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Does custom fitting work for the average golfer?

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We have all heard the common expressions (and excuses) in regards to buying custom-fit golf clubs:

  • “I’m not good enough to get fit.”
  • “I never make the same swing twice, so why bother?”
  • “My clubs are fine the way they are. I can make them work.”

But… are those statements really true? In this article, I wanted to truly test club fitting with Trackman, and audit the data to see what happens when players of different skill levels hit clubs that are not fit for them, as well as ones that are specifically fit for their body and golf swing.

To do so, I asked Golf Digest Top 100 ClubFitter, Scott Felix of Felix Clubworks, out of Memphis, Tenn., to help me out.

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Felix Clubworks’ building facility.

The great thing about using a fitter such as Felix is that he has all the shaft and club head options in his shop to make sure that the “best fitting” was actually correct for the individual. Also, he could amend the two other unfit clubs as best as he could so we could compare apples to apples as it pertained to shaft flex, lie angle, length, etc.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 2.20.06 PM

Just a few of the club head and shaft options available at Felix Clubworks.

I asked Scott to run the following test:

  1. Allow the player to hit 10 shots with a 7 iron that was correctly fit by Felix.
  2. Have the player hit 10 shots with a 7 iron that was too long and too upright for his swing (we used +1 inch and 2 degrees upright).
  3. Have the player hit 10 shots with a 7 iron that was too short and too flat for his swing (we used -1 inch and 2 degrees flat)

So let’s check out the Trackman data for a 20-handicap golfer and a scratch-handicap golfer.

20-handicap golfer

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  • The white dots represent shots hit with the correctly fit club.
  • The yellow dots represent shots hit with the club that was too long and too upright.
  • The purple dots represent shots hit with the club that was too short and too flat.

As you all might have guessed, the 20-handicapper’s misses were quite severe, which altered the overall “average” dispersion of the player for this test. For that reason, I cleaned up the data.

Figure 1

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Figure 1 shows the same data, but removes the “outliers” to give us a better look at the clustering of more consistent shots hit with each of the clubs. You can analyze the data as deeply as you would like, but for me, just seeing the circles around the shot patterns is enlightening.

It’s frightening just how much tighter the dispersion is with the correctly fit clubs. As you can imagine, the longer club went farther and the shorter club didn’t go as far, but neither had any real consistency in regard to more playable misses.

This is the paradox of club-fitting: Why does the average golfer so strongly resist getting fit when the benefits can be so drastic? Sure, initial cost is a factor, but based on this test the average golfer can’t afford NOT to get fit if they care about shooting the lowest scores possible.

So we saw what happens with the average golfer, but what about better players? Does the additional time they spend practicing, as well as their increased shot-making skills and potentially better athletic ability mean that they are an exception to the benefits of custom fitting?

Scratch Golfer

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We ran the same test with a single-digit club golfer. Once again, the white dots represent shots hit with the better-fit club, the yellow dots represent shots hit with the longer and more upright club and the purple dots represent shots hit with the shorter and flatter club.

It does not look too much different when you look at all 30 shots together, but let’s take out the outliers and only compare the clustered results of each club to see if the results tell a different story.

Here are the 5 best shots of each grouping. 

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 1.38.25 PM

As you can see, once again, the better-fit club performed consistently better when hit solidly by the golfer using it. Yes, the low-handicapper will have a tighter dispersion and less distance issues overall, but at this level it’s important to dial in control and limit outliers during the round that kill your score.

Conclusion

Can you hit good shots with poorly fit clubs? Sure. But can you hit absolutely terrible shots as well? No question! The truth lies in the overall consistency of the misses in general.

People always ask me in my lessons to give them more consistency in their swing, and the first thing I tell them is to go get fit, and only then will we actually have a fighting chance to fix their consistency issues once and for all.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

73 Comments

73 Comments

  1. David

    May 31, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    This statement was made early on “The great thing about using a fitter such as Felix is that he has all the shaft and club head options in his shop to make sure that the “best fitting” was actually correct for the individual. Also, he could amend the two other unfit clubs as best as he could so we could compare apples to apples as it pertained to shaft flex, lie angle, length, etc.”.

    The test is done with a “7” iron. Felix custom fit the 7 iron to the tester. From that measurement one OTS 7 iron was setup 1 inch shorter and another OTS 7 iron was setup 1 inch longer. The lies were adjusted accordingly due to the length changes.

    Nowhere did the loft get adjusted for the OTS 7 irons. So for OTS these 7 irons could be strong or weak. That’s one of the points about buying OTS. Inconsistency. You as the golfer are expected to adjust to that and when one club is weak and another is strong that can be almost impossible for a high handicapper especially. Now add inconsistency to the shafts and you got a real dilemma for that high handicapper.

    I agree that the better golfer has the skillset to work with any clubs within reason. However, if you had a set of clubs perfectly matched to your swing speed and those clubs were consistent top to bottom then that high handicapper is going to improve and be more consistent. The better player may not see as noticeable improvement, but there will be improvement non the less.

