Welcome to Fit Factor, a new GOLF.com series in which we’re shining a light on the importance of club fitting, powered by learnings from the experts at our 8AM Golf sister company, True Spec Golf.
The clubs and shafts that PGA Tour players use are typically front-and-center news in the golf equipment world. While it’s both entertaining and informative to keep up with what clubs they use, and why, it’s equally informative – and arguably even more relatable – to see what equipment LPGA tour players use, and why.
Of course, LPGA players have skills, abilities and consistency that amateurs could only dream of, but their swing speeds more closely resemble the average amateur golfer than those of PGA Tour players. Since the goal when buying equipment is to find the gear that best matches your swing dynamics, the equipment setups that LPGA golfers use can serve as a great guide for a wide range of golfers.
Recently, I was able to catch up with a number of LPGA players to get their advice on equipment, and what amateurs tend to get wrong.
Below are the seven biggest mistakes that amateurs make with their gear, according to LPGA pros Anne van Dam, Emma Talley, Georgia Hall, Yani Tseng, Andrea Lee, Carlota Ciganda, and Sandra Gal.
1) Using too many long irons
Long irons, as they’re called due to their longer lengths, are the lowest lofted irons in your set. For many, that would mean a 4-, 3- or even 2-iron.
Traditionally, these low-lofted irons have been a staple in golfers’ equipment setups. That’s just how it’s always been. While long irons are still commonly used on the PGA Tour – although their usage is shrinking – they’re much less common on the LPGA Tour.
Hybrids and high-lofted fairway woods often offer more forgiveness, distance and height compared to long irons. Some amateurs, however, remain reluctant to give them a try. Here’s what the LPGA pros had to say when asked about long irons versus fairway woods or hybrids:
Anne van Dam: “I think a fairway wood is just a very easy club to hit. It has loft on it and it’s just made to go through the turf a little bit easier than an iron. Especially hybrids. I would definitely recommend putting a hybrid in compared to a 3- or 4-iron.”
Yani Tseng: “It depends on the golf course. If I go to a very windy golf course, I’ll put the irons in. But for other shots, if I want to go a little higher, I would definitely go with a hybrid. People think with the hybrid, the ball is not going to stop on the green, but it actually stops pretty good. And then it’s easier to hit it and launch higher, and the ball is actually going to go straighter with more spin than the irons.”
Emma Talley: “I like a hybrid more than a 4-iron, for me, because it has a higher launch angle and more spin than a 4-iron does.”
Sandra Gal (speaking on her 7-wood): “Well you can hit it out of the rough really easily. So, it kind of depends. If you’re playing a links course, a 4-iron is great. But most of the typical courses we play in the U.S. you need a great club to get out of the rough. And also I think it’s so versatile. I can hit it high, low, I can shape it. It’s like cheating, it’s so easy.”
2) Not using a forgiving enough iron
One-piece blade irons look great in the bag. That much is difficult to argue. But, are they always the most practical for amateur golfers looking to play their best?
For Carlota Ciganda, she says that while she loves the way blade irons look, she’d rather “make more birdies and have more performance…a little bit of cavity makes it easier. Your bad shots are better than with blades.”
Georgia Hall says that cavity back irons offer more forgiveness, which helps her on the course, as well. When asked if too many amateurs choose blades over cavity backs, Hall’s answer spoke volumes: “I think [blades] are more for showing their friends what they have instead of maybe what’s best for them.”
Of course, blade irons can be great for golfers who have the speed and consistency to reap the benefits. They’re not for everyone, though.
3) Not getting properly fit
The equipment market is flooded with options, and with many different purchasing outlets, such as third party websites, retail stores and even social media, it can be easy just to buy what catches your eye.
Andrea Lee, however, encourages golfers to go through a professional fitting.
“Honestly, I think the best thing for amateurs to do is to go get fitted,” Lee says. “I think that’s really important, because you don’t want to just go into any store and buy a random set of golf clubs that you think are going to be the best fit for your game. I think getting it set to your liking, stiffness of the shaft, the [loft], all that stuff I think is important for amateurs to actually keep in mind.”
