The Importance of Tracking Your Game

What do golfers do when they are not scoring well and their handicap starts to climb?   All too often they buy new equipment, a  new driver perhaps, or some wedges, or even a new set of irons.

I’m facing that dilemma right now.

I finished up last year with a handicap of 3.6.  It’s normal at the start of a new season for the handicap to rise a bit, and then stabilize once you’ve played ten or fifteen games.

I’m now between 30 and 40 games into the new season and my handicap has climbed to just below  7 with no sign of slowing its ascent.

For those of you who have read my previous posts you will know that I made some pretty dramatic changes this year, trialing  a set of single length irons.  As my cap kept going up my first thought was that it must be the irons.  I stuck with them for the first 30 rounds and then decided to switch back to my conventional length clubs.

That however did not cure the problem.  I had a few good rounds and then things reverted to normal (the normal for this season that is).

That’s when I decided to look at the stats.  When I enter my scores I use the stats option and track just some of the basics:  fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts, ah yes putts.

I’ve never been a great putter, however I’ve been a steady putter who normally has very few 3 putts.  I had been noticing that I was 3 putting more this year than in the past, and when I looked at the numbers I was taken aback.  My fairways hit and greens in regulation had not changed significantly.  However, my putts per hole changed from 1.8 to just under 2 putts per hole.  This translates into less pars and birdies (I no longer hit it long enough to get many eagles), and more bogies and doubles.

When worked out in terms of  putts per round, the increase in my putting stats corresponds very closely to the rise in my handicap.  So the culprit is not my new irons, or the new driver I’m using this year, it’s putting.

So what do you think happened to the new putter I put in play this year?  If you guessed ‘penalty box’ you are right.  I played a number of rounds with my  trusty putter from last year and a few more with older putters that had been languishing in the penalty box for several years.

The problem is I’m not able to putt well with any putter right now which means its not the putter that’s the problem , its the puttee.

Case in point, last Monday I played a match at the Selkirk Golf and Country Club and my partner and I managed to halve the front 9.  Neither of us were playing particularly well on the back nine but I managed to birdie holes 14 (538 yard par 5) and 15 (565 yard par 5) to go one up on the back.  I followed that up with a 2 putt from short range on 16, and 3 putts on 17 and 18 to lose the back nine.

So what did I do yesterday in the rain?  I went out and practiced.  With an array of putters I hit around 600 putts over a 4 and a half hour period, trying every grip and set-up known to man plus a few others.  The result, inconclusive at best.

And what am I doing today as soon as the rain lets up?

Pinhawk Single Length Irons – Performance Update

In a previous post I promised to provide an update on the performance of my Pinhawk single length irons once the grass was green and the birds were singing. Well the grass isn’t really green yet but like a true Manitoba golf nut, despite the cold and windy weather, I’ve already completed my first 10 rounds of golf.

All 10 rounds have been played using the Pinhawk single length irons.

By way of comparison, my scoring average for the first 10 rounds is 2.9 strokes lower than last year.  It is however not a true apples to apples comparison in terms of equipment as not only did I change my irons I also replaced my driver, a hybrid and my putter.

However all that being said my first impressions are very positive.  I am hitting the single length irons straighter than I did my conventional length irons.  The ball contact is solid, the flight trajectory is good and the distance control is excellent.

I have been tracking the distances on my clubs and as of right now (in cold weather conditions and using a low compression ball) these are the distances I’ve been hitting the irons:

LW           85

SW          95

GW          105

PW          115

9I            125

8I            135

7I            145

6I            155

5I            165

4H          180

 

These distances are not spot on accurate but are based on using a laser range finder where possible and pacing yardages.  The gaps between clubs is excellent and although the distances are somewhat less than with my conventional set of irons I think once the weather warms up and I start using better quality (higher compression) balls the distances will improve.  I am very optimistic in terms of matching my usual distances with my conventional length clubs.

When I first started writing about the single length iron concept I received an offer from one of the golf professionals at a local golf course to test the clubs on Flightscope.  Once I get more used to playing with the Pinhawks and the weather warms up I will be availing myself of that offer and reporting the results.

In the meantime, I’m off to Bridges to play my first round of golf on that course this season.

DeChambeau finishes T4 at Harbour Town

As a golfer who has been dabbling with a single plane swing and single length irons for many years I have been following Bryson DeChambeau’s progress closely.