  2. Lowell Madanes

    Sep 10, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Im on the fence about this one. Yes one should get fitted and usually it can be done rather quickly if you are buying from a golf retailer. I worked at golf shop a while ago and we would always fit customers essentially on the most basic of things. Either Standard, overlength and whether they want it upright or flat. Especially during the days of Ping’s color rating based on setup, it was the no brainer thing to do. If you are not get fitted at least to that specification, than you essentially dont know too much about golf i.e. you buy on the internet exactly what your buddy has, or because you see it played on television. I believe that when you start getting into a game where you are worried about being off several feet versus several yards, than definietily go get fitted. Thats the type of player who wants there spacing on every club to be a certain yardage etc. A higher handicapper can easily be fine with just doing the basic fitting if and only if they buy it from a retailer or at least get fitted at a retailer and buying it online.

  3. scott

    Aug 20, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    My FIRST thought – where did you find a 20 capper who hits 23 out of 30 7 irons over 165 yards? And seems to average about 170 with a 7I?

    I play with about 100 different guys in a year – from near scratch to near 20….maybe 5 out of 100 hit a 7I 170 yards. It was hard to even pay attention after such an obvious gaffe…

    and for those of you who want to say “i hit my 7I 170″…. reality check,ok… thats a swing speed of close to 120…

  4. Regis

    Aug 19, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I’ve been playing a while, do my own club work and have been fitted many times. I think the average guy definitely benefits for an iron fitting if: he uses a quality fitter, who has a variety of head option and shaft options especially if the player is looking at graphite shafts for the irons. If you look at the number of options available for just the Recoil shafts (my personal favorite) throw in a lie adjustment, length adjustment , a trackman and an hour and to me it is a no brainer. Personally a complete driver fitting for the average guy is not so critical. I think it takes a number of rounds on course to see if a driver is going to work and most off the rack drivers have a number of stock shaft options.

  5. gallas2

    Aug 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I’ve played Ping for 20 years and have always been 1/4 – 1/2 long and upright 2* or green dot. (FWIW – PING just switched their “standard” to +1/4 and upright (blue)). My pro was walking the range the other day and gave me a tip to hang my arms loosely and set the club slightly forward at address. I’m compressing it better than ever and hitting it further. The only problem is now the toe of the iron sticks up. Think I should go get re-fit?

  6. bob lawls

    Aug 16, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I think using extremes is incorrect for this test. What should have been compared would be stock OTR options which are most likely what everybody is playing. Or at least this should have been added to the test.

  7. Bert

    Aug 16, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I’ve struggled with so called “fitting” for years and have been fitted many times. I know don’t believe in fitting, especially when it comes to OTS equipment. Most fitting isn’t really fitting but selling you on which OTS clubs best matches your desires and swing (if it can be repeated). I believe “click in” shafts from a fitting cart have no comparison to shafts that are glued in; I can feel the difference. I believe Tom is one of the best teachers in the game and I base that on experience from years ago. He’s really good and his hearts in it. But concerning fitting; I’m just not there. I recently tried, again, to get fitted for a driver; just thought I needed the new technology, and really needed to be “fitted” before spending large sums of money. We tried 8 new drivers with different shafts and compared them to my old 2007 TM Burner. Not one driver tested resulted in improved distance or accuracy, not one. What the fitting revealed is what I already knew; I can play regular or stiff shafts and 9.5 to 10.5 degrees of loft. I like a driver shaft a little under 45″ in length. Wow nothing new! Concerning irons, the click-in shafts are convenient for the merchandiser but have little comparison to what you’ll get when sold those “fitted” clubs. Now here’s what I believe in and that’s matching. Some of the recent articles on MOI discussing correctly matching clubs compared with feel is interesting. Physics is hard to argue with. If you have a swing speed of 85 MPH it simple does not matter which driver to play, it’s not going past 205 yards. But when comparing a cheap “engineered for” shaft to a high end shaft, the feel will be obvious but the distance results will be minimal. If you like the way a club responds and feels, maybe find out why.

  8. MakuakaneBear

    Aug 14, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    I would humbly agree with other comments stating that the article’s sample size was way too small. Additionally, it would have been beneficial to have stated the tester’s current 7 iron to establish a baseline for distance, shot shape, and dispersion while stating the measurements of the tester’s current 7 iron specs. This would have helped clarify the Trackman results that were given to us. For example, such baseline information would have particularly useful to help with the understanding of the tight purple grouping of the scratch/low digit handicapper’s short and flat 7 iron results. It is possible that those results could have been a horrible fit if his expected distance and shot shape was a 180 yard draw. He would have been an average of 5 yards short in carry and right of his intended target. I think we can all agree that a shot 5 yards short in carry AND right of your intended target can make or break your approach shot (especially if you are a scratch player).

    I would also agree with many here that a perfectly fit set of golf clubs will not automatically help lower a golfer’s score or handicap. I truly believe it is the Indian not the Arrow. In my opinion, a fitting will ensure that you have a bow that you can draw back comfortably (there are different draw weights-try pulling back a 30 lbs recurve bow vs a 70 lbs compound) AND have a straight and proper length arrow for your bow. Given all those things you will still have to have the SKILL to hit your target. Could you still hit the target with an ill-fitted bow and crooked arrow? Sure you could but your chances might be better with properly fit equipment.

