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You've probably heard the term “MOI” a lot in golf lately, especially in connection with new drivers and putters.

This acronym stands for “moment of inertia.” Its meaning depends on how forgiving a club is or isn't. Relatively speaking, the better player you are, the less moment of inertia you need because you can hit a smaller sweet spot on the clubface than high handicap players.

But that's actually a generalization of a complicated issue. “MOI” measures how much resistance a clubhead has to twisting (in grams per square centimeter). The higher the MOI, the more resistance a club offers, which means the more forgiving the club will be.

Better players also value forgiveness, especially in their drivers. It's not just about hitting straight, either. It's also about not losing too much distance on off-center shots. Distance plus relative straightness is a great combination off the tee, no matter what level you play at.

For clubs like wedges and short irons, things can be very different for better players. This is where feel can be so important. The same is true for certain players when it comes to putters. (Scotty Cameron Blade putters, for example, offer feel that might be the most important aspect for experienced players.) However, many of the best players in the world often opt for maximum MOI putters like TaylorMade Spider or the Odyssey AI One putters. Yes, artificial intelligence is now playing a role in MOI designs too. (More on that in a moment.)

First, let's talk about the moment of inertia (MOI) and what it means. Moment of inertia is obviously not limited to golf clubs, but why is it so important in golf and what is MOI in golf?

What is MOI in golf clubs?

The actual physical formula for MOI is a bit complicated. But basically, according to thoughtco.com“For any rotating object, the moment of inertia can be calculated by taking the distance of each particle from the axis of rotation, squaring that value, and multiplying it by the mass of that particle. You do that for all the particles that make up the rotating object, then add those values ​​together, and that gives you the moment of inertia.”

So essentially, MOI in golf is a measure of how resistant the clubhead is to twisting when it strikes the golf ball. The more resistant it is to twisting, the higher the MOI.

Many of the new drivers on the market are touted as the highest MOI drivers ever. And some of these companies, like TaylorMade and Callaway, are using artificial intelligence to design clubs with the highest MOI possible.

TaylorMade's newest driver, the Qi10 Max, is named for its 10,000 MOI. TaylorMade says, “Because we're golfers, not physicists, we're all about stability and forgiveness at impact. When we say the Qi10 Max boasts a 10,000 MOI, we're not just throwing around numbers – we're defining a new limit of forgiveness.”

How do they increase the moment of inertia in golf clubs?

What gives a golf club a high MOI is primarily due to the design of the clubhead. Simply put, the more weight club manufacturers can distribute away from the center of gravity or sweet spot, the less resistance there is to twisting and the higher the MOI. While high MOI is most commonly addressed today in modern drivers and putters, the concept of perimeter weighted irons, pioneered by Ping decades ago, is also a good example of increasing MOI in irons.

For years, most pros played forged blades, which are clubs with a lower MOI, while amateurs generally played cavity-back irons. In recent years, however, the concept of “players” clubs has emerged. These designs, like the TaylorMade 790s, are hollow, often with inlaid material and weights on the perimeter, although this may not be apparent visually. This gives them the look and feel of a “player” but the forgiveness of a cavity-back.

Adjustable moment of inertia for drivers and putters

Most drivers today have extra weight in the heel, toe and sole. Many modern drivers have these weights adjustable, so if you tend to slice, more weight near the heel will help the face close faster. More weight in the toe will slow the face closing, resulting in a slightly open face. The latter is best for the minority of players who tend to fight a true hook. If you tend to slice, moving the weight to the draw configuration with more weight in the heel can be beneficial.

These characteristics are also seen in putters. Old blade putters were very unforgiving. Golfers, especially high handicap players, are not particularly good at consistently finding the sweet spot when putting, so adding more weight to the heel and toe of a putter can definitely help.

However, for the highest MOI, you need a mallet putter. Simply put, a mallet offers more ways to distribute weight to make the putter more stable, and that's what a high MOI provides. Some of these putters have interchangeable weights, so you can increase or decrease the overall weight and MOI depending on your preference. There has also been a trend in recent years to design putters that are heavier overall, which also increases MOI. For example, a super heavy putter isn't going to twist much when hitting a golf ball that's only going a few miles per hour.

The importance of club adjustment and swing characteristics

How do you know which MOI is right for you? The short answer is you should probably take as much as your game allows. However, many players don't like clunky looking irons, for example, or even a clunky putter. The look and feel of a club is important when it comes to instilling confidence.

But numbers don't lie. Even if you like the look of one club better than another, a thorough fitting process can give you a pretty good idea of ​​which club is better for you. A less attractive club with great numbers can suddenly seem much more attractive. And it's not just about overall distance. Accuracy and distance control are very important stats to consider.

For example, if you have a single-digit handicap, you might like the setup and feel of Titleist's Muscle Back irons. But again, they have a lower MOI and are less forgiving. A fitting might confirm that the new T-150s with built-in tungsten weights might be a better choice. The weights not only increase MOI, but also help the ball spin better in the air. You might need that help, but you might not. A fitting is a good way to confirm that.

But what if you like working with the ball?

Tommy Fleetwood experimented with a mini driver on Pinehurst No. 2 ahead of the US Open.

If you are a player who likes to hit the ball right to left or left to right or both ways, you probably don't want a high MOI as it will limit your ability to do so. A good example is the popular new mini drivers, whose clubheads are much smaller than the current USGA limit of 460cc. They have a lower MOI and more loft, allowing you to hit the ball better off the tee. Tommy Fleetwood and Adam Scott are among the PGA Tour players who regularly play with mini drivers, which are becoming increasingly popular with better players.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of choices. Let a golf professional help you make the best choice. MOI could be your best friend.

  • MOI, or moment of inertia, is the resistance of the clubhead to twisting when the ball is struck off-center. A higher MOI provides more stability, consistency and “forgiveness” on off-center hits. This is especially valuable for amateur golfers who miss a lot of shots.
  • Of course, not all golf clubs have a high MOI. Persimmon drivers, for example, had a low MOI back in the day, but that had its advantages because the head design had what was called a gear effect. For example, if you hit the club with the toe, the face could open up. But because of the camber and curvature of the head design, they tended to fall back into play. The same effect occurred with a heel strike. It would bend the other way. A low MOI also made it very easy to move these clubs from right to left or left to right. If a club is very rigid, off-center hits also meant much lower ball speed.
  • Custom fitting of the golf club can be important in determining how much MOI a player needs. But you might be surprised how many players with handicaps between 0 and 100% choose drivers with the highest MOI possible. You have to balance the desire to work the ball against overall forgiveness. Off the tee, forgiveness seems to be the most important thing.

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