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Archives for April 2007 | Hireko Golf Blog

Clubheads: Material Differences

Golfers have many options available to them regarding club head materials. To a newcomer to the game this can also be confusing on why one would select one material over another. So, let us explain the difference in the materials and why they might be used for the various golf clubs.

The use of titanium for golf clubs came from the technology used in the aerospace industry. The first golf clubs made from titanium date back to the early 1990’s and quickly became the material of choice for driver heads due to the high strength-to-weight ratio. Titanium is lighter than stainless steel and allows the designer to manufacturer a much larger club head that meets the weight specifications of a normal driver. The strength of the material has increased durability for even the strongest golfers in the world.

There are many different titanium alloys (materials added to the raw titanium) to change both the weight and strengths requirements. With driver heads reaching the maximum volume of 460 cubic centimeters, the most common alloy is 6/4 Titanium, by which 90% of the material is titanium, 6% is aluminum and 4% is vanadium. There are many other alloys or grades of titanium (sometimes called Beta Titanium) such as 15-3-3-3, SP700, 10-2-3, etc. available to the club designer. If the higher grade of titanium is used, then it is normally for the face material only and not the entire head.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (R&A) – the two governing bodies in golf – established rules for how fast a ball can come off of the club face of a driver. Most manufacturers make drivers that go to this limit without exceeding it, so there really is no advantage of one material over another. Typically, smaller drivers (under 400cc) would utilize the higher cost beta titanium to increase how fast the ball comes off the face. But with clubs in the 460cc range, standard 6/4 titanium will besufficient material for the maximum allowable ball speed.

Titanium can also be used in other clubs, but normally you do not see it much for a couple of reasons. First, titanium is much more expensive than stainless steel used in fairway woods, hybrids and irons. Second, the reason for titanium is for the strength and lightweight nature. If a fairway wood was made with titanium, it would normally be made much larger in size to achieve a normal weight. By doing so, the head becomes much taller and makes it effectively harder to hit off of the fairway. The same can be said for titanium irons. However, you will see some irons with a titanium insert as a way of increasing the ball speed at impact verses an all stainless steel clubhead.

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is the most used material in golf. The material is generally inexpensive and easy to cast into all the shapes that you see golf clubs made plus durable enough for everyday play.There are two main types of stainless steel used in golf club heads. One is 17-4 stainless steel (comprising of no more than 0.07% carbon, between 15 an 17% chromium, 4% nickel, 2.75% copper, and 75% iron and trace elements). 17-4 used primarily for metal woods, hybrids and some irons. The other type of stainless steel is 431 (comprising of no more than 20% carbon, 15-17% chromium, 1.25 – 2.5% nickel, and the remainder being iron and a few trace elements). This grade of stainless steel is used for irons and putters.

The majority of fairway woods today are manufactured from 17-4 stainless steel. Drivers can also be made of 17-4, but due to the high density of the material, the limit on size is approximately 250cc without the risk of cracking during normal play. Because golfers prefer larger, easier-to-hit drivers, few drivers today are even manufactured from stainless steel.  Investment cast irons can be made from either 431 or 17-4 grades. The 17-4 is slightly harder of the two. This allows the 431 to be adjusted for loft or lie a little more easily, but other than that, there is no one greater advantage of one verses the other.

Specialty Stainless Steel (Maraging Steel)
Another more recent addition to the number of materials used in golf club head manufacturing is maraging steel, which is an alloy or family of steel with unique properties. Typically maraging steels are harder than non-maraging steels like 431 or 17-4 and used primarily for face inserts rather than the whole head. A driver head can be produced wholly from maraging steel, but there is still a limit on the size of the head (roughly in the low-300cc range). Plus the cost of the head would not be that much less expensive than one made from titanium.

Since the maraging steels are harder, the face insert can be made thinner than the normal stainless steel graded used in golf. As a result, the ball coming off the face will have a slightly high ball velocity upon impact. Maraging steels are more expensive to produce, therefore would be more in the premium price range, which is the trade-off for the higher performance.

Aluminum is a much lighter material than stainless steel. Early metal woods made from aluminum back in 1970’s and 80’s were not very strong or durable. This caused these low cost club heads to gain a bad reputation for easily scratching and denting that still carries over today. However, the aluminum alloys today are much better than those used in the past and the head sized can be made to the maximum size for drivers (460cc) under the Rules of Golf.

Heads manufactured from aluminum are much lower in cost than even stainless steel, which makes these clubs more affordable and ideal in woods of starter sets or junior sets. The only downside to the aluminum is that the walls have to be made thicker as not to crack or cave in. Therefore the ball speed coming off the face would be less than a comparable titanium driver.

Carbon Graphite
Carbon graphite is an extremely lightweight material and can be used to create a wood (usually with some sort of metallic soleplate for durability and additional weight). Few clubs today are produced primarily from carbon graphite; however there are a number that incorporate the carbon graphite material in the design.

Carbon graphite is less dense than any other material used in golf and a perfect choice to replace the top shell (or crown or top of the head). The weight savings from incorporating the carbon graphite in the crown, allows additional weight to be repositioned elsewhere in the heads in order to improve the design. Heads made from or partially from carbon graphite demand a premium price and can be found, not only in drivers, but fairway woods and hybrids as well.

Some of which are intentionally un-chromed to rust through normal use. The idea behind the unplated carbon steel wedges is softer feel and supposable greater spin. Irons, wedges and putters produced from carbon steel will be more expensive than stainless steel.

Heads produced from zinc are the least expensive of all the materials. Used mostly for irons, wedges and putters in both starter sets and junior sets, zinc heads are less durable than their stainless steel counterparts. Zinc heads can be identified by their non-magnetic properties and their larger-than-normal hosel diameters.

Wooden woods are rarely found as a club head material option anymore as it has lost favor amongst golfers to titanium drivers and stainless fairway woods.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

Choosing a golf shaft: graphite vs. steel

Shafts for golf clubs are primarily made of either steel or graphite. The steel shafts are made from a carbon steel alloy and protective chrome plating is applied to prevent it from rusting. A graphite shaft can also be called a composite shaft because it made from multiple layers of carbon fiber and epoxy resin holding the layers together. There are even some shafts made of both steel and graphite. However, you are probably wondering which is best for you?