    That being said, I enjoyed the article and its findings. I don’t know Tom and I am pretty sure that he does not need any defending; however, this article does have merit. It was meant to give a small glimpse to the value of fitting from one of the top golf instructors in the country. Tom is an accomplished and recognized golf instructor who has seen all types of golfers with all types of golf clubs. I would venture to say that he has seen it all (or at least more than most) and I appreciate him taking the time to share his findings with us for free here on GolfWRX. In this article, Tom tested a fit club against 2 clubs that were not the right fit. Specs are different between brands and some specs are different between models in the same brand (a simple internet search can show you that or go to a big box store and compare all the seven irons off the racks). Also, each brand has chosen a specific shaft to go into a specific iron model head. Furthermore, not everyone is privileged enough to buy a off the rack set even if it is on sale. Some guys I know have only purchased golf equipment from used equipment stores. I also know some guys and girls that have only played with hand me downs. In addition, depending on the age of the irons (especially if they are hand me downs), specs have changed throughout the years. My grandfather’s clubs from the late 80’s are nowhere near the same specs as my Ping S55s. The lofts are different and so are the lengths. This begs the question, what is standard?
    There is no standard shaft material (there is steel, graphite and some with both); there is no standard flex (this changes when looking at different shaft manufacturers- there is overlap but not a standard measurement for flex); there is no standard lie (if there was, why would there be so much change between clubs in the 80’s, 90’s and current clubs); there is no standard club lengths (driver lengths have changed a lot in the past years and so has the length of irons); there is no standard male height (last I checked, we are all different heights (average height of a man in america is 5’10”- I am taller than that without shoes-how tall are you?); there is no standard swing (Ben Hogan vs Arnold Palmer vs Jim Furyk vs Adam Scott vs Jordan Spieth vs Tiger vs any foursome you see on a golf course); and there is no standard distance to hit a 7 iron. What club do you use to hit a pin at 180 yards with a perfect lie, no wind, 80*F sunny day, at sea level? Although some of us might hit the same club (would it be the same loft?), I am sure the majority would pick something different. My point is that there a lot of variables to consider. What Tom did in this experiment was limit the amount of variables to length and lie. Everything else was the same and the results were very simple- improperly fit clubs will offer more inconsistencies.

    Thank you Tom for the insightful article.

    • Mac n Cheese

      Aug 26, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      I agree with what you have said here, great read. However; I think what everyone is talking about with standard clubs is using an off the shelf club as a baseline and then fitting that same club to the golfer. It is the same as you saying use their current 7 iron. However; to eliminate variables, if they choose any 7 iron, and without disclosing the make and model, no one would know the difference and no one would complain about using a different brand. The fact is a critical baseline to compare was omitted, and that is the off the shelf 7 iron.
      The results of an off the shelf 7 iron should be similar to every other brand, this is where you get into which brand best fits you, but none the less the results should still be similar regardless of brand, with miner differences in distance and direction. However; without this critical baseline it is hard to say if a fitted club is truly better. What is the fitted club better than? a poorly fitted club…obviously when you take a fitted club and then make it un-fitted. However; it is flawed. Most people, as expressed here want to know how a fitted club performs to that off the shelf club baseline that is most likely to be purchased. Since this wasn’t done a lot of people were upset.

  9. Tom

    Aug 14, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    This is a small sample of data but lets do a real basic analysis.
    For the low handicap player after measuring the perpendicular distance for the white dots from center line and the perpendicular distance from center line for all the purple dots the white dots result in a tighter average dispersion with respect to distance from center line.
    If we discard the two white dots closest to the center line (his most accurate if the center line represented the target line) the remaining three shots are still equal to or better with regards to distance from the center line than any of the shots from the purple group (the shorter flatter club).
    Furthermore, the white circle that was used to encapsulate the shots of the fitted club for the low handicap player would have been made much smaller if the white circle had not been extended to included the three yellow dots that traveled the same distance but were further away from the center line.
    If the center line represented the target line then the fitted club for the low handicap player performed better with regards to distance from center line.

    • Hawk

      Aug 14, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Lets look at all the shots then instead of just the “best 5” because really all shots should count. For the low handicapper the shorter clubs still produce a closer shot grouping, and in fact the outliers of the purple group is actually in line with the best 5 of the white group, which again, reinforces that a good player can play any club, fitted or not. At the same time if you just picked the best of 5 closest to center line the upright and tallest club would win because it has the most shots closest to the center line. If you take out the 5 outliers farthest from center line for all the colors the shot pattern is virtually identical for all three colors. The yellow would have the largest circle, followed by the white, and purple relatively the same. All the shot patterns would overlap each other as well. Therefore a true conclusion based on a center line analysis of all recorded shots, shows that a low handicap player does not benefit from a fitted club, but is able to correctly play any club, fitted or not. The real debate is where do you want the outliers. This is where total shot pattern needs to be tighter and the small the shot pattern the better.

      • Mat

        Aug 14, 2015 at 5:48 pm

        That was exactly my thought. You don’t fit to the well-struck ball. You fit to the miss to be better than you deserve. Cherry picking results hurts credibility here. The low-handicap player simply adjusted. The higher handicap player was a mess with a short stick… yep. Makes sense. However, that dispersion of the better player tells the tale. The answer is that TEMPO is the key to hitting great shots. Consistent length and weighting help good players get repeatable. The lie angle needs to be close, but other than that, you have someone with a good, repeatable impact doing what they’ve learned over the years.

