Exchange Rates

The right clubs will boost your child’s enjoyment

SCOTT KRAMER Senior Editor, GOLF MAGAZINE
You’ve decided to buy some new clubs. Hopefully, “ClubTest 2003” will help you make the right choice. But what are you doing with the clubs they’re replacing? Instead of stashing them in the garage or basement, you can easily sell them or trade them in toward new clubs. Be shrewd and you may get more for them than you thought.

James Yang

First, find out the going rate. Frequently updated online price guides can help you find your clubs’ up-to-the-minute value. The GCE BlueBook, available at www.golfclubexchange.com, lists a club’s auction price (market value if you sell or auction them) and trade-in value (typically less than the auction price), depending on its condition, measured by one of four grades: fair, good, very good, and excellent. The difference in price between fair and excellent can be hundreds of dollars for a set of irons.

The Equipment Trade-In Value Guide, available soon on a number of sites, lists club values that will be honored within a network of PGA professionals and retailers. They receive a new, printed version of the guide every month, so their prices may vary from those online.

With this information, you now can make one of three types of deals: trade-in, auction, or sell.

Trading In

The quickest and most convenient method is to take your clubs to a retailer that will give you immediate credit toward a new set. To receive the best offer, go to the store in your area that handles the highest volume. If you’re not sure which that is, ask a local pro shop. Reputations spread fast.

Two Web sites, www.golfsmith.com and www.webuyusedclubs.com, owned by Dallas Golf, work the same way: Price your clubs online, look for what you want to buy, then call. They will charge your credit card for the purchases, which they’ll ship with instructions and labels for sending your old clubs to them. After the company receives the trade-in, it will credit your charge card.

James Yang

Dallas Golf accepts any club for trade-in and offers one price, regardless of condition. Golfsmith is selective, evaluating clubs before crediting your charge card within four days. Beware: Your interpretation of your old clubs’ condition could be different from Golfsmith’s, which is clearly explained on the site, and you won’t know the value until the end of the transaction.

Auctions

If you’re not in a hurry, you’ll probably receive the best offer by auctioning your clubs on a Web site like eBay’s, where you can set a minimum acceptable price. For best results, post a clear, close-up photo of your clubs and list specifics about condition, lie angle, shaft, grip, etc. “Say so if they’ve been hit a few times,” says Drew Marich of eBay. “You’ll wind up getting more.”

There are a couple of downsides. One is the fees. On eBay, you will be charged for placing an ad (based on your listing price), and again after you sell the clubs (based on the sale price). The listing fee is nominal; the closing fee is less than 10 percent of the sale price. Another inconvenience is the logistics: You have to arrange shipping and payment terms directly with the buyer. (Shipping a set of irons runs about $25 for two-day delivery.)

The golf-specific auction company Golfclubexchange.com lists clubs on its Web site for free and charges a service fee, usually more than 10 percent of the sale price. The fee includes shipping and buyer protection — the company acts as a middleman between the buyer and seller.

If you auction or sell your clubs online, you’ll need a box. If you don’t have one, local golf retailers have plenty.

Buying Used

You already know how and where to buy new clubs; buying used clubs can be different. There are deals to be had: Golfers commonly play new equipment a few times before opting for something different. So they unload them at a good price, particularly at online auctions. If you buy through such sites, remember that you’re buying from individuals. If you don’t receive a club as advertised through eBay, for example, recourse can be difficult. Golfclubexchange.com, however, provides buyer protection for 48 hours after you receive them.
You may feel safer buying from a credible bricks-and-mortar or online retailer like Edwin Watts (www.edwinwattspreowned.com) or 3balls.com (www.3balls.com) that offers a thorough selection, a return policy, and maybe a trial program. But expect to pay more.
 
 

Selling

Some services will pay you quick cash, although you won’t get the best price. For example, if you list a popular model at www.golfclubexchange.com, you may see an offer from a company called Clearance Cat to buy your clubs before you post them for bidding. If you accept the price, which is usually less than the market bears, print out a FedEx form (Clearance Cat pays for shipping) and send in your clubs. Clearance Cat will cut a check within six days of receiving them.

