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.

Ghost tape

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.

Player A

Player A

Player B

Player b

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:

  1. Club Head Speed
  2. Attack Angle
  3. 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

LandauPlayer B Optimized

karan

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.

Graham

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.

graham 2

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

Impact

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.

Lie Angle

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.

Shot #1

Divot 1

Shot #2

Divot 2

Shot #3

Divot 3

Shot #4

Divot 4

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.

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PGA Member and Golf Professional at Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville, NC. Former PGA Tour and Regional Representative for TrackMan Golf. Graduate of Campbell University's PGM Program with 12 years of experience in the golf industry. My passion for knowledge and application of instruction in golf is what drives me everyday.

57 COMMENTS

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  1. Hunter, very interesting article, but for me it did not go far enough because I’ve never seen and do not understand what the side and spin axis numbers you offer for the divot pictures represent. Unfortunately, you did not go far enough and offer an explanation for them. For example, what’s the difference between + and – spin axis? What does the side number mean? Great article except for the last part.

    thanks, SoonerSlim

    • Sooner, thanks for reading and giving your feedback. You are probably right I should have included some definitions about Spin Axis and Side. Coming from that world sometimes I forget not everyone knows the terminology. Spin axis represents which way the golf ball is curving so if positive the ball is curving to the right and if negative it is curving to the left. Side represents how far off of the target line the ball landed. Hope this helps! If you want to learn more about TrackMan Definitions visit the trackman blog.

  2. Heres an idea. Why don’t we go out with our golf clubs and hit the ball and have some fun and forget about all this numbers/fitting/trackman/drills/etc BS. If you play good, great. If you play bad, there is always next time.

  3. Enjoyed the article and subsequent discussion. Getting fitted and hitting a club outdoors always seemed much different–and better–than hitting into a net while indoors.

  4. No idea of how the “fitting culture” are in the states. But here in Europe (Sweden) most of this is common sense except your point of the lieboard.

    It is such a great and easy tool and a must have. One thing about lie though that I feel is that many people just hit a couple of shots with an 7-iron and that sets the marknfor the lieangle throughout the set.

    A longer iron such as an 4-iron often needs a more upright lieangle then a 9-iron for example.

    The majority of people a do an lietest with hitting a 4, 7 and 9-iron are hitting it more on the toe with a 4-iron compared to the 9-iron.

    • Good thoughts – I’ve always just hit a 6 or 7 off the lie board. I’ve measured all my lofts and lies but tomorrow I’ll hit the long irons and short irons off the board and note the results.

  5. Gee, it seems like there is a lot of disagreement about proper club fitting technique. I have gotten advice about clubs on several occasions but never really had a fitting. One reason is that I have heard so much disagreement about how it should be done and am not aware of any standards or any acknowledged experts (e.g. Ping vs Callaway, etc.). I suppose the best shot might be to work with a pro, who also provides instruction and who will be around to provide guidance after new clubs are purchased or current clubs are adjusted for length, loft, lie, swing weight, grip, etc. The big question is why spend a lot of money, if you don’t know what you are buying?

  6. Good Lord! How did we survive before technology. Now, I can get some really great clubs perfectly fit for me on that day for $4,000 or more, but if my swing ain’t worth crap and I can’t putt, what good is all this?

  7. Clubs have a ‘static’ lie and a ‘dynamic’ lie which is a function of shaft tip ‘droop’. The position of the hands and club butt end changes through release and impact, which will affect the shaft lie.
    The weight and shape of the clubhead will affect dynamic lie because the clubhead CofGs vary the droop characteristics of the shaft. Shaft specs influences dynamic loft as does downswing plane and clubhead speed which can vary as the golfer fatigues during the round.
    So we have how many variables for dynamic lie? 6? 7? 8? 9? More? Less?
    A good fitter can measure several of these lie factors but must also use intuitive knowledge to match the golfer to the optimal shaft and clubhead, and grip too. Good luck.

  8. In regards to #3.
    I can guarantee you that 9 out of 10 amateurs who can’t hit their driver past 200 yards is solely focused on that aspect. They don’t care about anything else, because they all believe that once their distance is sorted out, that they can then learn to control their ball flight. Which is deadly absolutely true.