Steel shafts have been used for golf clubs since the 1920’s, although earlier versions can be dated back to the turn of the 20th century. Graphite shafts are a relatively new material used in golf, dating back to the late 1960’s, but didn’t gain widespread acceptance until the mid 1980’s. Both materials are used for some of the following reasons.

Steel shafts are less expensive to manufacturer and easily able to make consistent from shaft-to-shaft. Steel shafts are made from a single material, so creating a new model is limited to geometry changes to the shaft such as the outside diameters along its’ entire length, wall thickness, distance between each step (unless it is a stepless shaft) and usage of additional metals (such as chromium, vanadium and nickel) in the alloys. Premium steel shafts cost about the same as low end graphite shafts.

Graphite shafts were originally designed to make a lightweight alternative to steel shafts. However, there are graphite shafts that actually weigh more than some steel models, but this is very rare. Steel shafts range from approximately 90g to 130g, while graphite shafts can be a low as 39g. The most popular weight range of graphite shafts for woods is 60-70 grams and for iron shafts the weight is closer to 70 – 80 grams. One of the biggest advantages to graphite shafts is their lighter weight.

Since the graphite shafts are generally lighter than steel shafts, there is a potential for greater distance because they may be able to be swung slightly faster. Most graphite shafted clubs are assembled longer in length than standard steel-shafted clubs. Golfers that tend to be less consistent may find the steel shafts to give them greater control. But for those golfers, such as ladies and seniors, who need additional length to enjoy the game better, graphite shafts are a welcome alternative.

Another advantage of graphite shafts over steel is from a design standpoint. As earlier stated, graphite shafts are manufactured from multiple layers of carbon fiber. Each layer can be a different modulus (strength) material and can be applied at different angles to contribute independently to the stiffness or reduction in twisting along the length of the shaft. This allows graphite shaft manufactures almost limitless possibilities in new designs.

Because of the various materials able to be used in the manufacturer of the golf shaft, there is a much greater range in pricing as well. An inexpensive graphite shaft may cost $10.00, while the most expensive shaft can cost as much as $1000.00! Although most graphite shafts normally found in $10 – $90 range. Expect a club with a graphite shaft to cost more than with a steel shaft.

This is one reason why you so the majority of golfers have both steel and graphite shafted clubs in their bag. Greater than 90% of all drivers have graphite shafts in them. This is because the driver is designed for maximum distance and is much larger and easier-to-hit than they were just a few years ago. For fairway woods, more than 80% are equipped with graphite shafts as players tend to match the driver with the same type of shaft. Golfers, who tend to hit the ball a long way and/or need more control, may find steel to their liking. There are a number of lightweight steel shafts available as an alternative to graphite.

Irons and wedges are usually just the opposite in the shaft material choice. Approximately 75% of irons sold today are sold with steel shafts. The primary reason for choosing steel may be an economic factor as the irons and wedges make up a great percentage of the clubs in the bag. The other reason why golfers choose steel in their irons and wedges is for control rather than increasing distance, especially among stronger individuals. However, there are a number of quality graphite iron shafts that come in all different weights and stiffness to match nearly every golfer.

The choice between steel or graphite shafts for you will be based on if you are looking at greater distance or not. Greater distance will come at a greater cost, not only economically, but for those who already don’t hit their ball very straight, hitting the ball further may even compound the problem. Make sure to make the choice wisely based on your personal goals and current tendencies.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

Golf for fun and health

One of the many time honored traditions of golf is walking the course and soaking up the beauty of the surrounding. Walking has other benefits as well, like improving both your health and the environment that you might not have thought of. Unfortunately less and less golfers walk and instead the use of the cart have been the preferred mode of transportation.

There may be various reasons why walking may not be an option. First, the golfer’s health is the issue as the golfer may suffer from foot, knee or back ailments preventing them from walking the course without pain or discomfort. But many times the course will not allow walking as they have strict rules on mandatory use of carts during certain hours or the course was built that the adjacent holes are simply too far apart to make walking practical. However, many golf courses are walking-friendly and there is an option that is left up to the golfer.

Good old common sense knows the health benefits of walking as a form of exercise. Some of these benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer, lowering blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, reducing body fat to help control weight and enhance your mental well being just to name a few.

Walking the course in some fashion is no different than walking in a park other than a sport is played along the way. In many cases where the golf course is packed, walking will actually take the same amount of time as riding in the cart. For 18-holes, one will walk approximately 4 to 5 miles including the distances meandering across the fairways, on and around the green to line up a putt and going from the green to the next hole. For that amount of walking, one is only looking at 4 hours and 15 minute to 4 and one half hours to complete the round on average. This is not a torrid pace, but still you can lose easily 400 calories in the meantime.

Walking allows you to pace out your play and make it more enjoyable. How many times have you ridden in a cart only to rush up to the next group then have to wait and continue this hole after hole for the entire round? This make the game less fun as you become more occupied by the fact you have to wait, lose your rhythm and sometimes your patience. Worse yet are the golf courses that are “cart path only” that you usually end up walking just as far and still end up spending for the cart fee!

If you do walk, here are some things to think about before starting. First stretch out. You might want to do this before swinging a club anyway as this will help avoid pulling a muscle. You might seriously consider wearing a hat to keep the sun off of you face and top of your head and also apply sun screen to reduce the risk of sun exposure to your skin. Depending upon wear you live, wear light colored socks to reduce the risk of picking up ticks and avoid poison ivy (oak) if going off the path to look for a lost ball.

Aside from the health issues is the environmental aspect of walking. First, the wear and tear on a golf course is far less impacted by those who walk than the damage a golf cart can do, especially in the fairways (where your ball might land) and near the greens by those who may not know better. In addition, the fuel to power or run a golf cart does produce greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere. That is something to think of for future generations.

