A WELL KEPT SECRET !

One of the best kept secrets in the world of golf club equipment is that you can never fully trust the specifications that are either engraved on a clubhead or published by it’s manufacturer on their website. A great example is a driver head stamped  10.5° but in reality the loft is at 12° or higher.

For most readers this may sound  preposterous but the reality is that it is next to impossible for even the best foundries/clubhead manufacturers in the world to produce heads that consistently always have the same loft, lie, face angle and weight. There are various reasons why which Tom Wishon explains really well  farther down in this page. As a solution to this problem, companies who mass produce golf clubs to be sold off the rack could always perform some type of quality control where they would simply throw out every head found to be out of spec and keep the perfect ones, but this would raise the price of every golf club dramatically to the point of unsustainability..

Now what is truly unfair to golfers is not so much that golf heads come with production tolerances, but rather the lack of transparency of the golf club industry overall.  What most companies fail to disclose is that every single head produced by ANY manufacturer comes with what we call “production tolerances”. In essence, what this means is that club head factories ( most based in China ) have an agreement to produce heads for all golf club companies with tolerances of  no less than 1° for loft,1° for lie and  never less than 2g per head.You can also add the crucial face angle to the driver,fairway wood and hybrid heads.

For the vast majority of amateur golfers an open face will produce a slice for example.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have measured countless sets of golf clubs over the years that were fairly decent in those categories,but never perfect and the vast majority fail this test pretty badly.

Here is a rare but great example of a company who discloses the margin of error to which their iron and wedge heads are being produced with. Note the last column on the right:

 Cavity Back

2 Iron

3 Iron

4 Iron

5 Iron

6 Iron

7 Iron

8 Iron

9 Iron

PW

AW

SW

Tolerance

Right Hand (Degrees)

OUT

20

23

27

31

35

39

43

47

51

56

±1.0

Left Hand (Degrees)

17

20

23

27

31

35

39

43

47

51

56

±1.0

Lie Angle (Degrees)

59.5

60

60.5

61

61.5

62

62.5

63

63.5

63.5

64

±1.0

Weight (g)

237

244

251

258

265

272

279

286

293

297

301

±3.0

Offset (mm)

4.5

3.5

3

3

3

2.5

2.5

2.5

2.5

2.5

1

±1.0

Bounce (Degrees)

0

0

3

3

4

4

5

6

8

4

10

 

Now what’s the big deal if a head is 1° or 2° off the mark some may say?  Well in some cases it is a big deal. Here is a situation I encounter frequently over the course of a golfing season, and I will add that I have seen cases like one every year without exception for the last 12 years:

Windsor Ontario May 16th 2016,

Jim Oxley comes for a fitting and wants to make sure his TaylorMade Aero Burner iron lofts are on target and would like the lie angles to be adjusted to his swing if need be.

So as standard procedure I start by registering all his irons for lofts and lies to see where we stand. These heads have never been bent in the past, they came off the production factory and were sold off the shelf with the following specifications;

 

                     Actual                                     Website

             Loft°                     lie°              loft°               lie° 

 4i      20.25                      62                  19                 61

5i      22.75                      62                  22                 61.75

6i      23.5                        63.25             25.5              62.5

7i      29.5                        63.25             29.5              63

8i      35                           63.25             33.5              63.5         

9i      38.5                        63                  38                 64

Pw    43.25                      64                  43                 64.5     

gw    47.5                        63.75             49                 64.5

 

Ok, where should I start?! Well how about the fact that Jim paid a fair amount of money for a set of irons that doesn’t even come close to be within the acceptable tolerances of + or – 1° for lofts and lies! 

For an average male golfer who hits his 7 iron roughly 150 yards, 4° between irons will give him around a 10 yard gap between each club. Now for Jim the reality is that with his 70mph swing speed with the irons, he never ever saw a perceivable difference of distance between his 5 and 6 iron, and his 4i club is nothing short of unhittable.

Again this is just one example among so many I have run into over the last several years, now of course if you buy custom golf clubs from J.R.GOLF  you will never find yourself in such a predicament since all clubs are guaranteed to be dead on spec, and even though many sets of clubs from various manufacturers fair better than this one did, they are never fully on spec period. So do yourself a favor and have your specs checked if you buy clubs off the rack, it is well worth the small investment.

Now a few words on adjustable clubs like the fairway woods, hybrids and drivers, though most companies claim you can change the loft of the club by changing a setting in the hosel of the head with a ranch, know that in reality all you are doing is changing the face angle of the club when the club is soled in it’s natural position at address and that unless you have the ability to return the club face square at impact you will not see the intended results of a true loft change which can only happen if you use a different head in the first place that has a different initial loft when soled naturally.

