Photo by Somewhat Frank HERE’S WHAT TODAY’S EQUIPMENT CAN DO FOR YOU By Jeff Jackson USGTF Level III Member, Columbus, Ohio, Powerbilt Golf They say you can’t buy a better game. That certainly is true to some degree. Being golf instructors, we know that instruction and practice are the keys to game improvement. But, even with all the lessons and range time in the world, if a player’s equipment doesn’t include current technology, they’re likely giving away a couple of shots a round. Let’s go through the bag and see how modern technology can help your students play better golf. Today’s drivers are arguably the most technologically- advanced clubs in a player’s set. Virtually all drivers max out at the current USGA size limitation of 460cc’s. This large size allows the club to be more stable, especially on off-center hits. The 460cc size also allows designers to create thin faces, which leads to faster ball speed and longer distance. Nearly all of today’s top drivers max out the COR/CT test as put forth by the USGA, but various face technologies can help a player find spin and launch characteristics that provide optimum launch and distance. You’ve probably noticed that driver shapes have changed dramatically over the past couple of years. The shape changes create specific centers of gravity that influence ball flight. For example, square shapes increase moment of inertia (MOI) and tend to help a player hit the ball straighter. Triangular shapes move the CG rearward, tending to increase initial launch angle, while more traditional shapes allow a better player to draw or fade the ball to fit certain shot requirements. Clubs with adjustable weight configurations are designed with them to influence right-to-left or left-to-right ball flight, depending upon weight placement. Unless you’ve not been paying attention to equipment at all, you know that driver shafts play a key role in the club’s performance. Modern shaft designs make it possible to help a player hit the ball higher or lower without a swing change. High kick-point shafts, also known as lower launch models, are generally best for faster, more aggressive swingers of the club, while high launch (low kickpoint) shafts help slower swingers get the ball airborne more easily. A launch monitor fitting will help a player determine not only which head design and shape he or she hits best, but will provide shaft information that matches flex and launch factors to a player’s swing. When it comes to irons, technology hasn’t changed nearly as quickly as with drivers. That said, for most players, a perimeter-weighted club is a good choice. Most tour pros now play cavity-back models; that should tell you that most of your students should, as well. Look at where most of the weight is on an iron head. If it’s nearer the sole, the CG is lower and the ball flight will be higher. If it’s more on the heel and toe, the club will have a higher MOI and tend to be easier to hit straight. A new technology on the scene when it comes to irons is vibration dampening material. Several irons on the market incorporate a rubber or polymer material in the cavity to dampen vibration and improve feel. Regardless of what iron design you recommend for a player, those irons should be dynamically fitted by a professional to determine the proper lie, length and shaft flex which will lead to lower scores. Wedges have undergone some radical changes of late. Many of the popular wedges in today’s market have milled faces to create more backspin. Some of these wedges have pushed the groove depth and width rules to the maximum, again to create the highest possible spin rates. Various sole grinds are available to allow a player to open the club face without increasing the bounce on the club, making it less likely the player will “skull” a shot. When recommending wedges, look for consistent gaps between the pitching, sand, gap and lob wedges. Doing so will ensure consistent yardage distances between clubs. Clubs stamped with the word “Wedge” or the letter “W” in some form or another range in loft from less than 50 degrees to more than 64 degrees. Double checking the loft of the wedges in your student’s bags will surely help to improve their shorts games. A check of modern putters will find designs that look traditional and some that look as if they came from outer space – in fact, one company produces a putter in the shape of Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise! Putters with weight on the heel and toe, known as “Anser-type” putters, tend to be more stable on off-center hits and are the types of putters found in the bags of the best golfers in the world. Larger, more uniquely shaped putters move the CG of the head to promote a smoother stroke, more resistance to twisting, or just a “different” look. A company under the name “Heavy Putter” markets a custom-fitted putter that weighs almost twice as much as a typical putter; their idea is that heavier weight promotes a more consistent stroke. Just as with any other clubs, it is important to make sure your students’ putters are matched to length, lie, loft and preferred head shape in order to maximize performance. Another aspect of today’s technology that allows game improvement almost immediately is the choice of hybrids for a set. Hybrids bridge the gap between fairway woods and long irons. In fact, there are sets that are completely hybrid-based. Hybrids have specific centers of gravity to make it easier to get the ball in the air for most players. Often, their sole design makes them more effective from the rough, as well. The final piece of today’s game improvement technology is set makeup. By choosing the proper combination of clubs and lofts, each club will then perform a designated function with a consistent distance result – something from which all players will benefit. Modern club technology can reduce a player’s score; there is no doubt about that. Can that technology alone maximize a player’s game improvement? No way. The combination of quality instruction and sound equipment choices guided by the teaching professional will yield the greatest player improvement possible. High MOI triangular drivers, cavityback vibration-dampened custom-fitted irons, deep-grooved milled-face wedges, and futuristically shaped putters are all key factors in game improvement, and with your guidance, they are almost sure to lower your student’s scores!