Technology: Golf Ball Fitting

Technology: Golf Ball Fitting 

The importance of golf ball fitting for your game and how one of the best — Titleist — does it.

golf ball fitting

Who knew your ball could be fit to your needs? A lot of people evidently. And our writer gets a custom fit and education on the process from a pro.

Since being on this “fitting kick” for some time now, I have mostly spent time discussing the various components of the golf club. The grip, the weight, loft and lie considerations, etc. I even think about shafts, but I’ll save that for another day. 

golf ball fitting

This is a pretty solid chart for golf ball fitting specs.

Today, I want to talk about Titleist Ball fitting. It basically translates to any golf ball fitting for that matter, such as Wilson, Srixon and Bridgestone, but we are using Titleist as a first-hand example. Several golf ball companies have simple smart phone apps now that also walk you through the process. 

Golf ball fitting really is as simple as it sounds: Find which ball you should be using.

(And, hey, maybe I’ve been using the wrong ball. If so, I’m calling that excuse No. 14 as to why I’ve gone from a 2 to 9 handicap.)

So I received an email recently from 2nd Swing telling me that they will be having a ball fitting session in Minneapolis, where they are headquartered, and that I should sign up and pick a time. However, these sessions are offered to the public all the time throughout the United States and beyond by golf ball manufacturers. Just look at their websites.

golf ball fitting

How Titleist rolls with its mobile golf ball fitting sessions — available to the public around the country.

It began with 2nd Swing’s professional fitters asking me just to start hitting balls to warm up before meeting with Titleist Golf Ball Fitter Jason Ng. He asked me questions about my game, handicap, how much I play, what kind of ball I currently use and what I was hoping to learn from this experience.

My response was, “just want to learn about the ball fitting experience and if I have been playing the correct type of ball or if I should be thinking about something different.” Once the preliminary interview was over, the discussion turned to the process of the ball fitting.

Titleist stresses the importance of the short game first. Not the driver and distance. I was impressed to learn that they would rather find me a golf ball that performs for me when I’m less than 100 yards from the hole, which is where close to 65 percent of the strokes we take come from, or something close to that figure.

golf ball fitting

Jason had set out a Titleist flag approximately 50 yards from my spot and asked me to hit the club I would normally take from that distance, without accounting for wind. I hit about 10 balls in and around the target. Next, Jason asked me to hit the same number of balls but with my 6-iron.

Finally, I pulled out the Big Dog — the driver — and hit the same number of balls. All during this time, we chatted about golf balls and playing golf and sharing stories. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and made for a fun session.

Once this was completed, Jason walked me over to the monitor, and we went over the results. They are shown in this video below:

What did I learn?

That for most of the irons — whatever iron you have — you should have a spin rate about 1,000 times your iron number. So, for the 6-iron, I should be spinning the ball about 6,000 rpm.

I reconfirmed my belief that my driver rpm needs to be less than 2,500 rpm, with a 12- to 14-degree launch angle for me to achieve optimal carry and roll on my tee shots. And I was not getting enough spin on my wedges.

One tip Jason had for me: Keep the wedges clean at all times. Grooves and the clubface. Even grass secretes an oily substance that can diminish spin put on a golf ball when hit. Think about how much that rate goes down when you have dirt in the grooves.

Another thing that stuck with me was when I asked about moving to a different ball is if I would see increases in distance. Jason told me that almost all the golf balls out there all travel about the same distance, and that the differentiating factor was the spin rate on the ball.

USGA regulations limit the speed at which a ball can leave a clubface and most manufacturers have reached that limit. What makes the difference now is the type of core, cover and dimple design that the different companies use.

golf ball fitting

This is a deviation from other tests that have been done with different golf balls. And, yes, I do plan to conduct and attend other ball fitting sessions with other ball manufacturers.

But a quick glance at various websites and periodicals all list the Titleist Pro V1 series their top picks. And this is for all-around performance. Nice distance off the tee, solid iron control into the greens, the ability to spin the ball on closer approaches. It has one of the key things I look for with anything golf-related: the “feel” of the ball off the clubface, how it flies to the target, and how it sounds and feels when putting.

golf ball fitting

And this is how Bridgestone rolls with its own extensive on-site golf ball fitting process.

So what was the recommendation? That I should stay with the Titleist Pro V1. I was then escorted back to the registration table where Jason handed me a sleeve of Pro V1’s and thanked me for my time. My recommendation? I think a golfer should experience as much outside information and assistance available to them as possible. Also, it’s a free fitting. Why wouldn’t you want to take a half hour out of your day for the experience?

