You're determined that this is going to be your breakthrough year on the golf course. Joining a club, new woods and irons, lessons and more practice time are all part of the plan.
But what about club fitting? Have you overlooked this crucial aspect of taking your game to new heights?
If so, you're not alone. With the advent of launch monitors and equipment advancements, not being professionally fit for clubs is an oversight for anyone who's serious about the game.
"By getting fit for your clubs, you can make the game easier," said PGA Professional Tyrus York of the High Performance Golf Academy in Lexington, Kentucky. "For example, by having a driver that is fit to your swing, you can optimize ball flight, which will not only lead to distance gains, but also improved accuracy."
If you do plan on getting fit for clubs, it's important to understand a process where disconnect exists between consumers and many in the golf industry.
The most important thing is the shaft matching a golfer's swing. It's at least 80 percent of the fitting process, with length, loft, lie and grip making up the other 20 percent.
What's especially noteworthy is that a golfer's swing is about much more than just clubhead speed.
Golfers can be classified as hitters, swingers and in-betweeners. Hitters, like Sergio Garcia or Tiger Woods, are aggressive and create a lot of acceleration, while swingers, like Ernie Els or Fred Couples, are much smoother.
When it comes to shafts, what is different about the needs of a swinger versus a hitter, and which style of player is more prevalent?
Ninety percent of all golfers are hitters. Swingers can hit a shaft that's whippier at the bottom, while hitters need a shaft that's stiffer at the bottom. Swingers can hit shafts with higher torques; hitters need lower torque.
Challenges often arise with club fitting because of preconceived notions that customers have. Those who pursue professional club fitting need to approach the process with an open mind and not let their expectations -- or egos in some cases -- interfere.
I fit a golfer who had a swing speed of 133 mph and a ball speed of 184 mph, and he left with regular flex shafts, I've also had ladies in their late 50s who have been fit for stiff shafts.
While more golfers today are aware of the benefits of club fitting, too many are being poorly fit in the big box stores and even by manufacturers.
It's all about matching the shaft to the swing.
One of the least understood areas related to golf equipment is the matter of what constitutes a truly professional custom club fitting analysis. Over the past 10 years, club fitting technology has evolved from trial and error to a practice that is verified by technical research and analytical experience.
Even with the advancements of club fitting technology – which have been plentiful — and the advancements that are sure to come in the future, the best club fitters will always possess a combination of technical knowledge from years of study combined with judgment that is only acquired by the experience of fitting different golfers and learning from each encounter.
The biggest hurdle golfers face in their desire to be custom fit is an understanding of what constitutes a professional club fitting analysis. To many hitting numerous drivers on a golf simulator in a big box retail store until a sales person says “this is the one” constitutes being fit. A professional club fitting experience, however, is much more than that. It is a process that requires the analysis of numerous measurements of golfers and their existing clubs combined with an extensive observation of their swing characteristics to determine proposed fitting specifications. Those specifications are then verified or adjusted through observations of shot results and feedback from golfers.
Don’t think you’re good enough for a fitting?
Think again. The procedures that truly professional club fitters use to fit scratch golfers are the same one they use to fit golfers who shoot in the 100’s. I’ve spent more than 30 years in serious club fitting technical research and have communicated and counseled with hundreds of club fitters. I’m also aware of the confusion among golfers about club fitting, so I wanted to offer an overview to explain what is behind a truly professional club fitting experience.
The Goal of Professional Club Fitting
The goal of a quality fitting analysis is to fully analyze golfers, their swing characteristics and game improvement goals to determine each of the 12 Key Fitting Specifications for every golf club that will allow golfers to play to the very best of their given ability and to be able to benefit the most from lessons they may take from a competent teaching professional.
Let’s get something straight right off the bat. Golfers of average ability, those who shoot between roughly 80 and 100, experience the most visible game improvement from proper fitting. The reason is because a very high level of their inconsistency comes from their inability to control clubs that are too long, too low lofted, too heavy, or too light. Often times, their set makeup is also improper, which magnifies many of the swing mistakes they make.
Don’t get me wrong – an accurate club fitting does not CURE swing mistakes. Rather it reduces the severity and the frequency of less-than-perfect swings to allow golfers to be more consistent than before.
Anything short of this “full specs, full bag” approach to fitting will not deliver maximum game improvement to the golfer. Look at it this way – if a competent club fitter can identify and deliver every one of the key fitting specifications for every club in the bag, why settle for less by going to a place that cannot do that? It will result in less than the maximum possible game improvement and enjoyment.