Friday, December 16, 2011

When OEM's build to standard specs, how do they decide what standard specs are?

The answer to this questions is somewhat of a combination of events and action that all began many years ago.

The very first "standard specs" were chosen by individual clubmakers in the UK in the early 1900s who were in the process of converting their businesses from making one set at a time for one golfer at a time into more of a mass production basis. Up to this time, golf had not grown to be large enough for there to be a lot of golf courses with pro shops and club pros who were demanding to have sets of clubs in their pro shops to sell. Golfers of this era had to go to individual clubmakers to buy their clubs. While the clubmakers did not know all that much about individual fitting specs, they did at least know to build each set so its weights, grip size, and lengths were at least made to try to match to the physical characteristics of each golfer.

As the game grew and more courses were built in the early 1900s, more club pros got jobs at the courses and the pros decided they wanted to have clubs in their pro shops to sell to the golfers who came to the courses to play. Seeing this as a way to increase business, not all, but a few of the more enterprising clubmakers began to build sets to sell to the pros to be stocked in the pro shops and sold to the golfers. Thus this started the off the rack business model that still exists today.

The specs for these clubs were chosen by the clubmakers based on simple averages of the specs the clubmakers built for the golfers who previously had come to them to buy their clubs.

The American golf companies began to evolve in the very late 1800s and early 1900s. First were Spalding and MacGregor, followed in the 1900s by Wright & Ditson, in the 1910s by Wilson and the 1920s by Burke. Because America was so much larger than Britain and because golf evolved here such that there were no individual clubmakers in each town, almost right from the start the American golf companies pursued the "standard off the rack" business model. Their specs were adopted from having seen standard clubs made by the UK companies.

This all evolved through the 1930s to an actual series of standard specs that actually became agreed upon standards among the golf companies. Rarely did you see a golf company build their clubs with specs that were different. Men's drivers were always 43", 11*, 0 square and D2. Fwys were #2, 3, 4 and each 1" shorter than the driver, with lofts in progression of 13*, 16*, 19*. Irons were made on the basis of a 39" #2 iron at 20* loft/57* lie with all irons following at +4* loft, +1* lie and -1/2" length from there. PW had the same lie as the 9 because it was the same length at 35".

And those were the standards that no one deviated from. Until the 1980s. In the early 80s, the number of golf club companies tripled. All of a sudden competition for sales between this much larger number of golf companies became fierce.

Trying to find an edge on their competition, one company (I think it was Cobra from memory) decided to increase the length of their clubs and slightly lower the lofts of their irons. The reason was obvious - "if we make the clubs longer and lower in loft, golfers will hit the ball farther and we'll sell more clubs because everyone knows that distance sells golf clubs."

And thus started the trend of longer lengths and lower lofts that still goes on today. At first, drivers grew to 44". Then when every company pushed their driver length to 44, one of the companies jumped it to 44 1/2". Then to 45". Then to 45 1/2" and so on to where we are today at 46 1/2".

Same with iron lofts. Speaking only of the 5 iron to show the evolution, from the 80s on, the 5 iron went from 32* to 30*, then to 28*, then to 27* then to 26* and so on. Every time the majority of companies changed their lofts, some other company jumped their lofts stronger yet.

So these "standards" on clubs today most definitely were NOT determined by any research on what the "Average Golfer" needs. If you could say any one part of today's std club specs is based on some sort of average analysis of golfers, I suppose you could say the stock R flex shaft from most companies could be said to be chosen on that basis. But then too, if you look at all the stock shafts in the big company's clubs, you can find variations there.

But in terms of lengths and lofts, these are most definitely NOT chosen on the basis of what average golfers need to be able to play reasonably well. They were chosen to try to allow one company to gain a competitive sales advantage over another company, simply to sell more clubs.

What's sad is that most of the specs on std clubs today actually prevent most golfers from playing to the best of their ability.

But what's GOOD about this is that it very much does allow a good clubmaker/clubfitter to fit and build clubs for golfers that DO allow them to play better. The challenge of course is for the clubmakers to convince the golfers that what they can do for the golfer is better than what the big companies offer.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The “New” SuperLite Shaft Trend – Who’s it For?

By Tom Wishon:

One of the advantages to getting “longer in the tooth” in any area of interest is it gives you the opportunity to separate the “been there done that” from the things that truly are new and different. One of the latest “rages” in the golf equipment industry is the current trend among some of the companies to offer “superlite” drivers – drivers made with a graphite shaft that weighs less than 50 grams to allow the total weight of the driver to be less than 300 grams (@10.5 oz).

The marketing concept behind these very light weight drivers is simple – the lighter weight driver can be swung with the same effort to achieve a higher swing speed, from which comes more distance. This concept of go lighter to swing faster is definitely not a new direction in club design. Veteran clubmakers may remember the short lived fad started by the Dave Pelz Featherlite clubs of the 1980s with their B-8 to C-O swingweights, as well as the mid-90s era of superlight weight drivers whose sub-300 gram total weight was made possible through the design of light graphite shafts with a huge butt diameter that required a very light weight grip.

Today’s trip down superlite memory lane is fueled by the design of graphite shafts which weigh less than 50 grams yet can still be made with a flex and bend profile to meet the needs of the most powerful swingers in the game.

To give credit where credit is due, it is a remarkable step forward in graphite shaft design to be able to make a 45 gram shaft with a flex and bend profile design that could fit a golfer with a 110mph clubhead speed and aggressive swing characteristics. Shaft makers have achieved this by using expensive high modulus composite materials in a thin wall shaft construction. Up until a few years ago, a 50 gram graphite shaft was chiefly for easy swinging golfers with swing speeds under 90mph.

But now that we do have access to superlight weight shafts in any variety of stiffness design, the question that has to be answered is “who are these shafts and resulting super light weight drivers for?” if you buy into the big companies’ marketing, they’re for EVERY golfer. But if you buy into the concept of professional clubfitting, determining what golfers are best matched into such a light weight design is a matter of probing the golfers’ strength, the force they apply when starting the downswing (transition force), and their downswing aggressiveness.

Typically, the stronger the golfer, the shorter the backswing and more forceful the transition, and the more aggressive the downswing, the heavier the shaft and total weight of the club should be to ensure the golfer can maintain a consistent, repeating swing tempo that allows the highest percentage of on center hits.

However, there is one “fudge factor” in this which will allow some golfers with stronger, more aggressive move at the ball to potentially use a very light weight shaft to gain clubhead speed while retaining their proper sense of swing tempo and timing – and that is by partnering the very light shaft with a higher than normal swingweight or more pronounced headweight feel in the club. What you don’t want to do is give an aggressive swinging golfer a very light shaft with a low swingweight.

By cranking the swingweight higher than normal, this can offset the strong aggressive swinging golfer’s tendency to get too quick with their tempo when using a club with a very light weight shaft.

On the other hand, the biggest population that can gain from a sub-300 gram driver total weight are golfers of average to lower strength who swing more smoothly with a less aggressive downswing move at the ball. But even with these golfers, you still have to experiment with the headweight to get to a point that each golfer can feel the presence of the head enough during the swing so as to maintain a consistent swing tempo.

Until next time, best wishes in this great game,


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Can you pleasew explain the terms "bend point" or "flex point" in regards to shafts?

Bend Point/Flex Point are terms from the "old days" which we really wish would just die and go away, never to be seen or heard of again. They evolved from a very old mechanical test done on shafts in the 1950s which had absolutely no relevance to how a shaft actually bends during a swing. The old bend point test involved fixturing a shaft so you could apply a pushing force inward from both ends of the shaft. The shaft bowed in response to this and the highest point of deflection was considered the bend point. Problem is that there is never a time during the swing in which a force is transmitted up the shaft form the tip and down the shaft from the butt. So the test and term is not relevant at all and needs to be discarded completely.