What are your thoughts on golf balls? Which ones do you play and why? Is it cost? Is it performance? Is it that you’ve been thoroughly brain-washed into thinking only one kind of ball is for you? I’m curious.

And here’s a video of how Bridgestone goes about its business with exceptional PGA and LPGA tour pros Matt Kuchar and Paula Creamer: 

PING nFlight Gap Analysis

PING nFlight Gap Analysis

What is a PING nFLight Gap Analysis?

PING nFlight Gap Analysis

Living in the Midwest during the winter months and being a golfer can be frustrating and annoying. Sure, sure…you have golf domes, simulators — even outdoor ranges where you hit off mats into the wide open.

However, we know that it’s not the same. So what is a person to do? 2nd Swing Golf offers hitting areas at its Minnesota stores with the opportunity to hit the new toys. I’m positive that many of my fellow golfers work out and stretch to prepare for an  upcoming season, right? Uh, drinking beer on the couch and watching Sunday golf does not count.

What else should you be doing to be ready for a new season?

I posed that question to the staff at the Minnetonka 2nd Swing store. Their response?

“Have you had a Gap Analysis done?” My teeth don’t have gaps. I already own a gap wedge. Do I need a special one? Did they want to know the frequency of my visits to a certain clothing store? And how did that relate to my golf game?

Ever had a set of irons where the average distance between two irons was significant?

You had to swing really hard to make up the distance or choke way down with the longer club. This required lots of practice and knowing your own limitations.

Growing up, the rule of thumb for a set of irons was as each club got longer the loft of the club would decrease, and the difference in yardage was 10 yards per club.

At one time, I was told that typically the 7-iron is meant to carry 150 yards, which meant an 8-iron would carry 140 yards, 9-iron 130 yards and so on in each direction.

But the practical application of that proved to be wrong. Sometimes I hit my 7-iron longer. Many golfers hit their long irons the same distance, which is part of the reason for the growth of hybrids. The 10-yard difference in irons was not necessarily wrong, just different for each player.

A Gap Analysis, or “gapping” as it is called, is a feature provided by the complex PING nFlight launcher monitors, hardware and software in the hitting nets at 2nd Swing. By hitting balls with your own equipment, the computer program is able to calculate your average distance with each iron and the difference in carry and roll yardage between each iron.

That distance is your “gap” between irons.

PING nFlight Gap Analysis

The Process

The 2nd Swing clubfitter (Aaron Roth worked with me) asks you a series of questions: height, length of wrist to floor, hand size, longest finger (Remember, this is PING and this is how they roll when it comes to clubfitting.), plus your average distance with a 7-iron and driver.

Partly, this is to set up the computer program, but also to assess your knowledge of your equipment. Here’s the most important part: Be honest!

It is like going to the doctor’s office: The more honest you are and the more information you can provide, the better your diagnosis. If you tell the clubfitter that you hit a 7-iron 165 yards and then hit five balls and they only go 150, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Check the ego at the door. Or it may be a case where you need new irons to get back to that 165-yard 7-iron. Either way, the clubfitter will be able to tell.

First, I hit a couple of 7-irons, making sure that I hit them just right — not too thin, not too chunky. Then I did the same thing with my 3-hybrid (18-degree), and finally a couple of swings with, ironically, the gap wedge.

Keep in mind, you are looking for your average carry distance and roll. This is one more reason to remember to always swing no more than 65 percent to 70 percent of your full power for more consistent distance and accuracy. Once that was completed, I had the rest of my club lofts’ input. From this information, a gapping analysis was completed and printed for me to review.

You can see that I have a serious gap from my 4-iron to my 19-degree and 18-degree hybrids. Part of that is because my original 3-hybrid is an older TaylorMade; the 18-degree hybrid is a newer TaylorMade RBZ, which comes with a longer shaft. 

What I found very interesting is that the calculated distances are very close to my actual distances. But you can see I have a serious yardage gap.

Here was the interesting lesson learned: It does not matter what the loft of the club is or how long it is or who makes the club. You are looking for the club that will more evenly cover the gap distance. So you don’t need to have all TaylorMade or all PING in your bag (Although the manufacturer would prefer that… and you can always custom order to the specs you need.).

PING nFlight Gap Analysis

Filling the Gap

After knowing the gap, the next step was to find the right combination of loft, shaft flex and shaft length that best allows me to fill the gap.  Aaron worked with me as we tried different brands with varying lofts and lengths. We ultimately found a Titleist 913 24-degree hybrid, but installed a shaft that normally works for a 21-degree hybrid (about a half-inch longer). This got me to an average distance of 208 to 212 yards. Now the gap from my 4-iron is only 13 yards — and order has been restored to my golf bag.

