Golf Clubs FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions - And Their Answers - About Golf Clubs

Golf Clubs
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Welcome to the Golf Clubs FAQ, where we answer some of the most-commonly asked questions about the technical aspects of golf clubs. First we provide a list of questions, and clicking on one will take you to an in-depth answer. Below that are several additional questions that are answered here on this page.

Common Questions About Golf Club Technology, Performance

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The following answers are based on interviews with golf club designer Tom Wishon, founder of Tom Wishon Golf Technology, and Tom is quoted throughout.

What Are 'Component Clubs'?
Most golfers know only one way to shop for golf clubs: Head to the pro shop or big-box retailer and see what's out on display. Or, as a secondary method, browse online retailers.

But golf clubs are made up of several parts - clubhead, shaft, grip - and you don't have to buy them all put together into a finished club.

"The term 'component clubs' is most typically taken to mean any golf club which has been assembled by an independent clubmaker who purchased the clubhead, shaft and grip from supply companies that specialize in offering the separate pieces (components) of the golf club for sale to the clubmaker," explained Tom Wishon of Tom Wishon Golf Technology.

"Companies that specialize in the sales of clubmaking components offer a very wide variety of designs in each of the three components, which allows the clubmaker to choose from a wider selection of heads, shafts and grips in order to customize the clubs to the way the golfer plays and swings."

Is It Easier to 'Work' a Ball with Musclebacks than with Cavityback Irons?
"Working the ball" means swinging in such as way as to intentionally impart a specific spin to the ball, causing it to curve in flight in the desired manner.

Many golfers would frame this question as a matter of forged irons vs. cast irons. But the fact is, a cavity back iron can be forged, just as a muscleback iron can be cast. Although it is custumary for muclesbacks to be forged and cavity backs to be cast. So how do musclebacks and cavity backs compare when it comes to "working" the golf ball?

"Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to look at the pros on the PGA Tour," Wishon says. "And more than half pros who play for a living use cavity back irons.

"Because of course design or wind conditions, all pros have to be able to intentionally "work" the ball to be able to compete. If it really were true that a cavity back could not 'work' the ball, you would see all the pros using muscleback irons. Since that is not the case, this statement stands as a myth."

Why Are the Faces of Woods Curved but Those of Irons Flat?
Golf woodheads are made with a horizontal curvature across the face from heel to toe (called "bulge").

This curvature decreases as you move from the driver to the fairway woods. The greater the dimension of the clubhead from face to back, the more horizontal curvature is required across the face to make the gear effect perform properly.

To state this another way, the farther back the center of gravity of the clubhead is from the face, the more bulge is required across the face to make the gear effect work properly.

Irons are flat-faced (lacking bulge) because their dimension from the face of the clubhead to the back of the clubhead is far less than that on a woodhead. Thus, the distance from the position of its center of gravity to the face of an iron is far less than it is on any woodhead. Therefore, iron faces do not require any bulge, and can be made flat.

Why Does Perimeter Weighting Make an Iron More Forgiving?
"The more headweight is pushed out farther from the center of gravity of the clubhead, the higher the clubhead's MOI about the vertical rotation axis of its center of gravity," Wishon said.

"And the higher the clubhead's MOI, the less the head will twist in response to an off-center hit. And the less head twisting from an off-center hit, the farther the ball will fly for the same golfer swing speed. So perimeter weighting 'works' by increasing a club's MOI, thereby leading to less lost of distance on off-center hits."

Why Is It Easier to Hit a Short Iron Than a Long Iron?
Wishon says custom clubfitters have a saying: "The longer the length and the lower the loft, the harder the club will be to hit for any golfer."

And that explains it. Long irons have longer shafts and less loft than short irons. And that's "the main reasons long irons are much more difficult to hit high, solid and their maximum distance," Wishon said.

Wishon adds: "Here's another reason: The longer the length of the club, the more athleticism is required in the swing to perform all the fundamentally sound swing moves (keeping the club coming into impact on a square swing path and with the face more square to the target, for example)."

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