        Oh, and what are the odds that the 20+ shanked a few of those short ones? Pretty good. While they all count, those are the shots you throw out.

        • CD

          Aug 15, 2015 at 5:11 am

          Spot on. Normally I like the way Tom does these tests but his bias towards fitting is obvious from the start. It’s the first article I’ve seen that. One of the first sentences has the word “(excuses)” in.

          What I saw from the test was yes a fit club is better, but not that much better. The misses with the 20hcp were consistently to the right, it seems to be an issue of tempo as opposed to ill-fit clubs causing big left to right dispersion. They didn’t seem that wide a dispersion for a 20 hcp IMO. Certainly if you play casually or just starting, not enough to warrant the extra £££ to get custom fit. Or just ‘measured’ better.

          Lastly, I don’t like this phrase, it’s trite:

          ‘This is the paradox of club-fitting: Why does the average golfer so strongly resist getting fit when the benefits can be so drastic? Sure, initial cost is a factor, but based on this test the average golfer can’t afford NOT to get fit if they care about shooting the lowest scores possible.’

          Simply put, not everyone can afford it and it’s the opportunity cost of new custom clubs or a better holiday or a new TV, some people just CAN NOT AFFORD new clubs, and what the yet showed to me was if you’re a 20hcp player, or a beginner, then you can do more than perfectly adequately with poorly fit clubs. Also, it’s a bell-shaped curve. How many people are going to be so far off standard as 1″?

  10. bullsfan

    Aug 14, 2015 at 10:51 am

    This was an interesting read, but like more than a few have mentioned hitting a 180yd+ 7 iron for a 20 hcp golfer is a bit reaching. I get the new tech has helped tremendously than the typical “eye” of a club pro or professional fitter. Club fitting has been around since Ping introduced it back in the 1970’s but prior to that high and low handicaps pretty much used the same clubs as the pros used with very slight variations. Back in the 80’s & 90’s club fitting was resorted to off name brands that had inferior quality and in my days of working in the golf business seeing people invest in these clubs that didn’t last or offered the overall performance was disheartening at best. In my opinion there is not much you can do with a golf club other than Lie angle, Shaft length and flex, and maybe grip size. It’s really up to the individual to utilize these tools to the best of their abilities and simply practice. Going through a dog and pony show and shelling out thousands of dollars in hopes of getting a club that best fit to you abilities is a reach and a misnomer to golfers who are not well informed. I get that there are reputable fitters who are knowledgeable and trustworthy but most major OEM’s now have fitting down to a process that allows most golfers to be sized and fit to what you can get off the rack, it’s really up to the individual to understand this and ask for it at time of purchase. I believe that the vast majority of average golfers look at this aspect too hard and make uninformed decisions that are mistakes. Golf is a difficult sport to master and even the best of the best struggle, but getting what you are comfortable with whether it be a name, fitted, or whatever is over half the battle, it’s really all in the mind.

  11. Tanner

    Aug 14, 2015 at 7:31 am

    When you get fit, how do we really know it was accurate and not worse than off the shelf

    • Brian

      Aug 14, 2015 at 7:57 am

      you go to a professional. And trust their reputation.

      • Rich

        Aug 25, 2015 at 5:36 pm

        I’m not sure just “trusting the pro” is the way to go . An example. One of the golf pros at my club fixed a steel shaft in a 5 iron for a mate of mine. He has Ping G25’s. The original shaft was a Ping CFS reg shaft. The golf pro replaced it with a DG S300. My mate didn’t realise. When I pointed out the problem, he questioned the pro. The pro said it was much the same shaft and he wouldn’t even notice the difference. This from a golf pro that is supposed to be the expert in golf equipment. HA! From what I have experienced, this is not much different to any other golf pro or retail shop assistant. I generally know more than any of them and I’m no expert.

  12. Ratspros

    Aug 14, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Shouldn’t the test be proper fit clubs vs off the rack clubs? Plus or minus 1″ is a huge difference and I’m willing to bet most people fit are not plus or minus 1″. Maybe 1/4″-1/2″ tops.

    This is comparing proper fit clubs to exaggerated poorly for clubs. Question to the scientist doing this experiment how many people that were fit were with in 1-2* lie and 1/2″ of length of oem’s standards?

    • Philip

      Aug 14, 2015 at 10:39 am

      I agree – I thought 1 inch is just too extreme for such a test. I would be more interested in 1/2 inch comparisons. Plus, what 20 handicapper carries a 7i 175/185 yards? Were they playing the ball off their back foot or is it just the case of a 7i really being a 6i or 5 1/2 iron.

    • lars

      Aug 14, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      I also agree that this is a ridiculous comparison. Of course the player is going to hit better shots with a club that is the right length compared to one that is too long or too short with exaggerated lie angles! The true test would be grabbing a set off the rack with a “big box fitting (i.e. length, stiffness, lie)” versus a set with “custom fitting.” In my experience, the difference was minimal and not worth the huge expense of either purchasing custom built clubs or reshafting my entire set. I gained some better dispersion and a tiny bit of difference, but it was not worth $400-1000. I would be much better off investing in lessons to improve my swing.