So next time you head to the course, consider walking if you already don’t. That is of course if that is an option based on your health or the golf course rules simply don’t allow so. Soak up the splendor of the environment and enjoy the game as it was meant to be –walking both for fun and your health.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

Playing on the golf course for the first time

After over 20 years, I can still remember the first time playing on a real golf course. What I can remember the most is the exhilaration of trying something new, the company I was with, the course I played and yes, those plaid pants I just had to wear. Next was finding out it wasn’t exactly as easy as it looked on TV. Yes, I topped some shots, whiffed a few times and even putted the ball off of the green once, but I managed to hit enough shots well to make we want to keep playing to this day. Here is some advice for those looking to play for the first time:

  • The key to playing when you are out on the course is to keep up with the group in front of you. While we all respect the Rules of Golf, your first few times on the course, the only thing you should be concerned about is hitting a good shot, and not holding up the group behind you.
  • Use the easier set of tees (white for men, pink/red for ladies). You are setting yourself up for frustration if you play from the blue or black tees your first time out.
  • Don’t stand over the ball practicing your swing 20 times. Yes, we all know you want to hit a good shot, but practice BEFORE you get to the tee box. When you’re on the tee, take one or two practice swings then your ready to hit the ball. Same thing when you’re putting too.
  • Have multiple balls ready. You will probably lose a few balls in your first round. The Rules of Golf allow 5 minutes to search for your ball, but unless you are waiting for the group in front of you, don’t. Take a look in the general area of where your ball went. If you don’t see it within 30 seconds, drop another ball where you thought it landed and keep on going.
  • If it’s taking you way, way too many shots to get to the green, simply pick up your ball and move on to the next hole.
  • Don’t worry about your score too much. Remember, this is your first time and you just want to get a feel of what playing golf is all about.
  • Don’t worry about the Rules too much. Frankly, you probably won’t even know them that well. If you hit your ball into the water hazard, simply take a drop from an appropriate place and keep going. If you can’t get your ball out of the sand trap, simply throw it out. You are NOT going to find this kind of advice in any book, but believe me, your partners and the groups behind you will appreciated it. AFTER your round, review the various situations you found yourself in and determine how the rules would’ve applied, so next time, you’ll know what to do.

You will find that most golfers are going to be courteous and supportive, AS LONG as you don’t hold up the game. So good luck and most importantly have fun! If you do, chances are you will be coming back to play more. Remember, each time you go out it will become a little easier and you will eventually learn more of the rules as you draw from your and your playing partner’s experiences.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

Golf doesn’t have to be expensive

When most people entertain the idea of playing golf, the first thoughtin their mind is “This is going to be expensive”. Well, honestly it can if you want it to be by joining your local country club, taking private lessons, buying a new wardrobe and having the latest and greatest name brand club equipment that is available on the market. But for many, it really doesn’t have to be price restrictive to be able to enjoy this great game.

Where you play can make a world of difference on how much it can cost. First, let us look at all the options that are available to you, starting with the least expensive and working our way up. The least expensive is your local driving range. There are nearly as many driving ranges as there are golf courses (approximately 16,000) in the United States. Some golfers will hone their skills here rather than out on the course. In Japan, golf is a very popular sport. Many golfers go exclusively to hit balls at their driving ranges since space for golf courses are limited and golf club memberships are very expensive. Some of these ranges are so large that golfers are able to hit from two or more floors! Most driving ranges provide you with different size buckets of balls that vary in cost, can also have lights to extend hours of operation and may be indoors or even have heated stalls are installed to play year round in colder climates.

If you are just getting started and don’t want to be intimidated the first time(s) out, you might seek a shorter Par 3 or Executive Course. These are some of the least expensive and less timeconsuming options as the courses are much shorter than a traditional course. These are great for beginners, children, women and seniors. Note, not all areas will have these types of courses available to them.

The next type is called a Municipal Course or also to referred to as a “Muni”, where it may beowned and tax-supported by the city, county, school, park or other special tax district. These are open to the general public and may offer memberships or annual passes. There are different price levels depending upon the location and the quality of the course.

The most common type of course is the Daily Fee, which is privately owned but provides access to the general public. The Daily Fee course can run the gamut from inexpensive to very expensive (costing hundreds of dollar per round!). The latter is usually tied into a lodging complex, often called a Resort Course. According to the National Golf Foundation, the median price to play 18-holes a public golf course (including municipal) is $34

Lastly is your Private Course, which is limited to the members and their guests. Again, there are different price levels of private courses which may be very reasonable for an avid golfer (and their family) to those requiring a six-figure initiation fee and a ten year waiting list to get into. After an initiation fee to join, the private course members will pay monthly dues, regardless if they play golf at all.

For those that pay as they play, there are a number of ways to save money. Playing the course on the weekend is typically more expensive than weekdays as there is less demand for the number of tee times. Walking instead of renting a cart is another great way of saving you money, plus the health benefits that come with it. But be aware, not all courses will let you walk. Playing just a quick nine holes whether after work or in a league is another way to save on you wallet and still spending quality time outdoors with friends.

Look for coupons in the local paper. Many courses will run specials, especially in areas where there is lot of competition to get you to play their course. Some places may sell booklets that allow you to play several of the different golf courses in your area for a discounted rate. Now that we have talked about where to play, we need to address what we are going to play with – and that is the equipment (including shoes, tees, gloves, etc.) Probably the first thing you want to do is set up a budget and the second is to shop around.

If you set a budget, stick to it as you can easily start spending more money that you really wanted and that can cut down on the number of round you may play or in taking any lesson to improve. Speaking of lessons, you don’t have to have David Leadbetter or Butch Harmon to teach you (they are too busy teaching the big name pros anyway). There are a number of very qualified teachers at the local golf course and even driving ranges in your area. There are always group lessons available though civic or educational institutions that will teach the basics and is the most affordable.

