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:
- Club Champion
- Felix Clubworks
- Joe Kwok Golf
- Miles of Golf
- Modern Golf
- 2nd Swing Golf
- The Tour Van
- True Spec Golf
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?
- 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.
Mondays Off: Augusta National: start on the front or back nine? | Knudson’s Fujikura visit
Would you rather start your round at Augusta National from the front or back nine? Mondays Off debates both after the most recent Masters had players starting from both. Steve gets some information on Fujikura shafts from Knudson’s visit last week and then Knudson confesses on how his first night of league play went!
The Wedge Guy: How many wedges?
From the feedback I get, many golfers are not entirely confident…or are completely confused…about how many wedges they should carry. Those of you who know my work and writing over the past 25 years or so also know that I am a proponent of carrying a carefully measured “set” of wedges that give you the shotmaking control you need in prime scoring range. But what I’ve learned over those many years is that the number of wedges that is “right”, and the lofts of those wedges can be very different from one golfer to another.
The reason I think getting this right is so important is that your scores are more heavily influenced by your play from wedge range into the green, and your shotmaking around the greens, than by any other factor. The right “set” of wedges in your bag can make all the difference in the world.
As I repeatedly preach, taking your guidance from the PGA Tour players might not help you achieve your goals. These guys spend hundreds of hours each year perfecting their wedge play, and you simply cannot do that. The good news is that you can add some science to your wedge set make-up that can help you have more shot choices when you are in scoring range or trying to save par from a missed green.
My basic premise on the subject is that the answer can be approached scientifically for each golfer, and it is a multi-step process
- Begin by knowing the loft of the 9-iron and “P-club” that came with your set of irons, as optimum gapping begins there. The industry challenge of producing longer-hitting irons has led most OEMs to strengthen lofts throughout the set. Along the way, it was apparently decided to widen the gaps between the short irons to 5 degrees from the traditional 4 that stood for decades. What this does is increase the distance differential between your 9-iron and “P-club” from what I would consider optimum. For golfers of slower swing speeds, that 5-degree gap might well deliver a 10-12 yard differential, but my bet is that most of you are getting a difference closer to 15 yards, or even more. That just will not let you get the distance control precision you want in prime scoring range.
- The second step is to be honest with your distances. I am a big proponent of getting on the golf course or range with a laser or GPS and really knowing how far you carry each of your short irons and wedges. Hit a number of shots from known yardages and see where they land (not including roll out). My bet is that you will find that your distances are different from what you thought they were, and that the differentials between clubs are not consistent.
- Figure out where to start. If your actual and real distance gap between your 9-iron and “P-club” is over 12-13 yards, maybe the place to start could be with a stronger P-club. You can either have your loft strengthened a bit or make the shaft 1/4 to 1/2” longer to add a few yards to that club.
- Figure out what lofts your wedges should have. From there, I suggest selecting lofts of your wedges to build a constant yardage difference of 10-12 yards between clubs. Depending on your strength profile, that may require wedges at four-degree intervals, or it might be five – each golfer is different. Those with very slow swing speeds might even find that six-degree gaps deliver that distance progression.
- Challenge the traditional 52-56-60 setup. Those lofts became the “standard” when set-match pitching wedges were 48 degrees of loft. That hasn’t been the case in over 25 years. Most of today’s P-clubs are 45 degrees, which leaves a very large distance differential between that club and a 52-degree gap wedge. Some enlightened golfers have evolved to carry a wedge set of 50-54-58, which is a step in the right direction. But you can get whatever loft precision you want, and you should do that. At SCOR, we made wedges in every loft from 41 to 61 degrees, and our wedge-fitting tool prescribed lofts of 49-53-57-61 to many golfers, based on that 45* “P-club” and their stated distance profile. Those who took that advice were generally very happy with that change. We fitted and sold many sets at 49-54-59 as well. Though no company offers wedges in every loft, you can bend even numbers to hit your numbers exactly. Just remember, bending stronger reduces the bounce and bending weaker increases the bounce.
What many of you will find with this exercise is that it suggests that you should be carrying more wedges. That’s probably true for the vast majority of recreational golfers. I have come to realize that more wedges and less long clubs will usually improve your scores. After all, long or short by 25-30 feet is great at long range, but not acceptable in prime scoring range.
If you have more clubs at the long end of your bag (longer than a 5- or 6-iron) than you do at the short end (9-iron and up) then you should consider an honest self-appraisal of how often you use each club between your driver and putter. My bet is that it will be an enlightening analysis.
The Harding Park experience
When you turn onto the road that leads to the clubhouse at TPC Harding Park, it doesn’t take long for your eyes to focus on the 18th hole. The road winds between the par-3 17th green on your right and the back tees of the 18th on your left, presenting a direct view down the beautifully doglegged left finishing fairway. And if you weren’t already excited about your upcoming round, this ought to do the trick.
TPC Harding Park is San Francisco’s top public track. It was opened in 1925 and was designed by Willie Watson, who also is responsible for the nearby Lake Course at Olympic Club. And Harding Park has already been pegged to host the 2020 PGA Championship, which will only be the second time a municipally owned golf course will host the PGA. And even though the event is over a year away, the facilities are already being prepared for the major.
