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What to Look for in Golf Clubs

A golf club being held by a golfer.

Whether you’re buying your first set of clubs or replacing part of your bag, knowing what to look for in golf clubs is essential before making a purchase. While the best way to understand precisely what you need in your bag is to get a professional fitting at a specialty golf shop, this may not be an easy option for everybody. So, we’ve made a guide that covers the most important aspects of golf clubs to understand:

Loft The angle of the face relative to the ground that directly impacts the flight and trajectory of the golf ball.
Forgiveness The level of consistency on off-center strikes and launch assistance for golfers who struggle to get the ball off the ground.
Distance How far a ball goes based on things like clubhead speed, ball speed, launch angle, spin rate, and descent angle.
Workability The ability to purposefully shape your shots with slight adjustments to your swing.
Shaft Flex A rating of a golf shaft’s ability to bend during the golf swing.

All of these will impact how well a golf club suits you when you’re on the course, and they can all be considered no matter what brand of club you prefer or what type of club you’re shopping for.

What to Look for in Golf Clubs

So, let’s dive into each factor and what you should look for based on your needs.

Loft

Loft is one of the most critical features of any golf club. While different golf clubs in a set (driver, 5 iron, pitching wedge, etc.) will typically fall into a “normal range” of loft for that particular club, there are a few degrees of variance among different models and brands. This is because increasing or decreasing loft has a massive impact on the ball flight you’ll get from that club.

Lower loft makes for a more aggressive ball flight with more distance and potential for roll. This means that golfers who need help getting distance out of their club will likely want to aim for brands and models with lower standard lofts when looking at irons, fairway woods, and hybrids. For drivers, even golfers who don’t struggle with distance will typically go for the lowest loft that they can hit consistently since top-end distance is more important off the tee.

More loft increases the height of the ball flight, decreasing distance and roll. For irons and wedges, this usually adds precision to a club by making it easier for the ball to “sit” after landing. It also makes hitting out of rough turf conditions easier since the ball will elevate quicker after impact, allowing you to get over course features like the lip of a bunker. Golfers who prioritize precision, or those needing help getting the ball off the ground when hitting their irons and wedges, will likely aim for models and brands with higher-lofted irons and wedges. For drivers, higher loft tends to help less consistent ball strikers by ensuring that the ball maintains height even on off-center strikes.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness refers to how well a ball maintains height, spin rates and flight path on off-center strikes. This isn’t just for newer golfers– even the best golfers prioritize some forgiveness in their golf clubs to ensure consistency even when they golf in sub-par conditions.

These are some of the ways that manufacturers can add forgiveness to their golf clubs:

Low/Rear-Biased CG To increase MOI or the amount of playable surface area on the face, manufacturers will move weight lower and deeper in the clubhead increasing forgiveness on off-center strikes.
Turf Interaction To improve the way a club glides over the turf you’re hitting out of, manufacturers will change the shape of the club’s sole to enhance turf interaction and keep a club from digging into the ground.
Face Construction Using better materials in the face, strategic spacing and weight placement can also improve forgiveness by allowing the face to flex more and provide consistent ball speeds across more of its surface area.

Clubs with these features will be easier to hit consistently, and newer golfers who fall under the game improvement category will likely want to prioritize these features across their entire set. Golfers who hit a bit more consistently but still want clubs with some level of forgiveness can settle for clubs with only a couple of these features. Usually, these golfers will desire them alongside other features that will increase distance and/or workability so that they don’t sacrifice too much of either.

Distance

Distance is not commonly overlooked, but it is still important to understand what increases the distance of a specific club or model. Additionally, some golfers should know when it is helpful to prioritize distance in a club and which clubs may benefit from keeping your focus on other specs.

The following are some ways manufacturers can improve the distance of their clubs:

Forward CG Manufacturers can move the center of gravity closer to the face to reduce ball spin and create a lower ball flight.
Weight Reduction Reducing the weight of a club will typically increase distance by increasing swing speed. This is why metal woods are typically much lighter than irons and wedges.
Face Construction Using better materials in the face and creating some space between the face material and the internal weights can improve the energy transfer at impact and increase ball speed.

