Lets show what some say vs what the truth really is.
Ok, there seems to be alot of mis-information online about tour vs. retail. So I started doing a little fact finding from experienced people in the industry that are well know, honest and have credentials. I am also contacting OEMs for more specific information on what each one does. Please remember this is not my opinion but the opinions and facts from people actually qualified. To start off below is the infamous post that is posted on several boards other than where it was originally found. This is not meant to be any type of bashing post but rather a fact finding mission for the general golfing public so please keep your comments as such. I welcome any information from OEM's or actual industry people that can offer honest opinions or facts or members from other boards. Lets keep this clean and see where it leads and what we can find out.
The titanium used in the production of the Tour heads is generally NOT the same as the retail models. It is a very high grade titanium which is stronger and less prone to failure. The average player will never hit 10,000 balls with his driver like a Tour pro will, and thus, has no real need for this quality of materials. It is also more free of imperfections, and much more costly to tool because of the hardness. This grade is mildly heavier, but that is not of great concern because no Tour player plays a 46 inch driver. Just a few grams heavier, which is why you will always see the weight discrepency in Tour and retail heads, even raw and unweighted.
The COG in the Tour heads is almost ALWAYS at a different point than the retail models, generating a mildly lower ball flight and spin rate that most good players desire. There also are NO weight bias' built into the head, unlike retail heads which 99% of the time, have a heel weight bias. This is pretty much true with all Tour drivers no matter what the companies might LIKE the consumer to believe. With a Tour driver, the COG is generally around 2-3mm higher in the Tour head, which results in about 1-1.5 degree of launch angle lower, and 300-600 rpm of spin rate lower than the retail heads. Of course, this can vary slightly.
In Tour fairway woods and utilities, there will also be a mildly higher COG, and either neutral or fade bias built into the COG of the head. 99% of retail fairways and utilities have a heel/draw bias, and generally a more upright lie angle to help the "average" player control their slice.
Of course we all know the face angle is generally square or open on a Tour head, but this is an adjustment made by the Tour department or van, and is really not relevant to any production or internal differences, but is still a difference none the less.
All heads are also tested and conform to the maximum allowable COR.
In terms of Tour irons, most manufacturers will have their heads forged by one of the premium facilities like Miura or Endo for the Tour product, but go with a large mass forging facility in China for the production heads. TaylorMade for example uses Miura to forge the Tour sets, Titleist uses Endo, and Nike has used both in the production of the Tour heads. Tour irons are generally dead on spec in terms of weight. You will not get a Tour set of irons with swingweights all over the board like you do with retail sets. This is because of the quality control at the high grade forging houses. These heads are also nearly free of imperfections both external and internal, and generally have an entirely different feel than their retail counterparts. These forgings are, obviously, higher quality accross the board, and MUCH more expensive to have done than the retail line.
Often time the sole configuration is a bit different as well. Much of the time Tour irons will have a slightly more narrow sole, a blunted leading edge, and more bounce, as the Tour player generally hits down through the ball, taking a divot, where the "average" player generally does not. Often times the Tour heads will have less offset as well as certain lower glare finishes like black or satin, as opposed to the shiney chrome of most retail clubs.
Grooves can also be different in Tour irons as well, not only in configuration, but in actual production. Tour iron heads will ALWAYS have precision milled grooves, where the cutting tool is changed prematurely to make sure there are no imperfections in any of the grooves, unlike retail which are mass produced and generally MUCH more sloppy in terms of quality and precision. Tour iron heads are also often made with both box and V grooves. This is distinguishable on TaylorMade Tour iron heads by the lack of swirl marks on the face of the iron. This has NOTHING to do with the face being milled, as all Tour iron heads are milled for precision. They just remove the swirl marks on the V groove heads to help reduce the spin slightly. V grooves are a lower spin head for the player who wants a flatter and more penetrating ball flight.
Tour wedges also are drastically different than their retail counterparts. They share many of the characteristics of Tour irons, but also have their own unique differences as well. Tour wedges will often have unique finishes and very unique sole grinds. More so than iron heads, to combat a variety of conditions and player styles. The most obvious difference to the eye are facial milling marks on many occasions, varying grinds, and Tour only finishes.
