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Adams: When modern day fittings aren’t so modern

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In the comments from my story on golf equipment costs, there was some confusion on how equipment companies could be restricted by the USGA on distance and still be marketing drivers that “go farther.” It brought to mind one of my earlier ideas that, like many others, that did not make the cut into the marketplace.

This took place many years ago, and my thought process was such that I knew that it took more speed to deliver a longer-shafted club to the ball, hence producing more distance. Anyone remember the “Killer Bee,” the next great breakthrough? My tests were pre-killer bee.

I also knew it was more difficult to get the head back to square with a longer shaft, and nothing helps distance more than hitting the ball on the sweet spot. For the record, the reason that it’s been called the “sweet spot” is due to that solid, soft feel at impact. What you’re feeling is the absence of vibration, a form of wasted energy, which is more beneficial when imparted to the golf ball.

So to help offset the problems associated with the longer shaft, I decided to incorporate a bigger club head with maximum perimeter weighting, with the club length measuring slightly over 48 inches. Today, the maximum allowable club length is 48 inches, but this preceded the USGA limits. I had experimented with even longer clubs, but felt that 48 inches was the best option given the head weight with which I was experimenting.

You may notice the absence of computer simulations, launch data, or anything suggesting sophistication by today’s standards. For years I was kind of a technically unsophisticated one-man band who took ideas from the range to our shop, worked them until they were worthy of a field test and went back to the range.

After months of effort, I went to the range with my 48.75-inch driver knowing that finding lost yards awaited me. It didn’t happen. In fact, I LOST yardage compared to my old faithful! The problem wasn’t not getting the extra speed, but was the inability to hit the ball consistently on the sweet spot. I tried variations, shortened the shaft, installed a longer one, experimented with counterbalancing, different head sizes, etc., and within a consistent margin of error got the same results — NEGATIVE!

“Maybe it’s just me,” I thought. So I used my personal test group (the folks who came to the Haney Ranch where I was the club fitter) and over a few months collected a significant data base. The results were mixed; some liked it, but only after they hit a lot of balls.

I had a system for club fitting and it was designed to mirror the golf experience as closely as possible. You warmed up, and when your body was ready I had you “tee off” with your driver. Then I handed you the new club you’d be testing. The first swing I overlooked because the new club usually looked much different. It took golfers that first swing to get comfortable. The second consecutive swing was the key!

If you didn’t hit the new club as advertised, whether it be longer or straighter, it wasn’t the answer. Because two shots didn’t seem like enough for most golfers, I allowed three or even four tries, but I generally discounted the extra results anyway.

Why did I discount extra shots? The objective was to find a club that worked for the player “under course conditions.” After the second try, the results were an indication of the player’s ability to adjust to the club and I wanted the opposite. I want the club to fit the player. This, by the way, was the cornerstone of the fitting system I used. For those about to question my sanity, I collected and analyzed reams of data and statistical analysis was in my background.

I mention this because in occasional trips to golf stores I see potential customers banging balls while the salesperson collects results. The best few shots will be pointed out as “what the club can do for you,” and this makes me run to the shoe department to avoid conflict.

The ending to my failed long driver story is intriguing. I ended up giving the club to a friend who was maybe a 15-handicap, and he killed it!

He thought I was a genius, and that’s the story of modern “technically advantageous” equipment in a nutshell. It’s applicable to some and lousy for others. I realized that concept just 20 years ago!

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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.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Pingpro1959

    Sep 17, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Kind of a confusing article Barney…ten years ago I went to a seminar Adams put on in Cleveland, OH where we were told that your new 45.5″ drivers did not affect accuracy…Hmmmmm

  2. Double Mocha Man

    Sep 16, 2014 at 11:44 am

    The “Killer Bee” driver! Ah yes, I remember an older gentleman bringing that thing to our golf course driving range. With a 7-8 foot shaft he couldn’t hit from the bays, too confined… he had to find an open area and hit off the grass. He loved to have people watch him in awe and ask questions. He’d hit a few good ones every now and then. That’s all he did. He never ventured onto the golf course to play a round. In fact, I never saw him with any other clubs.

    • Joe Golfer

      Sep 18, 2014 at 12:33 am

      Wonder where he got that shaft?
      You say the club was 7 to 8 feet long?
      Even long drive aftermarket shafts have limits on how long they are, and I’d guess that the longest the average person could make a club might be around 50″ with a special “Long Driver” shaft, perhaps even using a 2″ graphite extension at the butt end.
      The Killer Bee that was sold in stores was 48″ long in total length.
      The only time I’ve seen a club that was 7 to 8 feet in length was in a show put on by a “trick shot” artist.

