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After Professional Golf: Why I Changed the Way I Test Equipment

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Even for a professional golfer, testing golf clubs can sometimes feel like a difficult task. If you keep an eye on the equipment golfers are using each week on the PGA Tour, you will notice it takes longer for certain players to switch into the newest models than others. They may put a new club in the bag for a few events, but then revert back. Think of Henrik Stenson and his seven-year-old Callaway 3 wood. New fairway woods may test better on a launch monitor, look great, and feel solid to him, but in competition it can be a different story.

I played collegiately for UCLA and then turned professional after, so I have always been lucky to have access to the latest golf equipment. Even with unlimited options, I always erred on the conservative side of switching clubs during my competitive career. Having to adjust to new courses every week, I felt like trying new equipment would overwhelm the task at hand, which was to play well. When new irons came out, I asked them to be built in the same makeup that I had before. It was the same with drivers. I would simply test the head on my gamer shaft, make sure it looked and felt great, and then I would have it built to my current specs. Years went by and I was still in the same shafts and specs even though many things had changed in the golf equipment landscape.

Most fitters and golfers agree that people can adapt to their equipment, and looking back, I can say that I did so with my clubs. I have always been a high-speed player, and I tended toward a higher ball flight with plenty of spin. As a result of that, the iron shafts I played continued to get stiffer and stiffer, and I used the stoutest driver shafts trimmed as much as 1.5 inches. I began to notice that under pressure, I struggled with two main things:

  1. Misses to the right with my driver.
  2. Partial shots with irons where I simply couldn’t feel the club load.

If I was having an off day, it was brutal to feel the club and control the face. I really had to go all out to load the club properly, and if I didn’t the club felt harsh. That harsh feeling became my norm, what I thought I liked, and what I compared things to.

golfwrx-4

Yep, I’ve hit each of these shafts on my shaft wall.

It was only after becoming a club fitter and running a club fitting and testing facility that I really started to test equipment at another level. I began personally testing all the products from golf equipment and shaft manufacturers to get a feel for what a player might sense in each product. I also want to see if the products were actually doing what the companies said they should do. That’s why when new irons are released, I will match specs across the board from all the brands so I can isolate the performance of the club heads.

In my personal testing process, I am demanding of the looks of a club, as many experienced golfers are. I really want impact to have a certain feel and for the ball flight to be precise. My miss is on the toe slightly, so when testing for myself I pay particular attention to how different heads perform on toe hits and how that changes launch, spin, and overall dispersion.

Once I start understanding how certain club heads perform, I run through a few different shaft combinations to see how things change. When I think I’ve found a winner, then I really dive into the shaft options. The variety and quality of shafts is now better than ever before, but they can by tricky to test and change because once a player finds a club that feels a certain way, they get used to it. That feel becomes the norm, and that norm is not necessarily what is best.

Since focusing on club fitting, I have also embraced modern technologies more than I did as a player. When I was competing full time, I used technology to occasionally check my ball flight metrics, but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with numbers. I now realize how impactful and helpful technology can be in optimizing a set makeup. From Trackman to Foresight to GEARS, which I use at my facility, I believe embracing modern testing protocols and learning more about the cause and effect of ball flight can really help players. I personally saw it in my game.

There are things even the most experienced eye can sometime miss, and gathering some solid data on your game can really help you gain more confidence that your game and clubs are moving in the right direction. As a result of changing my testing protocols, I have gradually switched pretty much every specification in my set. I switched iron and wedge lofts, lie angle, and club length, as well as brand, weight and profile of all my shafts. None of it was necessarily done on purpose. It was the end result of doing more rigorous testing than ever before. I slowly started piecing together a new set makeup that not only improved my ball flight, but also improved and helped me achieve positions in my swing I always struggled to accomplish.

I also now realize that changing golf equipment is an ever-evolving process. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year I change a couple more specs in my set makeup if I am trying to achieve something different in my ball flight. Club heads and shafts are designed for different goals and made of different materials, and the launch and spin of the golf ball is ever changing. Equipment companies are constantly trying to improve performance, and I think it helps if golfers are open to the possibility of change. I never was while I was playing, and now that look back and I wish I was more open to the idea.

golfwrx-6

Gears is key to my fitting sessions, both in my personal testing and client fittings.