      In my experience, when comparing high end custom fitting vs. high quality lessons, the lessons win every time by a LARGE margin! Not even close.

  13. tom stickney

    Aug 13, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    The outlier shot data was to show that even if you took your “best” shots from each grouping the fit club still has a better pattern. Nothing more.

    • Hawk

      Aug 14, 2015 at 8:00 am

      The tighter the shot grouping the better. The grouping is what matters, not the distance. So for the scratch golfers the shorter clubs performed better than the fitted clubs based solely on top 5.

  14. Robeli

    Aug 13, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Perfect example of manipulating date to fit the narrative or end result. For the scratch golfer, there are 5 better shots closer in line with target line than selected. And also, you do not get mulligans, every shot counts, even the bad ‘outliers’.

    • Hawk

      Aug 14, 2015 at 8:03 am

      Even if they picked just those outliers the shorter clubs would still overlap the fitted club. The difference would be 1 stray to the right, where the fitted has 1 stray to the left. As for the 20 handicapper the same could be said for a set that was too long and upright. There is a tighter grouping with longer clubs not to mention more distance, which is what the average guy cares most about.

  15. MHendon

    Aug 13, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    I know custom fitting is the new buzz in golf but I’m just not sold on it for anyone other than the very serious competitive golfer. I believe set make up will make a bigger difference than anything. For instance most golfers say 10 handicap or worse should stick with game improvement irons probably nothing longer than a 5 iron. Make use of high lofted hybrids and fairway woods for there long clubs and avoid any wedges weaker than say 58 degrees. If they are say 5’8″ to 6’2″ more than likely of the rack will be fine. And frankly regular or stiff flex probably won’t matter that much.

    • dapadre

      Aug 14, 2015 at 5:39 am

      Very valid point MHendon. I actually saw this work with a golf acquaintance of mine. Im around a 12 and he at the time was around 25. He wanted some tips and I told him, since you just started about a year ago ditch the ego and do the following. Dont go higher than a 6, het a H6, H5, H4 and ditch the driver for a 4 wood. He was very hesitant (boy do we golfers have egos) because his setup wasnt macho enough. Results…..went from a 25 to a 18 in like 2 months.

      • Philip

        Aug 14, 2015 at 12:13 pm

        Definitely we have egos to the point of rather shooting ourselves in our feet than let others think we are not “man enough” because we do not play a driver, etc. I put my driver back into my bag last week (after 3 years out of the bag) only because I happen to have gotten my swing good enough to control it and hit it further than my hybrid or 2W/3W/4W. Yet I kept getting asked by golfers as to why I do not game a driver when my hybrid and often 4i were going the same or further than their drivers. Their ego would not allow them to play their 3W/5W/hybrid, even when on certain holes they had to, and they clearly saw these “shorter” clubs out-driving their own driver … if golfers decrease their ego they will decrease their scores – to a large degree.

  16. KT

    Aug 13, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Do some research. Find a fitter who knows what he’s doing.

  17. Tom Stickney

    Aug 13, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    The purpose of this article was to show you what can happen with poorly fit hand me down clubs. I see this daily with average players who are beginning golf.

    Think of it this way…
    If I put you in a running shoe that was three sizes too small and told you to run a mile for time…could you finish? Of course but over time your gate pattern would be negatively influenced and you would become less efficient. The same goes for clubs…if they are off by a few degrees etc then you are going to have no consistency and little control. Your mechanics will suffer as a result. It’s no different.

    • Robeli

      Aug 13, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      Nobody would be able to even put on shoes 3 sizes too small – bad example. Just as you manipulated the data to fit your narrative or conclusion. In golf every shot counts, you do not get chance to throw out the ‘outliers’. On the scratch golfer, who decided those 5 were the better ones?

    • Hawk

      Aug 14, 2015 at 7:09 am

      This doesn’t make sense. If you go buy used shoes per say at lets pick Plato’s Closet, no body is going to get a pair that is 3 sizes to small. In golf no one knows walking in the store if that set of clubs is too upright, too short, or just right. Chances are, and I’ve seen it over and over again, they pick the new stuff off the shelf that they think is cool, or whatever reason, give it a swing and say oh this feels great, I’ll buy a set.

      Your comparison uses a fitted club and then you alter the fitted club to be too upright or too short. Clearly the results will favor a fitting, but what does that do against that standard club manufacture set?

  18. juststeve

    Aug 13, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Tom: I’m not surprised that differences emerge before the player has the opportunity to hit the clubs a significant number of times. The question that is important to me is whether someone scores better with the well fit clubs than with off the rack clubs six months after the fitting. Over time we tend to accommodate our swing to what we are swinging.

  19. J Zilla

    Aug 13, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Am I the only one questioning a 20 handicapper hitting 175 yard 7 irons consistently?

    • Sam

      Aug 13, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      Or 184 on average with a mishit? Pretty obvious they did the testing in the twilight zone again.

    • Track Man

      Aug 13, 2015 at 8:48 pm

      If its a graphite shaft and its 1/2 inch longer and it has a 6 iron loft like most new clubs its not that crazy

      • other paul

        Aug 13, 2015 at 9:03 pm

        I’m a 15 ish and hit my 9i 172 average on 10 shots. Laser checked.

