Of Lengths and Lies
I’ve received a number of emails the past few days from some of you asking about club lengths and lie angles, and how the two are interconnected. This is a hot subject with me, as I’ve watched the golf club industry move consistently to longer and more upright “standard” specs on golf clubs. In particular, the custom-fitting segment of the business seems to almost always “prescribe” a lie angle that is more upright than the “standard”. Until the majority of 6’+ professional golfers begin hitting quality golf shots with clubs that are 1” long and 3-4* upright, it isn’t proven technology to me. And I don’t think this is right for the vast majority of golfers.

Let’s dive into it.

First of all, length and lie angle are not independent of one another at all. The longer the club for any golfer, the flatter the lie angle has to be to deliver the club’s sole to the ground flatly and properly. So, when you make a club longer, you effectively make it more upright in relation to a club of the same lie angle but shorter. Does that make sense?

Length, examined in a vacuum, makes a club more difficult to master. You hit your 9-iron more consistently solid than your 6-iron; your 7-iron more consistent than your 4. And your 3- or 4-wood more than your driver. This is merely a function of the length of the shaft. The further you get “from your work”, the harder it is to deliver that relatively small clubface to the relatively small golf ball. Simple physics. So, fitting golfers with ever-longer shafts is just making it harder for them to make consistent contact.

My recommendation? Unless you are hitting over 75% of your fairways and are plenty long, you’ll do better with a driver that is at least 1” shorter than the one you carry now. Grip down on it the next time you play and see if your performance doesn’t get better!!

Lie angles are most commonly fit on a lie board, where the fitter puts a hard plastic board on the turf, sticks a piece of lie tape on the sole of the club and has you hit shots. I have two major problems with – and challenges to – this process.
  1. You are standing on the turf, but the ball is sitting on top of a piece of plastic that is some fraction of an inch above the soles of your feet. The ball is higher than it would be if it were also sitting on the same turf you were standing on, right?

  2. You are asked to hit down on the ball to leave a mark on the sole tape, which I believe subconsciously makes you have a steeper downswing than your normal.
What the numerical effect of these two factors are . . . well, I don’t know, but I have to believe they are significant. More importantly, however, is that this game cannot be played efficiently with clubs that are too long and/or too upright. That I believe from the bottom of my heart.

The golf swing is a rotary action, around the body core. The flatter the swing plane through the impact zone, within reason, the more direct blow to the back of the ball the club can make. If you are playing clubs that are long and upright, you have to make a steeper swing and therefore steeper approach to the ball, and this just isn’t an efficient transfer of energy with any club, but it gets worse as the clubs get shorter and the lie angle more upright.

With regard to the short clubs, if the lies are more than 1-2 degrees upright of standard, it is extremely difficult for golfers to get the proper swing path, and interaction of the sole with the turf, to consistently hit quality short range golf shots. These shots require a good technique, with the hands passing through the impact zone lower than with a mid-iron shot, so the lie angle of the clubs need to be flatter to accommodate this.

One of my favorite drills for sharpening my short range shots is to think about trying to feel the heel of the club make contact with the turf. If I feel the toe digging, it’s not a sign that my lie angles are too flat, but that my swing path is not where it should be. You might try that sometime.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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