  3. Rodan

    Sep 12, 2014 at 9:31 am

    For me Barney’s fitting concept would be right in line. My warm up is stretching and about 5 practice swings on the tee. My first ball of the day is the one I tee off with on #1. My first ball may not be long (avg 250 yds) but it is usually straight. I gain some length as I play and the ball stays straight (within reason).

    I was fit with this driver and it was one of two that I could perform with from swing 1.

  4. Steve Barry

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    You say this 15 handicapper ‘killed it’. Your name is Barney, starts with a ‘B’. Does this guy happen to be the guy who came out with the Killer Bee? I do remember that club, though I was a young pup when it came out.

    Think about it….Killer “B”.

    Makes sense to me…

  5. Gautama

    Sep 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    “in occasional trips to golf stores I see potential customers banging balls while the salesperson collects results. The best few shots will be pointed out as “what the club can do for you”

    I think this is a really important point to remember in fittings. We all know what it’s like to really “find my swing” during a range session, usually after some trial, error, and repetition, or just leaving the office behind and settling into things. Suddenly it all clicks and you’re in the zone and feeling like Hogan. I find the exact same thing happens during a fitting session, and it’s really easy to attribute it all to whatever club or shaft is in my hands at that moment. And if I put that “magic moment” club down and move to another, my mind is already telling me that this new one isn’t the one. So then I buy the magic combo, go out to play, and find that not all that much has really changed – I just happened to find my “A” swing during the fitting while that particular combo was in my hands, and that great swing is now nowhere to be found on the first tee!

    Same thing used to happen with women when I was younger, but that’s probably a whole other confession and forum 🙂

  6. Matthew

    Sep 11, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Hitting 10-20 balls with a driver on a launch monitor can be a practical way to do a fitting. You must be smart enough to logically look at the data though. If you hit 10 balls you should throw out the 3 worst & 3 best and look at your median result averages. Similar theory goes to if you hit 20 balls.

    It’s the same theory as the guy that claims he hits his driver 315+. Yes one time you may hit it 315, but what about the other 20 swings where you averaged 220?

    I would never base my fitting on only taking 2 swings with a club. As a matter of fact, I typically hit a club on multiple occasions over multiple days before making a buying decision. I know with my swing as a 9 HC that it changes wildly from day to day and I like to get a feel for what the club will do on my “off” days.

  7. Alex

    Sep 11, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I firmly believe if you hit a new club 3 or 4 times and hit it ok, it’s for you. Same happens with ball flight, it’s the best judge.

  8. Pingback: Adams: When Modern Day Fittings Aren’t So Modern | Golf Gear Select

  9. Corey Clarkin

    Sep 10, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    As a PGA Member and the head club fitter at a club in DFW that currently does not posses “technology”(launch monitor) I have increased club sales by over 200% by doing traditional fittings that involve the players feel and analysis of ball flight. We are a large club surrounded by competition with technology. The only thing we did different from the past was set up on the range with all of our fitting and demo equipment simply letting the members try the product under a trained eye. My question is this; would you back up your fitting recommendations in the past against a launch monitor today? Furthermore how would you accomplish the goal of guaranteeing members’ confidence in you without said technology?

    • Brian

      Sep 11, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      Corey, I applaud your successes with the use of what you have. I would tend to lean towards how you do fittings, lean on the PGA Professional for flight analysis and information while letting your Members test on a real range. However, like you inquired to Mr. Adams about, I would then consult the technology to back up my findings and “fine tweak” the fitting. I have been to your range, great facility, however with longer hitters, you cannot gauge how the ball reacts after it hits the ground there. A simple adjustment in shaft that could, theoretically, lower the spin by 200/300/400 rpm and could contribute to more roll out and in turn, a happier member. That data can only be found with technology. I’ll introduce myself next time I’m at your club.

    • barney adams

      Sep 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm

      I don’t think you can escape launch monitor data even though you can fit without it. My argument is it’s a tool, not the be all, end all. Members confidence will come from their positive results and telling their friends. Where are you guys?

      • Brian

        Sep 18, 2014 at 11:42 am

        I agree Mr. Adams, the launch monitor should be a secondary tool, not the main source. If all that was used is a launch monitor, Professional fittings would be defunct, all you would need is a “data cruncher” instead of a pair of trained eyes. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that is how things are viewed and how things are trending.

        Corey Clarkin is out of Trophy Club Country Club in Trophy Club, TX. Wonderful golf club with a Ben Hogan designed course and another course donned with Kathy Whitworth’s name.

