Why Your New Golf Clubs Won’t (Necessarily) Make You Better

Why Your New Golf Clubs Won’t (Necessarily) Make You Better

I often hear golfers say something like this

Golfer –           “I’ve just bought these new irons – they’re so great. I’m hitting it two clubs farther”

Me       –           “Oh, how are your scores”?

Golfer  –           “The same, why”?

 

Modern Irons

Modern irons hit the ball farther – that is true. But why?

A look at a recent 5 iron showed a loft of just 21 degrees. Combine this with a longer shaft length and that 5 iron you are holding is very likely just a 3 iron with a different number at the bottom.

golfers-talking

Speaking with Kirk Oguri, golf professional/equipment specialist at Pete’s Golf Shop (NY), he explained;

Manufacturers have figured out how to get the center of gravity of the club much lower, resulting in a higher ball flights. This allows them to then deloft the clubs and still achieve the same peak height.

High launch and lower spin = crazy distance. (Find out more about that by reading THIS)

Also, face materials are springier, increasing something called coefficient of restitution (COR) – basically a measure of how fast the ball comes off the face.

 

Shot Patterns

When we hit an iron, we might

  • Flush it
  • Hit an average strike (perhaps 10 yards loss in distance)
  • Have a slightly bigger miss-hit (perhaps 20 yards loss)

Sure, we can also duff it completely, but for most golfers who have been playing many years, most of their shots will fall into one of the above 3 categories.

And, no matter how good the irons are or how good the player is, no one flushes it all the time.

 

Hole Overlay

Imagine you are faced with the following scenario on the course.

flag

 

 

The flag is 150 yards away. The player pulls out their 6 iron – the club they hit 150 if they flush it.

Now, let’s look at an overlay of their shot pattern

shot-pattern

 

As we can see, when they flush it, they land in the green zone and have their birdie putts. The average strikes land in the yellow zone, and the slightly bigger miss-hits land in the red zone.

 

With The New Clubs

Now that the player is blasting it 20 yards farther with their new irons, they come to the same hole as before – 150 yards to the pin. This time, they use their 8 iron instead of their 6 iron.

Let’s have a look at their shot patterns.

shot-pattern

No, I didn’t make a mistake and accidentally put the same picture – it is the same picture.

That’s right – the player will get some flushed shots which land in the green zone, a lot of average shots landing in the yellow zone, and some slightly bigger miss-hits landing in the red zone.

The pattern is essentially the same, even if they used an 8 iron to get there instead of a 6 iron.

 

But Aren’t New Clubs More Forgiving?

Great question – you caught me out, didn’t you……

Or did you?

While it is true that modern clubs have a higher resistance to twisting (moment of inertia) and larger sweet spots (resulting in more consistent distances on heel and toe hits), the clubs can’t offer any more forgiveness on a ground contact error.

 

What Is The COR Of Mud?

We have said that one of the reasons modern irons go so far is that they have a higher COR.

A golf ball might come off a modern club at 1.42 times the speed of the clubhead – we call this smash factor. With an older model, the ball might come off the face with a 1.35 smash factor.

trampoline-effect

Look at my new trampoline-effect irons

However, strike the ground early and you will get grass and mud trapped between the ball and the face. This means that the COR of the clubface becomes less relevant, and the smash factor of both the old and the new club will drop down to something more similar.

In this regard, a newer club could potentially cause greater distance dispersion between a flushed shot and a slightly heavy shot – which could wash out any potential advantage gained from having a larger sweet spot.

Also, it is my experience that a player often creates more mistakes with ground contact than face contact.

 

Expectations/Psychology

On top of this, when a player says “I have picked up 2 clubs of distance”, it is much more likely that they have only picked up one.

Humans are known for embellishing, and we can even lie so well that we can fool ourselves. We will often compare our new clubs’ flushed shots to our old clubs’ average shots, creating a distorted view of how much distance we have actually gained.

it-was-this-big

We are all prone to exaggeration

This factor alone can wash out the forgiveness created by the modern clubs.

It is my experience that players with new clubs will also have a greater tendency to play a strategy based around their flushed shots more than their average shot, just because they want to prove to themselves how far these new babies will go.

 

Getting Lazy

A phenomenon I have also seen first hand in lessons is that, when you give a player a bigger headed / more forgiving club, their strike patterns start to spread out and become less consistent.

There could be a couple of reasons for this.

  1. Because the club is so forgiving, the player can no longer feel when they miss the sweet spot by an inch – so their brain does not rectify the issue.
  2. A bigger headed club tells our brain that we are free to make a larger mistake.

As an analogy for the second point, if we told a person to hammer a nail with a very small headed hammer, they would likely constrain the action and produce a tighter spread, even if they miss the nail more often. However, give them a nail and ask them to hammer it with a frying pan, they might make a wilder, less constrained motion. They might hit the nail more often, but the centre of gravity of the nail and frying pan would have a bigger dispersion.

frying-pan-club

Check out my new teflon coated 7 iron

It’s an interesting motor learning concept.

