When researching golf clubs you will no doubt have come across the word forgiveness mentioned on numerous occasions. It is a word synonymous with modern golf clubs, especially ones that feature game improvement technology.
But, do you actually know what it means? It is surprising how many golfers seem to be stumped when trying to concisely define the term in relation to a golf club.
This article will hopefully help you to give you a slightly better understanding of the term forgiveness and how it relates to each of your golf clubs.
What does golf club forgiveness mean?
Forgiveness literally means the golf club's ability to forgive the golfer for their bad shot.
When you strike the golf club off-center the punishment is designed to be less severe with golf clubs that have more forgiveness. Therefore, mishits have less distance drop off and the dispersion is not as wide.
What makes a golf club forgiving?
There are several design strategies that golf club manufacturers use in modern golf clubs to create forgiveness. The type of technology used in these clubs is referred to as game-improvement technology.
In order to best understand forgiveness, you need to look at how club manufacturers manipulate CG, MOI and spin rates.
A club’s center of gravity, or CG for short, is located deeper in the clubhead of more forgiving clubs. This allows for a higher launch angle and more spin, which are typically considered forgiving traits for most golfers.
The deep positioning of CG also helps to increase the club’s moment of inertia, or MOI for short. A higher MOI means more clubhead stability and less loss of distance when striking the ball off-center. Another way manufacturers increase MOI is by using a design technique called perimeter weighting. This is where the weight is moved away from behind the sweet spot and redistributed across the entire clubface.
How forgiveness differs between clubs
There are undoubtedly similar forgiving traits in all golf clubs, but depending on the specific club you are using there can be slight differences in order to make the club easier to hit.
Drivers & Fairway Woods
Forgiving drivers and fairway woods tend to have an ‘oversized’ clubhead. Drivers can only go up to 460cc, but manufacturers create shapes that appear larger to the eye for a more confidence inspiring appearance when addressing the golf ball.
The larger clubhead in both these clubs allows for a CG placement further back, as we discussed earlier, and sweet spots are designed to cover a huge proportion of the face.
Offset and draw bias designs are also most common in drivers and fairway woods. This helps to battle against the most common miss for higher handicap golfers, which is the slice.
A relatively recent invention in the terms of golfing history, hybrids are considered one of the easiest golf clubs to hit. They are still not going to fix your golf swing, but in comparison to long irons the larger clubhead makes them much more forgiving.
There is still a wide variety in designs though and some are much more forgiving than others. Similarly to drivers and fairway woods, a deeper CG positioning and higher MOI are key to the forgiveness of a hybrid.
The biggest impact of game improvement technology has arguably happened within irons. Muscleback ‘blade’ irons that were once the only option in golf are now rarely used, even among Professionals, because of their lack of forgiveness.
Cavity back irons are now widely favored in golf, thanks to perimeter weighting and hollow cavity designs, which have created much more forgiveness on slight mishits. The level of forgiveness will vary greatly between different styles and your choice will depend on what characteristics you prioritize.
More forgiving irons will have a deeper cavity, offset hosel and thicker topline.
Similar to irons, forgiving wedges come with a cavity back design. Traditionally wedges were either bladed for better golfers or an extension of your iron set for higher handicappers.
You can now find excellent cavity back wedges that share similar qualities to a bladed alternative. A thicker sole and rounded leading edge will help with turf interaction and offer more forgiveness on heavy contacts.
Forgiveness in a putter might sound like a strange concept, given you are only hitting the golf ball a short distance. You might be surprised how useful a forgiving putter can be on the greens.
Even elite golfers will sometimes strike a putt slightly off-center and forgiving putters are designed to create a more even roll across the face. This makes distance control more repeatable and gives you more chance of making a putt even if you do not strike it exactly right.
Mallet putters tend to be the most forgiving style. They can move the weight around the larger putter head for better perimeter weighting, less twisting through impact and a more pronounced alignment aid.
Does forgiveness fix a bad golf swing?
A common misconception among golfers is that forgiveness will somehow fix your bad golf swings. Forgiveness can definitely help lessen the impact of your slice or the distance drop-off from a mishit, but it will not cure poor technique.
Having more forgiving golf clubs can aid your golf scores by a few shots. It will make each slightly mistruck shot that little bit better, but complete duffs or dreadful shots are still going to be punished. Forgiveness is no substitute for taking lessons and improving your golf swing.
Forgiveness vs Workability
When searching for the perfect clubs, golfers need to balance a variety of factors and consider what is most important to them. Even some of the best Professional golfers in the world choose to use golf clubs that include forgiving qualities, but this game improvement technology can often come at the sacrifice of workability and control.
Consider how much forgiveness you need in your golf clubs. Your handicap is an easy indicator, with lower handicappers obviously requiring less forgiving clubs than higher handicappers. Think about the consistency of your shots and how regularly you miss the center of the clubface.
Better golfers require a higher degree of accuracy with their golf shots. They use the feel and workability to allow them to control the spin on the golf ball for optimal results. Forgiving designs can reduce the potential to manipulate the spin, which makes manoeuvrability and distance control harder. This will not concern the majority of recreational club golfers, except the lowest handicappers.
Most of the major golf manufacturers now release multiple models for the same club, designed with differing levels of forgiveness in each of them. Try out each different model and style to figure out what level of forgiveness suits your game best.
Even the best golfers need some forgiveness, because they will not strike the golf exactly in the center 100% of the time. Forgiveness is there to help out with your slight mishits. Whether that is reducing your slice or retaining the distance on a shot struck out of the toe. Forgiveness will not stop you whiffing the golf ball or turn you into Tiger Woods, but it can certainly help you enjoy golf that little bit more.