The clubhouse itself is impressive for a municipal layout; two stories with an event space on the second floor, the layout runs parallel with the 18th fairway, allowing for great views of the back dining patio and balcony. They already have it decorated in anticipation or the PGA Championship with large wallpaper photos of the Wanamaker Trophy, which gives off a serious feeling of legitimacy in the clubhouse entryway. The Cypress Grill, which comes with a full bar, is finished with a full wall of glass overlooking both the final hole and Lake Merced. It was packed at lunch on a Friday when I played…and not just crowded with golfers. The food and view must be good enough to attract regular patrons.
The pro shop is a nice size and the members of the staff were incredibly welcoming and friendly. Most of the apparel was Nike, Adidas and Under Armour but there were a few smaller brands as well. FootJoy was also present and the course’s logo on shirts and hats alternated between the traditional Harding Park logo with the lone tree and the PGA Harding Park logo. There is, of course, already 2020 PGA Championship gear for sale as well.
The course offers carts and pushcarts for rent, but if you do decide to ride, the course is cart path only year round. Rates range from $49-$188 depending on the day and if you are a San Francisco or Bay Area resident.
As you can imagine, Harding Park gets a substantial amount of play, being a first-rate daily fee in a highly populated city. My buddy and I opted to walk as we both believe that’s the best way to experience a course for the first time.
The bad weather earlier this year had left the driving range in disrepair. It was closed during my visit but they are planning to turn that area into a pavilion space for the PGA Championship anyway. Harding Park also has a short course called The Fleming 9 which weaves in between the holes of the Harding 18. That Fleming 9 space will be used as the professionals’ range during the major event.
The course conditions were top quality, especially for a daily fee course with so much traffic. The only real complaint from my group was the presence of so many ball marks on the greens. This can be expected from a course with that number of daily golfers added to the wet conditions of a place like San Francisco. I would imagine that the greens would run much smoother as we get closer to the 2020 PGA. Still, this was nit-picking; the greens were not in bad shape at all.
The first thirteen holes at Harding Park are good but don’t rise to the level of “great.” A friendly starter helps maintain pace of play off number one, a slightly right bending par four. The second hole is much like the first, which was a theme of the first 13. Looking back on my round, it’s tough for me to differentiate between each of the first 13 holes. Every hole was really solid, but not exactly unique, with the exception of number 4 and number 10, both fun par 5’s with some character.
Harding Park plays at 6,845 yards from the blue tees, which were the back tees on the day I played. There is a championship tee box that plays at 7169 but they were not set up for us. I would imagine that they’d be willing to do so with a special request. I heard the course is even better from back there. I was told that they will be working to lengthen some of the holes in anticipation of the 2020 PGA.
Along those lines, we were also treated with a special view of what the course will look like for the major next year. The PGA had been out to the course the week prior to my visit and had staked out each fairway with little red flags denoting where they want the first cut of rough to reach. On most holes, these flags were five-to-10 paces inside of where the rough currently was being cut, which showed us exactly how tiny these fairways will be for the pros. It was amazing to see some of the narrow landing spots these guys will be aiming for in a year.
As you walk off the 13th green, the course turns one final time back towards the clubhouse. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, you are about to play five incredible holes in a row to close out your round. The teebox on 14 is snuggled up next to the lake but elevated enough to give you a tremendous view of the water below and Olympic Club Golf Course across the way. The hole in front of you is a 440-yard par 4 that steadily climbs uphill with a gently slanting fairway to the left, pushing landing drives towards the water. As I stood over my approach shot, I looked around and then wrote “best hole so far” down on my scorecard. That was true. Until the next hole.
The 15th and 16th holes both follow the same blueprint: fairway bunkers at the elbow of the dogleg, grabbing the longer drives and forcing a club selection decision off the tee. The lake is still running along the left side of each fairway, giving a completely different feel to these holes than you had on the course’s first 13. At only 330 yards, hole 16 plays much shorter than the previous two lake-side par 4s. But the green slopes enough to make you nervous on your putts and keeps the hole from being an easy birdie. Honestly, after these holes were behind me, I took a moment to look back down the fairway and appreciate how good these holes were.
Hole 17 is a 175-yard par 3 that was playing much longer with a solid wind in our faces. The green is positioned near the entrance into Harding Park and, as I previously mentioned, one of the first views of the course you get as you arrive. The green is slightly elevated and protected by two bunkers in front. It requires a long and accurate tee shot, which is difficult because the 18th hole looms large to the right of the green. And once you finish on 17, it’s just a short walk over to the 18th tee.
The final hole is Harding Park’s most special. A 440-yard par 4, the tee shot requires a carry over the lake to a dogleg left fairway. The longer hitters can take a more aggressive line over the trees to cut off a substantial amount of distance. And by longer hitters, I mean guys like Tiger Woods and John Daly.
The fairway is picturesque. 18 is one of those holes that you want to take your time on. It just has a different feeling. The green is slightly elevated, providing amazing views of the clubhouse and Lake Merced. It is the perfect finishing par 4, giving you everything you could possibly want in a golf hole: strategy, challenge, and beauty all wrapped into one. And then it leaves you feeling grateful for having decided to play Harding Park.
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