PGA of America Expert Hogge answers your equipment questions

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Editor's Note: Here is a series of equipment-related questions submitted by readers and answered by PGA Professional Eric Hogge, the Director of Clubfitting for The PGA of America. Check back often, as we will add new questions and answers on a regular basis.

Question: I carry four wedges in my bag. I love them all -- 48-degree to 60-degree lob wedge. The 60-degree is by far my favorite club. I can really spin the ball when I need to. I also have a 3-iron but eliminate it to keep 14 clubs in the bag. I hit the 3-iron very well, however, and often miss it on the course. My question is: Should I eliminate the 5-wood? Or even the 3-wood and keep the 3-iron? Nine times out of 10, I'll hit driver, maybe 3-wood, and sometimes 3-iron off the tee.

My handicap is 11.2 and I've been told I need a hybrid. But I believe my problems lie on the green as far as my handicap goes. I'm confident on the tee and the fairway. A hybrid to me is awkward and more difficult to hit as consistently as my irons. Having difficulty eliminating a club or deciding on a hybrid, I guess. Any advice on one or both? Thanks. -- Alan Munger

Eric's Answer: I believe that the majority of amateur players don't carry enough wedges. The golfing gods limiting us to 14 clubs doesn't allow us to carry a club for every distance we might encounter on the course. Here is the bottom line: Should we have a distance "gap" in the 3-iron and 5-wood area or around the scoring shots of less than 150 yards? I carry four wedges and encourage most of my students to do the same.

It sounds as if you hit driver, 3-wood and 3-iron very well. I would go to your local PGA Professional and have him or her perform a "gap fitting" on the top of your set. The launch monitors today, like the Trackman units that we use here at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance, can pinpoint a player's actual yardage and make these decisions very simple.

If the 3-iron works for you, I would keep it instead of the hybrid, but let the technology tell you if you are getting everything out of your set make-up that you can. When I went through a gap fitting, I found that two of my fairway clubs and my longest iron had only 12 yards between them in carry distance. Reorganizing my set and making room for another wedge gives me more options on the course.

Question: I was wondering the best way to apply lead tape to my Mizuno MP 57 irons? -- Mike Guarino

Eric's Answer: If you are going to apply lead tape to an iron, it should be applied to the back of the club. It should not interfere with the sole of the club, where it might interact with the ground upon ball contact. Burnishing the edges of the tape so as not to snag the tape is a good idea.

Over the name Mizuno and above the ridge that runs parallel to the sole would be the best place on your 57s. Moving the center of gravity should not be much of a factor as 4.5 inches of lead tape (single density) adds only about 2 grams to the golf club. It takes in excess of 30 grams of weight to move the COG any appreciable distance. Every 2 grams applied to the clubhead will change the swing weight 1 point. (IE: D1 to 2).

Question: How do you know what is the correct length iron is for you? I keeping getting different opinions from various fitters and am a bit confused. I am 6-foot-3 and have a wrist-to-floor measurement of 37 inches. One fitter says I should be standard length and 4 degrees up, and another says plus 1 inch and 2 up and another plus 1/2-inch and 2 up! -- Bill Anton

Answer: Bill, there is a relationship between club length and lie angle. As our clubs get longer (5-iron is longer than 6-iron, and so on), the lie angle needs to flatten to allow the club to bottom out with the toe and heel both on the ground at the moment of impact.

The short answer is that all of the recommendations could be correct. Based on the static measurements that you provided, I think the 1/2-inch long and 2 degrees would seem to be correct.

There are, however, other considerations. Is your miss more left or right? A different lie angle than your static measurements could help certain ball flight desires. Are you consistently achieving centeredness of hit with the longer (+1/2 inch, + 1 inch) shafts?

It is generally easier to have center impact with shorter instruments. The obvious benefit to longer shafts is more potential distance. Potential distance is all that it will be, however, if a centered hit is not achieved.

Question: If you're using a shaft that's too stiff, would the flight of the golf ball tend to slice or hook? -- Paul Dudding, Centerville, Ohio

Eric's Answer: The common wisdom is that the ball will tend to fly lower and more to the right for a right-handed player if the shaft flex is too stiff. I think this a general rule and individual results may vary.

Interestingly, stiffer shafts should not cost you speed but feel. If you are playing a shaft that is too stiff, it will most likely seem "clunky," especially on off-center hits. The only issue is that stiffer shafts also tend to be heavier, which will cost you speed and distance. I think the issue with shaft fitting is a question equally of weight as well as flex.

Question: I'm a 10.4 Index. I dipped to a 9 for a brief time using a set of "super game improvement" irons. They saved me a lot of strokes. That's when I told myself, 'Gee, I'm a single digit, a 'player.' So I went the other direction to a beautiful set of forged "player's" irons.

My GIR is way down. I really am leaning to go back to a much more forgiving club, a set of Wilson Di9 irons. Seems like experts pigeonhole people like me into certain ability types. We believe the label and get screwed up. What do you think? -- Joe

Eric's Answer: Joe, I am going to agree with your assessment. Game improvement clubs can help a wide variety of player types. The "player" clubs are not bad by any means, but are set up more for a player who likes working the ball with consistent ball impact.

The game improvement clubs are, by design, more forgiving on off-center hits (larger MOI) and can lead to a more consistent game. I know many "expert" players who have a larger, more forgiving iron in the bag. Personally, I have a split set with a blade-style 6-iron through the wedges and a game improvement club in the longer irons. This might be the best of both worlds and worth the experiment. I feel with this set-up, I can play specialty shots with the scoring clubs and be more consistent in the higher register.

