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In club fitting, three swings is all it takes

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I had a recent experience that reminded me of some lessons I learned as a club fitter. My wife and I were headed to a cooler climate to escape the August heat in Texas, and I threw my clubs in the trunk “just in case.” I got lucky and was invited to play a round. Having not touched a club for a couple of weeks, I got to the range early just in case I could discover the infamous “secret.” Only what I discovered was a slight miscalculation on my part — I didn’t bring a driver! In fact, the longest club I had was a 7 wood. This was a problem.

I went into the pro shop and asked if they had any demo drivers. Given my predicament, I wasn’t choosy. Any brand, loft, flex, etc., would work just fine.

They gave me three options, so I went to the range and warmed up. After getting my body loose, it was time to pick out my driver for the day. I hit two balls with the first driver, hit a few iron shots, then repeated the experiment with the second and third drivers. Driver No. 2 performed the best, so that’s the one I played with. I actually hit it very well, kept it in the fairway and had no problem keeping up with my playing partners, which was the norm.

So what’s the point? I only hit two balls on the range with each driver so I could simulate on-course conditions. I know from my club-fitting days that if I hit any more than two shots I’m not testing how the club fits me, but rather my ability to adjust to the club. This is critical, and an error I’ve seen made many times, either at the request of the player or the person administering the fitting. They will have the golfer will hit 10 or more shots “testing” the club.

I touched on this in a previous story, but it’s so vital to choosing the right clubs that I’m mentioning it again. Golfers must remember that golf is a one-shot game. You should warm up, give a club a couple of hits and let the ball flight tell you if it’s the right club for you. If someone is working with you and they want you to hit a lot of balls with one club, just remember, it’s a test to see how well you adjust to that club, not how the club fits you.

My formula as a fitter was three shots only. I discounted No. 1 just because it was the first one, counted 100 percent of No. 2 and discounted No. 3 because the player was starting to adjust.

Back to my story.

Part way through the round I looked at the shaft flex and it was an S-Flex! This completely violates all the launch monitor testing I’ve experienced over the years, because at my age I’ve moved into more flexible shafts. With all the measuring devices that indicate what I “should” be using, the human body is an amazingly adjustable and unpredictable vehicle. For some reason, like many others I’ve seen over the years, I reacted positively to that particular club in my hands. Some internal message told me it was the proper driver to play with that day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a club fitter by trade and in my beliefs, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Don’t get me started on how many people I’ve had hit steel iron shafts straighter and longer, but “had” to have graphite. There’s nothing worse than selling clubs to a customer that you know aren’t the right fit.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. FA

    Oct 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    IL

  2. LT

    Oct 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    WC

  3. Joel

    Oct 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    So the only shot Barney would count is the 2nd one. That’s crazy. What if a person puts a really good or a really bad swing on it? You’re gonna let one swing decide if the club is “fit” for you or not?

  4. Pingback: Does The Body Know Best? - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  5. Regis

    Oct 1, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I’m a lifetime player who does his own club work. Played a lot of brands, heads and shafts. My perspective is a little different. I can generally tell within 3 to 5 swings if the club/shaft is NOT going to work for me but it takes the better part of a season, both on the range and on the course to determine if the club is going to be a gamer into next season so as to form the base for next years comparison.

  6. David

    Oct 1, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I get the concept, and don’t disagree, but what’s wrong with adjusting you swing to the club? At root, isn’t that what all swing lessons are about?

  7. BJones

    Oct 1, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I agree with Barney, in particular hitting 3 balls with the driver. Any more that and I start to adjust my swing to the driver in order to make it work, and that starts something not good for a consistent swing which I strive for.

  8. Skyking

    Sep 29, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Dear God I wish customers could only take 3 swings per stick configuration. I put down 5 balls and they want to drag more over. Better golfers by an large figure it out in a few swings and move on. Have no clue what’s going on in their mind. Spending that much money? Posing…just wasting my time with no intent of buying? I agree about static fitting higher handicappers and moving on.

    • Phil

      Oct 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      I can understand the whole “waste your time and not buy anything” complaint, but isn’t that what your holiness is getting paid to do?

      God forbid you waste your holiest of time on a high handicapper trying to get better by looking to you for help in getting better..