Results

I found the Gap Analysis very revealing. I had no idea my longer hybrids were bunched in distance so closely together. 

While playing, I probably didn’t even realize I was choking down or swinging harder to cover the yardage gaps. On the shorter irons, it may be a case of needing to adjust the lofts by a degree or so to better and more consistently cover the yardage gaps.  

Is this type of fitting necessary for everyone?  No.  A Gap Analysis is better for the golfer who plays and has played for many years. They play in serious leagues or weekend events where the difference in a couple of strokes is shop credit or crying in your cold beer on the patio (I’ve done both, more the latter.).  But knowing your yardages always can give you an added advantage.

There’s also a part of the printout you receive is a small form on which to write down your yardages and have them laminated. Now you have a handy guide ready to go when you play.

 

 

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Golf Terminology: Characteristic of Time (CT)

Measuring a Clubface’s Characteristic Time (CT) or Flexibility and Spring-like Effect

And how the precise method replaced Coefficient of Restitution (COR) in overseeing golf clubface manufacturing and performance.

In the past, golfers with wooden clubheads would gather around the bar after their round and tell tales of how much more distance they were getting from the smokin’ face inserts in their drivers or favorite fairway woods.

Inserts with metal “firing pins” milled into the face, aluminum inserts, or the mythical “gamma-fire” glass insert were all part of the lore. Whether they actually worked or not is still debated, but since very few folks still swing persimmon clubheads we’ll skip that debate today.

When metalwoods became the norm, golfers became obsessed with how far a thin face could hurtle the ball. Manufacturers began making faces thinner and thinner until they were barely able to sustain the impact of a fast-swinging player.

However, distance was improving — and this concerned the USGA.

For several years, the USGA had used Coefficient of Restitution (COR) to identify how “hot” a clubface was. There was a cumbersome method of measuring that started by detaching the clubhead from the shaft, mounting it to a fixture and then firing a golf ball at it from an air cannon to get a reading on the COR.

You may remember that COR means how much energy is maintained after the golf ball (fired from the cannon) strikes the club face. A Perfect COR would be 1.0. The max spec set by the USGA was.830 COR. Anything over that was deemed non-conforming to the Rules of Golf.

Now the USGA uses a different method of measuring this spring-like effect. It is called the Characteristic Time or “CT.” You can click HERE to see the full USGA rules on measuring CT. 

CT

Much easier and less expensive, it measures in microseconds (with the symbol: µs) the dwell time of a steel pendulum device as it impacts the clubface. The assembled club’s shaft is clamped into a fixture and the pendulum is adjusted to allow it to strike the center of the clubface.

CT

Right from the USGA rule book on measuring CT or clubface flexibility.

The specified limit allowable is 239 µs, with a max tolerance of 18 µs, thus equaling a maximum CT of 257 µs.

There is said to be a correlation between COR and CT, but CT is a much more precise way of measuring the spring-like effect of a clubface.

The USGA seems to have tight reigns on the speed that it will allow manufacturers to produce on clubheads. This will further limit just how hot a club face may be and perhaps begin to put a cap on the distance golfers will hit the ball.

Ah, but don’t worry too much. I’m sure that the golf ball makers will be able to squeeze out a few more yards from the clubs when max CT is reached.

 

dynamic golf stretches

Stretching/Warming Up: Dynamic Stretches for Golf

Dynamic Stretches for Golf

A typical golf professional arrives at the course hours before their tee time. And what does the pro do first? He or she starts out simple with stretches to loosen the body up and begin their routine on the practice green.

And you should too.

Formal definition:  Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching very useful in sports such as golf. It utilizes momentum from our body’s form. Static-active stretching helps build strength by in part harnessing the momentum from static-active stretching movements and positions. The important thing to remember with dynamic stretching is that you are not extending or exceeding your normal range of motion as you do the activities. 

Professional players focus on other short game areas such as chips, pitches and bunker shots. Next, they work on their full swing at the practice range. Typically, they spend a few more minutes on the putting green before they head to the first tee. There is no doubt they are fully prepared physically and mentally for their upcoming round.

Recreational players often arrive at the golf course with only a few minutes to prior to their tee time. They spend little or no time warming up and the first three or four holes result in a disaster. While you don’t need to go through an in depth routine such as a tour professional, you should spend a few minutes warming up before your round. 

There are several forms of stretching. Static stretching is the most common form that greatly improves flexibility. However, static stretches does little to contract the muscles needed to generate powerful golf swings. Dynamic stretches help improve your range of motion while reducing muscle stiffness.

