Throughout my golf career, I have been fortunate to spend time with some of the best club fitters in the world. Before I became a full-time golf instructor, I was a Tour Rep for TrackMan, which had me traveling around the U.S. and beyond to top club fitters and golf professionals. Through that experience, combined with my own teaching and fitting background, I have come to understand the many mistakes that can be made during a club fitting.
This article is not meant as a criticism toward any club fitter or golf professional. I simply want to pass on what I’ve learned to GolfWRXers and the greater golf community to do my part to make sure golfers don’t end up with a set of clubs that are a detriment to their games (and their wallets). These are the 5 biggest mistakes in club fitting.
1. Using Face Tape
Face tape has been used in club fitting for a long time. It is extremely helpful in showing us where on the club face a golf ball was struck, and it helps us understand more about why the ball is flying the way it does. This is the only way I would ever recommend using tape on the face of a golf club.
If you are a club fitter or a golf professional trying to protect your golf club during a fitting, it’s fine to put tape on the top or bottom of a wood to protect it from sole wear or potential sky marks. It’s a grave mistake to use tape on the face when you’re evaluating ball flight and/or launch monitor numbers, however, and you can see why in the example below.
With the tape on his driver club face, this golfer had about 700 more rpm of spin and 14 yards less total distance. If you are a golf professional and you want to dial in your students, DO NOT use face tape when you’re evaluating ball flight. A good alternative to face tape is Dr. Scholls foot spray. It may sound a little strange, but it will show where the ball was struck and have little to no effect on the ball flight.
2. Assuming Optimal Launch and Spin are Uniform
This is something I hear quite a bit, even from golf equipment manufacturers. Not too long ago, many in the golf industry were in agreement that the optimal launch and spin for any golfer with a driver for maximum distance was a 17-degree launch angle with 1700 rpm of spin. This might be true in a bubble, but we as humans have thousands of different combinations of swings and speeds, making this guideline almost completely useless. Take a look at some numbers for two very different golfers below: Player A and Player B. I want you to consider what you think good launch and spin should be for both.
In this scenario, I think most would assume that Player A (a low-speed player) would need significantly more spin to be optimal than Player B (a high-speed player). The rule of thumb is that the slower a golfer swings, the more spin they need to keep the ball in the air for maximum distance. Using that guideline, however, you wouldn’t optimize either golfer.
In club fittings, everything hinges on the specific needs of the golfer in front of you. The three main player inputs that determine optimal launch and spin are:
- Club Head Speed
- Attack Angle
- Desired Trajectory
In choosing a desired trajectory, a golfer has three options. They can opt for a high trajectory for maximum carry distance, a low trajectory for the most roll out (and sometimes the most total distance, depending on the conditions of the courses they play), or a combination that balances the two (carry and total). For simplicity, let’s assume both of these golfers want to optimize for the combination of carry and total. Now, let’s take a look at the optimization chart for each player below.
Player A Optimized
As it turns out, Player B with 135 mph of club head speed needs more spin than Player A with 76 mph of club head speed. It goes against my instincts, too, but it’s true. The reason is the Attack Angle for each player.
- Player A is hitting 5-degrees up on the ball, so he is already launching the ball into the air. For that reason, he doesn’t need as much spin for optimal distance.
- Player B is hitting 3-degrees down on the ball, so he needs more more loft and more spin to keep the ball in the air for optimal distance.
3. Only Looking at Distance Gained
This is the biggest and most common mistake I see during fittings. Both golfers and fitters are guilty of focusing on the one shot that travels 8-10 yards further during a fitting, and because it has the most distance potential, they assume that it’s the best club. I will never tell anyone that distance isn’t important, but I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on it in both driver and iron fittings.
Dispersion is huge for playability, and I suggest fitters take the time to allow golfers to hit plenty of shots in fittings. This allows them to not only optimize for distance, but also for dispersion.
Golf equipment manufacturers have given us fantastic equipment that can makes it very easy to adjust ball flight. The ability we have to tweak weighting, face angle, and lie angle can be vital to our ability to create a tighter dispersion. If you’re fitting outside, however, I encourage all fitters to go beyond the flat, perfect lies of the driving range. Have golfers hit shots from different lies and locations, and get them out on the course if you can. By testing clubs for the shots golfers are most likely to encounter during a normal round of play, you’re going to gain a much better understanding of what club will actually perform best for them.