  9. Very interested in this article, yes I understand how you can determine lie angle by using a marker pen on the ball and Callaway use this method a lot with there fitting. We use the marker on the ball when fitting outdoors, but indoors with launch monitor the Marker ruins the white screen we have for our projector and leaves black marks on the screen. Would be interested to know if there are any other ways of determining a correct lie angle without the option of a lie board or marker pen on a ball???

      • Sorry Hunter, but I believe this is misguided advice. Golfers should be fit to their physique, strength, flexibility, etc., not to their swing mechanics. Swing mechanics will change over time (even day to day). Using lie angle adjustment to compensate for swing flaws is not the right approach. Trying to use club fitting to compensate for swing flaws is the 6th biggest mistake in club fitting.

  10. Agree with the comments on hitting indoors; I never feel like I hit my best shots. Club Fitting needs some type of standards or certification for competence. Even if you pay for a “tour level” fitting, you really have no idea if the fitter knows what he is doing… I’m not saying take all the ‘art’ out of the process, but it’s really the wild west out there in terms of quality.

  11. You can get a good idea if your lie angle is correct by drawing a straight line around the circumference of a ball with a sharpie. Sit the ball on the ground with the line pointing straight up and down and with the line also pointing directly where you intend to hit the ball (just like people who line up putts with a line drawn on their ball). Now hit your shot and some of the sharpie line will stick to the face of your club. If the line is perfectly perpendicular to the grooves on your club, then your lie angle is correct. If not, it needs changing one way or the other.

  12. Lie angle has been a big question mark for me. So what is a better way to determine this other than a lie board? Almost, every ‘fitter’ or club seller I’ve seen, used a lie board, with one exception at DSGoods .. one employee used impact tape and adjusted lie angle until center contact was made .. very strange to me.

    • Use a dry erase marker and put a vertical line on the ball. This is a simple and effective way to read the lie. When you hit the ball, the line gets transferred to the club face. A straight line up and down on the iron face means the lie is good.

    • Dry erase is a decent solution however I would suggest just to focus on ball flight and dispersion. I would never care if a sharpie isn’t perpendicular or a piece of tape on the bottom of the face is telling me the club is “upright”. If a player is getting good results then that’s all that matters on course.

      • This only makes sense if you adhere to the idea that you should use lie angle adjustment to change ball flight. Many other factors could be impacting ball flight. Trying to fix ball flight due to other swing flaws via lie angle adjustments is a fool’s folly (IMHO).

  13. Help me understand your thoughts on lie boards. You talk about dynamic loft but criticize the lie board. It’s not called a “loft” board it’s a lie board. How else do we adjust lie without knowing where and how the club sole contacts the ground? Get everything else right and have the wrong lie adjustment and you’ve wasted a lot of time.

    • Hey KV thanks for reading and your thoughts. I would always start with ball flight and dispersion if this is something you can measure or a pro near you can. Lie board’s tell us nothing about the shot that was just hit so I don’t know why we should care.

      • Although there are better ways to examine dynamic lie over the lie board (e.g. HMT), it definitely is relevant. Regardless of someone’s ball flight, getting them fit so that the dynamic lie is near 0 will improve their consistency and quality of impact. It’s just hard to consistently hit the center of the face when the toe or heel of the club dig into the ground early. The small change in face angle due to a lie change can be always be addressed after the fact. If you need help with a slice, just closing the face during setup with a proper lie angle is better than making impact toe up and getting the face closed from that.

  14. You say not to use a lie board…not to look at divots…. How do you determine proper lie? Cannot do by shot pattern into a net. If you are going to give criticism, provide a solution as well.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Justin. How am I supposed to determine the proper lie angle without the aid of a lie board? I am new at this and am trying to learn how to make the proper adjustments on my own.

    • Take some chalk or marker that will transfer when struck. Draw a straight line on the ball. Put the ball on the ground with the line vertical where you will strike it. Hit the ball. Look at the club face… you’ll have a good idea whether your club is too flat or upright.

