“My favorite shots in golf are the practice swing and the conceded putt. The rest can never be mastered.” Lord Robertson
Maybe, but in today’s technological world the ability to find the ideal clubs for yourself, and to enjoy the game more, is now being offered by many club fitting companies throughout the US. Custom Fit – only if you are serious about your game.
Why custom fitted clubs?
There is a major distinction between custom clubs and custom fitted clubs… Custom clubs are those clubs purchased at a golf store and then having adjustments made to the clubs, such as length adjustment (shorter or longer), added wraps to the grip, and different shafts being inserted as to the original shafts.
Custom Fitted clubs are those clubs made to individuals’ specific needs, determined during a fitting session with a qualified club fitter.
Take a walk up and down the driving range, and a few things immediately are observable:
- Not All Golfers Talk the Same
- Not All Golfers Swing the Same
- Not All Golfers Dress the Same
Fact: In today’s market there are NO major golf companies manufacturing precision fit, precision manufactured sets of golf clubs that have been precisely tuned to the individual’s swing! Only when you can put the same swing on every golf club, can you compete at the highest level and achieve results truly commensurate with your ability.
Probably the best example of this commitment to precision tuned and precision manufacturing was when the great Ben Hogan invited Jack Fleck to the Hogan factory in Fort Worth to be fitted for a set of precision Hogan golf clubs. The difference to Jack Fleck’s game resulted in his winning of the 1955 US Open over none other than Ben Hogan himself in a playoff!
“Science is entering golf and the game can only benefit from this… optimizing the performance for specific individuals is expected to be a result of the introduction of science.” Frank Thomas, former Technical Director of the United States Golf Association.
Manufacturers spend a great deal of money extolling the virtues of their latest equipment, but it is doubtful you will play your best golf with Tiger’s clubs or even those of Greg Norman…unless, of course, you too have a 30 inch waist, do 1,500 sit-ups before breakfast every day and routinely drive the ball 300 yards. Getting the correct clubs is as important to your golf game as getting the right prescription for your eyeglasses or having your suit tailored.
Today, all tour players are precisely fitted and most equipped with precision golf sets. On the other hand, the majority of the general golf public is stuck with off the shelf, mass-produced, inferior sets of clubs that do not match their swings.
Just getting “custom fit” without doing it the correct way may actually do more harm than good, if the recommendations condemn you to a poor set-up, posture, or swing fault. For example, changing to a hooked face driver to combat a slice swing or poor set-up may temporarily help your driver, but it could end up as a crutch that can make it difficult to hit your other woods and irons.
The purpose of a good fitting system is to eliminate expensive trial and error, guesswork, and to cut through the smoke and mirrors often associated with the selection and purchase of golf equipment.
To be sure, distance is a tremendous opiate and almost everyone wants to hit the ball further. But distance alone, at the expense of accuracy and consistency, can be a hollow victory. Taking it deep, isn’t much value if you’re meeting the neighbors along the fairways.
Another benefit of using a professional club fitter is that you would just like to make sure prior to purchasing that new driver that it will actually benefit your game, and that you are getting the right model, loft, and shaft combination.
A professional golf-fitting program is a 5-step process.
- Player Profile – The individual being fitted will fill out a questionnaire providing the club fitter with information about their attitudes toward their equipment, their health, their game, and their goals. The golfer also provides the club fitter with valuable information about his/her wants and needs.
- Present Equipment Evaluation – Club fitters look at 10 elements of the irons and 11 of the woods. Knowing the characteristics of the individual’s present equipment will help the club fitter see if the individual has adapted his/her swing to some deficiency in their present clubs.
- Swing Evaluation – The individual’s swing will be analyzed on a swing-analyzing computer. This computer measures back and forward swing speeds, swing path, face angle, and weight shift.
