YOUR BUYING GUIDE TO

GOLF

helpful information about clubs, balls, and advanced golf concepts
  • Club Basics
  • Types of Clubs
  • Golf Balls
  • Advanced Golf Concepts

Components

Grip

  • Portion of the club the golfer holds
  • Typically made of rubber or a similar compound

Shaft

  • Connects to the club head and provides additional energy in club head acceleration

Hosel

  • Portion of the club head where it connects to the club shaft

Club Face

  • Front-facing portion of the club head that strikes the ball

Grooves

  • Tiny grooves on the club face create spin on a golf ball

Sole

  • Bottom of the club head

Options

Grip Types

  • Golf clubs are available with different grip types
  • Vary in thickness, material, and firmness to match the player
  • Smaller hands should use a thinner grip
  • Larger hands should use a thicker grip

Shaft Types

Steel

  • Commonly used in iron sets, wedges, and putters
  • Extremely durable and more accurate than graphite shafts
  • Tapered "steps" on steel shafts serve as flex points

Graphite

  • Commonly used in drivers and fairway woods
  • Lightweight, allowing players to swing faster, creating more club head speed
  • Absorbs more vibration than steel

Club Face Basics

Face

  • Surface area that strikes the golf ball
  • Contains grooves that create ball spin (fewer grooves on woods than irons)
  • Grooves vary in size, depth, thickness, and material depending on club design
  • Bigger club face creates a larger sweet spot

Loft

  • Loft is the angle of the club face, which controls trajectory and affects distance
  • Every club face has a degree of loft
    • Woods / Drivers - Lower loft, lower ball flight, more distance
    • Irons - More loft than woods, higher ball flight, shorter distance
    • Hybrids - Shaft designed like woods; loft more similar to irons
    • Wedges - Highest loft, high ball flight, short distance

Woods

Drivers

Drivers

  • Tallest and largest club within a set
  • Designed to hit the longest shot
  • Most commonly used for the tee shot on par 4's and par 5's
  • Range in loft from 7-13 degrees with 9 or 10 degrees being the most common
  • Many drivers are adjustable, enabling the golfer to adjust the club's loft and/or face angle to the golfer's liking

Note: Drivers are usually made of titanium or steel but are often referred to as "woods" because they used to be made of wood.

Fairway Woods

Fairway Woods

  • Most common are the 3 wood and 5 wood, although higher numbered woods are available
  • Driver design on a smaller scale with slightly higher loft
  • Designed to hit a long shot off the ground or from a tee
  • Higher loft and shorter shaft make it easier to hit than the driver
  • 3 wood loft traditionally ranges from 13-16 degrees
  • 5 wood loft traditionally ranges from 16-19 degrees

Hybrids

Hybrids

  • Popular with players who struggle with hitting long irons (3, 4, 5 irons)
  • Design similar to fairway woods with the loft of long irons (3, 4, 5 irons)
  • Club design makes it easier for the golfer to get the ball airborne
  • More forgiving on mishits

Irons

Iron Sets

  • Makes up the majority of a golf club set
  • Each iron has a different degree of loft and is numbered for easy identification
  • Standard set of irons consists of a 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 iron and PW (pitching wedge)
  • The degree of loft determines how high and far the ball travels
  • Lower loft equals lower, farther ball flight
  • Higher loft equals higher, shorter ball flight
  • Divided into three categories: Long (3, 4), Mid (5, 6, 7), and Short (8, 9, PW)

Hybrid/Iron Sets

Hybrid/Iron Sets

  • Similar to a traditional iron set but with longer irons replaced by hybrids
  • Some sets contain only one hybrid (Example: 3 hybrid in place of a 3 iron)
  • Many sets contain multiple hybrids (Example: 3, 4, and 5 hybrids in place of 3, 4, and 5 irons, respectively)

Short Game

Wedges

Wedges

  • Used mainly for short shots from the fairway and a variety of shots around the green, including bunker shots
  • High loft produces a higher ball trajectory, enabling short, precise shots from around the green and out of bunkers
  • Pitching wedge (PW) – 48 degrees of loft
  • Gap wedge (GW) – 52 degrees of loft
  • Sand wedge (SW) – 56 degrees of loft
  • Lob wedge (L) – Usually 60 degrees of loft; higher lofts are available

Putters

Putters

  • Club designed to roll the ball into the cup on the putting green
  • Personal preference club (head shape, feel, color, etc.)
  • Varies in shape, size, weight, and materials
    • Blade style - Putter head is narrow and compact; better for golfers with a straight-line putting stroke
    • Mallet style - Putter head is large and heavy, resulting in a solid stroke; ideal for many golfers
    • Peripheral-weighted style (also called a weighted putter) - Putter head is large with weight slightly off-balance; ideal for golfers with arc in their putting stroke
  • Weighted inserts may also be placed into the face of the putter
    • Used to create a smoother stroke
    • Vary in density
Note: Putters with longer shafts, such as belly putters (extends up to golfer's stomach) and long putters (extends up to golfer's chest), offer more control of the putter and have become popular in recent years.