The main difference that makes a Tour wedge perform differently than a retail wedge is the groove. 99.9% of all Tour wedges will have a more agressive groove than retail. This groove is meant to generate more spin. This spin is a God send on very fast greens, from deep rough, and in the wind. Common sense will tell you that more spin means a higher ball flight, but with the way a groove like TaylorMade's Tour exclusive Y groove bites the ball, the flight is actually lower and more penetrating, which allows the player to generate great spin for bite, and a lower flight for MUCH improved control. Many average players enjoy seeing a high arcing wedge shot. PGA Tour pros prefer the lower, more controlled flight, assisted by their wedge grooves and confidence that the ball will bite, even when hit low and flat. Most Tour wedges will have an agressive box groove design, with the exception of TaylorMade's Y Cutter wedge which is a TaylorMade exclusive groove design which lowers flight even more, generates more green biting spin, all while not destroying premium golf balls to a great degree. It truly is THE revolutionary design in wedge grooves.
I would also like to add that some aftermarket companies will offer what they like to CALL a Tour groove. The difference is that in precision made Tour wedges, the groove is milled deep and wide, but also beveled on the edges slightly to allow for more control over the spin rate, and to avoid extreme ball sheering, which can cause unpredictible spin, unpredictible ball flight, and interfere with putting. These aftermarket company wedges may generate green holding spin, but don't be fooled into believing that they are the equal of a TRUE Tour wedge in terms of consistancy and quality. If the wedge devours the cover of a premium golf ball with regularity, take a pass. Your wedges are your SCORING clubs. Don't settle for anything but the club that gives you the best opportunity to get as close to the hole as possible, AND make the putt.
Comments from ADAMS GOLF
2) Tour equipment and retail equipment on being the same, this question has been answered many, many times in regard to every OEM's clubs. Believe it or not, they are not the same (except in certain cases and the OEM will generally inform the retailers of this), it doesn't make sense to build clubs for the best players in the world and hope that the average golfer will embrace the differences and find a tour players clubs are designed exactly the opposite of what would benefit them. Todd hammers this fact over and over again, I find it hard to believe that there is some sort of question in regard to this. This equipment is not for everyone, it spins less, launches lower, the cg's or higher and toward the toe of the club, the lie angles are flatter than any retail equipment and the bounce angles are positioned in different places. Other than that, they are pretty close.
5) I have a lot of friends in the tour end of the golf business and I will tell you that the best place to get factual info on Tour heads and equipment in from BOMBSQUADGOLF.com. I have yet to read anything that that Todd or Derek has written that is not completely true. Companies, especially golf companies, have a bit of a disconnect when it comes to thier respective tour departments, because their staff is always on the road and most of the design work is done by a select few people within their companies, most outsiders seem to grab at whatever info they hear swirling in the office.
Below is a response written by Tom Wishon:
Some of this is true and some of it is the writer being susceptible to believing what he hears with no personal real experience to substantiate it. Also, there is no way you can assume this to be true with all the companies who work with tour players to play their clubs. Each pro is different in their needs and desires and the golf companies most definitely have to pattern what they do for each individual player to make them happy in the end, which means confident with the clubs.
The part about a different titanium on the faces can be true because you have some tour players who have a very high swing speed while others don;t. Since driver heads have moved to a much larger size, and with it, larger face areas, most all of the stock OEM Ti drivers today are made with 6/4 Titanium for the face because it is possible to get to an 0.830 COR with that grade of Ti. Also, 6/4 is cheaper than the higher grade Ti alloys like SP700, 10-2-3 Ti so for a production head, if you can make the COR 0.830 with a lower priced Ti alloy for the face, why spend the extra money to duplicate the Ti with what would be a thicker face made from one of the high grade Ti alloys.
It can happen where a tour player with a very high swing speed could hit so many balls with his driver that he "fatigues" the face - here would be one reason to use one of the higher grade Ti alloys in the face of the tour player's driver. On the other hand, they could always just give him another driver when one happens to start fatiguing. So there is no rule of thumb here. As long as the player's driver has to be 0.830 COR or lower, to get to that COR with a higher strength Ti alloy face like SP or 10-2-3 you have to make the face thicker than you would if you use 6/4 Ti. Thus the thickness increase of the higher grade ti allows for more hits before the face could begin to fatigue.