For those interested in finding out more about adjustable drivers I recommend you click on the following link, it is a thorough and fascinating study performed by Tom Wishon who measured several drivers from the most marketed brand names in golf and then compared his results to the specifications the manufacturers advertise their heads to be set at. 

http://wishongolf.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/adjustable-hosel-drivers.pdf

In the following video,Tom Wishon talks about the realities and the limitations of adjustable drivers:

 

 

*** UPDATE *** Since the release of this study and video by Tom Wishon in 2013, I have come to my own conclusions as to why some of the heads he measured were so far off from the stated manufacturers specifications and also why I now believe that some adjustable drivers can be adjusted for lofts through a setting alteration on the hosel, so here it is:

Most adjustable heads Tom measured  were indeed very open or closed at various settings when setup ON THE SPEC GAUGE that is used to measure the heads, I also get the same results when I measure the heads he measured on my spec gauge which is the same one he uses, however when you take the time to rest some of these driver heads when epoxied to a shaft and with a grip on, and that you sole some of these drivers in the same way you would at address when playing golf, you the can see that the heads are not so open or closed after all. So why is that? Well after more than five years of measuring myself many of these adjustable drivers, ever since they came out anyway, I can tell you that the main reason is the way the manufacturers design the sole of their driver heads, some designs fair better than others in that aspect, but overall as of 2017, many companies now make adjustable driver heads that have a way of deceiving the spec gauge as to how open or closed a clubhead appears, in the same way SOME of the heads Tom measured back then.

 But at the end of the day it really makes no difference what reading the spec gauge yields for face angle, what matters is how the head sits at address in it’s natural playing position. And moreover  how the golfer performs with the driver head set at different face angle/loft settings, and throughout the driver fittings I have conducted with these adjustable drivers my bottom line is that some models are friendlier than others in terms of most golfers having the ability to return the head square at impact when driving the ball, which again is all that matters. 

So my final conclusions are:

-Never only pay attention to a clubs specification gauge readings for face angle, soling the club at address in it’s natural position is a much better indicator of how open or closed a face is.

-Conducting a fitting  with the help of a reliable launch monitor while playing with the settings or bending the hosel (on the heads that allow this), is the ONLY way to find out if this adjustability feature works for the golfer or not.

-Most driver heads including the Wishon 919 driver head can be adjusted for loft through face angle change up to one or two degrees without significant dispersion issues for SOME GOLFERS, BUT FAR FROM ALL. 

-If you are a beginner, do yourself a favor and make sure you start out with fairway wood and driver heads that are square, not closed or open and ideally non-adjustable heads that are on spec for loft in the first place.

-The Wishon lineup of adjustable heads including hybrids, fairway woods and drivers through the bending of the hosel up to 4° in two directions for a total of 8°, for face angle and lie angle independently is unmatched in the industry and is far more useful than the ranch type adjustable heads which barely address the lie angle needs of golfers on top of the ability to order heads on spec to begin with.

-It doesn’t matter if the golfer is a scratch golfer or a 30 handicapper, changing the loft through bending the hosel or changing the setting with a ranch of an adjustable driver either open or closed to change the dynamic loft will work for SOME golfers and NOT for OTHERS.

-Finally, I think the golf industry as moved away from measuring heads for loft in it’s face angle position on a spec gauge, and that was done primarily to accommodate their business model, adjustable drivers = less inventory of different driver lofts so inevitably more profit.  But never the less, in my opinion it makes no sense what so ever to measure any clubhead for loft in either a closed position or an open position even if that is the natural position the head is inclined to rest at, simply because ALL golfers have the same goal when swinging the golf club and that is to return the clubhead in a square position at impact so they can hit a straight shot ( ok bar an intended draw or fade of course ). So knowing how open or closed a face is, certainly is useful information and the starting point along with setting the clubhead in the correct lie angle postion before measuring the loft, however knowing what loft the clubhead has when measured in the square position is both far more logical and practical. 

The M1 driver is a great example of a driver that measures wide open in in the spec gauge, yet at address in the playing position it is anything but open as illustrated below:

 

Here is another rare but great example of a company who discloses the margin of error to which their driver heads are being produced with. Note the last column on the right:

VC-420 Driver

LL

ML

Tolerance

RH Loft (Degrees)

9

10.5

± 1.0

Lie Angle (Degrees)

58

58

± 1.0

Volume (cc)

420

420

± 5.0

Weight (g)

202

202

± 2.0

Roll/Bulge (Inches)

10/10

10/10

± 1.0

Face Angle (Degrees)

0.5 Open

SQ

± 1.0

Face Height (mm)

54

54

±0.5

Face Width (mm)

107

107

±0.5

COR by CT Test

253

253

±5.0

This is why here at J.R.Golf  we specialize in selling  “certified clubs” that are guaranteed to be on spec. Please go to CERTIFIED CUSTOM GOLF CLUBS to find out more. http://jrgolf.ca/en/certified-clubs/

 Club designer Tom Wishon  explains why it is impossible to produce heads that meet their targeted specifications  consistently:

“People who have never worked in the area of production manufacturing have a very difficult time understanding the reality of error tolerances. Most people believe that mistakes do happen, but many do think that it should be possible to make a high percentage of clubheads that would have every one of its production specifications dead on the spec. In fact, that is quite impossible to do because there are a lot of different specifications and each one has its own +/- tolerances and challenges to meet in the manufacturing process.The biggest factors that cause variations in the specs is different for each group of specifications.

