HCL Concord Golf
To appreciate what we have today, we should first take a brief look at product evolution. A
visit to the USGA headquarters in New Jersey is a real eye opener. There you will see virtually all of the
old clubs of the past, as well as the steps taken in lost wax process investment casting, the steel shaft
evolution and why little steps were put in, and so on, that led to today's products. It is a wonder that
people such as Gene Sarazen could play persimmon heads with wooden shafts and do so well. The wooden
shafts would change characteristics due to heat and moisture virtually every day. The heads would nick and
need constant repair. And yet he was able to score a double eagle two at Augusta on the 15th hole.
If you look at the old tapes of Shell's Wonderful World of Golf, you will find Messrs. Snead
and Hogan playing a 7,000 yard course in Houston, using old forged blade irons and persimmon headed steel
shafted woods. And they did very well indeed, with Hogan putting for a birdie on virtually every hole. And
all of these folks were using balls that were not very lively and cut readily. Further, we hear
stories that individual handicaps have not come down that much since the days of Hogan and Snead,
suggesting that product progress is more hype than reality. We must dispute that suggestion. The
past performance of such legends of the game was due to their tremendous talent. And the handicap
statistics now include many players who just don't have the time to play enough, have two wage earners in
the family and cannot get to the course as often as they want. Further, we have many more seniors today,
who have lost a little flexibility but want to continue on. Such factors tend to raise the average
handicaps and do not give a more realistic indication of the real progress being
If you look at the Senior Tour you will find plenty of examples of men who are hitting the
ball just as far, or even farther, than in their primes. Often, they do not have to manipulate the ball
from left to right, or right to left, the way they once had to do. They simply fly over the obstacles with
their normal shot shape.
You can also judge for yourself, if you can locate some
woods and irons from the 60's or the 70's. Try hitting them at the practice range and immediately compare the
results, club by club, to the models you have, or to the most recent models. You will find some or all of the following results:-
a- There is more strain for you to accelerate the head to a square impact position, whether
it is a wood or an iron.
b- You do not hit the ball as far.
c- The old driver has a different feel from the companion fairway woods of its set. That is,
they don't dynamically match one another and you can notice it as you swing.
d- You may find your shots fading or slicing more than now. Control is more difficult.
e- It is difficult to hit a medium iron out of tall grass, as compared to the newer
f- Even the grips on the old equipment feel uncomfortable.
g- A bad swing produces a much poorer result, say, on a toe or heel hit.
-In short, you should find that the newer designs are
much more forgiving, easier to use, and do hit the ball farther as well.
- However, unless the new equipment is fittted to you and
your swing, a good design is essentially worthless. There are tradeoffs that must be made as you
select these new clubs, which are explained further in the subsequent points. Recently MSN had a Slate
column, entitled, "Chuck Those Woods". We encourage you to read it, at http://slate.msn.com/id/2078176/ where the author describes his frustrations after spending $1,500 for a "custom" set
of clubs. He does make some very valid points. What Pro's are playing is almost
certainly irrelevant to you. Prices have become outlandishly high. Spending a lot of money does not
ensure that you end up with something worthwhile. And oversized clubs can be a problem for some
- This fellow shoots in the 90's but has been fitted with long steel shafts. It sounds like
one of these static measurement fittings, with hand to floor distance, and so on, was used as the
fitting guide. If so, he was fitted badly, without dynamic considerations. The chances are that he should
be playing graphite shafts and not steel shafts, for one of many things. If the clubs do not fit, he
will continue to struggle irrespective of practice and lessons. The explanation of why very large heads
can be a problem to many players is incomplete. As you will soon learn (see Point 16 below), inertial drag is the root cause. And it can be overcome with proper design and a
little care in what you select. Since you have gotten this far in perusing this site,
you are already on your way. Read through our Club Fitting section and the subsequent points here and
you should be able to take advantage of the properties of the new designs. They work well provided
A- The change in "woods", driver and fairway, from persimmon and various wooden laminates, to
stainless steel (and in some cases strong aluminum alloys). The tangible and practical results
- Greater weight proportionately around the head perimeter, reducing twist on off
- Hosels with parallel interior walls permitting parallel tip shafts. The net
result is shaft cutting can now be readily done to ensure that all woods in a set dynamically match one
another- they swing the same.
- Utility woods. #5, #7 and even #9 woods became practical, easy to
make, easy to use.
- Sole designs, with user friendly curves and rails, makes for better fairway and ruff play.
The centers of mass are lower and tend to get the ball airborne better.
- With proper design and proper foundry heat treating, a generally harder striking
surface to better compress the ball at impact.
- For the habitual slicer, offset designs became practical. Here the hosel is curved
backwards so the leading edge of the face has been moved back and does not protrude ahead of the hosel and
shaft. This helps straightening out the ball flight.