In addition to taking trade-ins, www.webuyusedclubs.com buys any club, regardless of condition. Use its online price guide to figure what it will pay you, then contact the company (shipping is included). The service will send you a check within two days of receiving your clubs.

You also can place an ad in your local newspaper and probably get decent money for your clubs. But you only reach the local market and have to renew the ad if the clubs don’t sell.

The Price Is Right

Callaway, Ping, TaylorMade, and Titleist are the most popular brands resold. While no type of club (wood, iron, putter) is easiest to sell, you’ll likely get more for graphite-shafted clubs than steel. No service consistently pays the most for your clubs — check around for specific prices as they vary by the minute. Here’s what some popular models commanded at various reputable venues, at a recent snapshot in time.
Club  Dallas/webuy- usedclubs.com  Golfsmith (Good/excel. cond)  Callaway preowned  eBay (low/high bids)  GCE (low/high bids) 
Callaway VFT irons, 3-PW, graphite  $325 $429/$640 $525 $306/$725 $500/$915
Hogan Apex Edge irons, 3-PW, steel  $245 $196/$351 $295/$430 $260/$520
TaylorMade 360 driver, graphite  $90 $80/$107 $95/$250 $75/$265
Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter  $45 $60/$81 $80 $130/$200 $95/$215
 

 

Hey Junior

The right clubs will boost your child’s enjoyment

SCOTT KRAMER Senior Editor, GOLF MAGAZINE
The frown on my 4-year-old’s face says it all. On the driving range with a cut-down men’s driver, he struggles to lift the heavy club, which causes a choppy downswing — and one grounder after another. A week later, with a new junior 5-wood, he hits high, 70-yard shots that boost his ego and enthusiasm.

James Yang

For years, junior clubs were generally beefy adult clubheads attached to shafts that were shorter and slightly lighter than those of adult clubs, but still too heavy for most children. The other option, the cut-down club, was worse, since the shaft was far too stiff and heavy.

Then in 1994, La Jolla Club introduced clubs that were truly downsized — in clubhead size and weight, and in shaft length and flex. Much easier for kids to swing and enjoy, they were so popular that the company sold out its initial 15,000 sets in 11 weeks.

Junior models have evolved ever since. In the past year, Cleveland, Nike, and TaylorMade debuted clubs with performance features previously found only in adult models. They allow kids to swing naturally and achieve positive results — as long as the club fits the kid.

The variety of features and options makes it difficult to choose. Here’s what to look for as you wade through the sea of junior clubs.

Length and weight

Correct length is the primary concern. Most brands provide size options based on a child’s height and/or knuckle-to-ground distance. Make certain he has growing room.

If your child is between club sizes, go longer — provided he can handle the additional weight. “Kids lose swing speed with clubs that are too heavy, even causing them to swing slower as an adult,” cautions Dan Van Horn, owner of U.S. Kids Golf. “A heavier club also promotes bad habits, such as swaying.” Since lightness is key, most junior clubs have graphite shafts.

James Yang

If you’re not sure about length, have a pro or qualified salesperson determine if the club is weighted correctly, says GOLF MAGAZINE Top 100 Teacher Jane Frost. “He’ll look for your child’s ability to maintain club control and balance,” she says. “Give your child as much length as possible without sacrificing the center-ness of contact.”

With longer clubs, the child can make the club feel lighter by gripping down. Frost suggests placing bright electrical tape on the grip to mark the placement of the hands.

If your child is about to outgrow a club, companies like All Kids Golf can re-shaft clubs to keep pace, for as little as $8 per shaft. TaylorMade’s 320K-30 and 320K-40 junior models come with a Growth Guarantee that allows you to up-size the set for $100.