Then the industry moved to doing their bend point test by hanging a weight from the tip end (normal deflection test) and noting the point of maximum deviation from a straight line drawn from the tip to the butt. While this form of bending of the shaft was more relevant, the problem here is that if you do this test on every shaft you'll find the difference between the highest and lowest bend point is less than 2inches.

What we have instead are different bend profiles, or rather, differences in the distribution of stiffness over the full length of a shaft. This gives rise to generic terms like "tip stiff", "tip flexible", "butt stiff", "butt flexible" and so on. As generic terms, these too are not worthwhile because they are not specific enough to allow anyone to use them to compare shafts accurately from a fitting standpoint.

Which moves us into the graphs that are the key element for shaft comparison in the Bend Profile software where over 1200 shafts have been tested all along the length of the shaft every 5 inches. Something like this is FAR more relevant for comparing the stiffness design of shafts so as to know more about how the shafts differ in stiffness design, WHERE they differ on the shaft and by HOW MUCH.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Can My Current Clubs be Custom Fit for Me?

Posted by Tom on Sep 9, 2011.

I understand. You’ve become aware of the benefits of professional clubfitting, you want to see if custom fitting can make a real difference in your game, but you don’t want to spring for a totally new set of clubs because your clubs aren’t that old.

Can your existing clubs, or can clubs you just bought off the rack in a golf store or pro shop be custom fit to your swing and how you play?

For a couple of the 13 key fitting elements, yes, for a fewmore of the 13 key clubfitting elements possibly, but for all of them, no they can’t. In addition, the number of fitting specs that can be retro-fit to meet your needs depends on the skill of the clubmaker doing the adjustments to the clubs. But rather than talk around this, let’s talk directly about it by going over each of the fitting specifications, one by one.

Length and Swingweight: If your best fit length is longer or shorter than your existing clubs, sure, the shafts can be cut shorter or extenders can be epoxied into the end of the shaft to make them longer. That’s easy. The tough part is whether the clubs can be re-swingweighted to meet your swingweight requirements after the length change. If the clubs are cut shorter, you’ll likely need weight added to the clubheads to get the swingweight back up to the proper level that matches your swing and preference for the feel of the clubhead. There are only two ways to do that in clubheads made for a set bought standard off the rack – weight would have to be put at the very tip end of the shafts or lead tape put on the outside of the heads. And for graphite shafted clubs, to do a proper job of adding weight in the tip end of the shaft, the clubmaker has to remove each shaft to put the weight in from the tip end.

If you need to drop the weight of the clubheads to achieve your best fit swingweight at the new length, sorry, that cannot be done. While grinding weight off the head seems a solution, in practical terms this really can’t be done on any metal woodhead because the walls of the head body are too thin. On stainless irons, weight could be ground off, but few clubmakers have the equipment or skill to refinish the heads to look good. On forged irons, the heads would have to be re-chromed at about $40 a pop or else they’ll rust.

Loft and Face Angle: It’s unlikely you would need different lofts for the irons, but if you did, a skilled clubmaker with a loft and lie adjustment machine should be able to bend the new loft into each iron head. If the heads are made from 17-4 stainless steel (most PING and CALLAWAY irons) you’ll have to find a very experienced clubmaker to do the bends. So that’s possible for sure. For your metal woods and driver, sorry, you can’t change the loft or the face angle so if you do need a different loft and face angle on your driver and woods, you’ll have to buy a new clubhead.

Shaft Weight, Flex, Bend Point, Torque: If you need different shafts to better fit your swing, no question, any skilled clubmaker can pull your old shafts and install the new shafts. But if the new shafts are of a different weight or to be installed to a different length than what you had, anytime you change shaft weight or length, re-swingweighting the clubs is required – and we’ve already explained the challenges and limits to that one.

Grip Style and Size: Piece of cake for your old grips to be replaced with ones you like the feel of and which fit your hands better for comfort. The only thing you have to be aware of is if the new grips are a lot lighter or heavier than your old ones. If so you may need to have the swingweight adjusted to get it back where you like it for your swing tempo and timing – and once again as I’ve explained before, this could be a problem.

Total Weight: Total weight is the overall weight of the whole club. It is chiefly controlled by the weight of your shafts. So if you need a lighter or heavier total weight to better match to your transition force, tempo, rhythm and strength that’s done by changing to a lighter or heavier shaft which still has the right flex, bend point and torque to fit your swing. See the comments above for shaft changing.

Set Makeup: So many golfers have bought off the rack clubs in the usual set makeup of 1, 3, 5, 7 woods and 3-9, PW, SW irons. Most of them are playing with sets that have at least three clubs they can’t hit well enough to merit them being in the bag (3w, 3i, 4i). If the clubfitter recommends a set makeup change, plain and simple this means buying the clubs new you need to get the set makeup where it needs to be to help your game the most.

Clubhead Design: Well, this one’s obvious. You can’t magically change one style of clubhead into another. If the clubheads on your existing set are not the best for your manner of play, now you really know you an attempted retro-fit of your existing clubs is a total waste.

Conclusion: I know money can be tight these days for a lot of us, so a retro-fit might seem to be the best of all worlds to help golfers get fit without buying a whole new set from scratch. Best advice I can give you if you are dead set on a retro-fit? Retro fit the irons but be fully custom fit from scratch for a new driver and woods. Seriously though, the only way to really experience the full game improvement benefits from professional clubfitting is to be fully fit by an expert clubmaker for all custom fit clubs, each one custom built from scratch to fit you and your size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics. It really can make so much more difference than trying to cobble together your existing clubs to fit.

Until next time, best wishes in this great game.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Things you need to know about golf clubs.

If you're like the majority of golfers, your interest in buying a new golf club or set of clubs is first piqued by advertisements or commercials from a golf company announcing the performance technology behind their latest golf club model. Once you develop enough of an interest in a particular club or set to act, you then head out to the local golf store or pro shop to take a look and possibly test hit the club(s). If you decide to buy, where you buy the clubs then typically becomes a matter of which store or website has the lowest price.

Some Things you should know about golf clubs before you buy them:

Every golf club or set of clubs ever made has 13 different specifications that make those clubs what they are. Those 13 different elements are the Lengths, Loft Angles, Lie Angles, Face Angle, Shaft Weight, Shaft Flex, Shaft Bend Profile, Shaft Torque, Swingweight, Total Weight, Grip Size/Style, Set Makeup and Clubhead Model Design. The ads or commercials that attract you to any golf club or set of clubs typically talk about one and only one of those 13 key specifications that makes each club differ from another - the clubhead design.

Here's a fact few golfers ever realize. All those golf clubs within each club model you see displayed on the display racks in your local golf store are built to differ in only 2 of those 13 key golf club specifications - you can choose between a few different shaft flexes in the irons, and for drivers you can choose between a handful of different loft angles. Within each club model the other 11 specifications are all made to be the same.

Now think about this for a moment. The last time you were at a busy driving range, did all the golfers have the same size, same strength, same athletic ability and have the same swing characteristics? Not even close I'm sure you'll agree. In fact the golfers who play this great game are quite different from each other in their size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics. Isn't it then logical to question how all these different golfers can hope to play to the best of their golfing ability if they all buy golf clubs that are made to be the same for 11 of the 13 important playing specifications?

If you're like most golfers, you might now be thinking you're not good enough in the game to have your clubs custom fit to your own individual size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics. Think about one more thing. Many of you played baseball or softball at one point in your life and probably 99.9% of you weren't good enough to play baseball or softball for a living. Yet you didn't just use any old standard bat to play the game - you bought your bat with a specific length, weight, and handle diameter that you discovered allowed you to hit the ball to the best of your ability.