Ball Types

2-Piece Golf Balls

2-Piece Golf Balls

  • Also known as distance balls
  • Large solid rubber core provides a lot of velocity off the club face
  • Firm surlyn and plastic covers are common
  • Performance can be altered by changing the size and hardness of the core
  • Low spin helps reduce slices and hooks and promotes a straighter ball flight
  • The most common ball, making up roughly 50% of the market

3-Piece Golf Balls

3-Piece Golf Balls

  • Thin “mantle” layer between core and cover
    • Low-spin – Lower spin off the driver results in longer shots
    • High-spin – Higher spin off an iron results in better performance around the green
  • Soft urethane cover or firmer durable surlyn cover
  • Requires high swing speed / compression in order to create high velocity
  • Not recommended for golfers with swing speeds lower than 90mph
  • For intermediate and advanced golfers

4-Piece Golf Balls

4-Piece Golf Balls

  • Ball contains two cores
  • Cores regulate spin
    • Low spin off driver
    • High spin off irons
  • Generally are soft balls, providing exceptional feel and control
  • For advanced golfers with high club speed

5-Piece Golf Balls

5-Piece Golf Balls

  • Latest technology; contains an extra layer for even better feel and control
  • Offers improved performance across a wider range of clubs
  • For advanced golfers with high club speed

Ladies' Golf Balls

  • Low-compression ball
  • Optimized to perform ideally at lower swing speeds
  • Generally features a soft core that provides increased carry and distance

Performance

Swing Speed / Compression

A golfer’s swing speed is the biggest factor in selecting a golf ball.

  • Swing speeds under 85 mph should use a harder “distance” golf ball
  • Higher swing speeds should typically use a softer golf ball that offers more feel and control
  • Compression refers to the density of a golf ball. It is a measure of how hard or soft a golf ball really is. Golf balls are typically rated in density from 70 (softest) to 110 (hardest)
  • When the golfer hits the ball with the club, the ball is basically “squished” at the moment of impact
  • The golf ball then springs back to its original shape
    • A softer ball is called a high-compression ball (squished more easily at impact)
    • A golf ball that is harder (low-compression ball) will require more energy to compress at impact
  • Golf Ball Cover

    The cover of the golf ball determines the “feel” on shorter shots like putts and chips.

    • A softer cover typically spins more for better control around the green
    • Commonly made out of blends of co-polymer plastics, high-energy rubber, or similar resistant materials
    • Surlyn and polymer blend covers are typically more durable and more affordable, but are slightly less responsive and have a firmer feel
    • Urethane covers tend to be the dominant material in softer, premium golf balls that offer enhanced feel, but urethane covers are less durable

    Golf Ball Core

    The core has a direct effect on the flight characteristics of the ball.

    • When the ball is struck with a driver (high swing speed), the impact is strong enough for the force to reach the soft inner core of the golf ball, allowing the ball to compress or deform, in turn preventing the ball from spinning as much
    • When the ball is struck with a wedge, the force is not as great, and the firm outer core helps the ball retain its shape, enabling more spin to be generated by the club catching the soft cover

    Skill Levels

    Understanding the skills of the golfer is key to selecting the correct golf ball.

    Novice

    • New to the sport or inconsistent swing
    • Shoots 18-hole scores of 105 or higher
    • Struggles with distance and keeping the golf ball in play
    • Benefits from a low-spin, 2-piece ball (distance ball)

    Intermediate

    • Reasonably good handle on the game
    • Suffers from the occasional “big number” or bad hole
    • Scores range from the high 80's to the mid 90's on 18 holes
    • Bogey golfer with an occasional par and a rare birdie
    • More emphasis on control rather than distance
  • Hits the ball reasonably straight with predictable ball flight
  • Benefits from a moderate-spin, 2- or 3-piece ball
  • Advanced

