Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pre-weekend - World Amateur Handicap Championship

Well it's the time of year that i really really look forward to (when i can afford it). The Myrtle Beach Golf Holidays World Amateur Handicap Championship (hitherto forward referred to as the "world am" because damn).  You can keep up with their blog HERE. So the World Am is a great huge tournament comprised of over 3000 golfers who descend on Myrtle Beach every year to play for glory. It's a great deal if you're an early registrant. I believe it was $575 this year. That's 4 days of golf guaranteed, donuts and coffee at the courses, swag bag (you can see it here), and 4 night of free food and drink at the 19th hole expo put on at the Sheraton Inn conference center.

Decided to leave around 4am... actually got on the road closer to 5.  Truth of the matter is... traffic around Baltimore is a whole lot more manageable at that time of day. Actually i was past DC well before the sun came up. Holy crap I was making good time. FYI the Virginia Visitors center and the North Carolina Welcome Center are both very good places to stop. They're just far enough from each other to give you a much needed break, and they're very clean and secure. Neither have gas stations though - be forewarned. One stop for gas just after the NC station and i made it to Myrtle with no issues. Actually, it took me longer to go the last 10 miles because of MB traffic on 501.

I decided to stay at the Sheraton conference center, just so i wouldn't have a lot of travelling to do. Be forewarned... there is an $8.00 +tax fee to park here each night. Doesn't matter if you're staying at the hotel or if you're coming from outside, you have to pay to park. That's ridiculous IMO. Paying upwards of $100 per night AND you have to pay for your car to be on premises?? Not again, i'll tell you that. When i stayed here about 6 years ago, i didn't have a car so i didn't realize that was happening. Nobody mentioned it on the phone either while i was making the reservation,  so i was pretty surprised.
I had a nice burger and some beers for dinner, but was pretty much exhausted from the drive, so i called it an early night.


Went to the PGA tour superstore to register. Up early, got there right when they opened and the line was already super long. Got my swag bag and decided to hit the XR16 driver again, against my own driver --- still not up to snuff. It's the only swinging i've been doing since friday... My cut is so out of sorts, i just don't feel right over the ball. Hoping that just goes away. Not going to think about it anymore. Either way, despite being 2 inches longer physically, the XR can't hold a candle to it. Oh well. Still searching. good for the confidence though, to know i'm still playing the best gear for my game. warmed up and took a 3 ball comparison.

Getting ready now to take a walk to Broadway at the Beach - where the opening party is going to be. I might take an umbrella... looks a little overcast out but meh, live a little. I could use the walk and the shower i suppose. haha. It's been a good day so far. met some cool people too and will probably meet more tomorrow. Going to wrap up here and get out hoofin' it. Go have a cigar at the tinder box and chill out the rest of the day. Tomorrow is going to be epic... here's to a good start!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Getting the shaft - part 2-ish or "Giving the Indian a crooked arrow"

I posted a couple weeks ago about OEMs and their shaft offerings when getting fit for a club. With all the shafts out there and most of them for no upgrade charge "I'll just get the most expensive because it's the best, right?"  Seems to be a common occurrence.  Well, yes - and no.  Recently, a client of mine - we'll call him Smashy -  was having troubles with his driver. He bought it, and hits it good sometimes but remains very inconsistent so he gave me a ring to see if there was something in the equipment. "Chris, it's not the arrow, it's the Indian"  ----- Native American, please Dude. Still, i don't care if you're Robin Hood:  If your arrow isn't right, you're not hitting a damn thing.

Well, Smashy is kind of a big dude. The kind I wouldn't like to meet in any sort of alley, let alone a dark one. Big hands, oversize grips, taller than me (not hard to do, but still), and when he takes a cut at the ball he can exceed 121 mph.  Smashy is currently gaming a Stiff flex in his driver.  But Chris, you said flex isn't standard over all manufacturers, that could be ok right?  Yes, thanks for paying attention!! Still, when something is very very wrong, it's good to check it out to pinpoint the issue.

Well, we put Smashy on the Flightscope and found out some things about his swing. Overall, it's very repeatable and VERY hard. Gosh it makes my back hurt thinking about it.  So we warmed him up, and put some good swings on his current driver to get the numbers. Spin was high at 3100+, launch was OK, but AOA at -3 and AOD at 56 degrees was a real issue.  I checked out the flex profile and saw that he was FAR out-swinging the current shaft and the tip was way too active.

Note the squiggly lines on the left side. Layman's terms, this is how the shaft is loading and accelerating the head before impact (0). Orange is the current shot at screen grab, but all the shots are represented in gray. Take note at how some of the lines start high and then decelerate, then accelerate again. This is common in every shaft. It doesn't just bow and unload at one point. The bad news here is that while it kicks HARD, it can't handle the energy store for his particular swing and while it was kicking hard relative to the flex, it wasn't hard enough - note 107mph swing. In addition, the lines are not relatively close to each other or at the same shape - indicating that it's loading faster or slower by quite a bit, and sometimes it even decelerates before impact because of how aggressively loaded the shaft is.  Not a terrible shaft - but not at all a good fit. We want everything going in the same direction and consistently.  Smashy - being a fade/slice player - needed something that would accelerate quickly and help close the face, but be able to handle his aggressive transition and even give him a little bit better of an attack angle.  So, we put him in the budget-friendly Vista Pro 75  X flex.