So why are golf clubs any different? Like baseball or softball, success in golf is measured by how well you can hit the ball with a "stick". And like baseball or softball, all golfers cannot play to the best of their ability using golf clubs that are made to a series of standard specifications for the simple reason that all the golfers do vary in their size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics.

Statistics within the industry of custom Clubfitting show that over 70% of all golfers who shoot between 75 and 100 do experience measurable, visible shot improvement when they are custom fit for each of the 13 key Clubfitting specifications. Is there more distance, better accuracy, better shot consistency lying in your game ready to surface? With a better than a 7 in 10 chance aren't you curious to know?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Truth Part III: From

In Part 1 of this series I discussed how golf companies use traditional advertising, watered down tests, and giveaways to manipulate content and ensure that nearly everything you read about those companies and their products is overwhelmingly positive. In Part 2 I detailed the consequences that result from less than universally positive content. I showed you some of the tricks reviewers use to make sure everyone stays happy, and I explained how something as fundamental as maintaining relationships with your contacts can influence what gets published.

Part 3:

In this 3rd and final installment I’ll show you how the big money grab is slowly squeezing out the smaller OEMs and even the inventors and start-ups with an unfortunate combination of great products and shallow pockets. Finally, I’ll let you know what you can do to determine whether what you’re reading is unfiltered content, or just cleverly disguised advertising.

Picking on the Little Guy:

Most on our side of the industry learn pretty quickly that golf’s biggest names are willing to spend golf’s biggest bucks to make sure their products get plenty of exposure. In our free market economy it’s hard to argue that a company shouldn’t benefit from all the advertising it can afford. It helps the big guys sell product (lots, and lots of product), and the advertising revenue helps keep the golf sites in business. It also happens to provide some of the site owners with an opportunity to make a very comfortable living. Along the way readers get exposure to all the latest gear, and a lucky few actually benefit from the giveaways. The problem is that when monetization becomes the end-game those who can’t afford to play quickly get squeezed out.

The reality is that for many media outlets, Pay-To-Play has become vital to the way business is conducted. As much as golf is a hobby or a passion for many of you, it’s very much a business. If some content is bought and paid for (either directly or through advertising), why shouldn’t nearly all content be?

We think big bucks make for big bullies. The biggest names in golf shouldn’t be able to reduce the little guy to insignificance simply because they can outspend him. If we took that approach our readers would miss out on some great finds and big surprises. While it was being mocked in other forums, MyGolfSpy tested PowerBilt’s AirForce One Driver and found it to be the longest driver of 2010. Though they barely got a mention anywhere else, two of the best wedges that came through our doors last season were Boccieri Golf’s Heavy Wedge, and Solus’ FC-10. Hireko’s Dynacraft irons proved they could hang with the big boys, and both Wilson and MacGregor showed us they still had the chops to make an outstanding forged iron at a very competitive price. One of my personal favorite irons (and among the favorites of our testers) from last year was Fourteen Golf’s TC-910, and almost nobody else bothered to cover it.

You’d think I’d be smarter by now, but in a recent conversation I had with my contact at a smaller golf company, I was shocked to learn that two of the larger golf sites on the Internet told him that if he wanted an “unbiased” review of his product, he’d need to pay for it (by becoming a site advertiser). Just as with many smaller golf companies, this one didn’t have the budget to pony up for the review. As a result readers of these sites may never get to hear about a product that we think might prove to be a game changer. Not only are big golf companies influencing what you see, their willingness to spend and spend big often dictates what you don’t see.

For the big guys spending big isn’t an issue, because around 20% of their massive budgets are devoted to marketing. For the smaller companies, however, ad budgets are absolutely minimal (if they exist at all), with the biggest chunk devoted to research and engineering (what a concept, right?). For the individual who has dumped his life savings into his product, site sponsorship are almost always out of the question. If sites like MyGolfSpy and others aren’t willing to help out with a little bit of exposure he’s probably never going to succeed. For every Martin Chuck (inventor of the TourStriker and instructor at the TourStriker Golf Academy) there are thousands of guys with good ideas that just didn’t make it.

Bucking the Trend:

While I believe it’s important for the average golfer to understand the role that corporate dollars play in influencing the content they see on their favorite golf sites, I’ve got nothing against the other media outlets who take in big OEM dollars. It’s not how we chose to operate, but there is no denying that some of those guys have built outstanding communities where golfers can passionately discuss their love of the game and the equipment that powers it. They’ve given a ton of free gear to their followers, and they’ve managed to support their families while doing it. They operate and succeed under a time-proven business model, and I truly wish them nothing but continued success. The bigger they get, and the more intertwined they become with the big golf companies, the greater the opportunity for MyGolfSpy to differentiate ourselves and carve our own niche.

That said, one of the first, and most valuable lessons I learned in the business world is that the absolute worst reason for doing anything a certain way is to do it because it is the way it had always been done before. We don’t want to succeed by walking in someone else’s footsteps, we want to carve our own path. We don’t ever want to become yet another in a long line of mini-Golf Digests. We don’t ever want to depend on big OEM dollars to survive, and we never want to be part of a system designed to either bleed the little guy dry, or squeeze him out altogether. That is how it has always been done, but it’s not how we want to do it. We’re comfortable being MyGolfSpy, even if it means we don’t get Christmas cards from the big OEMs, and if some others in the media speak of us with contempt, and mock us for having the audacity to speak openly and honestly about the companies they depend on to survive.

The Truth is Out There:

You love golf, I get that. I’d never suggest that you boycot big OEMs or never visit another golf site. My goal is simply to help you understand that much of what you see and read is driven as much or more by money than it is by any real desire to educate golfers, or to share a love for the game.

If you’re not sure what’s real, what’s unfiltered, and what’s honest, take a look at the banner ads. Is there any real substance, or do they simply rehash the marketing info while finding some insignificant detail to nitpick. Do they have the stones to acknowledge that their sponsor’s club is shorter, and less accurate than a competitor’s, or even last year’s model? The truth is right in front of your eyes, you just have to look for it.

If there’s ever a doubt what’s real and what’s not, don’t be afraid to ask to see the numbers, but be specific. Ask to see the data that supports their claims that a sponsor’s driver is the longest they’ve ever tested. Most importantly ask how much the big OEMs are spending to keep the positive reviews and fluffy content coming. Of course, I’m certain none of them would give you an honest answer because if they did, you wouldn’t just wonder whether what you just read was the result of big money well spent, you’d be certain of it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Brother-in-law claims he hits his new Cobra 7 iron 50yds longer then his old 7 iron.

I see that most of the new Cobra irons are strong lofted and in these models, the 7 iron has a loft of 31*. And that is pretty strong compared to a lot of companies' irons, and definitely a lot lower than the lofts of irons made 10+ yrs ago.

There is no magic in shot distance. It is completely explainable in scientific terms because only these things control distance in an iron.

1. The golfer's clubhead speed
2. The loft on the clubhead vs the loft on the previous clubhead and the +/- tolerance of the loft of the clubhead.
3. The face design of the clubhead vs the face design of the previous iron
4. The total weight of the iron vs the total weight of the previous iron

We'll assume that your BIL's clubhead speed hasn't changed since he bought the new Cobras.

So that leaves the other three elements. It is quite possible if your BIL's previous iron set is older, the 7 iron had a loft of say, 35* or so. It is also possible this 7 iron in the new set might be on the minus side of the normal +/- tolerance and could be as low as 30*. A 3, 4 or 5 deg drop in the 7 iron loft would be very big in terms of distance difference.

If the new set is designed with a thin, high strength steel face and the old set was a normal one piece investment cast stainless model, the COR of the heads in the new iron set would be substantially higher. Normal cast irons have a COR in the area of 0.77. Well designed thin face irons can have a COR as high as 0.830. That too can be a VERY substantial difference in the distance.

