Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitter 2013/2014
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Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitter 2011/2012

What's important when it comes to head design?


You read the statement, 2 mph higher ball speed all the time.  If this is true, than you were not optimized to begin with!  There is measurement called "Smash Factor" , which is controlled by USGA.  All it is, is ball speed divided by club head speed, it is as simple as that!  It is capped at 1.50, or in other words, if your driver swing speed is 100 and you are getting a 150 mph ball speed, you are maxed out.  If you get 2 mph faster ball speed, then either the head is not legal, or you were not at 150 mph ball speed to begin with.  Now most golfers do not get 1.50 all the time.  Last I checked, the average on the PGA Tour, the best ball strikers in the world, is 1.49.  I consistently get golfers to 1.48 or 1.49 just like Pros, so long as there are not any major swing issues like a 6* outside in swing with a 9* open club face.  I can "influence" that swing flaw but it can rarely be "solved" with equipment.  I am a professional fitter not a retailer.  You are paying me for results, brand not relevant.


Now that being said, I have not seem a "bad" head in 6 or 7 years.  Every driver head made today is quite capable of a 1.50 smash factor, no doubt about it.  With the head (shafts are a very, very important, and a different subject), you need the proper loft, related to your angle of attack, to optimize carry, which is what truly matters!  You can be "off" up to 2* as we, as Amateurs, change our angle of attack up to 2* on regular basis anyway.  The loft needs to be optimal for you based on your average angle of attack.  Assuming you have a proper loft for your unique swing to begin with, roll is controlled primarily by back spin which is HEAVILY influenced by where you struck it in the face, which then affects your ball's angle of descent.    I usually then hear, "oh what about the wind?"  If you have a head wind on 9 holes, odds are you have a tail wind on 9 holes.  You MUST optimize carry first since roll is primarily dictated by where the ball is struck on the face.  In the rare instances where wind is a factor ALL the time, tee it a little lower, and maintain a lower effective loft at impact ........ but those variables are more swing related, not equipment related.  Carry is King!  If your angle of descent is between 36* and 40* and your spin is under 3000, odds are you are getting decent roll.  The last I looked, on Tour, is the average angle of descent is 39*!  These are real world numbers.


What matters with the head is, yes, loft, but face angle at impact, is huge!  On average, a 1* change in face angle will change your accuracy by 5 yards, per 200 in the air!  You do the math.  You have no idea how often I measure an adjustable driver head that says, 10* on the sole, set to "neutral", and the loft and it's somewhere between 10* and 12* with a 1* to 2* open face angle ......... and you wonder why you're fading or even slicing the ball?  The head says neutral!  Yeah, right!


To me, the biggest variable with driver heads, assuming the head has the ability to be adjusted to "what" the golfer needs regardless of what the setting says, is the forgiveness.  When you strike any driver head on center and the face angle at impact is within 2* of the club path, (which is different than swing plane), you will get a 1.48 to 1.50 smash factor AND straight ball flight.  Every head made in the last 6 or 7 years is capable of this.  What happens when you miss the center of the face?  This is where we separate the men from the boys!  There are very well known heads on the market today that when you miss the center of the face by 3/4", and face it, you are an Amateur, it does happen, some heads will have smash factors drop to 1.35 - 1.40 right now!  There are also heads where you miss by 3/4" and you still get a 1.44 to 1.49.  Pretty dag gone good imho!  I will never "bad mouth" any brand.  Very unprofessional!  I just let the results speak for themselves.   This is why in real fitting, all the factors I am addressing are mainly to increase the consistency of the strike with proper shaft loading and unloading.  This is what makes the ball go, and go straight!  Notice I never mentioned a brand.  It's a non-issue.


Irons ...... I am a fan of "Hi-COR" iron faces!  These faces, when struck on center, will yield higher ball speeds most of the time!   Some heads, that are forged, the face is a different material or usually a blend of materials.  Nothing wrong with that.  Usually the head doesn't feel quite as soft as a forged head without a Hi-COR face, but it's close as the face does "give" a little.  I do have some forged heads, both body and face, where I get above average smash factors.  BTW, a perfect smash with a true lofted 6i, which is 29* to 31* is about 1.40.  I see 1.42 to 1.46 smashes all the time with Hi-COR 6 irons, when struck properly, with the proper shaft.  Look at it this way, a cast head without a Hi-COR face when struck properly, will get a 1.40.  Add the Hi-Cor face and the ball speed goes up when struck properly .......... and so does the cost!  Add a Hi-COR face to forged head and the cost goes up even more, but you have now gained more options in terms of lie angle.


The decision is yours!  My suggestion? It's not my place to tell you how to spend your hard earned money.  That being said, if you "settle" for a $200/$300 cheaper set to save money, and you think that 6 months later you may be saying to yourself, "I wish I had spent the extra couple of hundred", then by all means either save the extra dollars or even easier, play a few less rounds of golf for just one or two years, saving the money for clubs that flat out work for you, and enjoy golf a lot more!  All too often, I have seen "buyer's remorse" in reverse!  Never any pressure out of me, your call either way!