Shaft flex

After determining proper length and weight, consider shaft flex, which varies among junior clubs. Finding the right flex is trial and error. Have your child hit shots with several clubs that have the same loft, and look for the most consistent launch pattern.

“We don’t use the most flexible shaft,” says Greg Hopkins, president of Cleveland Golf, which tested shafts with 400 kids ages 3 to 12. “Kids using whippy shafts tried to pick the ball up instead of hitting down through it. Only the tip is flexible in our clubs, to help lift the ball.”

Nike also uses a relatively stiff shaft because Tiger Woods, who co-designed its junior line, learned to play with extra-stiff shafts to help control ball flight. “He feels most junior clubs are too flexible,” says Tom Stites, Nike’s director of product creation. Keep in mind that a shaft at either extreme produces a loss of ball control.

Clubheads

The heads of most drivers are made of steel and are around 200cc, the size of adult steel drivers 10 years ago. But junior heads weigh less and have lower, deeper weighting to get the ball up. They also boast performance enhancements like expanded sweetspots. Choose a driver with enough loft — at least 15 degrees.

Today’s junior iron heads are generally 20 percent smaller than men’s and have perimeter weighting, offset, and wider, radial soles to help the ball up. Junior irons also lie two degrees flat, which helps prevent a closed clubface and low hooks. As your child grows, check the lie angle. “Unless the ball’s going where it should, kids compensate for the lie angle, creating unique swings,” says Frost. “Having the right lie angle will help establish good swing fundamentals.”

While most junior irons of the past were die-cast, making them too brittle to bend as kids grew, many today are made of bendable steel, so the lie angle can be adjusted up to two degrees.

Makeup varies from company to company, but sets for older children have more clubs. Sets usually include putters, but not necessarily wedges, as they’re too heavy. Instead, some have 9-iron/pitching wedge combination irons.

For first-time players, buy just two clubs: a lofted wood and a mid-iron. They will help get the ball airborne, achieve some distance, and give your child the one thing that will keep him coming back: confidence.

Buying Guide for Junior Clubs

BRAND  OPTIONS  NOTES  PRICES  CONTACT 
All Kids Golf Clubs Various generic kid-size clubs Custom made; re-shafting services $20/iron; $26/wood; $269/iron set allkidsgolfclubs.com, 888-221-9941
Cleveland Golf White, Silver, Gold models Driver designed after Launcher 400, irons after TA7 $125-$199/set with carry or stand bag clevelandgolf.com, 800-999-6263
La Jolla Club Snoopy Toddler and Red; Blue, Yellow, Green models for ages 6-12 Choice of shaft flexes $75-$99/Snoopy set with stand or carry bag; $150-$230/set with stand or carry bag lajollaclub.com, 800-468-7700
Nike Birdie Blue, Par Red, Eagle Silver series Sold as single clubs only; woods have thin faces $39/iron, wedge, or putter; $49/driver nikegolf.com, 800-922-6453
Players Red, White, Blue models Titanium alloy woods; Winn grips in all clubs $20/putter; $26/iron; $30/driver; $159/set with stand bag golfgearint.com, 800-955-6440
Powerbilt Orange, Silver, Gold series Can buy wedges individually for $20 $99-$149/set with stand bag and putter powerbilt.com, 800-848-7693
TaylorMade 320K for Kids: K-30, K-40, K-50 models Smaller models include Growth Guarantee (see article) $250/set with stand bag taylormadegolf.com, 800-456-8633
Tour Edge Bazooka 350 Y in two sizes Optional 53° sand wedge $119-$159/set with dual-strap stand bag depending on make-up; $24/sand wedge touredgegolf.com, 800-515-3343
US Kids Golf Ultralight model in Red, Blue, Green; Performance Light in Silver and Gold Titanium driver standard, but 280cc Air Kicker driver is offered in Silver and Gold systems $28-$40/single club; $200/set with bag; $150/Air Kicker driver; $48/titanium-insert driver uskidsgolf.com, 888-387-5437
Wilson Rookie Tour Jr.; ProStaff Jr. in two sizes Anser-style, long-neck putter included $79/Rookie Tour Jr. set; $99/ProStaff Jr. set, both with stand bag wilson.com, 800-622-0444

Is clubfitting for you?

