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An Insider's Look at Golf Club Design
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy

Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at askme@thewedgeguy.com.

When it comes to golf club design, I guess you'd have to say that I'm somewhat of a cynic. Conservative for sure, but cynical because I've been in this business for nearly 30 years and I've seen a continuous stream of unsupportable advertising claims on the "newest and greatest," whether it be drivers, fairway woods, irons, putters . . . you name it. But look back at history and see how many of those really had staying power? Not too many. And the industry churns out more and more "new" ideas every year, don't they?

The reality is that new models, and short product life cycles, have become a way of doing business in the golf equipment sector these days. The R&D departments have a responsibility to churn out new models or they are out of a job. The marketing and sales departments have a responsibility to create buzz and spring sales or they are on the street as well. So we get another “greatest thing since sliced bread” from every major company, every year.

And by summer or fall, all of this year’s “hottest new things” will be selling at heavily discounted prices to make room for next year’s “hottest new things”. So let’s break it down by seeing just what a club is, what it can and cannot be expected to do for you, and how to improve the odds of getting value from your equipment dollars.

First, whether it’s a driver, fairway wood, hybrid or iron , a club is simply a head, attached to a shaft, with a rubber thing on the end to hold onto. Nothing more, nothing less. Let’s talk clubheads first.

Unless you’ve been in a coma for ten years, you probably already have one or more drivers with a 460 cc head, exotic material construction and weight distribution pushed to the edge of manufacturing capabilities. With the technology pushed to the limits allowed by the USGA, the difference between models on the market is miniscule. And the ability for someone to invent something new that is a giant leap from where we are just isn’t going to happen. In essence, they are all about the same, so find one that looks good to you and sounds right and stick with it.

That same approach pretty much says it all about fairway woods, too. The biggest goal here is to determine how many you are going to carry, and select the lofts that will give you the full-swing distances you need. You can take that same approach with your hybrids. They all are designed to be easy to hit, and they are. Pretty much all you have to do is find the head design that suits your eye, and get the lofts that deliver the distances you are after.

Now, irons . . . they are a little different, with hundreds of models to choose from. But generally, you can put all of them into four categories:
1. True blades – these are the pure muscle-back models with very little to no perimeter weighting. And they should only be chosen by golfers who are exceptional ball strikers. They will give you great feedback and ball control if you are an accomplished player, but you will be penalized with your mis-hits. You don’t see many of them in the stores anymore.

2. Modern blades – if you read this column, you know that this is where I believe most serious golfers under 15-18 handicap should be. With some weight distributed to the toe and sole, but plenty of mass left behind the center of the face, I’m convinced that almost all golfers can benefit from this type of iron design. There are some very good ones out there, but they don’t get much promotion from the major brands. If you can hit the ball pretty solid most of the time, you should really give a set of these a serious trial. I think you’ll be amazed at what you find.

3. Super cavity backs – I’m skipping to the extreme here, to the designs that have the weight radically pushed to the extremes, severe offsets, usually some multi-material “pixie dust” to make them sound like the miracle cure for whatever ails you. Well, if you are a player that just “slops” the ball around the course, and fear that you might miss it entirely, maybe you need to be here, but I’m not real sure. This category allows the designers to “go wild” with their imaginations, and they generally feature jacked up lofts so that you think you hit them a mile. Sheesh.

4. Simple perimeter weighted irons – this is the largest category of irons and the most popular at the cash register. Weight is moved around to make them “forgiving”, and the designers have a palette so that they can make them look different every year. The fact is that most are not all that much different from the Ping Eyes of 30 years ago, which started this whole trend. They give you more distance and flight from your mis-hits than blades, but also compromise your best dead-center hits. That’s simple physics.
Well, we didn’t get to the shaft part of the equation, so I guess next Friday’s post topic is set. And I’m betting, and hoping, that today’s post is going to generate more questions than I’ve gotten in a long time. That’s what this is all about, so start hitting those keys, readers. I’ll see you Tuesday with a reader’s question (and another free EIDOLON wedge winner) and get on the shaft topic next Friday.

Usually I let you guys have at it in the comments, but I promise to chime in every day on this topic if you guys and ladies want to create a thorough dialog on clubhead design.


* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

photo source
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


[ comments ]
parman929 says:
What would be an example of a "Modern Blade"?
5/7/10
 
ChappyEight says:
Totally agree parman. I had the very same question.
5/7/10
 
ChappyEight says:
Further, Wedge Guy, does your definition of a modern blade fit in with the Maltby Playability Factor in some way? I'm curious to know how to spot one of these clubs.
5/7/10
 
WedgeGuy says:
By "modern blade" I mean a design that shows little or no offset, a "traditional" blade shape, lofts that are not "jacked up" and a back design that redistributes only some of the weight toward the toe and perimeter, while maintaining reasonable thickness or "muscle" behind the center area of the face. The new Titleist AP models, most of the Mizuno MP models and others of that style meet this definition.
5/8/10
 
[ post comment ]
Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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