by Don Irving, Artisan Golf
As it is with many things in life, golf is a game of cause and effect. You hit an iron fat and not only does your shot not go very far, but you also get a great jarring throughout your body for your efforts. This is a simple example. What I want to do in this article is to look at some of the parameters that go into a well fitted set of clubs and discuss some of the reasons why these are so important and what happens when these parameters are not suited to your swing. I will talk about lies, lengths, shaft weight, shaft frequency, total weight/swing weight, etc., and also delve into some of the reasons why a struck ball does what it does. Understanding such terms as club path, face to path, gear effect, dynamic loft, etc., can only make us better golfers.
Let us start by looking at the lie of the club. The lie of the club is really only important at impact. All we really need to know is whether the sole of the club is parallel to the ground. If it is, then the lie is correct. However, if the sole is tilted down, i.e., the toe is down or conversely if the toe is up at impact, then an adjustment needs to be made. Lie is important because if the toe is down too much, the ball will tend to want to leak to the right and if the toe is up too much, the ball will have a tendency to go to the left. (For right handed golfers). A lie that is severely down or flat can actually cause the toe to catch on the turf and open the clubface and if severely up, the heel may catch on the turf and close the clubface. If you are experiencing this, make sure you get a lie check on your clubs. (This applies mainly to irons.)
What about club length? There is what is called a men’s standard or lady’s standard in the industry, but there is such a variety of heights, arm lengths, leg lengths and address positions that the chances of a golfer falling into the standard is marginal. With the above information, each individual golfer needs to be fitted to the correct length so that he is in a comfortable natural position and is not constantly trying to adjust to a set of clubs that are ill fitting.
When it comes to shafts, there are several things to consider. One is the shaft frequency or relative stiffness. A shaft that is either too stiff or too soft is just not going to feel right. When you have a shaft that is too stiff, you get that “boardy” feel and often subconsciously try to swing harder to get the feel you are looking for. For a shaft that is too soft, you may slow your swing to find the feel you want or you just may have trouble controlling the ball flight. A shaft’s weight is also extremely important, since it is a major contributor to the total weight of a club. Head and grip weights (other than the special weight groups) are fairly standard but the shaft weight can vary considerably. A shaft that is too heavy will give you a club that is too heavy and quite uncomfortable and tiring to swing. It is very important to get fitted to a shaft that not only has the correct frequency, but also the correct weight. When these two parameters are optimally matched, the golfer will have the best feel and performance for his or her swing.
Swing weight is an alphanumeric representation of how the club is balanced and comes into the feel category of a club. For example, irons are often balanced to a swing weight around D-1. The thing to remember about swing weight is that it is a parameter that is relative to the total weight of a club. For example, it is quite possible to produce two clubs with significant differences in total weight but have the same swing weight. Although they have the same swing weight, they will feel and play quite differently. Finding the correct combination of total weight versus swing weight is a key parameter in designing a set of clubs for any particular golfer.
There are many parameters associated with impact that explain why ball flight is the way it is. But as space is limited, I will focus on two of these parameters and how they can have such a dramatic effect on ball flight. They are club path and face angle. First, let us look at club path. Simply defined it is the direction your club head moves, relative to the target line, as it moves through the swing. If your club is moving out to the right of your target line your path is inside out. If it is moving to the left of the target line, it is out to in and if it is moving along the target line, it is straight. If you have an in to out club path and your club face is perpendicular to the target line, the ball with start straight and draw left. If your path is out to in and the face is square to the target the ball will start straight and fade to the right. These are the two parameters that will dictate your shot shape. The greater the deviation is between these two factors, the greater the degree of draw or fade, push or pull, hook or slice. Also, keep in mind that club face angle has a greater influence on ball flight than club path. A good rule of thumb is that if you are getting a lot of movement left or right, the biggest contributor is face angle. Keep in mind that with a driver, face angle is 85 per cent responsible for initial ball direction. In an iron, face angle is responsible for 75 per cent of initial ball direction.
We must remember that golf truly is a game of cause and effect, whether it is related to a good fitting or whether it is a swing issue, for good golf, you have to understand both.