How you can benefit from club fitting regardless of your skill
Golf and equipment have always been a favourite topic of discussion among golfers, whether it was the locker room discussion with tour pros in year’s gone by or to the banter and discussion of golfers walking down the fairway or finishing their round over a beer, soft drink or something similar.
With the development of technology and its increasing uses, equipment discussion has only intensified over the years. With the use of new materials, endless shaft and head combinations, this entire discussion can overwhelm many golfers, new and experienced alike.
With equipment manufacturers consistently focused on improving their equipment with each passing year or two, its no wonder that golfers are excited and enticed about the possibilities. Claims such as “more distance”, “greater control”, and “better feel” among others are often used to describe the new equipment that comes to market. But are these claims true for golfers when they buy the clubs?
Chances are if you buy them off the shelf with out any preparation or consideration, other than the promise of “more distance” or “saving strokes”, then you probably won’t be realizing much benefit from them. That’s where club fitting comes in. No two people are exactly alike, so why would you consider buying equipment that is “standard issue” and not fit for you, your body or your swing?
So the next question is whether players of all skill levels, from new golfer to the elite player be fit for their equipment?
The answer is 100% yes. If you are an avid golfer looking to invest in new golf equipment, it is important to visit someone who can explain the following listed on the next page. Even if you are not an avid golfer and are just starting out, it is still important to learn with equipment that is suitable for you. I often hear “I am not good enough to get fitted equipment” or “it will not make a difference in my golf game”, but it does matter. Properly fit equipment removes one of the variables that will impact your golf swing and even more importantly, your ability to hit more consistent shots. As we all know, if you can start to strike your golf ball properly and more consistently, then you can start to improve your scores.
Manufactures have created amazing tools and resources for helping golfers find the right clubs that fit the golfer’s characteristics such as:
Hand size and Grip
Swing speed & Swing weight
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced golfer, you must understand that the length of the golf club is important regardless of your skill level. Clubs that are too long or too short for you only increases the opportunities for you to mishit the ball or to strike it poorly. Here are some ways you can determine what length and lie angle is needed for your golf clubs. This process is essential for drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges and putters.
Measure Wrist to floor;
Measure wrist to floor when player is at address;
Determine where the player holds the grips;
For example do you choke up on the club? Or are you gripping too high on the handle? Also look for the “lie angle” -- Is the toe of the golf club in the air or on the ground? Is the heel of the golf club way off the ground? These are indicators of lie angle and can be adjusted and fit to you.
* Have a PGA professional take this information and determine what is needed for the individual.
Hand size & Grip
Having the correctly sized grip is important for all players, but even more so for golfers who struggle with club face stability and grip pressure. Most players will never change or replace grips because of the time it takes and the cost of doing so. When buying stock clubs at a golf store, you must understand that all clubs come with standard grips or (1 wrap) of tape underneath the club.
If you have larger hands, you are harming yourself by using grips that are too small. Not only will the grip pressure increase, but when you are nervous or under pressure, you will subconsciously tighten your grip. If you are using grips that are too large, releasing the club will be challenging if your hands are too small for the grip. Players in this situation will leave lots of shots to the right if the grip is too large.
So how do you measure grip size? It all starts with knowing the size of your hand.
Measure wrist to end of middle finger
Measure middle finger only
Measure the circumference of your hand at the widest part of your palm
With these measurements, a PGA professional or an experienced fitting professional can determine the best sized grips for you.
Swing Speed – is important in determining what the optimal shaft dexterity is for a player. If a player has a slower swing speed and the shaft is too stiff for their swing, this causes the shaft to not “load” properly, stopping the club from kicking and leaving lots of shots to the right. If a player uses a shaft that is not stiff enough, then the shaft “loads” too much, creating too much kick in the shaft, creating inconsistent face angles at impact.
Similar principles apply for the overall weight of the shafts. Club shafts have come a long way since the early days when steel replaced hickory shafts. Today, there are so many different options available to golfers so that it is possible to match a shaft to a player’s swing, helping them achieve optimal or as close to optimal launch and descent angles. Modern shafts can range from light to heavy – all by weight (measured in grams). When choosing weight in golf clubs, it’s important to find a weight that allows you to swing consistently, even when you are not swinging your fastest. With an incorrect weight, as your round goes on and you start to tire, you tend to swing slower, not loading the shaft properly in the swing and leading to poorer shots.
Swing weight will help the club achieve an overall weight and balance that feels good to the player. Golf clubs can be built with specific swing weights so when clubs are custom ordered you can choose a desired swing weight that feels right for you. Most standard clubs will come with a D1 or D2 swing weight, seniors and women’s clubs usually come lighter, and some men’s clubs will come heavier. Keep in mind that despite using “gendered” or “age specific” terms, the actual shaft used will be matched to your individual swing regardless.
Trajectory – choosing a shaft that also provides an optimal ball flight (trajectory) and spin rate is important for the golf course conditions. For example: where I live, in Vancouver, we have very wet ground conditions in the wintertime. Having a driver that can carry its maximum distance with minimal effort is essential. Looking at it another way, in Arizona the ground conditions are very firm. Having a driver with a mid trajectory could provide the player extra roll and yardage vs a player who hits it high, achieving less roll out.
Having irons that launch high with a good spin rate and optimal descending angle will help the player stop the ball quickly on the green. If you play in conditions that have firm greens, this is essential for you in trying to “hold” the green, providing good distance control with your irons.
How to determine shafts:
Determine swing speed with all clubs (Driver to PW) to find what shaft category you fit in for shaft dexterity
Determine swing weight of the overall golf club, figure out what weight feels best when swinging.
Determine your average spin rate with all clubs
Determine Descend angle with scoring clubs and mid irons
Determine Peak height with clubs to find a desired trajectory
Determine what the average dispersion is with the shafts and head combinations you are trying
Measuring, Collecting and Evaluating
With so many head and shaft options, it is vital to see what combinations produce the most optimal numbers for the individual. Measuring, collecting and evaluating the data is extremely important when trying to fit a golfer with their optimal combination. With technology resources such as Trackman and GC Quad, it is easy to collect and compare data sets when fitting for golf equipment. So, when you go for your fitting, make sure that they have this kind of equipment to help you optimize your equipment.
Having the proper fitted equipment that suits your game for course conditions, physical requirements and visual presentation is important for the athlete’s performance. When I caddied on the PGA Tour, the professionals all have access to state-of-the-art golf club engineers/builders who constantly help players adapt to changing swing patterns and weather/course conditions. Players have daily access to make sure that their equipment is fit 100% for them and their needs and specifications to perform at the highest level.
A key benefit that is rarely mentioned when it comes to having fitted equipment is the confidence that comes with it. Think about it for a moment – having equipment that you have tried and tested; equipment that is built to your physical characteristics and swing patterns and they are in your bag, don’t you think your confidence would Increase? And we all know what confidence can do for our golf games whether you are a professional or a recreational player.
Also, remember to see your PGA professional, they have the knowledge and experience to help you with all aspects of your fitting that are mentioned here.
Austin Hughes is a professional player now teaching with both elite players and juniors. In addition to playing professionally, he has also caddied for other pro players on the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry and Mckenzie tours. He is member of the PGA of Canada, teaches at the Rob Houlding Golf Academy and is the Director of Instruction for the World of Golf.