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Matt Saternus

Is "feel" overrated in golf clubs?

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Would you play a club that felt bad if it performed markedly better than the clubs that felt good? How much better would it need to be?

 

No and I don't care how much better it is.

 

Yes I'm a gear head who wants to squeeze out performance and yes I'm more a mechanical player but I still cannot abide clubs that don't "feel" the way I want them to. For me, this is much like the Driver vs 3 wood debate when teeing off. Sure, it's feels awesome to splat out a drive 285 (quite long for me) but I'd rather hit it out there 230 and have more then twice the chance to be in the fairway. Hitting a nice feeling club, to me, is more like the later. I like how the club feels which means I know what it's doing. If I know what it's doing I have more control and having more control means I will hit this fairway or green or whatever. A bad feeling club means I don't feel like I have control over it nor will I enjoy hitting it. As soon as I've taken it out of the bag, BAM there's a negative thought about the shot I'm going to take which certainly isn't going to help me prepare for the result I want.

 

If we take it one step further where I have control of the less feeling club I still don't want to use it. Just because I can control the shot, doesn't mean I want to use said club for my next shot. I think T touches on this well in his Miura writeups. Will he shoot a drastically better score because he finally has the feel of shot he wants? Doubtful. Does it make the game more enjoyable over all because he enjoys taking each shot more regardless of how many of them there are? Probably.

 

Summary: I'd rather have a better feeling club over a "better" club if only to increase my enjoyment of the round even taking out my percieved control level.

I'm looking at you 910D3. I've used at least 3 driver heads this year that perform a bit better but they don't come close in terms of sound or feel. I think I'll be making my way back to this head shortly.

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I would. Feel changes over time. One day we like something and the next we don't. Results are basically numbers that don't change. Results/numbers either are or they are not. Perceptions of feel can be changed slowly over time or instantly through a mere suggestion. Control feels best.

 

This is very interesting, I can't say that I've ever heard anyone say this before. Do you have any personal experiences you can share of something that changed its feel over time? Your idea has definitely piqued my interest, I'm going to go into the shop tomorrow and hit a bunch of stuff I didn't like the first time and see if anything is different. May repeat this for a few days and report back.

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I think that's definitely true. A part of what feels good is just what we're used to, so if you're used to a game improvement iron and you hit a blade, you aren't going to be used to the feel it gives on off center shots and won't like it. If you were forced to play blades for a season you'd become accustomed to it and might never switch back! It could happen the other way too. A blade player might really come to like the performance of a GI club if they were forced to play it for a while.

 

Remember, we're all pretty much in a agreement that "feel" is a subjective thing, and while there may be broad areas of agreement about what feels good, it isn't universal and no one would argue if someone came along and said they hated the feel of a club we liked, right?

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This is very interesting, I can't say that I've ever heard anyone say this before. Do you have any personal experiences you can share of something that changed its feel over time? Your idea has definitely piqued my interest, I'm going to go into the shop tomorrow and hit a bunch of stuff I didn't like the first time and see if anything is different. May repeat this for a few days and report back.

 

 

Sure. Shafts. I have enjoyed several shafts that perform well. I thought they were smooth with some kick, but as time went on I changed that review to mushy noodle with a lack of control. My swing didn't change, but perhaps my desire did. As I tested more of a variety of shafts my opinion changed. I gained a bigger test group knowledge.

 

Another feel change is a sound slot on carbon putters. Sometimes they feel soft and other days they don't feel as soft as a non-slotted carbon putter. There are people who think higher pitched means softer while others think lower pitched means softer.

 

Another good example is the whole German steel stuff. I could hand some people a solid one piece putter and just say try this stainless. Once I say it's German they think it's softer. That's instant opinion change thanks to Cameron. (another reason I like Byron - He's completely honest about that stuff)

 

When you try stuff again in the store to test this idea give your brain a good marketing tour of the product. Really sell it to yourself. Convince yourself it does feel good because of very specific X, Y, or Z technology or materials or performance.

