If you are like many first-time golfers, you probably started out with a set of hand-me-downs or bought an inexpensive “full set” from a big box store. At some point in time (if not already) you’ll be ready for an upgrade, and you’ll be faced with an onslaught of possibly unfamiliar terminology.
In this article we are going to take the mystery out of golf equipment technology, starting with a brief refresher of the parts of the club, then moving to the key tech specs you’ll need to understand when you start shopping for new sticks.
Golf Club Parts
The diagrams below point out the major components of drivers, woods, irons and wedges. Most of these components carry over from club to club, but here are a few differences between the wood and iron families.
- Crown – the top surface of the driver that you see from the address position. More modern clubs built to be more aerodynamic have a taper from front to back.
- Face – the surface of the club that will strike the ball (if you do it right).
- Grip – attached to the shaft of the golf club at the point furthest from the club head.
- Grooves – horizontal indentations made into club face that allow you to impart spin and thus more control to the golf ball. Over time, grooves do wear out, especially on wedges.
- Head – the club head. Encompasses all the parts related to the striking surface of the club.
- Heel – the part of the club head closes to the shaft.
- Hosel – the socket in the head of the club into which the shaft is inserted.
- Shaft – the long tapered tube that connects the club head to the golfer’s hands. Usually made from either steel or graphite.
- Sole – the bottom of the club head. Its width is measured from the leading edge (where the sole meets up with the face) to the sole’s trailing edge on the back of the club.
- Toe – the part of the clubhead furthest from the golfer.
Technology & Specs
The components of the golf club are just the beginning. When you go to purchase a set of clubs you will encounter a barrage of specs like loft angle, bounce, offset, lie angle and more.
Here is a quick overview of the major terms you will encounter and what they mean:
- Bounce – the angle between the leading edge of the club, the sole and the ground (see Fig 1.4 below). Lower bounce clubs are best for thin grass and tight lies. Higher bounce clubs are best for deep rough and sand play.
- Flight Bias – ball flight emphasis provided by the club. Most beginner golfers struggle with slicing the ball. Game improvement drivers are designed to have a Draw-bias to help the average golfer get the club head square when impacting the ball. Flight bias will usually be listed in the specs as being Neutral, Slight or Max Draw bias.
- Grind – an alteration made to the sole of a club (typically a wedge) to fine tune the bounce of the club.
- Head Size – usually noted in cc’s or cubic centimeters. The USGA allows driver heads to be a maximum of 460cc. Larger club heads tend to be more forgiving on off-center hits.
- Launch Angle – this is the angle that the ball takes off relative to the ground. The loft of the club, shaft and swing speed all influence the launch angle of a club. Too low of a launch angle will cause you to lose distance unless you have a very fast swing.
- Lie Angle – the angle between the shaft and the ground when the sole of the club is flat on the playing surface. If you do a club fitting, the fitter will adjust the lie angle to match up with your address position (distance from the ball, hand position, etc.).
- Loft Angle – the angle at which the face of the club lies relative to a perfectly vertical face represented by the shaft. Typical off the shelf drivers have a loft between 9 and 11 degrees. Generally the slower you swing the club, the more loft you need to get maximum distance. Most beginners create between 85 to 90mph of club head speed which would makes a 10 or 11 degree lofted driver their best option.
- Offset – distance between the face of the club and the shaft. An offset club has the face “behind” the shaft which gives the beginner golfer more time to get the club face in the proper position.
- Shaft Material – typically either steel or graphite. Steel shafts tend to be heavier and vibrate more on impact. Beginners tend to do better with graphite shafts as they are lighter which facilitates higher swings speeds, and cushion the feeling at impact much more than steel.
- Shaft Stiffness – the flexibility of your shaft affects the distance, accuracy and trajectory of your golf shot. As a general rule the less swing speed you have, the more flex you want. The faster you swing, the stiffer the shaft you need. The chart below will give you a recommendation based on your swing speed with either a driver or a 6-iron.
|Driver Swing Speed||6-iron Swing Speed||Recommended Shaft Flex|
|> 105 mph||> 92 mph||X Stiff (X)|
|97-104 mph||84-91 mph||Stiff (S)|
|84-96 mph||75-83 mph||Regular (R)|
|72-83 mph||65-75 mph||Senior (A)|
|<72 mph||<65 mph||Ladies (L)|
We are just scratching the surface when it comes to technology and specs for golf clubs. Stay tuned for more articles in the future as we take a deep dive into the key specs you need to learn more about as you fine tune your game.
In the meantime, you should now be armed with enough information to understand what you are looking at as you sift through the many golf equipment options available to you.