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1badbadger

Bobby Clampett Clubfitting Comments

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Television golf analyst and professional player Bobby Clampett recently wrote an article on club fitting...more specifically what he feels are the 2 big problems with club fitting.  He made some comments that I felt were spot-on, and he made some comments that I would consider "interesting".  

The issues he addresses are 1) club fitting for players who have a chronic fade/slice, and 2) too much emphasis being placed on fitting irons for maximum distance. In the first section he talks about meeting players during a pro/am or when he works with students giving lessons:

The clubs recommended to them were “anti-slice” clubs. All the grips were small (standard size), and the woods (especially the drivers) were upright with the sliding weights put in the heel. The irons were “jacked-upright” as much as 8 degrees. All of these adjustments were made for the purpose of building in the ability to hit hooks.  If the lie of the club is upright, more “hook” is built into the club through the principle that “loft is hook.” Additionally, the more the available “loft” of the club, the more the upright angle increases hook. So a set of clubs built 8 degrees upright has a very different directional profile with the 4-iron than with the wedge. Without correction, a wedge that is 8 degrees upright will really go left, while the 4-iron won’t have as much correction.

I've condensed this a little, but so far everything makes sense...except maybe the part about irons being 8* upright!  That's pretty extreme.  I don't know any club techs or club builders who would attempt to bend irons that much. I've done 6 degrees which is 2 degrees more than I'm comfortable with, but it was only one club which started out flat, so it wasn't ridiculously upright when I was done. Anyway, it's hard to imagine anyone needing clubs so upright.  Bobby then goes on to say:

The uprightness of the club significantly reduces the sweet-spot, making the club less forgiving by increasing the chance that the ball will be struck lower in the face (which has a worse effect on long irons than short irons). Gear effect has now been proven to exist even in irons, and low-in-the-clubface hits will cause a gear effect fade, magnified with lower lofted clubs, even if the face and path are square. Some club manufacturers have built game-improvement irons with bigger sweet-spots (with lower CG’s and higher MOI’s). When club fitters make the lie angle “off-square,” this improvement immediately is canceled and, in most cases, completely nullifying any benefit the game-improvement design can provide.

Ok...I've been in the golf business for over 18 years, most of those as a full time club builder, a fitter and as an equipment technician, and I've never heard anything relating to an upright lie angle reducing the sweet-spot by increasing the chance the ball will be struck lower on the face!  Now I will say that if a player's clubs are adjusted to a very upright lie angle not to fit the person's swing, but in an attempt to correct a slice, this can cause several issues.  The last part is equally confusing.  It seems he is saying if the lie angle on a set of game improvement irons is adjusted, it eliminates any benefit that those types of clubs offer.  What?

The part of the article I applaud him for is his opinion that there is too much focus on making irons go further.  He says:

I don’t mean to be too blunt here, but who cares how far you hit an 8-iron!  The only two clubs in the bag that should be designed for distance are your driver and your 3-wood. All the other clubs should be set for proper gapping and designed to improve consistency and proximity to the hole.  Learning to hit the ball flag high is one of the key separators between top PGA Tour Players and those a notch or two below. It’s also a key element in lowering scores. So, greater distance with my irons actually makes my game worse and it does the same with my students, too, because accuracy and ability to get the ball consistently closer to the hole is negatively impacted.  Proximity to the hole is more important in the irons than distance.

Amen to that.

Thoughts?

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Very well put @1badbadger

As one who has fiddled with equipment for years, I feel equipment is a small beneficial to the average golfer and yet very beneficially for those who have the skills to play fine tuned persay, clubs.

Building clubs for specific conditions has been a big part for tour players. IE, wind, carry distance, or even clubs for only used in events such as play on turf like last weeks Open at Carnoustie.
I'd be willing to say players had soles ground for the hard surfaces.

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2 hours ago, 1badbadger said:

I've never heard anything relating to an upright lie angle reducing the sweet-spot by increasing the chance the ball will be struck lower on the face!  Now I will say that if a player's clubs are adjusted to a very upright lie angle not to fit the person's swing, but in an attempt to correct a slice, this can cause several issues. 

I think the last part of what you wrote is exactly what he means: making very uptight clubs that don't actually fit a person's swing for the purpose of pointing the loft to the pull side.

You'll end up with someone who strikes the ball with the club toe up and the tendency there would be to miss low on the face simply because the sweetspot ends up higher in relation to the ground and the ball than it should be.

As an extreme and slightly OT example, I played a round with a guy once with a really upright putter. He hit all his putts off the heel because he literally was unable hit the ball with the center of the face.

2 hours ago, 1badbadger said:

The last part is equally confusing.  It seems he is saying if the lie angle on a set of game improvement irons is adjusted, it eliminates any benefit that those types of clubs offer.  What?

Again, I think he's talking about manipulating the lie of someone's clubs so that they're striking the ball with the club too upright or too flat.

GI clubs are designed to launch the ball higher and with more speed which is beneficial if it's on the same horizontal axis as your target, but if the face angle is tilted you end up with more ball speed off-line which isn't necessarily "game improving" at all.

