By Jeff Jackson PowerBilt Golf As a golf instructor, you’re likely to see students whose bags contain a myriad of equipment – and oftentimes it’s not a pretty picture! Some players will have the latest in high-tech, high-dollar equipment, while others may have hand-me-downs from their grandparents. When it comes to instruction, you have the skills to make any student play better with whatever equipment they may have, but by educating your students to the benefits of modern-day equipment, you will not only help them immediately play better, you will be able to better teach them as a result of equipment that is matched to their game. Your students look to you as their “golf expert” due to your teaching ability. Even if you are not all that equipment savvy, it is important that you know some basics so that you are able to guide your students toward equipment that will improve their scores and enhance their enjoyment of the game. It’s not all that difficult to learn the basics of today’s equipment and how it will help lower scores. Dividing equipment into four categories – drivers, irons, hybrids and putters – will make it easy for you to instantly become an equipment guru in the eyes of those you teach. Drivers Big and geometric are the key words when it comes to today’s drivers. Nearly all of today’s drivers approach the USGA maximum conforming size of 460 cubic centimeters. Original metal drivers – and you surely still see some of these in your student’s bags – maxed out at about 150cc’s. The larger size of today’s drivers, which are made of titanium (a stronger, lighter material than stainless steel), creates what is known as a higher moment of inertia, or MOI. The higher the MOI of a club, the more stable it is on off-center hits, allowing less than perfect shots to fly longer and straighter. If your student still has a smaller driver in his or her bag, or one made from any material other than titanium, one of the fastest ways to improve driver play is through the acquisition of a properly fitted modern driver. Many of today’s drivers have non-traditional shapes. These shapes may be square, hexagonal or triangular. The purpose of any of these shapes is to position the center of gravity of the club so that it is easier to hit. Square shapes tend to allow players to hit the ball straighter as their weight is pushed as far toward the “corners” of the head as possible. If you have a student who has trouble finding the center of the face very often, a square driver should offer relief on those not so good hits. Triangular shapes and other shapes that seem to move weight rearward tend to make it easier to get the ball airborne, something that definitely helps slower swinging players. Mention that a launch monitor fitting will make sure a new design is properly suited to a player. The launch monitor will show things – swing speed, launch angle, spin rate, total distance and dispersion – that even the best teachers in the world can’t exactly quantify. Modern equipment with modern fitting techniques combine to lower a player’s score in short order. Irons If your students are playing any iron that is more than 10 years old, chances are they are behind the technology curve. If it’s oversize and has a deep center of gravity, it’s probably good for most of your students. In addition to most of today’s irons being larger, heavier, and thus more forgiving, many have wider soles that help a player get the ball in the air. Some have “undercut cavities.” This design moves weight even farther back from the face and helps the club be more stable on virtually any shot. If an iron is an undercut design, there will be a space between the back of the iron and the face toward the sole of the club. A key factor when discussing irons with your students is the distance they hit each one. You want them to have consistent distance gaps between each club, ensuring consistent accuracy on all iron shots. You also want to make sure they have wedges of the proper lofts and designs. Correct distance gaps in the scoring clubs are critical. Now that you have mentioned distance control, be sure to mention accuracy control through having properly fitted lie angles and club lengths. If you consistently see a player hit the ball left or right even when they make a good swing, it could be a lie angle issue. Lies that are too upright yield shots to the left for a right-handed player, while lies that are too flat often lead to pushed shots. New technology, when custom-matched to your students, will make your teaching much easier and will make the student scores go lower more quickly. Hybrids Long irons are a thing of the past. If there is a 3-iron (and even a 4-iron) in your student’s bag, they had better be a very good player. The answer to difficult-to-hit long irons is hybrids. Hybrids are a cross between fairway woods and irons. Typically, they are the length of long irons but with the forgiveness of fairway woods. They have deeper centers of gravity than do irons to get the ball in the air more easily. Plus, hybrids offer higher moments of inertia than do irons, making mis-hits go longer and straighter. They are easier to hit from rough due to their lower profiles and their weight makes them more user-friendly than long irons. Encourage your students to get rid of their 3-iron (and certainly any irons longer than that, as well) in favor of hybrids. For slower swinging players, the lower centers of gravity of hybrids make them even easier to hit. If a player swings slowly, adding #4, #5 and even #6 hybrids are a good idea. A number of companies offer full sets of hybrid clubs for those who struggle with their irons. Perhaps having a demo hybrid available during lessons may help show a student that hybrid clubs can be a true game-saver as compared to longer irons. Putters Geometric is the key word here too. More and more putters feature larger heads that create a higher MOI. The unique designs of some of today’s models may evoke comments from some of your more traditional students like, “I’m supposed to putt with that???” The secret to getting the ball to roll consistently is to create a putter that does not loft the ball too high at impact. The heavier weighted larger heads do this well. For those who have issues putting, one of the new larger designs may be just the ticket to lower scores. And while you’re discussing some of the new putter designs, make sure you mention that custom fitting of length and lie is a key to good putting. Even the most modern design won’t help a player unless it is fitted to his or her stroke. It’s good to know the meaning of some common putter technology terms. Hosel offset is how far the shaft is in front of the club face. Offset helps a player keep his or her hands ahead of the ball, generally resulting in a smoother roll for most players. Many putters now have what are called milled faces. A milled face is one that has been machine cut to precise flatness. Many of today’s high end models include face milling while the very highest end models have heads that are entirely milled for precise weight balance. Face balance is another term used to describe putters. A face balanced putter is one whose face will point skyward when the putter shaft is balanced on your finger. Face balanced putters help to create a straight-back, straight-through stroke which leads to improved putting. Good advice is to read as much as possible in golf magazines related to new equipment so that you stay a step ahead when it comes to product knowledge. Don’t necessarily believe every equipment claim made by every manufacturer, but do examine what technology most manufacturers are touting. By being aware of what’s new and hot in the industry, you’ll undoubtedly help your students play better. If you have the opportunity to attend an equipment demo day or two, be sure to take advantage of those situations. Hands-on experience with equipment will make it easier for you to communicate the benefits of new technology with your students, again making you an expert in their eyes and improving their games at the same time. Good instruction and proper equipment go hand-in-hand. Learning about equipment is a win-win for both you and your students.
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