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Bending Golf Clubs: Facts & Fallacies
An Industry Professional’s Guide to Angle Adjustments
Mitchell Golf Equipment Company
May 2004

Bending golf club angles is among the fastest ways to improve a player’s ball flight. Whether changing the lie to improve accuracy or changing loft to make certain that the player’s clubs are progressively consistent, angle bending is a major factor in club performance. Many golfers have incorrect ideas about what can be done to loft and lie angles and what effect changes may have on playability. Industry professionals who know all the facets of club bending are equipment experts. They can help improve your scores with better club performance. Here are some facts and fallacies you should be aware of about bending golf clubs.

Can cast clubs be bent?

Most irons can be bent, but the question of being able to bend cast clubs is still asked by many.  The simple answer to that question is “yes”. 17-4 stainless steel cast irons will be more difficult to bend since they are harder (C34-38 on the Rockwell Scale) than 431 (C18-25) or carbon steel (B 70-80). Keep in mind that we are assuming the iron has the proper heat treatment and annealing that will permit bending. Annealing ensures a more consistent grain structure in the metal. Heat treatment makes the head hard enough to withstand constant golf ball impacts. Also, the club must have a hosel design that will allow bending. Special bending bars may be required for certain hosel designs such as those with a shorter hosel. With proper equipment nearly all hosel designs can be bent accurately and consistently ensuring properly fitted clubs for all golfers.

There is also a misconception that clubs that have been bent have “memory” that makes them naturally return to their original specification. This is simply not true. Once a club is bent to a given specification it will stay there until changed by bending again or striking a hard object during a swing. Loft and lie changes are more or less permanent.

Can today’s metal woods and hybrids be bent?

Even though a lot of people will immediately say no, the correct answer is “yes” with certain requirements. While there are limitations, many of today’s metal woods and hybrids are indeed bendable, especially stainless steel heads. Forged titanium models are bendable as well.

Provided the hosel is long enough to allow the bending bar to fit over its length, metal woods and hybrids can be custom fit to a player. This applies to both face angle and lie.

What about bending the loft of metal woods and hybrids?  When you bend the hosel toward or away from the face plane you open or close the club’s face angle. This will change the playing loft of the club by changing the trajectory of the ball. But it will potentially cause misdirected shots. It is ideal to play with square face clubs. Don’t be misled by reports that tour professionals de-loft their drivers and get more distance.

Do club companies manufacture progressively consistent clubs?

In short the answer is “no”. While they certainly try to make consistent products, they do not necessarily do so. It would be nice to believe that every set comes from the factory with precise specifications, but this is just not the case. There are often inconsistencies in the lofts and lies of the clubs. Clubs are produced with certain +/- manufacturing tolerances in every factory, including custom sets. However, lofts and lies can easily be bent to be progressively consistent from one club to the next with zero tolerance, and to precisely fit any golfer’s specifications.

Are there standards for loft and lie angles?

One of the most overused words in the golf industry is “Standard.” Unfortunately, there are no industry standards. Each manufacturer determines what specifications they use. That is why one company’s 5-iron may be another’s 4-iron, thus claims of greater distance.

A quick look on the internet at specifications for the best selling #5 irons from four major manufacturers shows lie angles of 60.5, 60.8, 61 & 61.3 degrees. Not surprisingly there is no stated tolerance on any site, making one wonder just how close that 61.3-degree specification is. A look at standard lofts of #5 irons from these same manufacturers shows that two use 27 degrees while one is at 28 and one at 29.

The word standard really doesn’t come into play with club performance fitting. You should have your clubs matched to your own individual specifications. If you want to call your specifications standard, that’s fine. But make sure you have a record of your specifications for future reference.

Dynamic Fitting

It is vital to know the exact specification of the club’s angles when checking for a proper fit using a lie board test. The lie board test could show the need for the club to be more upright or flatter. The performance is the key element during the lie test, which determines a specific angle in degrees. The lie angle of the club used in the dynamic fitting must be measured and then adjusted to the new angle as indicated by the lie board test mark. Remember your set is not necessarily progressively consistent and therefore each club should be bent to a predetermined angle in relation to the ideal angle determined by the test club. The repair technician should not bend every club in the set by the proverbial “2 degrees up or flat” thinking they adjusted the entire set progressively consistent.

How does bending influence bounce?

Any change in a club’s loft will correspondingly change the club’s bounce. The relationship is one-to-one. As the loft angle of a club is decreased by one degree, its bounce angle is decreased by a degree at the same time. The bounce angle increases equal to the amount of any loft increase. A one or two degree change in loft will not cause a bounce or dig sole with today’s clubs.

If the loft angle is changed more than two degrees on a club, sole grinding may be necessary to restore the bounce angle to a more playable condition. Changes in lie do not affect the bounce of a club in any manner.

Is there a guarantee that a club will not break during bending?

Even the most skilled repair professionals cannot guarantee a club will not break while bending. Generally, breakage is a result of some type of inconsistency in the metallurgy of the club or manufacturing defect. Cast clubs may not have been heat-treated properly and can be very brittle. The hosel may break when subjected to bending pressure. Its possible the hosel of the iron may have been bored off-center resulting in inconsistent hosel wall thicknesses that crack when bent. None of these conditions can be identified prior to bending. However, breakage is very rare.

A properly manufactured club may be bent many times without breaking. There is no worry about bending a club that was bent last year or last week. It can be re-bent without any negative effects.

Proper club head registration for bending

Club head registration is the key element when bending or measuring clubs. Proper registration requires the club to be clamped securely in the bending machine with the face square and horizontal by positioning the club’s score lines parallel to a horizontal reference point. Score lines are manufactured into the club’s face parallel to the face attitude. The face attitude at impact is what directs the ball’s flight.

The club’s sole and its imaginary ground line have nothing to do with the attitude of the club’s face at impact. Measuring the club’s lie off the center of the club’s sole in a specification gauge is impossible to do accurately and it is impossible to repeat the measurement. Loft and lie angles are accurately measured from the club’s face attitude (horizontal score lines) to the shaft plane and are repeatable.

How much can a club be bent?

The common industry answer is “2 degrees.” This limit is only recommended when changing the lofts on irons due to the potential effect such bends will have on the sole angle of the club. If the hosel design and manufacturing processes allow, the lie of an iron can be bent 3-4 degrees or more with no compromise to the integrity of the head. This is especially true of clubs made with long hosels.

Some club fitting systems allow their clubs to be bent up to 6 degrees. The club’s length, shaft-flex and the dynamic performance of your swing will determine your lie angle specification. Match a set of clubs to your specifications for improved performance and lower scores.

Rockwell Hardness Scale

  Aluminum   B50-60 - Softest   Woods, Putters
  Carbon Steel   B70-80   Irons, Putters
  304 Stainless   B75   Irons Only
  Beryllium Copper   B70-80   Irons, Putters
  431 Stainless   C18-25   Irons, Putters
  100% Titanium   C24-28   Woods
  6-4 Titanium   C32-36   Woods, Faces
  17-4 Stainless   C34-38   Woods, Irons, Putters
  450 Steel (Supersteel)   C36-40   Woods, Irons
  15-5 Stainless   C36-44   Woods
  Beta Titanium   C40+   Woods
  Maraging Steel   C45-55 - Hardest   Woods, Faces