- Maintenance. Except for a little cosmetics from extended use, the
heads are essentially maintenance free.
- Costs. It is doubtful that the old designs could be built anymore and be in the price range
of most players.
B- The introduction of new materials for woods, especially drivers, seems to be very positive
for many if not most players. Some of the most well known materials are, 6AL-4V Titanium; 465 maraging
steel: 2 of the Beta Titaniums; and 15-5 stainless steel. Their properties are not identical, i.e.,
tensile strength, yield strength, density, elongation, and hardness, but each offer great possibilities
for further design progress over 17-4 stainless steel. Since Ti-6-4 (meaning titanium 90%,
aluminum 6% and vanadium 4%) is the most popular at the moment, for brevity we will concentrate on
On the left, the picture below shows the 4 components of a Ti 6 - 4
head - face, hosel, bottom shell, and top, prior to braising together and finishing.
The image on the right is the cast shell of a 465 maraging steel head, prior to welding on the
sole plate and finishing.
Some of the following design features are now appearing in the various driver
- Center of mass of the head is moved farther back, allowing higher ball flight and
probable greater carry in the air.
- Inserts of heavier materials can now be more readily
attached at key spots on the head to change club characteristics , i.e., locating it at the rear of the sole to
further heighten ball flight and lengthen ball carry.(see the Golf Tryst woods of the Product
Catalog as an example).
- Deeper faces - higher from the sole to the top the head - can be more easily employed,
often yielding a more penetrating ball flight. (provided of course the player remembers to tee up the ball
- Springier faces, with a trampoline effect, can now be made. This is a controversial
subject, with some designs ruled non-conforming by the USGA. There is a body of thought which argues
against the design, saying that if you fail to hit the ball in the center of the face, you will direct the
ball to the left or right depending on point of contact. Others argue that the spring action has to fit
your swing too perfectly - otherwise the ball leaves the face either too early or too late and energy
transfer is actually reduced. And yet, there are many examples of players who have found these clubs to be
beneficial, who claim they have "hot" faces that propel the ball farther. The jury is still out on this
subject, generally speaking, but we do know that there are players who are benefitting from these
C- Graphite Shafts have had as much impact, especially for woods, if not more, as any
other advance to date. These carbon fiber composites are made out of thin strings of fiber that
are rolled into sheets. The sheets are then cut into patterns (a little like a tailor cutting patterns for
parts of a garment), wrapped onto a mandrell and carefully wound about until there are sufficient wraps
for the given design. The whole thing is baked, then sanded, painted and inspected. Techniques have
improved greatly in the last 10 years and these are not the fragile pieces often seen in the past. The
strings come in 3 general categories;- standard modulus; high modulus; and ultra high modulus. Each have
somewhat different properties, but standard is a touch heavier than high, which is a touch heavier than
ultra high. None are better than the other in an absolute sense. You employ them, sometimes in
combination, depending on what you are trying to do, what sort of a club you are trying to make.
All of them are very much lighter than steel, in many cases
more than 60 grams ( 2oz.) lighter. They can be made either stiffer or more flexible than steel shafts, but it
is difficult to design the low torque values inherent in steel shafts without a loss in tip action. Tour pro's
tend to use steel shafts in their irons for better control, where accuracy and not distance is their goal.
However, more and more players overall have tended to use graphite shafts for just about everything with good
satisfaction. The gains in ease of use has not been confined to seniors and ladies, but has been a big
plus all across the spectrum of players. The features that come from using graphite shafts are
- Lighter clubs overall with heavier
heads, i.e. a 43" driver that may have had a 200 gram head with a steel shaft before can now be made
with a head up to 212 grams with no increase in strain while swinging. More effective mass at impact means more
- Clubs can be made longer than before, up to 50" in some
drivers. The added length generally yields a gain of about 7 yards per each extra inch due to the longer arc
and the higher impact velocity that the golfer can achieve. While it is true that most players have trouble
with lengths beyond 45", (squaring up the face is difficult and they lose some accuracy as well), there are
nontheless a certain few who handle very long clubs well.
- The slicers have a better chance of straightening out their
shots, of making a better pass at the ball, with this higher ease of use.
- Designers can use lower lofts , say 10 degrees instead of
11 degrees on a driver, since the greater tip action found in a well designed shaft will produce a higher ball
flight than before. At collision, the lower loft on a well struck shot produces better energy transfer to the
ball. For long hitters this tends to get the spin of the ball, the rpm's in flight, down to more optimum
- Flex points can be easily placed in the shafts at key
locations for assorted players, i.e., low for the slower swings, towards the middle for the higher
speeds, and higher yet for + 105 mph swingers. This tends to restore, to orient, the head to its natural loft
at impact which the player started with at address.