It's not that the clubs stop working as designed if the lie angle isn't right, but rather that they stop helping the player using them. At least that's what I think he means.

2 hours ago, 1badbadger said:

Proximity to the hole is more important in the irons than distance.

Amen to that.

Distance is a form of accuracy 😉

I'm of the opinion that you should get as much distance as possible as long as control and the ability to hold greens isn't sacrificed. It matters what distance you hit your 8i because it's easier to hit an 8i than a 6i so being able to hit the 8i from farther out is beneficial.

I'm not sure why he thinks accuracy and consistency suffers just because the clubs hit the ball farther. There will be an adjustment period certainly, but that will pass.

Again, you shouldn't increase distance at the cost of everything else, but to assume that increasing distance in iron designs results in less accuracy is overly simplistic IMO.

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Question for you club fitters. I was fit for a set of irons, was told I needed 1* flat. Just to be sure, I went to another store (both PGA SS) a few miles away, and the guy behind the equipment desk told me "don't worry about it, 1* isn't going to make a difference. Save the $4 a club it would cost you to get them bent." What do you guys think?

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@GrandStranded, I'm no club fitter, but I noticed a massive difference, and was WAY more comfortable, when I went from stock lie to +2˚ lie.  And also when I went from stock length to +1.5".  Sure, 2˚ isn't as much as 1˚, but if 1˚ fits your swing better, I'd say it's definitely worth it.

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6 hours ago, billchao said:

I'm not sure why he thinks accuracy and consistency suffers just because the clubs hit the ball farther. There will be an adjustment period certainly, but that will pass.

Again, you shouldn't increase distance at the cost of everything else, but to assume that increasing distance in iron designs results in less accuracy is overly simplistic IMO.

I recall there being studies that the dispersion of GI clubs, both in distance and side to side, was more than a blade or cavity back. So perhaps he is saying that the extra 3% distance is not worth the dispersion. 

The other issue I have with GI irons is the offset giving the optical illusion of the face being more closed. I have been having trouble with hooks as you know. :-P After working with Erik, I started opening the face more at set up. I noticed that with my AP2, it seemed a lot easier to open the face than the AP1, or it appeared that way. I went and looked at some of my other irons (I have a few 6 irons I got for $5 each) and found the same thing. Mizuno MP 57, 58, 60 all seemed easier.

When I reviewed the AP1 for the site, I got more distance, but I didn't gather any data on side to side dispersion. It would be a good experiment for this winter.

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20 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

I recall there being studies that the dispersion of GI clubs, both in distance and side to side, was more than a blade or cavity back.

I've read some of those studies and as I recall, they were done with robots. For good players that want their good shots to go an exact distance on a certain line, musclebacks are superior, but the tradeoff is when they miss the sweetspot their miss is worse. Cavityback clubs don't give you the same control on good hits but you lose less on off-center strikes.

95% of golfers will probably never hit the ball well enough to notice the difference IMO, and many pros on tour elect to go with slightly more forgiving clubs that are available to them.

27 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

So perhaps he is saying that the extra 3% distance is not worth the dispersion

We cant assume the distance increase is always X% and the dispersion is always Y. That's why each individual is custom fit and why I wrote that it's too simple a generalization. If someone gains a whole club for example, would they be less accurate hitting an 8i to 150 than a 7i?

Again, distance isn't the only factor involved. You don't want to pick just the longest club and ignore all else, but to dismiss it entirely under the assumption that it will make you less accurate is just as wrong IMO. 

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35 minutes ago, billchao said:

I've read some of those studies and as I recall, they were done with robots. For good players that want their good shots to go an exact distance on a certain line, musclebacks are superior, but the tradeoff is when they miss the sweetspot their miss is worse. Cavityback clubs don't give you the same control on good hits but you lose less on off-center strikes.

95% of golfers will probably never hit the ball well enough to notice the difference IMO, and many pros on tour elect to go with slightly more forgiving clubs that are available to them.

We cant assume the distance increase is always X% and the dispersion is always Y. That's why each individual is custom fit and why I wrote that it's too simple a generalization. If someone gains a whole club for example, would they be less accurate hitting an 8i to 150 than a 7i?

Again, distance isn't the only factor involved. You don't want to pick just the longest club and ignore all else, but to dismiss it entirely under the assumption that it will make you less accurate is just as wrong IMO. 

Good points. In my testing, it wasn't a whole club, but more like 153 vs. 150 for a 7 iron.

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33 minutes ago, Club Rat said:

Suggested for players who are tall with short arm reach possibly?

Tall with short arms would likely be more upright.

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7 hours ago, GrandStranded said:

Question for you club fitters. I was fit for a set of irons, was told I needed 1* flat. Just to be sure, I went to another store (both PGA SS) a few miles away, and the guy behind the equipment desk told me "don't worry about it, 1* isn't going to make a difference. Save the $4 a club it would cost you to get them bent." What do you guys think?