  10. Stu

    Sep 10, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    From a Adams Hybrid and Iron player: what if i hit five shots and all were good except the second? I realize i don’t have to hit 30 shots to realize if a club fits me but as a 8 handicap i am going to have the occasional miss even like the PGA tour pros (LOL). Of course distance is important but to me straight and consistent are much more important.

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 10, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      In any analysis there are exceptions that fall outside the limits. I used my procedure of three enough to be very confident I was doing the best job for my customers. And the formula wasn’t just distance it was accuracy and distance.

  11. steve

    Sep 10, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    He is right on..I can tell if I like a club with 2 swings every time

  12. nikkyd

    Sep 10, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Some people are skilled enough and have had enough repetitions with swinging a golf club, that any club they grab , should work (or make it work). I get ya mr. Adams. You said it was an experiment after all.

  13. Johnny

    Sep 10, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    It is only logic and accounts for all kinds of clubs, even in other sports like tennis or baseball. Physics defines that the speed at the end of the lever increases with its length but also does the rotational moment of inertia as well as torque.

  14. Jive

    Sep 10, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    I’m a firm believer you take an iron to a driver fitting. Hit the driver, then switch to hit the iron. If you snap hook the driver, then hit a punch iron shot. That mimics the game a little.

    How do you truly get into a rhythm in golf, with 14 clubs in the bag different lies and shots, and 12 minutes in between driver swings. I like Mr. Adams approach. We always talk about a driver stops working once you buy it. Maybe it was working because you learned how to groove it by hitting 10+ shots in a row. I’m enjoying your articles Mr. Adams, keep them coming.

  15. Tom Duckworth

    Sep 10, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I get what he is saying. Taking into account a persons tempo and swing speed even with the naked eye a good fitter should be able to give a club to a golfer that should fit them and that club should feel “right” with one swing. I think most golfers that hit twenty or thirty shots with a club would be able to figure out how to make about any club work. Maybe that club wouldn’t be the best for them but you could hit it in the store and get some good results. Hitting it over and over it would start to feel OK after awhile.
    I have trouble telling the difference between two drivers hitting them 50 feet or so into a giant net. They both would feel OK but I really like to see ball flight on the range that is the best feedback. I also think if you see a ball flight that you like that club will tend to feel good to you. I think when most of us hit with a new club how it feels is the first thought in our minds. I thing everyone has picked up an iron,putter or driver in a store hit it once and put it down after on swing because it didn’t feel good..

  16. Anders Pedersen

    Sep 10, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Definently getting the point ofthis article. I’ve just been at the local store getting fitted for new Woods. I tried the first couple of models on my wishlist, after 10-15 hits I didnt get more than that 2-3 perfect hits. The pro then found another driver made the adjustments he had seen in my swing and data collected, and “BOOM”! Pretty much instant results, my fade/slice was pretty much gone, the ones hit on the toe, buttom – gone… this fitter new his trade and the articles main point “the equip should fit you, not the other way around” is right on the spot for my fitting session. I actually hit the very first drive, with was has become my new driver, right in the middle, going longer and straighter than I ever think Ive hit a driver before…

    Kudos to the author ! (and the Pro @ GolfExpertenAarhus he knows what he is doing)

  17. Carl

    Sep 10, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I can’t say I’ve ever seen many people warming up fully before testing a club so I’m not sure the second shot is going to be representative of how the person actually swings a club.

    • dr bloor

      Sep 10, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      If your club fitter hasn’t made sure you’ve warmed up before you start testing, you need another club fitter.

    • barney adams

      Sep 11, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      If you’re a fitter it’s your job to get them warmed up

  18. dr bloor

    Sep 10, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I recently had a fitting for irons using pretty much the same approach. No machines, three shots a club/shaft combo. He’d watch my swing, I’d focus on how the club felt, we’d look at the ball flight and impact mark on the club face. More than enough for my purposes, and with great results.

    • Justin

      Sep 10, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      Well said. Too many people spend way too much time chasing numbers. Even if they could manage 2, 3, or even 4 in a row that fit into the “ideal”, how often are they going to do that in “game conditions”? Even then, would it matter? Flighting a ball for wind changes, you’re aforementioned punch shots, etc. happen quite a bit, and “optimizing” in a game that isn’t played in an optimized environment it is just a waste.

  19. phatchrisrules

    Sep 10, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I’m not sure if this article is supposed to be satire or not….but….come on? One shot with a brand new club and you immediately are supposed to discard it if the result is less than optimal? Even the first shot with my (long time) gamer driver after a range session doesn’t always net a piped drive down the gut. Golf is hard, and your average player certainly is not skilled by any stretch of the imagination.