One of the least expensive items that you will need is golf balls, which can be broken down into different categories. You have your premium market where a dozen golf balls will cost $50 and up and geared more toward the elite or hardcore golfer. There are a number of very good performance balls in the medium range category ($25 – $36 per dozen) that most golfers would have a hard time knowing the difference between the higher priced category. For the budget minded and starting golfer, almost any ball will do, including the so-called X-outs, which are brand name balls that are out of tolerance. If you are going to lose a lot of balls, why spend $50 (or even $30) a dozen when you can spend around $1 or less per ball for the 15 and 18 packs found at your local discount or off-course shop.

Golf shoes are a specialty item that features cleats or spikes to reduce the risk of slipping in the grass. A golf glove (you usually only wear one) is used provide traction to the golf club and protect your hands from blisters. Neither of these two items is required to play golf, but the type of shoe you wear (non-golf) could prevent you playing a particular course. Technology doesn’t change with shoes and gloves like it does clubs. What is really the difference between last year’s model of shoe and this year’s if you are just starting out? You can usually pick up some very decent shoes and gloves at your local discount store. Also look at the end of the calendar year as you will find the best deals as models will change. Make sure you find a size that is comfortable as most places allow you to try on different models to find the right fit.

The biggest initial cost will be the clubs. New equipment can purchased at these locations:

  • Local Pro Shop
  • Off-course Retailer
  • Discount Outlets
  • On-line Retailers
  • Local Independent Clubmaker / Fitting & Repair Shop

For brand name clubs (like Callaway, Titelist, Taylor Made, etc.), there may not be much difference in price if you shop around as many manufacturers have minimum advertised prices. So many consumers will shop by convenience or expertise. Consider the average cost of a name brand set of clubs with their stock shafts and grips.

    Graphite-shafted driver – $299
    Graphite-shafted fairway woods (2) – $358
    Graphite-shafted hybrids (2) – $298
    Steel-shafted irons, wedges (8) – $899
    Putter – $200
    Golf Bag – $165Total $2219

For avid golfers, they may change equipment every 3 to 5 years. Even occasional golfers will pick a new driver, putter, or specialty club on a yearly basis. There are alternative places to find new non-brand equipment, but does offer the same quality materials and technologies. Consider the cost of an assembled set of clubs (with upgrades) at Hireko:

    Graphite-shafted driver – $129
    Graphite-shafted fairway woods (2) – $178
    Graphite-shafted hybrids (2) – $118
    Steel-shafted irons, wedges (8) – $240
    Putter – $43
    Golf Bag – $49Total $757

This is approximately a 1/3 of the price for comparable equipment. How? Without sounding like an infomercial, two key reasons are that our equipment is truly foundry-direct plus we do not have the added cost of marketing in golf magazines and national TV or multi-million dollar endorsement deals for Tour players. These last two items can make up nearly two-thirds of the retail price of the clubs.

You may be surprised to see that there are other options to buy our fine products. One is from an independent club maker in your area that can custom fit the clubs to you based on your height, strength and ability. Expect to pay a little bit more money as the fitting process can take as little as 30 minutes or more and you may have the option of hitting numerous demo clubs or being measured by sophisticated computerized equipment. Local clubmakers charge various amounts depending upon their area and the amount of services they offer.

You can also buy the components (heads, shafts and grips) and assemble them yourself if you have the skills, equipment and know-how. We offer a clubmaking book if this is something that you think you would be interested in. Buying the parts and assembling yourself can save you the most amount of money.

If you are just getting started and don’t want to invest a whole lot not knowing if you take up the game, you can purchase a whole brand new assembled set of clubs including bag for under $200. These may be referred to as “Boxed Sets” and may be assembled with commercial grade shafts and grips and with die-cast aluminum and zinc heads to keep the cost low.

We understand that Hireko may not be the only place to buy merchandise, especially for beginners looking for a low-cost alternative to the more expensive brand-name clubs. You also have options of obtaining hand-me-downs or buying used sets found in the classified ads, on-line auction sites, garage sales and flea markets, which can be later re-sized, re-shafted and/or re-gripped to fit your particular needs. If you are mechanically inclined or have good hands-on skills, you potentially could do this yourself and save quite a bit of money. Hireko has a large selection of shafts and grips from which to choose from.

As you can see, there are many different price levels from which to play and from which to buy equipment. Depending upon you skill level or dedication to the game you can spend as little or as much as you like.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

How to get started in golf

There are many reasons why a person wants to start playing golf. However, the primary reason should be to have fun and make it an enjoyable experience. The game of golf can be both difficult and humbling. It just takes that one swing per round like a long straight drive, long putt for a birdie or breaking a personal milestone to keep a person coming back even though you may be playing other golfers, you are actually playing against yourself challenging both your physical and emotional skills. Seeing individual improvement also keeps us wanting to play more. It is a game of a lifetime whether you are young, old or somewhere in-between. Once you establish a handicap, you can play against anyone, even a professional, and havea fair competition (the only sport of its kind).

Before heading off to the course for the very first time, you may want to invest in quality time with lessons and practice. Every golfer had to start somewhere. Even the most skilled golfers in the world had to hone their skill by practicing hours upon hours to get to that level. Check with your local golf courses or driving range facility to find a local PGA teaching professional who you will feel comfortable with. Speak with friends or relatives in your local area that have taken lessons for a referral.

Most lessons are given individually. However, the local teaching pro or civic groups like the YMCA or an educational institution may offer group lessons. This is especially true for women and children to be less intimidating while learning the game. Golfers who are self-taught or learn from a friend or relative will generally take longer to proper techniques. Learning the golf swing is not only think that you should learn, but also etiquette as well. We have devoted a special section to learn the basic etiquette on and around the golf course.

Most golfers, even individuals who are naturally athletic, need to spend time developing their swing. There are special places devotes to practicing your swing called driving ranges. These may be stand alone or may be part of the golf course. The golfer pays a nominal fee to hit a basket or bucket of balls in a wide open surrounding. The name driving range would indicateit is for the Driver, but it is a place to learn to hit every other club in your bag (except possibly the putter). Spend time knowing what direction and just how far each club goes. This will be extremely helpful when you are ready to go to the course.