For most, it’s worth a shot

SCOTT KRAMER Senior Editor, GOLF MAGAZINE
Go to the driving range at any PGA Tour event and you’ll see players with different builds, swing types, and styles of play. In fact, about the only thing these guys have in common — besides the fact that they are all very, very good — is that their equipment has been custom fit, which helps them get the most out of their games.

Have your clubs been fit?

Manufacturers, fitters, and retailers agree that nearly everyone can benefit from clubfitting — even if just a little bit. But custom fitting won’t help everyone to the same degree. Ironically, golfers who need the least help — better players, who have sound, repeatable swings — benefit most. There’s less payoff for higher handicappers since they don’t have repeating swings.

James Yang

If you’re just getting into the game, suffer from a bad back, play only a handful of times each year, or plan to shed weight next off-season, your swing will change so clubfitting is probably a waste of time.

Otherwise, given the potential benefit, there’s no reason to avoid custom fitting. Most sessions are just 30 to 45 minutes, free, and you have no obligation to buy. Heck, you may even learn a thing or two about your swing.

Plus, if you order clubs and aren’t pleased with them, you can have them tweaked.

If you don’t want to buy new clubs, there may be another option: Alter the specifications on your existing set. Retrofitting your clubs may consist of bending a lie (easier to do with forged heads than cast), lengthening a shaft, or changing a grip.

However, problems loom:.It may be physically impossible to alter your clubs to your new specs; some modifications may be inappropriate for the components, including the possibility that the existing head is the wrong weight for the new shaft; or you need to be fit by a representative from the manufacturer who made your current set. Since no two companies’ fitting systems are exactly the same, club spec recommendations are non-transferable.

Still unsure if clubfitting is for you? This quick self-test may help. (These specs are interrelated, but for the sake of this exercise, they’re listed individually.)

James Yang

Lie Angle

Lie angle, measured from the hosel to the ground, influences shot direction. “If your woods or irons are two degrees off of your customized specifications, your shots will veer up to six yards right or left of where you’re aiming,” says master clubfitter Jeff Jackson.

Tendency: Shots start left of target, or you consistently hit a draw or hook. Possible fix: Check your divots. If they are deeper toward the heel, try a flatter lie angle. (This also applies if residue from driving range mats stains the heel.)

Tendency: Shots start right of target or you’re a bona fide slicer.

Possible fix: Again, look at your divots. If they’re deeper toward the toe, you may need a more upright lie.

Shaft Length

Having a shaft of the proper length helps you swing on plane and in balance. A club that is too short may cause a swing that is too steep, while one that is too long can produce a flat swing.

Tendency: You frequently hit the ball off the toe of the club or slouch your shoulders at address.

Possible fix: Longer shafts.

Tendency: You commonly grip down more than one inch, hit the ball off the heel of the club, or shank short irons.

Possible fix: Shorter, more manageable shafts.

Loft

Loft creates the backspin necessary to get shots into the air. In general, more loft is better than less. Without adequate loft, you’ll likely try to scoop the ball.

Tendency: Shots reach their apex and appear to knuckle to earth.

Possible fix: More loft, because you’re not creating enough backspin.

Tendency: Shots start too high with too much spin, resulting in a short shot with no roll.

Possible fix: Less loft.

Shaft Flex

Swing speed, tempo, and how you load and unload the club determine proper flex.

Tendency: Shots fly low and tail off to the right; you’re working too hard to get the club through impact; center hits feel “boardy” or harsh.

Possible fix: A more flexible shaft, or one with a softer tip.

Tendency: Shots soar too high and/or left.

Possible fix: A stiffer shaft, or one with a firmer tip.

