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GolfWRX Fitters Survey 2018: The ultimate golf-fitting survey

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Recently, we asked some of the top fitters in the country burning questions that golfers have about golf club fitting. Their responses were eye-opening. Top fitters from the following fitting locations participated in this extensive survey:

Thank you to all of the fitters who took the time to help us with this survey, and took the time to answer.

Here are the questions we asked, and the answers from the top golf fitters in the nation.

1) What percentage of golfers need more loft on their driver?

2) What percentage of golfers need LESS loft on their driver?

  • Average answer: 35 percent

3) What percentage of golfers play shafts that are too stiff?

  • Average answer: 50 percent

4) What percentage of golfers play shafts that are too whippy?

  • Average answer: 35 percent

5) What percentage of golfers need to play with more forgiving irons?

6) What percentage of golfers need to play with LESS forgiving irons?

  • Average answer: 14 percent

7) What percentage of golfers play the wrong wedge grind?

  • Average answer: 64 percent

8) What percentage of golfers have an adjustable driver that’s setup incorrectly for their swing?

9) What’s the one part of the bag that golfers would benefit most from after a proper fitting?

  • Driver: 8.33 percent of answers
  • Fairway wood/hybrid: 0 percent
  • Irons: 0 percent
  • Wedges: 16.67 percent
  • Putter: 75 percent

10) With the choice of only one to fill a yardage gap, should a high-handicap golfer choose a fairway wood, hybrid, or driving iron?

11) What will lower scores more quickly, a fitting or a lesson?

  • Fitting: 75 percent
  • Lesson: 25 percent

12) In your own words, is grip size important to the fitting process?

  • Yes, but it can be tricky. I think incorrect sizing can cause a player to “hang on” to the club or limit their release. At the end of the day, the player needs to have a grip that gives them the “warm and fuzzy” feeling. If the club feels good in their hands, they are more likely to produce a better swing.
  • Yes, grip size influences grip pressure. Grip pressure can influence face angle, club head speed, and other factors that directly lead to ball flight. Grip style may be mostly player preference, but grip size should be constant and correct on all your full swing clubs.
  • Yes, it can have a dramatic effect on performance depending on the circumstances.
  • Grip size is important. Having a grip that allows you to feel more comfortable or relaxed results in better shots.
  • Grip size is important because it is the only thing that we touch while swinging a golf club. Traditional grip sizing metrics might be a little out of date. I do believe golfers have a misconception on what grip size does to ball flight (oversized grips fade/undersized grips draw). Everyone is unique and you can see different results by testing size.
  • For sure it is important. Over 75 percent of my fittings play the wrong size grips.
  • Very, but no proof that hand size measurements are exactly what the player needs.
  • Yes, it is the only connection to the club.
  • Very important.
  • Yes it is extremely important. It will allow you to hold on to the club with the proper pressure and still maintain control. Also grip size can help you let your hands be more active to help square the face or slow them down to help slow down a draw.
  • Of course. Though the traditional trend that big grips prevent hooks and little grips prevent slices is a very broad and inaccurate generalization. Grip fitting is very important and has a huge effect on swing weighting.
  • Somewhat. It depends on the player and their tendencies… doesn’t have to be spot on, but needs to be close.

13) In your own words, how often should golfers change wedges?

  • Depends on how much they play, but an avid golfer who practices a few days a week should likely switch once a year. Most tour players switch 3-4 times per/year.
  • When distance and spin are noticeably affected.
  • Once every 100-150 rounds
  • Every 50 rounds or even less. For golfers who practice a lot, even sooner.
  • Depends on how the golfer enjoys the game. Someone who is playing in local events or club events would usually want pure performance. In that instance, I would change out what ever club they use around the green every 75-100 rounds.
  • For those playing 50+ rounds a year, changes wedges every other year can help consistency with short pitches & chips.
  • Every year.
  • Depends on how much golf they play, but every year is a good time frame.
  • Every 100 rounds + 40 Range sessions.
  • Depends on how many rounds they play. Just keep an eye on the grooves and as long as they are playing the correct bounce.
  • When the groove texture on the face is no longer effective, or if their playing conditions or angle of attack change significantly, which would change the bounce and grinds they need to play.
  • When their wedge stops hitting the shots they intended to hit.