 

For me I look for three things. Real performance, visual aesthetics, and feel. Feel is read after the ball is long gone, so for me feel is all about feedback and how to improve the next shot.

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I've thought about the question or questions that Matt asked the other day. I had to rack my brain for a little while to think if I've ever played a club that felt like crap but performed like seal team 6.

 

It finally came to me. A few years ago, a buddy of mine at Adams sent me a 9081 Pro Black hybrid right before they came out. He wanted me to replace my 2 iron and give my opinion.

 

The club felt like crap. If I barely missed the sweetzone, it reminded me of hitting a metal fence post with my tee ball bat when I was a kid.

 

The club flat out performed though. I never missed a fairway off the tee. Second shots into par fives were easier. It never cost me a stroke. No matter how good of a shot, the feel was terrible though.

 

Ultimately, I hit it too far. The gap between the hybrid and my 3 iron was too great. I started having awkward yardages that I never had before.

 

I sent the hybrid back and my buddy sent me a higher lofted pro black to help with the gapping. That hybrid went too high so I sent it back as well. Eventually, I settled on my trusty 2 iron.

 

The point of my story is that yes I would play a club that performed well but felt like crap because I have done it before.

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I think that's definitely true. A part of what feels good is just what we're used to, so if you're used to a game improvement iron and you hit a blade, you aren't going to be used to the feel it gives on off center shots and won't like it. If you were forced to play blades for a season you'd become accustomed to it and might never switch back! It could happen the other way too. A blade player might really come to like the performance of a GI club if they were forced to play it for a while.

 

Remember, we're all pretty much in a agreement that "feel" is a subjective thing, and while there may be broad areas of agreement about what feels good, it isn't universal and no one would argue if someone came along and said they hated the feel of a club we liked, right?

 

Good points all around: we do tend to like what we're used to, and we can probably get used to anything over time.

 

 

Sure. Shafts. I have enjoyed several shafts that perform well. I thought they were smooth with some kick, but as time went on I changed that review to mushy noodle with a lack of control. My swing didn't change, but perhaps my desire did. As I tested more of a variety of shafts my opinion changed. I gained a bigger test group knowledge.

 

Another feel change is a sound slot on carbon putters. Sometimes they feel soft and other days they don't feel as soft as a non-slotted carbon putter. There are people who think higher pitched means softer while others think lower pitched means softer.

 

Another good example is the whole German steel stuff. I could hand some people a solid one piece putter and just say try this stainless. Once I say it's German they think it's softer. That's instant opinion change thanks to Cameron. (another reason I like Byron - He's completely honest about that stuff)

 

When you try stuff again in the store to test this idea give your brain a good marketing tour of the product. Really sell it to yourself. Convince yourself it does feel good because of very specific X, Y, or Z technology or materials or performance.

 

For me I look for three things. Real performance, visual aesthetics, and feel. Feel is read after the ball is long gone, so for me feel is all about feedback and how to improve the next shot.

 

Thanks for the examples. Some of your points definitely hit home, particularly the shafts. For me, balls are another one: one day a ball might feel great, another day it feels like mush or a rock.

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Yes and no. A golf ball should be soft. Nobody likes feeling a rock shooting off the face on every shot no matter how pure it is. However, every club (except putters) when you hit it pure, is going to feel the same way. When I play, do I care about the way my club feels? Not at all. I care about looks, weight, and the grip. Anything else is just hindering your playing ability. Feel is just another killer of confidence more or less.

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Equipment design has much to do with feel.

 

The thickness of the leading edge, for example, affects the ease with which you can slip it beneath the ball for some shots. The roundness ground into that same leading edge can either make the club bounce into the ball or slide along the ground underneath the ball to let the face and the grooves do their work with whatever force has not been expended into the ground. The location of the bounce and the amount of bounce can also have their own effect regarding the utility of the club when used for non standard shots, as does the stiffness and kick of the shaft. The weight distribution of the head, be it offset or not, affects the ease with which it can square at the moment of impact and how well it suits your swing, your grip on the club and your ability to release and let the club do it's work. Shaft length affects the velocity with which you can strike the ball, your timing for the release, and the comfort you will have taking a favored or needed stance preparatory to striking the ball. Shaft length also affects the dynamic loft of the club at impact in combination with hand position at impact relative to the ball. Overall weight can affect the confidence with which you can approach a needed muscle shot.

