Clubmaker’s Classroom – Swing Flaws or Equipment Issues?

by Don Irving, Artisan Golf

For the last article of the season, I would like to focus on the fitting parameters that can have a significant impact on your game. When you are encountering problems in your game, there are times when the issue could be the parameters of your clubs. Some of these parameters are: club length, loft, and lie, face angle on woods, total weight, shaft weight, weight distribution shaft flex, and shaft composition.

A number of these parameters can be adjusted in an existing set, while others have to be addressed in the original build. For example, one of the most important fitting parameters is that of lie angle. This mainly pertains to irons. The reason that lie angle is most important in irons is that they have a flat face, there is not bulge or roll as there is with woods and hybrids. Because of bulge and roll there is a built-in forgiveness factor called “gear effect” which really does not exist in irons. When the lie of the club is correct, the score lines will be parallel to the ground at impact. In other words, the head is level coming through impact. If the head is not level, then there are issues with direction control. If the toe of the club is down at impact, the ball will tend to go to the right of the target and if the toe is up, the tendency will be to go left. Fortunately, this is something that can be adjusted on your existing irons. Caste clubs can usually be bent 2-3 degrees for lie, whereas forged clubs can be bent up to 7-8 degrees, if needed. Correct lie angle is extremely important so if you do nothing else to your clubs get the lie angles checked and adjusted. Having fitted thousands of golfers I think it is safe to say that most lie angles are not what they should be.

A very important equipment parameter is that of shaft weight. I believe that shaft weight is more important than shaft flex. Having the correct shaft weight in your clubs has a direct impact on how efficiently and comfortably you are able to swing your clubs. Having shafts that are too heavy can cause you to fatigue more easily over the course of 18 holes and can also impede the hands from squaring the face at impact, causing a block or an undesired cut or slice. As we age, going to lighter shafts may enable us to pick up some of our lost clubhead speed or at least keep pace with our current clubhead speed. Going to a lighter shaft weight may require a shift to graphite shafts and there is no downside to doing this. Graphite shafts are every bit as stable and playable as any steel shaft plus there is the benefit of very good vibration dampening that graphite provides.

Now let us consider face angle. Firstly, face angle pertains only to drivers, fairway woods, and, to a lesser extent, hybrids. Because these clubs have a radius face, both vertically (roll) and horizontally (bulge), it is important that the face angle of the head matches your swing. Quite simply defined, face angle is the orientation of the face of the club relative to the target line. When the face of the club is perpendicular to the target line when placed in its natural position, the club face is deemed square or neutral. For this discussion, I will only refer to drivers, but it is also applicable to woods and hybrids. When the face of the driver is open (i.e., pointing toward the right of the target, the face is open and when pointing left of the target the face is closed). The face angle of your driver can have a tremendous impact on ball direction. For example, if you tend to hook the ball and you are using a closed face driver, this would contribute greatly to the hook. If you tend to have a club path that goes right to left of the target (outside-in) an open face driver can cause a huge slice, unless you can manage to get the driver face turned over. Either scenario, you are constantly fighting the effect of face angle. For a golfer who tends to lose the ball to the right a closed face driver head is a much better and needed option. The golfer that has a lot of ball movement left to right may require a club face that is closed 2-3 degrees in combination with an offset driver head.

This article has shown you three examples where the wrong fitting parameter can have a detrimental impact on your game. Lie adjustments can be made after the set is built.  A change in shaft weight requires a reshaft. Face angle is adjustable on most OEM drivers but cannot be changed without affecting the club’s loft and is at best a poor compromise.

The last thing I would like to mention concerning club parameters is the grip. It is the only part of the club that touches your body, so it is very important that not only does the size of the grip fit your hands but that it feels good in your hands. Every grip can be sized correctly to fit your hands, but equally important is whether the texture of the grip feels good to you. Grips vary greatly in texture. Some are rough, some soft, some are very tack, others less tacky. It is important to determine what is pleasing to your touch when selecting a grip. As well, remember grips do not last indefinitely. Playing with worn out grips can have a very detrimental impact on your swing. They can lead to excess unwanted tension in the hands and forearm, leading to a variety of errant shots. If you are not sure if your grips are suited to you or if you think they may have too much wear on them, have a professional clubfitter take a look at them. He or she would be happy to assess them for you.

Remember, sometimes it is the equipment that can cause you grief, so have a professional club fitter assess your needs and make the necessary adjustments to help you play better golf.

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