    So in your testing before, did you tell the person to immediately buy the driver IF they hit the first one well? I can see the threads now if that was the case: “GG/Dicks/GS Employee Only Gave Me One Shot With A Driver And Told Me To Look No Further”…that company would be crucified. Coming from 10 years in the big box golf retail business, I can tell you yes, we do prune out some shots. However, these are usually the abysmally bad strikes such as a 115 yard pull hook with a launch 0.2 degrees that ended up 97 yards offline. How is that data even remotely helpful in the selection process? Short answer: it isn’t. Now if a person is doing that continually with one club, then we try a second, maybe a third, and if the pattern continues, it’s time to suggest a lesson.

    Now being the founder of Adams, surely to heaven you aren’t dumb. Your product caters to the higher handicap, and then you have a small, but albeit damn good (and expensive!) pro line of equipment. And you know, being a large pusher of distance in the past, that this demand for more distance at the sacrifice of accuracy is a bed you helped design, at least on the periphery. I can remember as far back as the A3 line, and help me out here, that’s got to be pushing 2005/2006, your lofts were markedly stronger than most, and your woods and irons touted lengths at least 1/2 an inch longer than most other company’s standards.

    I’m not trying to dump on your company, far from it, I think you guys make an amazing product. I’m really just confused at the double standard of “Rah Rah Rah distance is king” to “forget distance, accuracy is key, sweetspot is key, and anyone who pushes distances is an idiot” tone I get from this article.

    Any responses would be appreciated.

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 10, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      To start. I always asked the customer their objective before a fitting session. I KNEW distance was critical along with whatever they said. If they really wanted to improve and had terrible swings I’d send them for lessons.
      I stand by my system of the club fitting the player. Sometimes you ” finessed” the situation but I knew the best service I could give was a club that fit them.
      I don’t at all disparage distance in the article. I was searching for playable distance not one or two shots out of a bucket of balls.

    • Master fitter

      Sep 14, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Agreed. As a certified fitter at a big box store, this fitting method would be considered asinine and dismissive leading to the customer flying out the door.

    • Joe Golfer

      Sep 18, 2014 at 12:52 am

      Barney’s last name is Adams, but it was my understanding that he no longer owned a golf company, nor had he for quite some time now.
      TaylorMade owns Adams Golf, and I don’t think Barney works for TaylorMade.
      I don’t think Barney was involved in the running of Adams Golf company for any of the years you mention, so it’s really not relevant to call him out for the club line being built for distance type of stuff.
      I’m surprised that Barney himself didn’t mention that he’s not a company owner anymore, at least to the best of my knowledge.
      He is a very knowledgeable man when it comes to equipment though.
      If Barney Adams is currently pushing the idea of accuracy, hitting the sweet spot, as opposed to building clubs extra long for distance, I don’t see any contradiction in his philosophy since he hasn’t owned Adams Golf for a long long time.
      I wouldn’t be surprised if he hasn’t owned a major company in this current century.
      Perhaps he’ll respond and contradict my knowledge (or lack thereof) regarding his ownership or current position with any established golf company.
      I suspect that Barney didn’t have anything to do with the loft strengthening or the length increasing of irons, whether the Adams brand or any other.
      Let’s face it, there’s a reason they sell clubs in 4-GW now.
      It’s the exact same set as the old 3-PW of when Barney Adams was in charge of a business. All that’s changed is the number on the sole of the club. And companies keep strengthening the lofts such that soon one will need even more wedges.

  20. Josh

    Sep 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    Even thought I read through the article twice, I still don’t understand what the point is. However, please let the world know where a 15 handicapper is fitted with a 48 inch driver. I’m sure everyone would want to know so they can avoid the place.

    • LB

      Sep 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      I don’t think he’s trying to change the world with this article, just pointing out that hitting 30 shots and only taking the results from the 10 best isn’t the right way to get set up.

      The alternative and more real-life applicable is getting handed a club and hitting it well immediately. That’s the one you want at your 7:20 tee time hitting your first drive of the week.

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 10, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      The point is finding a club that fits you ant it WAS a 15 who loved it. Thought I was a genius !

    • Martin

      Sep 10, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      This was 20+ years ago, he experimented with a super long shaft.

      For Barney it didn’t work, so he gave it to a friend who liked it.

      End of story.

      I personally can easily disgard a club after 2 shots, and generally hit anything well after 5-6 shots in a row with the same one.

      AND

      I’m not that good.

    • bradford

      Sep 11, 2014 at 7:52 am

      I know plenty of 15’s that could handle a 48″ driver…they just can’t putt.

  21. gvogel

    Sep 10, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Brilliant!

    IF the second shot with a new club is poor, return it to the rack. There is so much wisdom in this article.

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