Above are the Trackman numbers for a highly skilled junior golfer during a driver fitting. He was carrying shots about 245 yards with a total distance of 260 yards, and the ball was flying very straight. In the fitting, we were able to narrow down his best options to two drivers. With one of them, he cracked the longest shot he hit all day: 251.5 yards in the air, rolling out to almost 280 yards.
With that driver, he also recorded his fastest ball speed and best total distance by about 8 yards. When we look at the full picture, however, we will see it was not the best driver for him.
Driver #2 (white) is absolutely the most consistent in length and dispersion despite the fact that he hit Driver #1 (yellow) farther one time. Most golfers only think of their bad shots as “outliers,” when in fact they should often be discounting their very best shot with a club in the cases when the majority of their shots with the club are off-target.
4. Using a Lie Board
Lie boards are a thing of the past. There, I said it. Basing any loft or lie adjustments purely off a lie board is completely useless. On any well struck golf shot, the golf ball has already left the golf club before any significant ground and club interaction has occurred. This means the marks on the bottom of the club tells us next to nothing.
Above is a great picture from a friend of mine, Errol Helling. He’s the owner of Profectus Golf in Nashville, Tennessee. The photo shows the difference in where two golf clubs point at address: one at 3-degrees upright (pointing left) and one at 2-degrees flat (pointing right). It’s important to remember that the photo shows “static loft.” We are most interested in “dynamic loft” and the face angle at impact because that’s what effects ball flight. Just because we have an iron that is orientated a direction at setup does not mean it will point in the same direction at impact.
5. Looking at Divot Direction and Depth
Recently, this has been a frequent topic of discussion in the golf world. I hate to disagree with one of the greats of our game, Ben Hogan, but the secret is not in the dirt. I can’t say that Hogan was wrong, as his thoughts on the golf swing worked very well for him, but we now know that divot direction and divot depth tell us very little about ball flight. You can hit any kind of golf shot with every kind of divot, so why assume that the divot is going to tell us anything valuable?
Below are some pictures of shots I hit on the range. The divot direction is indicated by the alignment stick (on the left in each photo) that travels directly through the divot. The target line is the alignment stick on the right side of the picture. As you can see, the divots had no correlation to direction or curvature.
If you are trying to determine swing faults or fitting issues by looking at divots, you will be chasing an answer that does not exist. Keep your focus on impact location, face angle, club path, and angle of attack, and you’ll be on your way to better fittings.
How important is playing time in college if a player wants to turn pro?
One of the great debates among junior golfers, parents and swing coaches is what is the most crucial factor in making the college decision. My experience tells me that many students would answer this question with a variation of coaching, facilities and of course academics (especially if their parents are present).
I would agree that all three are important, but I wanted to explore the data behind what I think is an often overlooked but critical part of the process; playing time. For this article, I examined players under 25 who made the PGA tour and played college golf to see what percent of events they participated in during their college career. In total I identified 27 players and through a combination of the internet, as well as conversations with their college coaches, here are the numbers which represent my best guess of their playing time in college:
Player Percent of Events
- Justin Thomas 100%
- Rickie Folwer 100%
- Xander Schauffele 100%
- Bryson DeChambeau 100%
- Jon Rahm 100%
- Patrick Reed 91%
- Jordan Speith 100%
- Beau Hossler 100%
- Billy Horschel 100%
- Aaron Wise 100%
- Daniel Berger 100%
- Thomas Pieters 95%
- Ryan Moore 100%
- Kevin Tway 98%
- Scott Langley 95%
- Russell Hendley 100%
- Kevin Chappell 96%
- Harris English 96%
- JB Holmes 100%
- Abraham Ancer 97%
- Kramer Hicock 65%
- Adam Svensson 100%
- Sam Burns 100%
- Cameron Champ 71%
- Wydham Clark 71%
- Hank Lebioda 100%
- Sebastian Munoz 66%
Please note that further research into the numbers demonstrate that players like Pieters, Munoz, Clark, Reed, Hicock, Langely, Reed and Champ all played virtually all events for their last two years.