      I get it.. You’re being pulled from one of those many club records to break.

      • Jafar

        Oct 13, 2014 at 4:52 pm

        The arrogance of golf shop “pros” is what keeps people away from the game.

        The idea of having 14 clubs to a beginner without knowing what any of them (besides putter and driver) does or is supposed to do is already intimidating.

        People need to get off their high horse and realize the game is already hard enough, buying/trying clubs shouldn’t add to that difficulty.

        • Larry

          Oct 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm

          To add to what you say, when you talk about slow play out on the course more then 50% is the lower handicap players that figure they have the right to take all day playing…..I would reather spend 4 and a half hours behind a higher handicap foursome then 10 minutes behind a group of low handicap players that think every par 5 can be reached in two, they have to watch each others shot and they spend three times as much time reading 4 foot putts. would someone please exsplain to these golfers if they are not plus 3 or 4 and playing over 7,000 yard courses they are not pros, they are amatures like the majority of us and we would like them to get out of are way.

  9. JG

    Sep 28, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Bareny,

    I could not agree more with this article! As a 5 right now I can make anything work for my swing. I have seen this over and over when I switch equipment. I have also been fiti many times and have been fit into really stiff or regular. I have played both with success. I think the way to get fit is take 3 shots and then move on and maybe come back. Very insightful and thank you!

    • Larry

      Oct 16, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Also agree, I hold firm if your about a true 15 or more handicap play what you want, If you love Ping you will play best with Ping Etc.

  10. Teaj

    Sep 26, 2014 at 8:38 am

    I get this the body is a funny thing and will compensate for slight differences. avid golfers can also knowingly change their mechanics slightly to compinsate for say a lighter weight shaft as I know I have altered my swing when I went with a lighter shaft to lessen my draw.

    though I think you should swing the driver more than 3 times, maybe that doesn’t have to be in a row. next time I do a fitting maybe I might have them bring in their 6 iron warm up with this as they are used to this club (I hope) then have them take 2 swings with the driver 5 with the iron 2 driver and so on so not to allow the golfer to make swing after swing naturally adjusting their mechanics to the driver.

    Thanks for the post I enjoy hearing these different takes on any golf related subjects. Food for thought…. and im hungry

  11. Jason

    Sep 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I’m one of those hackers that plays around 16-20 over on a normal round and have never considered myself good enough for a fitting for the reason that I can hit 3 balls and show you 3 different shots. I really would like to upgrade to a new set of irons so I have been working on making a consistent swing before I get properly fit for a new set. It makes me feel a little better to hear what you had to say about fittings.

    • Larry

      Sep 27, 2014 at 2:07 am

      There is more then a chance you may never have a swing that remains the same long enough to make a long fitting worth the time….get fit with a general fitting like the ping formula, then find clubs you like and play into the fit, hitting something you really like and want to play is more important for the higher handicap and sometimes just getting the right shaft flex can make the biggest difference….

  12. KevinS

    Sep 25, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Sorry Barney but that’s crazy. I have been fitting clubs for over 20 years and am also a qualified PGA Professional instructor. All you proved with your test is what I have said all along, there is no standard among manufacturers when it comes to shaft flexes, bend points, etc; The “S” flex in that driver you hit May have been a Lite flex from another manufacturer. The only way to proper fit someone is hit several clubs, look at the numbers on a launch monitor and compare, then when you find a group of clubs that are close, let the player decides what club feels best. If I tried to fit someone after 3 swings before long all my credibility would go away and I wouldn’t have any customers.

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 27, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      I. Kept. Data for 2 years as a club fitter . No doubt whatsoever after 2 maybe 3 hits you are adjusting to the club. Golf being a one shot game doesn’t allow that latitude on course.

    • Tom v

      Sep 28, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      You are missing the part where he hit irons in between. Then moves to another driver. After decades of fitting myself I couldn’t agree more with Barney here. The golfer adjusts every single time to the driver. If you are fitting people that are not adjusting then there might be other issues. This holds true even more for tour guys who many times don’t even look at numbers and base it entirely on feel and how the ball flies. 15 years ago I witnessed a tour pro walk on to the range with 50+ drivers and hit a few shots with each and could immediately tell if it was going to work. He walked away with 3 clubs that he liked of the 50+. Point being, it doesn’t take more than a few swings to tell if the club is going to work. Not 2-3 total swings but break it up with other clubs in between and adjust/try different clubs. Just beating balls doesn’t help anyone, the golfer will eventually adjust or he will need a different club.