If the new set is made with lightweight graphite shafts and the old set with steel shafts, the total weight of the new set could be lower by enough to allow your BIL to gain as much as 3 to 4 mph in clubhead speed.

Add these all up and you could see a difference of 20 to 30 yards. Doubtful that it really is 50 yards unless his old 7 iron had a loft of 38* or more.

But the point is there is no "magic" in this, there are no new technologies that only Cobra knows about which could increase distance substantially because all of the scientific elements that relate to shot distance are known and have been used in club design for several years now.

Mass produced golf clubs:

An opinion was posted on the Wishon Golf Forum regarding custom built clubs and I found Tom Wishon's answer to be very truthful.

Statement from a poster: There are FAR too few serious golfers out there. The vast majority of the golfers I see play at the game, they do not play the game. They rarely practice, they just show up every week or couple of weeks to drink, talk trash, and maybe gamble. Golf is mostly the excuse for drinking, trash talking and gambling. Most have grooved a bad swing and most either do not care or are not willing to put in the work to get better. They think they know golf because they have been playing for years, but in reality, they know little about the game.

And they are the last people to buy custom clubs. If they get a new stick, it will be a big name OEM for bragging rights with their buddies.

There simply are too few people like myself out there who are fighting to play this game well and willing to make the investment, which includes lessons as well as custom clubs (and maybe getting in better shape as well).

Tom Wishon's response: You're right about a big number of golfers out there not caring that much. You are also right about a bigger number who care more about impressing their buds with what they buy because they are of a belief that custom fitting only helps good players and for them, as long as they have a bad swing, the club's purpose is mainly to impress the buds.

No question that if we ever won the lottery around here to be able to fund a decent marketing blast to educate golfers about the real benefits of custom fitting over standard off the rack, there certainly would be a good number of golfers who would respond by going to see a clubmaker to be custom fit.

But to get into the minds of these other golfers who are so brainwashed by the image of what they play and the ego of impressing their buds, a separate marketing campaign would have to be created.

Do you remember the Apple Macintosh ad that played during the Super Bowl quite a number of years ago in which Apple used a George Orwell 1984 theme in which they portrayed all of the IBM users as being mindless sheep who would blindly follow each other to walk off a cliff? Their point was of course to say that all you people who buy the big IBM brand are not cool enough to realize Apple is the better way to go.

That's the approach you would have to take with these guys about which you speak. And really, that could be done to create a 180* shift in their ego image-based thinking. All you have to do is convey that when you buy the well known brand name club off the rack, you are not special in anyway because you are simply buying a mass produced, standard made, totally un-unique club just like MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of other mindless people are doing.

What's so special or cool about just being one of the masses when you could be so unique and special by buying something created from scratch for YOU and ONLY for YOU?

IMO that's where the message would have to be to really get to the mindless ones who are brainwashed by the big image and ego marketing.


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Truth Part 2.

Content Has Consequences

(Written By: GolfSpy T) Everyone who has ever written a review for an audience the size of MyGolfSpy’s quickly comes to learn that every review written, in fact nearly every word written, comes with consequences. Consequences aren’t always bad. It should surprise no one that when MyGolfSpy or most any other site publishes a positive review, the majority of manufacturers are quick to post links on their Twitter and Facebook accounts praising the review. Some publish the reviews on the company blog, and many put links on their websites. This is great for us because it drives even more readers to the site, and those readers click on ads, and ads are where the money comes from. At its most basic level, positive reviews = more money, and everyone who operates a website has figured this out. In short, to the benefit of everyone (except the guy looking for an honest, detailed, and unfiltered assessment of golf club), the current system works, and works very well.

While the majority of the larger media outlets work comfortably within this system, there are a select few that, like MyGolfSpy, have fought to maintain their objectivity. More than one golf company has been shocked after MyGolfSpy chose to publish what that company considered to be a less than positive review. And why wouldn’t they be shocked when nearly every other review they’ve ever received has been universally positive?

Protecting Their Advertisers

What I’ve been slow to learn (and probably never will) is that you’re not supposed to say anything even slightly negative about a golf club – especially if 1) The company is an advertiser, 2) The company provided you with the club 3) If you ever want to get anything else from that company. Though not all do it, the most egregious players on the media side have gone so far as to delete negative comments, and in many cases ban the offending readers from their sites. Imagine that…banning a loyal reader because he said something negative about a golf club (produced by one of your sponsors). The unfortunate reality is that site operators are forced to choose sides. Either you’re in it for the truth, or your in it for the money (which means you have to protect your advertisers to the detriment of nearly everything else).

In one recent incident, an OEM that provided equipment to MyGolfSpy was so outraged by a mediocre review (not bad…just average) that they informed us they would no longer provide us with equipment or work with us in any other capacity (it’s probably not who you think). This was done despite the fact that we’d had nothing but positives to say about other equipment in their lineup. Unfortunately, this is far too common as manufacturers have grown accustomed to fluff and actually expect that every club reviewed will be as good or better than the last. I also believe it also speaks volumes about a company who, rather than address the criticism, or ask our testers why they didn’t like a club (the type of stuff that could actually lead to a better product), believe their only recourse for a mediocre review is to take their ball (and clubs) and go home.

In this particular case the company in question went so far as to suggest that the mediocre review did not stem from ordinary performance, and unimpressive subjective numbers, but rather as retribution for a positive review on another golf site. At best the accusation is comical, but at its worst it calls into question my integrity, the integrity of our process, and the integrity of the average golfers who take time out of their lives to test clubs for MyGolfSpy. These are potential customers and rather than accept that their club simply wasn’t well received, a major equipment manufacturer chose to either call our testers liars, or suggest that somehow they were duped by MyGolfSpy. It’s as offensive as it gets, but it’s the most extreme example of how stating an unfiltered opinion about a golf club can not only lead to the loss of direct access, but can transcend the business aspect of what we do, and quickly become personal.

Personal attacks aside, I’m more or less able to shrug this one off with a smile, but could you imagine if we, like so many other golf sites, depended on this company to put food on our table? When between $30,000 to $60,000 in annual ad dollars for a website (exponentially more for magazines) come with the stipulation (spoken or otherwise) that nothing negative is to be published, is it any wonder why the overwhelming majority of reviews and other content are incomprehensibly positive?

Criticize Without Actually Criticizing

Now even the most blatant corporate fluffers have developed clever little techniques that give the appearance of a critical eye, albeit without the risk of actually saying anything negative. My two personal favorites are to criticize the grip, and to talk about how much you dislike the shaft graphics. These two largely insignificant details are ideal targets because, grips are easily changed, many people don’t care about shaft graphics, and most importantly, in the majority of cases, the equipment maker isn’t directly responsible for either. It’s a bulletproof way of appearing unbiased without risking your paycheck.

Now to be perfectly fair, when we test clubs, it’s not too uncommon that a tester will tell us he doesn’t like the grip (the shaft graphics thing is less common), but they might also tell us they think the club is ugly, has lousy feel, and that when they hit it they have absolutely no idea where the ball is going to go. Where we differentiate ourselves is that, while we’re happy to publish a quote when our testers say something positive, we don’t sugarcoat it when they say something negative either. Unfortunately some believe we should print the positive and turn deaf ears to the negative. We don’t believe believe its our place to censor our testers (or our readers), and we don’t believe predictably positive reviews offer any real benefit to those of you interested in making informed buying decisions.