        • Sam

          Aug 13, 2015 at 10:09 pm

          No you don’t. You don’t have 130 mph swing speed. There is a difference b/n rollout and carry, the numbers above are carry distances. Your 172 down hill, down wind and ranged back to the tee doesn’t count bud. Those numbers above are whack too. No 20 capper carries 175-184. That’s ridiculous. 120+ swing speed. Really? There’s maybe 10 guys on tour that are 120+. No way a 20 swings that, and no way you swing 130.

          • Nathan

            Aug 14, 2015 at 5:24 am

            That’s 157-165 meters here down under. I’m 26 handicap, and still very much working on consistency.
            On a good week/ month my 7 iron is definitely 157-165 and a bad week/month that’s my 5 iron. Depends on if I eat heaps of bacon or not.

            • Sam

              Aug 14, 2015 at 8:50 pm

              Only place you could tell me your from that would make this kind of difference is krypton. 20 h-cap player don’t have 120-130 swing speeds. Period. Go look up TWs or Bubba or DJs SS. No way you swing as fast as they do.

              • Sam

                Aug 14, 2015 at 8:58 pm

                DJ – 125
                Bubba – 122
                TW – 130 (in his prime)

                Average Joe Schmoe 130+? Really? Nope. Just no.

        • Jack

          Aug 16, 2015 at 4:23 am

          I think you laser checked your pupils before you checked the ball. FYI that’s faster than most long drive guys, and those guys usually are single digit handicaps. Or maybe your 7I shots are radiated in a circular pattern rather than closer to straight line.

  20. matt_bear

    Aug 13, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    for a scratch golfer, it makes sense that a shorter club will have a tighter dispersion as shorter is easier to control.

    the experiment could have been carried out better.

    We already the answer to the question though. is custom fitting better? Yes, it absolutely is. You’re getting dialed in and getting to pick the equipment that feels and produces the best number for you. For some, it might even be standard settings but in the end the custom fitting process allows you to exhaust all options.

    Now the real question would be is custom fitting WORTH it? that really is where the debate is. Does the extra $300-$1,000 net you enough distance/accuracy gain to justify the price?

  21. Jeff

    Aug 13, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    agree with a lot of what’s already been said.
    1. this test has no application to what actual golfers go through. the REAL question we all face is do we buy off the rack or go get fit? to purposely give them badly fit clubs assumes that clubs off the rack are usually this poorly fit (a bad assumption) and isn’t analogous.
    2. the test has too few shots from too few golfers. not only that but there’s no mention of whether or not the test subjects are told which clubs they are hitting (they shouldn’t be allowed to know), the order in which they are hitting the various clubs (should be evenly randomized), or any of a number of other ways this experiment could’ve been conducted better.
    3. the selection of the clusters is laughable. as was already mentioned, a number of great purple shots for the scratch player were removed so as to skew the purple group to the right side. shouldn’t you be removing the bad shots instead of the ones that don’t prove your point?
    4. you don’t get to pluck out your bad shots in a round of golf. being fit should take all shots into account. in some ways, the bad shots may actually matter more than the good shots. would you rather a club where your worse 5 shots are near the middle and short or a club where your worse 5 shots are all 30 yards offline and short? removing that data is a really bad idea.

    no offense but the author is reaching hard here to try to make a point. this result doesn’t surprise me though. anecdotally, i’ve been fit and i’ve known people who’ve been fit and there has almost never been a demonstrable change in either the perceived shot quality or scoring. a couple of months after i got fit, i made a change to my grip that completely altered my ballflight rendering a lot of what was done during the fitting obsolete. a few people i know who got fit had similar experiences. their games didn’t improve. the only time i’ve ever seen it have a huge effect: someone with a regular flex driver routinely hitting it 300+ off the tee got fit for an XS shaft. something ANYONE with half a brain could’ve told him and hardly worth $150. there really IS such a thing as being too bad to get fit.

    • Hawk

      Aug 14, 2015 at 7:28 am

      I agree with this entirely. You brought up a totally new point that the author points out. The author mentions he has folks get fitted before lessons, but this is a bad idea, because they will be fitted to an improper swing. These results show what has been known for years, a good player can hit any club, so the best thing to do is give someone lessons and get them swinging correctly and then get them fitted. I would love to have my clubs fitted, but my set serves me just fine, and I would really want hard evidence to say getting fit would benefit me. The really good guys seem to do better with un-fit clubs.

      I also agree with the randomization, and not knowing what brand club they are swinging. Knowing the brand and what club they are swinging introduces the variable called confirmation bias. Where they will intentionally swing different because they don’t like the brand, or they know it is different specs.

  22. christian

    Aug 13, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Like others have mentioned, compare with a standard spec set, 6-iron at 37.5″, lie at 62 degrees, S and R DG 300 shafts. Second this: “Here are the 5 best shots of each grouping” No it’s NOT. I see at least 2 shots in the purple group that are better than the “5 best shots” in the first illustration, one at 175 yards right on the centre line. This really was a horrible article.

    • Brian

      Aug 13, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Maybe he took out those based on extreme numbers on the track man like way low launch angles or spin speeds or something like that and not just the ones that landed in the best spots?