    • Good feel for all parts of the game
    • Scores range from the low 70’s to low 80’s on 18 holes
    • Reliable swing that allows them to strike the ball with power and consistency
    • 2 - 3 birdies per round to offset bad holes
    • Looking for a ball that gives them distance off the tee but provides great control and feel around the greens
    • Benefits from a premium, high-spin, 3- or 4-piece golf ball

    Comparison Chart

      2 - Piece 3 - Piece 4 - Piece
    Value Good Better Best
    Golfer Novice / Ladies Intermediate - Advanced Advanced - Tour Professionals
    Swing Speed Under 85 mph 90 mph - Over 105 mph - over
    Compression Low Low - Mid Mid - High
    Core Firm Soft Inner / outer
    Cover / Feel Firm Firm - Soft Soft
    Spin Low Low - Mid Low - High
    Trajectory Straighter due to low spin Strait / Long
    Distance X X
    Control X X
    Stats About 25% of Recreational Golfers
    Comments Provides distance with good feel and control Provides distance with exceptional feel and control

    Moment of Inertia

    • Commonly referred to as "MOI"
    • Club head’s resistance to twisting while striking a golf ball
    • Most widely used technological specification throughout the golf industry
    • Measured by manufacturers and displayed by a numeric reading
    • A higher MOI results in less movement at impact, producing a straighter shot
    • Benefits a player on off-center hits (toe or heel) by producing a straighter shot without a major loss in distance

    Perimeter Weighting

    • Even distribution of weight around the perimeter of a club head
    • Produces a larger sweet spot
    • Increases club head stability
    • Game improvement technology used in designing irons, woods, and putters

    Center of Gravity

    • Commonly referred to as "CG"
    • Widely used terminology in golf club design and marketing
    • Point within a club head where it is perfectly balanced
    • Strategic positioning of the CG affects a shot’s trajectory
    • Lower CG = Higher ball flight
    • Higher CG = Lower ball flight
    • CG toward toe = Fade/Slice
    • CG toward heel = Draw/Hook

    Various Head Shapes

    Pear

    • Traditional shape for drivers
    • Excellent shot-shaping capability (fade, slice, draw, or hook)
    • Typically smaller than other club head shapes
    • Preferred by advanced golfers

    Triangle

    • Extended and tapered club head design
    • Lower and deeper (rearward) CG for a higher and longer shot
    • Larger club head improves off-center hits
    • Moderate shot-shaping capability
    • Beneficial for golfers of all skill levels

    Square

    • Distributes weight to all four corners of the club head
    • Increases stability and reduces twisting at impact, producing a straighter shot
    • Highest MOI of all driver shapes
    • Most forgiving on extreme off-center hits
    • Poor shot-shaping capability
    • Beneficial for novice and intermediate players

    Shaft Flex and Selection

      Shaft Flex

    • Flex - The shaft’s resistance to bending during the golf swing
    • Grades of Shaft Flex, indicated on each shaft:
      • “L” = Ladies
      • “A” = Senior
      • “R” = Regular
      • “S” = Stiff

    Selection

    • Correct shaft selection is crucial
    • A golfer's swing speed is the most important factor
    • A club's shaft affects both the direction and trajectory of the shot
    • Players with slower swing speeds will benefit from a shaft with more flex
    • Higher flex increases club head speed, resulting in a longer shot
    • Players with faster swing speeds will benefit from a shaft with less flex

    Types of Irons

      Forged vs. Cast Irons

      Forged

    • Manufacturing process used to create the shape of an iron head by pounding or compressing solid metal into a desired form
    • Preferred by advanced players for its softer feel
    • Typically found in muscle back or blade style irons

    Cast

    • Manufacturing process for irons in which liquid metal is poured into a cast or mold
    • Cast irons are usually less expensive than forged irons and are best for novice and intermediate golfers

    Cavity Back Irons

    • Irons featuring a hollowed-out area on the back of the club head
    • Club design creates a larger sweet spot and increases MOI
    • Most forgiving on mishits
    • Sometimes forged but typically cast
    • Beneficial for all golfers but preferred by novice and intermediate players
    • More difficult to shape shots (fade, draw, high, low, etc.)

    Blade/Muscle Back Irons

    • Thinner, smaller club head design featuring a full, smooth back (opposite of a cavity back)
    • Smaller sweet spot and unforgiving on off-center hits
    • Not recommended for novice players
    • Forged irons played by professionals and advanced amateur golfers
    • Easier to shape shots

    Note: Academy Sports + Outdoors does not carry blade irons.