The Performance You Really Want

By: Bob Duncan

It's April 2009, we've enjoyed another great Masters tournament and you're still wishing you could hit either that soft draw, bomb it straight off the tee, or spin it and make it dance on the greens.

But is the solution truly in your swing, or in your clubs? There's no better time than the start of the golf season to figure it out.

There are so many tips about your golf swing and how to hit the ball in any direction you wish. But are your clubs truly set up so you can produce the shots you read about? More often than not, clubs most players are using do not match their desires - the clubs don't fit!

So, let's take a look at what you want and how the specifications of the clubs must change to get that performance. Most players will agree that if they could play better with a broomstick they would use one, but few will actually hit the specs they should. Ego is often involved, and most players are using shaft flexes that are too stiff and lofts that are too low - especially in their driver.

DRAW: Many players wish they could get rid of their slice and hit a soft 'draw,' or a ball flight with a slight curve to the left (right for left-handers) especially off the tee, because it goes a little farther. If you want a draw, you need to use more loft and softer shaft flexes. If you actually hit it farther with a 13-degree driver and a shaft two flexes softer than you're actually using, would you try one? With the new clubfitting systems available, trying before you buy is easier than ever.

STRAIGHTER? You need higher lofts, heavier shafts and softer flexes. The main killers of direction are shafts that are too stiff and lofts that are too low. If your shafts are too light you will have a lot of variance and curvature in your shots. Try a club that is a higher loft, a heavier shaft and a softer flex than what you're using. Also, in irons, using the correct lie angle will also straighten things out. Heck, try something really flexible - what have you got to lose?

LOWER? Use lower lofts, of course, but be careful that you don't change your swing as a loss of direction can easily happen. But most players don't hit it so high that they need to hit it lower. Heavier shafts will also hit the ball lower, but the combination of lower lofts and lighter shafts will definitely hit the ball more crooked! Going with lower lofts to hit the ball farther is usually a mistake.

HIGHER? Of course, using a higher loft will help. Lighter shafts and softer flexes will too. Usually, going a little higher will produce a little straighter also, so this is a plus. Shafts with lower "kick points" will hit the ball higher, and these shafts are usually combined with lighter weights.

MORE BACKSPIN? Most players need more backspin to get the ball to stop on the greens, and this is usually better for scoring. This is achieved with softer shaft flexes, low kick points, and correct lie angles. But, the biggest change in backspin is achieved by changing your golf ball. Models that promise "Straight" and "Distance" on the box usually don't have as much backspin as those that say "Tour" or "Spin." If your irons have softer flexes, correct lie angles and you use a higher spin-rate ball, you'll stop the ball much better.

FADE? Some players want to softly curve the ball to the right more consistently. Using stiffer flexes and lower lofts will usually produce this. Of course, if you're really trying to hit the ball straight this will de-rail your performance. And, if the shafts are too stiff you'll slice the ball more, especially if you're using a lower loft.

LONGER OFF THE TEE? Many players mistakenly use lofts that are too low for their ability and swing speed. Longer tee shots are achieved with a higher initial launch angle and a lower spin rate on the golf ball. This will also result in straighter shots. Using a higher loft, a heavier shaft and the correct flex will produce higher launch and lower spin rates. Using the correct loft and correct shaft weight and flex for your technique and strength will optimize distance.

LONGER IRONS? Most players are using irons with shafts that are too stiff. This includes many "ladies" irons. If you're working too hard trying to get distance with your irons, you may need to use softer shafts. Correct shaft length and lie angles will also increase your distance, making for more "square" contact.

Most players have not had a comprehensive clubfitting, allowing them to hit significantly softer or stiffer shafts to see the difference in performance. If you've had a clubfitting but are still not getting the performance you think you should, you may need to test a wider array of flexes and shaft weights to see what they actually can do for you.

By changing your equipment to match the performance you want, you'll have a more predictable game of golf.

Bob Duncan is a 25-year PGA Golf Professional, has been teaching and coaching golf since 1979, and is the author of the GolfeCoach, an interactive and personal coaching software program. For more information and for a sample of the GolfeCoach, visit