- More than one flex point can now be designed into a shaft so that the lower one can provide
a little extra acceleration to the club head just before impact. This is difficult to do, but now
- Clubs much easier to accelerate, much easier to
D- Golf balls have improved so greatly in recent years that many feel that
this is as big a breakthrough area as anything else that has transpired.
They do not seem to cut or nick the way they once did, they go farther and straighter, and they do not go
ovate or out of round as was common before. If you can, you should have your PGA pro recommend what fits
your swing and your equipment. You may have to do some experimenting to match a ball to your club
heads so the ball compresses optimally and springs off the face at your desired launch angle. The
many choices are so numerous that we cannot list them here. In general, you will find:-
- Different compressions, such as 100, 90, ladies (or 80), as well as no compression given
but rather a some generic description that describes the type of player who should use the particular
model. In general, the long hitters would choose the 100 while 90 would serve most men and 80 would serve
- Different spin rates to fit the player who wants more or less spin.
- Different materials in the cover, i.e., surlyn, balata, etc.
- Different construction, such as, 2- piece, 3-piece, wound, etc.
- Different dimple patterns for flight through the air.
Note:- If you are shopping for balls, do not bounce several balls off the floor thinking that
the one that bounces highest is the liveliest. You cannot compress it enough to find out anything
meaningful. Indeed, a ball that is less lively could bounce higher.
These will vary with each type of club but the most frequent ranges per club are:-
- Drivers- loft - 8 to 15 deg., lie - 54 to 57 deg. # 3
woods- loft- 13 to 16 deg., lie- 56 to 58 deg. # 5 woods- loft- 18 to
22 deg., lie 57 to 59 deg.
- Wedges - PW- loft- 48 to 52 deg., lie - 63 to 65 deg.
SW- loft- 54 to 57 deg., lie- 63 to 65 deg. LW- loft- 59 to 64 deg., lie-
63 to 65 deg.
- Irons - A typical set of irons of today would be:
#2- 17 deg.
loft 58 deg. lie
" 59 "
23 " 60
26 " 61
30 " 62
34 " 63
38 " 64
42 " 65
Woods come with face angles in one of three ways:- "square", "Open" or "closed"
. A- loft effect-
- If the face angle is square the loft at impact will be the same as the rated loft, i.e., 10
deg. club loft = 10 deg. at impact (assuming a proper swing of course).
- If the face angle is open, the amount of degrees open is subtracted from the rated loft to
get the loft at impact, i.e., 1 deg. open with a 10 deg. club means the loft at impact is 9 deg. (10 minus
1 = 9).
- If the face angle is closed, the amount is additive to the rated loft, i.e., 10 deg. loft
with a 1 deg. closed face has an 11 deg. loft at impact.
- With either an open face or a square face club the player can rotate the club to open or
closed at address to fade or draw the ball as he chooses. The sole will of course rotate too. To hook the
ball, the face will decrease in loft and point slightly towards the ground while the sole lifts off the
ground. If he chooses to fade he does not need to rotate the face open very much, so the leading edge will
not lift off the ground enough to prevent contact with the ball.
- In the case of a closed face club you are stuck with a with a club that can
only pull the ball to the left. If you try to open the face for a fade the leading edge lifts off the ground
too much to allow easy contact with the ball. The sole digs into the ground and lifts the face. For
this reason we do not recommend closed face clubs. In our experience you will be better served with square or
slightly open faces.
Typically the PW has 1 to 10 deg.; the SW has between 8 and 20 deg.; while the LW has 4
to 15 deg. depending on the player and the conditions he encounters in his area.
The #2 thru #9 irons may be found in 1 of 4 ways:-
- Soles slightly
curved from face to rear.
- Soles that are flat with no bounce.
- Soles that are flat but with negative bounce, that is,
the leading edge is closer to the ground at address.
- Soles that have a little bounce, i.e., #2 thru 7, 1
deg. and 8 & 9, 2 deg.
There are many good iron sets using designs with no bounce,
or with curved soles, or with a slight amount of bounce. We find that the
negative bounce concept promotes digging into the earth. With typical fairways cut at 5/8 of an inch or
higher, players find it difficult to use negative bounce clubs and make a crisp contact with the
The center of mass will influence the flight of the ball, depending on where
it is located in the club head.
- If it is towards the rear it will propel the ball at a higher launch
angle. This is because the club head and shaft are not absolutely rigid. Upon impact, the club
head loses some velocity. Since the cm of the head is so far back the head curls upwards, rotating around
the cm during the collision, imparting a higher launch angle.
-If the cm is in the middle, from front to back, then the launch
angle will be near the same as the head's rated loft.
