10 myths about golf clubs you should forget right now
Golf is littered with clichés. In some instances they ring true, like “Never up, never in” and “Don’t miss on the short side.” However, with golf equipment, there is an abundance of words spoken so often that they are taken as fact when they are just folk tales from the fairways. Those who fit golf clubs for a living know what’s true—and what isn’t. We reached out to half a dozen of them—all from Golf Digest’s 100 Best Clubfitters list—to bring clarity to your understanding of the equipment scene. As one said, “The only rule in clubfitting is there is always an exception to the rule.” In other words, don’t be that golfer who further spreads misinformation. Do you best to forget these 10 golf-equipment myths.
Only good players should get fit
Like public speaking or blind dates, going for a clubfitting can be such an intimidating experience that many golfers do whatever they can to avoid it. The common refrain is, “I’m not good enough.”
Nothing gets fitters more riled up than this excuse. “The best response to anyone who says they’re ‘not good enough to get fit’ is ‘you’re not good enough not to get fit!’ ” says Scott Felix, founder of Felix Clubworks in Collierville, Tenn., who says the majority of those shafts and clubheads lining the walls of your typical fitting center are eliminated from consideration after the first dozen or so warm-up swings a player makes.
Many fitters will make the case that good players are talented enough to overcome clubs that aren't fitted for them, but average golfers aren’t. “If they’re playing with ill-fitting equipment, they’re constantly fighting their clubs and are likely to develop swing flaws to compensate,” says Ken Morton Jr., director of retail and marketing for Haggin Oaks Super Shop in Sacramento, Calif.
Most average or beginning golfers are rightfully hesitant about the expense of getting fit for clubs, and if you’ve never swung a club before, getting fit is counterproductive. Go out first and see if you enjoy playing. If you’re able to hit the ball in the air consistently more often than you top it or chunk it, you’re ready to see if a fitting makes a difference.
“The physical benefits, accuracy improvement and mental approach to a player’s game can change for the better,” says Ben Giunta, owner of The Tour Van in Portland.
Faster swings need a lower-lofted driver
Um, no. The loft players need is the one that produces the optimal launch angle and spin for them. Many factors come into play such as their descent angle and dynamic loft to name a couple.
A perfect example is Dustin Johnson, who plays a 10.5-driver set one click closer to higher—or basically an 11-degree driver. ”It all depends on how you deliver the club to the ball and how much spin you are creating,” Felix says. ”Remember, golf balls do not spin as much as they used to.”
A 3-wood off the tee is more accurate than driver
While data from ShotScope shows a 3-wood is slightly more accurate than a driver off the tee (48 percent fairways hit compared to 46 percent with a driver), the tradeoff probably isn’t worth it. Why? The numbers also show players, on average, give up 19 yards in distance by going to the shorter club. That’s a pretty big price to pay for hitting two extra fairways for every 100 tee shots.
“Drivers have much larger, more forgiving heads that can help keep the face square on off-center impact and lead to greater accuracy for many,” says Jason Fryia, owner and general manager of The Golf Exchange in Cincinnati. “The larger footprint of the driver allows for more adjustability and, therefore, a driver can likely be better fit to produce more accurate results. The same thing can be said for the greater amount of driver clubheads available in the market today. For these reasons a properly fit driver is often more accurate than a 3-wood."
Mallet putters are for straight-back and straight-through strokes
Most mallet putters today are available in multiple hosels that produce a face-balanced design or varying degrees of toe hang. (Toe hang is related to the way the toe of a putter hangs open when balancing the shaft, and a face-balanced putter faces the sky.) Generally, toe-hang putters are designed to work with strokes that have more arc, and face-balanced putters work with strokes that are like a pendulum. Giunta calls the mallet straight-stroke idea “a huge myth,” but it’s not that simple. In Giunta’s experience, toe-hang or face-balanced stroke matching works only about 60 percent of the time. “Putter fitting is the most feel and looks-based decision of any club in the bag.”
Golfers should focus on whether a putter—mallet or blade—fulfills its objectives: improving your aim and allowing you to consistently return the face to square.
“It’s your aiming tendencies and tendencies at impact that determine your performance on the greens,” Fryia says. “Finding a putter that enhances your good tendencies or compensates for your bad ones is usually the one for you.”
The shaft is the engine of the club
The shaft is important for many reasons, but to call it the “engine” is a misnomer. The golfer is the engine because he or she is the chief source of power for every shot. As it relates to equipment, the clubhead is more important than the shaft. “The design of the clubhead has the most impact on ball flight and launch conditions,” Giunta says. “The shaft can certainly impact all launch conditions, but typically it’s much more subtle.”
“Transmission” is a more apt description for the shaft because it’s one of the elements that can transfer the golfer’s power to the ball. For those still skeptical, Fryia offers a theory that should settle things. “I can give you a modern clubhead with a shaft from 40 years ago and your performance will likely be much better than a modern shaft in a clubhead from 40 years ago,” he says.
