|By Steve Thompson – Tour Quality Clubmaking|
Many golfers think "custom club fitting " is only for the "pros" or "scratch golfers." This statement could not be further from the truth! Proper fitting to your individual specifications can improve the game of every golfer, from beginner to professional. Proper fitting will help the golfer maximize their potential and overcome many of the different mistakes and swing flaws that are inherent in each golfers game.
Good custom fitting involves a careful analysis to be able to recommend the golfer clubs that fit their individual specifications. Custom fitting will allow the fitter to recommend specific club heads, shafts, grips, length of clubs, flex, and set makeup (hybrid set, cavity backed, game improvement irons, etc.)
A good custom fitting will involve some time, so plan on at least 45 minutes. The fitter will need to have actual course conditions such as a diving range so that the fitter can watch the ball flight for trajectory, fade/draw sidespin, carry distances, targeting ability, etc.
When fitting for metal woods, one begins by finding the golfer's preferred material and size, shape and volume. Titanium is what 85% of today's golfers are using. Titanium is lighter which allows for a bigger, more forgiving club head.
The latest technology also includes drivers that are composites, (graphite and titanium) like the Callaway Fusion. Additional new technology is the adjustable weighted driver like the Taylor R7, these allow the golfer to place heavier weights in the heel or toe or back or front to correct a slice, hook, too high a ball flight or too low a ball flight. Most drivers sold today hover around the 400 cc volume area.
The other important factor in driver selection is loft. Tests using launch monitors have proven conclusively that a higher lofted driver is better for 90% of today's golfers. Even the pros are using 9-degree drivers where they once used lower lofts. Carry distance is the most important factor in driver fitting. Higher lofts get more carry and minimize hook or slice inducing sidespin.
Some golfers still prefer the smaller head and solid feel of steel. Volume is much smaller for steel heads since steel weighs more than Titanium. An average steel driver is around 240 cc's, almost half of the size of the newer Titanium drivers. Steel is for the better golfer who desires a rock solid feel and can hit the sweet spot or very close to it from the tee.
A driver fitting involves hitting balls in course conditions. Driver fitting begins with selection of the shaft. Measurement of swing speed is critical. Radar is an excellent way to measure speed. The golfer needs to hit enough so that the fitter can see if they drive it right to left, left to right, or straight (very rare). Golfer’s who slice need higher lofted drivers and perhaps offset club heads as well as some swing and grip corrections. The good fitter will make some minor corrections to grip and swing path as part of the fitting.
Next fitting dimension is height of ball in flight. Does it go too high or "balloon up" in the air?
Does it go too low? "Loft is your friend" is the most common adage to keep in mind in driver loft selection. How many golfers hit it consistently with a 3 wood but not with a driver? The loft of the 3 wood is what accounts for that. Many of today's drivers are coming in 12-degree lofts - that was unheard of 3 years ago. A club fitter must have many demo clubs for the golfer to hit. One needs to try out larger 450c heads , large 400cc heads, and moderate 360cc heads as well in a variety of lofts. Only through this on course observation can a fitter determine what is best for this golfer's game.
While fitting for woods, the fitter needs to look at he set make up of the golfer to determine if he has the correct fairway woods or hybrids in his bag. Many golfers are carrying a 3-wood that they cannot hit well off the fairway when they would be better off with a 5 wood or one of the new hybrids from the grass.
Fitting for Drivers and Fairway Woods MUST take into account the golfers BALL FLIGHT tendencies and TEMPO. A golfer who swings 105 MPH with a fast TEMPO will need a much heavier shaft than one who swings 105 with a smooth tempo.
Weight of the shaft also needs to be determined, and BEND POINT or KICK POINT is critical. A golfer who hits it too high needs a mid or high bend point, a golfer who hits it too low needs a low bend point.
Fitting for irons is similar to fitting for woods. Swing speed must be measured with an iron. Some golfers need a different flex in their irons than in their woods. Iron fitting is based on additional variables. Golfers who slice or fade the ball will do well with an offset club-head, Golfers who are beginners will need a GAME IMPROVEMENT style set. This should include oversized club heads with offset and wide soles and deep cavities. All of these variables are meant to increase forgiveness of the set.
HYBRIDS are a new development that has made the game much easier for all golfers. Many Senior Tour pro’s are using them...so should you! Beginners should forgo the standard 3-pw set and instead get a set, which includes at least 1 hybrid utility wood. Set make-up should include a hybrid or two, and then 4 or 5 – SW, and a gap wedge. Better golfers may want to keep a 3-iron, but often they too would be better off replacing the 3-iron with a hybrid club.
Another variable in iron fitting is LIE and LOFT FITTING. The golfer should hit his irons off a LIE BOARD to see if the LIE is correct. A good club fitter will have a LOFT AND LIE BENDING MACHINE. This will allow the fitter to adjust the irons to be MORE FLAT or MORE UPRIGHT. Loft fitting is also critical, many golfers will have a distance gap between clubs that can be corrected by tweaking the loft of the irons to cover the distance missing form his bag, often this is common in the wedges and higher lofted irons
GRIP FITTING is another often-overlooked variable. Measurement of the hand size tells the fitter what size grip to utilize. The grip is your only contact with the club so it should be the correct size and it should match the golfer's preference for appearance, feel, and texture. Golfers who play in tournaments and in rain should consider a cord style grip, it works better in wet conditions. Golfers who haven't tried any of the newer Winn Style soft grips should try demo clubs with different grips to see and feel what they like.
Grip fitting also can be used to correct swing flaws. A golfer who slices should be given a smaller grip to encourage more hand action and club rotation. A golfer who hooks the ball needs a bigger grip to minimize hand action
Once the fitting is complete, the fitter should make solid recommendations based on that individual golfer. There is not one single pr out there who uses clubs "OFF THE RACK"
You deserve the same advantages as they do! Get fitted and you will see an improvement in your game!