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Who knows how to fit better than the source?

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Last week I traveled to seemingly always weather-perfect Carlsbad, Calif., where I did a full club fitting at Titleist’s Oceanside facility.

It was the second time in as many months that I have visited the guys with the cursive logo, the last time being specifically for a Vokey wedge fitting. It also happened to be the second time that I have done a full club fitting.

The first time was with Nike in Spring 2012, or just a few months after swinging the driver and 3-wood for my first time ever. During that fitting, my goal was more about making contact with the ball instead of fine tuning gear for a grooved swing; and they didn’t have a lefty 3-wood at the fitting, so that stick was assumed into my bag without a full test run.

In the 12 months since then I have put in about 1,000 hours of practice and countless rounds. My consistency has improved from something resembling a blindfolded chimp to a precociously self-assured golfer looking to improve upon his 6 handicap, and it was time to get fit for some gear that can help me reach the next level.

Back in February when my Vokey TVD wedges arrived, I had never swung any sticks that were not branded with a swoosh, and was so happy with the Vokey’s performance that I decided to return to Carlsbad to switch out the remaining clubs. When I first went down there, I didn’t realize that it was possible to get fit by the same guys who fit their PGA Tour pros and was blown away by the experience, so decided that going to the source was the best way to make certain that I was getting the best fit for my game.

It was a beautiful April day in Oceanside and my club fitter was Sr. Fitting Analyst Rob Bunn. We had worked together on the wedges so he knew some of my tendencies, which was great as we could get right to work.  At the beginning of the experience you change into golf shoes, grab a water (or coffee for guys like me, being a Portland boy) and head out to the pristine range where a section of perfect grass is reserved for you.

They ask you to space your divots out instead of putting them all right next to each other, as they say the grass heals better when it’s individual divots rather than a large section missing.  This seems to be contrary to how most grass ranges want you to hit, but I’ll assume they know what they are talking about as they have done this for years and the sod all seems perfect:

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To start, I got a hard time from the boys as I hadn’t had time to clean my grooves before flying out from Oregon.  They joked with me about it — they knew I understood how important it is for spin to keep my grooves clean. But I had gone straight from course to airport and didn’t have a chance. Walking up to the facility, my last thought had been, “Please don’t look at how dirty those wedges are.”

I warmed up by hitting my gamer clubs, which were Nike Pro Combos with Project X PXI shafts (5 though 9 iron), 21- and 24-degree hybrids with Tour AD stiff shafts and a Mach Speed SQ 10.5 degree Driver with a Project X 6.0 stiff shaft. I’ve had a few Nike drivers, but for some reason that one seems to be the lesser of the evils when mixed with my swing.

I only had 13 clubs (also in the bag is a SeeMore putter, 46 degree Vokey that I use as my pitching wedge and a 50, 54 and 58 degree wedge) because I had taken the Nike 3 wood out a few months ago due to the fact that I hit the 3-hybrid just as far and more consistent. For some reason, I could never get the 3 wood to travel more than about 210 total yards, and it always felt to me like hitting golf balls with an oversized chop-stick. I’ve been testing out a number of different 3 woods, but figured I would wait until this trip to purchase one as I wanted to make sure it fit me. It didn’t make sense to buy a 3 wood a month or two before getting fit for clubs.

My fitting began with the 8 iron. Rob would hand me clubs, and I would hit some balls while he watched the flight and the Doppler radar launch monitor gathered the swing and ball data. Every time he handed me a new stick, I would swing it a few times and all sorts of different results would ring in. It was pretty astonishing. The same swing (or at least extremely similar swings) would produce five push fades or five hooks — or five fat and thin shots or five nice baby draws. It’s amazing how much the lie angle and shaft can make a difference.

We quickly decided that the AP2 712 was the right iron head, and almost as quickly that the KBS Tour stiff shafts stood out as a winner. That combo, along with a standard length and standard lie produced a nice shot nearly every time. When trying the 5 iron, the same results occurred and I was sold on the setup as was Rob. Due to the ball speed and trajectory, he decided that 1 degree strong would be the way to go with all of my irons, too.

