Once in awhile we get asked questions about fitting for clubs and what people should look for, etc. and we do talk about fitting from time to time on the website. Recently we were asked a question about the different schools of thought on club fitting and where we stand.
First I thought I would defer to a column I wrote in 2004 about the importance of fitting.
Although I am still very much of the same opinion I would like to expand on this piece a little bit. First of all the idea of custom fitting is becoming more and more mainstream with pretty much all OEM’s offering some custom options. Most retail shops also have the ability to do some club adjustments in house making fitting accessible to pretty much everyone.
The clubs that most people associate with fitting right away are their irons and this is because there are so many adjustments that can be made. Everything from lie, loft, length, flex, grip size, grip style, shaft weight, kick point, torque, sole grinds, etc. It is confusing and it is too much. The average player* should focus on finding a set of clubs that are comfortable for them and in the right price range.
We talk a lot about this concept of the “average golfer”. While there is no hard and fast definition of average golfer we use this term to describe our typical customer. These players will generally play between 2 and 10 rounds of golf a month. They play only with friends and play for the sheer enjoyment of the game. They don’t practice as often as they play and may take the occasional lesson. Average score on 18 holes is between 90 and 100. These players would like to improve their scores and usually will look to the clubs to help them do that.
So once someone has found their comfortable set of clubs should they buy them off the rack? Not necessarily. All golfers should ensure that they are using the proper flex of golf club. A few swings with a knowledgeable sales person should give you an answer. If you tend to hit the ball low and/or with a slice you should move to a more flexible shaft. If you hit the ball high and/or with a hook you want to use a stiffer shaft. You can probably even figure out what shaft you need just by demoing a few different sets.
The next thing one should look at is shaft length. This is the other aspect of fitting that I feel is truly important for any golfer. The majority of players will fit the standard length but it only takes a few minutes to measure and make sure and the length of club can have significant impact on how it performs for each individual.
The final step does not involve any measurements per se, but it is just as important as the first two, maybe more so. This step involves “fitting” the clubs into the rest of your set. If you use several hybrids or fairway woods chances are you won’t need a 3 or 4 iron so why pay for them? Your set can easily be ordered from the manufacturer without these. You should also look at what wedges you use/need and if these come with the set or not. Figure out what clubs you have that you are happy with and what clubs you need and order your set based on this, there is no point paying for clubs that you are never going to use.
The one club that has significantly changed the way it is fitted is the driver. Most drivers are now available in several different shafts at no up charge and a number of different lofts. Drivers are now fitted based on trajectory and spin rates, not on club head speed. Different golf balls can also have a big impact on the performance of a driver.
Now it isn’t necessary for everyone to use a launch monitor to find their specs but every golfer who is buying a driver should have a fitter help them determine the appropriate shaft and loft. The more consistent a player is the more they can benefit from this fitting but it will be useful for players of all ability.
There is no doubt that a properly fitted golf club will perform better than one off the rack but golfers need to realize that the effectiveness of a fitting is still limited by their abilities. If you are buying clubs for a new golfer who is still struggling to hit the club face every time there is not much that changing the lie angle can do. Similarly, if every shot you hit is a big slice there is only so much that changing the shaft can do, the rest has to come from the golfer themselves.
And if you are getting clubs fit remember that nothing drives us nuts more than a customer who lets their ego make the decisions. If I tell you that you should be using a regular or light flex shaft it doesn’t mean that you don’t swing hard or that you area wimp or a senior, it just means that a regular flex shaft will perform better with your ball flight and swing tempo. I can’t count the number of players I’ve seen who should be using a softer flex shaft and more lofted head but they don’t for fear of what their buddies might say. If you are going through the trouble of getting a fitting done you might as well listen to what we have to say.