Special Situations

There are a number of "special situations" that don't fit naturally into any of the other sections. They are:

Clubs For Women

Ideally, there's no such thing!

You should fit a female golfer for clubs exactly as you should a male. Because of statistical averages in the population:

  • The clubs will probably be shorter, not because of gender but because the golfer is smaller.

  • The shafts will probably be softer, not because of gender but because lower strength means slower swing speed.

  • The grips will probably be smaller, not because of gender but because the golfer is smaller.

In each case, I said "probably". That's important. There are women who can hit it further than the average male golfer. Base your club design on what the specific golfer in question can do, not on your assumptions based on gender.

That said, let us admit that if you make a lot of clubs for women, you will encounter parameters that are seldom faced for men. The bottom quartile of women in height or swing speed require a design that the average clubmaker will never encounter for an adult male. Let's explore the significant tweaks you'll have to deal with in these cases.

Clubheads

Don't worry about looking for a lighter head; the probable shorter length of the club will make up for the probable lower swingweight. Besides, "women's" clubheads in the catalogs, with few exceptions, are identical to the "men's" clubheads. Those exceptions are never matters of weight. Instead, they deal with:
  • Cosmetics, like color choice and paint fill in the grooves. If your golfer cares about this, it limits her choice of clubhead. But most women I know who play golf want clubs that perform. If they can get beyond the label of a "man's" clubhead, it gives them a much bigger choice. (My wife's clubs have heads that are nominally "men's", and it never bothered her. They were the right heads for her.)
  • Loft. If the golfer has a seriously slow swing, a little extra loft will be helpful to get the ball off the deck. A golfer with a normal or strong swing doesn't need this feature, and shouldn't get it.
  • Lie. On average, women are shorter than men. If the golfer is short but has a strong swing, she may do better with longer clubs. If you remember the section on length and lie, this means a flatter lie. Some "women's" clubheads come in a flatter lie for this reason.

Shafts

Fit the shaft to the swing and size of the golfer, not to the gender. But on average, women have slower, lower-acceleration swings than men. This calls for a shaft with a lot more flex, raising an interesting problem. On average, the clubs will have to be shorter, which tends to stiffen them up. The Dynacraft-Apollo study showed that most "L" flex shafts, when cut an inch shorter than standard (i.e.- when cut to the "standard women's" length), were actually stiffer than an "A" flex shaft at standard length. So be sure to allow for the shorter shaft when choosing and trimming the shaft for someone with a slow swing and a short stature. There are quite a few really soft "L" flex graphite shafts, and True Temper has recently come up with the steel "Release" model.

Grips

On average, women have smaller hands than men. The so-called "women's grips" are smaller in diameter than the nominal "men's grips". But don't hesitate to use them for a man with small hands as well.

The grip diameter is a very significant aspect of the "feel" of a club. Rather than making assumptions based on gender, fit every golfer for the right grip for him or her. (For example, my wife takes an instant like or dislike to a club based on grip diameter. That's a prerequisite for her; once that's right, she's willing to evaluate the rest of the club.)

Set Makeup

Don't be afraid to suggest a completely different set makeup from the traditional "men's" set. (For that matter, don't be afraid to suggest it for the men, too. Back to that in a moment.)

A lot of women on the LPGA Tour are giving up longer irons and replacing them with lofted woods. The lofted woods are easier to hit with a slower clubhead speed. If the woman wants "macho", point out that Annika Sorenstam and Liselotte Neumann won their U.S.Opens with no iron longer than a #5 in their bag. When I realized this, and noted that they hit their clubs about as far as I did -- I don't hit a 200-yd 5-iron like the male touring pros -- I ditched a couple of long irons myself. I now have odd-numbered woods through the 27-degree 7-wood, and no iron longer than a #4.

If your customer doesn't have Annika's or Liselotte's ballstriking, and doesn't have an ego problem about that, you can vary the set makeup even more radically. Look again at the section on how distance varies with loft.

