I subscribe to Peterson's Golfing magazine and occasionally pick up some of
the other golf rags at the news stand. The articles I read first are the
ones about equipment. Yes, I know it's the fiddler and not the fiddle that
makes the music, but equipment fascinates me anyway.
It is an assumption of every golf club evaluation that I've seen that there
is a tradeoff between what is usually called "workability" and what is always
called "forgiveness". Most likely the people using these terms have not
stopped to define them in the way an engineer or a scientist would, so maybe
that's why the conclusions don't always seem to agree with reality as I
It seems to me that "forgiveness" has a couple of dimensions. The one basic
to the design of cavity-back irons and metal woods is the characteristic of
making the ball go straight and high when contact takes place slightly above,
below, toe-ward or heel-ward of the center of percussion ("sweetspot").
However, I guess that there could also be forgiveness in terms of making the
ball go high and straight even when the club face is open or closed to the
direction of travel or regardless of how steep or shallow the path of the
club is at the moment of contact.
Now, when somebody wants to "work" the ball, I assume that they manipulate
the club face open or closed and/or make their swing out-to-in ("cut" shot)
or in-to-out ("turning the ball over"). I further assume that they do not
purposely hit the ball above or below the center of percussion or toward
the toe or heel. So "workability" under these assumptions would mean that
the effect of swing path and face angle at impact is a) noticable and
b) repeatable so that the good player can get the desired effect of his/her
manipulation. There is also the dimension of being able to "knock down"
a shot, which I take to mean that the golfer manipulates effective loft
and/or steepness of club path at the moment of impact to affect the
trajectory of the ball.
If there is any validity to these definitions, then a cavity-back club with
a high moment of intertia about the center of percussion could be "forgiving"
in the sense of hitting a relatively high and straight shot when the ball
makes contact slightly away from the center of percussion without giving up
any of the desired (or undesired for hackers like me) modification of the
ball flight according to path and face angle.
By this analysis, for there to be an actual tradeoff between "forgiveness"
and "workability" (assuming my definitions for both terms) then either a
cavity-back club causes the ball to respond less to swing path and face
angle, or "shotmakers" are also deliberately hitting the ball away from the
center of percussion for some reason (which I would find hard to believe).
Actually, the explanation that satisfies the logical principle of parsimony
is that there is in fact no tradeoff between forgiveness and workability
and such assertions are made simply because people implicitly believe that
"there's no such thing as a free lunch" and think that expecting both a
good outcome when you hit the ball away from the sweetspot and the desired
outcome when you cut the ball or turn it over would be akin to having ones
cake and not paying for it too (to mix metaphors).
So help me out, people. What assumptions am I making (other than my basic one
about human natures) that are misguided? Of course, if the answer is that
club reviews in magazines are just so much b.s., that doesn't mean I won't
keep buying them and reading them. I just don't necessarily trust the