Today’s equipment, or the advances in technology over the last 10 years or so, have (apparently) helped today’s average golfer, but hindered the career of perhaps the greatest talent who has ever played the game in Tiger Woods. As you can probably tell, you know where I’m going with this. I’ll admit at times I’m a contrarian, but not without doing research. Let’s take, for example, Trackman and the data it provides us from the touring professionals. Contrary to popular belief, the “average” PGA Tour player does not hit up on the ball (positive angle of attack or “AoA”). The average AoA amongst the men is -1.3 degrees, whereas amongst the women professionals it’s +3 degrees. As well, there is an astronomical difference in average clubhead speed, where the women swing on average at 94 mph versus the men at 113 mph. In talking to many coaches who use TrackMan daily and are specialized in understanding the data and ideal numbers, there is a consensus that with the driver the AoA number should remain within the -2 to +2 range. We’ve heard Justin Thomas has a +5 AoA with his driver; however, this is simply not the truth. His average is +1.4 degrees. He perhaps can attain this number and perhaps bombs it when he does, but it is not ideal. This leads to the point of this article. The majority of golfers today who struggle with the game can in essence blame technology (again contrarian), but the question is, why? The club manufacturing industry has led the golfing public to believe longer and forgiving is better. Get your launch angle to 17 degrees, adjust the driver to lower the spin and increase launch, get the ball airborne easily with our secret outer-space alloy strategically placed in a progressive heel-to-toe pattern helping to adjust the COG even while you swing. Let’s call a spade a spade. Modern equipment has helped people tremendously in getting the ball in the air, but has it made them better ball strikers? Of course not. For those who grew up only knowing what a blade iron and wood head were, you get it. The goal of the golf swing is to hit with accuracy and to strike the ball purely in the middle of the face with an iron, making a relatively shallow divot commencing after the ball. Game improvement irons with wide, bouncy soles, low COGs and perimeter weighting have taken this sensation, and I would go as far as saying taking the opportunity away. “The opportunity to do what?” one may ask. It is the opportunity to know what it takes to strike a blade properly – the fine-tuning of one’s swing so it becomes possible. All the competitive players (some quite young) I coach work with a blade. They play with game-improvement irons except for a few; however, they all practice with a blade as a means to develop a better club-ball contact and effective AoA, which will hold them in good stead with every club in the bag. The average female player on the tour, in my opinion, would be well served to perform a similar exercise. With an average +3 AoA with the driver, the path must shift more toward an inside approach to the ball. Although this may help some with lower clubhead speed attain distance, it compromises their ability to hit pure shots again and again from the turf with short and mid-length clubs. The clubhead speed these women attain is quite similar to many male average golfers. I hope this offers some food for thought.
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