A little about the Vista Pro - it's the basic end of Fujikura's offerings. It was originally released about 3 decades ago (?) and dominated then - so they re-engineered the materials and tech to re-release this year, replacing their EXS line of shafts.  FYI it has the same bend profile as the Tour AD DI shaft - for $280 less....

10 shots with the Vpro shaft, and notice how much more evenly the lines mirror each other. A few outliers on awkward swings, but the shaft helps out and loads/ unloads much more consistently for Smashy than his original shaft. This X flex and lower torque rating is much more able to handle his aggressive nature and perform consistently so that he can hit drives in a repeatable fashion.  Only one swing failed to produce good acceleration in this instance.  Taking this information - there was nothing else at this pricepoint that could take the kind of swing he had, so for fun I pulled out the HZRDUS black 6.0 (6.5) which active flex rates between stiff and X... Just for fun, to see if we could squeeze a little more consistency... Remember, this shaft is rated LESS flex than this X.....

As you can see - experiment failed.  While he could load the shaft well sometimes and it performed fairly consistently for him - it was just not a good fit for the swing. HZRDUS is TOO aggressive and TOO STIFF for the way Smashy swings, so could not effectively load and unload for him consistently..... We even hit the LZ, with the same results.... just not as good as the Vpro for Smashy Smashworth. Two high-end shafts knocked out due to fit. Now he has a great fit and saved a boatload to spend on lessons if he needs!!

But wait --- H Black is more expensive than the Vpro!!! It should be better!  Truth is that yes, it is "better" in it's numbers - lowering spin and launch - but it is not better for this player because it doesn't fit his swing. When he hit it, he bombed it but the consistency is not there and we all know in golf it's less about how good your good shots are and more about how bad your bad shots are. I've had fittings already where this scenario was 100% reversed! Fitting needs to happen properly!

The moral of this story - don't buy something because it's expensive or "included". Pros use stuff because they have a team of people that sit and stare at every ball hit, analyze it and build them a new golf club in between each bucket. The shaft they have fits them, and know what --- manufacturers will paint whatever they want on it for them. There is nothing "stock" about a club if you see a pro playing what you see on the rack, trust me.

This is what a competent fitter brings to the table. Find your local guy - NOT someone on a sim at a box store but someone who does building and fitting. Someone who has no one else besides you at your appointment and isn't going to leave you or hurry you so he can go sell some girl a new golf skirt in the next department over. There are plenty of small shops and guys squinting at fulcrum scales, agonizing over the last few grains of lead to put into a club head to make it exactly what they need for their client. Sit down, have a beer, and discuss - you'll make a friend and have a great guy just like the pros do, and lift your game up another level.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Are you getting the "shaft" when you buy a club? - Part 1, sorta

A little on shafts ... just a little

There has been a lot of things circulating lately about shafts and how they affect performance.  One noted reviewer did a small study where he hit an X flex and senior (A) flex of shaft and noted that on the monitor there was no difference between the performance of the shaft, only the feel between the two.   Another is adamant that the performance of the golf club comes primarily from the shaft. Both are very well known and have massive followings - but who is correct?

The only way to settle this, unfortunately, is to draw your own conclusions. Good thing is, I can give you the knowledge and steer you in the right direction to do so.  I can tell you without a doubt that shafts absolutely make a difference. Why then, when you go to the box stores and try all the different clubs from different manufacturers, with different shafts do they all go about the same for you. Well, that's the rub. The shaft has to be a match for the swing and head that is being used. We've all heard big OEMs say "high launch and low spin is optimal for maximum distance".  That is true, in a vacuum, which is why there are so many shafts out there - what's good for one person to get high launch and low spin is not good for others!

Case A:  I took a tip-stiff shaft -  very little action, high kick point and low spin/launch. Put that in a low spinning head with a low loft and hit it. I put the best move I could on it, hit it in the dead center of the face. This was my ball flight.  Note the carry distance, total, and spin number.

I took the same shaft, in a lighter flex, which had higher launching properties than the original, and a slightly softer tip. This is pretty standard across the board, as shafts get lighter in flex, the launch properties change.  This is what the result was:

Note how higher spin and higher launch got me more distance - not an incredible amount...but that goes against the High/Low that is "optimal". The reason is because everyone swings differently. I have a slightly negative attack angle so i put a little more spin on the ball than usual and the effective loft that I deliver is low, which is why I launch a 10.5 driver at 10 degrees and less... Now, what happens if i put the 2nd shaft on the first head? Glad you asked:

In this scenario, the higher launch, but lower spin head really negated the more active tip section but my total distance still fell short by a yard or so. Carry distance suffered 4 yards. Not a huge deal, and i'd take either one of these two combinations, but it does show - if not slightly - that high launch and low spin aren't universally better depending on what you want. On a standard surface it's less roll, but if i'm trying to carry a creek or get over a hill, i want to maximize carry. Hard pan will roll just fine. Know this - if one of these shafts was included in the build and the other was $200 more? which one do you think I'm getting? So what does this mean?

It means that shaft absolutely matters. Flex absolutely matters. Is one shaft better than the other? That's subjective, but if you're getting the same numbers and performance with two different flexes, there's something about your swing that's changing to compensate - wether it's tempo, release, or speed -- and honestly a shaft that's a good fit for you should complement how you swing and you shouldn't have to change for it or any piece of equipment for that matter.  The other side of that coin is that shaft type and flex doesn't necessarily matter as much as some people think.  Barring COMPLETELY improper flex (having a super stiff low launching X when an Lflex is needed), I've never had a fitting where someone increased distance 40 yards just by changing shaft brand or flexes.  You can easily gain 5 to 15 yards, but that's about max on average. More important is the DISPERSION benefit from the proper shaft ..... and a GOOD shaft at that. Distance doesn't matter when you're hitting out of the trees.