  13. BobbyL44

    Sep 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I actually couldn’t agree less!

    In 3 swings you’ll hit a club that best matches your current swing, sure, but that club may not help you achieve your more optional swing.

    Nobody wants to believe that you should guy your swing to the club, but why not?

    I bent my lies flatter to promote more of a body release, at first thought I’d ruined them but now rotate through the shot better than ever without having to worry about the heel of an upright club getting stuck in the ground. Most players can’t swing that way today because the clubs are too thought to allow it! Having the clubs in the right position (lie angle) forced me to do that.

    It’s no different to running barefoot. It teaches you to run with proper form and when done properly (ie. Slowly and for short distances) it improves running efficiency. All the new technology yet running injuries having increased because they prevent good form (the cushioned wedge under the heel). This is exactly like the change in golf clubs (lighter, more upright, etc).

    Now I’m not advocating going from Nike shoes to a barefoot marathon overnight will make you an elite runner, the same as I wouldn’t say that going from upright cavity backs with graphite shafts to old blades with stiff steel and flat lie angles is going to make you a PGA Tour player.

    However, if your swing has flaws today’s technology allows you to run from them, hide from them, so they more often than not get amplified, they don’t disappear.

    With clubs that are ‘correct’ for purpose but not ‘fit’ for your (current) swing you may just find you force change in your swing and take your game to a whole new level.

    • BobbyL44

      Sep 25, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      Thought=upright (damn auto-correct!)

    • Alex

      Sep 25, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Remember though…we’re talking club fitting. Not swing changes.

      There is no club that will “fit your swing better” in those terms. Nothing to “grow into swinging better” or anything like that. The only exception would be a draw or offset driver versus a neutral one.

      3 swings is perfect for narrowing down your choices. After you have your 5-6 contestants narrowed with the 3 swings each idea, then you can hit a few more with the 1-2 left to see any fine tuning. I would constantly switch though. Never hit more than 4-5 in a row with one on a certain setting. Then that’s just practice.

      • Brad B

        Sep 30, 2014 at 11:00 pm

        Two ways to fit (IMO) – – – #1, fit to the swing you have; #2, fit to the swing you want.

        For most people who decide they want to improve (rather than just have fun with what they have), the fit for the “swing they want” would be different from “swing they have” . . . . makes sense to get the fit that will work once you incorporate what you’re working on.

        • Barney Adams

          Oct 1, 2014 at 7:01 pm

          That swing I wanted. 60 years later I still want; no find!

          • sandman499

            Oct 5, 2014 at 5:05 am

            I have always thought the lighter the shaft, the faster the swing and more distance. You said some players hit the steel shaft better and farther, but still wanted graphite shafts. What am I missing? Why would they hit the steel shaft further then the lighter graphite? Thanks for the great article. sandman499

          • ABgolfer2

            Oct 13, 2014 at 9:11 pm

            HAHA – no kidding. The swing I want looks a helluva a lot different from the swing I see on video. I just want clubs that make sense for me. Can I trust that I’ll be able to make my somewhat natural swing (tweaked with lessons and practice but after almost 30 years my terrible swings look really close to my my goods ones on video) and that the club face will be aligned the way I visualized it at address as it reaches the ball. The swing is what it is at this point.

          • timbleking

            Oct 20, 2014 at 10:21 am

            Sandman,

            There is a no-return point on shaft stiffness on both direction. Either too hard, or too weak. In both cases, you just lose energy that the shaft is not able to compensate. It all dépends on your tempo, I would say.

    • Ryan K

      Sep 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      Oh boy, I hope you don’t do any shoe fitting or sports/running training. I’m just sayin..

  14. MHendon

    Sep 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Yeah most Pro’s follow this rule, usually its about 4 to 6 shots to determine if its the right club for you. I’ve always followed that rule too.

  15. gvogel

    Sep 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I’m glad Barney said it, because I have felt the same way for a long time.