Golf courses also have a practice green to help you learn the speed and contours of the putting surfaces you may play. This is much different from a Putt Putt course as the golf course greens are not flat nor have barriers for mis-struck putts to bounce off of. Spend some time practicing here as putting will account for approximately 40% of your shots, especially before you head onto the course.

If you mow grass at home, then you can spend time practicing chipping and pitching around the lawn. Hitting full shots in your neighborhood are strongly discouraged for obvious reason, but learning to hit short shots with your highest lofted clubs (wedges) can be useful. Trying to hit into a basket or bucket from 10 to 30 feet away will pay dividends around the greens on the course.

The first time playing on an actual golf course can be intimidating and exhilarating as well. Before going to the best know golf course or country club in your area, you are best off probably playing a less formidable challenge. Speak with friends or local family members who often play golf to suggest the easiest course in the area. This may be a Par 3 course (where the longest hole may be 150 yards or less) or an executive course (much shorter than a traditional course). Gradually build your game up. Otherwise, playing a very difficult course and playing poorly will do little for your self-confidence and may discourage you from ever playing golf again.

When you do go to play your first time, play with a peer or someone you are comfortable with. Playing with your boss, a complete stranger or a wife playing with her husband can be unnerving at best. But if you are put into this situation, don’t become discouraged, have fun and show proper etiquette. Remember, those playing with you also remember the first time they played.

First, you came to the right place. Hireko has a huge assortment of clubs and training aids for any golfer. If you are beginning to play golf or becoming interested, obviously you will need equipment. Chances are you want good quality clubs to make the game enjoyable and that is also affordable. If you went out to buy new, name brand equipment (like Callaway, TaylorMade, etc.), it would cost in excess of $2000 for 14 clubs, a golf bag, balls and shoes. Buying clubs at Hireko will cost you approximately 1/3 of the price for comparable equipment.

How? First, major name brand manufacturers spend millions of dollars in advertising, endorsements and free clubs for professional golfers that adds to the price of their equipment. At Hireko, we simply offer quality equipment without the expense of expensive advertising, and pass the saving onto you. Plus we are factory-direct, further reducing overhead, middlemen and added costs. Yet, at the same time proving the best technology and quality heads, shafts and grips as the major brands do. So why spend more?

Additional Resources
To learn more about this great game of golf, there are several other resources you may find helpful. The most popular golf periodicals are Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf World. Many of these will offer tip on how to improve your game as well. Another important resource is The Rules of Golf, a small handbook of the rules we all abide by on the golf course. You can obtain this book at either your local golf course or by going to www.usga.org. There are also a number of internet forums and chat groups to “hang out” and learn about and contribute your own experiences on all facets of this game. Watching television coverage, will also get you a feel of the tradition of the game. But most of all, you will learn from your own experience during all the practice alone and playing with fellow golfers, friends and colleagues for a lifetime to come.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

The importance of golf etiquette

Golf etiquette is the practices and rules governing the socially acceptable behavior on thegolfcourse. These rules are there for different reasons and can be broken down into the following categories: safety to others and yourself, maintaining the course conditions and enjoyment for yourself and others on the course.

Etiquette will be something that new golfers will learn as they play with other experienced golfers. But here are some basic rules you should know before going to the course for the first time.

Both the golf club and golf ball can cause harm to you and others if you do not pay close come close to someone in front of you or in an adjacent fairway, yell “FORE!” This will warn another golfer of an incoming golf ball.

You will make your fair share of bad shots. Even the very best golfers in the world make occasionally bad shots. Don’t get upset, this is normal. However, do not compound the problem by throwing your club as this could cause harm to yourself other others in your area. Besides, it is considered rude and childish behavior by fellow golfers.

Maintaining the Course
One very important rule is that you should leave the course as you have found it. This allows the course to be enjoyed by other who follows you. If you take a divot while striking the ball on the tee or in the fairway, immediately replace the sod. The will allow the grass to grow back for the next person who hits from that spot. Placing the grass back
and gently tapping it down with your feet takes little time and maintains the course’s beauty.

On the green, repair any ball mark you might have caused by your ball landing on the green. Even if you didn’t cause it and you see one in the area your ball landed, please repair the mark to allow the green to heel and allow the ball to roll smoothly over the mark. For beginners, have an experienced golfer show you the proper technique on repair a ball mark.

There will be sand on many golf courses. These act as hazards or areas to avoid hitting your ball into it, but occasionally your ball will land in one and you will have to hit your ball from that position. Make sure to rake the trap to remove your footprints and damage made from the ball and your club. Again, newcomers have an experienced golfer show you the proper technique.

If you drive a cart, make sure to observe any cart rules by the golf course. You may see signs stating that the carts should be on the “Cart Path Only” or to follow the “90-degree rule” when crossing the fairway. Never drive the cart on or near greens and hazards. There is usually a white line marked by the golf course superintendent to denote area not cross with the golf cart. Please follow these rules. Newcomers should allow the more experienced golfer to drive the cart. Pay close attention to how that golfer maneuvers the cart around the course.

It goes without saying to put trash in designated trash cans. These are found on the tee boxes or at the club house when you are finished with your round.

Enjoyment for Others
One of the reasons to get involved in the game of golf should be to have fun. However, the fun should not only be for you, but the others on the golf course as well. Having a conversation with a fellow golfer on the course is commonplace, but try and keep that volume to a minimum. That means no yelling to one another on the course (except to warn someone of immediate danger) and not to talk while someone is getting ready to hit the ball. Extend the same courtesy as you would when you are trying to concentrate on hitting the ball. Cell phone usage is also discouraged on the course.

The pace of play is important for not only you and your playing companions, but all others who follow you on the course. Tee times are usually set so many minutes apart to allow a certain pace of play. Generally, golf course wants you to play each hole in approximately 15 minutes. This means that for each 9 holes, 2 hours and 15 minutes should be sufficient time
to complete each side. A ranger might be present on the course to tell you to pick up your pace.