Grip Size

With the correct grip size, the middle two fingers of your left hand should press slightly into the fleshy part of your palm.

Tendency: Quick hooks caused by overactive hands.

Possible fix: Thicker grips.

Tendency: You’re a slicer or your swing lacks power.

Possible fix: Thinner grips.

Launching Pad

Launch monitors are making clubfitting more precise. Sensors and high-speed cameras record clubhead speed, clubface angle, swing path, angle of attack, and the ball’s speed, spin rate, and launch angle. Armed with this avalanche of data, fitters can make a more refined recommendation.

These monitors work best for driver fittings, by determining the ideal driver/ball combination to maximize distance and accuracy. Keep in mind that manufacturers recommend choosing the ball that’s best for your short game.

Then, find the driver that helps you achieve high-launching shots with low spin. Of course, performance varies depending on the ball, so your driver specs may surprise you. Hard-covered, two-piece distance balls tend to ‘slide’ up the clubface and launch high with low spin. By contrast, “soft-covered, high-performance balls [preferred by most pros] stay on the face longer so they’ll launch a little lower with more spin,” says Todd Beach, TaylorMade’s director of product development, metal woods. “These balls may require a head with a low and medium-back center of gravity to increase launch and decrease spin.”

Love Connection

Odds are you’re playing the wrong putter. How can you find the right one?

Scott Kramer Senior Editor, GOLF MAGAZINE
Experts claim that nine of 10 amateur golfers use putters that are ill-suited to their strokes. Tour pros don’t have this problem, because they can (and do) undergo sophisticated laser and high-speed video analyses to find their ideal flatsticks. The pros and the putter-makers know that everything works better when you use the right type of putter. And what type is that? The same science that helps the pros has given us the following suggestions for finding your putting soul mate.

HEAD START

The two basic head shapes are the blade (which can come in a heel-shafted version with a narrow, flat back, like Wilson’s 8802, or in a heel-toe weighted version with the shaft set in from the heel, such as Ping’s Anser) and the half-moon-shaped mallet (like Ram’s Zebra). Because of their different geometries, balance, and weighting, each will produce a different stroke and ball path. A putt you sink with one putter could very well miss if tried with the other, even if you made the identical stroke. You’d really see the difference on mishits — especially short mishits.

Which head for you? That depends partly on your existing stroke path. If your stroke starts back to the inside, is square at impact, then returns inside during the follow-through, you’re probably better off with a heel-shafted blade, because as you stroke, the heel moves through the impact area faster than the rest of the face, but the toe weight helps the head square up at impact and impart a straighter roll.

Make that stroke with a mallet, and its face-balancing (present in nearly all mallets) prevents the face from closing, meaning the putt will be pushed to the right (assuming you’re right-handed). Do this a few times, and you might begin overcompensating by pulling your putts.

If your stroke moves straight back and through, try a mallet or a heel-toe weighted blade, either of which twists less at contact than a heel-shafted blade. Also, the center-shafted mallets (the shaft axis runs through the middle of the head even though the shaft itself may be bent to enter nearer the heel) have a deep center of gravity which helps the ball roll straight off a straight stroke. If your stroke stays on-line, the ball will, too.

HOW LONG?

Once you’ve decided on head style, find the proper shaft length. But don’t go simply by the length on the label: Manufacturers measure the shafts differently. Some calculate from the butt end to the heel, others from the butt to the center of the sole. So one company’s “33-inch” model may be another’s “34.”

Regardless, you need the length that feels best.

“Most people use putters that are too long for them,” says Todd Sones, a GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher based in White Deer Run, Illinois, who’s studied numerous Tour pros (see sidebar) and amateurs to help devise a new putter-fitting system for his students.

There are some tell-tale signs to indicate a shaft is too long for you. At address, your hands will be too close to your body (your left hand will brush against your pants), causing you to raise the toe of the putter and exaggerate the arc of your stroke. Also, the butt of the putter grip may poke your stomach, or you may be overly aware of the head’s weight during the stroke.

