Are the most popular clubs right for you?
When you’re watching a PGA Tour event, do you pay attention to what clubs the pros are using?
The advertisers- namely, the same companies making those clubs- sure hope you are.
Have you ever heard of a “pro” model of a golf club? I’m willing to bet you have. Some just call them “pro” outright, but others might call them something like “TP” (“tour preferred”).
Ever wonder what sets them apart from the “normal” stuff?
The specs. The specs are different in “pro” models.
How different? Well…
|Spec||“Pro” Version||“Normal” Version|
|Loft||Usually 8-10.5deg; never higher than 10.5||9.5-12deg; never under 9.5 and sometimes, in rare cases >12deg|
|Length||45.5″ on average||45.75″ on average, sometimes even higher|
|Shaft||Aftermarket model, proprietary model in some instances||Made-for version of name brand used in pro model or proprietary model|
|Grip||Usually, but not always, aftermarket model||Branded version of aftermarket model|
Not much, honestly. Let’s take a closer look:
If you have a “normal” driver, the available lofts might be something like 9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees. In rare instances (and usually from component brands), they might even go up to 14 or even 16 degrees.
The “pro” model might have whole lofts, like 8, 9, and 10 degrees. Or half-degrees, like 8.5, 9.5, and 10.5 degrees. Notice the shift? Two lofts match up, but the “pro” version goes lower, while the “normal” version goes higher.
There’s even a chance both styles will offer the same lofts, but you will rarely, if ever, see anything higher than 10.5 in a pro version, since, you know, real golfers pros don’t use high lofts.
Just don’t ask former Master’s Champion Trevor Immelman what loft he uses… it was an 11.5 degree driver with “9.5” etched on the sole.
The pro model will stay closer to 45.5″, or even shorter. For the models made for the rest of us, it’s usually no less than 45.75″.
Think about that a second: why would a pro model, marketed designed for very good golfers, have a shorter overall length than those marketed designed for golfers of questionable skill?
They’re selling you distance.
It’s true that a longer golf club has a higher potential swing speed. In theory, it should create more distance. When they test them on their swing robots, that’s the results the get.
Unfortunately, they’re being sold to people that aren’t robots, or even the much more awesome cyborg.
They can’t exactly control the clubface, so all that potential is thrown out when they hit the ball with an open club face on the heel with an outside-in swing. What most end up with is a slice… or, if we wanna feel better about ourselves, a “power fade”.
Show of hands: how many of you suffer from something like this? Think it might be a good idea to be fitted for your clubs now?
Basic math time! 460 – x = 430. What is “x”? 30!
How many of you said you’d never use algebra after high school? Now you can say you have!
Anyway, thirty cubic centimeters (cc) is nothing to sneeze at. Barely a blip, to put it bluntly.
You might be asking: “what about the MOI (moment of inertia), its forgiveness on off-center hits? Wouldn’t it be lower- meaning, less forgiving- in the smaller ‘pro’ model”?
Technically, this is true… but it’s not a huge deal. Straight from the mouth of a hero of mine, Tom Wishon:
(I)t very definitely is possible to make a driver head with a volume of 380cc to 400cc that would perform every bit as well for distance and off center hit performance as any of the 460cc heads currently on the market.
Yes, the 460cc head’s MOI would likely be higher, but not by so much that it could bring about a noticeable improvement in off center hit performance.
MOI modeling studies for TWGT have shown that a difference of 1400 g/cm2 in the MOI of a driver head, basically the difference between a 360cc and 460cc volume head, offers only a difference of ¼ of 1 degree in resistance to off center hit head twisting.
And that’s for a golfer with a 109mph clubhead speed. For golfers with a 100mph and lower swing, the additional off center hit improvement from a 1400 g/cm2 difference in MOI is even less.
(note: I edited this slightly, only to break up the text and make it easier to read)
Did you know that getting your clubs fitted to you makes that even more insignificant?
Oh, yeah. Regardless if you choose some of the most popular clubs on Tour or component brands no one else has ever heard of, getting them fitted is the way to make them the right clubs for you.
That’s one of the major points to a custom fitting: to find the length that allows you the best blend between swing speed and club face control.
If you get a length that allows you to hit the “sweet spot” with a squared face more often, the need for a high-MOI club is negated.
Wishon mentions 380cc drivers. Did you know that in his heyday, Tiger Woods was using a 380cc driver for a few years up until 2004? Anthony Kim, as well. They were the same model names being offered to us at the time… just at a volume we couldn’t get.
We’ll talk more about it in a bit, but this is one instance of the true difference between pro clubs and normal ones.