What makes a shaft good... and why are some so expensive... and WHICH SHOULD I CHOOSE?

Shafts, when swinging, are under a pretty hefty load sometimes. Even if you're not a big swinger and have a light flex, that sucker is still going to flex a good 5 or more inches off it's base line. This stores the energy of the swing and releases it (hopefully) at the right moment to power that ball down the fairway (or into the woods, depending on who you are).  Shafts have areas of stiffness, areas of flex, and different torque - all dependent on how they are wound and layered by the manufacturer. With new technologies and materials, shaft makers can even change flex properties according to where and how much heat/pressure is applied to the fibers. It's really amazing!!! 

In my world, a shaft is "good" if it flexes predictably in all rotations. Or at least fairly so. Just last night i showed a client of mine what happens when you horizontally load a shaft and release it. We did it first with a high end OBAN Devotion.  Rotating the shaft, it was noticeably better and more consistent in one area than it was in all others - Good enough to get some performance out of but not absolutely necessary. We then did it with a $15 budget stick. We aligned the spine and it flexed just as repeatably as the Oban, but when we turned it off that axis..... oh lord. Like a drunk etch-a-sketch, that tip was all over the place, flexing and oscillating. How is that supposed to deliver the club to the ball consistently? No way i would install that shaft without FLO - and i don't. But that's the point.  At a price point over 10x what the budget shaft was, the Oban was much more suited to a driver where the adjustable hosel will be rotated and changed. The performance won't necessarily suffer if settings are changed. Put the budget one in a club like that and good luck, pal.  That is why when you buy an OEM driver, they have a BUNCH of high end shafts available - some for an upcharge and some not.... The upcharge are (normally) more consistent in their manufacture. The tolerances are tighter and it will perform better in just about any orientation. Making these shafts costs $$$$$ so that's why there are $1000 shafts out there. Believe me, you'll feel the difference.  The question is - do you need it? Unless your name is on the leader board every weekend, probably not. And no, having a $1000 shaft isn't going to put you there either. 

So what am I supposed to do!! 

Supposed to do? See a pro about your game. Get better.  What SHOULD you do?  Take better care of your equipment. When you buy that club, it's got a great shaft in it. Don't abuse it, don't break it - because to get one that's as good, it's going to cost you.  There are great shafts from yester-year out there. Old designs that were good in the day and can be had for a fraction of what a new one costs. Remember this though --- there are no caps on shaft performance. While heads are limited and new ones come out every year with a new gimmick, there's no way they can "out perform" a head that has been maxxed to USGA specs. There are NO SUCH SPECS for shafts. They need only be straight (except putter flanges) and of a certain length. Energy transfer, torque, flex, materials, diameter and the like are not regulated by the USGA. Look at the DG spinner wedge shaft... Weird right? It may very well bring your wedge game where it's never been before - all because of the design.  Manufacturers make shafts to do good things. This tech is growing and becoming better understood each year. Fujikura has taken millions of data points to create it's XLR8 line with specific properties to maximize loading and energy transfer. Same with Project X and their LZ series and HZRDUS line. Matrix improves on their designs (and graphics) each year and a number of boutique manufacturers are coming up like Veylox and OBAN.  Be aware as well when getting a high end "free" upgrade from an OEM. Make sure it's the version you think you're paying for. I know for certain that some big names are "giving" the HZRDUS black as a no upgrade. It is different than the "Handcrafted" version you see on tour and available for aftermarket purchase. Due diligence.

If you have the chance - get fit for a shaft. You'll be glad you did.  Hit everything they have to offer if you need to go to a box store, and for goodness sake - if you break a shaft don't just put any old crap in there. Make sure to go to a competent repair and fitting shop and talk through it with them. Don't skimp out on the price either. You get what you pay for. If you use an adjustable driver, you need to put that money back into the club if it breaks - look for someone selling their shaft, or get a proper quality one put in. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Magazine advice, social media and bad tips...

I spend a lot of time on social media. I enjoy helping people, it's what I do. When i'm asked about a shaft or a swing or a thought, generally speaking i don't offer advice. I offer information.  Information as to what should be happening to get the best out of the equipment or make the ball do what you want, NOT what they're doing or not doing in their swing.  I offer ball flight laws and the effect shafts have on different swings. Why? Because 99.99999% of the time there is little to no information about what is going on with that golfer and I have little to no time to have an at length conversation with the subject to gain the information needed. 

Watch this video:
What's wrong with this swing? It's very flat, the club is in a decent position, but not perfect at address, head dips a little low on the swing, and the hips clear pretty fast.  Far from picture perfect. Probably most of what i wrote above would be exactly what you would see written or would write yourself if this was posted and said "any help, i would be grateful".   Heres the thing.. what you don't know is that this person has no L5/S1 disk in their spine. Their shoulder locks on a spur if it goes higher or any different position farther forward than what you see here, and the grass is wet, and they aren't wearing spikes. They also average 10/14 fairways per round and hit the ball over 250 yards consistently.  All those things considered - i think it's a pretty darn good swing.  Mostly because it's mine - at an impromptu demo day for Ping where i wanted to try the new offerings they had.  Still, that didn't stop the advice on ball position and where to get my hands and how to angle the club and how i was wrong wrong wrong wrong.  Some of them were even Local Pros in different states!  Here's my advice to you - the only real advice i give.... Be very very very VERY wary of what you read and post online. Especially coming from "Pros" or "Teachers". They're very often the real deal, but no coach worth the dirt in your divot will give you any advice based on your description or a single video. They would want at least 2 different angles, head on and Down the line of the same swing, and to have a lengthy conversation about what you do and don't do.  