If the shaft is too short, you’ll stand too close to the ball, raising the heel and, consequently, digging the toe into the grass. There may be no feel to the head, which will deprive you of any sensation at impact.

You may find that getting the right length also requires adjusting the putter’s lie angle to fit your posture and stroke. If so, have a professional clubfitter bend the hosel or shaft, as even the slightest modification can drastically alter the putter’s sweetspot and balance.

Some experts claim optimal shaft length varies with your eye position at address. Contrary to popular schooling — which says to place your eyes directly above the ball — Titleist’s Scotty Cameron, who crafts putters for the pros, says, “The best golfers in the world have their eyes one inch behind the ball at address, so the ball is under their left eye” but still over the target line.

OFFSET OR NO?

Many golfers used to employ a forward press when putting, as a way of getting their hands ahead of the ball at impact. But that effectively closed the face (turning it toward the ground) because they didn’t “release” the putter until it was too late in the stroke. The advent of the bent hosel and offset putter eliminated the need for a forward press.

Is offset right for you? It depends on what you like to see when standing over the ball. Beware, though: If you switch to a putter with more offset, the click of impact will come a little later than you’re used to, which may be annoying. Also, more offset can lead to pulling the ball: Offset putters are like offset drivers, which “correct” slices by forcing your hands to close through the impact zone.

Ninety percent of all putters have some offset, which is measured in terms of shaft width (slight offset is referred to as “one shaft offset”). Most Tour pros play with one-half to one shaft offset, but the most extreme is Ray Floyd, who sometimes uses a putter with 3.5-shaft offset.

LOFT

A ball on the green actually rests in a minor depression of grass. A little loft on the putterface helps lift the ball out of that dip. However, if it lifts the ball too much, backspin is imparted and the ball will finish short of your target; too little loft, and the ball hits the depression’s edge, causing it to hop.

How much loft do you need? That’s one ingredient you shouldn’t worry about: Most manufacturers determine the ideal amount of loft from product-testing on different greens. For example, Odyssey’s White Hot putters come standard with 3 degrees of loft, while Ping putters have 3 to 3.5 degrees (the company can customize to your preference). Besides, a solid putting stroke naturally closes the face as it strikes the ball. That means the ideal “dynamic” loft — the actual angle of the clubface at impact — is between one and two degrees; but you’d need high-speed analysis to measure yours.

LONG AND SHORT OF IT

GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher Todd Sones recently studied the putting habits of 50 Tour pros. As a result of his findings, he now encourages his students to shorten the length of their putters. Sones discovered that the average Tour player uses a putter 33 or 34 inches long, stands 5-foot-11, has knuckles that hang 31 inches above the ground, and stands 23 inches from the putter head. When chipping, the same pro stands 30 inches from the head of his wedge. As Sones asks, “When you consider that you’re standing seven inches closer to the ball at address with a putter, why are putters only a half-inch shorter than a wedge?”

 

Too good to be true?

We tested knockoff clubs against the real thing

SCOTT KRAMER Senior Editor, GOLF MAGAZINE
With drivers costing as much as my first car did, there is a growing market for counterfeit clubs. Knockoffs, which range from reasonable reproductions to outright copies that infringe on trademarks, can cost up to 85 percent less than name-brand originals. Knockoff drivers sell for $60 to $100 (versus $500 for high-end genuine models), while knockoff irons go for $110 to $440 (compared with $1,000 or more).

According to Rob Duncanson, a lawyer who represents Cleveland, Cobra, TaylorMade and Titleist, knockoff clubheads account for at least half the clubheads imported into the U.S. Most come from Asia, where the majority of clubheads — real and bogus — are made.

To see how the imitations stack up, GOLF MAGAZINE tested some knockoffs against authentic clubs with a hitting machine at Golf Laboratories in Del Mar, California, an independent facility run by Gene Parente, who has built similar machines for major manufacturers and the USGA.