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Because of the amount of spin my swing put on the ball, he decided that I should go with 4 through 9 irons and one hybrid instead of going my old set up. My 21- and 24-degree hybrids produced very similar shots, so it made sense to me to have one rescue and a 4-iron, as in theory the 4 iron would be easier to control. So the next step was finding the right hybrid.

I was having issues with all of my swings, in part because my gamer irons had been, for some reason, 3 to 4 degrees flatter than I needed. It’s an entirely different topic, but along with an overly flat swing I had ingrained a wrist flip through the impact zone. Now that I was trying out standard lie clubs and have been working on a steeper swing, my miss was to keep that wrist flip in the swing and hook some shots. Rob saw this and after struggling with the hybrids, he decided to switch it up and fit me for a driver. So, we took a detour and started hitting some 913 drivers.

The driver was my No. 1 priority, and main reason for wanting to go to Titleist to get professionally fit. I was happy to see that TPI Oceanside had plenty of Lefty options.

I’ve been struggling with that stick since first hitting one in mid-November 2011, and wanted to take the uncertainty of ill-fitting gear out of the equation. It’s far too easy to blame your sticks if you are uncertain of their characteristics, and blaming gear will never help you improve.

Instead, I NEEDED to find a driver that I KNEW fit me, so I could move on and focus solely on technique and trust it to move forward. My driving has been like Bill Paxton’s acting: almost always sub-par, but on random occasions showing up and surprising everyone. Not good enough and I have been focusing on tee shots in practice.

He first gave me a regular flex shaft, and I sliced a ball over the left fence that seemed way to high to hit over. Then pull-hooked one off the planet. It was pretty obvious I needed a bit less action between my hands and the club head, so we went to stiffer.

I was still lacking in control and missing too far in both directions, so the next step was to invite Titleist Vice President of Tour Promotions Larry Bobka to check out my swing. Larry was able to identify a few things that I could do to improve consistency. I listened to his advice, which happened to be exactly what I was working on back in Portland, and started seeing great results once they put a 913 D3 head on a Speeder VC 7.2 Extra Stiff 44.5 inch shaft that was tipped 0.5 inches.

I knew I didn’t like regular or even stiff shafts, but this extra stiff felt awesome. Even though we went with a 44.5 inch shaft, my ball speed on the range was still between 155 and 160 mph, and Larry said with some form improvements I could see that increase by 5 to 6 mph. That would put me right around the PGA Tour average of 165 mph ball speed with the driver. I know I’ll never be the longest guy by any means, but if I can get my tee shots to PGA Tour average then I know I will be able to keep up with the crowd.

I hit a number of drives with this setup and was very happy with the results. It seemed like the perfect fit. Now the goal was to find a 3 wood and hybrid to fill the final two gaps in the bag.

The 3 wood wasn’t too tough now that we knew more about my swing via the driver fitting. Rob went with a couple of options before landing on the 913F D2 (15 degrees) with an extra stiff Diamana White Board Plus 82 shaft that was 0.5 inches under standard length. We tipped its shaft 0.5 inches as well, and it felt great.

I loved the control that I had with the extra stiff shaft, because it felt like the club head was staying with me no matter how hard or easy I wanted to swing. The numbers were good, too, as I was getting about 140 to 145 mph of ball speed.  It was hard to tell what distance things were flying because it was into a stiff wind, but the shot shape was nice and the ball speed was what they were looking for so all was well.

The final step was the hybrid. Now that I was more confident and my swing was under control, it was much easier to find the right fit. Just a few options in, we went with the 913H D3 (19 degrees) with a Diamana Blue Board Plus 82 extra stiff shaft at a standard length.  It was odd, but the standard length hybrid fit better, even though the driver and 3 wood were best fit at 0.5 inches shorter than standard.

I never would have guessed at most of these settings, but that is why I went to the source to figure out what I should be hitting.  When I last was fit for clubs more than a year ago I had been swinging woods and drivers for barely four months and had not come close to grooving a swing. In fact, during my original fitting in early 2012 my main goal was just to hit the ball — I wasn’t thinking about shot shape and control. I can imagine that it was very hard to fit me into anything, as my swing was so new.

