Maltby Playability Factor

Maltby Playability Factor: Does It Help?

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Ralph Maltby developed the Maltby Playability Factor (MPF). It is a collection of measurement metrics to evaluate and differentiate the playability of golf iron designs.  Located on GolfWorks online platform, the data rates iron heads of all manufacturers and versions based on six levels, represented by numbers, from Ultra Game Improvement to Player Classic.

One of the common questions golfers ask about the MPF is how accurate or helpful these ratings are. Some people have little to no faith in these ratings. If you’re new to golfing, the listings can appear like several headscratchers that make no sense.

While the Maltby Playability Factor was put together to help golfers determine the golf club and shaft that best suit their playing levels, the accuracy of these ratings has been questioned more than once over the years.

My current Muzino MP-20 MBs are rated on the MPF as slightly more forgiving than the JPX-900 Tours (my previous iron), which is not the case in my experience.  So I do have my reservations about this rating. But there’s more to it.

I have carefully prepared this article and walked you through the concept of MPF rating, how it evaluates the playability of golf iron designs, and how you can interpret the data to pick a befitting iron for your game.

We will also examine the reservations many players have about this rating system to determine whether it genuinely helps or is not worth your time and consideration.

What Does the Maltby Playability Factor Mean?

The Maltby playability Factor (MPF) system evaluates and categorizes golf club designs based on their playability characteristics. It provides golfers with a standardized method to compare and assess the performance potential of different club designs. 

The MPF considers factors such as clubhead size, sole width, center of gravity (CG) location, the moment of inertia (MOI), and other design elements that influence how forgiving and playable a golf club is.

The MPF concept was developed by Ralph Maltby, a renowned golf club designer, club fitter, and author. He introduced the idea to the golf industry in 2002 as a response to the lack of standardized criteria for evaluating golf club performance. Maltby wanted to give golfers a more objective and scientific approach to understanding and selecting golf clubs.

The MPF concept has evolved as golf club technology has advanced and new design elements have been introduced.

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PS: The initial MPF calculations focused primarily on the CG location and MOI, critical factors determining a club’s forgiveness and stability on off-center hits. However, the MPF system has been expanded to include other design characteristics influencing playability, such as clubhead size, sole width, and perimeter weighting or adjustable hosels.

By considering these factors and assigning numerical values to each, the MPF system provides a way to categorize and compare golf clubs based on their playability characteristics, allowing you to make more informed choices when selecting equipment.

What Is An MPF Score?

MPF scores provide a numerical value that represents the overall clubhead forgiveness of a specific golf club model.

The higher the MPF score, the more forgiving the club is considered to be. A forgiving club is less likely to twist or rotate upon impact with the ball, resulting in straighter shots and increased distance on off-center hits.

To interpret and utilize MPF scores for golf club selection, follow these steps:

1. Understand the MPF scoring system

MPF scores range from negative to positive. Negative scores indicate less forgiving clubs, while positive scores indicate more forgiving clubs. The higher the absolute value of the score, the more forgiving the club.

2. What is your skill level and playing style?

If you’re a beginner or a higher handicapper who frequently hits shots off-center, you may benefit from clubs with higher MPF scores. Skilled players who consistently hit the ball on the center of the clubface may prefer clubs with lower MPF scores for better workability and shot shaping.

3. Consider your needs and priorities

Decide on the specific characteristics you prioritize in your golf clubs. Higher MPF scores are more suitable if you value forgiveness and consistency. If you prioritize shot control and workability, lower MPF scores could be preferable.

4. Demo and test clubs

Try different clubs on a driving range or during a fitting session. Hit shots with clubs featuring other MPF scores and evaluate each club’s feel, performance, and consistency. Pay attention to the forgiveness on off-center hits and how well you can control the ball’s flight.

6. Professional advice will save you time

If you’re unsure about interpreting MPF scores or selecting the right clubs for your game, consult a professional club fitter or a golf instructor. They can provide personalized guidance based on your swing characteristics and help you make an informed decision.

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What Is Shaft MPF?

