Distance Gapping and Why it Matters to You
By Matt Henderson, PGA, TPI
Ever experience a club going too short or too far to what you perceive it should be doing relative to the rest of your set? That is a distance gapping issue and it happens to everybody; the only difference is some choose to deal with it and lose potential shots over a period and others seek a solution.
Custom fitting is massively important, getting the right amount of spin, launch, descent angle or whatever your parameter your fitter is trying to optimize is very important. However, believe it or not after you get that new set of clubs, or even after you have them awhile there is still another step. Enter the Distance Gapping Session, simply put it is just hitting all your clubs and looking at the results. It looks like the below image on the launch monitor when completed.
After that data is collected, the real work begins because generally we are going to find gaps that are larger or smaller than what they should be. This is stuff that as a player your probably already aware of on some level. As in, “I always hit my 8-iron short on hole 7, but my 7 iron flies all the way to the back of green.” So, let’s see a real-life gapping session and see what the outcome is.
Player X hits is a really good player but notices some potential problems on the course. (Please do not misinterpret that this service is only for good players, all skill levels will benefit) After hitting all his clubs and collecting the data we see three awkwardly placed gaps. The Red arrows iare the problem areas.
There was only a one-yard gap on average between the Pitching Wedge and 9-Iron, a 23-yard gap between the 7 and 6, and an 18-yard gap between the 3-iron and the 3 metal. Believe it or not this is very common, the large unexpected gaps in between the clubs are referred to as “compression gaps,” in some circles. They occur due to varying degrees of swing speed, and they are generally different on a per player basis. The only common denominator I have found in doing this over a period of 10 years is the fact that it occurs in every player to some degree.
The solution is sometimes simple, but again varying per player. The average TOUR Player has two spots in their golf bag that have gaps of 2-2.5* of loft. Even though you just read that, I am going to repeat it… The average TOUR Player has two spots in their golf bag that have gaps of 2-2.5* of loft. If you’re counting, the average set of clubs is structured in roughly 4* increments between clubs (manufacturer and line dependent) So, I am saying that the best in the world are playing with sets that have been modified to fill those red arrows that we saw from Player X. Which given that the whole goal of the game is to control how far the ball goes relative to chosen target that should make a lot of sense. Adding clubs is the right spots can also be a part of the solution. (ie) A Gap wedge, Hybrid, 5 Metal are generally the usual suspects.
In the case of Player X we strengthened the loft on the 9 iron as well as the 7 iron. The 9 iron was strengthened 3* while the 7 irons was only strengthened 1*. The clubs were true to the manufacturer’s specifications prior to testing. Key point to remember is that loft is relative to the goal, and the only thing that matters is the dispersion of the golf ball. So even though the lofts are unequal in a sense, it works for this player due to the human elements which exist in this game.
The only remaining piece was to potentially add a club between the 3 wood and the 3 iron. Note: The distance above are carry distance, total distance between the 3 metal and 3 iron was mush larger. I recommended a hybrid, and what the picture above shows that respective hybrid covering the gap. Player X could also put in a 5 wood, 2 iron etc. That is where player preference as to trajectory, overall need for that distance on course, and other playing factors merge.
I would urge you to come in, spend some time on the launch monitor with me and let’s figure out your set maek-up and loft structure. Whether you are getting new clubs, or we modify the old ones, this is what good players do to get better. Imagine what it can do for you. There are many ways to move the improvement needle forward in this game, it doesn’t always have to be about reconstructing a golf swing or learning a new skill, sometimes it can be the equipment.
This new video in the series of Master Your Wedges takes on the order of operation before a short game shot. What does club face. shaft, and body mean? Watch the video to find out.
So often the golfer who struggles with slicing the golf ball comes in with a poor face to path relationship. A large item to consider when fixing a slice is how the golfer initially arranges or “prepares” the club face.
Often in discussions about game improvement the time that we spend before the golf shot is overlooked. However, this area is incredibly important and can greatly affect the overall outcome of our respective golf shot. A few select items are highlighted below:
- Examine the Lie Whatever situation the ball is in should ultimately determine the golf shot. If it is three inches down in Bermuda rough, a different shot should be played than if it was a perfect lie in the fairway. Pre-shot preparation should change accordingly.
- Selecting type of shot This sets up the next step and should be influenced by the information making what was gleaned from examining the lie. Is this a full shot, partial swing, low trajectory etc.?
- Practice Swings Practice swings should be conscious and specific to the situation. They should not be made just for the sole purpose of making practice swings. They can involve preparation for a difficult situation or involve mechanical thoughts and feels from practice.
- Control Breathing This time is invaluable to being able to control body processes such as breathing. It can be used to slow yourself down and return to a comfortable performing state.
