Most golfers have to like they way their clubs look at address, so the psychological side of club head selection is very important. If golfers don’t like the way their new clubs look, the success of the overall fitting can be in jeopardy — regardless of how much improvement there is.
That’s why it’s important to fit golfers into club heads that have the potential to improve their performance (misdirection tendency, overall launch conditions/trajectory, etc.), but also keep the shape and style of the club heads a priority.
Clubhead shape/style elements to identify and match to the golfer’s preference typically involve height and blade length of the head, sole width, topline width, topline slope, leading edge radii, offset/face progression, sole radius/bounce/design, back design, and so on.
But while most of these aspects of the “look” of the head may be judged on an esoteric or qualitative manner, there are most definitely performance-based elements of the head design that have to be a very important part of the fitting of the clubhead. As such, there always has to be a balance in the clubfitter’s recommendation and the golfer’s acceptance of the head model.
That’s why when we teach clubhead model fitting, we begin the process by stressing the following guideline to clubfitters:
Within all of the clubhead models that satisfy the golfer’s personal preferences for shape features, style, finish and cosmetics, recommend the ones that have the highest MOI and the best off-center hit performance.
If the golfer also needs the utmost in distance and forgiveness for his ability and game-improvement goals, expand your recommendation to include the ones with the best face design for highest COR and best variable thickness construction.
When it comes to the pure performance side of clubhead fitting, the more experienced clubfitters will also keep these points in mind:
For golfers with a definite need to reduce a slice or hook, recommend driver, wood and hybrid models that are available in different face angle options or those can be adjusted or bent to achieve the correct face angle to reduce the misdirection tendency.
Center of Gravity (CG) changes — either higher/lower or closer/further back from the face to achieve trajectory, shot shape, spin and shot height fitting goals — certainly can be attempted in the head recommendation. The effect of such CG changes may not bring about as much shot shape improvement as hoped, however, because they are so much affected by individual golfer characteristics of clubhead speed, consistency of the delivery of the head to impact and swing error tendencies.
In other words, don’t expect too much change in shot shape from a CG difference in a clubhead unless you are a more accomplished player with a higher-than-average clubhead speed and a proper impact position.
This does not mean that the clubfitter should ignore the benefits of a lower or more rearward-located CG for golfers with slower swings speed or those who need help keeping the ball in the air. Just don’t expect a big change in doing so.
While the final decision for the clubhead is always in the hands of the golfer, clubfitters should do their best to diplomatically explain the tangible benefits for using a clubhead model with a higher level of game improvement features than the golfer may think they need. Golf is a tough game to begin with and using a clubhead that cannot reduce the negative effects of swing errors is not the wisest decision if the goal is to play to the best of your ability.
What matters, what doesn’t
It usually takes BIG differences in head design technology to bring about small-to-medium differences in shot performance.
A COR difference of 0.030 or more is significant for distance increase. A difference of 0.010 is not.
An MOI difference of more than 1000 g-cm2 is significant for improvement on off-center hits. A difference of 600 g-cm2 or less is not.
A vertical CG difference of more than 5 millimeters is significant for shot height and spin differences. One less than that is not for the vast majority of golfers.
A face-to-back difference in CG of more than 8 millimeters can be significant for shot height and spin differences, but only for golfers with later-to-very-late releases. A face-to-back difference in CG of 5 millimeters or less is insignificant even for later release players.
The more radius on the iron sole from face to back, the better the sole design is for EVERY golfer to very slightly help reduce the degree of “fatness” of a slightly fat shot. More face-to-back sole radius is also good for more consistent sole-to-turf interaction with Bermuda-type turf as well as for shots hit from the rough.