What Determines Good Golf Club Head Design
Like anything else, Golf Club Head Design is directly related to customer acceptance which can be determined by functionality or looks. This is why some companies start with what they think will have the highest performance and then design the graphics of the head around that premise. In this case they are thinking function first and appearance second. For instance Mizuno tends to focus their iron design on functionality first, and once they get a head that performs well and has the right characteristics to assist the golfer, they then figure out a way to make it look appealing.
Some other companies tend to structure their equipment gclub design around graphics first and then function later. There are companies who place a lot of emphasis on how the design, graphics, adjustment options look, rather than what they actually do to help the golfer. Of course, they do blend in performance at some stage, but that is not their primary focus.
Form versus function in golf club design has perplexed designers, engineers and marketers for decades in a three way tug of war which will ultimately be determined by what the public wants. This article focuses on the functionality and engineering concepts which make up a good golf club, as in my opinion these are the most important elements in the design of a golf club that will contribute to improving your golf in the long term.
An important component of functionality in golf clubs, especially with higher handicappers is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the ability of a golf club head to reduce the effects of off centre hits. The Moment of Inertia of the club head has a direct relationship on the club’s “forgiveness”, on the shot shape and on the distance of a golf ball struck by the club.
Moment of Inertia is the measure of a club’s resistance to twisting about the golf club head’s centre of gravity upon impact with a golf ball. In general, the higher the moments of inertia, the less the head is likely to twist at impact when the ball is not hit in the centre. The higher the moment of inertia therefore, usually means a straighter shot, greater ball speed, and increased shot distance.
When I consider club heads in irons I look for club heads with high moment of inertia, aesthetic looks, and good performance. Correctly designed Peripheral Weighting achieves high MOI, and Forging gives the club that extra edge. Many of the major manufacturers have products which meet this criteria, but most of the off the shelf clubs look good but are missing some of these characteristics. There are a few of component manufacturers which specialize in club head design and stand out for the quality and performance of their clubs such as, Miura, Maltby, and Alpha.
What I look for in woods are design features which increase forgiveness for off centre hits, but I give more emphasis on the head size, elasticity in the clubface, weight bias adjustment, the use of special alloys, shaft weight, and shaft performance. In woods the shaft will have much more influence on distance and accuracy then the design of the clubface.
Modern woods also focus design on COR or coefficient of restitution which is the ability of the striking surface to rebound the ball, or the spring-like effect of the surface. The USGA governs many of these factors and aims at limiting size, shape, volume, and COR to manage the MOI and performance characteristics of a golf club, so golf club manufacturers are faced with the choice of increasing one performance characteristic at the expense of another.
What I look for in a wood club head is for excellence in engineering with the use of composite metals, blended with a quality titanium face in the driver, and a low centre of gravity in the woods to pick up the ball easily. The reality is that many of the above characteristics are designed into the club head, so it leaves aesthetics and the shaft to make the difference.
Many people do not really understand that given the club head meets the above criteria, the real difference in performance comes from the shaft. A correctly selected shaft, aligned, trimmed, and fitted properly can easily increase distance and accuracy. In my opinion it contributes to about 80 percent of performance as compared to 20 percent from the club head. A longer shaft matched to your swing speed, tempo and release point will achieve greater club head speed. This is just physics.