The equipment you play can have a major impact on your performance on the golf course. Your consistency, your ability to hit different shots, and the types of misses you encounter all depend on having the proper equipment.
As a teaching professional, I like to turn to the experts on the equipment side of the game so I can maximize the performance of my students on the lesson tee and not waste anyone’s time. We can hack away all day, but if you’re swinging a regular-flex driver shaft and you need an extra-stiff shaft, we’ll never make much progress. You may actually even regress.
Sometimes, all that’s required is a simple shaft change, while other times a more in-depth change is in order, such as adjusting lofts, lie angles or swing weights. Regardless, the fact remains that without the experts in the field of club fitting, my job would be 100 percent more difficult and much less effective. In a perfect world, I would have each of my clients fit with the correct clubs before I even taught them their first lesson, since doing so would eliminate one piece of the puzzle.
For the last several years, Golf Digest has put out a list of the Top-100 Clubfitters in the country: the best of the best at getting golfers fit into equipment that works for them. Today, I would like to introduce two of those fitters that I hold in very high regard: Scott Felix of Felix Clubworks and Kirk Oguri. In this Q&A, we discuss equipment, technology, and what it all means for amateurs and professionals alike. I hope you enjoy their expert insight.
Tom Stickney: You have each been club fitters/builders for almost 20 years. How has technology evolved from a fitting standpoint to make your job easier?
Scott Felix: Interchangeable shafts in the same head have made it easier to control inventory, offer more options and be able to adjust lie/face angle. Moveable weights have also allowed us to change spin, CG (center of gravity) and draw or fade bias. The fitter must still know how to control each of the variables based on the person swinging the club, however, as well as the type of transition and swing they have.
Kirk Oguri: Technology and advancements of measurement tools have allowed for fitters/builders to be able to build and adjust equipment much faster and more accurately to spec. The guessing game has been reduced.
Stickney: How has shaft and head technology evolved?
Felix: Shaft materials gotten better and there are more options, and lighter-weight options that are still stable. The materials have gotten lighter and stronger in the heads allowing engineers the ability to move weight to make faces faster and the MOI (moment of inertia) much higher.
Oguri: Golf shafts are made at a higher tolerance and of higher quality control. Profiles are much easier to create. If the shafts are not of high quality control, it is that company’s choice to skip that process, not because they are unable to control it properly. Club head designs have evolved, utilizing different materials to move CG, displace weight, etc. Unfortunately, the governing bodies have made the evolution of club heads and designs more difficult.
Stickney: We all know the player who says, “I’m not good enough to get fit,” or “I never make the same swing twice, anyway.” How do you respond to this?
Felix: What we always say is “You’re not good enough NOT to get fit and here are the reasons why…”
Oguri: I wholeheartedly disagree with that golfer. A less-skilled golfer does not have the ability to overcome ill-fit lengths, weights, flexes, lofts, grip sizes, etc. The average golfer requires golf equipment that fits their game more than the elite golfer who has the ability to adapt.
Stickney: Should anyone carry long irons in their bag?
Felix: Slim to none. There still are players who create enough speed to hit long irons/driving irons. Some guys still feel more comfortable with an iron over a hybrid. More should play hybrids, but driving irons are getting better and more forgiving as well, so they are getting more play than before.
Oguri: Yes. Flat-faced irons have a better plus/minus for launch, spin, direction than a hybrid for some golfers who don’t require higher flight. There are also enough golfers who do not hit hybrids well due to the majority being draw bias.
Stickney: How do you fit the player who comes to you with preconceived notions of what they need and want to use, but they’re incorrect? (i.e. shaft flex, set make up, etc).
Felix: You give them the stuff that they want and let them get numbers off Trackman. Then start working a few different options and let the numbers confirm or deny. The proof is in the pudding, plus you’re able to see ball flight and confirm numbers. It’s hard for anyone to argue with numbers and seeing ball flight.
Oguri: I wouldn’t treat it any different than when a golfer comes for a golf lesson with their own ideas of what they believe is best for their game. I would discuss what they believe in, help them sort it out, and have constant feedback and discussion to help them to understand what may be better suited for their game in the long run.
Stickney: Does club fitting really help the professional player or can they “make” their clubs work?
Felix: Yes, club fitting does help the Tour player. Everyone has tendencies, even tour players. So if you can minimize flaws and give an them opportunity even when they’re a little off — that is the goal. So they can make anything work, but what works with their natural motion and tendencies?
Oguri: Elite players have the skill to overcome a golf club that doesn’t work best for them, but it doesn’t mean they will play to their best ability. I’ve worked with enough Tour players who don’t have the best equipment for their games and have helped them. Just remember, club fitting isn’t just reading numbers off a launch monitor and finding optimal. There’s much more to it.
Stickney: Every OEM claims their new driver is “longer and more accurate” than last year’s model. Is this really true, or do you feel that it’s all marketing hype?
Felix: Every company has to sell product and market their product as the next best thing. So companies can get lucky and make back-to-back great products, but most likely not. Now with some companies, things work better than others from year to year, but knowing what is hot that year vs. last year is up to a great fitter who is not biased and only wants the best product for their clients at the time. We consult, verify, and guide customers everyday into the best option possible.
Oguri: The majority of OEM’s are striving to lower CG to lower backspin. Some are doing a better job than others to not only lower CG, but to keep it as far back as possible to lower spin while also maintaining MOI. This does not always mean these new drivers are best for everyone. Not everyone needs lower spin! I’ve seen enough golfers that benefit from a higher-CG driver due to their higher strike location of the face and reduced loft at impact.
Stickney: If you have used the same woods and the same irons for X number of years, when it is truly time to take a look at the new options?
Felix: Depends on the person. When someone they play with starts playing better through getting fit, hitting the ball past them when they never did … I don’t think that you always need to get new stuff, but make sure you are not leaving anything on the table. It’s good to check every now and then. All you might have to do is add a 5 wood or hybrid, check gaps on your wedges, etc.
Oguri: In my opinion, a golfer has an idea as to when they want something different from their golf clubs. If a golfer changes their swing patterns significantly, that may be a good time to be evaluated for their changes. Or if the clubs are still made of trees, perhaps it’s also time.
Stickney: Can you really fit someone without technology such as Trackman or Foresight at the average levels?
Felix: Not anymore…..YOU HAVE TO HAVE TECHNOLOGY TO VERIFY NUMBERS AND DATA. You can’t just guess. You’re not even in the game if you don’t at least have Trackman or FlightScope.
Oguri: Yes, it can be done if that fitter/builder has a vast knowledge base and experience to know what ball flights look like, although it makes it much more difficult. But… they must be hitting real golf balls and not range balls!
Stickney: If you could tell the average player one thing in regard to what you do and the clubfitting industry, what would it be?
Felix: I hope to help people enjoy the game more by getting their equipment fit correctly for them in order to maximize scoring, minimize misses, and to score better in the game we are all so passionate about.
Oguri: I do my best to match their golf equipment to their current or future swing patterns to help them play better golf.
Stickney: Thanks guys!