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Golf Club Guide

By on May 18, 2013
woman in pink playing golf

For those new to the game of golf, the bag of golf clubs can be a source of quandary.

The following is a guide of what is in the golf bag. Each club has a purpose and situations when you use them.

The standard golf set comprises of 9 irons, 3 woods and a putter.

The following will describe the:

  1. Typical Distances
  2. The Sand Iron
  3. Pitching Wedge
  4. 3 to 9 Irons
  5. Woods
  6. Driver – the latest developments
  7. Putter
  8. Shafts
  9. Shaft Flex
  10. Shaft Length
  11. Lie Angle
  12. Head Design
  13. Specialty Clubs

1. Typical Distances

Typically clubs are selected for the different distances they hit the ball. For the average female these are the following distances as a guideline:

1 wood 160 metres
3 wood 140 metres
5 wood 120 metres
7 wood 100 metres
3 iron 120 metres
4 iron 110 metres
5 iron 100 metres
6 iron 90 metres
7 iron 80 metres
8 iron 70 metres
9 iron 60 metres
Pitching Wedge (PW) 50 metres
Sand Wedge (SW) 40 metres

Give or take 10 metres for hilly or windy conditions.

2. The Sand Iron

The irons start with the sand wedge, usually has 56° of loft is the most lofted club in the bag. It is specifically designed for shots in the bunker because of the bounce in the sole of the club help bounce it off the sand and prevents it digging in.

It is important to learn the correct technique for bunker shots as it is different to other shots in that you should purposely hit the sand before the ball. The ball should come out on a cushion of sand. Please refer to your PGA professional for the correct technique if you have problems hitting out of bunkers.

You can use the sand wedge off the fairway as many professionals do as it flies the ball flies high to clear bunkers and other obstacles and also flies the shortest distance for a full swing (40 meters for the average player). In these situations you need to be careful that the bounce does not bounce off the ground before hitting the ball resulting in a thinned shot.

3. Pitching Wedge

Sometimes referred to as the ‘wedge’ usually has 47° of loft and, apart from full shots (50 meters), is used for the small pitches and chips around the green.

For the pitches and chips most times the ball will fly 50% of the distance and roll the other 50% on the green depending on the contours of the green.

4. 9 to 3 irons

These are usually used for the full swing shots chosen depending on the distance you require to hit the shot. This may be distance to the flag on the green or to a lay-up distance that is short of a lake or other hazard.

This is achieved by the varying lofts of each club from 42° for the 9 iron to 20° for the 3 iron and the length of the shaft which are in 1/2″ increments.

The longer irons from 5 to 3 are usually more difficult to hit and therefore can be less accurate. This is because of the greater length of the shaft is harder to control and the lower loft that can create more sidespin that slices or hooks the ball to the right or the left.

5. Woods

The number 1 wood is commonly called the driver and has the lowest loft usually between 9° to 12° and has the longest shaft at around 43.5″. This is designed to hit your maximum distance but can be the hardest club to hit.

The drivers is usually hit off the tee on a tee for the best chance of a solid strike but can also be used on a fairway where you have a long way to the green. This must be tempered though as a poorly hit driver covers less distance than a well hit fairway wood or iron. Also off the fairway the driver results in less height and may not cover the expected distance. See more on the driver.

The 3 wood typically has 15° or 16° of loft and a 42″ shaft making it easier to hit than the driver. Although classed as a fairway wood the 3 wood is used by many off the tee because it is easier to hit. For some, it will hit the ball further than a driver for those that typically hit the ball low the extra loft will give a greater distance.

The 5 wood typically has 19° or 20° of loft and is usually used on the fairway as the club as it results in greater distances than your irons.

Fairway woods by their design do not “dig in” as easily as irons making them easier to hit as they slide along the top of the grass. In the rough they also an advantage as they are less likely to be caught up in the long grass as long as the ball is not sitting down too deeply where you need to hack it out with a wedge.

Although the fairway woods have a lower loft than and of the irons the head design allows you to hit the ball higher and the extra length in the shaft gives you the length.

This being the case many find fairway woods easier to hit than their long irons and have replaced their 3, 4 and sometimes 5 irons with 7, 9 and 11 woods which will hit the equivalent distance with a higher flying ball.

This higher flying ball also has the advantage that it will not roll as much and may stop on the green where the iron will bounce and roll right off. This high ball flight is not so good on windy days and some professionals will swap their woods for irons when playing in windy conditions.

For those new to the game woods were named when they were in fact made out of wood. Today most woods are made out of metal which leads to the term ‘metal wood’.

