Should Women Use Men's Clubs?
The question of women using men's clubs is hotly debated and single figure county player Carly Frost examines the arguments
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Can women play with men's golf clubs? It’s a question that I have a particularly strong viewpoint on, as a single-figure lady golfer with a handicap index of 2.6, who has played men’s clubs in the past.
To be frank, I did so because the options available to me were very limited 25 years ago as a good junior, who was playing for my home county Dorset aged 15 and competing on the national amateur circuit. Back in those days using a hand-me-down set of my dad’s old irons was the best I could do in a bid to become a more accomplished player.
The smaller sized heads (like blades) suited my eye and allowed me to learn to shape shots with finesse and develop the skill required to compete at the top-level of the game. Custom-fitting was really in its infancy and only available to professionals and tour players.
Looking back on this era now, I realise that I did myself absolutely no favours. In fact, these clubs were TOTALLY WRONG for me. Wrong length, wrong lie, wrong grips, wrong flex…the list goes on. But I was (and still am) a strong player and the alternative was to carry on using the women's set that I had learned to play golf with, which ballooned the ball too high into the sky because they were too light, too lofty and too whippy.
Fast-forward three decades and golf equipment has improved dramatically. So much so that I’m certain less than 1% of female players will be using men’s clubs. The exceptions are strong Tour players like Lexi Thompson and Charley Hull who generate clubhead speeds comparable to male players (90mph+).
Let’s face it, manufacturers make men’s clubs to suit the average male, typically taller and stronger than women, with longer levers. They are therefore too upright and too heavy for most women. If you are an average height or short like me (I’m only 5’ 1”), then using a standard men’s club will dramatically reduce your ability to create clubhead speed, robbing ball speed and distance.
The lie angle will be too upright (as men’s clubs are longer and for every half inch longer it’s going to play one degree more upright) and when a club is too upright it can cause you to develop a horrible ‘chopping-style’ swing action where you pick the club up too steeply in the backswing without enough rotation and swing down too steeply. More often than not, also on an across-the-line, out-to-in swing path that causes a cut/slice and a loss of distance. This is a move I have tried to eradicate from my own swing all my life and a bad habit I developed at a young by playing clubs that are wrong for me, which I still see a lot at club level in the women's game.
SHORT? TRY A FLATTER LIE
My husband and long-time coach Dan Frost has always advocated me playing clubs that are up to 3 degrees flatter to help me swing on a more rounded plane, with a powerful rotary move. I challenge any shorter woman to ask their club professional if they have a demo club with a flatter lie angle to try, have a swing and see how different it feels. I’d put money on most ladies using clubs that are too upright for their build.
THE RIGHT WEIGHT
Another reason why women shouldn’t use men’s clubs is because they are too heavy. You should be matching your clubs to your skill-level with a combination of weight and flex being the key. Even if you’re a physically fit and strong woman, a gym-goer like myself who likes to weight train, that strength doesn’t automatically mean you will suit a heavier club.
What you need is a club that is still light but has a stiffer flex, (read our article on ‘What Shaft Flex Should I Use?’) perhaps regular flex, maybe even stiff flex. There is a talented junior at my home club, Parkstone in Dorset, who has a clubhead speed in excess of 100mph and she has an Extra Stiff flex shaft in her driver.
Flex is important because we are all looking to reduce our shot dispersion, increase accuracy and find fairways consistently. To gain consistency off the tee and into the green, you need club stability, less torque (resistance to twisting) and a shaft kick point to match your swing action. Kick point is the area of a shaft that will bend most during the swing. A low kick point is toward the head, a high kick point is toward the grip, and a mid kick point is near the centre of the shaft. Kick point will influence how the club feels and what trajectory the ball launches at. A low kick point if you want more height and vice versa.
YOU CAN'T BEAT CUSTOM-FIT
Ultimately what I hope you’re realising from reading this article is that there’s an awful lot more to picking a golf club than meets the eye. We are fortunate, in the modern, technology-led era, to have custom-fitting at our fingertips - the ability to get clubs that are perfectly suited to you.
I believe that stamping a golf club with a ‘men's’ or ‘women's’ label is prehistoric. Spending a lot of time around tour fitting vans has allowed me to see that all the characteristics of golf clubs must be considered, not just gender specific labelling.
Surely it’s time to change how manufacturers think about product and launch a new driver or new set of irons with EVERYONE in mind, knowing that they can deliver a customisable and truly personalised build service to cater for absolutely anyone. Now that would be smart.
Carly Frost is one of the golf industry’s best-known female writers, having worked for golf magazines for over 20 years. As a consistent three-handicapper who plays competitive club golf at Parkstone and the Isle of Purbeck courses in Dorset every week, Carly is well-versed in what lady golfers love. Her passion for golf and skill at writing combine to give her an unbeatable insight into the ladies game.
Carly’s role at Golf Monthly is to help deliver thorough and accurate ladies equipment reviews, buying advice and comparisons to help you find exactly what you are looking for. So whether it’s the latest driver, set of irons, golf ball, pair of shoes or even an outfit, Carly will help you decide what to buy.
Over the years Carly has been fortunate to play some of the greatest courses in the world. Her view ‘from the ladies tee’ is invaluable. She ranks Sea Island, Georgia, USA, where she met her husband, world-renowned golf coach Dan Frost, among her favourite golf resorts. Their aptly-named eight-year-old son Hogan is already hitting the ball as far as Mum and will undoubtedly be a name to watch out for in the future.
Carly is a keen competitor and her list of golfing achievements are vast. She is a former winner of the South West of England Ladies Intermediate Championship, a three-time winner of the European Media Masters and she once beat an entire start-sheet of men to the title of Times Corporate World Golf Champion. She has played for both the Dorset and Surrey County Ladies first teams and is known for her excellent track record at matchplay.
Carly holds the ladies course record (68) at her home club Parkstone and her lowest competition round (seven-under-par 65) was carded in the pro-am of the Irish Ladies Open at Killeen Castle, playing alongside Solheim Cup superstar Anna Nordqvist. Although her current handicap index has crept up to 3.7 since Covid she has her sights firmly set on achieving that elusive scratch handicap and hopefully playing for her country when she’s 50.
Carly’s current What's In The Bag?
Driver: Callaway Epic Max, 10.5°
Fairway wood: TaylorMade SIM2, 15°
Hybrids: Titleist TS2, 19°, 21°, 24°
Irons: Mizuno JPX900, 5-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX, 52°, 56° and 58°
Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura X5
Ball: 2021 Callaway Ladies SuperSoft
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