A lot of time and practice has happened since that fitting and it is crucial for performance to stay on top of your gear. I am very excited about getting these new sticks and cannot wait to start practicing with them. There will definitely be an adjustment period as the lies, length, weights, etc. are different, but after a week or two of grinding on the course and range the changes will hopefully start to pay off.

The next post will be about the launch monitor specifics between my current clubs and the new Titleists that will arrive soon.  We shall get to the bottom of exactly how much periodically getting fit for sticks can positively change your game through some concrete data.

To wrap things up, here’s “What’s in the bag.”

Driver: Titleist 913 D3 (9.5 degrees)
Setting: D4
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 7.2 X (Tipped 0.5 inches, 0.5 inches under standard)

3 Wood: Titleist 913F D2 (15 degrees)
Setting: D4
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana White Board Plus 82X (Tipped 0.5 inches, 0.5 inches under standard)

Hybrid: Titleist 913H D3 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Blue Board plus 82X

Irons: Titleist AP2 (4-9, bent 1 degree strong)
Shafts: KBS Tour (S-Flex)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM4 (46-08 and 50-08), Vokey TVD M Grind (54 and 58)
Shafts: Dynamic Gold S200

Putter: SeeMore mFGP

Ball: Titleist Pro V1X

Editor’s Note: The cost of an individual fitting (metal woods, irons or wedges) at TPI Oceanside is $200. A full bag fitting is $500. All equipment is sold separately through authorized Titleist accounts.

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Dan decided in April 2010 to quit his job and, with zero previous experience in the game, dedicate 10,000 hours of practice to golf. Follow his journey as he discovers how practice translates into success. Learn more about Dan on his website, thedanplan.com Twitter: @thedanplan Facebook: facebook.com/thedanplangolf

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. David

    May 3, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Dan,
    Nice that you got to go to the source! What is missing now is a Scotty Cameron Putter!!!! If your going to get the best gear you need to go all the way 🙂

  2. Pingback: Who knows how to fit better than the source? – GolfWRX | Golf Grip Instruction

  3. Mike

    May 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Nice write up, Dan. I’m interested in your bag. Is it custom made? Also, all Titleist but no Scotty?

    • Dan Plan

      May 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      Hi Mike,
      It’s a custom Vokey bag but I believe that you can order one online. I really like my SeeMore putter so didn’t see a reason to switch over.

      Thanks!
      Dan

  4. Nick

    May 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Titleist is the bomb. Got fit by them a year ago and saw immediete improvement. The change in my driver trajectory put ten yards on my drive immedietly with probably 15 percent more fairways. Massive game changer for me. While I did not see (or frankly desire) distance gains with my irons, the “cone” of my misses narrowed considerably. This was seen literally the second and third rounds I played with my new set (I think the pressure of playing with a new set and the overwhelming desire to see immediate improvmeent dooms the first round out with new equipment).

  5. Rich

    May 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for the review on the fitting. I live in socal and was wondering about getting fitted at Titleist compared to a Golf Smith or Roger Dunn. I was wondering about the cost as well.

  6. Daniel

    May 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I bet that was awesome getting all that info about your clubs and your swing, but most importantly being able to trust it since you were “at the source.”
    Can a reader ask how much that fitting experience costs?

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Gear Dive: USC head golf coach Chris Zambri on the challenges that will come with the new NCAA rules

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In this Special Edition of The Gear Dive, USC Men’s Head Golf Coach Chris Zambri discusses his thoughts on the new NCAA mandates, how to get recruited, and the pros and cons of recruiting can’t-miss superstars.

  • 9:55 — Zambri discusses thoughts on new rule
  • 17:35 — The rule he feels is the toughest navigate
  • 26:05 — Zambri discusses the disadvantages of recruiting a “can’t miss” PGA star
  • 32:50 — Advice to future recruits
  • 44:45 — The disadvantages of being tied to an OEM as a college golf team

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

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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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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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