In addition, research indicates dynamic stretches have a positive influence on performance. Many athletes in other sports also prefer dynamic stretches during their warm up routine.

The following dynamic stretches are useful for golfers:

dynamic golf stretches

Supported Squats

Place a club over your head with your hands on both ends of the club. Your arms should be fully extended up. Stand with your feet shoulder width and squat down until your thighs are close to parallel with the ground.

dynamic golf stretches

Arm Swings

Stand with your feet shoulder width and arms extended out to your sides. Slowly swing your arms back and forth across the front of your body.

dynamic golf stretches

Trunk Rotations

Place a club behind your neck with your hands on both ends. Stand with your feet shoulder width and bend your knees slightly and at your waist. Turn to each side so you get one end of the club directly in front of you with each turn.

dynamic golf stetches

Side Bends

Stand with your feet shoulder width and hold a club behind your neck. Bend to each side and keep your torso straight. Avoid leaning forward or backward, only go to each side.

dynamic golf stretches

Swing a Weighted Club

Practice swinging with a heavy club.  Swinging a weighted club is designed to increase flexibility, add swing speed, increase distance and build muscle. Take a normal set up and make continuous swings forward and backward without stopping.

dynamic golf stretches

Leg Swings

Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width and near an object you can grab for support. Begin by slowly swinging your right leg forward and backward. Switch to the other leg. Your body should remain standing straight up through the leg swings.

dynamic golf stretches

Alternate Toe Touches

Begin by spreading your feet a comfortable distance apart. Lean toward your left leg and touch your left foot with your right hand. You should feel a stretch in your lower back and hamstrings. Repeat the motion for the other foot. 

And try to have fun. Do what you can. Don’t overextend yourself. Maybe, listen to music on earbuds. Relax. Tune out the world a bit. You’re on the golf course!

– See more at: http://blog.2ndswing.com/dynamic-stretches-golf/#sthash.MsZU1ypN.dpuf

static golf stretches

Stretching/Warming Up: Static Stretches for Golf

Static Stretches for Golf

Static stretches are used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest. Unlike dynamic stretches, studies indicate static stretches do not improve athletic performance. Rather, static stretches are designed to improve mobility and range of motion.

Make time for these. They work and will help your fitness for more than just golf. 

Stretches are generally held anywhere from 10 seconds or more and require easy breathing while the stretch is performed. The following are only a small sample of beneficial static stretches a golfer can perform.

Static stretching definition: A Static stretching means is one held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually somewhere between 10 to 30 seconds. Static stretches are the most common form of stretching now in fitness and is great for golf to improve overall flexibility and strength. 

static golf stretches

Standing Shoulder Stretch

Stand with your feet shoulder width and vertically hold a club in front of you. Hold onto the club and bend forward at your waist until your back is parallel with the ground. You should feel a stretch across your shoulders.

static golf stretches

Wrist Extensions

Wrist injuries are the most frequently reported injury for female golfers. Try the following exercise to stretch out the wrist and forearm. Extend your right arm straight out and pull back your fingers with your left hand until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Repeat the motion with the other wrist.

static golf stretches

Knee to Chest

Lie on your back with your neck supported and body extended out. Flex your right knee and slide your foot toward your butt. Place both hands behind the flexed knee and pull your knee toward your chest. Hold the stretch for the appropriate amount of time to stretch your lower back and gluteal muscles. Switch legs and repeat the stretch.

static golf stretches

Double Knees to Chest

Low-back injury is the number one reported injury in golf. The double knees to chest stretch will focus directly on the lower back, the most frequently injured area resulting from the golf swing.

Begin by lying on your back with your neck supported and body extended out. Flex both knees and slide both feet toward your butt. Place both hands behind your thighs and avoid too much bending in your knees. Pull both knees toward your chest and shoulders and lift your hips up off the floor. Relax and slowly extend your legs back to the original position. 

static golf stretches

Cat and Camel

The cat and camel stretch focuses directly on the upper back. Begin by getting on your knees and place your hands on the ground. Extend your arms forward and lower your chest down to the floor. Exhale out and extend your shoulders while you press down on the floor with your arms to produce an arch in your back. Hold the stretch and then relax.

static golf stretches

Quad Stretch

The quad stretch focuses on the middle- and upper-quadriceps muscles. Begin by standing and hold onto an object for support. Grab your left foot with your left hand and pull your heel toward your butt. Hold the stretch and return to your original standing position. Repeat the stretch with your other leg.

static golf stretches

Triceps Stretch

The triceps stretch focuses directly on the triceps. Begin the stretch by standing and place one hand behind your back and the elbow in the air. Place the other hand on the elbow and pull towards your head. Hold the stretch and repeat with the other arm.    