Newer golfers will likely prioritize distance in their irons since those can be harder to hit far initially. For drivers and wedges, they will likely want to prioritize forgiveness to improve their accuracy and launch.

More experienced golfers will typically do the opposite. Since they are usually comfortable with their stock iron and wedge distances, they lean toward workability over distance in these clubs, with a touch of forgiveness to keep their game consistent. Their drivers and fairway woods will likely focus more on distance to increase their success off the tee.

Workability

Workability is an important aspect of a club for more experienced golfers who don’t struggle much with consistent contact. The ability to shape their shots left or right, increase or decrease its height, or add a bit more distance by changing their angle of attack gives them more control over the outcome of their game.

The following are some ways manufacturers can improve the workability of their clubs:

Smaller Clubhead Size To make the clubhead easier to manipulate, manufacturers will usually shrink their more workable clubheads down a bit.
Weight Reduction Reducing the weight of a club will also make it easier to manipulate the clubhead and reduce the resistance to minor adjustments made to the swing path and angle of attack.
Face Construction Using different materials in the clubhead can reduce the flex in the face, ensuring that the effect of small adjustments isn’t dampened on impact.

Workability is not something that newer golfers need to worry about. Since workability is focused on increasing the impact of minor adjustments to a golf swing, it will also increase the adverse effects of small mistakes, making it difficult to hit consistently.

For those with consistent golf swings, workability is typically a focus on just about every club in the bag, getting more and more critical as you work down toward the short irons and wedges. Intermediate players may prioritize workability only in these scoring clubs and focus more on forgiveness and distance as they go up to ensure they don’t sacrifice their long game for a more accurate short game. This is why blended iron sets are increasing in popularity, and brands are crafting their newer irons with blended sets in mind.

Shaft Flex

Shaft flex is another vital aspect of a club, but the flex you’ll use in your driver isn’t always the same as the flex you want in your irons and wedges. Generally, the higher your swing speed, the stiffer you’ll want your shaft to be. Stiffer shafts increase stability and energy transfer for faster swings.

Golfers with slower swing speeds usually want a shaft with “regular” stiffness, with even more flexible options for seniors and women’s golfers. More flexible shafts add “whip” to the club that can increase clubhead speed, adding distance to your golf shot.

Drivers and fairway woods usually have lighter and more flexible shafts since their primary goal is distance. Irons and wedges usually have heavier, stiffer shafts to stay workable and precise. Putting a lighter or more flexible shaft on an iron will usually increase its distance the same way it does with a driver, but it can also decrease stability if your swing is fast enough.

Find What to Look for in Golf Clubs at Worldwide Golf Shops

Worldwide Golf Shops provides next-level service to customers of all experience levels, with the best-trained staff in the industry. We pride ourselves on our ability to provide guidance to beginners and to share pro tips with even our most experienced clientele, making us one of the best places to learn what to look for in golf clubs.

Check out our online store to see our industry-standard variety of the best kids’ golf gear and all of the following:

At Worldwide Golf Shops, we take pride in offering brands that we guarantee will provide the highest level of value to our diverse range of golfers. Our knowledgeable staff is ready to assist you in finding the perfect golf gear. Find a store near you today!

Trevor Cigich

Trevor Cigich | Director of Retail Marketing |  Worldwide Golf Shops

I’ve been at Worldwide Golf Shops for 6 years, and I’ve been playing golf for 23 years. I have played a few mini tour events but now compete occasionally at the amateur level– currently a +2.1 handicap. I am a bit of a tinkerer when it comes to golf and golf clubs. I enjoy testing all aspects of different products, utilizing various fitting systems and learning about all the different club shafts, club lengths, golf balls, and putter styles. Not just for my game, but to help customers of all calibers.

For more content from me and our team, as well as our vast online store, go to www.worldwidegolfshops.com.