Distance Gapping and Why it Matters
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 in the above picture highlight the data below.
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 make-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.