Here are some additional tips:

* The person furthest from the hole is the first to hit
* Be ready when it is your turn to hit
* Don’t spend too much time looking for a lost ball, help look for your playing partner’s lost ball to save time
* Know where to drop your ball if it lands in a hazard, is lost or goes out of bounds
* If you have to keep your cart on the path, then take more than one club when you go to your ball when it will be a distance from the cart
* On the green, do not stand where you can cast a shadow or walk in the line of another golfer’s putt
* Wait until the last person has putted out before going to your cart or going to the next green

Where appropriate attire at the golf course you will be playing. This usually means a collared shirt, shorts that come close to the knees and golf shoes (or at worst) tennis shoes with socks. If you do not know, ask ahead when you make reservations or the host you will be playing with.

This may seem like a lot to know, but many of these rules of etiquette should be common sense, while others will take a little time to learn the more you play this wonderful game. Playing with more experienced golfers will help educate you along the way so you are able to share those same values when it is your turn to play with someone new to the game.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

Fitting junior golf clubs

Junior fitting is often taken for granted and unfortunately in certain fitting situations, can cause the junior golfer to loose interest in the game quickly. Over the years I have discussed junior fitting with literally hundreds of clubmakers, parents and grandparents. Based on what I have heard, I would like to share all this information at one time. Hopefully you will be able to understand all the complexities associated with this special group of golfers.

Look at how junior clubs are traditionally marketed; they are based on broad age groups. If Levi’s had marketed their jeans based on age groups when I was a teenager, in my opinion they wouldn’t be around today. All the tall kids would have been running around with the stripes on their tube socks showing. The shorter kids would have had their pant legs rolled up so far that they would have had to walk bow-legged. The fortunate few would have their jeans fit correctly. Levi’s simply had you measure your waist and inseam, look at the tag, and the jeans would fit regardless of which store they were purchased. Age based fitting just doesn’t allow for a proper fit because of the disparity of heights in certain age categories. The same is true for jeans and golf clubs.

Length should be based on height and the athletic ability of the junior golfer. I know there are kids out there who have good hand-eye coordination who can make good contact with their parent’s clubs, but they are far and few between. Most junior golfers choke down automatically on adult clubs so the length will be proportionate to their height. We offer a height based fitting chart on our website as well as our Total Clubfitting book as a reference. Obviously body builds and athletic ability may allow for slightly longer clubs than the charts would suggest. For instance, a chubby child has more body mass to swing around than a thin tot does, and may need a longer shaft. Youngsters with excellent hand-eye coordination could potentially use a longer club too.

Some parents are concerned that their children will outgrow their clubs over the summer and that the clubs will be too short for the upcoming season. This is a valid point. However, if the parents want the clubs much longer than their kids really need so that they will last a few years, this may serve to create bad swing habits for the kids. If the clubs are too long, the kids are more likely not to hit the clubs as solidly and become discouraged very quickly. Kids are very result oriented. If they are not succeeding, they are more likely to try something different if they can. If you want some room for growth, suggest no more than an inch over what they should use presently.

In the case the child does outgrow the clubs; there are two things that can be done rather inexpensively. First, the clubs can be extended. Since most junior shafts have a .500” butt diameter, you need to be creative with the extender since that is not a standard stock extender size. You can use hardwood dowels or portions of used steel shafts to extend the clubs. The second method, reshafting the clubs, is more expensive but may be necessary if the strength of the juvenile golfer increases or if he or she grows quickly.

If the child has younger siblings, the undersized clubs could be hand-me-down clubs to them. We have heard of companies and individual clubmakers who have lease or rental programs with junior equipment. Instead of purchasing the clubs that children will outgrow, the clubs are traded in for a longer set as the child grows. The old set now could be used by another junior golfer.

Most junior clubs today are die cast, being made from aluminum for the woods and zinc for the irons. The materials are less expensive in order to keep the overall cost down. The materials are also softer and will get nicked up more than stainless steel heads. The junior heads are generally a little more lofted to allow for the ball to get airborne quicker and may weigh slightly less than adult clubs do also. In some cases, like the Hireko Acer Protégé and the Dynacraft Avatar Junior sets, hybrids are incorporated are part of the set to allow the youngster to excel.

What age range is the cross over from junior to adult club heads? Don’t necessarily look at age as much as ability and dedication. If you are buying clubs for a junior just to see if they are going to like the game, then the junior heads will be just fine. Once the child has committed to the game and has the correct fundamentals established, there is no reason they couldn’t use an adult head. Also be cognizant of the fact that the juniors entering the junior high age group may not want the junior heads because their friends may be playing name brand clubs or adult clubs. The image of using junior clubs may hold them back from playing competitive golf.

What is the best set make up for the junior golfers? Typically for the very young golfer, a single lofted iron to the 5-piece set (3-wood, 5, 7 and 9 iron and putter) will suffice. Don’t add too many low lofted clubs in the bag because youngsters won’t have the clubhead velocity to get them airborne. As they become better and start to master the lofted clubs, then it is time when you can add the longer, less lofted clubs to the junior set.

For the committed youth who wants adult clubs, sit down with them and let them be part of the decision making process. After all, it is their clubs; not yours. Even if you decide on a partial set to play with, buy the rest of the clubs in the set. This way the junior will eventually have a matched set that they can grow with. Another reason to buy the remaining set is to reward the child with a new club when they do something good. For example, did they bring home an A in math? Make up the 8 iron. Did they take out the garbage without being told? Make them the 6 iron. Is their birthday coming up? Make them the 4 iron. Be creative in rewarding junior players for jobs well done.

I had one heated discussion with a parent who wanted his 5-year-old son to be a better ball striker. The father’s idea was to put his son in a set of forged blades so he would learn to hit the ball in the center of the face. Please, don’t “punish” the youngsters. Give them a cavity back club instead. If you want them to be better ball strikers just give them formal training with a local PGA teaching professional.