1. Loft – for loft on woods, it is the welding of the parts of the head body that brings about the greatest chance for loft variation. Either the parts of the head do not mate together perfectly each time or the heat from the welding causes the space between the parts to change slightly. For investment cast irons, it is the shrinkage of the steel inside the casting shell as it cools that causes the variation in loft and in lie as well. As all steels cool from their molten state, they shrink. Inside the casting shell, the shrinkage causes a small space between the hosel and the inside of the casting shell. As the head cools, the hosel then can move one way or the other inside the casting shell. And when the hosel moves the lie and the loft will change. This is why ALL cast irons have to be checked and then adjusted as a normal course of manufacture.

2. Lie and Face Angle – For woods, it depends whether the head is all cast or if it is forged or plate formed. In a cast woodhead, the reason the lie and face angle can vary is the same explanation for why the loft and lie can change in a cast iron. It has to do with the shrinking of the metal when it cools inside the casting shell. For forged or plate formed woodheads, the variation in lie and face angle happens when the hosel is welded on to the body of the head as a separately attached piece of the head. When the hosel is welded on the head body, it can “pull” and move in one direction. Here again, all welded hosel heads are usually checked and then adjusted as a normal course of the manufacture of the heads.

3. Headweight – here the most common reason for variation is worker error. All clubheads are ground and polished for finishing by workers on different belt sanding and buffing polishing machines.

Image result for golf polishing irons

While the workers certainly are paid by incentive to do their best for weight tolerance, mistakes still are made. In addition, as the sanding belts wear from use, the same polishing procedure will remove less weight from the head than when the sanding belts are more new and rougher and not worn out. Making heads to a +/-2 gram tolerance for headweight is EXTREMELY GOOD – people who do not have any working experience in production manufacturing do not understand how hard it is to make head after head after head to all be within a +/-2g tolerance.

The reason that forged iron heads have a +/-3g tolerance is because all forged iron heads are electroplated on top of the carbon steel metal. This plating step has its own +/-1g tolerance. So the heads are all made and polished in preparation for plating finishing to a +/-2g tolerance just like all the cast stainless irons, but then when you have to electroplate the heads to finish them, you have this additional +/-1g tolerance from the plating process.”

Who is TomWishon?

With more than 35 years of experience in the field, Tom Wishon  is recognized as one of the industry leaders in the research of golf club design, performance and clubfitting technology.  He has been at the forefront of the golf industry including the development of more than 50 golf club design technology firsts as well as countless discoveries in the science of golf club performance for golfers.

Having begun his golf equipment career in 1972, Tom Wishon has designed over 300 original and innovative clubhead models, more than any other single person in the 500 year history of the game.  His clubhead designs represent more than 50 different technology firsts.

Tom Wishon is the only designer from the custom clubmaking side of the golf industry whose clubhead designs have been used to win on the PGA Tour, the Champions Senior Tour and in Ryder Cup competition. He has designed and custom built the golf clubs used in competition by Scott Verplank, Bruce Lietzke, Ben Crenshaw, as well as the last set of clubs played by Payne Stewart before his tragic accident in 1999.

Tom is the also the author of 9 books within the field of golf club design, performance and clubfitting, in addition to hundreds of equipment related articles written for virtually every golf publication in the golf industry. As Terry McSweeney, Director of Communications for the PGA of America states, “Tom has the unique ability to communicate technical issues about golf equipment so non-technically minded people can easily understand and follow the subject”.

Two of Wishon’s books, The Search for the Perfect Golf Club and The Search for the Perfect Driver qualified for best-selling status and won successive Book of the Year awards in 2006 and 2007 from the International Network of Golf, the oldest and largest organization of golf industry media professionals in the world.  Shortly after they were published, both books became a part of the curriculum for membership training in the PGA’s of Sweden, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

           

He is considered the ‘go-to guy’ by the equipment editors for many of the major consumer golf publications in their search for honest, marketing-free explanations about the technical performance of golf clubs.  Jim Achenbach, equipment editor for Golfweek magazine has said, “Tom is the smartest person in the golf industry when it comes to golf clubs.”

As Tom stated in making his decision to establish his own company in 2003, “I completely respect the product design work of the large golf equipment companies.  But my three decades in golf club R&D has proven without question that the best set of golf clubs any golfer will ever play will be a set of professionally custom fit golf clubs, and not a set of standard made clubs simply bought off the shelf.  I am committed to educating golfers about the tangible, game improvement benefits of being professionally custom fit because I know this is the only way any golfer can hope to play to the best of their ability and benefit the most from swing instruction.”

*** UPDATE *** Tom Wishon has sold Wishon golf to Diamond Golf International located in England in 2016, but he remains active as adviser and designer of all their components .