- Recommendations – Professional golf club fitters will make specific recommendations of equipment needs or necessary alterations based on the individual’s fitting results and the goals they wish to accomplish. A truly professional club fitter is not affiliated with any particular manufacturer, nor do they utilize knock-off components, thus their recommendations are both unbiased and sure to fit your interests and budget.
- Equipment built or altered – Equipment will then be built or altered to the recommended specifications. The individual can have either their equipment altered, choose another brand, or have the club fitter build a set of clubs. Most professional club fitters do offer their own brand of components and they stand behind their products. These clubs are built to the exact specifications provided by the club fitting.
The majority of professional golf club fitters are so confident the individuals will be happy with their clubs, that they usually offer an exclusive guarantee in which they will re-adjust the clubs, rebuild the clubs or give the individual their money back. A club fitter’s primary mission is to produce a set of clubs that will enhance the player’s performance.
Amongst the numerous “custom fitting” systems I’ve experienced firsthand, by far the most accurate and most sophisticated professional club fitter is Club Champion Golf.
Operating from fixed base performance labs located in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago (3 locations), Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., they utilize Trackman a radar based system that measures microwaves reflecting from a moving golf club and golf ball. The change in frequency of these waves is what makes it possible for Club Champion to track what happens at the very moment of impact between club and ball. Although the 1 ½ hour fitting session has the feel of taking your game to NASA, the process is as enlightening as it is practical and easy to understand. Simply put, regardless of your level of skill or expertise, you will be fitted for the right equipment, as well as gain the knowledge and application techniques to play better golf.
My fitter, Matt Knitter, at the Los Angeles location, is very clear and concise in explaining that most golfers seeking additional distance should become more familiar in the understanding of their specific swing fundamentals, and that most players are playing with shafts that are too stiff and frequently too long. They should be playing with the longest and lightest club they can control.
Perhaps the least understood distance theory is that to gain the maximum distance, you need to match your ball speed (not club head speed) with your launch angle and spin rate. In a broad sense, the key to distance is a high launch angle with low spin rate. Club Champion will even advise you which ball is the best for your game
Club Champion is not affiliated with any particular manufacturer. Their actual inventory of ALL manufacturers, clubs, grips and shafts is outstanding. You can get an idea of their inventory in the photo below.
Their software compiles such factors as: launch angle, initial ball velocity, club head speed, spin rates (including side spin), and shaft load profiles. Sophisticated computer analysis, subsequent performance testing, and the skill of a professional fitter identify the optimum shaft (including length, gram weight, bend profile, and tip stiffness), club head type (including center of gravity), loft, launch angle, and ball selection for any player. Since golf clubs don’t come with instructions, it is significant that Club Champion incorporates master fitters who hone their craft six days a week, 52 weeks a year. These professionals fit and explain the diagnostic process, as well as make performance enhancing recommendations that can be instantly verified.
The cost for the personalized full bag fitting session is $350.00 for 3 1/2 hours. Iron, Hybrid, Driver, Wedge and Putter specific fittings are also available. Any adjustments and alterations made to your clubs are usually at standard industry pricing. (www.clubchampiongolf.com).
So remember – custom fitted clubs is the way to go to improve your game. Do not get caught up with those club manufacturers offering “Golf Fitting Carts” found on ranges and country clubs. This is a band-aid. Most major metropolises have professionally trained club fitters. A club fitter has the advantage of working one-on-one with the player through all steps of the fitting process. Fitted clubs cost about the same price as off the shelf clubs, plus the cost of any upgraded shafts, therefore, it would be well worth one’s time and effort.
Barry Lotz, J.D., Ph.D. is the director of the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, the California Golf Writers Association, and serves both as a Consultant and Mediator to the golf industry. He is also the author of numerous books, including “333 Best Web Sites for Golfers”, “How to Build Business Relationships through Golf” which is in the Top Ten Golf Business Book’s bestseller list. His latest book,” The Right Mind for Golf”, released last year, is now in its 6th printing.
He can be reached at www.pgtaa.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.