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.

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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.

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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

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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

      • 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.

      • 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!

    • 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.

      • 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!

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