14) In your own words, how often should golfers change drivers?

  • If launch, spin and speed numbers are as good, they may not need to upgrade. In general, I’d say they should entertain new technology every 18-24 months.
  • When a player can see evidence of improved ball flight, consistency, or feel and upgrade is appropriate. Until then, keep what you have and work with a fitter to determine what changes will benefit your tee game.
  • Only when they find one that can beat what they have.
  • To have more noticeable gains, every 2-3 years. Technology is improving way too fast to not keep up.
  • If they are playing something from 2012 or newer, they should only be looking to switch if their ball speed, launch or spin are out of whack.
  • As a fitter, if I am able to maximize ball speed, optimize launch angle & the spin rate it could be every year. Most often I find 85-90 percent of players are able to gain accuracy & distance when taking part in a fitting.
  • 3-year check up.
  • When they find something that is an improvement.
  • Every 2500-3000 hits.
  • Every 2 to 3 years if they were originally fitted correctly.
  • Only after testing and fitting all available options to see if it is better than their current driver.
  • When performance starts decay, or their swing has changed enough that they aren’t hitting their desired shot.

15) In your own words, how often should golfers change irons?

  • Similar to the wedge answer, it really depends on how frequently they play/practice. Assuming all things are equal, a player should entertain new irons every 2/3 years.
  • When distance and ball flight become unreliable, and as a result your confidence in hitting greens suffers, it’s time to look at different irons. Consider set make-up and even combo sets to improve long and short irons appropriately. Look for consistency, and stopping power, not just distance.
  • Depends on how often the golfer plays, but about every two years, or once significant wear is appearing on the face and effecting backspin.
  • Most golfers should change every 4-5 years.
  • Tournament players every 3 years Competitive golfers 5 years. Weekend warrior every 10 years.
  • Depends on what the player is looking for. If they want distance over accuracy, it can be done. If they are trying to gain accuracy, that can me a bit more of a challenge, but I’d suggest every other year is a good place to start.
  • 2-year check up; irons are changing quicker than drivers.
  • Grooves wear out after a season or 2, or when they find something that is an improvement.
  • 150-200 rounds.
  • Again depends on how many rounds they play and how their game changes, but I would say 3 to 5 years.
  • Only after testing and fitting all available options of irons and shafts and identifying which could be better than what they currently play.
  • When performance starts decay, or their swing has changed enough that they aren’t hitting their desired shot.

16) In your own words, what is the biggest mistake golfers have in their bag when they come to you for a fitting?

  • Set makeup. Often times players arrive with the wrong configuration of golf clubs for their game.
  • Too many clubs that go a similar distance. Either too many head covers or too many longer irons. Often too much neglect for wedges and putter design.
  • Driver shafts that are too long, irons with incorrect lie angles, and too many clubs that do the same thing in the top of their bag.
  • Most golfers are typically playing one to two longer irons vs having more hybrids in their bag.
  • Typically they have clubs that just aren’t useful. Usually you will find 3 clubs in the bag that all carry the same distance. Most of my fittings never have had a gapping analysis. When you can show them how everything carries and how everything stops, it is eye opening for them and helps build a set where all the clubs have a purpose.
  • Too many long clubs such as fairway woods or hybrids. Many would shoot lower scores by taking out a low lofted fairways and add a wedge.
  • Long irons.
  • Loft and lie gapping.
  • Loft selections on their wedges.
  • Gapping issues, clubs that are similar, not having clubs that help them correctly for their misses, trying to match every club from the same OEM.
  • Set makeup, and a set that is not built consistently.