Depends on the golfer, I would think.

45 minutes ago, billchao said:

I've read some of those studies and as I recall, they were done with robots. For good players that want their good shots to go an exact distance on a certain line, musclebacks are superior, but the tradeoff is when they miss the sweetspot their miss is worse. Cavityback clubs don't give you the same control on good hits but you lose less on off-center strikes. 

I can't remember why the cavity back irons, even in robotic testing, produced a larger dispersion than muscle back irons. I wonder if it has to do with how the face is hotter, and maybe that slight flex in the face allows for the ball to start offline slightly. Just guessing here.

Here is a quote from an article,

Quote

"With Iron Byron set to swing a 6-iron with about 165 yards of distance, the cavity back irons we were testing were producing a pattern on dead center hits that was about 8' wide and about 15-17' long!

These are duplicate swings, dead center impact, and these shots are coming out 3-4' right or left of the target line, and as much as 8-9' short or long !"

Then the Iron Byron blade shots were "on heel misses, it was slightly worse than the cavity back models. On toe misses, the Apex was significantly worse (blades have very little mass out on the toe). But on dead center hits - our shot pattern was about 1/4 the size of the cavity back pattern ! In other words, the perfect shots were much better"

I don't think blade irons are nearly as hard to hit as they use to be. Mizuno irons are kind of chunky compared to a Titleist MB. There is such a wide range of blade irons out there now.

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11 minutes ago, iacas said:

Tall with short arms would likely be more upright.

When hitting with impact tape, and/or off a lie board, my contact was a little out toward the toe when I was fit. I bought a set of Apex irons at a great price, but they were black dot, which is standard. They are forged, so can be easily bent. BTW I'm 5'10" wear a 331/2 sleeve in dress shirt.

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The irons arrived yesterday from Callaway Preowned yesterday. They are brand new, in the original box, except for the matching GW, which I ordered from PGASS. My neighbor just gave me some good advice. He plays these clubs, and told me when he got his set, the lofts/lies were off on a couple of his clubs. He gave me the name of a local fitter he knows, and I'll get the lofts and lies checked. Then maybe he can help me i9f they need any bending.

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9 hours ago, GrandStranded said:

Question for you club fitters. I was fit for a set of irons, was told I needed 1* flat. Just to be sure, I went to another store (both PGA SS) a few miles away, and the guy behind the equipment desk told me "don't worry about it, 1* isn't going to make a difference. Save the $4 a club it would cost you to get them bent." What do you guys think?

I think the guy behind the counter is a lazy clubfitter.  He should have had you hit your irons off of a lie board and seen for himself what the situation was, then made a recommendation.  I have bent many irons 1*, whether it's upright, flat, stronger or weaker.  I have cut down a putter 1/8" because a player felt it was too long.  A big part of it is a player's confidence in his equipment too. It's our jobs as clubfitters to do what we can to help players be more consistent and give him confidence that his gear fits him properly.

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2 hours ago, boogielicious said:

Good points. In my testing, it wasn't a whole club, but more like 153 vs. 150 for a 7 iron.

Yea that's not much. It's not what I consider significant, because there yards is well within the deviation you'd expect to see from one shot to another.

To the point of distance is not greater than everything else, I've seen fitting results where a driver averaged 10 or 15 yards longer than another, but the dispersion was also more than twice as wide which isn't ideal.

1 hour ago, saevel25 said:

I can't remember why the cavity back irons, even in robotic testing, produced a larger dispersion than muscle back irons. I wonder if it has to do with how the face is hotter, and maybe that slight flex in the face allows for the ball to start offline slightly. Just guessing here.

I think that's it, too. There's less mass behind the face so there's more variation in how the face flexes which affects the collision with the ball.

1 hour ago, saevel25 said:

I don't think blade irons are nearly as hard to hit as they use to be. Mizuno irons are kind of chunky compared to a Titleist MB. There is such a wide range of blade irons out there now.

I agree. My MP4s are significantly easier to hit than my Apex 2s.

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10 hours ago, billchao said:

 very uptight clubs

One of the reasons why golf is dying?

😁

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3 hours ago, saevel25 said:

 

I can't remember why the cavity back irons, even in robotic testing, produced a larger dispersion than muscle back irons. I wonder if it has to do with how the face is hotter, and maybe that slight flex in the face allows for the ball to start offline slightly. Just guessing here.

 

I cannot tell you a scientific reason, but I can tell you from experience.   My 9-iron is a muscle back Mizuno MP-5.  When I hit it perfect center face, I can feel it.  and, when that happens, I know exactly where it is going and how it will fly. .   My 8-iron, a cavity back Mp-25, feels different when I hit it center face and I know about where it's going.    now, when I don't hit my 9 square the dispersion is (specifically distance) is affected more than my 8.    

This works well for me, because I hit my mid irons squarely much less frequently than I hit my high irons.   the forgiveness is necessary for me.  additionally, I am not good enough to take advantage of the consistency provided my the blades.   I need to master the consistency in my swing a bit better first.  

 

 

 

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