IT is common for the heads used by the tour players to have a different CG position than the heads made to be sold as stock clubs to the public. Remember, when a company signs a tour player they most definitely want him/her using their clubs. So if the player does not like something about the heads the company uses in the clubs, the company will go back to work to make up whatever the player wants. If they don;t, the player will just go play with something else. AND if that happens to be a different driver, well, that's a pretty marquee club in the bag so companies usually will make whatever they have to in order to get a head with their name on it in the player's bag.
If a company has been paying tour players to use their stuff for many years, they will begin to get a feel for what has to be changed in a head for what type of player demand, swing, etc. But yes, in the back rooms of the big OEMs are tons of different variations of this or that model which all have been made for this or that tour player's individual little desires for looks, flight, feel, you name it. These players can be really picky and since there is big competition for the name players between the big moneyed golf companies, most definitely if the tour player asks, the company does it to keep them happy.
On the groove thing, I have no personal experience with this on a tour level as I do with the ti and driver matter. I know that some of the companies will experiment with groove configurations because some of the tour players are nuts about that and the companies are always interested in trying to gain some edge over the competition. Again, none of this gets experimented with unless the player himself starts to bring it up. The word "no" does not exist when it comes to the OEMs who have extensive tour endorsement programs so there are many little R&D projects that go on behind the scenes all the time with these companies and some of the players they pay.
You have to first remember what causes spin and what causes more spin. Plain and simple three things - 1) the more friction between the ball and face, the higher the spin, 2) the higher the swing speed the greater the spin, 3) the less "foreign material" between the face and the ball, the greater the spin. Now you have to look at how this all shakes out for the tour player.
1) While it is now known that the edges of the lines are a contributor to friction between ball and face, the surface in between the lines is more important because it comprises a far greater area that comes in contact with the ball. So rougher blasting of the face, AND keeping that surface freshly blasted to be right at the USGA limit for face roughness is a must for maxing out spin. yes, there can be experiments made with the shape of the edges of the lines to add to this.
2) remember the tour players all have much higher swing speeds than the majority of regular golfers. And this remains so all the way through the bag. So a pro hitting a SW into a green will likely have a higher swing speed to hit that shot than you or I will. ANd more speed = more spin.
3) the fairway mowing of the tour courses is so much shorter than yours or my golf course that there is no way you or I will hit a shot that has no "foreign material" (namely, grass) that gets in between the ball and the face. I think I heard them say at the Masters this year that they mowed the fairways to 3/8" - go ask your greenskeeper what height he mows your fairways to and I would be shocked if that number was less than 3/4". The grass on regular courses cannot survive if mowed to 1/2" or less every day of the playing season so we all get more grass in between the ball and the face than the tour players ever do. This too is also where the precision of the tour player's swing plays a part - I would bet that every single tour player's divot starts well in front of the ball so this type of more steep descending blow also promotes getting less grass between the face and the ball.
As to a different production foundry for the tour player's heads than the ones sold in stores, I doubt that. It may have happened a few times because the big OEMs do keep relationships with many production foundries and could call on the one that will do things faster when they need something special made quickly. Not all foundries have separate small custom production departments, some do. Making something quick and with a totally different set of specs or grind or face treatment, etc is very hard to do as a foundry if you do not have a mini-production line set up just for that purpose. In addition, some of this may be done at the OEM, if over the years they have invested in setting up their own in house prototype production department. Again, each one is a little different in how they handle the "one off" requests they get from their tour players.
Hope this helps,TOM
Here are more comments on grade or quality of metal used:
No, this part I do not believe is true based on my experience in design and production. Virtually all of the OEMs who are large enough to have a strong presence on tour will work with the higher quality foundries to manufacture their heads. There is no way that these foundries will use lower grade Ti alloys on the production of any of their heads because I know all of them and have and do continue to work with some of them for my designs. The only think that could be possible in this would be if the OEM has a very high swing speed tour player under contract, such as 130mph and higher, they might possibly change the face to be a beta Ti grade so as to get a higher strength to withstand that swing speed. But if they did, they would also have to thicken up the face so that they still could have the head stay at or under the COR limit from the USGA.