For golfers who like technology and equipment, it is certainly an exciting time. Gone are the club fitting days of just beating balls off mats and having someone watch the ball flight and check lie angles on a lie board. Technology should help a player understand why a certain product might produce a different ball fight. Will switching shafts change the angle of attack or loft I present at impact due to different amounts of deflection? Will changing a shaft profile alter the droop pattern and thus the lie angle and where the face points at impact? What causes certain players to experience a shaft as stout and the next player who swings slower to experience it as whippy? And does that feel make them swing a club differently?

Golf equipment innovation and our ability to more accurately measure performance will continue to improve, and this technology will only help coaches and fitters while helping golfers find more answers and improve. That’s why I believe one of the best things a golfer can do to improve their game is go put their equipment to the test. Measure your current set and its performance, and then try a few new options out there, ideally with the help of a knowledgeable and experienced fitter. It will give you a better understanding of what your patterns and tendencies are, and the end result will be more confidence. You’ll know if you have the best clubs for your game, and if you don’t, you’ll learn what your weaknesses are and what you can do to get the absolute best performance.

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Peter Campbell is a professional golfer and the head club fitter at the Gears Performance Center at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California. He competed collegiately at UCLA, and since then has played events on the PGA and Web.com tour, PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamerica, as well as various mini tours. He currently works with players of all levels on their game as well as helping to understand their equipment better.

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Deadeye

    Jul 27, 2017 at 11:15 am

    The ultimate tinkerer, Arnold Palmer. I wonder if he ever got fitted? Did well though.

  2. Bob Pegram

    Jul 27, 2017 at 1:33 am

    The ability to play well even when playing infrequently is a good indicator of how well your clubs fit. There shouldn’t be a need to practice uncomfortable or unnatural swing mechanics to play well.
    I experimented a lot with different specs in my own clubs. Working for a clubfitter and doing some of the fittings myself helped a lot. I became a good fitter. I still fit clubs and often see immediate improvement in my students.
    For my own use I finally ended up with a set WAY out of the norm – all very long and stiff. Now I play well without a lot of practice. I became more accurate and consistent. I don’t have to alter my basic swing at all to use the clubs. A little warm up and I am ready to play. They even eliminated my big miss.

  3. Bobalu

    Jul 26, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Great article- you nailed it. Keep up the good work!

  4. Golfandpuff

    Jul 26, 2017 at 11:15 am

    I would certainly enjoy the chance to delve into a club fitting world. If only there were a way for me to make it affordable! I also look at guys like Langer who don’t change much year after year vs. other big names that are always looking, testing, playing, new equipment. Is Freddie still hitting that r9?

    I did email a fancy place near me in Atlanta for a fitting and a few upfront questions. I never received a reply. I certainly appreciate articles like these as well as golf wrx for keeping me informed.

  5. Peter Campbell

    Jul 26, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Cant’t lie…Ive been on the site quite a few times. Great content on it!

  6. Tommy

    Jul 26, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Exactly…..time and money is the commodity in question here, not the endless options. Most barely have time to even play much less to spend that precious time in a fitting bay with someone who might not even know what they’re doing. If we could fly to Carlsbad, now that we know of SOMEONE who knows, and spend a couple grand for your time and upgrades, that would be great. What happens when we get home and find that we don’t feel comfortable with our new $$$$ setup? Very few swing as consistently as a former touring pro. It’s a real conundrum.

    • Peter Campbell

      Jul 26, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Thanks for the comment Tommy. It is tricky, equipment costs keep increasing every year it seems like. One company ups their price, then the rest follow suit. And there is no denying certain fitting and build shops have had a tendency to always push people into expensive aftermarket products even when not much gain is realized. Nobody wants to get fit for clubs then get a huge bill One comment i will make that you mentioned and we see almost daily is that the thought the average player isn’t consistent. We see quite the opposite a lot of the time. Even high handicap players, who have really inconsistent start lines and ball flights, have more consistent swings than they realize some of the time. Their path, aoa, impact locations, speed, while maybe not the best or desirable motion, is actually pretty consistent for many high handicap players. The one thing that isn’t, and is unfortunately the most important piece of the puzzle, is where the club face is in relation to the path. So there are many ways fitting wise to help a player achieve a more consistent face angle at impact, or at least help bias one direction. Hope that makes sense. Appreciate the read!

    • birdie

      Jul 26, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      i think a major misconception is how many amateurs think just because they don’t have a perfect repeatable swing that they don’t have repeatable features of their swing that would allow a fitter to best find equipment that suits them.

      whether its tempo, transition, release, or one of the many many aspects of the swing, even if you are high handicap and not hitting center of face consistently you are in fact making a similar swing. And even as you improve, your changes are probably less drastic than you might imagine.