Still, every day I read comments from Pros and hacks alike - stuff they read in a golfing magazine once. Something that works for Adam Scott - former #1 player in the world - is a crapshoot for a middle aged bogey shooter who has trouble walking 18 holes. It's just the way it is.  Looking for advice online from forums and social media is only going to hurt your game and maybe even your body - trying to do something that it's physically unable to do. While you may be able to glean some moves off it, remember to sort out the information from the advice. There will be different and opposing opinions and as we know on the internet - everyone has to be right.  

In my area, you can get a great swing evaluation from a real teaching professional for less than the cost of a round of golf. That is absolutely invaluable. When  you decide to change equipment or swing characteristics without factual information about what you're already doing, you're throwing money away or chancing that you're going to make your game even worse - and with no way of going back. Practice makes PERMANENT, only perfect practice makes perfect. If you practice something that is incorrect, it's going to stick with you and will be harder to get rid of. Good advice CAN be found in a magazine, but figuring out if it applies to you is not your job. Go to your local PGA or LPGA pro and start a conversation. One lesson can go a long long way. 

Take things with a grain of salt - especially things written on social media. It's a forum where any keyboard warrior feels invincible and will waste no time in ruining others just because they can. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My time with the M2 6iron - Part 2

As you may or may not have read in Part 1, I had the lovely fortune of getting a Taylormade M2 6 iron in the mail. I detailed it's specs there, which I will not go into again here, and came to the conclusion that something was up. Well... the problem is that NOTHING is up, except marketing budgets.

Before we begin, let me state some facts:  

The M2 is stock exactly as it came from Taylormade. I opened the box, examined it, and took it out to hit. 

Lofts of the irons are nearly identical. +/- about 1 degree.  Length varied with the M2 being 38" long, and the KE4 being 37" long physically. 

As previously stated in part 1, even though marked differently, the shafts in each club test the same flex, so regardless that the TM is labelled stiff and mine is a "regular" they are actually both the same flex.  See some of my other writings for why this happens and other things "They" don't want you to know.

I'm hitting the same types of balls with both clubs. I went through painstaking measures to sort through range balls and find the best balls, making sure they're all of the same type and removing all the non-range and/or any balls that don't seem right (a big "screw you" to all the people who bring their own garbage balls to hit at the range. Shame on you. Keep your top rocks to yourself nobody wants to hit your budget balls - even in practice. Do you understand the looks I got while sorting through all these range balls? DO YOU?!). Ok......

The weather has finally broken (again) here in Pennsylvania and I was absolutely itching to get out and play golf. Since there's no cream for that sort of itch, the only solution is to get out and chase a little white ball around in the sunshine.  As luck would have it, there was a scheduled demo day at Crossgates Golf Course in Millersville that I was due at with my Clubcrowns and Shaft wraps, and that means I would have some time (and free balls) to hit all the 6 irons my heart desired!! Well, it's time for the cold, hard truth.  Let me preface this and say that I was duly warm for this test. Having hit a bucket with each 6 iron before taking measurements. I wanted to be loose, and I wanted to make sure I had the feel of each club fresh before measuring shots. For each,  I took the best 8 shots - removing the worst and the best from the original 10 "pressure" shots.

I'll get right to it, then tell you why:
The M2 is not all it's cracked up to be. Not for me anyway. Funny I should have those choice in words because that's honestly what I felt like I was going to do to this 6 iron. Every shot felt like the club could shatter... and the sound. Oh god, the sound. I mean, I can't even describe it to do it justice. If you took about 5 of those cheap tupperware lids you find on Chinese take out now, stacked them up and hit a ball with them?  I think that would come close. It's a plastic "slap!" that does not instill confidence in me at all. I mean, I even absolutely MURDERED one - smash factor was almost up near my driver as far as energy transfer (which is a very good sign for this head mind you) and the thing still sounded and felt like the head was just going to fall apart. The grip being off-center didn't bug me as much as I thought it would but I could definitely feel it. Thing is, it SHOULD have helped me turn the ball over in a right to left draw, but it most certainly did not. The stiff shaft (which was actually regular) felt ok as far as flex and shock goes, but as we'll see in the flightscope data later, it was actually all over the place.

 I will concede that the longest shot of the M2 was longer than the longest shot of my own Maltby KE4. As stated previously in Part 1, this was fully expected considering that the shaft is a full inch longer than my current 6 iron. That being said, the SHORTEST of the M2 was Shorter than my KE4. If one is to believe the marketing, this should not be happening. So as things average out, the M2 still comes in longer than my current 6 by approximately 2 feet overall. Not exactly the gains promised by the manufacturer.  Something else I noticed, interestingly enough is that the M2 on average did NOT fly higher than my own 6 iron. Again, contrary to the marketing.