    Yesterday I was out fooling around with a couple of G30 drivers which I have bought, and the results were mixed. I reached for my G25 driver and striped it, just the shot I like to hit. What did that tell me?

    Here is some advice: if you hit a demo club and you love it – buy the demo if at all possible!

    The same holds true for wedges and putters.

    • DK

      Sep 26, 2014 at 1:18 am

      100% agree. Reminds me of when I last changed my putter. Was in the shop to kill time and just took a few putters to try. Tried an Odessey black metal #8 for fun and my word, it felt so good and so natural in my hand. Then I tried almost every putter on the rack, and none felt even as close, even the other Odessey Black metal #8s available there. I knew I had to get that particular one even though it was slightly scratched up while the other same model ones were pristine. I always say, when it feels right, just grab it regardless the cost.

    • timbleking

      Oct 20, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Agree 100000%.

    • Jim

      Oct 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      I learned this from a pro a long time ago and it has saved me time, money and frustration on a grand scale.

  16. James

    Sep 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    One of the differences between a good player and an average player is just what Barney said, that is that a good player can make adjustments to hit about any shaft and the average player can’t. Proper fitting is indeed important but there are things a fitter can’t measure like feel.

  17. Marc

    Sep 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Makes sense, but I guess it has to be assumed that the golfer has a decent level of repeatability in his swing. Which begs the question, how much can club-fitting help a high handicapper?? It’s a tough situation for a club fitter when a customer doesn’t have the consistency to make repeatably solid contact, but expects results.

    • Alex

      Sep 25, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      Static fitting can help a higher capper more than dynamic fitting in a lot of cases. If they’re consistent you can fit for lie angles somewhat…but you can’t really go into shaft fitting or tuning trajectory like you can with someone who is more consistent.

  18. nikkyd

    Sep 25, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    This makes a lot of sense BA . I always ask people ” ya dont buy and wear the wrong sized shoes do ya?”

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the RBC Heritage

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, we saw C.T. Pan claim the RBC Heritage, holding his nerve down the tricky finish to win his first title on the PGA Tour. Here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action

Hot

C.T. Pan rode a hot putter to victory over the weekend at the RBC Heritage. Despite struggling slightly on the greens on day one of the event, Pan hit blistering form over the next three days with the flatstick and finished the tournament having gained over six strokes over the field for his work on the greens. It isn’t the first time that the Taiwanese player has done so either, with this being just his third best weekly performance with the flat-stick of his career. Pan also gained almost four strokes around the green, in what was a week-long display of short game excellence. Take a full look at what clubs drove Pan to victory at the RBC Heritage here.

Matt Kuchar is having a spectacular season on Tour, and at Harbour Town, the American produced the best putting performance of his career to date. The 40-year-old gained 9.4 strokes over the field on the greens at Hilton Head, beating his previous best total of 8.3 strokes which came at the 2012 Players championship, an event which he won. Kuchar’s putting peaked over the weekend, where he gained six of those 9.4 strokes.

It may just have been yet another solid top-20 finish for Webb Simpson at the RBC Heritage, but the signs are very good that something better is just around the corner for the American. Simpson produced his best display of 2019 tee to green at Harbour Town, gaining 7.5 strokes over the field with his long game, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise since the former U.S. Open champion came into the event having gained strokes in this area in nine of his last 10 outings. Look for Simpson to get himself in the thick of things on a Sunday afternoon soon.

Cold

Dustin Johnson’s collapse on Sunday at Harbour Town was a shock to many. The 34-year-old fired a 77 to plummet down the leaderboard in the final round, and Johnson’s irons were the issue behind him not getting the job done. The American lost strokes to the field for his approach play three out of the four days and finished 63rd in this department for the week. Johnson lost a total of 3.2 strokes to the field for his approach play, which is the worst total in this area of his career.

Bryson DeChambeau missed the cut at the RBC Heritage, and the blame for this lies almost entirely with his putting. DeChambeau lost over five strokes to the field for his work on the greens over the two days he was around at Harbour Town, his worst performance with the flatstick since 2017.

