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 clubheads that consistently always have the same loft, lie, face angle and weight. There are various reasons why which Tom Wishon explains really well below.

A solution to this problem would be for companies who mass produce golf clubs to be sold off the rack to perform some type of quality control on their heads where they would simply throw out every head found to be out of spec and keep the perfect ones, but this would make no sense financially for them as it would raise the cost of golf clubs to point of unsustainability. 

Now what is unfair to the consumer 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,  this means 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 higher handicap 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 in some cases it was disastrous.

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 unfortunately.  I could spend hours detailing many golf clubs analysis I have performed for golfers over the years, but I won’t bore you with all the details and instead just give you a few classic examples:

A golfer purchases a series of fairway woods off the rack in a retail store, he got himself a 3w, 5w and a 3i hybrid. After measuring the heads, it turns out the 3wood’s loft is 16° instead of the stated 15°, the 5w is at 17° instead of the stated 18° and the hybrid is measured at 18° instead of 19°. Well guess what, 95% of golfers will never see any difference in distance between their 3w and 5w, and the difference between their 3i hybrid and their 5w will be negligible at best. And even though many golf clubs are now so called “adjustable” through a setting of the hosel, it is almost always next to impossible to nail down all the proper specs like face angle, lie angle along with the correct loft at the same time.

Finally when it comes to irons and wedges, we run into the same predicament as for the rest of the clubs, the only difference is that most irons and wedges can be bent to the correct specs.

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. However tolerances being tolerances, often two iron numbers will run into each other on that front. If a 7i has a loft of 33° instead of 34° and a 6i  31° instead of 30°, that leaves a golfer with only five yards between those two irons. The good news is that in most cases it can be bent back to spec, but not always and it always comes at a risk of a head breaking during the process.

I have even encountered several instances in the past when two different iron numbers had the exact same loft! Other times the lie angle will be so far apart between two iron numbers on cast clubs that it is simply impossible to get them back to where they should be. 

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/

Veteran club designer Tom Wishon  explains why it is impossible for any golf clubhead factories 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 the UK in 2016, but he remains active as a consultant and designer of all their components .