6. The Driver – new developments

There has been great developments in driver technology of late resulting in the jumbo oversize heads approx. 400cc- 450cc(compared with 260cc for a standard driver) and thin face spring technology. All of the manufacturers now have offerings that compete for your dollar with this technology.

The larger 400cc heads size definitely makes it easier to hit. There is a bigger sweet spot and this give you more confidence and allow you to swing freely at the ball. Typically you can hit the ball further. It takes some time to get used to it as they look so big. They also need to be teed up very high with the standard 1/2 ball showing above the head. You may need to use super long tees that are available.

The thin face spring technology allows the ball to rebound off the face with more force and efficiency allowing you to hit the ball further without any more effort. The result of this is that you can hit the ball further and with greater levels of confidence. There has been concerns over the legality of using some of the ‘hotter’ clubs in competition which is an issue in the PGA in the US but does concern us here as we are controlled under the R&A which presently deems these clubs legal.

Even the pros use them. They are very accurate at hitting the ball but still do not hit every ball out of the middle and this technology is helping them too.

Many women do not hit the ball high enough with the driver and thats why their 3 wood sometimes goes as far. If this is your situation you should look to a high lofted driver. You will find some drivers with a 12 degree loft and I have seen one with 14 degree loft that will give you a higher ball flight. Most of these new drivers have a low centre of gravity designed to help you hit the ball high.

There is a great range of brands available and vastly different price ranges. This is your choice. The moderately priced clubs from the likes of PGF, Precept and Powerbuit and a host of others can perform well as the more expensive offerings. The high end of the market there is the likes of Callaway, Taylor Made, Titleist, Cleveland, Mitzuno, Ping etc that have done much of the R&D in this area and command a premium price. With these there would be no question of their performance and they engender a pride of ownership but there is a price to pay. I also believe the premium club will fetch a much better resale value when you want to upgrade in the future.

As with any club but more so with the driver the shaft is important that it is suitable for your swing. Make sure you have it rated to your swing to enable the optimum ball flight, accuracy and distance from your driver.

The shaft length and the subsequent lie angle is important to the ball flight and should be checked and many pro and golf shops have a fitting process that can tailor the club to you.

Do test as many clubs as you can as each feels different due to their balance and it must feel right for you. Some adjustments can be made to a club to optimise its balance for you.

As you can see I cannot give you a definitive answer to what driver your should buy but hopefully can give you knowledge to find the driver that will perform best for you.

7. Putter

Putting is a very important part of the game with up 50% of the shots made in a game are with the putter.

Most golf shops display an enormous variety of putters and at an equally enormous range of prices. You may ask “Which putter is the best for me ?”

Putters are very personal. The correct putter is the one you feel comfortable and confident with.

A few characteristics of putters that you may consider.

The weight of the putter when you swing can influence your putting. The momentum of a heavier putter helps smooth out your swing and keep it on line more easily. Mallet putters have bigger heads and are usually heavier. You can loose some feel for your put with too heavier head.

The putter can be heel and toe weighted where most of the weight is concentrated on the extreme ends of the putter. Like cavity backed irons this make the putter more forgiving by helping to keep the blade square on off centre hits.

Alignment of the putter can vary in different models. It is important that when you lay the putter on the ground in your normal address position that you do not have to twist it around with your hands to get it pointing square to the putting line. This depends on your putting style, whether you align your putter forward or backward in your stance and if your hands at address are in front of the putter or behind. Try a number of putters to see which aligns best for you.

Many of the newer putters have a soft face using a synthetic insert. This gives a softer feel to the put especially with the harder distance and lady balls. This allows you to have more control over the putt.

The length of the putter is important so that you feel relaxed over the putt and your eyes are correctly over the ball. Sometimes it will be necessary to grip down on the putter if it is too long. Alternatively you can have it cut to size.

There also different length putter that are longer than standard.The belly putter is designed to have the butt end sit into your stomach and pivot from there. The long putter is longer still and is held at the butt around your chin.

Many professionals have a number of putters and they use what they like on the day.

8. Shafts

Shafts are either made from steel or graphite fibreglass. Many women’s sets come with graphite shafts standard.

Many professionals use steel shafts as they find them more consistent but they also have greater strength and hit the ball further than most amateurs.

Graphite shafts are considerably lighter than steel and enables you to swing the club faster therefore getting more distance. For most amateurs this is more important than the level of consistency, which has less significance with our inconsistent swings.

