Bending Golf Clubs: Facts & Fallacies

An Industry Professional’s Guide To Angle Adjustments

Using a club bending machine to change the angle on a golf club is among the fastest ways to improve a player’s ball flight. Whether it’s changing the lie to improve accuracy or changing loft to make sure that the player’s clubs are progressively consistent, angle bending is a major factor in club performance.

When it comes to loft and lie, many players have incorrect ideas about what they can do and what effect these changes may have on playability. For industry professionals, it is important to become knowledgeable in all facets of club bending. So, let’s get to some facts and fallacies about club bending that every golf professional should know. Whether you’re using a Mitchell Golf Steelclub Angle Machine or another machine, this information will give you the knowledge to better serve the needs of golfers.

Cast clubs can be bent, but it’s not always easy.

Most irons can be bent, and this does apply to cast clubs. However, 17-4 stainless steel cast irons will be more difficult to bend since they are harder (C34-38 on the Rockwell Scale) than 431 (HRC18-25) or carbon steel (high B’s on the scale) heads. 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. With proper equipment, nearly all hosel designs can be bent accurately and consistently ensuring properly fitted clubs for your golfers.

There is also a misconception that clubs have “memory” that makes them naturally return to the original specification. Once a club is bent to a given specification, it will stay there until changed by an outside force of either bending again or striking a hard object. Loft and lie changes are more or less permanent.

You can bend metal woods with some limitations.

Even with limitations, many of today’s metal woods are indeed bendable, especially stainless-steel heads. Forged titanium models are bendable as well due to their softer titanium structure. And provided the hosel of the wood is long enough to allow the bending bar to fit over its length, metal woods can be bent to custom-fit a player. This applies to both face angle and lie.

Bending the loft of a metal wood is another story. 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. Don’t be misled that tour professionals de-loft their drivers and get more distance.

Don’t expect club companies to manufacture progressively consistent clubs.

While golf club manufacturers certainly try to make a consistent product, 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 mass-produced with certain +/- manufacturing tolerances in every factory.  Remember the set is not necessarily progressively consistent from one club to another and therefore each club should be checked. You can easily bend the lofts and lies to be progressively consistent from one club to the next with zero tolerance. You can also bend the angles to a consistent specification precisely fit for any golfer.

How bending influences bounce.

Any change in a club’s loft will correspondingly change the club’s bounce. The relationship is one-to-one. As you decrease the loft of a club by one degree, you reduce its bounce 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 the loft will not cause a bounce or dig sole with today’s clubs. But if you are changing lofts on older, much flatter-soled irons, the bounce should be taken into account.

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

Is there a way to ensure that a club will not break during bending?

Even the most skilled repair professionals can occasionally break a club. When this happens, it’s usually the result of some type of inconsistency in the metallurgy of the club. Cast clubs may have voids in their internal structure. These voids are effectively weak spots that when subjected to pressure from bending will often cause hosel breakage. In addition, the club may not have been heat-treated properly and can be very brittle. The hosel of the iron may have been bored off-center resulting in inconsistent hosel wall thicknesses. Breakage can occur when applying bending pressure to the thinner hosel area. None of these manufacturing inconsistencies can be identified before bending.

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 adverse effect on it.

Are all bending machines accurate in their readings?

Absolutely not. In fact, all machines with fixed measuring gauges will not be accurate when measuring clubs with offset, progressive offset, or face progression hosel positions. Machines that adjust for all hosel positions, such as Mitchell® Angle Machines are accurate regardless of the offset or hosel design of the golf club. Mitchell® machines are capable of bending and measuring clubs simultaneously.

Proper Club Head Registration

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 you can bend a club.

The typical 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.

Practice on a few old irons to become comfortable in bending lie more than 2 degrees. It is easy to do in a machine that securely holds the club. Machines without adjustable sole clamps will often allow the iron to slip during bending, making the repair professional think the club bent when it didn’t.