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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

High School reunion golf: When 58 feels like 18 again

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golf buddies reunion

Eric and David were winning our match as we approached the halfway point of the back nine at Falls Road Golf Club in Potomac, Md. But when my partner, Chip, yes, chipped in for eagle, their 15-footer for eagle suddenly seemed doubly long. David’s exuberant fist pump after draining his putt to match us said it all – the juices were flowing, and the match wasn’t going to be lost due to lackluster play or attitude. That we were paired together in a reunion tournament 40 years after the Class of 1978 graduated from Winston Churchill High School mattered not. We were athletes then – all four of us played on a Maryland state championship football team together – and, by gosh, our competitiveness was on full throttle now.

The years melted away as we traded stories about yesteryear and we learned about each other’s lives in the four-decade interim. Family and golf are shared passions, and our match showed it. While we were happily catching up in laughs and nostalgia, both teams clearly wanted to win. For bragging rights, of course. Once competitors, always competitors.

Cut to the past: David and Chip went on to play college baseball, while I stayed briefly with football, and Eric went forward playing basketball. Eric was such a gifted athlete that he not only quarterbacked our high school team to a senior year state championship (we also won it our junior year), he led the basketball team to a state title as well. A hoops scholarship to Georgetown followed, where he captained Coach John Thompson’s team his senior year. His teammates included Patrick Ewing, now Georgetown’s coach, among others. If you want to see Eric in action, Google “Michael Jordan game-winning jump shot in national championship.” You’ll find video clips of Eric (pictured below) running at Jordan a hair too late to stop His Airness from elevating and nailing the game-winning jump shot for North Carolina.

georgetown university north carolina national basketball championship 1982

Eric gets there too late to stop MJ’s game-winner in the national championship.

All to say that competition and living the athletic physical life contributed to our formation as people, and while we’re well removed from our peak years, we continue to pursue the pleasure that such activities afford. I’m still playing competitive baseball, and I’m trying to get David to join my team for the coming season, and a few other guys who I ran into at the reunion party the next night – Jimmy Flaikas, Mitch Orcutt, and Brian Hacker. How great it would be for us five former high school baseball teammates to be back on the diamond together. Priceless!

Jimmy and David have concerns about the physical demands, among other things, and whether their bodies are up to it. They’re both in great shape, so I’m confident they would do well. But they’re wise to weigh this carefully; discretion is the better part of valor when aging, after all. And that’s why golf is ideally suited to our current places in the circle of life. No torn meniscus or sprained ankles to be suffered, no concussions or broken bones forthcoming. Instead, we carelessly joked and competed with joyful appreciation of reconnecting through the game during our reunion weekend.

That golf is a lifelong game is one of its most appealing aspects. Perhaps it’s even an after-life game, as two elderly gentlemen illuminated. Lifelong friends now in their 80s, one of them fell deathly ill. His friend visited one last time and they reminisced about the good times shared through the game. As they parted, the friend said to his dying companion, “Do me a favor – let me know if there’s golf in heaven when you get there.” His friend promised he would and then he passed on peacefully that night. The next night, his friend was sleeping when he heard a voice. “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, there’s golf in heaven; the bad news is, you have a tee time tomorrow morning.”

Fore! Now and forever.

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Courses

Hidden Gem of the Day: Bear Slide Golf Club in Cicero, Indiana

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These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!

Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member AUTIGER07, who takes us to Bear Slide Golf Club in Cicero, Indiana. From the horse’s mouth, Bear Slide Golf Club offers a “Scottish links-style front nine and a traditional style back nine”, and in AUTIGER07’s description of the course, he highlights the tracks excellent variety of different holes on offer.

“Played this quite a bit when I lived in Indianapolis. Was always in really solid shape and the course provides a good mix of short-to-long holes. Pace of play used to be very enjoyable, and you never felt “rushed” during the round.”

According to Bear Slide Golf Club’s website, 18 holes around the course during the week will set you back $39, while the rate rises to $55 if you want to play on the weekend.

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Check out the full forum thread here, and submit your Hidden Gem.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep 63): Valentino Dixon talks Golf Channel documentary; Marvin Bush remembers his father

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Valentino Dixon shares his amazing story in an exclusive interview with Michael Williams. Also in this episode: a tribute to George H.W. Bush, featuring a conversation with his youngest son, Marvin.

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

featured image c/o Golf Channel

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