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Opinion & Analysis

In club fitting, three swings is all it takes



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 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.



  1. FA

    Oct 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm


  2. LT

    Oct 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm


  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


    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


            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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On Spec

On Spec: Please don’t play blades (or maybe play them anyway)



Host Ryan talks about the different ways to enjoy the game and maximizing your equipment enjoyment which doesn’t always have to mean hitting it 15 yards farther. The great debate of blades vs cavity backs is as old of an argument you will find in golf but both sides can be right equaling right. Ryan explains why.

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

What’s going on with the decline in putting on the PGA Tour?



Watching the PGA Tour recently, I was struck by Frank Nobilo commenting on how professionals and their instructors work down to the smallest detail, a reflection on the intense competition on the PGA Tour and the fact that to be successful you cannot ignore anything. He made this comment with his thumb and forefinger barely not touching for emphasis.

That being the case, the numbers below should cause major introspection by every player and their coach. They are self-explanatory and have been verified by a third party expert who deals in putting data.

All figures are Shotlink data from the PGA Tour. To preclude undue influence by an anomaly years 2003-5 are averaged as are 2016-18

Average make percentage from 5 distances, 2003-2005 combined

  • 6 FEET: 71.98 percent
  • 8 FEET: 55.01 percent
  • 10 FEET: 43.26 percent
  • 15-20 FEET: 19.37 percent
  • 25 FEET AND BEYOND: 5.96 percent

Average make percentage from the same 5 distances, 2015-2018

  • 6 FEET: 70.43 percent
  • 8 FEET: 53.54 percent
  • 10 FEET: 41.39 percent
  • 15-20 FEET: 18.80 percent
  • 25 FEET AND BEYOND: 5.33 percent

Percent decrease 

  • 6 FEET: 1.55 percent
  • 8 FEET: 1.67 percent
  • 10 FEET: 1.87 percent
  • 15-20 FEET: .57 percent
  • 25 FEET AND BEYOND: .83 percent

One comment, green conditions have been vetted to the point where they are not considered a culprit. Faster, yes, but pristine surfaces, and very consistent week to week. There are some outliers like the U.S. Open greens but they are included in the data shown and caused no significant spike for that week.

Further, on the subject of greens, today’s professional has booklets showing green patterns, high MOI putter heads, instruction from putting specialists, and caddies, expert green readers in their own right. Bottom line: if anything the greens help not hurt.

So your turn. Look at the data. Appoint yourself all-powerful guru to improve putting data. What would your plan, be? Oh and this little tidbit so you can earn a huge consulting fee: We took six players, three on either side of the halfway point, your solution resulted in a one-shot per TOURNAMENT improvement. Average INCREASE in earnings for the season: a smidge over $500K!

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Opinion & Analysis

A merciful new local rule



This April, within a list of 2019 Rules Clarifications, the USGA and R&A quietly authorized a new Local Rule that you can expect to see enacted everywhere from the U.S. Open Championship to, if you’re lucky, your own club championship.  

New Local Rule E-12 provides some protection from an unintended consequence of Rule 14.3c, which requires that your ball come to rest in the relief area for the drop you’re taking. When I first read about this option, I confess that I was a bit skeptical. But now that I’ve experienced the Local Rule in action, its value has become very clear.  

My initial skepticism came from the fact that I like it that every time, we drop we now must drop in a relief area. I also like the simplicity of requiring the ball to come to rest in that relief area — no more awkward need to figure out if your ball stayed within two club lengths of the point where your drop first struck the course, as used to be the case.  So right from the start, I was very comfortable with the new rules in this regard. But in some cases, particularly for those who haven’t carefully studied the revised rules, this simple approach has caused problems. 