Everybody Gets a Trophy

Perhaps the most popular trick of all is to simply not keep score or not pick a winner. At MyGolfSpy we’ve developed a very comprehensive scoring system that blends real performance data with the subjective opinions of our multiple testers. This allows us to put a score on every club we test. While it’s true that our tests have often shown very little difference between clubs, we think it’s important to showcase those few select clubs that outperform the others. We also happen to think it’s equally as important to point out those few clubs that under-perform expectations. At any time you can look through our archives and see what the best and worst performing clubs are in every category.

Now as you well know, others have developed scoring systems too (you may have heard of the Hot List). These type of scoring systems are great because they enable the publisher to give all the golf companies a trophy at once, without leaving anyone feeling slighted. Occasionally they’ll throw a non-advertiser in the mix (usually for a Silver Medal), but as long as their biggest advertisers split the lion’s share of the Medals, everybody wins…except you.

The 1000 Word Review That Says Zero

Finally (and most commonly) is the 1000 word review that says absolutely nothing of consequence. It starts out with a near word for word regurgitation of the companies press release and quickly progresses to discussing how great nearly every aspect of the club is (it’s longer, it’s straighter, it looks awesome, and feels super-awesome), without a shred of actual data to back it up. Most of the time the claims are supported with generalities like “I hit the longest drive of my life” or “I shot the lowest round of the year”. Of course, golf being what it is, two days later, if that reviewer adds 10 strokes, or only carried a drive 150 yards it wasn’t the clubs, his swing was just off.

OEM’s eat up these types of reviews like Elvis ate up peanut butter and fluff. They’re easy to swallow, and they sure taste sweet when you’re trying to promote your products favorably. Better still; under the most literal of interpretations these types of reviews aren’t biased. They’re favorable to absolutely everything, which is pretty damned unbiased. Of course, the literal definition of unbiased is not the same as objective or even useful.

(Input vs. Control) – And the Power of Friendship

In a relatively short period of time we’ve developed a bit of a reputation. It has even been suggested that, among other things, our primary mission is to piss off as many OEMs as possible. It’s certainly true that we’re not as popular with the OEMs as some other sites. Some of that is by design, but much of that is predictable consequence of the way we operate. If I’m being perfectly honest, if I worked PR for a major OEM I’d like the other guys better too (they’re better cheerleaders, and they’re much more OEM-friendly), but as a real golfer interested in real information, this is where I’d spend the bulk of my time.

A PR guy’s job is to make sure that his company is always shown in the best possible light. We choose to write openly and honestly about the industry and the products we review. When reviews are good and content favorable we make their jobs very easy. When the coverage isn’t as positive as a golf company would like, it gives the PR guys headaches, and there are almost always discussions and repercussions.

From time to time we have been asked to either pull down a post (we don’t do that), or reword an article to provide better cover for a source. On rare occasions we’ve been asked to add some additional information to a review. If the request is reasonable we’re happy to oblige, but our rule of thumb is we don’t take posts down, we don’t take information out of our posts (unless we find out it’s factually inaccurate), and we don’t give OEMs creative control over what gets published. We do however work on a two-way street, and we’re always willing to listen to the same type of criticism we’re known for dishing out. Legitimate criticism and feedback from two different golf company contacts caused us to think about aspects of our review system we may never have considered, and the process is better because of them.

There are definitely some great PR people in the industry, and while we’ll probably never be their favorite site, we enjoy working with them and, I believe that even if they don’t always love us, because they hold a healthy respect for what we do, most are willing to tolerate us. Despite what some may think, we’re not robots, we’re actually decent people who love what we do. What we do just happens to be very different from what anyone else in the industry is doing.

We talk to our PR contacts nearly every day. They send us gear, info, and photos, and invite us to many of their events. They are overwhelmingly good people who, like you and me, have a job to do and they do it the best that they can. Anyone who covers golf equipment can’t help build relationships with his PR contacts, but even this is not without its perils. It’s one thing to criticize a product or paint a golf company in a negative light, but when that company is represented by somebody you have a relationship with, rendering an honest opinion can feel like you’re betraying a friend. It’s a reality that all of us face, and while I can’t find fault with anyone on either side of the industry for building those type of relationships, the human aspect of what we do can complicate things when it comes time to write an article or post pictures of the newest clubs.

What we’ve learned countless times is that however good the relationship is, our contacts have bosses (probably an out of touch old guy in a bad sweater), and those bosses are ultimately the decision makers. So while strong relationships can get you gear for your giveaways and equipment for your reviews, one wrong word and it won’t matter. Business has to stay business because, when push comes to shove, even if your contacts don’t agree with the decision, they won’t hesitate to use whatever leverage they have (ad dollars, equipment, etc.) to either pull you back in line, or cut you off entirely.

Part III:

In Part III I’ll tell you how some media outlets are turning the tables to the detriment of the smaller golf companies, and individuals trying to break into the industry. I’ll also explain how you can identify and separate objective commentary from the paid advertisements and other fluff.

The truth about golf clubs the OEM's don't want you to know.

This article was written by

(Written By: GolfSpy T) You’ve been sandbagged (yes you) and you may not even know it. Think that review you just read from some other golf media outlet is truly honest, or did a golf company spend tens of thousands of dollars for the unspoken promise that every word you read would be positive?

Being a golf club reviewer sounds like an awesome job, doesn’t it? I have access to nearly every golf club that hits the market each year, and sometimes I get clubs that haven’t even been released yet. I get to take the clubs out on the golf course, test them on our simulators, and I have the privilege of writing reviews for our readers. Many of you might consider what I do as your dream job. I certainly did. As with nearly anything else, however; my job isn’t exactly what it seems.

Step into my spikes for a minute.

Think about this. What if a single honest sentence in a review meant a golf company would never send you another piece of equipment? What if telling the truth meant a $50,000 pay cut? What if your integrity was called into question simply because you gave your honest opinion about a new driver or set of irons a golf company was trying to promote?

What would you do?

Do you think you could remain true to what you believe in no matter the cost, or would find yourself sugar coating every word you write? Would you allow your readers to speak their minds, or would you take the money and demand your readers keep their damn mouths shut?

Sadly, these aren’t hypotheticals. These are the realities for any golf site with an audience the size of MyGolfSpy’s. While great golf companies do exist in the industry, there are some who use advertising, access to equipment, and the threat of lawsuits to manipulate content. It’s the ugly side of the industry. It’s a side many of you are not aware of; where tens of thousands of dollars and sometimes millions are spent to influence what gets written, and where some golf equipment manufacturers will cut off anyone who doesn’t play by their rules. Unfortunately, the average golfer has no idea what really goes on behind the scenes, but we’ve decided that needs to change.

In this 3-Part Series I’ll expose how many golf companies buy influence with the media, show you what can happen when you don’t play by their rules, and lift the curtain on the pay to play schemes that are slowly infecting the industry.

Great Expectations

In many respects the golf industry represents the blending of cutting-edge technology and out-dated thinking. Take a step back from the forged composites and carbon nano-tube jargon, and one finds an industry still clinging to the idea that their message can be controlled, and where so-called unbiased reviews are only tolerated so long as they’re positive.

Not surprisingly, however, the greatest of all expectations are those associated with the golf club review process. When I started writing reviews I was naive enough to believe that if I took a thorough look at a product, and gave an honest assessment, manufacturers would publicize the positive and take any criticism, no matter how direct, as an opportunity to improve their products for next year. I was, at best, half right.