 Looking at the overall data, we can see a few things. First, the numbers for the M2 are slightly better in some areas. Total distance, is better by almost a yard, but strangely the carry distance is better on my original 6 iron by 1.1 yards. You can make your own inferences at what you want, but I'll mark this down as an original iron win. I want carry distance and stopping power in my irons. I could care less to hit my 6 iron 200 yards if 20 yards of that is roll. I want it to go high and come down soft. Isn't that what the M2 is supposed to do anyway?  The spin on the M2 did average higher- but you can see the minor outlier of 9080 RPM, and 8635 RPM of spin. That's high but since my metal on a stick got to nearly 7000 I didn't think it unfeasible that this new technology could achieve that. Hell, smash factor near my driver! Either way, since the Flightscope is on outdoor settings and tracks the ball to finish rather than calculating into a net, I kept them in for the overall data. All things considered, smash factor, spin, and ball speed were higher with the M2 - why didn't it fly farther though? I'm as stumped as you, but being there and seeing the ball flight and where the shots ended up, I can confirm the data.

Let's talk about clusters and accuracy. The M2 boasts more forgiveness than standard clubs. There's a speed pocket at the bottom and all manner of carbon plastic do-dads in the back and up the face that are supposed to help create more speed and forgiveness across the entire face. Remember before when I said that the longest was longer than my 6iron, but the shortest was shorter? Well, here's how it looks on the chart:

Looking at this chart, it maps out the shots as they landed and calculates standard deviations. The forward and back for the M2 are not to my liking, especially for all the promises made on keeping ball speed up with the pocket on low hits.  This basically means that I could hit a dead solid shot and and have it settle on the green, then drop another ball and have it come up with a difference of 15 yards. That's a club and a half!!! You'll have to take my word for it when I say this, but in all honesty these shots were not all that far apart on the face. It's not like one was 1/2 inch out on the toe and one was 1/2 inch on the heel. My ball striking is pretty good.  Talk about being in between clubs. The right to left deviation is another concern. It seemed like the iron didn't know which way it wanted to correct. Remember when I said I was being fair between the two clubs? Well, sorry KE4, I was on the side of the M2 for a lot of this....

Height and direction:

After hitting balls and warming up to get the feel for each club, I knew the M2 was not getting in the air for me. I watched as ball after ball was a line drive and just was not getting off the ground. I actually teed one up in the test below to make sure I would catch the ball perfectly on the club face and get the ball up (didn't do that with my 6 iron). Nope not at all - although it did give me a 184 yard bullet which was nice.  Both screens below are the best shot, distance wise, in the group. The M2 rolled out about 2 yards farther than the KE4 and definitely did not get as high. You can see also, that the correction of the M2 kind of left me with  two way miss. I'm a slight fade ball hitter. I can work the ball both ways if I want to (let me stop here and say that the M2 IS predictably workable when hit well) but my go-to is a little fade. Bad back and shoulders make that an easy shot. So why all the left on the M2?  Correction in that "forgiveness" category. It is workable, as I said, when you hit it well, but if you catch a little toe or a little heel, it tends to over correct for the shot, which left a few of the balls to the left, and one WAY out to the right. It's meant to hit the ball straight on off-center hits, but for it to correct and do that you have to deliver the club mostly square anyway. If you're an 18 handicap that has an open club face, it's not going to really do you much good -- then again, no club will. Sorry it's just the way it is. Lessons, folks.

Talking materials:
I think one of the last things we need to talk about here is quality of components. There are good metals and bad metals. Good graphite and bad graphite. Good build quality and bad build quality. If you take the time to know your product and put in the time to assemble it correctly it will treat you well.  Here's where the M2 gets some love. It COULD BE a good club. It really could. OMG could it be good. There's things that need to be addressed, however. First:  Lose the FST ultralight shaft. If you want light, use an MCI 80 graphite composite shaft. This stock shaft is not doing it for me, or most likely for anybody.  The two charts below show flex action for the two clubs. The orange line is the flex acceleration for the longest shot on each. The gray line are all the other shots. You'll notice that both of the longest and best shots came with a downward sloping profile. It's just what fits me the best as a golfer. The head actually isn't accelerating through the ball (even with my relatively low swing speed, I'm still a high-spin player) and it's allowing me to hit flush and keep the flight where it's optimal with my swing. Now, notice how the shaft on the left (incidentally, a Fujikura 95i Sflex graphite shaft, soft stepped) is relatively consistent in it's flexing along the swing. With both clubs I have a few crap shoots in there, but for the most part it is a very consistent grouping.  Now look at the FST in the M2. Not for me at all. Some times it kicks hard at the bottom, sometimes not. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the hosel design, with the crazy air foils, or if it's just due to the shaft combo and length. I do know that it's not something I'm down with for anyone. Even with the most inconsistent swings, I want the shaft to perform predictably if not optimally.  That grouping at the top should be tighter as well as all the way through the middle of the swing.

FST makes some great shafts - The KBS Ctaper is phenominal, as well as the Tour90. Even the FST 115 and similar models can be great on a budget.... IF they're installed properly. This, in my opinion, could benefit from a FLO run. Very much like assembly lines though, this was more than likely pulled out of a pile and assembled, checking for length and weight, not much else.

So what have we learned from all this.... If you haven't fallen asleep or had your head explode looking at the photos and reading my terrible font, then you've probably come to the same conclusion I have.  The M2 is not a good stock club. It's just not. Off the rack, it won't really help you gain yards or accuracy unless you fit it perfectly as is.  The M2 head is subjective when it comes to sound and feel. If you're at all into the "THWACK" of a good hit, then the M2's is not for you. At best, a pure shot will leave you with an unsatisfying "click" sound and sort of a plastic resonance feel up the shaft. It can accurately be described as a toy sound and feel, not premium golf club feedback. It looks fancy, but doesn't deliver on the promises - even when the deck is stacked in it's favor with a longer shaft and slightly jacked lofts.  Still, it's a smart looking club. It really has a different back cavity look and even though the top line is thick, I don't really mind it in comparison to the thinner players clubs. it really instills confidence at address if not in performance.

