Golf Equipment Myths Exposed

I see clients from all golfing walks of life and while working in the studio with them various golfing equipment myths inevitably pop up - all heard from a very knowledgeable or reputable source of course. Often I have to break the news that they really have no basis for truth. This list is by no means complete but contains the main offenders.

Flex Ratings Are All The Same

Not true. Why does an 'S' shaft from one manufacturer feel so different to that of another? Each shaft company has their own designs for shafts. They grade their shafts in accordance to their own flex ratings so an 'S' shaft from one company could in fact be an 'R' or 'X' from another. Even within a company different ranges of shaft designs will show different flex readings. It is very hard to compare apples to apples without a Frequency Analyser. Table 1 below shows the results of three different manufacturers 'R' flex's tested as raw full length 40" shafts.

Two of the companies manufacture two 'R' shaft designs however I have not indicated which these are or what materials the shafts were made of. The pairs from within the same company were both either steel to steel or graphite to graphite.

Raw Shaft Flex in Cycles Per Minute

40" Raw ShaftCPM
1318
2313
3318
4306
5295

The Higher A Golf Ball Bounces, The Further It Will Fly

Not true. Have you ever been in a golf shop and noticed a fellow customer bouncing a golf ball on a hard surface, judging which brand bounced higher and basing their purchase decision on that test? Possibly, as it happens often. The compression stress placed on a golf ball, even when bounced on a hard surface, is minimal compared to stress placed on the ball when it is being hit by a clubhead at speed. 800-1000kgs of crush versus gravity's pull. Different types of ball construction (Fig. 1), two-piece, three-piece, wound balls, number of cores and construction materials will all have an influence on how a ball will fly.

The only way to find the best ball for your game is to try a variety out at the driving range or on the golf course. Or better yet, find a launch monitor and experiment with a variety of golf balls until you discover the correct one for your swing and club.

The Lines On The Putter Are The Sweet Spot

Not necessarily true. If a manufacturer has put sightlines on the top of a putter then they have to line up with the sweet spot. Well they should do, however each clubhead is built with mass quality tolerance levels so these sightlines may not always correspond with the sweet spot.

To find the sweet spot hold your club between two fingers up high in front of you and tap the clubface with a pencil on the toe or heel of the club (Fig. 2). It will twist around. Keep tapping toward the middle of the clubface until the clubface stops twisting and moves only back and forth rather than to the side. Your last point of contact is your sweet spot and should be marked as such.

Face Grooves Create Backspin

This one is common and one of the great myths of golf. The backspin is created by the balls compression on the clubface. This occurs between the time of impact and the moment of separation from the clubface. The clubs swing path and type of head rotation sees the ball mashed into the clubface. The loft presented to the ball distorts it in shape and gives us the launch angle and all of its backspin. The ball does not actually ever ride up the clubface, instead it gets imbedded in the face where the groove lines reside. High-speed photography has proved this. The more loft the greater the backspin.

Therefore, the grooves have zero influence on the launch angle or backspin on the ball. Well known club designer Ralph Maltby built a set of irons with no face groves at all and played with them extensively to prove this point to disbelievers.

Also, in the mid 1980's the USGA undertook extensive groove type testing and concluded that in dry conditions it was loft, not grooves that put backspin on the ball.

So what good are grooves then? Rather like car tyres which work perfectly in the dry, we need them to work in the wet as well. Clubfaces without grooves work fine in dry conditions but with water and grass in the way, the grooves allow some of the trapped materials to be moved from the collision zone. Without groves you may get a high flyer with less spin and in this instance the ball does in fact run up the face - it actually skids up the face on the lubricating water and/or grass.

5 Irons Have The Most Backspin

This is an old wives tale. Following on from the face grooves myth above it is pretty obvious that the more loft we have on a club the higher the backspin rate will be.

Topspin Creates More Ball Roll

"I hit that drive with a lot of topspin. Look at it roll way out there". To get the ball airborne we have to hit it with backspin. The backspin creates the lift the ball requires to stay up there. If we did hit a ball with topspin it would just knuckle ball into the ground. These days with the advent of launch monitors we see players trying to optimize the backspin on the balls being played so that they can improve length off the tee.

The perceived topspin is actually a ball that has been hit with a counter-clockwise turning clubhead through the impact to separation zone, a draw spin. In this case the ball has been presented a clubface that has a little less loft shown than a shot where the clubface has been left open and opening further, a clockwise increase in backspin if you like, a high slice.

Forged Irons Feel Softer Than Cast Irons

Many players think a forged club feels sweeter to play than an investment cast head. Indeed at an atomic level the grains in a forged club are a little farther apart in comparison to an investment cast iron. But in a blindfold test hardly anyone can tell the difference. It is probably more a case of most forged clubs look really good and this mental image adds to the mystique of the real feel.

Golf Shafts Lose Their Stiffness

Many people surmise that if you keep using your clubs over a long period of time the shafts will 'wear out' and lose some of their stiffness and become weaker. This is not the case at all, even with steel shafts. The reason for this is that the loads put on the shafts never get anywhere near the break straining points which would be required to cause metal fatigue in steel. If you have kinked a shaft or there is rust present then this is a different matter but a good quality shaft, whether steel or graphite, will keep its flex.

7 Woods Are For Women & Seniors

Whilst in the US last year I walked by up to 200 golf bags a day on the driving range and I was actually surprised at how this old view just does not exist over there in comparison to Australia and the UK. A 7 wood flies higher and lands softer than a 3 iron for players with slower swing speeds. Many slower swingers cannot hit their 3 iron any farther than their 4 iron as the backspin they place on the ball is not high enough to keep it airborne. Learn to use a 4 iron from under a bush and the 7 wood becomes one of your best friends on course.

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