What Is Going On With Club Specs?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wrote Friday about the "theft" of the versatile pitching wedge from almost all current and recent sets of irons, and maybe that triggered the question from Krishan P. about other specifications that have been gradually altered over the years. Specifically, his question was this:
"What is the average height for men considered by the manufacturers when deciding on the length of shafts for drivers and irons? As a person of 5'5" height, I am finding that new equipment is getting longer and more upright. Does that mean, never buy new equipment without getting fit each time?"Well, Krishnan, if you read here much, you will know that I am a huge fan of getting custom fit, so the answer to your question is a resounding "yes" – get fitted and know your specs. With the investment we make in our golf clubs, having them fitted to you is just a form of insurance that your investment will give you the return you are after. That said, we have seen a definite trend to longer and more upright clubs over the past twenty years or so, but many will tell you that it's a result of what comes out of the clubfitting community and effort, not the increase in size of the average golfer, though that might also be a factor.
Custom fit clubs have been around for many years. When I was a kid in the 60s, the Kenneth Smith brand defined that process. Wonder what happened to that company? Then Ping came out in the late 70s or early 80s with their static fitting guides, which were mostly built around the golfer’s static measurements, primarily wrist-to-floor. By the late 80s, the idea of “dynamic fitting” was catching steam, with companies like Henry Griffitts, Slazenger and a few others producing elaborate fitting systems that examined not just specifications for length and lie, but also shaft and flex.
The fitting side of the industry today is generally divided between the major brand-specific individual fitting carts and demo days, and the community of independent clubfitters who conduct a detailed fitting and then build your clubs from a variety of components right there in their shops. Whichever route you take, however, my experience is that many . . . if not most . . . of them will come up with a “long and upright” prescription for you.
My question is this: Is this trend to long and upright due to the increase in the average size of the golfer? Or to the fact that most average players have a distinct over-the-top move and a steeper downward swing path than is desirable? Or that the fitting process might have a built-in bias? Probably it’s a function of all three.
There is no question that we’re getting bigger and stronger with each generation. You can see it in all sports, on the PGA Tour and everywhere you look. In the 1960s, a “big” guy was over 6 feet tall and 185 pounds. In football, those guys were linemen then; now they are defensive backs. The great golfers of that era – from Hogan/Nelson to Palmer/Nicklaus/Watson, were 6’ or under. Now look at the average size of the PGA Tour player, and the “little guys” are almost non-existent. Most of today’s tour professionals are at least 5’11” and many are over 6’2-3”. Obviously the clubs have had to get a little longer and more upright to accommodate this shift in physiology.
But there is also no question that the typical golfer’s swing is not anywhere close to the tour professional’s move through impact. Because we lack their practiced and solid fundamentals, most recreational golfers are more right-hand dominant, which results in an over-the-top move of the clubhead at the ball, which produces a more downward angle of approach to the ball. A dynamic fitting will indicate a “long and upright” solution nearly every time. And for many golfers it will produce an immediate improvement in their ball flight. But beware. If you fit the fault, you might effectively prevent the cure. So, if you are intent on improving your swing mechanics, be wary of getting fit to something other than what you want.
And I’ll finish this diatribe with what I believe is a built-in bias to the dynamic fitting process. The fitting process requires impact tape on the bottom of the golf club, and we’re told that we need to make sure that we make a mark on that tape to give the fitter a reading for lie angle. My belief is that subconsciously, we make a slightly more descending downward angle at the ball to ensure that we do just that. I have no proof of this theory at all, but just believe it to be so.
I’ll close by noting that clubfittings for amateur golfers almost always produces more “extreme” specifications that those used by tour players of the same build. You don’t find too many irons on the PGA Tour, for example, that are more than ¾” long and 1-2* upright, but 1” long and 2-3* upright is very common based on what we come into contact with at EIDOLON. We always suggest the wedges be half way between that dynamic fitting for irons and “standard” specifications, to promote the lower-hands path that is crucial to good short game play. But that sounds like a follow up to this post.
See you guys Friday, and I invite you to share your fitting experience with all of us as an extension of this dialog. And congratulations, Krishan – you’ve won a new EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge!
* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.
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 ]
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