Long before junior shafts were available, it was common for an existing man’s sets of clubs to be cut down to the length the child needed. Although this is an inexpensive way of introducing the kids to the game, it may not be the most appropriate. Men’s shaft may be on the stiff and heavy side for the junior golfers, plus the fact the lofts may be stronger and make it harder to get the ball airborne. This situation may not be in the best interest of the junior golfer as it may be difficult to gain confidence and have fun at the same time. If you are going to cut a set shorter, let it be mom’s set because the shafts are generally lighter and more flexible. In addition, the increased lofts of women’s clubs are a benefit. Just remember to make a new set for mom in this situation.

There are many options in shaft choices for junior golfers. There are junior shafts, ladies and senior flexes and standard men’s flexes that can be appropriate in the right situation. There are also choices of steel, graphite and fiberglass that have to be considered as well.

For very small toddlers it may be a benefit to look at some very flexible fiberglass shafts such as the Cadence and the Apollo Shadow Junior models. The small child does not have the physical strength to use something very heavy. In addition, when cutting a shaft that short, the flexible fiberglass shaft will provide some feel and increased loft where a steel shaft does not. You are starting to see more of these types of shafts in name brand junior clubs like La Jolla Club, Taylor Made and U.S. Kids Golf. The best part about the fiberglass shafts is they cost about the same or even less than steel. Do be aware though, for juniors above 4 ½ feet tall, these shafts can be a little too flexible.

The junior steel shafts will be appropriate for a wide range of youths. Some manufacturers are starting to devote some research into providing the proper amount of flex for the junior golfers. The smaller butt diameters allow for matching up an appropriate grip while at the same time making the shaft more flexible. As the child grows to near the 5-foot range, the junior shafts may no longer be an option due to the shorter lengths that they are manufactured. When the child has reached that height range then ladies and A-flex (amateur) shafts are better choices for the average child. However, you are starting to see some children in the 5 foot height range that are very powerful and could handle men’s flex shafts. Use your discretion wisely.

The most creative aspect of building junior equipment is in grip sizing. Even though many junior shafts have a .500” butt diameter and the grip are available in the corresponding diameter, you may still need to add build-up tape in order to hold the grip in place. Shafts will only have a limited parallel butt section. Once you cut the shafts to very short lengths, you could conceivably need to add quite a bit of masking tape, especially under the lower hand. Experiment on one club first until you get the right dimensions. Keep good notes so the rest of the set will not require a whole lot of time.

As the child becomes taller, their hands and fingers will become proportionately larger as well. What shaft are you working with? Is it a junior, ladies, senior or standard men’s shaft? What will be the final butt size after you have cut the shaft to the desired length? Can you use junior grips still or will you have to find ladies or even men’s grips to come out to the right size? Do your homework ahead of time.

Does the junior golfer play a lot of baseball or hockey? If so, the grip areas on these are much larger than typical junior golf grips. You may want to build the grip larger to accommodate the right feel in the junior’s hands. As we said before, you need to be creative with proper grip sizing.

Do not be overly concerned with swingweight, but rather more with overall weight. In some cases with very short clubs, the swingweight may be lower than A0. The only concern we would have in swingweighting is to make sure that the clubs within the set are relatively close to one another. Overall weight is more important. In some cases this will take care of itself by using lighter weight shafts. For very short youngsters, keep the overall weight down so they can swing the club efficiently. As juniors grow, then the weight of the clubs should go up correspondingly as their muscles develop. For taller and stronger juvenile golfers, do not try to make the clubs too light, otherwise the junior golfer can develop bad swing habits by getting quicker than their natural swing allows.

Building and fitting junior clubs is rewarding as well as challenging. Just remember to fit club length based on the child’s ability and height, rather than age. If you make the clubs too long, too heavy or too stiff, the ability of the junior golfer to get the desired results will diminish. Chances are if you fit the youngster right the first time, then they will have fun and make this game, a game for a lifetime.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

Practicing the right way

Going to the range to hit some balls is a good way to knock the rust off of your swing. However, is your definition of practice going to the driving range and hitting the large bucket of balls with just your driver? Well unless you are trying to compete for the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship, then you are probably not practicing the right way and may end up making your swing worse. The old adage, “practice makes prefect” is only accurate if what you are practicing is correct. For example, if your desire is to eliminate that slice off the tee and you go out and end up manufacturing a swing by hitting ball after ball until you can hit the ball straight, you may very well may end up hooking all your other clubs.

The first place to start is to get personal instruction in order to show you the right way to swing the club. By going out and hitting ball after ball with your current stroke, it will only reinforce that movement as it becomes engrained in your mind. This is why the professional golfers are as good as they are because they start out with proper instruction and then are disciplined enough to practice that swing through repetition until it becomes second nature. Unfortunately, so many of us practice a bad swing and end up only with bad habits. Just remember, a lesson is about what one round of golf will cost and will eventually pay dividends later on down the road if you are able to lower your score and enjoy the game that much more.

When you are with the instructor, ask him or her if your equipment looks correct for you. If not, there is no good reason to practice by compensating from ill-fitted equipment. In this case, make sure to get fitted correctly before investing into a long series of lessons. In addition, practice can be frustrating at times. You may find that you are not improving
immediately or as fast as you would like. This is natural as the golf swing is a complex movement of many parts requiring muscle memory. So it may require taking one step back to go two steps forward as long as you continue to practice what was taught instead of reverting back to your old swing.

Here are some helpful tips to make the most of your practice:

Make it fun
If you treat practice as work, it will end up feeling that way and you won’t get the most of your time. Even if you don’t have time to go to the range to practice, you could try chipping or pitching the ball into a bucket in your own back yard.

Build confidence
If you are at the range with that large bucket, start out by hitting an iron (or favorite club) you know you can hit well. This will give you confidence that can carry over to the rest of the clubs. Just remember, that same swing that let’s say you hit your 7-iron well is the really the same swing as what you need to make with every club in you bag (well, except maybe the putter).

