The Sweetest Spot
Every golf club has a single place on the face that delivers the most solid and high-performing impact results. Big "Fred Flintstone" drivers and oversized irons are sold with the promise of an expanded sweet spot, but in reality, any golf club has one single pinhead-sized spot that is the exact center of mass, and that reflects the most efficient impact point on the golf club. As the point of impact with the ball moves away from that finite point, the efficiency of transfer of energy is reduced and the clubhead recoils from impact in a rotational manner.
As the industry has "advanced" the science of clubhead design, the watchword is forgiving, meaning that the mass has been re-distributed around the perimeter of the clubface so that the negative effect of these off center hits is minimized. The driving principle of this design trend is the notion that most golfers cannot make contact close enough to the "sweet spot" on a consistent basis to optimize their enjoyment of the game. (I personally disagree with that to a degree.)
But when you move mass away from the percussion point, you also change the dynamics of performance on dead center hits. The thin face that results from repositioning of mass to the perimeter of the clubhead...particularly in irons...results in a less efficient transfer of energy from the clubhead to the ball.
Let's compare the performance of a traditional blade design iron to that of a perimeter weighted iron using a simple claw hammer as an illustration. Take two large nails, a piece of board and a claw hammer for this experiment. With the first nail, use the hammer as it is supposed to be used and drive the nail. You might miss a time or two, and you'll even feel off-center hits a bit, but the hammer drives the nail very efficiently. That design was not by accident.
Now, turn the hammer sideways and drive the other nail. With the driving head and claw positioned on either side of the percussion point, you have created a heel/toe weighted striking implement. The hammer weighs the same, but with the mass no longer positioned directly behind the impact point, you'll find that it takes many more blows to drive the nail, even though you probably won't miss it as often, if at all. The feel of impact on the nail is not nearly as solid, is it?
This is exactly what happens when you move the mass away from the center of the face of a golf club. Doing so certainly makes the club more "forgiving" of off-center hits, but it also compromises the power and precision of your dead center impacts, too.
Every golfer has to decide which is more important to him or her – the performance on your worst shots, or that of your very best. It is a choice you make, whether consciously or not.
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Love that hammer analogy that helps explain the differences/trade-offs between Players, Game Improvement, and Max Game Improvement clubs. Golf Digest had an item this month which says that the sole of a 6 iron is about thumb width for Game Improvement clubs and pinkie width for Players irons (and obviously wider for Max clubs).
hmm.. but a hammer's not designed to drive a nail with the side of it
wouldn't that be like trying to take a GI iron, turn it 90 degrees so that the clubface is parallel to the target line, then trying to hit a shot with the toe and wondering why it doesn't work that well?
if we turned our GI irons 90 degrees, then all the mass would be positioned directly behind the impact point, and it would work horribly.
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