Buying Influence

While you’ll probably never find a line item on an invoice that reads “Positive Driver Review – $1000“, beyond simply providing a sample for testing there are several ways that OEMs can influence the outcome of a product review.
Traditional Advertising (Print) – Look in any magazine and you’ll find equipment ads, and lots of them. It’s the way it has always been done, and it’s beyond necessary for the way traditional print media operates. Magazines have huge overhead. They have material costs. They pay talent (writers, editors, photographers), revenue generators (sales and marketing), and CEO types who command huge salaries. It all adds up, and to keep the ship afloat they need money. Some of that money comes from subscriptions, but most of it comes from the advertisers. I’m one who has given the guys behind the Hot List the benefit of the doubt. I’m willing to accept that no major equipment manufacturer has ever come to them and said “give our new driver a gold medal or else”, but I also believe those guys know how the game has to be played. My guess is you’re never more than a couple of bronze medals away from losing a major advertiser (which is probably why they stopped giving bronze medals). With print media on the decline, the guys still writing on paper understand that they need the advertisers more than the advertisers need them, but as long as everybody stays happy, the money keeps rolling in.

Traditional Advertising (Online) – Online, the simplest form of advertising is the banner ad. Placement is everything, and ads in more prominent spots command the most money. On a site the size of MyGolfSpy, big OEMs are willing to pay thousands of dollars every month for premium placement (WE WILL ALWAYS REFUSE TO ACCEPT ADS FROM LARGE GOLF COMPANIES). The problem is that it’s easy to get comfortable with easy money. The income becomes expected. And once you’re livelihood begins to depend on it, you have no choice but to try and protect it. Total dependence on big OEM ad dollars becomes a recipe for fluffy reviews and the golf companies trying to control your content. Your site quickly becomes a place where even the slightest criticism of their product or brand is sterilized to the the point where it becomes meaningless. Other media outlets do this to protect both the advertiser and the site owner’s wallet. Problem is, this has led to the downfall of the honest review, and the silencing of the independent voice. Few things can compromise principles as quickly as a deep pocket, and often it means that the loyal readers of that site now get censored. At MyGolfSpy, we don’t hide the fact that we accept advertising, however; what we don’t accept is big OEM (Golf Company) advertising. You won’t find any banners from major equipment manufactures here, and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re leaving a lot of money on the table by doing so, but we believe it’s much more important to publish truthful and objective content for you readers. As soon as you start taking money from the big guys, no matter how good your intentions, the integrity of the process inevitably gets compromised. As we look at ways to not only sustain the site, but to grow it to match the vision we have for the readers, you may see banners from names you recognize, but you will never see a banner from a major club manufacturer on our site.

Group Tests – Group testing is where a golf company agrees to send out equipment to a site which will then be given to their readers. Sounds great for the readers right? You guys get free equipment and all you have to do in return is write a review about your experience with the free stuff. But what the casual reader of that site (the ones that did not receive free equipment) gets though is a watered down version of MyGolfSpy’s review system. On paper this sounds like a great way to get an unbiased, mutli-perspective review, and I certainly admire the simple brilliance behind it, but unfortunately it almost always leads to more useless information for the average reader, and here’s why: What big OEM’s understand is that the average golfer may never consider the psychology behind a campaign like this. The OEM’s know that if you take an average Joe and give him as much as $500 worth of free gear, 99 out of 100 times you’re going to get a very good review in return. Why? Because even if average Joe doesn’t like your clubs, he likes getting free stuff. He knows that there’s a good chance he might like the next thing you send him, and so whether consciously aware of it or not, most people will do what they need to do to keep the free stuff coming. Almost no one has the stones to risk that opportunity by saying anything negative about their free gear. This leads to not only more universally positive reviews, but also an almost rabid loyalty to the OEM that provided it. It’s a win-win for everybody…or at least for everybody not looking for a truly honest review. Some might be shocked to learn that our testers never get to keep the clubs we test. Given how much other sites give away it seems almost cruel really. We don’t give anything away because we believe that as soon as the “what’s in it for me” mentality kicks in, objectivity is compromised. We do everything we can to keep our reviews as unbiased, and unfiltered as possible. The integrity of the process is everything.

Giveaways - Who doesn’t love a giveaway? They’re great for readers because it means somebody (or somebody’s) is going to get something for free with absolutely no expectations attached. They’re great for us because they increase interest and drive traffic to the site. They’re great for OEMs too because we’re not only showcasing their products, we’re building desire for them. Heck, some of the guys who don’t win may very well go out and buy whatever it was we just gave away. Every site, including this one, does them. And every site (including this one) relies on OEMs to provide product for that giveaway. If giveaways are good for everybody, what’s the problem? The influence here is definitely more subtle, but the reality is that a company is only going to provide product for a giveaway when you’ve got a history of saying nice things about them or at a minimum if you’ve never said anything negative about them. When traffic volume is tied to, or worse yet, dependent on giveaways, each and every word must be scrutinized, because each and every word written has consequences.


What you’ve read so far is barely the tip of the iceberg. In Part 2 of this series I’ll explain why so many of the other golf media outlets are willing to play along, what can happen when you don’t, and I’ll expose a couple of common tricks product reviewers use to give the false appearance of being unbiased.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Have the large golf companies been "knocking off" Tom Wishon designs?

Who's cloning whom? - Or, Things I discovered while researching other things.
COLUMBUS, GA, June, 13, 2011
By: Roy Nix
Executive Director - Assoc. of Golf Clubfitting Professionals

Recently I was doing some research looking for interesting facts about custom fitting and custom clubs to put on my web site. I wanted to find information related to golf equipment to further educate golfers to help them improve their game. There are always great tidbits of information on my good friend Tom Wishon's web site so it was there I started my journey looking for inspiration and ideas. Truth be told what I discovered in my visit to Tom's web site was not primarily the content I was searching for, but what I did discover seemed to be quite interesting and information most golfers really need to be aware of.

Those of us who work in relative anonymity as professional custom clubmakers are used to hearing golfers say that the golf clubs we build are not of the same quality or not as innovative as the golf clubs created by the big golf companies whose giant marketing programs have made to be household words among golfers. We custom clubmakers are often accused by golfers of making golf clubs which are "knock-offs" or "clones" of the heavily marketed golf clubs of the large companies.

Base on what I discovered at Tom Wishon's web site, it appears this opinion of these golfers is 180 degrees backwards. It appears that quite a number of the big golf companies may have been "knocking-off" some of Wishon's innovations in golf club design over the years. A designer since 1986, Wishon has created innovative golf club designs for brands including Dynacraft, Golfsmith, Snake Eyes, Lynx, and Harvey Penick and now for his own company's Wishon Golf brand. As a golf club designer, Tom Wishon has not only designed more different models of golf clubheads than any other person in the game, but among those more than 300 different clubhead designs are more than 50 which stand as 'golf club technology firsts' - created and brought to market by Wishon before the big golf companies brought out their version of the same design technology.

Just for fun, I jotted down a few of the more interesting Wishon firsts listed on his web site for you. See the list below.

1. First Variable Thickness Face Driver - 1995, Golfsmith Ti 260 Driver
a. Callaway followed with their own version of a variable thickness face on a driver models in 1997, since then several other companies have done the same. Today it seems more golf companies offer drivers with a variable thickness face than with a uniform thickness face. Who Copied Who?

2. First Thin Face High COR Irons - 2000, Snake Eyes Fire Forged Irons
a. In 2004, Nike introduced their thin face Slingshot irons to follow Wishon's Snake Eyes design. Since then a few other large companies have brought out their versions as well. Who Copied Who?

3. First Thin Face High COR Fairway Woods - 2004, Wishon Golf 525GRT woods
a. Prior to the introduction of Wishon's 525GRT woods, most experts in the golf industry believed it was impossible to create fairway woods with the same high COR as a driver. Wishon's 515GRT woods proved the experts were wrong. Interestingly, Adams Golf claimed they were the first in this category with the introduction of their 2011 Speedline fairway woods but I'm told subsequently has retracted that statement in their ads.