  7. BigBoy

    Jul 25, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    It’s why i still play my 10yr old Orlimar 3 wood.

    • Lloyd

      Jul 25, 2017 at 9:52 pm

      … and I still play with my 20+ y.o. Powerbilt TPS 180cc 15º 3 wood… with a bore-thru steel shaft too.

    • Peter Campbell

      Jul 26, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      too funny you mention that. I occasionally bring in old school products to test against that brands newest release and see how they stack up. I brought in my old orlimar strong 3 wood to see how it does and will be testing it this week. I loved that thing. I personally still game a burner 2.0 driving iron i had built up years ago. A 3 iron bent really strong basically…I simply cant find anything that beats its numbers, let alone the confidence i have with it having relied on so many times in tournaments on tight tee shots.

  8. Anthony

    Jul 25, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    This is exactly what I have done for the past 17 years and have constantly worked with the tech (not when I was playing, like you) and found that my entire bag make up is completely different to when I was at the top of my game!!! This is a great article and many should take note and improve their game with all the tech possible to get the greater understanding of what actually works, not what they think works….
    Well done Peter.

  9. AJ

    Jul 25, 2017 at 10:34 am

    New equipment is fun and I know thats what WRX is all about, but I think people take their tinkering way too far. The difference between 1 product and 1000 others is so small it is actually more about how you we swinging during the test than what the clubs did. Golf is about consistency to shoot lower scores… so regularly changing variables will not improve consistentcy. Manufacturers want you to think their new products are game changers but really the only game changer is hard practice every day. You can shoot lower scores with the equipment in your bag now if you put the time into your game and take the doubt out of your “specs”. Adapt and evolve.

    • Someone

      Jul 25, 2017 at 10:47 am

      i think it’s a mix of the two. at some point you need to get fitted. and then play that equipment long enough, say at least 2-4 years before getting fitted for anything new.

    • Noob

      Jul 25, 2017 at 11:24 am

      AJ, did you not read any of the article? He said, he would build sets to the same specs all across the board (shaft, weight, flex, etc) so that the only variables would be the design-look of the head and materials used in it. Then, you know how each one performs according to how you swing, and can eliminate the head you didn’t like, etc. Yeah we can all adapt, but you can’t be adapting to every club in the club all the time and every shot, if every club in the bag were all different from each other and expecting great results. You should get dialed in to what works for your swing the best and have a whole set matched and built to that

      • The_Sad_Reality

        Jul 25, 2017 at 6:31 pm

        But the sad reality is that most of these fitters are NOT using science to fit golfers and are not truly building clubs to the same specs (as stated in the article). That’s because they are not using MOI measurements and they are not taking into account the weight distribution of the components across the build. They use trial-and-error and the resulting measurements in their fitting approach rather than hard science that eliminates the many variables that are introduced by the variation in golfers’ inconsistent swings. Today’s fitters can never be sure that they have actually fit a golfer with the most optimal setup. All they might be able to say is, of the equipment tested, that it was the build that produced the best numbers on that day. Be wary of fitters who are not versed in MOI (and MBI) and preach swingweight and use lie boards for lie angle adjustments.

      • Peter Campbell

        Jul 25, 2017 at 8:03 pm

        Hey Noob, appreciate the comment. It never hurts to test and see whats out there. So many different looks and feels, and of course Lots of marketing and hype, but it helps to truly do solid testing or fitting to see what is helping our game or not worth the time or money. Many times it may be the current set, then at least we now that!

    • AJ

      Jul 25, 2017 at 9:10 pm

      Not discounting a good fitting, He certainly does his dillegence to make testing fair. I posed the question why spend so much effort regularly testing everything when what you have can produce lower scores if you practice vs tinker. There is no holy grail of equipment and no one makes the same swing twice so what works slightly better today doesn’t tomorrow. Swings evolve so eliminate the variable of rapidly changing equipment. You are not gonna get another 50 yards or double your accuracy with a new stick. Familiarity develops feel. Same reason why gaming the same putter for a decade makes sense, the more you practice with it the more in tune you are with it.

      • Peter Campbell

        Jul 25, 2017 at 9:39 pm

        Completely agree with your point AJ. Once we know what setup works best, whether it is their current set or something different, putting time in to practice and play is crucial. Its tough to say it in an article, but i guess my point was to not be afraid to try to new things when the landscape changes. Such as just going and buying a new driver with your same specs. As the materials and golf balls change, simply staying in the same shaft or setup simply because it feels comfortable and good might not be the best idea. But i totally agree with what your saying, most players don’t need to be over thinking or over tinkering. There will always be certain players that love that aspect of the game, and thats fine, but for most players quality practice time cant be beaten to improve your scores. Thanks for the read and comments, much appreciated!