- If the cm is in a forward location the head will do so little rotating
that the launch angle will be somewhat low.
All of this is expected when the player makes a reasonably square hit.
Likewise, the position of the cm in the vertical direction- high, middle or low- will also
determine launch angle.
- If it is low you will have a high launch angle.
- If it in the middle you wiil have an angle close to the head's rated loft.
- If the cm is high you will have a low ball flight.
Of course, as you contemplate a wood purchase, you will have no way
of knowing where the cm of the head actually is. You should first determine the type of ball flight you want -
high, middle, or low. (You already know what your difficulties are, if any).
- In the case of a wood made of stainless steel, it will tend to have
its cm slightly forward, and the ball filght will be close to the rated loft. If you
have trouble getting the ball airborne, for example, choose a loft that
is around 11 degrees or even higher.
-In our experience, many people play fairway woods with too little loft.
These clubs are there to advance the ball with accuracy, and land on a green without too much roll. Unless
you have a problem of very high shots, you should try to find more forgiving lofts, like 15 or 16 degrees
on a #3 wood and 20 or 21 degrees on a #5 wood.
- As for titanium drivers, they tend to have their cm back in
the head, yielding higher ball flight. Here a 10 degree driver will produce the equivalent ball
flight as a 10.5 degree to 11 degree stainless steel driver. You will have to check the description
of the driver carefully to see what the manufacturer has to say about the head in question.
The time of contact between ball and driver club face is
astonishingly short- between 4/10,000 and 5/10,000 of a second. We have a very hard striker hitting a
very hard ball so this is not completely surprising. And the force from such a short impact is huge- well over
a ton at 100mph swing speed. Most of the mass in the momentum equations (MV) is found in the club itself, with
a small amount coming from the shaft and the player's arms. Estimates show that most men contribute around 80
grams more of effective mass than women, on average. This is not much and explains why there are many smaller
people, men and women, who can propel the ball a long way. Most of the mass is given to you by the
manufacturer, so there is not a lot you can add in the way of muscle. The time is too short. It becomes clear,
therefore, that the keys to distance are:-
- Technique- the ability to swing properly and make good contact- the ability to
accelerate to higher swing speeds.
- Shaft- you want that to fit, store energy and release it just at
- Since there are always losses in collisions due to the heat and
distortions of the impact, you want heads that minimize those losses.
The drawing below was made from collision tests putting a load cell on the hosel of a driver
and hooking it up to an oscilloscope. We used a tour player from the LPGA who brought her club up to 101
mph at impact. (this drawing is from one of our patents). The build up of force from the short impulse
should be obvious.
-The left hand side of the curve shows the moment in time
when the club and the ball first come into contact. As time passes the ball compresses to a maximum, at the
peak of the curve. The right hand side off the curve slopes down to zero force which is the moment when the
ball and the club completely separate. The word "impulse" is used to describe a rapid force of very short
duration. That is what we have here. In physics we can express this as, net force x time interval = change in
moment. Or Ft=p2-p1. If we divide both sides of the equation by t (time interval) we get, F=p2-p1/t. Now "t",
the time interval, becomes a divisor. The smaller you make the time interval, the more force you apply to
the ball, all other things be equal.
-If that lady Pro could have shortened the contact time between ball
and head, while applying the same force, the more force she would have imparted to the ball.
The peak of the curve above would be higher and the time in milliseconds would be less. The area under the
curve would have been the same but the whole dynamic would be different. Shorter time contact means
more force to the ball - more distance. For you, the player, this means you have to carefully select your
"distance clubs" to make sure of the materials being used and the particular design of the head. In
general, you want a head with high hardness and high stiffness.(see Item 16 below, Head
The standard way of measuring the shaft flex is to affix it to a deflection board. The butt
end is securely fastened and the head end is suspended freely. A 6 lb. weight is then hung from the head,
at the hosel, and the whole club will droop, with the tip deflecting the most. You then measure in inches
how far the tip is from the horizontal line where you started and this figure tells you your relative
stiffness. The longer you make a club in any given shaft rating, S, R or what have you, the more the club
will deflect at the tip. The reverse is true if you make the club shorter, of course.
The industry does not have any agreed upon standard, for any of the
lengths, but when you examine the shafts of the many manufacturers you find their actual shaft
deflections are not too dissimilar. Here we tend to think of a 44" driver that deflects less than 5 inches as
X-stiff; between 5 and 6 inches as Stiff; and between 6 and 7 inches as Regular.
There is another method of measuring relative stiffness and that is by loading the club into
a frequency machine. When you pull down the head a bit and then release it, you cause it to vibrate. The
vibration cycles are measured in cycles per second, cps, or cycles per minute, cpm, depending on what
machine you care to use. The higher the number, the stiffer the shaft. The lower the number the more
flexible the shaft. The shorter the club, the higher the number and vice versa for the longer the club.