 

These and many more things often invisible to the player affect player satisfaction and confidence in his equipment. I'll add material as a " feel " consideration. I prefer stainless to forged because regardless of the amount of use and years a set of irons has served me, they maintain their youthful ( new ) looks much better than than forged, with the exception of an old raw low bounce 56* wedge that was made by Fourteen. Forged along with Stainless can outlive their amateur owners but the plating on forged wears out and it isn't all that fun to use a newly purchased set of forged in less than pristine fairways because the soft metal gouges so much more easily than 17-4 stainless.

 

Thankfully, club design does not change your game as much as the ads claim and, having learned to swing, you can make changes in small increments to maintain a familiar feel while continuing your search for improvement.

 

 

Shambles

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I think "feel" is the most important thing. But not just how the club feels during the swing but how it makes you feel looking at it. My point is I have a Titleist 905R 10.5* currently with a F1 Motore shaft. I also have a Callaway FT9 9.5* I Mix. The Callaway out performs the Titleist in every catagory, mainly because of the loft. It is typically only 5 yards but the Titleist if I am not careful will balloon into the wind. But at the end of the round, I have noticed that when I play the Titleist, I end up 2 or 3 strokes less than the Callaway. Why? I love the looks of the Titleist and "feel" good when I see it in the bag. I actually have a new (to me) driver coming and should be here tomorrow. It is the Titleist 909D3 that I have listed below. I have had the Callaway for almost 3 years and try as it may, it can not keep the 905R out of the bag for long.

As far as other clubs in my bag, these Cally Protos "feel" so good that I play them when I really should play something more forgiving. I have some much more forgiving irons at home. I played them last week and actually scored worse than I did with the Protos. I did not hit anymore greens with the "forgiving clubs". I did however hit some shots that did not feel as bad as the Protos, but I did not hit any that felt as good as the good shots.

I look down at the heads of these clubs; the pear-shaped driver, and small headed irons with the thin blade and no offset, and even the 9 year old three wood or the 7 year old hybrid and "feel" like I am going to make a good swing. That makes all the difference at the end of the round.

Putting is all "feel". If you "feel" you are a good putter, then you are one. And more putts fall in.

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I think "feel" is the most important thing. But not just how the club feels during the swing but how it makes you feel looking at it. My point is I have a Titleist 905R 10.5* currently with a F1 Motore shaft. I also have a Callaway FT9 9.5* I Mix. The Callaway out performs the Titleist in every catagory, mainly because of the loft. It is typically only 5 yards but the Titleist if I am not careful will balloon into the wind. But at the end of the round, I have noticed that when I play the Titleist, I end up 2 or 3 strokes less than the Callaway. Why? I love the looks of the Titleist and "feel" good when I see it in the bag. I actually have a new (to me) driver coming and should be here tomorrow. It is the Titleist 909D3 that I have listed below. I have had the Callaway for almost 3 years and try as it may, it can not keep the 905R out of the bag for long.

As far as other clubs in my bag, these Cally Protos "feel" so good that I play them when I really should play something more forgiving. I have some much more forgiving irons at home. I played them last week and actually scored worse than I did with the Protos. I did not hit anymore greens with the "forgiving clubs". I did however hit some shots that did not feel as bad as the Protos, but I did not hit any that felt as good as the good shots.

I look down at the heads of these clubs; the pear-shaped driver, and small headed irons with the thin blade and no offset, and even the 9 year old three wood or the 7 year old hybrid and "feel" like I am going to make a good swing. That makes all the difference at the end of the round.

Putting is all "feel". If you "feel" you are a good putter, then you are one. And more putts fall in.