        • Noob

          Jul 25, 2017 at 11:39 pm

          But here we are, on WRX! A tinkerer’s paradise of tinkering information! So why not tinker? Tinker with it all till death. It’s never ending with so much stuff out there.

  10. Josh

    Jul 25, 2017 at 8:16 am

    $5000/yr in new golf equipment. Easy enough.

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Opinion & Analysis

15 hot takes from Greg Norman on our 19th Hole podcast

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Our Michael Williams spoke with the Great White Shark himself, Greg Norman, for GolfWRX’s 19th Hole podcast. Not surprisingly, the two-time major champion had no shortage of hot takes.

While you’ll want to check out the full ‘cast, here are 15 takes of varying degrees of hotness, from Norman’s feelings about bifurcation to whether he’d pose for ESPN’s Body Issue.

1) He wants bifurcation immediately, rolling back technology for the pros, rolling it forward for amateurs

“I would instigate a bifurcation of the rules. I would roll back the golf ball regulations to pre-1996. I would roll back the technology that’s in the golf equipment for the professionals. And I would open up the technology and give it to the masses because the pros who developed the maximum club head speed of 118, 120 are the ones who maximize what technology is in that piece of equipment. So the person who’s under 100 miles an hour does not hit the ball an extra 30, 35 yards at all. They may pick up a few yards but they don’t get the full benefit of that technology…I would definitely do that because I think we’ve gotta make the game more fun for the masses. “

2) He has no relationship with Tiger Woods and doesn’t plan to watch him play golf

“And this might sound kind of strange. What I’ll say is … I really, in all honesty, I really don’t care what Tiger does with golf. I think Tiger is, golf probably needs him to some degree but golf doesn’t need him, if you know what I mean, because there’s so many other incredibly talented great young players out there, probably a dozen of them, maybe even more, that are equal, if not way better than Tiger, and they can carry the baton of being the number one player in the world. So, I get a little bit perplexed about and disappointed about how some of these guys get pushed into the background by the attention Tiger gets. I hope he does well. If he doesn’t do well, it doesn’t bother me. If he does do well, it doesn’t bother me.”

3) He plays almost no golf these days

“I really don’t play a lot of golf. I played with my son in the father-son at the end of last year, had a blast with him. Played a little bit of golf preparing for that. But since then I have not touched a golf club.”

4) He doesn’t enjoy going to the range anymore

“To be honest with you I’m sick and tired of being on the driving range hitting thousands and thousands of golf balls. That bores me to death now. My body doesn’t like it to tell you the truth. Since I’ve stopped playing golf I wake up without any aches and pains and I can go to the gym on a regular basis without aches and pains. So my lifestyle is totally different now. My expectations, equally, is totally different.”

5) It took him a long time to get used to recreational golf

“But I’ve been in this mode now for quite a few years now so the first couple of years, yes. My body was not giving me what my brain was expecting. So you do have to make those mental adjustments. Look, there’s no difference than when you hit 40, you’re a good player or not a good player. Things start to perform differently. Your proprioception is different. Your body is different. I don’t care how good you are and how great physical shape you are. Your body after just pure wear and tear, it eventually does tend to break down a little bit. And when you’re under the heat of the battle and under the gun, when you have to execute the most precise shot, your body sometimes doesn’t deliver what you want.”

6) He’s a big Tom Brady fan

“I’m a big fan, big admirer of his. He gets out of it what he puts into it obviously…But he’s also a role model and a stimulator for his teammates. No question, when you go to play Brady and the Patriots, you’d better bring your A game because he’s already got his A game ready to go.”

7) He believes we’ll see 50-plus-year-old winners on Tour

“I said this categorically when Tom Watson nearly won at Turnberry in his 50s, when I nearly won at Royal Birkdale in my 50s….if you keep yourself physically in good shape, flexibility in good shape, as well as your swing playing, and your swing. Yeah, maybe the yips come in maybe they don’t, that depends on the individual, right? But at the end of the day, my simple answer is yes. I do believe that’s going to happen.”

8) The Shark logo has been vital to his post-golf success

“But I realized very early on in life too that every athlete, male or female, no matter what sports you play you’re a finite entity. You have a finite period of time to maximize your best performance for X number of years. And with golf, if you look at it historically, it’s almost like a 15 year cycle. I had my 15 year run. Every other player has really has had a 15 year run, plus or minus a few years.”

