Club-fitting series: Loft and lie

Ed Mitchell works in the club repair room during the final round of the 2009 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2009 in Augusta, Georgia.

Ed Mitchell’s loft and lie machines seem to be everywhere – in tour vans, golf repair shops, club manufacturing facilities and in the homes of club fanatics – and Mitchell has emerged as an extremely influential voice in the realm of club fitting.

A loft and lie machine is used to alter the loft or lie of irons, hybrids and metalwoods. Adjusting the loft or lie of putters requires a different machine, and Mitchell Golf in Dayton, Ohio, sells one of those as well.

Lofts and lies, if set correctly, form a reliable progression – creating consistent distance gaps between clubs and producing the same shot direction on all normal swings.

However, if the loft or lie on a single club is incorrect, the repercussions can be huge.

“If one club is out of spec in relation to another,” Mitchell said, “you’re going to be fighting the club, and this can lead to bad swing habits.

“Your swing will naturally be more consistent if you’re not fighting the club particularly when it comes to direction.”

Lie is a crucial element of all golf clubs. Clubs that are too upright often result in shots that are pulled or hooked. Clubs that are too flat often cause shots that are pushed or faded.

The lie of irons and hybrids is particularly important, because iron heads and hybrid heads usually make distinct contact with the turf. If the lie is not correct the head easily can flip or twist offline.

The lie and loft of forged irons can change with use. As the clubs continually make contact with turf or mats, the clubhead can be affected.

“I advise people to check them at least once a year,” Mitchell said. “I do it much more often than that. If you can’t figure out why a club isn’t performing as it should, the angle probably has changed.”

Cast irons are not easily bent, but it can happen, particularly if clubs are thrown or banged recklessly.

Do two consecutive irons in your set seem to go the same distance? The explanation easily could be that the loft of one or both is incorrect.

Mitchell estimates he has sold more than 100 of his Steelclub Signature Angle Machines (available at mitchellgolf.com for $1699.99) to touring professionals. Arnold Palmer has bought several. Nike bought one as a gift for Tiger Woods.

A recent example is Mark Wilson, who purchased a Mitchell machine last fall and then won two tournaments early in 2011.

“Without trying to brag, it happens all the time,” Mitchell said. “Just the confidence that your clubs are right seems to result in better scores.”

Without going to the extreme of buying a Steelclub machine, regular players should occassionally get their clubs checked at a competent fitter or clubmaker.

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