 

Ooooh, taking "feel" in a new direction, I love it! I agree that feel, as in emotion, is a HUGE thing. I've mentioned on here before that I tried a giant putter grip once and I couldn't get it off fast enough because it made me feel like a bad putter. My many beautiful putters, however, make me feel like I love putting, so I putt well.

 

Great contribution RoverRick, glad to have you on MGS!

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The question is, as you saw in the title, "Is 'feel' overrated in golf clubs (or balls, etc)"?

 

That's not to say that we shouldn't play equipment that feels good, but does feel ever keep you from playing the best equipment? Would you play equipment that worked really well but felt bad? What about equipment that worked just ok, but felt great? What's the tipping point for you?

 

 

Matt:

 

In our fitting research work, we've spent a good deal of time digging into the various aspects of feel related to golf clubs. We've stayed away from the separate element of ball feel, but I do believe that we have learned quite a bit about the various aspects of club feel and their importance to fitting and club performance.

 

Of course this could go on ad nauseum so I'll try to hit the high points of what we know from our work.

 

We see that there can be as many as 5 separate areas of feel related to golf clubs which can be extremely important to some golfers. Those are, 1) overall weight feel (total weight); 2) headweight feel (swingweight); 2A) both 1 and 2 together (MOI of the assembled club); 3) Butt to Center area of the shaft bending feel; 4) Shaft Tip section Bending Feel; 5) Impact feel.

 

Not all golfers have the ability to perceive differences in all of these areas of club feel. Most golfers who play somewhat frequently, regardless of handicap, can perceive differences between clubs in their headweight feel and impact feel. Most cannot really distinguish between the total weight feel and headweight feel. Not all that many can perceive differences in the shaft bending feel (3 & 4), but quite a few can detect when a shaft is much too stiff because that tends to demonstrate itself in the form of an unsolid feeling of impact when the golfer hits the ball in the center of the face.

 

of course it is also true that IN GENERAL (but not all the time), the lower the handicap and the more the golfer hits balls and plays, the more they will have a definite perception for like/dislike for one or more of these feel areas.

 

There is no question if the golfer has a reasonably high level of perception for any of these areas of club feel, that becomes extremely important in the golfer's like/dislike for the club(s) and very much can be the difference between success and failure in hitting the club(s) well.

 

One of the biggest problems for a clubfitter to be able to deliver clubs to a golfer that always meet the golfer's feel preferences is being able to get the golfer to express what they like and don't like in each area of club feel in terms that can be identified in a more quantitative manner. All of us who have a certain feel preference in a club(s) tend to express our likes/dislikes in very subjective, qualitative terms. I.E."it feels too heavy", "it feels too head light (head heavy)", "it feels too stiff (too flexible)", "it just doesn't feel solid", and so on.

 

The clubmaker has the difficult task of trying to turn such comments into real numbers, to be able to figure out "how much too heavy", "How much too head light or head heavy", "how much too stiff/too flexible and where on the shaft is it too stiff or too flexible", and so on.

 

In our research work in club feel we are getting better at being able to teach clubmakers how to do this. Obviously, total weight, swingweight and club MOI can be measured on various specialty scales and equipment. So if we can get measurements of these parameters related to the various weight feel areas from clubs the golfer likes or dislikes, we then have a basis from which to make future recommendations. it may take a little trial and error to nail it down, but at least we can narrow the range to make the final search for the right weighting feel a little less tedious.

 

Shaft feel wise, we also have cracked into this by being able to create graphs of a form of stiffness measurements of shafts OVER THEIR FULL LENGTH. These are what we call BEND PROFILE GRAPHS for shafts. In using such graphs of shafts it then is very possible to look at the graphs of any or all shafts the golfer says he likes, has liked or has not liked, and from that we then can know more about what shafts to recommend that would satisfy the golfer's shaft bending feel requirements.

 

In the end, this is one huge difference between a good clubfitter and a great clubfitter because for many golfers, one or all of these different areas of feel very much can be the difference between clubs that don't perform that well and clubs that allow the golfer to play to the very best of his/her ability.

 

TOM

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