For the less gear-savvy golfer, fitting can also help take the guesswork completely out of the equation. Here’s what Carlota Ciganda had to say about her fitting process with her driver:
“With my driver I’ve been hitting it a lot on the heel, so with my coach we’ve been trying different shafts, different drivers, different weights, and for some reason, this setting with the weight in the draw setting – I have 8.5 draw and minus 1 – it’s the best one. To be honest I just like to go ahead and hit it. I don’t think too much about all this – shafts, weight and everything. Whatever they tell me to hit I just go and hit it.”
4) Chipping with wedges that have too much loft
Sixty-degree lob wedges are seemingly a requirement in the bag of the modern golfer. Everyone has one. The high loft of a lob wedge can be a savior when you need to stop the ball quickly on the green.
According to Georgia Hall, though, reaching for a 60-degree wedge every time you miss the green isn’t always the way to go.
“A lot of amateurs I see take too much loft when chipping and they always end up short,” Hall says. “So I think it’s important to really experiment with 50 or 52 degrees, try and run the ball a bit more towards the hole.”
Lower-lofted wedges, or even short irons, can help get the ball rolling and reduce the margin for error when chipping. Legendary wedge guru Roger Cleveland, who designs Callaway’s wedge, echoed this sentiment as well in a recent story.
5) Not using enough flex
Due to the sheer number of options on the market, finding the right shafts for your swing is difficult. To complicate matters, especially as it relates to the driver, egos get involved; some golfers want to use the stiffest shaft possible because that’s what the PGA Tour pros use.
Here’s what the LPGA pros had to say on the matter…
Yani Tseng: “I would say [amateurs] always want to go too heavy or stiff with their equipment. It depends on your speed. I would actually recommend amateurs to start with a regular shaft…start with a regular shaft to see if you can swing as easy as you want and if the ball is still going pretty good. If you think it’s too soft for you, then you can go up to a stiff shaft. But most amateurs are going to a stiff shaft and hitting it everywhere. That would be the advice that I give.”
Andrea Lee: “I think maybe some of the male amateurs try to get stiffer shafts than what they might actually need for their game. Just because they want to hit it so hard and so far, like Phil Mickelson or Bryson DeChambeau. They just want to get it out there. You really need to understand where you’re at, where your ball speed is, where your swing speed is, in order to actually get the right equipment for you.”
To help find out what’s best for you, Georgia Hall recommends trying a number of different shafts on a launch monitor (such as Trackman or Flightscope). Hall also says that while most amateurs are concerned that they’re spinning the ball too much with their driver, they may actually not be spinning it enough, thus losing out on more total distance and accuracy.
6) Overlooking the golf ball
Even though the golf ball is the one piece of equipment golfers use on every single shot, it’s one of the most overlooked parts of the equation to shooting your best scores. Different golf balls are designed to perform differently. Speed, spin, height, and feel are all variables, and finding the right mix for your game is crucial.
It may take some time and experimentation, but the golf ball design you choose can have an impact on your performance, so it’s worth the effort.
Anne van Dam, for instance, says it took “a couple weeks” of testing eight different golf ball models to find the one that suits her best. She was looking to find the ball that produced the most consistent distance and dispersion averages during range testing, and the one that was most stable in the wind during on-course testing. These are two factors to keep in mind when searching for your go-to golf ball, outside of the typical “more distance” and “more greenside spin” desires.
7) Thinking that equipment can do everything
Golf is a constant pursuit of improvement, and getting your hands on the perfect equipment is just the start.
“I think what [amateurs] get wrong is if they buy a new driver, they expect to hit it straighter and farther,” van Dam says. “Of course, the new technology will be very beneficial towards that, but you still have to practice a lot and put the hours into becoming a better golfer, unfortunately. Equipment cannot do everything.”
To van Dam’s point, simply purchasing new equipment isn’t a foolproof solution. Buying the right equipment that matches your game and swing dynamics, though, can help you get on the path to improvement.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2021? Visit the expert fitters at our sister company, True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.