Graphite shafts also have a softer feel. The graphite dampening much of the vibration, that is felt with a steel shaft, on a miss hit shot.

The feel of the swing with graphite shafts may be different that with steel shafts because of the swing weight, where there is less weight in the shaft compared to the head. This can result in a head heavy feel. Some like this feel, some do not. Some manufactures have addressed this by having lighter heads to match the graphite shafts.

Graphite shafts are more expensive to manufacture as indicated by the higher prices for graphite shafted sets.

9. Shaft Flex

When purchasing clubs it is important to have the correct shaft flex that suits your swing. Most retail outlets have facilities to check your swing and recommend the appropriate shaft flex.

If the flex is not suiting your swing it makes it difficult to hit your correct distance as the shaft is not bending and recovering at the correct time to get the most out of your swing. This may also cause you to fade slice or slice the ball too much when it is too stiff or alternatively draw or hook the ball if too flexible.

You can also have your shafts changed in your existing clubs if you find the flex unsuitable. Over time your swing may change that will ideally require a change in shaft flex.

10. Shaft Length

Not everyone is the same size therefore there is not a one club size that fits all. The shaft length may need to be adjusted to your height and reach. Fortunately most golf shops will fit your clubs when you purchase them and unless you are a child your height and reach remain static.

Shaft lengths of the correct length allow the club head to sit flat on the ground. Sometimes this is checked during the swing as it can be different than when addressing the ball. If the shaft is too long the toe of the club will be up and the face not square promoting a hook in your ball flight.

11. Lie Angle

The lie angle determines how the sole of you club contacts the ground during your swing.

IronBack200Correct

Women in Goilf Iron Back 200Flat

IronBack200Upright

Many women use clubs that are too long which results in the lie angle being too flat where the toe sits up in the air.

The result of the incorrect lie angle tends to create a ball flight to the right or left which you have to compensate in your swing to get the ball to flight straight.

IronFace200Straight

IronFace200Flat

IronFace200Upright

Another consequence is the tendency is the heel or the toe of the club to dig in the ground making it difficult to hit the ball cleanly.

What can you do about your clubs if the lie angle is not correct? If the shafts of your clubs are the correct length for you, the heads of most clubs can be bent to alter the lie angle. Check with your local pro or club fitter.

12. Head Design

For the majority of players, except for maybe the single digit handicap players, the oversize cavity back club iron heads are most suitable.

Cavity back clubs are the most prevalent in the market. When looking from the back of he club head you can see the cavity back with all the weight distributed around the edge of the club. This creates more forgiving club when the ball is not struck in the centre of the club the resulting shot is still quite good.

The oversized iron heads give you more hitting are to hit the ball with and also contribute to their forgiveness of less than perfect shots. The aesthetic of the iron heads have determined the amount of oversize the manufactures have taken their clubs to and this is your choice also.

Some manufacturers make iron heads specifically weighted for women with matching lighter ladies shafts.

Oversized woods especially drivers have not been so limited. Where drivers typical had a size by volume of 175cc some new drivers have are 450cc. This has made them easier to hit for all players. Even the professionals are using these large oversize drivers.

These large oversize drivers are made out of exotic metals like forged titanium that is very light and strong but also makes them expensive. These large heads allowing large faces to be created making them much easier to hit.

Recently the spring effect of the driver face has been touted by the various manufacturers with claims these drivers to hit the ball further. It is accepted by the market that the new drivers hit the ball further but it not solely on the spring effect.

13. Specialty Clubs

Apart from additional 7, 9 and 11 fairway woods mentions above there are other clubs in the market place that you can put in you bag. Remember you have a 14 club limit in your bag you can usually add a club or two.

Many of the pros carry additional wedges the Gap Wedge and the 60° or Lob wedge.

The Gap Wedge has a loft in between the Pitching Wedge and the Sand Wedge. With the longer hitters the distance gap between these two clubs can be 20-30 metres and the Gap Wedge is used to hit the gap between these distances. Most players do not have this large gap between their clubs and is not necessary.

The 60° or Lob wedge allows you to hit very high shots a short distance. This can be achieved by using the sand or pitching wedge and laying them open but this takes quite a lot of skill and judgment. Although many professionals use the lob wedge they typically hit the ball longer with their sand wedge and need the shorter club. It depends if you need a shorter club than your sand wedge.

Chippers are a handy club for many golfers. They are like putter but have loft on the face to hit the ball in the air. They are used with your putting stroke for chips around the green. If you are having problems chipping around the green, hitting thin shots or stubbing chips into the ground and losing control try the chippers.

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