 

Improve Strike Quality

There are certainly course-management strategies that can make the above shot patterns perform/score better. While I would always recommend using improved strategy, we can also reduce distance dispersion through better strike quality.

By improving face contact and (specifically in this case) ground contact, we can reduce the distance between our flushed shots, average shots and slightly miss-hit shots. If you want to find out how to do this, check out The Strike Plan by clicking the link or the image below.

 

Strike plan enter

 

New Clubs ARE Better

This is an important point which I have waited to make until the end – because I want to clarify my message.

I am not saying new clubs wont make you better – far from it. Modern clubs are longer, straighter and have less of a drop off in distance on off-centre hits. More importantly, getting your clubs fit for you can be a huge benefit to you.

New clubs are also more fun – it is nice hitting the ball so far and having to be less precise with our face strike in order to do so.

However, due to

  • Strategy
  • No actual improvements in strike quality (new clubs just let you get away with more)
  • Increased expectations of how far you are actually hitting the new clubs
  • The “laziness” effect

You might not get as much benefit from that extra distance as you should be getting. Just something to think about.

 

Summary

Get new clubs – but make sure you still work on strike quality and strategy to maximize the effectiveness of those new toys.

If you are interested in taking your game to the next level, pick up a copy of the book that has been a best-seller in the USA, UK, Canada, Germany and France, as well as reaching the top 10 in Spain and Italy. The book was featured on The Golf Channel as one of the “must have” golf books.

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9 Comments

  • Trevor

    Amen brother! I’ve been touting that for a while. I play Mizuno MP irons, pretty standard lofts. My buddy plays TaylorMade Speed-somethings. He often brags how far he can hit his 8 iron compared to me until one day I showed him the loft’s, he was silent since, not that it ever mattered but the marketing machines are turning golf into a rodeo.

  • Steve Ruis

    One of the things you didn’t mention is that ego driven golfers are still playing from the back tees, even though courses tend to be much longer than they used to be. There weren’t many (any?) 7600 yard courses in the 1950s, or 240 yard par 3’s, etc.

    It is interesting as they have lowered the lofts of our clubs that we are dropping 2- and 3-irons and adding wedges to our bags. We end up with the same clubs (the new PW are our old 9-irons) but just with different numbers. The sad thing is they sold them not because they were better (which they were) but because they were longer, which was just a deliberate act of mislabeling.

    Tom Wishon exposed the creeping loft changes in clubs to give greater distance and pointed out that as the clubs have less loft, our dispersions were greater. Add that all up and we are playing with clubs of less loft (with “revised” numbers) and expecting them to be more accurate. The pros can pull that off, but not us amateurs.

  • Brjann

    Great summary. I so enjoy spending time solidfying my ballstriking as i switched to less forgiving blades with very classic loft. My misses and flushes are closer to each other and distance is about half a club shorter. Biggest benefit for me is a more solid and predictable ground interaction and then its feel of where my misses are on club head.

    • admin

      I also have an old blade that I use. It’s great for tuning the Strike.

  • Ron Bowers

    Therefore this effect of ground contact should be most apparent on par threes when we can tee up the ball. Then I see a ball flight that is right or left depending on where the ball is hit on the clubface/club face orientation as the main facto, i.e., not as much distance is lost: ground contact is less of an issue. And I can feel this. Ground contact without a tee is much harder to learn/control. (I use the strike plan drill.)

    If the modern clubs are longer and one can “club down” shouldn’t the modern club still provide an advantage? Isn’t ground contact precision easier for an 8 iron vs. a 5 iron?

    What drills are best for flattening out the bottom of the swing so that the ground contact is more consistent?

    • admin

      Hi Ron. Yes, this article explores some of the reasons why modern equipment might not be lowering the handicap. There are also reasons why it will, and I would say there is a net positive effect. I’m not going to switch to my old clubs for sure, it’s just something to be aware of.

      I have a module on shallowing in The Strike Plan. You could go at it technically (adding some arc raising elements) or just use the skill drills.

  • Andrew.

    Good article. I’ve got an old nike blade 3 iron I have in my bag for practice.

    I’ve been working on your practice plan and find it invaluable, keep up the great work.

  • Ken singer

    Good article. All one had to do is follow the writings articles and books of Tom wishon to know that new clubs mean nothing. I have a 43.5 length driver and hit it better with no distance lost vs those with 45-46 inch drivers. My loft is 12.5. And I’m hitting it higher and straighter them most with 9-11 degree. My irons loft are what they were 15 years ago and I have more control then those with new irons today (same with hybrids) You will hit it closer to the best part of the club if you keep your clubs length shorter and lifts higher! ( or where things were 10-15years ago!! And you will have much more control!!

  • Scott

    What a great and honest article. Addressing all facets and well thought out. The golf world needs more of these types of essays/articles. Well done again.

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