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.
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.
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.