.... and I thought Xfinity's appointment windows were bad...
After all this, I would urge you to give one a hit and see if you can tolerate it.  See what other shaft options they have as upgrades. With all of this technology that doesn't really seem to do much, I have to wonder if the upgrade would be worth it, though. You're paying more to get what the stock option should have delivered. With a pricetag of $800 average per set, it's not something that I would ever recommend to run out and buy sight unseen. A qualified builder could make you a set of component irons that out duel this badboy for less - plus they'll be everything you want and more as far as options. Example, Put a ProjectX 5.5 with new decade grips on these bad boys and you're looking at almost $1000.00. Oh, and apparently it'll ship between 2 days from now and next September?  Go out, look around and pay attention. Always ask "why" when you're getting fit and when someone wants to sell you something. Why do you need this? Why is it better? Why will it do what you say it will? Most importantly of all - is the investment worth the payoff? Is 5 yards worth $499?  Is a marginal improvement worth $1000? For me, no. This is just my experience though. You may crank these guys and if you do, I say drop that money and get them. It's about what works for you, and if you've read anything else I've written, you know that's the only thing you should worry about. Not name, not what flex you hit, and certainly not what some guy on the internet has to say. Get out there and get swinging!

Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you again on the next post!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

My time with the M2 6iron - Part 1

I was recently chosen - along with about 5000 others -  to try out the new Taylormade M2 iron. They shipped me a 6 iron, via fedex and it arrived today. The claim is that this 6 iron will go higher, and farther than my current 6 iron. I immediately put to task getting all the vitals on the new M2 iron and came up with some really disturbing things:

1.  The specs on the site say that the 6 iron is 37.625" long, D2 swingweight, and 25 degrees of loft. The 6 iron I received is 38.25" long, D3 swingweight and 26 degrees of loft. This is really disheartening for a company that is as large as TMAG. I refuse to believe that this iron is not INTENTIONALLY built like that. I'm not sure that is such a good thing over being a crappy build.  Being 1 degree off, or one swingweight off isn't a big deal. Well - maybe the swingweight, but I digress, 3/4 of an inch longer than it should be is a little much to be a mistake. Count that it's also a full inch longer than what a 6 iron should be - or 1/2 an inch+ if it's to spec'd length - sounds like someone isn't playing fair.

2.  I requested a regular flex. I'm not the man I used to be - or rather my back isn't the back it used to be - so I need something that doesn't have a lot on it. I put it on the deflection board and it comes out at a regular. The problem with this is that it's STIFF marked on the shaft - so it stands to reason that these club flexes are a full flex off of what the shaft is specified at. It also doesn't appear to be a high launch shaft. Mid to high at best, in my opinion, judging by the flex profile under load.

3.  The grip has a rib in it... which is fine. However, it's set so the face is at a closed position. This is presumably to be a reminder to press the hands forward, as it lines up nicely square for me when this is done. Still, when you look down the shaft - the grip is actually on crooked. The butt graphics line up with face square, and the bottom hand end of the grip is twisted strong, causing the hood. As a fitter and builder, putting the rib in a different position to promote face angle is fine, but for God's sake put the damn thing on straight. IT's ok to twist it, but  this is standard from the factory, come on! They're either trying to stack the deck with this length, or dare I say inept at putting a golf club together. It's nice to get something free, but how about something that's right?

Already Three strikes against this new iron from Taylormade. Overall it's kind of a sharp looking iron. I like the nickel black, I don't mind the thick topline as I play one myself, and it feels kind of nice at D3.  I chipped a few balls around the basement and I don't like the clickey sound I get from it. It also feels sort of hollow, like if I swung really hard I could cave the face in or break it.  The range time will tell there. I will put it up against my current 6 iron and see if it truly lives up to what TMAG says. Higher and Longer than my current 6. We'll see. The Flightscope will tell the tale - even though it's a fixed fight. 4 iron length, 5 iron loft - should go further.  My 6 iron is strong as well at 28 degrees, but it's the standard length for a 6 iron - a full inch under what this tester club is. All I can say is that this club better beat me by a LOT if it beats me at all.

Part 2 will be at the range with the flightscope.

Monday, April 4, 2016

How often do we fall for marketing over performance? Do you really want to know? DEMO DAY!

Let's talk marketing. Every cent paid to pros to play equipment, every ad, every paint job, every cardboard standup, and every little Google ad to the right or left of the page you're surfing on.  Marketing is what sells clubs. Why is that? Are we as golfers so inept at knowing what we want, or recognizing performance that we need other people to tell us how to spend our money? Certainly not. Are we tiny striped varmints that must have the shiniest new toy and keep up with the (Bobby) Joneses? Unfortunately that might be it.

