As Hireko’s Technical Director, I often get asked questions about loft and lie alterations. Here are some of the most common:
Q: “Can Hireko alter the lies before the clubs are shipped out?”
A: No, at Hireko we do not offer that service. But the majority of our irons and wedges can usually be bent safely 2° either way from the published specifications. You are better off having your local clubmaking, club fitting or repair shop do that service for you only after you have had a chance to hit the clubs.
Q: “So you are saying that lie isn’t important?”
A: No, just the opposite. Lie is one of the factors that influence the direction that shot will go. If you have a lie that it is too flat, usually the ball flight will be a push and if the lie is too upright, it will generally result into a pull.
Q: “What is the best way to know if you have the right lie?”
A: Many club fitters will have you hit balls off a lie board with impact labels and see where you mark the bottom of the sole. If the impact is made on the toe side of the center of the sole, then the general rule is the person should use a more upright club. Conversely, if the impact was on the heel side of the center sole, the club is said to be too upright, where a flatter lie will help. However, experienced clubmakers will rely also on ball flight as a final gauge and not always go by the impact made on the sole.
Q: “I have used 2° upright clubs in the past shouldn’t I get the same lie angle?”
A: Not necessarily. Not all heads start out with the same specifications. If you have irons that are 5 years or older, chances are the lies may be flatter that the majority of clubs available today. Many manufacturers have found the trend that golfers did need slightly more upright lies and adjusted the lies accordingly. If your clubs are fairly modern though, look at clubs that tend to be more upright as stated in the catalog. If they do need altered, you have that 2° window in which to work with.
Another important factor(s) to understand is that you may not be using the exact clubheads, shafts or even length as you did in your last set. This has a lot to do with what lie you should really use and whether or not the clubs may need altered. Depending upon the position of the center of gravity of the head and the flex and flex distribution of the shaft, the effective lie angle and the direction the ball may go could completely opposite of what you might think you need.
We did an experiment that lasted for a couple weeks to see how different shafts and head influenced the lie and the ball flight. This was a controlled experiment where we used one head and a group of shafts. We had a person hit off of a lie board into a net and noticed where impact was made on the sole of the club as well as the face. Then we had the person hit the club on the range without the use of a lie board and just witness the direction the ball went. After the results were recorded, the shaft was removed and another model and/or flex shaft of the same length was installed with fast-setting epoxy and the procedure repeated over and over again.
The results were quite fascinating. Although the impact on the soles changed very little, the ball flights were in some cases far apart. Some shots might be consistently a push with one shaft, yet be a high draw with another completely different shaft – and remember this was with the same exact head!
Q: “What if I don’t have the right lie angle, how will affect my shots?”
A: This is a difficult if not impossible question to answer. Some of that relies on the ability of the golfer. To give you an example, we took a clubhead that was available in a 3° upright, 3° flat and standard lie and had them set up at standard length, 1” over length and 2” over length and had some golfers hit the ball while watching ball flight and determining if there was a pattern. One would think that the 3° upright would create pulls and the 3° flat would produce pushes at each length. Realize that this is 6° difference in the lie angle, yet the ball flight did not always demonstrate this. Why? While watching the golfers from behind, it because obvious that the hand position changed and the golfers weren’t even aware they were adjusting to the clubs.
Q: “How should I know to change?”
A: There are two rules to follow. The first if you are consistently missing to the right with your irons and wedges, then it may be wise to have the lies altered more upright (assuming a RH golfer). If the ball flight is a consistent pull to your target, then a flatter lie may be advisable.
The second situation is the clubs don’t look right at address and you feel that you have to compensate in your stance and hand position or it feels uncomfortable. If you had to think about that at address, then you are not thinking about hitting the ball.
Q: “Who do I go to if I think I need a lie adjustment and how do I know if they will do a good job?”
A: Ask questions from fellow golfers in your league or the course you play the most whom may have had work done by a local shop. Also seek your local PGA teaching pro or a better golfer in your area as they will usually know or have had their clubs altered by someone. Once you are the shop, interview the person who is to do the bending and see what type of experience he or she may have and it may not hurt to ask for a reference or two. Do realize though that as careful and as qualified as that person may be, there is always a potential risk the club could break. Altering an iron or wedge for minor loft and lie adjustments is routinely performed by many independent clubmakers and repairmen on a daily basis and they are there to serve you.