Many have told me that Dechambeau’s success in winning the NCAA  individual title and United States Amateur were ‘flukes’  and that he would turn out to be a ‘flash in the pan’.    Many are not prepared to believe that a golfer using single length irons and a single plane swing could be successful at the professional level.

After DeChambeau’s recent performance at the Masters (low amateur and T21 overall) and T4 at Harbour Town in his first event as a professional, many including big name television commentators covering those events are starting to come around.  They are starting to admit albeit grudgingly, that Dechambeau may be the real thing.

I for one am a firm believer in DeChambeau’s approach to the game and the method he is using to achieve his goal. For those of you who know me you are probably getting tired of hearing me talk about  DeChambeau and my Pinhawk single length irons.

As indicated in a previous post I will be starting this golf season using both single length irons and a single plane swing.

I’ve played 3 rounds with my single length irons so far and the results are encouraging.

As promised in an earlier post, once we get a little further into the season (a least 10 games) I will report back and provide an evaluation of my single length irons.

Dechambeau’s First Masters

Legend
With three rounds of even par 72, and one round of 77  Dechambeau completed his first Masters tied for 21st. place.  His score of +5 was good enough to earn him low amateur honours .
Pictured below are the irons he ended up playing at the Masters.
DeCambeau Masters irons 1 (1)

Many amateurs would not be caught dead playing with a set of irons that look like the irons Bryson Dechambeau used at the Masters this week.

Granted, they are not the prettiest irons I’ve ever seen but more and more I’m coming to the realization that appearance is far less important than performance.

For many of us who are interested in the single length iron and single plane swing concepts, the Master finally provided us with an opportunity to have a good look at Bryson’s clubs and more importantly, his swing.

I still marvel at how accurately, and how far he is able to hit the ball with such and upright swing.  I’ve included links to a number of videos from the Masters that display his swing action from different angles.  Make particular note of his right arm to shaft position even with his longer clubs.  They provide and excellent example of the single plane swing setup.

 

Here are some links to video’s of Dechambeau at the Masters

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016-04-08/zlkp_a_a4yvtfvx2ul6uknp25eag8ohf.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016-04-10/rzryq9caarnpc9ckhawciiy_xcbcwupc.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016/r4_47959_18.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016/r3_47959_10.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016/r3_47959_8.html?promo=vod_players

http://www.masters.com/en_US/watch/2016/r2_47959_15.html?promo=vod_players

Dechambeau sporting Cobra single length irons

The speculation as to which OEM Bryson Dechambeau will sign with once he turns pro is getting clearer.  He recently started playing a Cobra Driver and this week debuted a new set of single length  Cobra irons.

I’ve played a few Cobra Hybrids over the years but have never tried Cobra woods or irons.  That may soon change, especially as it relates to irons.

Cobra has produced, or perhaps, more correctly, altered a set of their Cobra King Forged CB irons to match the specifications of Dechambeau’s original Edel irons. He put them in play this week at the 19th Annual Georgia Cup.

CobraKingMB

Stock Cobra King Forged MB irons

According to WRX Golf,  Dechambeau’s Cobra prototype irons are 37.5 inches long throughout the set with each head weighing 280 grams.  The lie angle is 73.5 degrees.

Apparently the process of altering the Cobra CB irons to meet the specifications of the Edel irons involved a lot of grinding, bending and adding weight to the lower lofted irons.

This leads to several interesting questions:

  1. Which set of irons will Dechambeau put into play when he tees it up at the Masters next week?  My guess is he will go with the Edel irons but there may well be some industry pressure for him to use the Cobra irons, which in my mind would be a mistake.
  2. Are we about to see a major OEM produce a set of single length irons for the mass market?  That will all depend on how well Dechambeau performs once he turns pro, which he intends to do the week after the Masters.  If he were to perform well as a pro with Cobra single length irons, we may well see a major OEM venture into the field of mass marketing single length irons, the first since Tommy Armour’s ill-fated attempt in the mid 1980’s. A winning Dechambeau would provide Cobra with the ‘poster boy’ Armour lacked.

My new set of Pinhawk single length irons

While researching and writing the recent posts about single length irons, I was also busy on the other side of the equation assembling and experimenting with a set of single length irons.

As the saying goes ‘the proof is in the pudding’ so I have attempted to put the theory into practice.