  • For a 80mph clubhead speed, carry distance is maximized at 16 degrees.
  • For a 60mph clubhead speed, carry distance is maximized at 22 degrees.

My wife and I play regularly at a course where 80% of the women golfers have clubhead speeds of 60mph or less. When we visit relatives in retirement communities, 100% of the women and over 50% of the men fit that description. They should NOT be thinking "driver". They should be thinking "tee club", and we should be making them appropriate tee clubs. Plenty of loft, but large-volume heads for forgivingness (the ball IS up on a tee, so a low-profile head isn't called for).

Such clubheads exist. Look at the super-jumbo metalwoods of 15-5 stainless steel or titanium. Sure, the drivers are 250-300cc. But the "fairway woods" are similarly proportioned. I've seen quite a few:

  • Three-woods (15 degrees of loft) at 230cc and more, for those 80mph swings.
  • Five-woods at (21 degrees of loft) at 200cc and more, for those 60mph swings.

My wife has one of the latter, and loves it. Actually, she has gone through several of the latter. A friend or aunt tries it out, and won't give it back; I have to make my wife a new one.

So think in terms of clubs with more loft as an integral part of the set makeup. Don't be afraid to leave out a driver, and even a 3-wood. A light bag is a GOOD thing. Or more wedges for a refined short game may be a real stroke reducer.

Clubs For Children

I confess to not knowing anything from direct experience about clubs for pre-teens. I have some practical suggestions for clubs for teenagers, based on having seen my own kids through from 12 to adulthood on a variety of clubs.

Once kids are big enough to be at least within the range of "women's" clubs (say, over 5 feet tall), they grow amazingly quickly and keeping them in properly fitted clubs can be expensive. The way I dealt with it was to be on the lookout for used clubs at garage sale prices. You can't buy these just when you want them, so "stockpile" them. They do show up often enough that you can always have the raw materials for the next set around when they're needed. I don't think I ever spent over $20 for the a set of clubs for my younger son (before work and regripping). I had to pay more for my older son's clubs because, as a left-hander, he required a rarer commodity.

Here's what I did to make them a new set:

  • Get a set not too much bigger than they'll need. Unless the kids are at least the size of the average man, get a women's set. The reason is the L flex shaft that will seem much stiffer after it's cut to the proper length.

  • Actually, getting the flex right will be the biggest challenge. Because the clubs are much shorter than usual, the shafts will stiffen considerably from their nominal flex rating. And because the kids haven't reached full strength nor technique yet, they'll need a softer shaft. So go for the softest shaft you can get, until their size and strength make it worthwhile to adjust the flex.

  • Cut it to a length that will allow for a little extra growth, maybe 1/2". This will affect swingweight a little, but the worst that will happen is that they may have to grip down ("choke up", in baseball terms) a little. Kids should have fairly frequent lessons anyway, but one purpose is to remind them where to grip the club this season. Another is to remind you when to make them a new set.

  • Regrip with a grip that feels comfortable to them. Size matters here, since maintaining a good grip is so essential to a good game. A proper-sized grip will prevent their perfecting bad habits, and regripping is cheap and easy.

    No need to go for an expensive grip, or one that will last. Size and reasonable comfort are all that will matter.

Most of the big vendors sell sets of heads for younger children. Some are actually lighter and higher-lofter than comparable adult components. Most are made of cheaper materials to keep the cost down (e.g.- zinc allow for the irons and aluminum alloy for the woods). The theory is that the juniors can't hit the ball as hard, so a weaker material isn't a problem. I admit to no expertise in this area.

Anyway, the rules of thumb seem to be:

  • Check their size frequently, to get the length and grip diameter right.
  • If you have the opportunity, keep the softest flex you can in the shaft, at least until the child is a teenager and hitting the ball hard enough with a long enough club so you can reasonably adjust the flex.
  • Don't over-worry about weight. The shorter clubs will lower the swingweight enough so this isn't a factor.


Last modified Dec 4, 1998