GolfWork’s MPF Shaft Ratings remove much of the guesswork by recommending a range of shaft choices for each specific swing speed and shotmaking need.

The catalog has grouped shafts based on flex, weight, torque, bend point, and tip stiffness to provide players and club fitters with a standardized method to understand and compare golf shafts.

Many people use the information on Shaft MPF to make informed decisions about which shaft will suit their swing characteristics and playing style, even though the final decision of shaft selection will ultimately depend on them.

To calculate and interpret the Shaft MPF score, you would need access to the Shaft MPF database. You can access the MPF for Iron, wedge, Hybrid, and Wood shafts HERE. It provides information on various shafts and their respective MPF scores.

The MPF score is determined based on four primary factors: shaft frequency (measured in CPM, or cycles per minute), shaft weight (in grams), bend point, and tip stiffness.

These factors are measured and compared against a reference shaft to determine the MPF score.

Again, remember that the Shaft MPF score is just one factor to consider when selecting a shaft. Your preference, feel, and working with a professional club fitter can also play a significant role in finding the right shaft for your game.

Golf Clubs With The Highest And Lowest MPF Ratings

MPF is broken down into six categories. The categories range from the easiest, most forgiving clubs made today (Ultra Game Improvement) to extremely difficult-to-hit clubs that only accomplished players should attempt to use (Player Classic).

The six categories are explained in a chart that is easy to use and allows you to look at your game and decide honestly.

Here’s a pictorial illustration of these six categories :

The technical team at Golfwork tests and updates this rating at any time. So it’s hard to pinpoint the actual club with the highest or lowest MPF rating. However, you can view or download updated iron head MPF ratings listed by manufacturers here.

What’s The Ideal Maltby Playability Factor Range?

There isn’t a single “ideal” range of MPF scores for optimal playability that applies universally to all golfers. But there are some general considerations to keep in mind:

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1. Forgiveness: Higher MPF scores generally indicate more forgiving clubs. This means they are designed to be more forgiving on off-center hits, helping to minimize the loss of distance and accuracy. If you prioritize forgiveness and want more forgiving clubs, look for higher MPF scores.

2. Workability: Lower MPF scores are associated with clubs that offer more workability or shot-shaping capability. These clubs typically have smaller clubheads, less offset, and different center of gravity placements. If you prefer to shape your shots and have more control over trajectory and shot shape, lower MPF scores may be more suitable.

So you should be more concerned about aligning your golf skill level and playing style with the proper MPF range of an iron to choose.

For example, beginners and high-handicap golfers often benefit from clubs with higher MPF scores, as they offer more forgiveness and help compensate for inconsistent ball striking.

On the other hand, lower-handicap or skilled golfers with more consistent ball striking may prefer clubs with lower MPF scores, as they offer excellent workability and shot control.

Also, If you tend to prioritize forgiveness and consistency over shot-shaping ability, clubs with higher MPF scores may be more suitable. Conversely, if you enjoy shaping your shots and value shot-making versatility, clubs with lower MPF scores might be a better fit.

So Is The MPF Rating Helpful?

MPF scores may not be a big deal for some golfers, but they are a valuable tool because they exist so we can look at the numbers of past irons played and see the characteristics of the ones we like and the ones we don’t.

I particularly like paying attention to the C-dimension (the distance the COG is away from the hosel) and VCOG (vertical center of gravity) numbers on the catalog for each iron.

While I’m not a big supporter of what Golfwork does with the MPF measurements—it’s not an easy one to decipher, especially for beginners—there’s no doubt that it’s the only source in the golf industry that publishes accurate measurements of our favorite manufacturers’ clubs and shafts. The MPF scores may not be entirely helpful to all, but the sizes are resourceful.

What do you think about the MPF ratings? Have they been helpful to you with club selection? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Kevin Stone

Kevin is a gold addict playing off of an 11 handicap. A Midwest native, he works on his game 2-3 times per week, even in the winter! When he's not golfing, he enjoys cigars, libations, and watching the PGA Tour.