17) In your own words, when is swing weight incorporated into the fitting process?

  • Throughout.
  • Feel and tempo changes.
  • All the time with every club. It is vital for feel and making the golf club perform properly!
  • Throughout the entire process… from start to finish it needs to be considered.
  • From the start.
  • The player will initially give you feedback when you are comparing current vs new. We find swing weight is an important part of the process.
  • Great question… only if my customer seems to very tech-y or if we go longer or shorter than standard. Most OEM’s do a wonderful job with swing weight.
  • Not always a specific time. Would depend on which club we are using. The biggest thing is during the fitting process when you find the setup that works is to make sure that the build matches those specs.
  • Swing weight is a tough road to go down. Most players can adapt to how different clubs feel without discussing why. Once you start going into a lot of detail as to why or how swing weight is changed it becomes more complicated then it needs to be. I would say that swing weight is discussed about 25 percent of the time.
  • Swing weight should be considered during the entire process. The fitter should be looking for constant feedback on how the weight of the club feels.
  • Once the winning combination of head, shaft, lie and loft are established. Swing weight can help create confidence in feel, and consistent swing weights help players replicate their swing and tempo from club to club.
  • Swing weight is a result of the overall fitting process. There are too many variables to mention that can influence swing weight.

18) In your own words, what are the signs that a golfer has the wrong sole width on their irons?

  • If the club doesn’t go through the ground properly, typically the club will stick in the ground.
  • Hit location is consistently high or low on the face. Turf interaction has too much bearing on the ball flight.
  • The sound of impact will be off, often times sounding muted or heavy. A low flight despite a wide sole.
  • The most telling sign is turf interaction. Swing speed with Angle of Attack tell me a lot. Slower and more shallow players can benefit a lot from more width.
  • If the set is more experienced, you can show them the wear patterns on the old set. When I start talking about sole widths/bounce of irons and how it can change the contact point on face, I will usually start talking about wedges. Most golfers understand why is important in wedges but do not realize that the same applies to irons.
  • If they struggle getting the ball in the air or we see several shots being hit heavy or fat. Also depends on turf conditions.
  • Turf interaction and impact location (launch/spin).
  • How high or low on the face.
  • Attack angle, divot and trajectory are producing inconsistent distance control.
  • When their attack angle is too steep or shallow. Finding out what course conditions they play mostly. Bad ball position.
  • Improper turf interaction and ball contact.
  • Inconsistency at impact.
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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Chisag

    Jun 29, 2018 at 11:33 am

    99% of the 65% that should be playing more forgiving irons can be found in the MB threads on RX.

  2. Mike Mason

    Jun 27, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    I have attempted to get fitting/evaluation at 2 local SoCal fitters and all they wanted to was to sell me a new set right away. I have XR pro irons and XR16 driver it’s hard to believe they need to be replaced. Tuned or adjusted yes but replaced..? If any honest fitters are in the Inland Empire,Orange County or San Deigo and are willing to evaluate/adjust rather then just replace every thin I’m Willing to try again.

    Mike

  3. John

    Jun 27, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Not buying that irons need to be replaced every 2 years. I just bought a set of 1970 hogans and honestly they fly the same distance and have better dispersion than my “fitted” callaways.

    • The Dude

      Jun 27, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      you and you only…………. are the exception. Can I ask WHY!!!>>>you bought a set of 70s BH’s..???

  4. Spitfisher

    Jun 27, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    ” In your own words, what is the biggest mistake golfers have in their bag when they come to you for a fitting?”

    Noticeably absent to this question and one that I get a lot as a fitter of 1000s per year. Amatuers need the eradicate the idea of what a set make up is. Clubs need to be gaped accordingly. An inline 50* gap wedge ( part of a set) may go 12-15 yards longer than a vokey , cleveland wedge in the same loft. An amateur may have both a 5 hybrid and 5 iron Players have the misconception that a new driver or irons will always go further than their last. I’m looking at consistency and dispersion which is far more important than long and inaccurate. Head, shaft, lie, loft, length all play a role in this.