This is a very useful tool for custom fitting but the deflection board seems to have much greater use due
to its simplicity.
This is the angle formed when the club sole is perfectly flat on the ground. It is
deliberately put in at an angle that is set by the manufacturer. If the angle does not fit you there can
be problems. This is of concern mainly with irons, where you want to take a divot by slicing through the
earth. At impact, if the angle is too upright the heel will dig into the ground and the head will rotate,
pulling the ball to the left. On too flat a lie the reverse will happen and the ball will fly to the
Players often adjust without even thinking about it. When the club is too flat they lean
towards the ball and pull their hands in and down, trying to bring the toe up and the heel down. And the
reverse happens when the lie is too upright. This can throw the swing out of kilter after a while. If your
address posture is poor, then you may be causing the problem rather than the club.
As you swing the club, centrifugal force bends the shaft and head towards you, especially on
long clubs and trivially on short clubs. So a fairway wood with a 56 deg. lie, for example,
would become more upright by about 1 deg. Many shops would have the player address the ball with
club in hand and see if they could slide a 25 cent piece under the toe snuggly. If it passed too easily
the lie was too upright. If it woudn't pass at all, then the lie was too flat. This was done in
recognition of shaft bending in actual play. The better way of checking is to put tape on the sole of the
head and swing normally on a mat. If the tape is bruised in the center, it should fit nicely. If it is in
the heel, the club is too upright. If it is at the toe, the club is too flat.
Practically speaking, if you are a slicer and have trouble hitting to the left, a
slightly upright lie may not be a bad idea. If your natural play is a draw, then you may have to be more
precise in your selection. On wedges the clubs are so short to begin with that most players do very well
with the standard lies.
As you view a wood looking down at it, you will see that the face is curved from heel to toe,
with a bulge at the middle. This curve is called horizontal face bulge. It is there to help the player if
he fails to hit the ball in the center of the face, in line with the cm. It will tend to direct the
ball to the right on toe hits and to the left on heel hits.
- On a toe hit, as the face twists open, it imparts a side spin to the ball in the
opposite direction. The face directs the ball to the right while the spin tends to draw or
hook the ball back to the middle.
- On a heel hit, we get the reverse. As the face twists to the left or closed, the imparted
opposite direction side spin tends to fade the ball back to the center.
- In either case, a toe or a heel hit, there will be a loss of
distance. Failure to hit the ball with the center of the club face, in line with the cm, simply reduces the
effective mass of the club as it strikes the ball. It is the equivalent of a glancing
- On a hit in line with the cm there will be no twist. The player can ball can draw
or fade the ball on an in line hit but this is a function of his swing path and his turning the
club, not twist of the club head.
This action of head twist and side spin is called "gear
The radius of the curve will depend on the center of mass, cm, location. If the cm is forward
in the head, the curve will be small. If the cm is at the rear, the curve will be larger. If the cm is in
the middle, the curve will be in between the two. (Woods are much wider than irons meaning the distance
between the toe or heel from the center is much greater. This produces a much bigger twist on an off
center hit and necessitates a compensating horizontal face bulge not needed on irons).
It is important that the player try to bring the head square to his
target line. This is just as important as hitting the ball in the center of the face. Otherwise
he can largely negate the aid found in the face bulge. For example, if he makes an outside to in swing path and
cuts across his target line, he will impart a side ways glancing blow to the ball that could counter any
beneficial spin from gear effect. The face will be open at impact, producing a slice spin of some magnitude.
(see 13 below for more clarifcation).
The concept is to place the bulk of the weight of a given iron around
the perimeter of the back to create stability, among other things, on off center hits. Although the
idea is quite old, it has only been practical to make in the last 30 years or so. The principle is rather like
that of a tight rope walker using a balancing pole on a high wire to counter any of his movements
that might lead to a fall. It works in practice, just as it does on woods made of metal.
What is not generally known is the effect this concept has had on
lofts. It is now easy to redistribute weight to the sole, thus lowering the center of mass, cm. This
in turn increases the launch angle- you get higher shots. To restore a more normal launch angle, the
loft is made stronger. As you have already observed from 3- above ( Loft & Lie Angles ) the lofts
are much stronger today. Years back, a #9 iron was 45 deg. typically. Today 41 and 42 deg. #9 irons are common.
The net result is the given iron also goes farther. ( Since metal woods are hollow, they have
been designed similarly and they go farther for the same reason. ) Not many people buy or use #2 irons anymore
because they feel the #3 iron does the job of a #2 and is easier to use as well.