You’re also less likely to find proprietary shafts and grips in so-called pro models. You get the “real deal”, so to speak. In our versions, we mostly get “made-for” versions of popular shafts, or proprietary models.
In “made-for” shafts, they carry the same name as a popular model, but there’s usually something… off about them. Things like:
- Paint scheme
- Weighting (60g made-for, 65g aftermarket, for example)
- Flex rating
That last one’s the tricky part. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the golf OEMs know we overinflate our capabilities.
It’s why you’ll find some of the fixed-hosel drivers have a higher loft than what’s stated on the sole; they know you need more help than you’re willing to admit to, so they built it in for you.
Shafts aren’t much different. In the aftermarket version, the flex will be true to its rating. Or rather, true to that companies definition for that particular model’s rating.
But the OEMs know you’re either lying or unsure of your swing speed, but regardless, you’re gonna say you need an “S” flex. Why?
Because “R” flex is for whimps and “X” flex ensures that everyone around you knows you’re delusional. Oh, and you wouldn’t touch the “A” flex with a 10-foot pole.
So, the OEMs give you a little white lie back, in the form of softer flexes (compared to the aftermarket model), to try to nudge you into a shaft that actually suits your swing.
Is it deceitful? I dunno… I’m already 1000+ words into this post, and I don’t think there’s room to discuss semantics. But we can in the comment section!
As for proprietary models, those are shafts designed for a company, made by one of the shaft manufacturers.
PING is a company that likes to do this. They contract a well-known-yet-unnamed shaft manufacturer to create shafts with the PING name on it. It’s not an aftermarket model, it’s not a “made-for” model, it’s just theirs.
I mentioned PING specifically because they generally get high marks for their proprietary shafts. Some don’t… though to be honest, I don’t know why. If the shaft fits, who cares what it says on it, or who it was made for?
This one’s admittedly nit-picky. On a “pro” model club, the grip will likely say who made the thing (Golf Pride, Lamkin, Winn, etc.). On a “normie” grip, it’ll be made by someone like Golf Pride, Lamkin, or Winn, but it’ll have the brand name that’s on the head instead.
Not always, though. And as I said, in this instance it’s not like you’re getting a different grip; it’s just the name on it that’s different. Really, it’s not that big of a deal.
The real difference between a “pro” club and a “normal” club
You’ve been patient, and I appreciate that, so I’m gonna tell you the true difference between a “pro” club and a “normal” one.
But first, let me ask: do you think your car is like a NASCAR machine?
That’s the real difference between a “pro” club and a “normal” club. I mentioned Tiger’s 380cc driver, and that’s one instance.
The pros have a near limitless amount of tweaks and tricks at their disposal. A few examples:
- Head models (smaller club heads not available at retail)
- Abnormal lofts intentionally designed into models
- Shafts that never see the sales floor
- Sole grinds (irons and wedges) unavailable to the mass market
- Clubhead weights not normally available at market
So we talked about head volume, but another spec we don’t have intentional access to is certain lofts. I mentioned the 11.5 degree driver of Trevor Immelman, but he’s not alone. Hunter Mahan had a 9.3 degree driver. Others might have a 15 degree 3wood bent to 14 or 16 degrees.
Many of these tweaks are unavailable to you when you buy stuff “off the rack”. It’s a lot like comparing the car in your driveway to a NASCAR machine; on the outside, they look similar. But on the inside, they’re very different beasts.
It needs to be noted that most competent fitters can recreate many of these tweaks.
- Alternative grinds on the wedges,
- Weight added to the head (usually by adding led tape or drilling a small hole in the sole and adding a glue/weighted powder mix),
- Use alternative shaft tip trimming.
So, if you really want a “pro” experience, a good custom fitting will get you pretty close. The one catch: if you were hoping for a 9.3 (or some other odd loft angle), you’re out of luck. Titanium’s a PITA to bend, and the adjustable hosels make it even harder.
Unfortunately, those same alterations are gonna cost you more. That $500 driver will run you a lot more with all the bells and whistles the pros get for free.
So the big question: are the most popular clubs on Tour wrong for you?
Well… yes and no.
It doesn’t matter if it says “pro” or “TP” or not- if you just buy your stuff off the rack, with no regards to how it matches your swing style and body type, you’re gonna have a hard time.
The most popular clubs on Tour are the name. No, a 380cc driver at 8.5 degrees of loft with 20 extra grams added to the head might not be good for you.
But if you like the look of the “pro” model that’s hanging on the rack at your local golf store and you can afford it, by all means, grab it… just make sure to get it custom-fitted first!