Jordan Spieth’s woes continue, and once more those woes continue to be caused from the Texan’s long game. Spieth may have made the cut last week, but the three-time major champion lost three strokes to the field off the tee, and his approach play wasn’t much better. Spieth lost strokes in all of the significant strokes gained categories at the RBC Heritage bar one – putting. Spieth’s putting continues to be the only part of his game that is delivering at the moment, as his play off the tee continues to cause him fits. The 25-year-old has now lost a total of 14.5 strokes for his play off the tee since the WGC-Mexico.

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On Spec: New Level Golf founder and designer Eric Burch

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An in-depth discussion with golf industry veteran Eric Burch: how he got his start in golf, how he has contributed to the club fitting industry, and his new company New Level Golf, which produces forged irons and wedges for every level of golfer.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

When the data says line is more important than speed in putting

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In my recent article, Line vs. speed: What’s really more important in putting?, I pointed out that in my 30-plus years of studying putting performance, I’ve learned that there are two important skills to putting:

  1. Direction (line)
  2. Distance control (speed)

There’s no question that golfers need to possess both these skills, but contrary to popular belief, they are not equally important on all putts. Sometimes, speed should be the primary concern. In other situations, golfers should be focused almost entirely on line. To make this determination, we have to consider the distance range of a putt and a golfer’s putting skill.

In the above referenced article, I showed how important speed is in putting, as well as the distances from which golfers of each handicap level should become more focused on speed. As promised, I’m going to provide some tips on direction (LINE) for golfers of different handicap levels based on the data I’ve gathered over the years through my Strokes Gained analysis software, Shot by Shot.

When PGA Tour players focus on line 

On the PGA Tour, line is more critical than speed from distances inside 20 feet. Obviously, the closer a golfer is to the hole, the more important line becomes and the less need there is to focus on speed. Further, I have found that the six-to-10-foot range is a key distance for Tour players. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Six to 10 feet is one of the most frequently faced putt distances on the PGA Tour. It is the first putt distance on approximately one in every five greens.
  2. Smack in the middle of this range is eight feet, which is the distance from which the average PGA Tour player makes 50 percent of his putts.
  3. In my research, I have consistently found that one-putt success in the six-to-10-foot range separates good putters from the rest on the PGA Tour

What we should do

How does this analysis help the rest of us?  To answer that question, we must first know our one-putt distance.  Just as I showed the two-putt distance by handicap level here, I will now show the 50 percent make distance by handicap level. This is the distance from the hole where players at each handicap level make 50 percent of their putts.

My recommendation is for each of us to recognize exactly what our 50 percent distance is. Maybe you’re a 16 or 17 handicap and putting is one of your strengths. Your 50 percent make distance is six feet. Excellent!  From that distance and closer, you should focus on line and always give the ball a chance to go in the hole.  From distances of seven-plus feet, you should consider the circumstances (up or downhill, amount of break, etc.) and factor in the speed as appropriate. The goal is to make as many of these putts as possible, but more importantly, avoid those heart-breaking and costly three-putts.

For added perspective, I am including the percentage of one putts by distance for the PGA Tour and our average amateur 15-19 handicap. I’m able to offer this data from ShotbyShot.com because it provides golfers with their “relative handicap” in the five critical parts of the game: (1) Driving, (2) Approach Shots, (3) Chip/Pitch Shots, (4) Sand Shots, and (5) Putting.

Line control practice: The star drill 

Looking for a way to practice choosing better lines on the putting green?  Here’s a great exercise known as the “star drill.” Start by selecting a part of your practice green with a slight slope.  Place five tees in the shape of a star on the slope with the top of the star on the top side of the slope.  This will provide an equal share of right to left and left to right breaks.

I recommend starting with a distance of three feet – usually about the length of a standard putter.  See how many you can make out of 10 putts, which is two trips around the star.  Here are a few more helpful tips.

  • Place a ball next to each of the five tees.
  • Use your full pre-shot routine for each attempt.
  • Stay at the three-foot distance until you can make nine of 10. Then, move to four feet, five feet, and six feet as you’re able to make eight from four feet, seven from five feet, and six from six feet.

This drill will give you confidence over these very important short putts. I do not recommend using it for any distance beyond six feet. It’s harder than you think to get there!

 

Exclusive for GolfWRX members: For a free, one-round trial of Shot by Shot, visit www.ShotByShot.com.

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