  5. joro

    Jun 27, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Having been a club maker, fitter, teacher and player I have found and believe that a well fitter set does more for the game than a lesson. I would and did recommend that a player get his/her clubs fitted properly and then take some lessons. After that retune the clubs to adjust to whatever the swing has become. As for the Driver, it changes and they get better year after year. If you like the head, and they are all up to max, a shaft change could do the trick without the expense of a whole new club.

    these fixes can make a big difference but depends on your time and desire to play better. You have to practice what you have been taught and most don’t.

  6. Matt

    Jun 26, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    Geeeezus, who did the graphic design for this article? A serial killer?

  7. SV

    Jun 26, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    It is not a surprise fitters think clubs should be replaced every 1-3 years, you have to keep the money coming in. Other than maybe wedges, I would think a 5 year turn on clubs would be sufficient for most people. A putter could last forever(or 1 round depending on how faithful it is). I am thinking of an average golfer with a 15-20 handicap playing 15 to 25 times a year, not a tournament player.

  8. juststeve

    Jun 26, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Question 11. What a surprise, fitters thing fitting will result in quicker improvement than lessons. I wonder what teachers would think.

    • SG

      Jun 26, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      Even knowing they are biased, it’s telling that 25% don’t think equipment will lead to fast improvement.

    • Thomas A

      Jun 26, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Well, quicker is the key word. Carrying out the result of a lesson could take time.

    • Bobtrumpet

      Jun 26, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      Considering that (1) many teachers are also fitters, or at least understand the importance of clubs that fit the player, and see the improvement when the player is using properly fit equipment, and (2) knowing how most students don’t bother practicing what they are taught in lessons, many (most?) would probably agree with the fitters. 🙂

    • joro

      Jun 27, 2018 at 10:26 am

      A lot of “Teachers” I have seen have no clue how to really teach or fit.

      • The Dude

        Jun 27, 2018 at 8:20 pm

        what’s “A Lot??”

        • Tom Wishon

          Jul 10, 2018 at 5:36 pm

          Based on having taught many educational seminars on clubfitting to PGA pros around the world during my career, I will put the number of teaching pros who cannot fit properly at 90% at least. And that’s being kind, it really is. It’s because the vast majority of pros get very poor fitting instruction in their training curriculum for membership. But another problem with that is the fact that so many pros think they know how to fit just because they themselves are good players. Wrong.

          Europe is getting better at this but not the US PGA. When OEMs donate money to the US PGA sections for the pros to be able to tee it up in sectional events for a little cash, that buys the PGA’s loyalty to not seek out proper fitting instruction in their member training curriculum. The other way is by giving the pro a nice big bag with his name on it. Why piss off the hand that feeds you by teaching the pros how bad 45-46″ drivers are, how bad 43+” 3-woods are, hybrids that are too long, irons that are too low in loft and custom programs that mainly feature $200+ shafts and little else.

          You’d think pros would at least be trained and encouraged to fit and bend lie on irons. If you told me 10% of the pros owned a LL machine, I’d raise the eyebrows in serious skepticism at that. If 10% own an LL machine, I’ll bet less than half use it or know how to. If the pros knew decent fitting knowledge there would be no such thing as 45-46″ drivers, adjustable hosels, iron sets with anything lower than a 5 iron and on and on.

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The 19th Hole: Mark Rolfing and architect David Kidd on Carnoustie’s challenges

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It’s Open Championship week at Carnoustie! This week, Michael Williams hosts NBC and Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing and award-winning architect David Kidd (Bandon Dunes) to talk about how the pros will try to tame “Car-nasty.” It also features Jaime Darling of Golf Scotland on the many attractions around Carnoustie outside the golf course.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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How often should you actually get “Up-and-Down” based on your handicap?