There are skilled players who stick with the non cavity back designs because they prefer the
"feel" and believe they can curve the ball to the left or the right more readily. However the
preponderance of players seem to find the cavity back quite satisfactory. The benefits are:-
- Less twist on off center hits.
- Less slicing or duck hooks.
- Straighter shots.
- More distance.
Since wedges are "feel" or "touch" precision clubs, here we prefer the non cavity back
designs, although a good case can be made for cavity back wedges by those who do not agree.
-The shaft is not completely rigid, and will twist during the downswing, and on an
off center hit. Too much or too little can cause problems. Years back this was a big concern
especially with graphite shafts. Good numbers were not yet established for the multitude of swing speeds
and swing paths. Now the data has been gathered and the designs for various applications are pretty
-The manufacturers call the twist factor "torque" and so rate their shafts in
degrees of torque, such as 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, etc. all the way up to 7 degrees. The value is measured on a simple
machine. The back end has a solid clamp where the butt of the shaft is firmly attached and cannot rotate. The
tip is put into a second clamp that is horizontally in line . The second clamp can rotate as a unit and is
firmly attached to the tip so it will rotate with it. A small weight is attached to the side of the second tip
clamp and allowed to drop. The amount of turn is then measured in degrees and becomes the shaft's rating.
Steel shafts tend to have less torque than graphite shafts, although very low values
can be made in graphite as well. The complication in graphite is that as you take out the twist you
may also make the tip a little too rigid for a good whip like release at impact. Fortunately most
applications and most players do not require very low torque values and can employ graphite shafts in
virtually all their clubs.
- In general, irons require lower torques than woods.
- In general any strong flex, x or s, requires less torque than r, which requires less torque
than seniors, etc.
- Without some value of torque (that matches the player's
swing) it would be very difficult to square up the head at impact, Too little and the head will arrive
at the ball with an open face.
- It should be noted that many tour players use graphite shafts in their woods but often use
steel shafts in their irons. Their powerful swings and great need for precision are special.
- Most players do not have to worry about torque, as the various suppliers have set
good values that correspond well to the shaft flexes offered.
The sketch below illustrates, among many other things, how the shaft will twist when
arriving at impact. Note that it can rotate either way before collision. If the
shaft fits the player's swing, it will be rotating to a square position, trying to close, just at
impact. If it does not fit, or the player makes a poor pass at the ball, it is unlikely that square
contact will be made. It will twist either way on impact, as described in 10 above.
- As can be seen, the shaft will bend at its flex point. Flex points are located as
r-regular - middle
s-seniors - low
L-ladies - low
The low position for the slower swingers give them some tip action needed to
help accelerate the head and get the ball airborne. For the fast swingers, a low flex point would sling
the head around, out of control. Consequently they need a high location.
- It is also bending in, by centrifugal force, towards
the player. This puts the actual lie at impact slightly more upright than the rated lie of the club. The
difference may be as much as 1 deg. on a long club, although it will be insignificant on a short
- It is also bending along the target line, either lagging or
leading. Fig.1 below shows the efect of a lagging shaft and head:-
- If the shaft is too stiff, the bend will be slight and the club
head will be lagging with the face open at impact. The path of the ball will be low and to
- If the shaft is too flexible, the player will generally hit a high fade or
slice. Here the shaft will also be lagging, the face also open, but the tip will be soft enough to turn
the face upward, producing the high shot.
- The player could try to compensate for a too flexible shaft by hand and arm manipulation
and release sooner. In that case the shaft and head would be excessively leading. He would produce a
high and pulled hook.
-Fig.2 above is a well executed swing with the shaft and head releasing
strongly and squarely, closing towards a hook position. This position is difficult to reach with
shafts that do not match the player reasonably well.
- With a shaft that is too stiff, the player cannot do very much other than greatly
improve his technique and swing speed.
- If the player has a shaft that is too flexible he can adjust his timing to match
the slower responding shaft. Or he can choke down on the grip a little which will stiffen the shaft
- Up to now, we have been looking at various conditions while
assuming the club head was in a square position at impact. To complete the picture, it is necessary to
explore what happens with the club head in other positions, as well as the influence of swing path on the
results. The swing path the player uses will greatly influence the actual flight of the ball. Figures 1 and 3
below show two extreme paths, with the club head in a poor position, just at the moment of
- Fig. 1 shows an inside to out path with a very closed face at impact. Most
likely he is flipping his wrists, either trying to square the club, or is seeking
more distance. This results in a smothered or duck hook, whether you strike the ball at the toe,
or the center. At the heel, it might never get airborne. Were we to change the path to the
outside to in of fig. 3 and keep that closed face, we would be looking at a pull to the left of some
sort, depending on the point of contact on the face. It would also be a bad shot.