When talking about technology - things don't leap forward at the pace manufacturers would have you believe - with one exception but I'll get to that later. Thing is, MOI, Trampoline effect, CC head size, Groove depth -- it's all CAPPED.  The USGA says "hey, that's enough. NO more".  There's an entire section in the rule book about what a club can and can't look like, all the way down to the amount of bend you can have in your plumber's neck putter. Not kidding at all. It's all carefully worded, carefully measured, and ham-fistedly capped by the USGA.  So why are there new clubs coming out every 6 months saying they're increasing this or that? Because it's 2016 and +1 micron is an increase. No joke, that's about what's happening too. Think of it this way:

Club A 2015 says it's average dispersion is 10 yards (just keeping round numbers here, kids) offline due to XYZ technology.  Club A 2016 promises a 10% improvement in dispersion over the previous model!  Sounds big, but that 10% improvement is 1 yard in this case. Actually it's half-a-yard on each side of the dispersion chart (right and left).  So, is 1/2 a yard closer to the center line really worth $500?  If you say yes, you have too much money and not enough grey matter....  The thing is, manufacturers have found the "buzz words" that golfers think they want to hear. They brought the tech side out and if they say it enough times, we'll just have to buy. Talk about turning a 50 cent word into a million bucks!

No, not the G crossover - Hybrid irons
just like it have been on the market and
performing to high standards for YEARS.
To continue.... These new clubs ARE released with some genuine technology in them - things like adjustable weights and adjustable hosel sleeves are really nice to help dial in the specific launch conditions that a player might need (not to mention they save the manufacturers MILLIONS by not having to manufacture different lofts). Some of it is even old tech recycled for a new generation. I remember in my youth (not too long ago actually) there were carbon fiber crowns and sliding weights.  They went away and came back just the same and now it's the "hot shit" with people buying it up like mad.  It's all reference and marketing.   "BUT CHRIS!" you say "I gained 10 yards over my last club!".   I'm sure you did, and there's a few good reasons for that - one of which I said I would get back to above.

1st, not to beat a dead horse but clubs are getting physically longer. We've covered this before. 5 irons the length of 4 irons. Drivers to 45.5 inches or more. That will get you distance if you hit it well, but the real reason is something nobody really thinks about outside of one letter::

THE SHAFT!  I'm not talking about just the length though. Every single one of those new drivers out there has a brand spanking new, redesigned shaft. There are options where you can get an older variety -- oddly enough considered an "upgrade" but for the most part each one has a new or different shaft.  Why is that? Because shaft technology is the only thing in golf equipment that's not limited.  WHAT? -- -Yes. --- NO!--- yes.   The length limit and shape of shaft is defined in the rule book, but there's really no way to limit kick, material, and energetic response of something like a shaft. Steel or graphite, if they're straight and under 48" playing length, they're legal. This is good news for us.

Over the past couple of years, shaft tech has absolutely EXPLODED. You can customize not only your flex, but your torque, kick point, materials, and balance point. Fujikura has an entire line of shafts that are all completely different flex profiles and amount of torque. There are shafts with multi-material blends where metal and graphite co-exist to make a crazy powerful combo.  Some have more resin or higher thread counts in certain areas to stiffen them up.  All of this combined allows more energy to get to the ball and provide you with more distance and accuracy. Piles of data is analyzed from what goes on at takeaway through just before impact and even afterward to create shafts that more or less hit it for you!  They know how you swing and are engineered to do one thing - deliver whatever you put on the end of them as hard and fast as it can into the back of that unsuspecting white orb on the tee in front of you.   Last week, I literally put a brand new 2016 shaft in a driver head that is 5 years old and it out performed every new driver that the client tested it against. Even if it came in a close second, that's still an immense improvement for not a lot of buck.

Now, a great shaft will not help a mis-engineered head. That's not what is going on here.  What's true is that there are caps made by the USGA on the heads of golf clubs. Believe me when I say that they are all within a few points of that legal limit. Unnoticeable by human perception kind of points. Even the little no-name component companies.  Look into a good engine for your club - it's going to be cheaper, and a better fit than picking up something new off the rack and trying to make it be your old faithful. Going back to another post from months past - you have to like what you're looking down at. If you like it, give it a tune-up.  Ol' Betsy still has some yards to be had, trust me......

If you wanna see what it can do - We're having a demo meet and greet at Leisure Lanes Driving range in Lancaster, PA this wednesday April 6th, 6-8:30pm (ish).  Come see what a shaft tweak can do for your driver, get your numbers on our flightscope, or just hit one of our component heads against your current neutron stick. It'll be fun!

What to do if you don't know what to do.... the Rules of Golf

I always recommend to those who want to play better to PLAY MORE COMPETITIVE GOLF. That's scrambles, singles, tournaments, even a $5.00 nassau with their friends. Put some pressure on your game.  With that pressure comes another understanding of the rules - not because you want to, but because you HAVE TO know how to play them properly. Knowledge builds character, pressure builds game.

Eventually you'll run into a situation where you don't know what to do. We're not talking OB stakes or my ball is in casual water - we're talking something so weird that you just don't have it in memory and you don't have time to look it up.  What to do in this case?  Well in this case, the Rules of Golf have you covered. Invoke rule 3-3  and play two balls.  Record both scores and sort it out with the committee at the end of the round.  This is a very good rule to know and can be the difference between a disqualification and a 2 stroke penalty.

Right or wrong - The Committee is
Judge and jury. May God have mercy
on your scorecard.....
One thing that you must remember on this, the committee's final ruling is the final ruling. Wether they're right or wrong, there's nothing you can do because what they say goes so remember to be factual and record all information regarding the rule discrepancy all the way down to what people say!  It's true - even in the case of someone hitting a provisional ball. It's not a provisional unless they say the word "provisional".  Look it up.  "I'm reloading" or "I'm going to hit another" does not constitute a provisional ball and will leave you hitting 4 from wherever it ends up (hopefully the fairway!).

