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Opinion & Analysis

Checking the fit of your clubs on a budget

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During the last 17 years, I’ve graduated from the simple regripping of golf clubs to creating full blueprints. Today, when I build clubs for friends and family, I try to leave no stone unturned and work to minimize the variables from club to club. For better golfers, this consistency pays off with a predictable ball flight when you are looking at a shot that requires delicate touch. But does a newer golfer need 100 percent blueprinted clubs? Is that expenditure really going to pay off?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not swimming in cash. My obsession with putters aside, I have to budget and decide where I am going to spend my dollars. For a lot of golfers, the cost of that fitting or repair may not make sense when they can just apply that cost to buy new clubs. But there are a lot of things you can check without having to visit a shop.

GRIPS

I’ve got big hands. Not ROBOPTI big, but they are pretty meaty. One of the first things I learned was that a larger grip fit my hand better and allowed me to keep control of the club during the swing. I’d suspect that a lot of golfers just play with whatever grip came on the club when they bought it.

Golf Grip Size Hand

Checking for free: Grip the club and look at your hands. The rule of thumb is the tips of your fingers should be lightly touching your palm. If they are not, the grip may be too large for you. If your fingers are digging into your palm, the grip is probably too small.

If you decide you need a change: Now is the time to have your hands measured. Beyond standard, midsize and jumbo, the repair shop can add extra wraps of masking tape as needed to fine-tune the feel. Take the Goldilocks approach and make sure the fit is just right. Grips have different taper rates, so try different brands to get the right combination of taper, feel and tack for you.

Obsessive-compulsive details for WRX members: Just because you have used .600-inch Golf Pride round grips for the last 10 years, understand that not all shafts are .600-inch anymore. Your driver might have a .605-inch up to a .620-inch butt diameter depending on the model. What used to be a perfect on Dynamic Gold will not be the same with PX or C-Taper because the butt section tapers under the grip.

A top-tier clubfitter will measure your grips in two or three areas to make sure you have consistent sizing for both hands of the grip.

CHECK YOUR LIE ANGLES

OEM Online Fitting programs will get your lie angles in the ballpark if you want to order new clubs. But the final step is verifying the measurements against your swing on a lie board. You can see if you need to be more upright or flat while you are at the driving range.

Golf Lie Effect

Checking for free: A lot of people hate them, but the range turf mat is your friend in this exercise. I shouldn’t have to state this, but I will anyway: hit off the mat. Don’t hit off the tee! As you hit balls, the green schmutz on the sole of your irons and wedges will tell you if the clubs are too upright or flat for you. Properly struck shots will have the green in the center of the club, or evenly across the entire sole. If you see that the mark is biased towards the heel or toe, it’s time for your clubs to be adjusted.

If you decide you need a change: This is a serious step and you have either an easy choice or a time-consuming choice. The easy way is to let the clubfitter set your lies from a single club, usually a 6- or 7-iron. The clubfitter will see what lie angle you need compared to the reference standard of that set and then adjust the lies accordingly. This is when you will hear people tell you they are “2-degree upright” or “1-degree flat.”

Obsessive-compulsive details for WRX members: The time consuming method is to hit every club on the lie board and adjust each club as needed for your swing. At this point, you will refer to each club by its lie. I have a 61-degree 5-iron, a 64.5-degree 9-iron and a 65-degree sand wedge. My lie progression does not match the factory model and if I just said I was “one-degree up,” my long irons would be too upright.

A good fitter will give you a chart with your lofts/lies when you walk out of the store. You should check these specs against the new clubs you may buy in the future and order your specs accordingly.

Note that loft/length are dependent on each other. The Ping color chart is a good example of this. If your 7-iron is 63 degrees, that lie is based on the length of your current club. If you extend or shorten your clubs, you will want to verify your angles again on the lie board.

CHECK YOUR SWING WEIGHTS

All clubs start their lives as components. Heads, shafts and grips each have specifications and tolerances for angles, lengths and weight. For the majority of the industry, there is a tolerance of plus/minus 2 grams on weights. As a result, the specified swing weight of the club may not match the actual swing weight. One club with a heavy head and light grip can feel radically different compared to the same model with a light head and a heavy grip. Yet both would be “in spec” for a production line built set of clubs.

Swing Weight Scale

Checking for free: This one is not completely free, unless you can get access to a swing weight scale. Most club repair shops and big box stores with repair centers should have one. Some driving ranges and pro shops may have a scale as well.

Most golfers, when they think about their clubs, usually have two or three clubs in the bag that they always seem to hit well. There are usually some that always seem to be a struggle. A quick check on the swing weight scale will often times show the good clubs to have a similar swing weight and the tough clubs will be significantly lighter or heavier. When having clubs built for you or repaired, make sure you specify the good swing weight to your club fitter so that they get the club to feel right.

If you decide you need a change: Light clubs can be made heavier by adding lead tape to the club head. Applied to the back of the club near the center of the club head, add mass until the swing weight matches the good clubs. Verify the feel on the range. Heavier clubs can be adjusted by having your clubfitter grind away some weight from the club head. Again, adjust until the swing weight matches the good clubs to give a more consistent feel from club to club. You can get a roll of lead tape at your golf shop for a few dollars. One package is usually enough to raise an entire set of clubs by one swing weight point.

Obsessive-compulsive details for WRX members: Swing weight can be affected by length as well. You may want to have your clubfitter check the lengths of your clubs to ensure consistent spacing between each club. You can also have internal tip weights installed by your clubfitter to match the swing weights and avoid lead tape, which is unsightly to some golfers on their pretty new irons. Grip weights can also change swing weight. The Golf Pride NDMC grips are seven or eight grams lighter than the 50-gram Tour Velvet grip found on a lot of factory clubs. This can move the swing weight up to 1.5 points. A .580-inch core Tour Velvet will also weigh two or three grams more than a .600-inch core Tour Velvet. Midsize will weigh even more than the standard sized grips. Ensure you have consistent grips sizes and weights, especially if you are having your set regripped.

Knowing the specifications that work for you will give you, your teacher and your clubfitter an easy reference to ensure you are getting the best, most consistent performance from every club in your bag.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum.

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A tinkerer since he was a child, Brad Hintz has always enjoyed getting his hands dirty and learning how things are put together. Taking apart and putting together his bicycle and the family room television to make them work better eventually gave way to golf clubs. While a career in operations and analytics keeps him busy during the day, he has been building and repairing golf clubs as a hobby and passion for more than 17 years. Brad has been posting on golf forums since the late 1990s and has been a member of GolfWRX almost from its inception. This is his first foray into writing articles online.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Nocklaus

    Apr 17, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Actually, different gripweights does not affect playability that much. A swingweight measurer, measures the “balance” 14″ from the butt end. But when you hold the club the balance point is just between your hands, about 3″ down and therefore different gripweight affects the club about the same as if you wear a watch or not.

  2. Craig berry

    Feb 7, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Going to get fitted in a few weeks by “world club maker” of the year 2010!!!!!

    That’s a hefty title…..can’t wait to see what the doctor is going to prescribe for my swing!

    Should be worth it in the end! The way forward!

  3. Pingback: Your Search for Golf Club Ends Here - I Trust My Driver | I Trust My Driver

  4. Troy Vayanos

    Jan 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Thanks for the post Brad,

    I never would have thought before to check the grips to see if they were the right thickness. I think most of us golfers just assume it’s a one size fits all situation.

    I’ve always had my lie angles checked and of the course the length of the shafts.

    It’s interesting to know that it doesn’t stop there.

    Cheers

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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