- Pre- Swing Motion The brief time right before the start of the golf swing. The last seconds should be spent softening the forearms (think waggle) and finding appropriate pressures in your feet. It is very difficult to start an athletic motion such a s golf swing from a static position.
Always important to remember is that the pre-shot routine is living and breathing, it changes over time to accommodate different elements. Below is a Pre- Shot chart that we made up for one of my competitive students. I encourage you to make a similar chart as it helps bring to light what elements exist/ don’t exist, and what can be improved upon.
There are certain patterns that follow golfers through every short game effort. The flip (below pictures) is very common. This can really be characterized as a premature deceleration of the lead arm and the chest, with the trail arm still releasing. In effect it is a sequence problem. In plain English when a golfer “flips it” the body stops turning, and the trail arm continues to move even through the lead arm is stalled.
Through this process the low point is altered . This then allows the clubhead to decelerate into the impact area as well as premature rise of the leading edge and potential face closure. Pointing to bladed golf shots, and fat golf shots due to lack of bounce activation, poor distance control etc.
Keep a few key items in mind:
1. Energy should always flow toward the target. The body is continuously moving, finish with the chest facing the target area. (see below leftt)
2. Maximum acceleration occurs on the target side of the ball. Practice this by making small accelerating motions bushing the grass on the target side of the ball.
3. Finish with the hands, shaft and club head in front of where a belt buckle would be. ( see below right) Allow-ing for proper management of bounce, loft and face angle
Bounce and wedge fitting in general are overlooked. It is very common for wedges to be a second thought after a player has gone through a complete fitting. It is also very common to just go completely off turf conditions, i.e. low bounce for firm turf higher bounce for softer. Bounce goes way beyond just turf condition as it can have an influence on a player’s ability to hit certain shots or even progress mechanically over time.
To cite a golf dictionary for the definition of bounce it would go something like this:
Golf club bounce is the angle between the ground and the sole of the club when the shaft is held perpendicular to the horizon.
If that is as clear as mud, then look at the picture above. The club pictured has a stated bounce angle of ten degrees, so in this case there will be a ten-degree angle between the sole and the ground. Notice how the leading edge is slightly raised to the trail edge of the sole.
Playing off the above image we can start to think about impact conditions. As the shaft becomes more vertical or back leaning through the impact area, the higher the leading edge will be from the turf at impact. Imagine adding a greater bounce angle then ten degrees and now with the shaft at vertical the leading edge will be even further off the ground. Armed with that thought: Impact conditions, turf conditions and how much effective loft we want to deliver to ball in a set amount of circumstances all lead into finding an ideal bounce.
The leading-edge digs and the bounce glides. This is very important to understand for purposes of wedge fitting and managing overall mechanics over time. Example: A player has that same 10° bounce wedge from above, yet they have ten degrees of forward shaft lean at impact. This player now has zero effective bounce. Meaning that the leading edge is now completely exposed to the turf.
When this situation occurs, it is still possible to hit quality wedge shots. However, there is exacting precision required. If that leading edge enters the ground even slightly before it was anticipated to, then it will do exactly what it is supposed to…dig. Bounce is engineered into the wedge to help you the golfer hit better shots over time, giving us some room for error.
Which Bounce Do I Need?
A great example would be to think of a spoon and a fork. Understanding a few items moving into this example:
1. There is an ideal amount of bounce that we would like to expose to the impact area. Too little bounce will give us lead edge exposure, which can result in the need to be very precise. Precision to this degree simply doesn’t happen and then the player perceives themselves as “inconsistent.” Too much bounce and there could be too much deflection through the impact area. Stating that in another way the leading edge could be too high off the ground and be presented to the ball.
2. The spoon would represent a high bounce wedge and the fork would represent a low bounce wedge in the below scenarios.
3. The handle on the spoon and fork would respectively represent the angle of attack of the clubhead i.e. how steep or shallow the clubhead is moving toward the low point. The steeper the AOA is the more bounce we will need on the wedge; shallower AOA requires less bounce. In the pictures below, our high bounce spoon must have the handle tilted more upright to get the leading edge of the spoon closer to the table. While the forks handle is much closer (shallower) to the table to get the leading closer.
In each scenario there could be offsetting differences. If we take the spoon and lower the handle (shallow AOA) then the leading edge of the spoon raises off the ground due to the roundness (bounce) of the bottom of the spoon. In the picture below the leading edge would contact the hypothetical ball more toward the equator. With the fork, tipping the handle up (AOA Steepening) will present the leading edge of the fork very much into the ground. If it had any momentum at that angle it would gouge into the ground.
The benefit of having the proper bounce would be to take whatever you are doing mechanically and complement the action. If a player’s steepness through the impact area is our only concern, then the player who attacks the ground steeply would find it advantageous to error toward higher bounce wedges. If turf conditions are the only concern then, low bounce for firm. Then there is the concern to what type of shots I will be playing, open faced shots, square faced shots etc. These are all factors that go into the process and should all be considered. Taking only one of the above into consideration could result improper wedges, potentially hindering a player’s development and/or ability.