  23. Jon T

    Aug 13, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    I really like the data you put together. The one item I would have added would to have these people also hit their gamer 7 iron to see how it compares with the iron they were fit.

  24. Gordy

    Aug 13, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    How many of us play clubs that are too stiff in flex or to weak? We probably don’t even know because we make it happen.

    • Hawk

      Aug 13, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      My research into flex has more to do with the direction and behavior on a miss hit. There is research out there that shows that a swing speed of up to 100mph is just fine for regular and stiff flex shafts. However; the difference is in miss hits. If you miss hit with a regular flex the ball could go anywhere, with a stiff flex the ball is more likely going to stay low and straight and short because it isn’t flexing as much as impact.

      There is no definitive perfect shaft flex for anyone unless properly fitted. A regular and stiff flex have an overlap of about 25mph swing speed, right in the area where most golfers swing speed is.

  25. Gordy

    Aug 13, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    I think the biggest thing they should looked at is the proper flex for the shaft and length of the club.

  26. Hawk

    Aug 13, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I don’t agree with this at all. The test clubs are not conventional clubs and use the extreme spectrum of too long/upright and too short/flat. Where is the comparison to standard clubs off the shelf?

    In fact I wouldn’t consider this a real experiment unless it included a standard club off the shelf vs a fitted club off the shelf. The reason being is that is how most average golfers get fitted. They buy the standard off the shelf and have it fitted in house as long as it is free. That is the true comparison. There is obvious issues with short and long vs fitted and the higher the handicap the more glaring the results. However; this doesn’t show a true real world scenario, because most golfers buy a standard set off the shelf.

    • Mike

      Aug 13, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      This was exactly what I was thinking. Go ahead and have the extremes in there for fun but also take the test head directly off the shelf with stock shelves for the real meaty experiment.

      • Hawk

        Aug 13, 2015 at 1:11 pm

        I 100% agree. You can’t truly sell someone on getting fitted if you don’t show a direct comparison to the same club off the shelf vs fitted. I already know as an average golfer than too short/flat and too long/upright will have different results, but what about my already standard clubs? How do they compare to me getting fitted? Before a golfer goes out and spends several 100 to get fitted, these tests like that should give a much clearer representation of what to expect.

      • Brian

        Aug 13, 2015 at 2:58 pm

        I don’t agree. Why would they take clubs off the shelf? I know from my fitting experience that OTS clubs have serious variations in lie angle. Definitely not neutral. What this experiment does is takes a perfectly fitted club and compares it to two clubs that are too long and too short. Taking clubs off the shelf that might be 1/2″ too long, 1* too upright… What’s the point of comparing that to two other clubs that also aren’t fitted? Three poorly fitted clubs? That invalidates the science of the experiment. The control group.

        Unless I’m way missing your point.

        • Mike

          Aug 13, 2015 at 4:32 pm

          I guess it would be better to say, compare properly fit clubs to a set of manufacturer spec’d clubs (length, lie, loft).

          • Brian

            Aug 13, 2015 at 5:05 pm

            I think he cant do it. The club production allows for a margin of error that just wouldn’t make sense for this test. Take a set off the rack and test them all for lie angles.

            • Hawk

              Aug 14, 2015 at 7:06 am

              He can do it. He can take say a new TM burner 7 iron off the shelf, give it to the golfers and have them test it out, and record the data. Then take that same TM burner 7 iron and fit it to the golfer and run the test again. This would be a true test. The fact is most people who buy clubs buy them off the shelf and that is where the average guy needs to know if it is worth getting fitted, and the results of being fitted.

    • Tyler Elton

      Aug 13, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      It is all relative to the person who is hitting the club. It’s not 2 degrees upright and one inch long of standard. It’s two degrees upright and one inch long from the correct fitting. Therefor standard ” off the rack” would be irrelevant in this study.

      • Hawk

        Aug 13, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        How so? Do you go to your golf shop, or sports store and buy clubs that are long and upright compared to what is considered fitted, or do you buy the “standard” the manufacture has specified? You don’t know if that standard set off the shelf, say TM’s new CB blades for example, are too long and upright for you or too short and flat for you, so this test doesn’t take that into account. Clearly un-fitted clubs will not preform the same, but how does that compare to the standard set sitting on the golf shop floor?

        A true test is using this standard manufacture set that hasn’t been fitted to a golfer, and then fitting that same set to the golfer and seeing the difference, especially for the average player.

        • Brian

          Aug 13, 2015 at 3:45 pm

          I probably said it 2 or 3 times already but this argument makes no sense. It doesn’t matter what the clubs are like off the shelf. The clubs in this test are custom fit then adjusted to two relative extremes. That makes it a true scientific experiment. The variables are controlled and the equipment is based on an ideal fitting. The point being that you buy clubs off the shelf and then a profession fitter customizes them to your perfect specifications. What they are off the rack doesn’t really matter. Every golfer supposedly has a perfect length, lie, loft and flex based on their height, arms span, swing speed, etc.