static golf stretches

Butterfly Stretch

The Butterfly stretch targets the inner thighs and groin area. Begin by sitting on the ground in an upright position. While sitting both soles of your shoes should be together.  Spread your knees apart and pull your feet toward your groin so you feel a stretch in the groin and inner thighs. Keep your lower back straight to perform the stretch correctly.   

static golf stretches

Hamstring Stretch

Stretch your hamstring by lying flat on your back with your legs extended out. Raise one leg and place your hands around your thigh. Keep your leg extended out while your other leg still lies flat on the ground. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then lower your leg. Repeat the stretch with the other leg.

static golf stretches

Cross-over stretch

The cross-over stretch targets the hips and gluteal muscles. Begin by resting your head on a pillow or rolled up towel. Position both of your feet flat against a wall while your hips and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Cross your left leg over your right thigh. Position your right hand over your left thigh and pull it down to the floor. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your left hip. Repeat the stretch with the other leg.

maar01_fitness_oxygen

Stretching/Warming Up: Breathing Techniques for Golf

Breathing Techniques for Golf

Anxiety can be defined as an adaptive response associated with tension and uncertainty of facing a new situation or unpleasant experience that causes worry and can affect sleep, appetite and ability to concentrate. Furthermore, the fear resulting from anxiety can become extreme, debilitating and totally paralyzing. The ability to stay relaxed is crucial for success in any sport. 

Maybe that’s especially true with golf, for most of us at least. 

breathing techniques for golf

On the golf course, there are countless potential distractions that allow the opportunity to develop anxiety and lose focus. In fact, coupled with unrealistic expectations, many amateur players fall apart during a round of golf. Players can develop the ability to control their emotions before every shot. While many players experience anxiety before the opening drive or a crucial putt down the stretch, the goal is for players to avoid anxiety and cope with relaxation techniques. Staying relaxed will not guarantee success, however, it is a physical and mental state that offers a greater likelihood of success. 

Successful athletes believe they will achieve success. The ability to relax in a stressful situation is a valuable coping skill on and off the golf course. Research suggests relaxation strategies to be effective and necessary for achieving performance excellence.

The following breathing techniques are designed for participants to learn and experience muscle mind relaxation strategies. Experience the different techniques and find the most beneficial technique to reach a state of relaxation in the body and mind.

Sighing with Exhalation

Sighing with exhalation begins with each individual inhaling slowly and then holding their breath for 10 seconds. Allow the tension to build and then exhale through the mouth.  Athletes should feel tension leave the body and learn to relax with this breathing technique.

Rhythmic Breathing

Rhythmic breathing occurs with each individual inhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four and then pausing for a count of four before repeating the sequence.

1:2 Ratio

The 1:2 ratio is a variation of rhythmic breathing. Individuals take a deep, full breath and then exhale slowly. Inhale to a count of four and exhale to a count of eight. The next breath should be slightly longer, inhale to a count of five and exhale to a count of 10. Then inhale to a count of six and exhale to a count of 12 and so on. 

5-to-1 Count

A 5-to-1 count is another form of rhythmic breathing. Athletes begin by visualizing the number 5 and take a slow, deep breath with full exhale. Next, visualize the number four, and repeat the breathing cycle. Between each number athletes should focus on becoming more relaxed. Complete the cycle going down to the number one. 

Concentration Breathing

Concentration breathing is the last breathing exercise. Athletes specifically focus on the rhythm of each breath. Each inhale and exhale is specifically designed to think about relaxing and the next inhale or exhale. The idea is to remove any distracting thoughts and only on breathing rhythm.

So, go on and experiment with the different breathing techniques and determine which may be the most beneficial relaxation breathing exercise.

The ability to relax will help reduce anxiety and increase performance.

penha-longa-golf-resort-activities-jogging

Stretching/Warming Up: Is Running Good Golf Training?

Is Running Good Golf Training?

The thought of running to increase golf performance is a controversial topic. While running leads to aches and pains after a run, many feel it potentially leads to significant injuries later in life. Scientific studies are available to support and negate the benefits of running.

running for golf training

Many professional players have utilized running in their training program.  In fact, Justin Leonard trained and finished a marathon in Dallas, Texas. Nick Faldo used jogging to stay in shape, and Tiger Woods routinely starts his day with a 3 -mile speed run or 7-mile endurance run.