All your wedges should have the same bounce angle
This might be true if every shot you hit on a golf course was exactly the same. Of course, we know that’s not the case. We play different golf courses. We play from different parts of the course. There's bunkers to consider. “Part of the fitting process is trying to find out where the most amount of your shots with each club are coming from and then dial in a bounce that best plays to that shot,” Morton says.
Adds Golf Galaxy's Chris Marchini: “Bounce should be fit for each wedge you carry. Different lofts are utilized in different ways and certain lofts require more versatility than others. This is even more true if you are a snowbird. You play half of your season playing bent grass, and the other playing Bermuda, and those are totally different turf conditions.”
A longer driver shaft creates more distance
A longer driver shaft can create more clubhead speed, but that does not always translate into more distance. Solidness of strike plays a big factor here. The speed created during your swing is more efficiently transferred into the ball when impact is near the center of the clubface. For many players, impact location becomes difficult to control with a longer shaft. In most cases, golfers are better off choosing the length shaft that produces consistently faster ball speed as a starting point and working to optimize their launch conditions from there.
“We find very few golfers actually increase their clubhead speed with a longer shaft, quite a few actually see it go down,” says Chris Wycoff, founder of SwingFit on Hilton Head Island. “If someone is a bit vertically challenged or has an upright swing, a longer driver shaft can really limit the extension of their arms and forces them to manipulate the club just to get it back to the ball which slows their speed down."
Everyone needs 14 clubs in the bag
Perhaps the worst rule in the game for average golfers has nothing to do with a limit on driver spring-like effect or how much spin wedge grooves can generate or even the stroke-and-distance penalty. No, it’s the 14-club rule—and not because golfers should be carrying more than that.
The most important part of a good clubfitting that average golfers overlook is set makeup, Marchini says. He once sent a regular customer home with a full set that only had 12 clubs. When he was questioned about it, Marchini said, “Go play, and let me know if you notice any gaps in your distances.” The only call that ever came was to say, “Thank you.”
“The right number is what is playable,” Marchini adds. “They all serve a purpose, fill gaps and match your needs.”
The better the player the more likely the need arises for clubs to fill specific needs. The key is to have a good understanding of how you play. Craig Allan, director of the Golf Performance Center in Sea Island, Ga., says a simple trick is to take the driver and shortest wedge distances and find out if the remainder of the clubs have 11 substantial distance gaps between them.
“Many golfers just don’t generate enough speed to create adequate distance to need all 14 clubs,” he says.
Round-tracking apps and devices like Arccos or ShotScope V3 might enlighten a golfer and fitter about where the holes or redundancies in a setup might be. It might show a need for 14 clubs, or 12 or even 11.
“Some players might not have the skill or desire to use their imagination for all 14 clubs,” Giunta says. “I recommend players find 14 distinct clubs in the bag that they have for specific situations. Anything that simplifies this game, including having fewer than 14 clubs, can be advantageous.”
Cast irons are more forgiving than forged irons, but forged feels better
Let’s blame the influence of better players for this one. Historically, elite golfers played only forged muscle-back blade irons, and beginning players and average golfers on a budget tended to play cast irons for the game-improvement features (larger size, cavity-back shaping, etc.) and for the less-expensive cost. But those average golfers were always impressed and jealous of how the better players talked about the feel of a forged iron.
However, dozens of blind tests have revealed that players are unable to tell the difference. Think of it this way: The single most important “feel” club in the bag is the wedge, yet cast wedges outnumber forged wedges on the PGA Tour and in the marketplace by at least 25-to-1.
It is more challenging to manufacture a cast club that “feels” great. But it’s clearly been done. Is it more challenging to make a single-piece forged iron that has the highest spring-like effect and the most stability on off-center hits? Maybe, but forged irons aren’t the single-piece muscle-back of decades past, and today through different constructions and materials, their forgiveness, distance and success in the game-improvement category are competitive with cast designs.
“A club’s performance and feel are determined by its design and construction, including all components that come together to make the club,” Fryia says. “Shaft and grip also play a big factor in the feel of a shot. There are just too many other factors in play to single out one such as forged versus cast as the ultimate characteristic that determines forgiveness, distance or feel.”
You don't need to get fit again once you know your specs
You may not need to get completely fit from scratch every time, but most quality clubfitters will offer a bag evaluation of some kind for this very purpose. Now, the thing to keep in mind here is if you’re switching brands or a manufacturer completely revamps their product line, it would be highly important to get fit from scratch again. At the very least, have a conversation with your clubfitter about what they are seeing with the new equipment vs. the previous year’s equipment. They will know the subtle differences.
Marchini is more blunt about it. “The only standard is that there is no standard. Each manufacturer can have their own standards for length, lie angle, etc. Every time you are adding a piece of equipment to the bag, get fit for it. Also, you as a player are, more than likely, changing as well. What you did to a club or shaft when you swung it five years ago is probably different today.