This data clearly demonstrates that players likely to make a quick transition (less than 3 years) from college to the PGA tour are likely to play basically all the events in college. Not only are these players getting starts in college, but they are also learning how to win; the list includes 7 individual NCAA champions (Adam Svensson, Aaron Wise, Ryan Moore and Thomas Pieters, Scott Langley, Kevin Chappell, and Bryson DeChambeau), as well 5 NCAA team champion members (Justin Thomas, Jordan Speith, Beau Hossler, Patrick Reed, Abraham Ancer and Wydham Clack) and 2 US Amateur Champs (Bryson DeChambeau and Ryan Moore).
As you dig further into the data, you will see something unique; while there are several elite junior golfers on the list, like Speith and Thomas who played in PGA tour events as teenagers, the list also has several players who were not necessarily highly recruited. For example, Abraham Ancer played a year of junior college before spending three years at the University of Oklahoma. Likewise, Aaron Wise, Kramer Hickok and JB Holmes may have been extremely talented and skillful, but they were not necessarily top prospects coming out of high school.
Does this mean that playing time must be a consideration? No, there are for sure players who have matriculated to the PGA Tour who have either not played much in college. However, it is likely that they will make the PGA tour closer to 30 years of age. Although the difference between making the tour at 25 and 30 is only 5 years, I must speculate that the margin for failure grows exponentially as players age, making the difference mathematically extremely significant.
For junior golfers looking at the college decision, I hope this data will help them understand the key role of playing time will have in their development if they want to chase their dream of playing on the PGA Tour. As always, I invite comments about your own experience and the data in this article!
Hidden Gem of the Day: Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas
These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!
Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member pdaero, who takes us to Republic Golf Club in San Antonio, Texas. The course is situated just ten minutes from downtown San Antonio, and pdaero gives us some excellent insight into what you can expect should you make the trip here.
“My favorite golf course to play, it is always in really good shape. These pictures are from wintertime, which the greenness is still impressive. The course has a ton of fun holes and unique designs, and only houses visible on 4 tee and between 14 green and 15 tee.
The course rating is strong, with a 74.2 rating on a par 71 (7007 yards from the tips), and even from the second tee you get 1.3 strokes.”
According to Republic Golf Club’s website, the rate for 18 holes during the week ranges from $29 to $49, while the weekend rate ranges from $35 to $69.
An interview with State Apparel’s founder Jason Yip
For the past five years, Jason Yip has been building an apparel company that redefines the purpose of golf wear. With a strong background in innovation from his days in Silicone Valley, Yip wanted to reinvent golf apparel to be a functional tool for the golfer.
The other day, I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Jason Yip about State Apparel and a little about himself. It is not every day that you get to speak with someone who can exude passion through the phone. On this day, though, I could hear the passion Jason has for golf, California, and for State Apparel.
Yip said State Apparel has two major foundations
- Functional innovation
- Social responsibility
Jason loved talking about watching Tiger Woods. However, he watched for something I believe few ever have. How was Tiger wiping the dew and the grass off his clubs, hands, and ball? The answer that Jason observed was that Tiger and others are utilizing their clothing as wiping surfaces. The core of State Apparel is the functionally located wiping elements on your article of clothing. The staple of the brand is their Competition Pants which have wiping elements located on the cuffs, side pockets, and rear pockets.
State Apparel recognizes the need to be socially responsible as a company. This seems to be from Jason’s earlier days of playing golf behind a truck stop in Central Valley, California.
How is the State Apparel socially responsible? Yip identified three ways.
- Production is done in San Francisco.
- Most of their apparel utilizes sustainable fabric.
- Proud supporter of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance.
Jason’s desire is to provide not only apparel that is golf specific but also the experience that we have on the golf course. A little over a year ago the State Apparel Store and Urban Clubhouse opened on Filmore Street in San Francisco, California.
“I wanted to provide the golfing experience closer to the home of many golfers in the area,” Yip told me.
Among the State Apparel clothing at the store, there is an indoor hitting by with launch monitor. And they have even hosted speaking events with local professionals and architects at the clubhouse.
At the end of our conversation I asked Jason, what would he say to someone who knows nothing about State Apparel, especially those of us not in California?
“State Apparel is a unique authentic brand that is designed specifically for golfers by a golfer. Look at the product because it is something you have never seen and absolutely communicate on what you see or what you have questions about.”
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Cobra launches new King F9 Speedback drivers and fairways
Bryson DeChambeau’s Winning WITB: 2018 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
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