          • Hawk

            Aug 14, 2015 at 7:14 am

            You’re missing the point. Of course taking fitted clubs and comparing that fitted club to clubs that aren’t fitted will yield these results. What it doesn’t answer is that 90% or higher number of golfers who go to Dick’s sporting goods and buy the latest Ping irons off the rack, or the latest TM, or Titleist. This article doesn’t account for what is manufacture standard irons, which according to the golf lords fits most golfers. So what is the benefit of a standard set being fitted? That is the question. I have a set of MP-60s non fitted. They are stock everything, standard off the shelf. So I would want to know what difference I would see in those vs that same club fitted. This is the case with every average golfer. If you want to sell fitted clubs you have to show the benefit to manufacture club standards. Hell even ping does this for free if you buy their clubs.

            • Brian

              Aug 14, 2015 at 3:26 pm

              It doesn’t matter because the OTS clubs aren’t “controlled.” You might as well have them hit 10 balls with every 6i manufactured in the world.

              To recap: it doesn’t matter what the rack club is because they are all different. It’s not really going to tell you if the fitting is better than the one OEM club because they are all different. Take 5 TM 6i of the same SKU and I bet $100 they don’t all have the same lie angle.

    • Scooter McGavin

      Aug 13, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Yep. You’re exactly right. Over the last several years, pros and writers have been spinning data and articles to convince everyone that they need a custom fitting. They don’t realize that they are probably hurting the golf industry by this. What do they think is better for the golf industry? People being turned off by the added cost and confusion of fittings? Or being able to walk in and have the salesman tell them “this is an awesome set of clubs. You’ll have tons of fun playing them” and walking out the door with a set of clubs? The manufacturers make their club specs right down the middle so that he majority of golfers can have moderate success with them. Sure, if you have outliers like really tall or short people, go ahead and do some fitting. But honestly, the golf industry needs more in and out, off the shelf club purchases.

    • Brian

      Aug 13, 2015 at 2:47 pm

      When I got fitted my TM Rocketbladez Tour were all a little flat or upright. He had to bend every club 1 to 1.5*.

      • Hawk

        Aug 14, 2015 at 8:24 am

        This re-enforces my point. Based on this article he would have started you off with TM Rocketbladez tour (nice clubs BTW) already bent 1 to 1.5* then he would have lengthen them an inch and bent them more upright, and also shortened them an inch and flatted them. Neither of those 3 configurations was the OEM settings. So this article fails to illustrate how fitted clubs compares to the OEM configuration of the clubs. It would have been nice if they did that as a 4th test.

        • Brian

          Aug 17, 2015 at 7:46 am

          agreed. There could have been a fourth test. It would have been interesting.

  27. Hawk

    Aug 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Right off the bat I don’t agree with the assessment. You use intentionally altered un-fit clubs for testing. The best way to test this would be to use OTS (off the shelf) clubs that already set to a “standard” fit, instead of making a club that is too long, and one too short.

    This is not a true test. As you can see with the scratch golfer, a good player can play with any club, but an average player cannot. However; the average player isn’t being compared to off the shelf standard clubs to custom fit clubs, nor does it account for how modified the fitted club is.

    If I was to truly do this test I would use a standard off the shelf club and then custom fit that same club and see the results. This would be a much truer test of if a club fitting is worth while for an average golfer. Clearly the way this was tested, shows yes, but in an extreme situation where the other clubs are too long or too short.

    This is a great piece though, except the data is skewed severely. I’d be interested in seeing real data with off the self clubs vs a fitted off the shelf club.

    • Brian

      Aug 13, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      now I see what you’re saying. Was confused by your previous similar comment. But you can’t really do it that way. Clubs off the shelf are all within an acceptable range of error. Might be too upright and too strong. They just don’t inspect every club off the production line. So instead of taking a variable that isn’t controlled they take a perfect a weak and a strong (adjusted off the “perfect” fitted club). Seems like a good experiment to me.

      • Hawk

        Aug 14, 2015 at 7:20 am

        I agree with the variable, but I look at it a different way. If the point of this article is to sell you on getting fitted clubs, what good does it do when it doesn’t compare those stock clubs off the shelf. Yes I understand every club manufacture has different standards, but if a fitting is truly better, than not being fitted, then there should be tangible evidence in an experiment like this, regardless of the manufacture’s standard.

  28. Thomas

    Aug 13, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Wow, based on this “research” I would tell every better player to get their clubs fit first and then make them an inch short and 2 degrees flat! That purple dispersion in the last one is sick which the author fails to mention. This article does not truly test anything as it states in the beginning. No person with any education would ever make conclusions based on a sample size of one. And here even when the conclusions are being made, the tightest dispersion pattern is disregarded.

    • Robeli

      Aug 13, 2015 at 8:38 pm

      Yip, I would take the ‘purple’, and slightly adjust my alignment, and boom, hit the flag every time. There goes Tom’s argument out the door.

      • kloyd0306

        Aug 16, 2015 at 6:47 am

        If any argument is disproved by the excellent dispersion of the too short/too flat iron, it is that golf manufacturers have continued to make their so called “standard” longer and longer as well as more upright and yet the better golfer proves that a tighter dispersion can be found by going shorter and flatter.

    • Mark

      Aug 13, 2015 at 8:52 pm

      Exactly what I was thinking too.

      From that data, one could easily conclude that a better golfer doesn’t need to be fit for clubs.

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Instruction

Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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Instruction

How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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