green to help increase the feel. I don't have the money available right now to constantly tweak the shafts to get optimal feel. In a few years I might be able to start doing that.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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