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‘Up and Downs’ have long been the accepted measure of skill in the short game. The chart below shows average performance in this area for the PGA Tour and an array of handicap levels. How do you fit in?

A few points of definition: The above refers to short game shots around the green, other than from the sand. [Stay tuned: sand shots will be my next article.] I consider the short game to be all shots from within 50 yards of the hole. This distance was a topic of debate 30 years ago when I was developing my golf analysis program. I was fortunate to be working with Golf Digest Golf Schools and some of the top instructors were good enough to embrace the better form of game analysis that I was creating. In particular, I owe a great deal to Chuck Cook, Jack Lumpkin and Hank Johnson. Their help and encouragement in my early stages gave me a much needed boost of momentum. Little did we know that what I then called “Strokes Lost and Saved” would ultimately become the accepted standard of analysis on the PGA Tour — now know as “Strokes Gained.” Anyway, we agreed that 50 yards was the right distance range for the short game for two reasons:

  1. It represented the short game for virtually every handicap level, men and women.
  2. It was a short enough distance that it didn’t need to be sliced even further.

That said, I do NOT believe that “Up and Downs” are an appropriate or accurate measure of short game skill for two reasons:

  1. It represents the combination of two skills: Short Game and Putting.
  2. It ignores the ERRORS or shots that actually miss the green.

In my 30+ years of studying performance at all skill levels, I have found that it is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of bad shots (errors) that do more to influence a player’s scoring level than do all the good shots. Accordingly, I built the ability to capture data on the common errors in the game into ShotByShot.com.

The true measure of a player’s short game skill is their Strokes Gained in that facet. BUT, that is simply a number — a positive number is good and a negative number, not so much. But how then to best display the skill that is associated with the Strokes Gained number? I believe the combination of three stats to be the correct way to display short game skill:

  • Average putting distance, when the green is successfully hit.
  • Percent shots hit to within 5 feet of the hole
  • Percent errors, or shots that miss the putting surface.

Where does your game fall in these two important categories?

Note, that the two lines cross at about a 16 handicap. That is actually a better than average golfer yet for every Chip/Pitch shot that they successfully get to within 5 feet of the hole, they are also chunking or sculling one and missing the green altogether. Work to dramatically reduce the errors and that 16 will drop to 12 or 13?

You might ask: How can the PGA Tour make more errors than the scratch golfer? Good question! I have two explanations:

  1. They really are that good! Regardless of the relative difficulty of the shot, Tour players will go for it. They have the confidence that when they miss they will get the next up and down. At the same time, the amateur that has reached the lofty level of Scratch has generally done so thru rigorous consistency and the avoidance of errors. At the low handicap levels, a bogey can be acceptable but a mistake that results in a double is NOT.
  2. The tour Shotlink data considers the fringe of the green to be a miss whereas I recommend that players count the fringe as a green hit and a putting opportunity. Your long game has been efficient enough to get there and should be rewarded with the GIR. At the same time, to count the shot from the fringe as a short game shot will unfairly reward your short game skill for what was actually a putt.

That reminds me again of my very early days when Chuck Cook said to me: “Pete, Tour players don’t make errors in the short game!”  See Chuck, I was right, they do! For a Complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to: ShotByShot.com.

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Opinion & Analysis

Think Carnoustie’s hard? Try winning a title on it playing golf with one arm

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When things get challenging during the 147th Open this week on the Championship Course at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, the players would do well to think of Mike Benning–specifically the fortitude he channeled into success at the venerable venue.

Benning grew up with golf at Congressional while his father, Bob, was head professional at the iconic country club in Bethesda, Md. Due to a rare form of cancer, Benning, who was already a top junior in the Washington, D.C. area, lost his left arm below the elbow to amputation at age 14.