James Yang

Buyer Beware

It was difficult even to find the clubs we wanted — a sign of the essential unreliability of knockoffs. After searching the Web, browsing golf shops and sifting through bins at swap meets, we bought knockoffs of some popular drivers and irons. We requested specifications to match those of the name-brand clubs they would be tested against, but most transactions didn’t go smoothly.

One driver model was different from the club we ordered. When we called to ask why, a representative said the clubhead was “suddenly discontinued” and offered a refund. Other pirate models arrived with the wrong lofts, with notes saying that our requested loft wasn’t available. Only one knockoff driver came with the requested loft. The others measured from a half-degree lower to 1.5 degrees higher. And nearly every knockoff driver we tested had a flat lie angle, which can cause pushes.

One of the 5-irons we ordered by phone never arrived; the company lost its record of the purchase. Some knockoffs came with shafts longer than we ordered, so we had to tweak the specs.

Testing, Testing

We tested the authentic clubs and the knockoffs under the same conditions.

Knockoff drivers produced a much wider dispersion — at least twice as wide, on average — on off-center hits. “Legitimate manufacturers have specific design guidelines to balance clubhead weight and maximize performance across the face,” says Todd Beach, TaylorMade’s director of product development for metalwoods. “But knockoff makers just copy the aesthetics, so their products may have a misplaced center of gravity.” This could explain why the knockoff drivers occasionally produced inexplicable squirters.

Our knockoff drivers also hit the ball much lower, resulting in a shorter carry — up to 30 yards shorter — than the originals. Improper weighting seems to be one cause; another is poor shaft quality. “We pick our shafts to optimize performance,” says Barney Adams, chairman of Adams Golf. “The knockoff guys sell the cheapest shafts they can get their hands on. It’s not unusual for their shafts to work in conflict with the clubhead rather than in concert with it.”

James Yang

Like the drivers, the pirate 5-irons we tested produced a wide shot dispersion. Ball flight was adventurous, too. Compared with name-brand irons, the knockoffs produced less spin and launched shots lower, causing hard-to-control fliers. “Knockoff makers tend to manipulate their lofts so golfers hit the ball longer. They cast grooves with inferior and inaccurate dimensions, and place a higher center of mass in the irons, all of which sacrifice control, accuracy and consistency,” says Todd Harman, Cleveland Golf’s director of product marketing. Ideally, irons feature consistent lofts and a lower center of gravity, giving the player more control and helping him get the ball into the air. Most golfers have trouble hitting long irons; the last thing they need is a 5-iron that plays like a 3-iron.

The knockoff irons occasionally hit the ball longer in our tests. But even that can be a drawback: Major manufacturers point out that many knockoff irons have inconsistent loft, size and shape progressions through the set. These faults can cause inconsistent distance gaps from iron to iron.

We tried contacting several knockoff makers but they would not comment on their clubs’ apparent shortcomings. However, distributors stand by the clubs’ performance. Mike Giancanelli, president of Discount Golf Clubs and Equipment, which sells knockoffs, says, “We provide the best value and we guarantee it.”

Despite this claim, our tests show you get what you pay for.

The knock off on knockoffs

“Knockoffs may look similar on the surface, but when you look inside them, the number of subtle differences is enormous,” says Chris McGinley, vice president of marketing for Titleist. “Think of copying a document on paper — each version is a degradation of the previous one. It’s much worse with golf clubs.” Knockoffs’ many faults include:
·  Inferior metal ·  Wrong shaft length
·  Wrong swing weight ·  Mismarked shaft flex
·  Wrong club weight ·  Improperly trimmed shaft
·  Off-center scoring lines ·  Inconsistent distance gapping in iron sets
·  Non-standard lie angles ·  Sloppy assembly
·  Unbalanced clubhead weighting ·  Poor finish and paint job
·  Closed/open clubfaces ·  Poor feel
·  Misstated wood lofts ·  Funny-sounding impact
·  Mismatched shaft and head  
These shortcomings are not always readily apparent, making knockoffs a high-risk purchase.