- Fig. 3 depicts the classic slicer's swing, with everything open at impact.
The side spin would largely negate any of the benefits of face bulge and gear effect, no matter where
contact was made. On a heel hit, a weak high fly is expected. On a center hit the player should find a
classic slice with the ball drifting to the right without too much distance. At the toe it could be
anything including a ground ball.
- Fig.2 is a square face and square swing path that should result in a good, on
target, shot. If the player hits the ball at the toe or heel with this otherwise good position,
gear effect will enter and keep the shot manageable. No one can always hit the ball in the center
of the face, in line with the cm. This shows the importance of getting the club to a square
position as much as possible. From this position you have a good chance of a reasonable result.
If your equipment doesn't fit you- if you are playing excessively stiff shafts- the
odds of making a square to square path are poor.
Figures 4 and 5 below paint a different story:-
- Here we have an expert player maintaining a square face,
while deliberately choosing a swing path that will curve the ball the way he
- In Fig.4 we see a perfect draw swing. The target line shown above is down
the middle of the fairway, for ease of drawing. In actual play, the golfer could well be aiming down the
right side of the fairway, intending that the ball start that way and drift left. The point is that the
face is square to his target line, whatever that may be, at impact. A small amount of side spin
has been applied to the ball, because the face is crossing the ball slightly as it continues to go inside
- In fig.5, we have the reverse- a perfect power fade swing. The head is
square at impact and imparting a slight side spin that produces the fade. Please note that, all conditions
being equal, a power fade goes just as far as a power draw, contrary to popular belief. Fades are not as
long when the player executes poorly, and imparts too much side spin.
-Swingweight is an attempt to measure the distribution of weight throughout a club. It will
show if the weight is towards the head, in the middle, or towards the grip. It has been theorized that if
a set of clubs is made so each one has the same swing weight, then the "feel" of each will be the same as
any other. The picture below shows the scale on which swingweights are determined:-
- The scale is rather like a see-saw, but the pivot is not in the center, but is located only
14 " from the grip end. Since the club is much longer than 14 ", as you place it on the scale, the head
will droop towards the floor. The little balance device is then slid back and forth until the club is in
balance and horizontal. On the side of the scale are swingweight numbers. The point where balance is made
is the swingweight number, i.e. c-8, or d-2, etc. This scale of numbers is called the Lorythmic
-Some have felt that lower figures would serve women best, while increasing numbers would
apply to increasing swing speeds. Typically, c- 6 to c-9 was recommended for ladies; c-9 to d-1 for
seniors; d-0 to d-2 for most men; and higher than d-2 for the stiff shaft players.
- This concept has limited value. Few can tell the difference between 1 or 2 points on the
swing weight scale- can feel it.
- In balance, some people swear by swingweight and cite all sorts of cases of success with
the typical swingweights listed above. There is no doubt that too much head weight makes a club difficult
to swing. We can say that the scale does tell us if the weight is pitched in one direction or another, and
to that extent it is useful.
-Offset is a design aid to combat the player's tendency to arrive at impact with the face of
the club open. The hosel is set leading the club face. This problem is most severe on long irons and
woods, due to their length. The sketch below shows a typical design for an iron (on the left) and a
wood (on the right):-
-Today, irons are made around 1/2 to 1 inch longer than before. Consequently offset
is being found in every club of the set, i.e., #3 and #4, 4 to 6 mm's, #5 and #6, 3 to 5
mm's, and the balance including the wedges between zero and 3.5 mm's.
- In the case of woods there are not many offerings that include any offset at all, even
though offset was quite popular for higher handicap players until recently.
- In practice, the little extra gap between the hosel and the face gives the
higher handicapper a much better chance of squaring the club face at
impact. There are many low handicappers who are also using moderate offsets on their irons with
great success too. It is most helpful on their #2 and # 3 irons due to the increased lengths
- For those players with a slice problem, who cannot seem to defeat it in spite of
lessons, offset on their woods may be a great aid. This would be especially noticeable on the driver, it
being the longest club in the bag.
- The following tabulates the most popular materials used in head construction, with
their most important properties and their area of use. These are listed in order of hardness,
with the softest at the top and the hardest material at the end of the list.
|465 maraging steel
- Hardness is expressed in the Rockwell Scale. Hardness will vary a little
depending upon the heat treating of the foundry. It is a measure of the ability of the surface of a
structure to resist deformation.
- Stiffness is not the same as hardness. It is the ability of the whole
structure, not just the surface, to resist deformation. It comes out of the properties of the material
used and the design of the structure.
- Both hardness and stiffness are crucial to head design. Even the very slow
swinger is applying a ton of force during the impact with the ball. The head must distort,
creating losses. Losses mean less energy transfer to the ball- less distance. Even if you select a good
material for the application, if it is not backed by a good design then the losses will be higher than
they should be.