Question: Is a 3-iron comparable to a 5-wood? Is a 5-iron comparable to a 7-wood? Will these clubs hit the ball approximately the same distance? -- Roy Conner

Eric's Answer: Mr. Conner, a 2-iron and a 5-wood are both in the 18- to 20-degree range and should go roughly the same distance. Each club will have its own "personality" (a 2-iron may be lower with less spin, while a 5-wood may be higher with more spin). There is no industry standard on loft or length of shaft, so each company -- and even lines within the same company -- will differ somewhat.

Along the same line, a 3-iron will match the 7-wood in most cases and a 4-iron will match the 9-wood. I think a player can get a long iron, a hybrid and a traditional fairway wood to travel the same distance. However, in most cases, players find the hybrids and fairway woods play more consistently.

Question: I'm aged 66 and an 18-handicap with a swing speed around 85 mph. I have a consistent ball pattern of straight-ish right-to-left. I'm looking for a little more control on short irons but not to sacrifice distance (the Holy Grail, I guess!). Would I be better with a two- or three-piece ball? I now play with a two-piece (Pinnacle Exception). -- Geoff Rhodes

Eric's Answer: Geoff, two-piece balls generally come with harder covers and a firmer feel. With a three-piece ball you will, in most cases, be able to get a softer cover. You might like the softer feel around the greens and with the shorter irons with this type of ball. However, Pinnacle has a new ball called the Dimension that might be to your liking in the same line as the Exception. Ball-fitting can be an important piece of the equipment puzzle. I recommend spending some time with a PGA Professional who is familiar with your swing and game preferences. Together, you might be able to find that Holy Grail.

Question: How can I get my ball to have more roll on it after a hit? Others hit about the same distance, but theirs will roll and mine will hit and stop. -- Elinor Root

Eric's Answer: Elinor, there are a number of reasons that your ball may not roll as far as others, but there are two that usually stand out.

1. The tour players have a landing angle of around 39 degrees. This means that as the ball is coming out of its flight it hits the ground, landing at 39 degrees. For every degree less landing angle, the ball rolls approximately 2.5 yards more on normal ground conditions. The short story is that if your ball is launched too high and lands too vertically, it can cost you rolling distance.

2. There is too much spin on the ball. I want a short iron to hit and stop to control distance into the green, but not with the driver, where I want the ball to hit and run. Depending on your ball speed, you should have between 2200 and 3500 rpms of spin with the tee shot. The faster the speed, the less spin, typically, is desirable.

The good news is that both can be the result of too much loft on the driver. I would recommend scheduling a session with a local PGA Professional who is highly regarded for his or her fitting abilities. Maybe there is something in the swing, like a descending angle of attack, that is creating excess spin. Instruction and club fitting should go hand in hand. Have them check your launch and spin rates to see if you can squeeze a few extra yards out of your tee shots by either a swing adjustment or more finely-tuned equipment.

Question: I'm not a great golfer but enjoy the sport. I'm thinking about new clubs and I've noticed a lot of pros using steel shafts instead of graphite. Which is better? -- David Imel

Eric's Answer: David, steel generally is heavier than graphite. For control shots with the irons, some players (and most touring professionals) prefer the heavier, potentially more consistent, feel and performance of steel. We are hard-pressed to find a driver with a steel shaft these days because the lighter graphite can help create more speed on the one club where I am trying to maximize distance. With every other club in the bag, I am trying to hit a distance "gap."

Graphite also can dampen the vibration of an off-center hit, making a clunky shot feel less jarring to the player. Some players with joint discomfort like the "feel" of graphite for this very reason. Graphite is, on average, more expensive than steel.

The short story is that the conversation about steel versus graphite should be one of potential benefits based on individual player preferences. It is best to discuss these questions of shaft material with a qualified PGA Professional who is familiar with your individual game desires.

Question: Do clubs wear out? I have a set of irons that is about three to four years old. I am not a great golfer, maybe about a 17 handicap, I am not sure. If I spend the money on new clubs, will it make a big difference or should I take a lesson? Or both? I think if I ask the store, they will tell me to buy the clubs, and why wouldn't they? -- Richard

Eric's Answer: Yes, clubs do wear out. PGA touring professionals will change often because of the wear and tear of their practice regimens being destructive to their equipment. Check the grooves on your irons, especially your wedges. If the grooves are not clean and sharp, you might be losing a degree of control.

Updated technology in general might improve your game as well. A club with a larger moment of inertia or a different center of gravity can optimize your ball flight.

Check with your local PGA Professional and they can point you in the correct direction. Instruction should include an analysis of your equipment and how it needs to work hand in hand with your swing characteristics.

Question: What is your opinion on "clone" clubs? I am a 20-handicap and I don't see the need to buy a $400 driver to help me push balls into the water.

Eric's Answer: I believe that the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) product from the recognized and accomplished name brands would be my first option. These companies have the quality history and engineering to stand behind their product.

I would not go so far as to say that a "clone" club would not fit your needs, but when making the investment in the future of your game, an OEM product will most likely make you happier. As in all things related to equipment in this greatest of all games, I would contact your local PGA Professional to guide you through these decisions. Maybe your professional can help you with your swing along the way for fewer "water ball" experiences.

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