    • Hey Justin thanks for the input. I would always prefer to do a fitting outside if possible. Even on the course sometimes. If not possible and you are only hitting into a net then hopefully you have availability of TrackMan. If not I would suggest trying to find one. My point of lie boards and divots is that they have no correlation to what the ball is actually doing so why should we care? TrackMan does not specifically spit out a number called lie angle however it does tell us Face Angle at impact and Dynamic loft which would be a result of lie angle. If those numbers are good then you should be ok.

  15. If lie boards are horrid, how am I supposed to determine what lie angle is best suited for me? I am looking for a little more education on this subject as I am just getting started with trying to assemble and adjust my own clubs. Thank you in advance for any and all advice.

    • Hey Jon thanks for reading and taking the time to respond. I would rather the focus to be on ball flight and dispersion in a fitting. Also loft and lie adjustments can sometimes be a band aid for a bullet hole as it doesn’t address the root cause of the issue. Not always the case if you are really trying to dial things in with little tweaks but I get scared when people are fit for major lie adjustments. Often I think it actually makes the problem worse. I would work from the ball flight backwards. If thats good then why adjust? If it isn’t then you can make some adjustments of the loft lie but as I said earlier be cautious

      • So as I’m 6′ 4″ provided I can hit an off the shelf club ok I shouldn’t worry about custom fitting? On the Ping scale I come out at 4 degrees upright and plus one inch. I know I can hit an off the shelf club well, but won’t I subconsciously be compensating in my setup and swing. I’m a 4 hcp and have pretty solid fundamentals. Surely I’m going to be catching the toe first on everything, which can’t be a good thing. What would be my start point in your fitting?

  16. Though some of these mistakes are made only in professional, outdoor fittings, #3 is the biggest thing wrong with the golf industry as a whole. Most people getting “fit” are walking into a sporting goods store or golf shop and comparing a few drivers and looking at the “numbers” on a very one dimensional basis and in a short amount of time. #3 happens just about everywhere just about every time.

  17. As a fitter ….

    Irons, I weigh on more ball flight, direction and consistent carry. Ideally on natural turf as opposed to a hard mat. Driver; I agree completely with the writer, then again the golfer has final say, after reviewing the data of what ball flight they “like” . There are some that prefer a lower ball flight period, its often what they feel the most comfortable with- despite the technology and Data. Sergio for example prefers a slightly lower & more boring trajectory. No everyone is like Sergio but there is a fair amount of my customers that prefer a 10 degree launch angle than a say a 12.

    Even tougher to fit is older guys, who have slowly lost distance every year. Who in a subtle attempt of trying to speed up the driver head at impact, resort to lurching ahead of the ball with their hips, body and head, de-lofting the head to a negative attack angle. Rather than neutral or +1, 2, 3 degree attack angle by staying behind the ball.

    good article over all.

  18. I suspect many people do not feel like they are swinging 100% like they normally do with indoor fittings. I am one of those people who feel confined and I also like to have a further away target. We will look back at hitting balls 15 feet into a padded screen as a huge mistake. Hit the clubs on the range and on the course before purchasing. Not many fitters offer this.

    There will come a day when we can swing some tool at a course and capture all the necessary data and the tool will identify the possible clubs to maximize our swing. The possible clubs will include past years and even various cost options. The Fitter model today is like new car salesman. I don’t feel 100% sure that their interest and my interest is fully aligned.

    • Andy, that’s not unusual & normal for some. I compare the feeling you have to driving a car. When we do we focus on an object 100-150 feet ahead ( depending on car speed) as opposed to looking just over the hood and have to constantly correct steering of the automobile. In other examples some people feel like they are hitting into heavy fog when being fitted in an indoor simulator. I still do the fitting, but once things are narrowed down, take the club outdoors.

      • Yes I’d like to hear this too. I’m 6′ 4″ and am 4 degrees upright on the Ping scale. I currently have 2 degree up 1/2″ long Mizuno from their national UK fitting centre, yes a lie board was used. As I can hit my friends off the rack club straight, probably subconsciously compensating in my setup and swing, then I actually don’t need custom fit clubs. My natural swing is always going to hit slightly toe down and you think there’s nothing wrong with this in the long term?

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