 

Wedge Hunt

scorebig

Wedge Hunt
Make sure you bring home the right scoring clubs

SCOTT KRAMER Senior Editor, GOLF MAGAZINE
Choosing wedges used to be easy. You just played the pitching wedge and sand wedge that came with your iron set. Today, however, wedges come in an array of lofts, bounces and finish options. Many Tour pros carry four wedges, allowing them to dial in distances and perform greenside miracles. Average players can also benefit from specialization — if they buy the right club for the job.

James Yang

Loft

How many wedges should you carry? “Most golfers need three or four, since they miss so many greens,” says David Lowe, Ben Hogan Golf’s marketing director. Everyone needs a pitching wedge, which has 45 to 49 degrees of loft. Beyond that, you should have a consistent gap — four to six degrees of loft — between wedges.

“If you have an average swing speed, you’ll see a seven-yard distance change for every two degrees of loft,” says TaylorMade product manager Jose Miraflor.If you carry only two wedges, arm yourself with a pitching wedge and sand wedge of 54 to 57 degrees.

However, you’re hurting your chance to shave strokes with only two wedges. If you add more, start with the highest loft — instructors recommend the 60-degree lob wedge — and then gap lofts evenly down to the pitching wedge. (See “Loft Laws.”)

The lob wedge can get the ball out of thick rough and steep greenside bunkers, and produces “higher, softer shots that stay close to the hole on fast and undulating greens,” says GOLF MAGAZINE short-game guru Dave Pelz.

A 52-degree gap wedge will come in handy if there’s a large difference in loft between your pitching and sand wedges.

Bounce

Bounce — the amount a club’s leading edge is above the bottom of the sole — affects how a club moves through turf. “Too much makes the club rebound off the surface before it gets to the ball — you’ll hit a skulled shot,” says Pelz.

Too little bounce can cause a wedge to dig into the turf behind the ball, leading to fat shots. Bounce can range from zero to 16 degrees; a higher number means more bounce.

If your course has spongy fairways and deep rough and you find a lot of fluffy lies in the sand, you need plenty of bounce. If your course offers tight lies and firm sand, or you prefer to play shots with an open clubface, then opt for less.

Try this test: Make a full swing with a pitching wedge and take a divot. If the divot is deeper than one-third of an inch, you need more bounce. If the divot is shallower, you need less.

Finish

Wedge finishes can be chrome, darkened or raw, and the differences aren’t just cosmetic. “Chrome can dilute the stopping power of grooves,” says TaylorMade’s Miraflor.

“Because it’s a plating, it softens groove edges and takes up room in the groove that could be used for channeling away debris at impact.”

In general, darkened wedges (made with colored chromes or special heat treatments) have a similar feel and hardness to standard chrome, without the glare. Raw, unchromed wedges can produce more spin and softer feel than the rest.

Clubfaces must comply with USGA Rules, so your texture choices are limited. Most new faces feel gritty but get smoother with wear. Their rough finish can help you spin the ball more around greens, but it can also shred ball covers, grab too much grass and cause stray shots.

“The additional spin may make the ball float, causing your approach shot to fall short of the target on half-swings and three-quarter-swings,” says Todd Sones, a GOLF MAGAZINE Top 100 Teacher.

Shaft

Use steel shafts with a regular or slightly softer flex. You’ll get more feel, particularly on short chip shots. Roger Cleveland, Callaway’s chief designer, suggests using wedges with slightly heavier shafts as well: “Added weight gives you more feel with slow-swing touch shots.”

Loft Laws

Manufacturers and instructors suggest: 

If you carry two wedges: 

48° pitching wedge and 56° sand wedge

If you carry three: 

48° pitching wedge, 54° sand wedge and 60° lob wedge

If you carry four: 

48° pitching wedge, 52° gap wedge, 56° sand wedge and 60° lob wedge