From things you SHOULD say to things you SHOULDN'T say. Don't ever give advice on a swing, and when someone tells you they want to finish, don't say "take your time".  Both constitute a breach of rules and CAN be used against you in the Court of Golf (if your opponent chooses to call you on it).  We all expect the gentleman's response of "thanks" most times, but if you get a particularly competitive opponent you could end up two down really fast.

The rules of golf are there to protect the course and (believe it or not) to protect YOU from inequitable results.  The color of a set of stakes could be the difference between putting you in a great position to play and being stuck behind a tree or going back to the tee. Seems worth it to me! From where and how you can drop to what to do when someone takes your ball everything is in that tiny little rule book. They're not as convoluted as everyone would have you think either. Start at the beginning and read a few pages per day.  You'll go through it in no time and have a better understanding of what to do and when to do it - even save you a few strokes!

FYI you get a "free" copy for becoming a member of the USGA - in addition to getting a  neat hat! 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Are you REALLY paying that much for a name?! Come On!!

I hate to be the guy to beat a dead horse, but if you're playing the wrong equipment you're not going to improve as fast as you could. If you're playing the wrong equipment for a lame reason, then it's even worse! By far, the #1 reason people give at my demo days for not trying or buying custom fit non-branded names is the resale value. Correct, RESALE VALUE of the clubs that they're going to buy because it improves their game. Why are people so concerned with the resale value of something  that they will pay PREMIUM PRICE when new just to resell it and get something "better" another year down the road.

Sure, the resale value of an off-brand component set of irons is not going to be near the resale of a big name, but they're not going to be the same price at the start either.  Let's launch a hypothetical....

Say you're fit to a no-name driver with a premium brand shaft.  You are smashing the ball longer than you ever have, and straighter. It's a great club. Retails for $300 just for a nice round number.

You go out and are fit for a Tayloring XM 917 (see what i did there) and are hitting it the same as the No name club. Retail is $450-ish.

That's $150 difference.  $150 that can go into lessons or maybe even 3 rounds of golf!

The brand names will come down in price, but ask yourself why that happens? To make way for new things. New gimmicks. New paychecks to the tour pros who play them. All of that affects resale anyway. You can get $200 for a club when it's still new, but basically half the price of new retail and that's what you're looking at. The older it gets, the worse that ratio gets too.

Money makes the world go 'round. Ever since people started trading trinkets for items, someone has tried to think up new ways to make people part with their scratch.  The saturated golf market has made us all - even me at one point - think about what we're playing and tell ourselves that we NEED the new stuff.  Real talk - Technology is maxed out. These gains they're making in COR and MOI are minute at best and, very much like paying $499 to gain 5 yards over your existing equipment, not worth the effort.  Things like "multi material" technology were tried before but never caught on because we weren't into gimmicks back then. Things like the hybrid iron have been around for a long time, but now they're rebranding as a "crossover" and people are biting at a premium price.

Club manufacturers build a lot of clubs. Thousands. They send them all over the world and put all sorts of stickers and designs on them for rack appeal. Anyone who has tried to re-ell a club out there and done it, consider yourself lucky.  A quick search on some popular sale and auction sites will show pages and pages and pages of the same club.  Manufacturers know this, and they're the only ones making the money hand over fist. They advertise and pay players top dollar to play their gear all so hopefully you'll believe what they tell you. Ontop of that,  you get to advertise for them for FREE with all your branded gear.

Bottom line, if it helps you hit the ball farther and straighter then by all means buy it, brand name or no. Just be sure you're testing everything before you do it and not JUST paying for a name.    It's all smoke and mirrors and a good club builder will tell you that first hand. Go see your local guy and try some things out.  I know you'll be glad you did.

No more lonely golfers?

Let's chat a little about the new ruling by golf's governing body. No longer will scores played alone be able to count towards a players handicap.  Why?  The reasoning is to curb "sandbagging" or posting higher scores in a bid to get more strokes during handicapped tournaments when a player is actually better than their 'cap.

In my opinion, this is one of those times where a new rule is not needed but rather where the old rules need better implementation. How does the USGA intend for this to be policed? What is in place to keep Player A from going out with a buddy or just with a random person and still posting a score that is not accurate?  In a word - NOTHING.    Very much like other hot topics of politics and rules, there is nothing to stop an evil person from being evil. They don't follow the rules anyway, like this is going to stop it? Short of verifying every single score, the ruling only serves to anger and penalize those who would follow the rules. I play a lot solo. I count every single stroke on rounds that post to my handicap, even when I'm the only one on the course. I take pride in what I shoot and constantly strive to be better. I'm as upset as anyone else when an 18 handicapper at my club posts a 73 in tournament play. "Best day I've ever had" they say. Sure it is.  Still, it just sits in my gut the wrong way about this new ruling. Now when I - and honest to a fault golfer - get the chance to spontaneously play because my wife has last minute plans with her girls, I need to make sure I'm paired up with someone in order for my round to count. I've had some bumper days alone too. Days where everything clicks and I'm just in the zone. No more.

I suppose I should be glad though - those rounds won't count and my handicap might balloon. That being said, it would no longer be an accurate representation of my abilities as a golfer. It will be my abilities on days when I was able to find someone to golf with.  If last year is any indication, I'll be south about 15 rounds of golf for my handicap. Some high, some low. Not a great cross section when you only get to play maybe 35 rounds in a year. *sigh*. Come on, USGA. We're supposed to be growing the game, not making it annoying.

Read the whole story here:

Nobody for miles and miles...... ahhhhhhhhhh.