The following golf fitness tips show the potential benefits of how running can improve your golf game:

Endurance

The average golf course is approximately 5 miles in length. The majority of recreational players use a cart when they play golf.   Many competitive players are required to walk when they participate in a tournament. A player participating in a 4 day tournament must navigate 20 miles of terrain in addition to any hills and difficult weather conditions. While playing a round of golf does not require the same amount of endurance as a marathon, it golf does require mental and physical endurance to play at a high level. 

Endurance allows you to finish a round mentally sharp while still hitting solid golf shots. A running routine will help you finish mentally and physically stronger. For example, develop a training program where you run 3 miles four times a week. It should only take around 25 minutes and you will be amazed how fresh you feel at the conclusion of your round.

Mental Edge

Bear Bryant, Alabama’s legendary football coach, once said, “I make my practices real hard because if a player is a quitter, I want him to quit in practice, not in a game.”

Every athlete tries to develop a mental edge in an attempt to reach their peak performance. Running, or any other training program, can help a player feel invincible. A difficult training program might help a player build confidence and rely on that experience in a pressure situation. Suddenly a 5-foot putt might not seem so difficult when they pushed past barriers in training. A difficult training program will build mental toughness. 

In addition to the physical benefits, research indicates runner’s euphoria is a psychological benefit created from running. While the time and intensity required to reach a running high varies between individuals, it relieves stress and creates a happier and more relaxed individual.

Physical Fitness

Running is one of the most efficient exercises to lose weight. Combined with a healthy diet, you should definitely notice a leaner appearance and improved feel. Running is one of the best aerobic exercises for your heart and lungs. Research indicates the health benefits of running are tremendous, which include boosting your immune system and decreasing the risk of heart attack. 

Fitness sets the ceiling in golf. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think a player in better physical condition has more potential for improvement. Better conditioned players are less susceptible to injury and physically able to implement improvements to their golf swing. 

Final Thoughts

The majority of today’s golf professionals believe physical fitness an essential part of their golf preparation. While it is an individual preference whether a player chooses running as a method to improve their game, players should at least utilize some form of training program.

Some individuals may feel there are other golf fitness tips and better strength and flexibility programs for their specific health needs. However, running will help you become a better golfer. How can improving your overall health not be beneficial for your everyday life, let alone your golf game?

 

Players Versus Game-Improvement Golf Clubs

Golf Terminology: Players Versus Game-Improvement Golf Clubs

Players-Game-Improvement-Clubs-1

Golf Terminology: Players Versus Game-Improvement Golf Clubs

How much you play and practice the game of golf will influence what type of equipment you may choose to put in your bag, whether it be players or game-improvement golf clubs. 

A combination of lots of practice and play, understanding your game and the science behind it all figure into deciding what to choose — or when to switch.

Game-Improvement

If you play only occasionally or find that you need a little help with your shot making, you may elect to use game-improvement clubs.

I’ll define these as having the following features and benefits:

The driver and fairway woods will always have graphite shafts, usually with a little extra torque to allow you to feel and flex the shaft and help launch the ball higher. The clubheads also may have some extra loft. To help limit the tendency to slice the ball, the face angles may be a touch closed.

The irons usually will have a slightly larger clubhead from heel to toe versus a players’ club. They will have a somewhat wider sole with some bounce to help the club glide through the turf. The wide sole also creates a lower center of gravity (CG) in the head that tends to help get the ball up in the air.

Game-improvement irons always will have extra perimeter weighting, usually with additional heel-toe weighting. (Although, some game-improvement clubs may be designed like a hollow iron, similar to a hybrid head.) The conspicuous deep-cavity perimeter weighting acts to increase the moment of inertia (MOI).

A club with a higher MOI will resist rotating about its axis. This is very helpful when, in those rare instances, you miss-hit the ball off the heel or toe portion of the clubface. Since the head is designed with a higher MOI, your shot will not wander as far off-line.

Finally, game-improvement irons usually are designed with additional hosel offset. This helps place the hands ahead of the leading edge of the club head to aid the golfer in hitting down on the ball — which helps get the ball up.

Players

Let’s now take a look at what a players club has to offer. These clubs tend to be for golfers that play the game substantially more, and at a higher skill level, than the average golfer. Golf professionals and lower-handicap players are the target market.

Their clubs will have these features and benefits:

The driver and fairway woods almost always are built with graphite shafts. The shafts will be designed with stiffer tips and lower torque, so the clubs may be swung with greater speed and accuracy. The clubface angles will tend to be square to open versus the game-improvement woods. This open face helps the stronger golfer swing more freely without fear of duck hooking a shot.

The players irons also have a shorter head length from heel to toe. The soles are generally narrower and blade-like with much less weight concentrated toward the bottom of the club when compared to a game-improvement iron.