This is what my new set looks like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As indicated earlier, I decided to go with Pinhawk heads, which are specifically designed for single length iron sets.  The set consists of ten clubs, from flop wedge to 4-hybrid.  The heads are cast stainless steel, cavity back,  made with 431 steel which is a little softer and more bendable than the 17-4 steel used by most major OEM manufacturers.  The heads throughout the set from flop wedge to 4-hybrid each weigh 272 grams (+/- 1) and have a lie angle of 62.5 degrees.

I experimented with various lengths ranging from 35 to 37.5 inches.  I eventually ended up with 37 1/16.  If you are wondering about the 1/16 of an inch,  it has no significance.  What happened was that as I experimented with different club lengths, hitting them at the Golf Dome, there was  one particular iron that I was hitting most consistently.  When I measured it precisely it was 37 1/16 inches in length so I just built the entire set to match that club.

At a length of 37 1/16 inches and using a 70 gram graphite shaft and a 50 gram grip the swing weight comes in at D1.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The table below indicates the off-the-rack specifications of the Pinhawk heads I am using.  I suspect that some minor loft adjustments may be required to ensure proper ‘gap’ distances between clubs.

 

Pinhawk Iron Set
Club 4 5 6 7 8 9 PW GW SW LW
Loft 20° 25° 30° 35° 39° 43° 47° 51° 55° 59°
Lie 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5° 62.5°
Weight (grams) 272 272 272 272 272 272 272 272 272 272
Offset (mm) 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3

Source:  Value Golf

 

I have already done some lie adjustments on a few of the irons to promote a more upright swing plane.  A few of the irons have been bent as much as 2.5 degrees without any breakage.

The final lofts and lies will not be arrived at until the clubs are tested in ‘on course’ conditions.

Below are links to the series of posts previously written on the topic of Single Length Clubs.

Who are Homer Kelley and Bryson DeChambeau

Standard length and loft for irons

Single length golf clubs

Advantages and disadvantages of single length irons

The effect of club length on swing speed and distance

The effect of loft on carry distance

Unless something miraculous or untoward happens in the next few months at the Dome I won’t write another post about these clubs until the grass is green and the birds are singing again.

Fore!

 

Effect of Loft on Carry Distance

 

loft picture

The Effect of Loft

The loft of an iron has a much greater effect on the distance your ball will carry than does the length of the club (swing speed).  Many in the golf industry estimate that with irons, the ratio is  as high 20:80,  meaning that loft has 4 times the effect on distance as compared to swing speed.  At a swing speed around 78 miles per hour and a club length of 37 inches every degree in change of loft will result in a much greater difference in distance than a 1 mph change in club head speed.

The long and the short of it is that when you reduce the length of your irons to a 7 iron length (in the case of the irons longer than a 7 iron), and lengthen the shafts on the 8 iron to the wedges to the 7 iron length you will affect swing speed generated by those clubs.

How to compensate 

With single length irons the change in loft is the primary factor in terms of compensating for the loss in distance with the 3-6 irons, and the gain in distance for the iron through wedges.  The lofts on the longer irons are strengthened while on the shorter irons they are decreased.

There is another factor that plays into this as well, that being club head weight. Physics tell us that when a moving object (the club head) strikes a stationary object (the ball) the amount of force applied to the ball is dependent on two factors, the speed of the moving object, and its weight.  It is akin to a 20 ton truck travelling at 60 kph and striking a light standard knocking it over, and a Smart-car traveling at the same speed striking the same  light standard and scuffing the paint on the pole.

Because the heads on single length clubs are all the same weight (around 272 grams) the head on the 4 iron is 20-25 grams  heavier than a traditional 4 iron and will exert more force causing a slight increase in distance.  The head on the pitching wedge which is approximately 20 grams lighter than the traditional weight  will exert less force and cause a slight decrease in distance.

Conclusion

By varying the loft of the irons, other than the 7 iron which is the standard, it is theoretically possible to build a set of clubs that are all the same length and still hit the ball distances very similar to traditional clubs while at the same time  ensuring the wedge to 8 iron don’t go to far and the 3 to 6 iron go far enough to maintain a workable ‘gap’ in terms of the different distances each club will hit the ball.

In my mind the disadvantages addressed in an earlier post can be compensated for, leaving only the advantages, which I would argue are so beneficial that a strong argument can be made at least putting the concept to the test as opposed to dismissing it out of hand.

As indicated in an earlier post I am in the process of assembling a set of single length irons.  I have experimented with lengths ranging from 35 to 37.5 inches and different combinations of lie angles.  I am getting close to arriving at what will be my ‘final’ specifications and when I do I will be writing a post about the finished product.