These days with most of the driver heads now being upper 300cc to over 400cc in size, most of these heads have to be made with 6/4 titanium alloy for the face material so as to keep the COR at or slightly below the USGA minimum level. In addition, the OEMs know that even though they don;t come along very often, there will be a consumer here or there that will have a swing speed of more than 120 mph. Therfore they know that they have to make their "common" heads for retail sales to be able to withstand such an impact force. And to do that with a 6/4 Ti alloy the face would be fairly thick, but because of the larger face size, would still be able to be at or slight under the COR limit.
Here is a comment from another person in the industry:
Having been part of the titanium foundry business for many years and also having this specific discussion with well known club designer a couple of years ago during an interview, my understanding is the alloys used are design specific, not end-user specific. The quality and purity and therefore strength and material characteristics is the same. If separate tooling is made for the 'tour only' head, the tooling costs might be slightly higher due to tighter tolerances, but I'm not sure on that issue, and the difference should be minimal. The CG can certainly be altered by changing the material thickness and internal welding. As for one ti-alloy weighing significantly more than another or having less 'imperfections' for the tour heads vs consumer heads - it's all bunk. The heavier weight comes from thicker walls, with all else being the same. Hardness can vary depending on the alloy and subsequent heat treating, but it's not necessarily 'better', it's just different/optimized to suit the design parameters. As Tom mentioned regarding face thickness, the CT limits on face deflection pretty much dictates the alloy and required thickness due to the 400cc+ size of drivers.
Initial replies from several OEM's:
Thank you for your email into Bridgestone Golf! There is no difference between the heads which our Tour players use compared to what is offered at retail. If you have any further questions please let us know. Thank you for your Bridgestone support!The Bridgestone Golf Team
Thank you for your e-mail and for visiting our web site. The heads arethe same for both our Tour players and our consumers (all of the headscome out of the same molds). The finished clubs are allbuilt/assembled (during the production process) to the specific specs/needs for eachindividual golfer.
Thank you for your interest in PING!
Play Your Best.
Thanks for the email.
Thank you for your support in TaylorMade products. The main differencebetween the tour issued and the retail TP are the custom specificationsthey can do. The tour heads are the same club heads but they are ableto adjust them for loft, lie, face angle, and different shafts. Thereis also a difference in the serial numbers. You can tell it is a tourproduct when the serial number only has numbers and not a combinationofletters and numbers. Please contact us again if you have any furtherquestions.
Thank you again and we wish you continued success with your golf game.
Toni from TM
The heads on Tour and TP product sold at retailers are the same heads.They both have Inverted Cone, same thickness of walls, same face, etc.The difference is that Tour product would have modifications done on itdepending on who it was for. Tour product doesnt have any differentface or head at all. They are made differently for each player.The TP products that we sell to retailers are the same.
The reason for the different serial #'s because the PGA Tour productsare not warranty and they do not carry a warranty like a TP product youwill find at taylormade retailers.I hope this clears it up. Let me know if you have anymore questions.
Thank you again and we wish you continued success with your golf game!
The CG can be changed multiple ways. The easiest is to just change theweights in the ports. Other ways include lead tape, extra glue incertain areas, and weight plugs (such as the center weight in the 460).Please let us know if you have any further questions.
Thank you again and we wish you continued success with your golf game!
Thanks for the email.
The main difference will be the serial numbers on the Tour product. Theheads are built the same way and with the same technology. However,because a head may come from Tour it could come with different lie andloft angles depending on who it was fit for. In the past, Tour headscame with a "T" serial number. However, they now come with variousserial numbers. We have information on ranges of numbers used now forTour heads. If anyone has a question please just call us at800-888-2582.
Thank you again and we wish you continued success with your golf game!
Tour irons are generally dead on spec in terms of weight. You will not get a Tour set of irons with swingweights all over the board like you do with retail sets. This is because of the quality control at the high grade forging houses.
A "tour" head will be custom setup for a certain player, IE face angle, bias, ball flight. That is the only difference from a retail head. Some heads will be custom made that never get sold by a OEM like the 580XD or Tigers SQ Max.A TM TP is the same as a TM TP tour, etc...etc
Original thread found at GD