Since the better player is much more adept at striking the ball on the sweet spot of the club face, he actually prefers an iron with a lower MOI. He also wants the low-torque steel shafts in his irons. All of these features allow the skilled golfer to manipulate the clubface and hit a variety of shots, from soft high fades to boring low draws.

The players club may have a little bounce, but the sole usually has a radius camber that performs the task of digging less into the turf. Skilled players already tend to hit down on the ball, so the hosel offset is usually far less than is seen on a game-improvement iron.

In years past, players irons generally were what we called “flat back.” That meant that the back of the head had no cavity of any kind. The head may have had only a slight muscle back or small sole flange. (It is interesting to note that early Scottish irons had “mussel” backs due to the shape of the bivalve mollusks the Scots ate. Years later it was changed to “muscle” to denote a powerful club design.)

Over the years skilled golfers noticed how much easier a cavity design was to hit and they began asking for this feature on some of their clubs. Nowadays, a players club, more often than not, may come with a slight cavity to make the game somewhat easier for even the best players.

Switching clubs rarely easy, Ask Rory

How-To Guides: Switching Golf Clubs Rarely Easy, Ask Rory

Switching clubs rarely easy, Ask Rory

How-To Guides: Switching Golf Clubs Rarely Easy, Ask Rory

When Even the Pro Golfers Change Equipment

When Rory McIlroy signed his deal to represent Nike Golf much was made — and is certainly be said after this weekend — about the adjustments he would have to make as he transitioned into Nike clubs.

Would he still be as good a golfer as he was before the switch? Did he do it just for the money? Since it has been reported that he signed a 10-year, $200 million deal, I have to assume that money played at least some part in the change. Although it didn’t stop him from bending a Nike 9 iron in apparent frustration last year at the US Open.  

Still, Nike clubs have always performed well for Tiger Woods and the rest of the Nike roster, so McIlroy should know that his less-than-stellar 2013 may be at least partially his fault.

The fact is that professional PGA Tour players are a lot like you and I. They come to rely on their equipment and have certain favorite clubs. Even if their new clubs are made perfectly to fit all their specs, the player still may not feel entirely comfortable.

And these professional golfers are exponentially more sensitive to their sticks — from shaft frequency, head shape, face angle and sound to the difficult to quantify “feel.”

But they are still like most golfers — always looking for something slightly better. Or in the case of the top pros, willing to take a chance for a big contract.

I have been fitting and making equipment for some of the top players in the world for more than 30 years, and I can tell you one thing: It is always a surprise what comments you get from the players.

“I love the new driver,” they’ve said, even though you know the composite shaft that was put in is different from the old one.

“I don’t like the look of the new putter,” I’ve heard, even though it was crafted to exactly match the previous stick.

“The leading edge needs to be softened more,” I’ve been told, even though the measured radius is rolled more than a tournament-winning previous set of irons.

“These feel light,” it’s been said, when you know the clubheads were ground to weight and swing weighted perfectly with shafts. Shafts that were sorted and weighed exactly to his specs.

In every case I’d make some adjustment to be sure that when he went into battle, the player knew his clubs were perfect for him.

Psychologically fitted?

Maybe you could say that. Sometimes you just can not get it right for the player. I worked with one Hall of Famer
in years past that was and still is one of the nicest gentleman you would ever hope to meet. Yet after multiple attempts at making clubs for him, he was never really satisfied.

Conversely, I have had another top, major winning pro that saw a set of irons that I was working on for someone else and immediately took a liking to them. He used them for many years on the PGA Tour.

Other golfers are perfectly satisfied with their clubs, as long as you annually check their loft and lie and maybe put on a new set of grips — although this example is rare.

Two legends of the game, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, had certain little things that had to be done to their drivers.

Ben Hogan during his historic 1950 US Open. Hogan won on a three-way 18-hole playoff.

At the Ben Hogan Golf Company, Hogan always insisted on having a small brass “shaft tip locking screw” installed in the through-bore tip of his steel driver shaft. This went back to his days at MacGregor Golf in the 1940s to the early 1950s when glue was not quite what it should have been (before epoxy was invented). The screw helped keep the shaft from coming out of the wooden head. Even years after epoxy was perfectly suitable to install a shaft, Hogan still wanted that little screw.

He said that it made the club feel better balanced. I know that when we made his driver, we always had to factor in that small screw to hit the swing weight he wanted.

Jack Nicklaus also had started with MacGregor early in his career, and his first professional driver had a butt weight of lead in the grip end of the shaft. This was a common way for mass-produced clubs in the 1960s to be counterbalanced and swing weighted with persimmon wood heads that were slightly too heavy.