4. First Driver Head made from a Part Graphite, Part Metal construction - 1995, Golfsmith Power Link Driver
a. When Callaway offered their part graphite/part metal ERC Driver in 1998, everyone thought they were the innovator for creating a unique part graphite/part metal driver head. Who would have thought this design technology was done 3 years before?

5. First Adjustable Hosel Metal Woods - 1996, Golfsmith AHT Metal Woods
a. A technology that is all the rage right now on drivers from companies like Taylor Made, Cobra, and Titleist, does anyone really know they were 'only 14 years behind' in releasing this technology to allow golfers to change the lie and face angles of their driver?

6. First Metal Driver Larger Than 350cc - 1997, Golfsmith Long Jon Driver
a. From 1993 through the end of the decade, the largest driver heads offered to golfers were made with a volume measurement below 300cc. Only when Callaway introduced the Great Big Bertha in 2000 did the big companies begin to crack a driver size barrier that few know had been breached by one of Tom Wishon's designs in 1997.

7. First Cup Face Construction Woodhead - 1997, Golfsmith BlackHawk Driver
a. A cup shaped face is now known as a good way to help increase distance from off center hits with any driver or wood head. Callaway was the first of the large golf companies to do that on one of their drivers in 2000, while once again, they came in second in releasing this interesting driver face technology to golfers.

8. First Draw Bias, Heel Weighted Metal Wood - 1995, Golfsmith AccuCore 50 Driver
a. Putting more weight into the heel side of a metal driver has been touted as a means to reduce the tendency of a shot to fade or slice since the mainstream market first saw this technology on drivers in 2000. Who knew that it had already been done 5 years before?

9. First Milled Face Irons and Wedges - 1992, Dynacraft CNC5000 Irons and Wedges
a. Now pretty much seen in a variety of different companies' wedge models, no golf company introduced a milled face iron or wedge until the late 1990s - a good while after Wishon did it. And not only that, he did it on a full set of irons as well and not simply on the wedges!

10. First Putters made with Interchangeable Faces for Changing Loft - 2005, Wishon Golf CLF Series Putters
a. Club repairmen have been asked to bend the hosel of putters as a means to change the loft of the face for a long time. Unfortunately when this is done, the putter no longer sits square to the target when allowed to rest on its sole on the green, so the golfer has to HOLD the face square to be able to putt accurately. No other company has yet figured out that it might be a better idea to have faces made with different loft angles to screw on to the putter body so the sole angle could remain intact.

11. First Woods or Hybrids Made with Softer Metal Hosel to Allow Custom Lie and Face Angle adjustment - 2011, Wishon Golf 929HS Woods and 775HS Hybrids
a. Experts all extol the accuracy benefits of fitting the lie angle of the irons to the golfer's swing. No one talks about doing this for the fairway woods or hybrids, yet they too are clubs intended to be hit off the fairway to greens because typical woods and hybrids are made from metals that are very difficult to perform such a lie adjustment. Here again, Tom Wishon figured out a solution before all the giant companies did.

12. First to match golf clubs in a set for identical swing feel by MOI Matching - 2003, Wishon Golf
a. Ask any mechanical engineer who knows a little about the performance of a golf club what might be the best way to make all the clubs in a set require the same exact effort to swing so that better swing consistency could result and you'll hear the answer to be, "to match the clubs all to the same Moment of Inertia." Where no other company has done this as an alternative to the 90 year old technology of swingweight matching, Wishon did.

And those are just a handful of the more than 50 golf club design technology firsts that have come from the component custom clubmaking side of the golf equipment industry. If you care to read about the others, take a moment to visit and look for the link on the left hand side for DESIGN FIRSTS. And it would be nice if the next time you hear a golfer say that the component custom clubmakers offer nothing but knock-offs and clones, you could offer some of the facts.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Can a graphite shaft really be worth $400 or $500?

Last time I checked, the cost of graphite pre-preg ranged from about US$ 50 at the bottom end to about US$170 per KILO for ultra high-end aerospace grade, which works out at under ELEVEN dollars for a 60g shaft. What's a reasonable allowance for factory labour, overheads, shipping, etc? How do we get from there to $400, $500 or $600 for a graphite shaft, even allowing for generous profit margins for both the shaft manufacturer and the distributors they work through in the aftermarket? As the old saying goes, "there is a sucker born every minute."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What should a player think about when choosing what style of ironhead to play?

Fun question to answer and this actual question came up during a recent seminar Tom Wishon did for the British PGA.

There is no question the most important performance feature on an ironhead for all levels of players has to be its MOI, the head's ability to deliver as much distance as possible when the golfer hits the ball off center. If you look at the green design on most courses, far more trouble lies in the front areas and front side areas of the greens than over the greens. To be able to hit the ball off center and still have the ball fly far enough to get over a hazard, even if the ball only drops on the very front fringe or front side fringe of the green is far better than being short and in such a trouble area.

However, what can be a problem in putting MOI first in iron head model selection is that a high MOI may bring with it a head size and shape that simply is not pleasing to the golfer. So this brings in the second most important iron head model fitting requirement which is SHAPE AND STYLE AND THE OVERALL LOOK OF THE HEAD.

There is no question any average to serious player is not going to be able to hit the ball as consistently well with an iron he does not like the look of compared to an iron model that he really likes to look at when he sets the club down behind the ball. In other words, confidence born from the shape and style of the head is very important.

At the same time, having a significantly higher MOI is more important - so this leads to a statement Wishon came up with during this recent seminar that goes like this:

Among iron head models that you like the look of enough to be able to have confidence in setting down behind the ball, always choose the head model among those that has the highest possible MOI. ANd yes, sometimes the clubmaker might have to push the golfer into giving up some shape and style preferences to be able to do this.

For example, let's say the golfer loves the look of a pure blade muscleback iron. IMHO for any golfer with a handicap above 0, a pure blade is not a great choice because it has the absolute worst off center hit forgiveness. So in this case, you have to counsel the golfer about the importance of MOI and then hunt around to see if you can find an iron model that has some of the shape/style features of the blade but still has a good bit higher MOI. Maybe when you boil it down about the blade, more than likely the golfer likes the smaller than average blade size, the thin topline, the non offset hosel design the most.

In that case, getting him into a cavity back like the 555C would still give him most all these shape/style features but bring a far better MOI along with it. Or maybe you could even get him to agree to like the slightly larger head size of the 560MC so that the MOI and off center forgiveness could be even better. Compromise in the name of much better game improvement for the golfer, in other words.

For the less skilled golfer who does not have quite the list of "must haves" for the shape and style, here the sky is the limit for iron head selection. In this case, if the golfer has been losing distance lately from age, choosing either a high COR face iron or choosing a stronger loft iron design along with putting more hybrids into his set makeup can be a very wise decision for the iron model.

I don't really put center of gravity very high on the list for iron model selection. OK, for the less skilled golfer, sure, it won't hurt to choose a lower CG design, but not at the expense of choosing the highest MOI first and a high COR face after that. There just is not that much difference between vertical CG location among all the irons out there with a higher MOI.

Sole design can be a big one, especially if the golfer has a little more steep, downward angle of attack into the ball. In this case, a more rounded sole from face to back with a more blunt leading edge can help turn the slightly fat shot into one that is solid enough to get to the front of the green.

Bendability and the capability to add head weight can also play a role when the golfer's lie, length and shaft weight needs are a little more out of the ordinary.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Equipment secrets of the Pros.

The latest issue of 'Golf World' has an article about custom-fitting, but unlike the one that appeared in Golf Digest a month or so back, it doesn't say anything at all about independent clubmakers - I apparently do not exist!! It consists of five pages, the last two of which only give details of the custom fitting centres operated or franchised by Callaway, Cleveland, Cobra, Mizuno, Nike, Ping, Titleists, Taylor Made and Wilson.