Make sure and stop by TPC Las Vegas and I can easily test your wedges to see if you’re in the right bounce configurations. If you happen to be in the market for new wedges all together, then stop by and we will go through the wedge fitting process.
Callaway: New vs. Old and What It Means
By Matt Henderson, PGA
Out of sheer curiosity and opportunity I headed down to the practice tee at TPC Las Vegas with my Callaway GBB EPIC driver, but I also had the Original Great Big Berta with me. When I say original I mean the one from 1995. I grew up playing clubs just like this one, so what an opportunity to put it up against the latest and greatest offering from Callaway Golf.
Callaway Great Big Bertha EPIC
Callaway Great Big Bertha Warbird
The biggest difference between the drivers is obviously the head size, with the EPIC maxing out he USGA allowable head size of 460 cubic centimeters. The original GBB comes in at an measly 265 cc’s, which makes it hard to believe that I remember people making remarks about it how big it was.
The shaft length of the drivers was also much different, with the modern driver coming in at 45” of length. To add an interesting element and to level the playing field in one respect I added an EPIC with a 43.5” just like its older model.
· All numbers were achieved using the FlightScope X3
· Golf Balls used were Titleist PRO V1X (sorry no Chrome Soft were available, it is a great ball however)
· All Drivers used had or were set to 10 degrees of loft
· All shafts used were stock offerings. (PX Hzrdus in 45” and 43.5” EPIC)
· 10 Golf Balls hit with each Club
Looking at the info above the first thing that pops up is that I gained 25 yards of total distance between the EPIC 45 and Original GBB (OGBB). I averaged 19 more yards of carry. The OGBB produced the highest golf ball in terms of actual apex, but to do so it launched higher and spun more than the EPIC. The really large difference between the two came with ball speed, the EPIC45 helping to add 9 MPH of ball speed on average. For those counting for every MPH of ball speed we can hit it 2-4 yards farter depending on efficiency of strike. In this instance I added just over two yards per MPH of ball speed.
Things really got interesting when I used the EPIC with the 43.5” (EPIC43.5) shaft. As can be expected it produced the smallest miss pattern/ area. But the number between the OGBB and the EPIC 43.5 are much more pedestrian with ball speed, carry and total distances only slightly different. The EPIC43.5 barely beat its 1995 counterpart.
Technology helps…25 yards is nothing to scoff at. The modern drivers are bigger, longer and lighter which transfers into more forgiving mishits and faster speeds. Just in this small sample pattern there was an immediate gain in clubhead and ball speed. The OGBB was heavy and the shaft was questionably unstable. This test proved a few things to me, one of those items is that shaft technology is lightyears ahead of where it was in the mid 90’s. The shafts of today, even stock offerings are light and way more stable feeling than shafts of years prior.
My dispersion pattern did improve with the OGBB and the EPIC43.5 vs. the EPIC45. (see data above) This is no mystery as the shafts are shorter, but in my opinion the improvement in dispersion pattern in this case is not worth the loss of distance…Again 25 yards is 25 yards. Now, this might not always be the case and that why club fitting is so important. If you are planning on buying a new driver make sure and get fit. It makes a tremendous difference and is easy to do right here at TPC Las Vegas.
The weighting of the clubs was significantly different. Technology has come a long way in this respect. A very important thing to remember when looking at the data above is that there is one large error in the data collection, and that is my golf swing was the only one used. Different player of different skill, ability and physical makeup would have had different results. The dispersion results are perfect example, during the study I managed to average above 1.46 smash factor and above a 1.49 with EPIC45. That translates roughly into me being able to hit the middle of the clubface most of the time. If we tested a player that had a lot of point of contact mishits, the modern driver would almost certainly produce a better dispersion pattern.
Preparing for Different Situations: Deep rough
In any short game situation, the most important factor is contact. Quality contact creates friction, friction creates spin, and spin creates relative control. In a deep rough or poor lie scenario, you must be able to assess and figure out how the club is going to be able to interact with the turf. Just like anything else reading lies is a major skill, but the nice thing about a skill is we can always improve
The most important factor is always club to ball contact and finding what is ideal to produce optimal contact. Too many times golfers tend to look at situation and select a shot dependent on the sole variable of how much green there is to work with, and not the situation that their ball is in. Always assess the lie first, then pick landing and resting areas based upon that lie.
Situation: Deep Rough/ Greenside
To illustrate the above point, I will use the situation where the ball has a lot of long and/or thick grass behind it. To control contact in this lie we need to create a steeper angle of attack, essentially meaning we need to do something different than the neutral setup/short game motion. To a lot of amateurs this means adjust something dynamically in the swing, this can be confusing and disrupt sequence. The solution for consistency is to alter the body positions in the address position.