Mix it up
Just don’t hit you favorite club, try mixing what club you hit and try different shots. You may want to see what happens when you move the ball forward or back in you stance. Keep good notes as well. Writing down your results in a little journal or scrap piece of paper can be helpful the next time you are out on the course.

Work on alignment and distance
It is very easy at a range to just flail away at each shot as you usually have a large open area. However, make the most of your time by aiming at a flag or other focal point. You may also want to ask the operator at the range if the tees are up or back if the flags or signs have yardage markers associated with them. Pay close attention to the wind direction
as well, just the same as you would have on the course. If you are hitting the ball more right than normal, it very well could be a strong cross-wind and not your swing.

Take your time
Keep that same pre-shot routine as you would on the course. You don’t get bonus points for hitting all the balls in x-amount of time.

On the green
This may not be an option at a range, but certainly it is prior to heading off to the course is to spend time on the practice putting green. Don’t just practice long putts. Try making those that are 3 feet and in by dropping a few balls around the hole. Once you can make a high percentage of these, then you can practice those 10-footers.

Read a book
If it is raining or cold outside, what better way is there to practice improving your game?

The game of golf is not only physical, but mental as well. One on this author’s favorite reading list is “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect” among others by renowned sports psychologist and golf expert Dr. Bob Rotella.

Make the most of your practice time to truly make a difference in your game. From using the same pre-shot routine on the course, to aiming at a specific target, building confidence with your swing (even on the green) is all part about a good practice regiment. But most important is to make practice a fun event.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

Why you need your golf clubs customized

The old cliché “People are like snowflakes; no two are alike” pertains very much why your clubs need customized. When manufacturers make mass-produced or “stock” clubs, they are doing so by establishing an average. Whether it be producing the club length based on the average height of men and women, grip sizes to average players hand sizes, shaft flex based on average strengths of golfers, the manufacturer has to establish some baseline so their clubs can fit as broad of an array of golfers as possible. If you are buying clubs off the rack, then you need to ask yourself “I am Mr. (or Mrs.) Average?” There is a very good chance you are not.

Even the manufacturers of brand name equipment know that producing a one-club-that-fits-all mentality does not work as most major manufacturers offer custom options as they too realize the importance of it. The problem for manufacturers though, is that they are set up for mass producing the same product repeatedly instead of making one set (or club) at a time.
Not only is it more time consuming to get the product into a potential customer’s hand, but more costly as well. Plus they do not have that personal contact with the player that a custom clubmaker or clubfitter does.

Custom fitting golf clubs can be an easy process in which it does not that much time to answer a few questions and depending upon who you by them from, may not take long to make up and have them ready for you to play. Be aware that there are many companies posing as a “Custom Fitter” that really aren’t as they may not have that expertise to put two and two together. Let’s go over a few questions that are commonly asked and examine the importance.

What is your gender?
In general, women golfers are shorter than male golfers and likely to have smaller hands and not swing as fast. However, there are certain women golfers who are just as strong as, if not stronger than a lot of male golfers. Take one look at the LPGA tour if you are not convinced. A good guess it that not one of them is using standard L-flex clubs off the rack by their respective club manufacturers. Many of them use drivers longer than those used on the PGA tour and some of which use stiff flex shafts.

What is your age?
Believe it or not, this should have little or no bearing on custom fitting at all. While it may be true that many very young junior golfers or those who are elderly probably don’t swing as hard a twenty-something year old, some do. But those golfers who are older may suffer from hand or joint related pain and may require grips that might be larger and softer than their hand size may indicate or would be better off using graphite shafts to help dampen some of the unwanted vibration at impact. But the idea of as we get older, the softer the shaft we should use, may not be true. If the golfer’s swing arc becomes shorter due to not being as flexible, they may still require the same flex shaft as when they were younger and stronger.

What is your handicap?
This is should be asked only for the sake of clubhead design. Golfers, who are beginning or are less skilled, should have different equipment than those who can strike the ball in the middle of the face on a consistent basis. Plus, the majority of golfers do not even establish a handicap. A more important question is what is your average score for 9 or 18 holes? If you score is high, then the clubfitter should seek as much game-improvement features into the clubs as possible.

What is your height?
This establishes a starting point for what length you should use. Remember though, some golfers have long arms, some shorter. This may be followed up by asking your wrist-to-floor measurement to help eliminate any anomalies. The other thing to consider is the posture or stance of the golfer at address. Does the golfer stand very tall and bend their knees very little, or does the player hunch over? Does the person have very good hand and eye coordination that they could hit the ball well with a longer club? A clubfitter can take these things into account when building the proper length for a golfer.

What distance do you hit a 5-iron?
This is to indicate the relative strength of the golfer for the flex of the shaft. Sex, age and handicap do not dictate the proper flex – only strength! Be cautious if the distance you hit your club is short due to poor technique. Swing speed should be a determinate in shaft flex. But the other half of the equation is the golfer’s tempo (how you swing it fast). Two golfers can have exactly the same swing speed, but require totally different shaft flexes as one golfer may have a long, full fluid swing, while the other may have a quick, abbreviated swing.
The latter will need the stiffer shaft.

How large is your hand?
The importance of this is to determine the proper grip size. Grips come in all different sizes to conform to hands of all sizes and preferences of feel. However, stock club are usually only available in either ladies or men’s standard sizes, with nothing in-between, larger or smaller. The grip is the only part of the club we make contact with and it should fit properly. Plus, hand size alone may not be the only determinate to what size is best, but if you place the club in your fingers or in your palms can be of importance as well.

Many golfers will buy clubs off-the-rack, only to end up taking them to a repair shop to change the length, grips or even replace the shafts until they can hit the clubs they just bought. At Hireko, we do not have a warehouse of ready made clubs. Instead our business model is such that we can individually custom make your set that fits you the first time. Our Get Fit program is simple by using only the most relevant information necessary. Plus, we back it up by our technical support if you have any questions we have someone here to answer it for you. Unless you are confident that you are Mr. Average, then having you clubs customized is your best option to enjoy this game.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director