Evaluating new golf clubs for your game is kind of like evaluating new cars — it takes time, patience and knowledge of what to look for from model to model. You’ll likely own both for at least a few years before upgrading to the latest and greatest and there are certain subtleties each has that sway your decision.
As you begin to research the newest golf equipment available, you will run into terms the club engineers and fitting professionals use as they design and rework the clubs. While some of the terms can be overlooked without consequence for your golf game’s success, others should be understood and acknowledged to help you find the right clubs. Lets take a look at a few of these terms in detail, starting with those you may recognize.
Game Improvement vs. Game Enhancement Irons
Game improvement irons focus on providing better “forgiveness” on shots hit away from the sweet spot, offer better control and consistency even for poorly struck shots. Cavity back irons are commonly associated with game improvement and are designed with the intention of producing increased perimeter weighting for the clubhead, making the iron more forgiving for mis-hit shots. Essentially, deep cavity back irons deliver more distance from an off-center strike than a game enhancement iron will (the blades and musclebacks of the golf world). This is a result of the cavity back iron having a high moment of inertia creating less twisting of the clubhead from the off-center shot. You can tell a cavity back iron by the hollowed out back of the clubhead and the cavity this creates. The increased perimeter weight is created by removing this additional weight from the back-center of the club, as now more of the club’s mass is focused around the edges of the clubhead. Typically cavity back irons are cast, but you can also find cavity back forged irons.
Conversely, game enhancement irons, often associated with blades and muscleback irons, can be identified when the back of the clubhead is NOT hollowed out and has a full, smooth back and thin top-line you see at address. Since more of the club’s weight is focused behind the center of the clubface, the sweet spot is smaller than that of cavity back irons. Because of the smaller sweet spot, blades and muscleback irons are known to be more of a “players” iron than a game improvement iron. Some golfers prefer these game enhancement irons as they feel like they make it easier to shape shots and move the ball for a given shot.
If you are looking for the most forgiving irons with the largest sweet spot possible, cavity back irons are the place to start.
The general concept of shaft flex is simple — it is a rating of a golf club shaft’s ability to bend during the golf swing. All shafts, no matter how stiff, exhibit flex under the forces of the golf swing. Flexes are generally rated as Extra Stiff, Stiff, Regular, Senior and Ladies.
Playing the incorrect shaft flex for your game can negatively impact your swing and cause the clubface to be misaligned at impact. A variety of factors impact the shaft flex, including how fast or slow and smooth or jerky you swing. As the flex changes throughout your swing, the position of the clubhead changes. As a result, the shaft flex, whether directly or indirectly, affects the accuracy, trajectory and distance of your shot.
Golfers often overestimate their swing speed and play club shafts that are too stiff. This typically results in the ball flying lower and shorter for any given loft, compared to a properly fit club. The clubface will also be harder to square at impact, resulting in a more open clubface at impact and that fade or slice many golfers want to eliminate from their game.
The best way to find the correct shaft flex for your game is to get a custom club fitting done by a golf professional, such as a TECfit. During a GolfTEC TECfit, your coach will measure all aspects of your swing, including your swing speed, typical ball flight, spin rates, launch angle, current shaft flex, and more to present you the best shaft options for your game.
If you’ve ever been fit for a set of custom irons, you should be familiar with the term lie angle. Lie angle is the angle created by the centerline of the shaft and sole of the golf club, or the ground line of the club when the club is set at address. Typical lie angles for irons are between 59 and 64 degrees. Having your clubs setup with the proper lie angle is crucial to your accuracy around the golf course. A lie angle that is too upright will cause the face of the club to aim left of the intended target, while a lie angle that is too flat will cause the face to aim right of the intended target. Adding these extra variables into your swing makes it that much more difficult to square the face at impact and hit the ball with great accuracy, making the correct lie angle crucial for your game.
Wedges are used within the “scoring zone” — 130 yards and in. However, being fit for the correct wedges is often overlooked by golfers. Like the rest of the golf equipment, wedges are not “one size fits all.” One of the most common wedge characteristics evaluated is the bounce. Simply put, bounce is the angle of the sole measured against the ground when the club is in the address position and the shaft is vertical. It is built into the sole of a wedge to keep it from digging into the turf or sand and helps prevent “fat” shots by keeping the club moving through the turn or sand. The more bounce there is, the higher the leading edge is off the ground.
It is important to select the proper bounce in your higher lofted wedges based on your swing type and the course conditions you typically play. Here’s an illustration from GolfTEC to help visualize what the bounce is (see image at right). If you play wedges with too much bounce, you’ll likely find it is difficult to execute shots from firm conditions, however, it’s important to have enough bounce for sand shots. The best way to know which wedges are best for your game is to get fit by a professional who will analyze your swing characteristics and work with you to determine your typical course conditions.
Believe it or not, the loft of your putter is also important for your game! While the amount of loft will be small relative to your other clubs, every putter has some degree of loft built into the face. More difficult to fit than putter length or lie, putter loft depends on your putting stroke for one overarching reason — the built-in putter loft isn’t what matters, it’s the putter loft at impact that counts. Take a look at what happens in the following three scenarios: too much putter loft, too little putter loft, and proper loft.
Notice the inconsistencies caused by incorrect loft. The ball will stray from its intended line and it will become more difficult to correctly judge putting distance. With the proper loft, the ball doesn’t bounce and spin but instead skids and starts rolling much more quickly.
Unlike car buying, finding the right golf equipment for your game doesn’t have to be a difficult process. When done correctly, the right clubs and the right fit can make a huge difference in your golf game. Start the process with an idea of what you are looking for in a new driver, set of irons, wedges, or putter. Evaluate these 5 characteristics described above and you’ll be ahead of your golf buddies in no time.
But you don’t have to find the right golf clubs on your own. GolfTEC offers TECfit custom club fitting, a 90-minute one-on-one fitting specifically for your game. What’s even better is at the end of your club fitting, we will order your custom clubs for you just as you would order them at any golf retail store. Learn more about a TECfit and talk to a GolfTEC Coach about the right equipment for your game!