Neutral Shortgame motion Characteristics
1. Neutral width stance (Heels 8-10 inches apart)
2. Centralized sternum (Buttons of shirt over belt buckle, right shoulder lower that left)
3. Buttons of Shirt behind ball at impact.
4. Shaft neutral (almost vertical in the above picture) at low point
The sequence and characteristics above produce a somewhat shallow angle of attack. If it is determined that that the club head needs to move differently, then a non-compensatory adjustment must be made. In the case of the deep rough situation we are seeking a club head that moves more steeply to the ground, while still presenting the preferred dynamic loft for the shot at hand.
Deep Grass Adjustments (Greenside)
1. Wide Stance to help create angle
2. Grip down on club (shortens the radius of the arc_
3. Lean forward, as we lean forward head, sternum and handle are all in front of the ball. With the handle forward the clubhead will want to move up more abruptly.
4. Put pressure and weight in lead side by flexing into the lead quadricep
5. Make sure Ball position and loft match desired ball flight
Notice the different elements in the address position (zoomed pictures below). The shoulders move to level, handle forward, gripped down. This allows the clubhead to move up abruptly, creating the angle we need to hit the golf shot. There are no dynamic adjustments, or altering the swing to hit the shot differently. We simply added some steep elements to the address position.
A great way to feel everything discussed above is to hit a few shots off an inclined lie where the trail foot is above the lead foot. To hit the shot successfully the body is going to have to level to the slope, in doing so putting pressure in the lead quadricep, just like we wanted in our deep rough setup. The shots have a lot of the same characteristics.
Matt Henderson is the Director of Instruction on-site at TPC Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada and brings over 14 years of experience as a golf instructor and coach. Ranked by Golf Digest as the #2 instructor in Nevada, (2014-2015) Matt was also the recipient of the Southern Nevada PGA’s Teacher of the Year Award. (2013)
As a PGA Class A professional Matt has worked and studied under some of the game’s best-known instructors. Matt also has extensive experience in the field of fitness and junior development and is certified by the Titleist Performance Institute in both areas. Matt specializes in short game instruction and competitive player development. He enjoys coaching players of all skill levels, from beginner to the TOUR in all elements of the game.
For Information about lessons and educational programing call 702-575-8829
Most of us are guilty of moving elements of our full swing into our shortgames. Quite frankly because that information has been handed down for what is now generations, “the small swing is the same as the full swing.” Always as in life, it is not quite that straight forward. The Goals of full swing are much different than shortgame. In Full Swing, maximum speed is important, the bounce of club and added effective loft are often harmful. In Shortgame speed must be well managed, softness has a value and so does controlling the ground interaction of the club’s bounce. Standing up and hitting a driver as far down the fairway as we can is a different skill than being able to hit the ball 15 feet with a controlled spin rate. The caveat is that in playing the game of golf we would like to be relatively skilled at both.
The things that come to mind when looking at the picture on the left with the driver or power setup would be: wide stance, side bend or tilt, distance away from the ball. The picture on the right features a shortgame setup with power features. Short of narrowing the stance and moving the ball back the picture of the wedge contains many of the same distance producing factors as the driver setup. Over a period of time the player using thease setup features to hit shortgame shots would experience fat and thin contact mishits, difficulty controlling speed, and inconsistancy of height carry distacne. This is solely based on the distance factors noted in the setup position.
Gaining control over the setup is a crucial part of being able to become proficient at the varying skills needed to play quality golf and control the overall consistancy of performance. Here are the three simple steps:
The short game stance is very narrow vs. full swing…this is optimum for stability in shortgame, but opposite of full swing. It would be tough to create power from the position in the below right picture, which makes it optimal to hit short shots
This helps assist level shoulders through impact, which can be a lead contributor to controlling the low point in the short game motion.
Sternum or shirt buttons in front of ball. If we set up with the chest behind the golf ball, the low point will tend to be behind the golf ball.
These steps do a lot to reducing the amount of power we can create, but they also do a lot to aid in controlling the lowpoint. Lack of the latter is generally a large problem for most amateurs. Optimal lowpoint control comes when the shoulders are fairly level through impact (below right picture), this provides a covered look with the chest (chest points more toward the target than where the ball was). Step numbers two and three do a great deal to facilitate this. Flaring or opening the lead foot helps the body maintain the level shoulders through impact.
One of the worst things that could happen dynamically though the execution of the shot would be if the hips tilt up, (ie) the lead hip being higher than the trail hip through impact. If this reverse tilt occurs it will move the lowpoint backwards. (see bottom left picture) This happens because as the hips tilt up the spin tilts backwards. For this reason, step number three of referencing sternum position becomes very important. It prevents the same thing that dynamically happened with the hip tilt from happening via setup.