Understanding the Malby Playability Factor (MPF) for Irons

Why are some major brands not rated as high while Maltby clubs are rated high? How can Maltby compete with these major brands?


I am constantly amazed at the number of people I see making comments on some of the golf forums out there on the internet. The cool thing is that it is easy to see there are a lot of passionate golfers still out there that like to talk golf equipment. I love that. It is obvious that people have strong opinions about players, equipment, courses and just about everything else golf.

I generally do not participate, but like to read to get a feel for what passionate golfers are experiencing, thinking and talking about. Sometimes I see comments that are directly related to The Golfworks and our product. That’s great to see, even if sometimes the comments are not accurate or come from a lack of understanding. One of the subjects that gets a lot of comments is the Maltby Playability Factor.

We see great numbers of positive comments about how the MPF is a great tool to help someone understand iron design in general and to help club makers and players alike choose an iron that will meet their needs and give them the best chance for success.

Then there are others that will always find fault, usually because an iron they like does not fall into the category they believe it should or the category seems to go against what the manufacturer tells them. The only thing I can say to good folks like these is “READ RALPH’S BOOK”. It explains, in great detail, how MPF is determined and what it is, and what it is not. No bias, just factual information.

Why Are Some Major Brands Not Rated As High?

Recently I read a post from someone questioning some MPF ratings on a major brands clubs. On one particular brand, all three new models were in the Player Classic category, which generally is not a model we would recommend for players to play because the mass and dimensional characteristics of the designs provide no benefit to the player. It can be played, but the player better be a really consistent ball striker to get any benefit at all out of the club.

The companies “game improvement” model actually rated lower than the “tour” model, so that confused the readers. “How can that be?” they said. “No Way” they shouted. I can understand the confusion, but what needs to be understood is that all the MPF does is measure the mass and dimensional characteristics of the head and report them. There is nothing arbitrary about it. The measurements are the measurements.

Just because a company calls a club a “game improvement” club or a “tour” club does not automatically make it so. This is one of the main reasons Ralph developed the MPF for irons, to give us a way to evaluate that mass we call an iron head and to determine if one particular design might provide a better opportunity for success for players, based on how its mass is distributed and where the center of gravity of that mass is located. That is all.

No bias or malice towards particular brands, just measurements. Ralph’s motivation was to understand why some irons are “clunkers” and some are not. Why some feel really solid and some do not. Why some seem to work and some do not. Taking the fit and the shaft and all the other things out of the equation, what are/were the differences in iron head designs that seemed to make one successful and one not successful.

And, as a side note, history backs up the Ralph’s data 100%. The best performing models over the decades, the best sellers over any period of time in the marketplace, all had the highest MPF ratings for the time they were introduced and in the marketplace.

Why Are Maltby Clubs Rated So High?

When it is pointed out that “all Maltby clubs rate high” so “it can’t be valid”, I chuckle a bit. We are a golf club design company and our team has as many combined years of experience as just about anyone in the industry. When we design a model we have a target MPF in mind, as well as a shape, a cosmetic, a material, etc. We know, through our experience, that the most important thing is to make sure the mass and dimensional characteristics of that design put the center of gravity in the absolute best place it can be for that design.

It will not always result in an Ultra Game Improvement Iron because we recognize that different shapes, styles, categories etc. have base parameters or certain looks (players blades vs. ultra forgiving, for example) that dictate, to some degree, where the cg will be and how high (or low) the MOI will be.

That being said, we do know the parameters within these categories or classifications of irons that will give us the best measurements to produce great performing club within the Game Improvement, Super Game Improvement or Ultra Game Improvement category.

So, I guess I would ask to those that question, why wouldn’t we design a club this way? Maybe the questions that should be asked are to the companies that produce models with mass and dimensional characteristics that do not benefit the player.

Also, we understand that you can have designs that have high MOI and poor cg location, or good cg location and low MOI. Ralph explains this relationship in the book and how it impacts the rating. Again, very clear, no deception, no secrets, all explained in the book.

How ALL the measurements are done and how the MPF is calculated is completed explained in both of Ralph’s books on the subject. The goal has always been to be totally transparent and to provide information that will help golfers find the best equipment for their game. If we happen to have our own equipment that we are proud of, that performs extremely well, so be it.

All we ask is let them be considered. I have often said that if we took the Maltby name off of the design, told people that the designs were prototypes from a “major” manufacturer and that they, as players, were going to be a focus group to evaluate the performance, those players perception of the product would be totally different, before testing.

After testing we are confident we know what the result would be, but because they believe it is a major brand, their enthusiasm would most likely be enhanced. After revealing it is a Maltby design, my guess is they would be surprised and hopefully have a better understanding that performance has nothing to do with what name is on the product.

How Can Maltby Compete With Major Brands?

Lastly, I have seen comments that state that because we are not one of the major brands that have all the R&D money and resources, that we can not possibly design clubs that perform as well as they do. Really? Do I wish we did have the money and toys and resources the big OEM companies have? Absolutely. Are these things necessary to design great performing golf clubs? Absolutely not.

Some of our own OEM friends have told us as much. Our manufacturing partners supply us with many of the resources and do so because of long standing relationships we have had with them for many, many, years. Many of these companies also manufacture the same name brands we are talking about. We provide detailed models, drawings and material information, then work with the factories to get the final result we are looking for.

We travel half way around the world to work with engineers, designers, tool makers and factory workers to insure the final product is what we want. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on computer design systems, modeling software, etc. is not necessary to deliver a great product. It might make the process more fun, and possibly faster, but it is not necessary.

Understanding the basics of design, the cause and effect relationships in design and how particular design features affect playability is what is important. We understand look is important, but making a compromise in a design for the sake of a “look” is not something we will ever do. Can not say that is the case for other brands. Designing to performance will always win over designing for a look, especially when we are talking about the mass and dimensional characteristics of that thing we call a club head.

Britt Lindsey