The freedom this new Local Rule provides applies exclusively to back-on-the-line relief drops, such as you might make from penalty areas or for unplayable balls. It’s a bit complicated, but let me take you through how it helps. We’ll use yellow-staked penalty areas as an example. Last year, for back-on-the-line drops such as these, you’d identify the point where your ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard and draw an imaginary line from the flagstick through that point, select a nice place to drop anywhere you chose back along that line, and then let it drop. If you picked a point sufficiently back, and your ball didn’t hit anything prohibited, and it didn’t stop more than two club lengths from where you dropped it, you were good to go.  

This year, instead of dropping on that imaginary line, you drop in a relief area that surrounds that imaginary line. Just like before, you identify the edge of the penalty area where your ball last crossed, go back as far as you wish along an imaginary line from the flagstick through that point — but now you should identify a relief area around your selected drop location. To do so, you pick a point on the line, then define a relief area one club length from that point no closer to the hole. So you typically have a semicircle two club lengths in diameter in which to drop. If you drop a foot or two back from the front edge of the semicircle, there’s almost always no problem with the ball coming to rest outside the releif area and you’ll be ready to play.  But if you drop right on the front edge of your defined relief area, or if you didn’t bother to identify a point/relief area along the imaginary line before you dropped, and your ball bounces and comes to rest even the slightest bit forward — it’s now outside the relief area and subject to a two-stroke or loss of hole penalty for playing from the wrong place if you end up hitting the ball before correcting your mistake.

That might seem kind of harsh — you take a back-on-the-line drop like you did last year, it bounces and stops an inch forward, you hit it — and you get severely penalized.  If you had simply established the relief area an inch or two forward, things would have been perfectly legal! The 2019 rules, in their effort to simplify and make consistent the drop/relief procedure, created an unintended potential trap for players that weren’t careful enough managing their business. This seemed like it was going to be a big enough problem that the USGA and R&A decided to graciously do something about it:  Introduce Model Local Rule E-12.

When this Local Rule is adopted, a player is given some additional freedom. If he or she applies the relief area/drop principles correctly, there is, of course, still no problem.  But if he or she ends up with the ball somewhat outside the relief area, there still might be no penalty. As long as the ball originally struck the course within where the relief area should be, and as long as it didn’t come to rest more than one club length from where it first hit the course when dropped, you can still play it penalty-free (as long as it’s not nearer the hole than where the ball originally lay in the case of an unplayable ball drop, or nearer the hole than the edge of the penalty area where the ball last crossed for a penalty area drop).

While all that’s a bit complicated sounding, in practice it’s intuitive. And as an added bonus, it probably doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it or even know it’s in force — there are simply more occasions when you can blissfully, even ignorantly, play on penalty-free.

This new Local Rule provides another advantage as well. When it’s in effect, an opponent or ref (or a TV viewer) won’t have to concern themselves with whether or not the player making the drop actually followed the recommendation of first defining a relief area before making a back-on-the-line drop. If you’re at a distance, and you see a player taking a drop which bounces slightly forward, you can relax. You don’t have to wonder whether or not you should rush up and confirm that the ball didn’t squeak out of the player’s intended relief area in an effort to prevent the player from incurring a penalty.  One way or another, everything is more than likely just fine.

With all that in mind, maybe you’d like to see the specific wording of E-12:

“When taking Back-On-the-Line relief, there is no additional penalty if a player plays a ball that was dropped in the relief area required by the relevant Rule (Rule 16.1c(2), 17.1d(2), 19.2b or 19.3b) but came to rest outside the relief area, so long as the ball, when played, is within one club-length of where it first touched the ground when dropped.

“This exemption from penalty applies even if the ball is played from nearer the hole than the reference point (but not if played from nearer the hole than the spot of the original ball or the estimated point where the ball last crossed the edge of the penalty area).

“This Local Rule does not change the procedure for taking Back-On-the-Line relief under a relevant Rule. This means that the reference point and relief area are not changed by this Local Rule and that Rule 14.3c(2) can be applied by a player who drops a ball in the right way and it comes to rest outside the relief area, whether this occurs on the first or second drop.” 

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19th Hole