Jack Nicklaus in 1976 at Glen Abbey Golf Club, the site of more than one of his Canadian Open losses.

We would never do this for professional Tour players, but Nicklaus’ favorite club was built that way — and he continues with this method of butt weighting even today.

So, in a way, even the supposedly most-rational weekend golfer can be compared to an all-time great.

 

Golf Basics: The Grip

How-To Guides: The Golf Grip

Golf Basics: The Grip

How-To Guides: Golf Basics: The Grip

Golf’s fundamentals begin with your grip

Any good player will tell you, the start of a new season is a time for refocusing on fundamentals. Be it a low-handicap amateur, a PGA teaching professional or a touring pro playing for millions week in and week out — they all will focus on the basics when coming back from a long layoff.

Posture, alignment, tempo, ball position. Fundamentals are the foundation upon which your swing is built, and if they’re not solid, you won’t be either.

Perhaps the most important of these fundamentals is the grip. The hands are the only point of contact between you and the club; they control everything. It’s also not impossible to play quality golf with a strange grip.

Paul Azinger is fond of telling the story of how Nick Faldo describes him as having a “homemade grip with a hatchet swing.” And Azinger won a PGA Championship. But you’re certainly increasing your degree of difficulty if you don’t take the time to learn a fundamentally sound way to hold the club.

Thankfully, it’s also a comparatively easy thing to get right. The biggest mistake most amateurs make with their grip is holding the club too much in the palm of their left hands, as if it were a baseball bat. Baseball is a fine game, and a sport I love dearly, but the baseball swing is an act of controlled violence, a heavy chunk of maple or ash wielded with brute force. Golf clubs are lighter, more precise. The golf swing an act of tempo, rhythm, and control.

That’s a responsibility you want to give to the finer motor controls of the fingers.

Start by aligning the butt-end of the club along your glove hand on the bottom third of your pinkie finger, below the knuckle but above the palm. This will set up everything else about the grip. If you have the club positioned well in your pinkie, there’s no way to end up with a palmy, baseball-style grip.

Close your hand comfortably around the club. If you take your stance and address a ball from this position, you should see roughly one and a half to two knuckles on the top of your glove hand, with the “V” formed by the line between your thumb and forefinger pointing towards your right shoulder (left shoulder for lefties). 

If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably want to rotate your glove hand a little more so that you see somewhere between two and a half and three knuckles. This is referred to as a “strong” grip, helping you close your clubface at impact and produce a left-to-right (or right-to-left for southpaws) drawing ball flight that results in more distance.

Lower handicappers will generally stay with a neutral grip, or in some cases go with a one-knuckle or “less-weak” grip to help produce a fading left-to-right (right-to-left for southpaws) ball flight for more control.

Once you’ve got your glove hand situated well on the club, place your non-glove hand on the club, making sure to once again keep the club running along your fingers and out of the palm. Your non-glove thumb should wrap comfortably over your glove-hand thumb, the “V’s” between thumb and forefinger running parallel to each other and, again, pointing at your right shoulder (left shoulder for lefties).

Your non-glove pinkie finger can connect with the glove hand in a number of ways. I prefer what’s called the “interlocking” grip (See Tiger Woods above.), where the index finger of the glove hand and the pinkie finger of the non-glove hand wrap around each other, firmly connecting the hands in a unified hold. Both Woods and Jack Nicklaus use the interlocking grip.

There is also the “10-finger” or “baseball-style” grip, in which the hands aren’t connected at all, with each finger resting consecutively along the club.

The most popular grip, however, is the “overlapping” or “Vardon” grip, named after British golf legend Harry Vardon, who popularized it. Here the pinkie on the non-glove hand rests on top of the glove-hand index finger. Most players prefer this grip because it allows for a feeling of unity with the hands, but still keeps the glove hand in charge and allowing for crisper contact at impact. 

There is no wrong choice when it comes to deciding between each of these styles, however. Go with whichever option feels the most comfortable and gives you the most control of your golf ball.

Finally, perhaps the most important part of having a good grip is maintaining light-grip pressure. You want to be able to hold the club securely, but keep your hands loose and free-flowing in order to avoid tension. Tension in your hands will lead to tension throughout your golf swing, sapping your clubhead speed, destroying your tempo and inevitably sending your ball far off-target.

Relax your hands and it will relax every other part of your game, allowing you to play your best.

A fundamentally sound grip is an easy thing to overlook, but it is the root cause of countless other problems in the golf swing.

Take the time at the beginning of a season to ensure that your grip and other fundamentals are rock-solid, and you can dive into the summer fully ready to play your best and attack the course.