- If you ignore design for a moment and just concentrate on the properties
above, you should notice something that may be a little surprising. Look at 17-4 and 15-5 stainless
steel. Their properties are very good - they are high on the list.
The best is 465 maraging steel! In other words, these materials are very good for golf clubs. If you
only look at these properties it makes you wonder why the titanium alloys are so popular. (Pure
titanium is just C24-28 in hardness and is seldom used).The answer is in material
- 17-4 stainless steel is 7.8 grams per cubic centimeter, 7.8g/cc. 15-5
stainless is slightly denser at 7.81g/cc. And 465 maraging steel is a little less dense at 7.75 g/cc. The
most popular titanium alloy, Ti 6-4, is just 4.5 g/cc. In other words, Ti 6-4 is only 57.6 % as dense as
stainless steel. With these Ti alloys you can now build much larger heads without the danger of face and wall
collapse. The trend to large heads has been fueled by heavy marketing and has definitely caught on with
much of the public. Whether or not they are right for you is another question. You are unique, just as your
fingerprints are unique. Other players including the Pro's are simply not you. What they play doesn't matter.
You have to settle on what fits you.
-The large heads of Ti alloys, say drivers at 300 to 500cc's in volume, do offer
definite features that you should look at.
1- In a well designed head it is now easier to separate the center of
percussion ( the point where the head does not twist on impact ) from the vibratory
node ( the point where vibrations at impact are lowest ). This larger distance between the two
points can be considered an enlarged sweetspot. Good designers can do almost the same
enlargement on stainless, but it is quite difficult to accomplish in practice.
2- Every head has a center of mass (cm ). When you hit
off center the head will twist. The more off center the worse the twist. This is a glancing
blow, in essence. You not only lose energy transfer (reduce effective mass) to
the ball but some accuracy as well. A wider face will lessen that twist a
bit, alleviating some of the mass and accuracy loss. In technical terms, a wider face has a higher moment
of inertia due to the fact that the length back to the head's cm, from either the toe or the heel, is
3- In these large heads, the face is proportionately
less of the total mass of the head. Therefore the distance from the face to the cm of the head is
longer. This means the cm of the head is more towards the back and that helps get the ball on a higher
trajectory. To achieve a given launch angle of the ball, the designer can now make the face with a
little less loft, a degree or so depending on the design. The more you get towards the perpendicular in loft,
the more energy transfer you impart to the ball. It is not a lot, but you will take all you can
4- There is what may be a psychological factor too. Some people feel more
confident using a large head. They feel surer about making reasonable contact. In many cases this
confidence feeds on itself and the player does better.
- As usual, there is a possible downside to "large heads". Nothing comes for free
1- The cm is further away from the hosel and shaft. This makes
it more difficult for the player to square up the head during the
downswing, due to inertial drag. Here the larger moment of inertia now given to the
whole club by employing a wide head actually works against you. You can end up making more
glancing blows than before and negate all of the above features that are possible with large heads. You
will want to check the design you are looking at to see if the manufacturer addresses that problem, with a
narrower face, with weighting in critcal areas, etc.
2- Any time a section, say a face, is thinned it vibrates at higher
frequencies upon impact which increases losses.
3- Thinned sections are necessarily less stiff. Unless the heads are
properly designed, they will distort more on impact than otherwise. In
that case big is definitely worse. The faster you swing the worse the losses.
4- On badly off center hits on very wide faced drivers, at the toe or the heel,
you are putting a lever action back at the shaft, right above the hosel. The wider the face, the longer
the lever. Shearing the shaft is a real possibility.
- It is not possible to say for certain what will be best for you. If you are a high
handicapper you may want to be a little conservative and concentrate on the heads below 400 cc's, say 350
or even 300cc's. The same might apply if you fight a slice. In point of fact,
you would not select by volume but by face height and face width. You would try to keep face width down,
say, between 93 to 97 mm's. And a face height of 44 to 48 mm's should produce a good mid flight
launch angle. (The lower you go in face height, the higher the ball flight. The higher you go in face
height, the lower the ball flight).
- For those of you who are lower handicappers and feel you can square up the heads, the
large ones may be just fine. You will be in the company of others who are definitely gaining from these
- For the player who wants to stick with steel heads, as you can see from the properties
above, this is good material. There is much good golf being played every day with them. And they are
easier on the family budget too, if that is a concern.
- No matter what you select, you will have to find a ball that matches both your swing and
your equipment. You want a ball to optimally compress and spring off the club head at a launch angle that
you want - high , middle or low. Unless you have a teaching pro at hand familiar with your needs and
equipment, it is likely that you will have to find the proper ball by old fashioned trial and