#7 The agony of (club) choice

Published on   2023-02-06 by Kai

Finally - it's time for another round of golf. The equipment is ready, the muscles are warmed up, the course is unknown, but the 1st tee is already in sight. We start with a short par 3, a good 80 meters, with a bunker in front of the green. The grip on the bag, however, becomes hesitant in the movement: Which club would now be the right one?

Experienced golfers with a practiced and steady swing have no problem here. They reach for the wedge without thinking, depending on the length of the hole. But what does the beginner do, who is not yet sure of his strokes, his swing?

Wide range

The range of possibilities when choosing a club for a standard golf set extends from the driver to the sand wedge, i.e. from the long to the short club shaft and stroke, but also from the rather flatter flight with a gentle upward and downward curve to the extreme parabola, in which the ball quickly rises sharply and returns to the ground at a steep angle after relatively little distance.

How the ball behaves is largely due to the loft of the club head, that is, the angle compared to the perpendicular to the ground. The less loft, the less the ball rises, i.e. only gently in the case of the driver, but very clearly in the case of the sand path.

Only average values

The following table shows only an average loft value for each club. It is not possible to be more precise, since there is no uniform regulation among the manufacturers and, in addition, the loft has increased slightly over the past few years. However, the table should be sufficient for orientation:

What else has to be taken into account for the loft besides the distance of the shot: the angle of impact of the ball on the ground. Here it becomes noticeably physical, because the angle is responsible for the further behavior of the ball.

It's actually obvious: the flatter the angle at which the ball returns to the ground, the more momentum the ball still has for forward motion.

Physics plays along

Means: it still rolls relatively far. After a steep impact, the force goes much more into the ground, so it won't have much energy left to roll and will quickly stop.

In general, physics helps the golfer here, because long shots with little loft, i.e. the driver, woods or long irons, are still extended by rolling (called "roll") after the flight, called "carry" by golfers. Which is mostly intentional.

The short shot with a club with a lot of loft, for example an approach shot to the green, makes the ball stop quickly because of the steep angle of impact, which is also in the player's mind (at least if the shot brought the ball to the flag...).

Complicated by many factors

And now it gets complicated, because club shaft length and loft are - oh wonder - not the only factors that influence ball flight. That would be too simple otherwise. There is also the swing plane and club head speed during the swing, the club head position at impact, the stance position and ball position and, last but not least, the question of whether the ball was hit optimally with the club face, i.e. in the so-called "sweet spot", the point with the greatest possible energy and power transfer.

But all of this is incidental for the rookie at the first moment when choosing a club. The swing is usually too irregular in the early stages, and hitting the ball is also too imprecise.

Remembering the golf license

In general, the newcomer to the club should remember what he learned in the golf course and what may have seemed a bit dry and theoretical: club shaft length and loft basically determine the distance of the ball flight.

In addition, you can't start early enough to memorize with which club you can currently hit how far if the swing works (and you should always rely on this).

Just "Pi times thumb

The following table shows averages based on club type and player skill. You can take the "pi by thumb" to estimate your own skill level, even without regularly improving your handicap through tournaments or counting rounds.

The best way to test your own driving distances is to play 10 shots with each club on the range, note the distances and calculate the average.

But don't overdo it, you shouldn't do it more than two or three times a season, otherwise you might put yourself under too much pressure or be quickly disappointed that you don't hit further as fast as you had hoped. In general, the only thing that helps is practice, practice, practice.

Previous article in the series: How to Golf 6: The putt - about the happiness of the "plop

Next article in the series: How to Golf 8: The right "tool" for every purpose

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How to Golf