However, there is an interesting article entitled 'Equipment Secrets of the Pros'. There are the usual howlers from the journalists who write this stuff - for example, Robert Karlsson's Lob Wedge is stated to be 37" long, which apparently means that it ".... close to the length of a regular #8 iron ...", but there are some interesting snippets:

- Both Garcia and Paul McGuinley use 43" drivers. McGinley is quoted as saying: "Most people will tell you that a longer shaft in your driver can add yards, but having been on the TrackMan launch monitor, I have found that my clubhead speed increases with a shorter club."

- The most common driver loft is 9.5º (46.4%), followed by 8.5º (29.7%), 10.5º ( 12.5%) and 9.0º (8.1%). However, these would appear to be NOMINAL lofts, because at least one player is stated to be using a driver picked to a different loft - Ping's Tour Manager is quoted as saying that Lee Westwood's G10 driver "... has 9º on it, but the loft is actually 10.5º". The article goes on to say that "All the driver heads are slightly different, so Ping select the ones with more loft to use for Lee".

- Jimenez's driver is 46" long, which is said to be longer than the Tour norm. This section of the article goes on to say that (as we all know) long drivers are much more prevalent in the consumer market than on Tour because of the falicy "... the longer the club, the longer the hit ...", but refreshingly there is an addendum, again attributed to Ping's Tour Manager: "Ah, there's a catch there. Miguel boasts that he can still hit it out on the middle of the clubface, but even with the Pros, the number of strikes dead centre goes down the longer the club gets."

- A lot of players have the face angles of their drivers & fwy woods cranked or set open by between 2º-4º. The exception - surprisingly - seems to be Garcia, who has his r11 set closed ".. to take the right side of the course out of play."

- Sergio Carcia's irons are apparently shorter than standard, but have counterweights installed.

- Most of the players interviewed have the soles of their wedges re-ground to reduce the bounce at the heel (which Tom Wishon has always done as standard).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why are Tour Pros hitting a 5 iron 200+ yards?

For one thing, ALL the Tour Pros hit an iron the way it supposed to be....hands ahead of the ball at impact resulting in a descending blow which takes loft off the iron. It is also a fact that the AVERAGE tour player's clubhead speed is substantially higher than it was back in the Nicklaus/Miller era on tour. Back then the average driver speed was about 104-105 with avg 5-iron speed around 79-80 while today we're seeing that average be around +9 to +10 mph higher....because of stronger, more physically fit golfers.

Most of the tour players do not use irons based on a 24, 25, 26 deg 5-iron loft - they use iron lofts more in the area of a 27-28 deg 5-iron. Now granted, back in the Nicklaus/Miller era, irons were made more based on a 30*-32* 5-iron and it was more common to see the avg tour player hit 7 iron from 150, with big hitters using 8 iron from 150 - but still when you see the avg clubhead speed be that much higher today, this is a chief reason you see the 175 yd 7 iron and 200 yd 5-iron with a slight loft decrease contributing a little.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Three Key Specifications of Driver Fitting (and a few more that will help as well).

What golfer doesn’t dream of owning that “magic driver” which enables them to hit the ball longer and straighter?

Tip number one: the very best driver for every golfer is never selected by its brand or model name or model number. It is chosen by its fitting specifications and how those individual factors are matched to the golfer’s size, strength, athletic ability and most of all, to their swing characteristics.

Driver Length:
I’m going to be blunt. The standard driver lengths of 45.5 to 46.5 inches offered by the standard made golf club companies are too long and are preventing at least 75%of all golfers from achieving their maximum potential for distance and accuracy. For men with an average to fast tempo with an outside/in swing path, 44” is the maximum length; women, 42.5” to 43” should be the limit. There’s a very good reason the average driver length on the US PGA Tour from 2004-2010 has been 44.5” and not 45.5” to 46.5”

Driver Loft:
Driver loft must be matched to the golfer’s swing speed and their angle of attack into the ball. The slower the swing speed and the more downward the angle of attack, the higher the loft of the driver has to be for maximum distance. While each golfer has to be individually analyzed to know which loft brings the most distance, here is a basic chart to use as a guideline. The first column of numbers is driver swing speed, the second column is best driver loft in wet conditions, and the third column is best driver loft in dry conditions for more roll-out.

50 21 20
60 18 17
70 16 15
80 14 13
90 12 11
100 11 10
110 9.5 8.5

Based on Level Angle of Attack and Average Release. For golfer' who make contact on the upswing, a lower loft may be better and vice versa - golfer's who make contact on the downswing definately need more loft.
Best Loft for Carry for Wet Fairways.
Best Loft for Roll Out for Hard, Firm Fairways.

Driver Face Angle:
Few drivers sold off the shelf offer options in the face angle to reduce the golfer’s tendency to slice or hook the ball. There is no better way to reduce a slice than to fit the golfer with a more closed face angle in the driver/fairway woods. For more severe slices, the golfer can be fit with a driver head with both a closed face and an offset hosel design. The rule of thumb for face angle change? At a carry distance of 200 yards, each one degree more closed the face angle is than the golfer’s current face angle represents a reduction in the slice of about 4 to 5 yards.

And a Couple More for Covering Your Golfers’ Driver Fitting Needs . . .

Total Weight and Swingweight:
The stronger the golfer physically and the more aggressively they swing, the heavier the total weight and swingweight will need to be. The opposite is true for the weaker and much less aggressive swinging player. Matching the “weights” of the driver to the golfer’s swing strength and aggressiveness is critical for swing tempo consistency and the highest incidence of on-center impacts.

Here’s the facts about the shaft. While the weight, the overall flex and the stiffness bend profile of the shaft has to be fit properly to all golfers, the shaft flex and bend profile are more important for golfers with a late release of the wrist-cock angle in the downswing than for golfers with an earlier release. Don’t worry, we’ll dig deeper into shaft fitting on its own in a successive column.

Comparing a custom fitting to a car wash.

What Kind of Car Wash Do You Want?

More and more golf club companies are starting to emphasize custom clubfitting as an option to their typical marketing to golfers to buy their clubs in standard form, bought off the shelf.

Custom fitting is very definitely for average golfers and not just for single digit handicap players. When done properly, custom fitting can reduce and offset some of your swing errors. In addition, proper custom fitting makes it easier to take swing coaching advice and make the changes in the swing to hit the ball better.

If you are thinking about custom fitting for your next driver or set of clubs, there are a few things you need to know to ensure you really do end up with properly custom fit clubs that will improve your game. A colleague of mine in the golf business put this in the right way when he said that custom clubfitting can be much like having your car washed.

On one hand, if your car needs a bath, you can pull out the hose and just spray water on it to wash off the obvious surface dirt. You can also fill a bucket with suds and scrub the dirt off the surface with a sponge. Or, you can pull out all the stops and scrub, detail and wax it. All three examples could be called a car wash.

Custom fitting in the golf industry today is much the same. There is fitting, and there is professional custom clubfitting. Examples of a fitting include “6 questions on a web site”, 15 minutes hitting a few balls with a swing computer, or 3 measurements and a response from a golf sales person to the effect of, “I know what you need.”

On the other hand, professional custom clubfitting is going to involve a pretty fair amount of your time, often more than one trip to have your swing analyzed in detail so that ALL the possible specifications that make up a set of golf clubs can be pinpointed and selected to match with your strength, size, athletic ability, and especially, the way YOU and only YOU swing. Professional custom clubfitting really is like the scrub, wax and detail car wash I mentioned before. The other types of fitting are not going to get you really matched well to your clubs to really result in the level of improvement that a real custom fitting can and will do. In other words, which “car wash” do YOU want for your money?

To find more about professional custom clubfitting, please contact me at or 403-529-0704. You will be happy you did and your club buying money will be well spent.