“So you know you have that definitive piece of time you got to work with and then what you do after that is understanding what you did in that time period. And then how do you take that and parlay it? I was lucky because I had a very recognizable logo. It wasn’t initials. It wasn’t anything like that. It was just a Great Shark logo. And that developed a lot of traction. So I learned marketing and branding very, very quickly and how advantageous it could be as you look into the future about building your businesses.”

9) He’s tried to turn on-course disappointments into positives

“We all … well I shouldn’t say we all. I should say the top players, the top sports men and women work to win. Right? And when we do win that’s what we expected ourselves to do because we push ourselves to that limit. But you look at all the great golfers of the past and especially Jack Nicklaus, it’s how you react to a loss is more important than how you react to a victory. And so, I learned that very, very early on. And I can’t control other people’s destiny. I can’t control what other people do on the golf course. So I can only do what I do. When I screw up, I use that as a very strong study point in understanding my weakness to make sure that I make a weakness a strength.”

10) Jordan Spieth is best suited to be the top player in the world

“I think that Jordan is probably the most balanced, with best equilibrium in the game. He’s probably, from what I’m seeing, completely in touch with the responsibilities of what the game of golf and the success in the game of golf is.”

11) His golf design is built on two pillars

“Two things: Begin with the end in mind and the least disturbance approach. I think we, the industry of golf course design industry, really did the game of golf a major disservice in the 80s and 90s when everybody was leveraged to the hilt, thought they had unlimited capital, and thought they could just go build these big golf courses with big amounts of money invested in with magnificent giant club houses which weren’t necessary. So, we were actually doing a total disservice to the industry because it was not sustainable.”

12) He’s still not happy about having essentially invented the WGC events and not getting credit

“I’ll always be a little bit salty about that because there’s a saying that I keep telling everybody, “slay the dreamer.” I came up with a pretty interesting concept where the players would be the part owners of their own tour or their own destiny and rewarded the riches if they performed on the highest level. And quite honestly, Michael, actually a friend of mine sent me an article, it was a column written, “Shark and Fox Plan to Take a Bite out of the PGA”. And this is written in 11/17/94 and I literally just got it last night. And I’m reading through this article and I’m going, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I was ahead of my time!” I really was ahead of my time.

So, it was very, very kind of like a reflective moment for me. I read it again this morning with a cup of coffee and I did sit back and, I’ll be brutally honest with you and your listeners, and did sit back and I did get a little bit angry because of the way I was portrayed, the way I was positioned.”

13) He was muzzled by the producer at Fox

“I’m not going to dig deep into this, I think there was just a disconnect between the producer and myself. I got on really well with the director and everybody else behind the scenes, some of my thought processes about what I wanted to talk about situations during the day, and it just didn’t pan out. And things that I wanted to say, somebody would be yelling in my ear, “Don’t say it, don’t say it!” So it became a very much a controlled environment where I really didn’t feel that comfortable.”

14) Preparation wasn’t the problem during his U.S. Open broadcast

“I was totally prepared so wherever this misleading information comes saying I wasn’t prepared, I still have copious notes and folders about my preparation with the golf course, with the players, with the set-up, with conditioning. I was totally prepared. So that’s an assumption that’s out there that is not true. So there’s a situation where you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.

15) He would do ESPN’s Body Issue

“Of course I’d do it. I think I like being fit. I think on my Instagram account I probably slipped a few images out there that created a bit of a stir…And I enjoy having myself feel good. And that’s not an egotistical thing, it’s just none of my, most of my life I’ve been very healthy fit guy and if somebody like ESPN wants to recognize that, yeah of course I would consider doing it.”

Don’t forget to listen to the full podcast here!

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TG2: “If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” (Part 2)

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“If you could only play one brand, what would it be?” Brian Knudson and Andrew Tursky debate their choices in part 2 of this podcast (click here in case you missed Part 1). Also, TG2 welcomes special guest and GolfWRX Forum Member Ed Settle to the show to discuss what clubs he has in the bag.

Listen to our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Greg Norman on why he won’t watch Tiger Woods this week at the Genesis Open

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Greg Norman, Hall of Fame golfer and entrepreneur, tells us why he won’t watch the Genesis Open this week even if Tiger is in contention. He also discusses his ventures and adventures on and off the course, and shares the thing about the PGA Tour that still makes him angry.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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