Rather than let that stop him from playing, he learned to adapt. So much so that he won back-to-back Society of One-Armed Golfers world championships in 1993-94. The first win came at Seaford Golf Course in Sussex, England, in 1993. Benning defended his title at Carnoustie in 1994, the 56th and 57th renditions of the annual event, which began in the 1930s.

Benning was low medalist in stroke play at Seaford, shooting 80-81-161. With the top 16 finishers advancing to match play, Benning won four matches in two days to become champion. He went to Carnoustie the next year full of confidence but couldn’t find the form initially that carried him at Seaford, qualifying 10th in medal play.

“My game wasn’t on, and the course was brawny and fast,” Benning said this week from his home in Scituate, Mass. “The course was so dry it was grey, and it was windy. That makes Carnoustie very difficult, even more challenging than normal. I had a difficult draw in match play, but I found my game when it mattered most, and only one of my matches went to the 18th hole.”

In the championship match, Benning defeated Scotsman Brian Crombie of Dundee, a 25-minute drive from Carnoustie.

“He had about 50 friends and family members rooting him on, the crowd was definitely behind him,” Benning recalled. “But I had a couple Americans following me. One was Mike Gibson, who now works for Titleist. He came out wearing a pair of red plus fours and an American flag shirt. He and Mark Frace really propped me up. I remember having a big decision on the 10th hole – whether to try and get a 3-wood over the burn – so I turned and looked at those guys behind me, and they encouraged me to go for it. I cleared the burn and ended up 12 feet from the hole.”

Benning was an independent sales rep in the golf business before joining Hanger, Inc., the leading U.S. provider of prosthetics and orthotics, where he is currently Marketing Manager. He has played other Open Championship courses but calls Carnoustie’s Championship layout “probably the greatest risk-reward course” in the rota. “Seeing it on television doesn’t do justice to the demanding test of golf it presents players,” he said.

To underscore his assertion, Benning cited the 6th hole – “Hogan’s Alley” – named after 1953 Open Champion Ben Hogan. Here is the description for it from the Carnoustie Golf Links website. “Normally played into prevailing wind, this can be a severe par 5. Bunkers and out of bounds await the miss-cued drive and although the best line is up Hogan’s Alley between the bunkers and the out of bounds fence, it requires a brave player to drive to that narrow piece of fairway. The second shot is no less perilous with a ditch angling across the fairway and the out of bounds continuing to be a threat. The approach is reasonably straightforward to an undulating green, particular care must be taken if the pin is located on the back-right portion of the green. A player should always be content with a five on this hole as it can be the ruin of many a scorecard.”

Benning said the pair of fairway bunkers side by side on the 14th hole – known as “The Spectacles – have to be experienced to be understood how hard they play for those unfortunate enough to find them.

“I hit into one of them during a match and it was the only time I had to hit backwards out of a bunker during the championship,” Benning remembered. “The face of the bunker was unthinkably high.”

The closing holes at Carnoustie’s Championship Course – Nos. 16-18 – may be the most difficult finish in all major golf, particularly No. 18, named “Home”.

“Just ask Jean Van de Velde,” said Benning, referring to the Frenchman who led by three strokes going to final hole of the 1999 Open Championship. Van de Velde took triple bogey to fall back into a tie and playoff, which he lost to Paul Lawrie. No golf follower who watched the debacle can forget the image of Van de Velde standing in Barry’s Burn with his trouser bottoms rolled up, hands on hips, stunned disbelief etched on his face. Conversely, Lawrie’s final round 67 astounded Benning, who pointed out that the final round average score was significantly higher. The 18th also cost Johnny Miller the 1975 Open title, after Miller took two shots to get out of a fairway bunker on the hole.

Suffice it to say, Carnoustie will provide many of the world’s greatest players the chance for immortal golf glory this week, or demoralizing defeat. Maybe both. Whomever emerges as champion, Mike Benning will relate to the elation felt after prevailing on one of the game’s greatest courses.

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19th Hole

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