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In club fitting, three swings is all it takes

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I had a recent experience that reminded me of some lessons I learned as a club fitter. My wife and I were headed to a cooler climate to escape the August heat in Texas, and I threw my clubs in the trunk “just in case.” I got lucky and was invited to play a round. Having not touched a club for a couple of weeks, I got to the range early just in case I could discover the infamous “secret.” Only what I discovered was a slight miscalculation on my part — I didn’t bring a driver! In fact, the longest club I had was a 7 wood. This was a problem.

I went into the pro shop and asked if they had any demo drivers. Given my predicament, I wasn’t choosy. Any brand, loft, flex, etc., would work just fine.

They gave me three options, so I went to the range and warmed up. After getting my body loose, it was time to pick out my driver for the day. I hit two balls with the first driver, hit a few iron shots, then repeated the experiment with the second and third drivers. Driver No. 2 performed the best, so that’s the one I played with. I actually hit it very well, kept it in the fairway and had no problem keeping up with my playing partners, which was the norm.

So what’s the point? I only hit two balls on the range with each driver so I could simulate on-course conditions. I know from my club-fitting days that if I hit any more than two shots I’m not testing how the club fits me, but rather my ability to adjust to the club. This is critical, and an error I’ve seen made many times, either at the request of the player or the person administering the fitting. They will have the golfer will hit 10 or more shots “testing” the club.

I touched on this in a previous story, but it’s so vital to choosing the right clubs that I’m mentioning it again. Golfers must remember that golf is a one-shot game. You should warm up, give a club a couple of hits and let the ball flight tell you if it’s the right club for you. If someone is working with you and they want you to hit a lot of balls with one club, just remember, it’s a test to see how well you adjust to that club, not how the club fits you.

My formula as a fitter was three shots only. I discounted No. 1 just because it was the first one, counted 100 percent of No. 2 and discounted No. 3 because the player was starting to adjust.

Back to my story.

Part way through the round I looked at the shaft flex and it was an S-Flex! This completely violates all the launch monitor testing I’ve experienced over the years, because at my age I’ve moved into more flexible shafts. With all the measuring devices that indicate what I “should” be using, the human body is an amazingly adjustable and unpredictable vehicle. For some reason, like many others I’ve seen over the years, I reacted positively to that particular club in my hands. Some internal message told me it was the proper driver to play with that day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a club fitter by trade and in my beliefs, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Don’t get me started on how many people I’ve had hit steel iron shafts straighter and longer, but “had” to have graphite. There’s nothing worse than selling clubs to a customer that you know aren’t the right fit.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at [email protected] Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. FA

    Oct 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    IL

  2. LT

    Oct 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    WC

  3. Joel

    Oct 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    So the only shot Barney would count is the 2nd one. That’s crazy. What if a person puts a really good or a really bad swing on it? You’re gonna let one swing decide if the club is “fit” for you or not?

  4. Pingback: Does The Body Know Best? - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  5. Regis

    Oct 1, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I’m a lifetime player who does his own club work. Played a lot of brands, heads and shafts. My perspective is a little different. I can generally tell within 3 to 5 swings if the club/shaft is NOT going to work for me but it takes the better part of a season, both on the range and on the course to determine if the club is going to be a gamer into next season so as to form the base for next years comparison.

  6. David

    Oct 1, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I get the concept, and don’t disagree, but what’s wrong with adjusting you swing to the club? At root, isn’t that what all swing lessons are about?

  7. BJones

    Oct 1, 2014 at 10:51 am

    I agree with Barney, in particular hitting 3 balls with the driver. Any more that and I start to adjust my swing to the driver in order to make it work, and that starts something not good for a consistent swing which I strive for.

  8. Skyking

    Sep 29, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Dear God I wish customers could only take 3 swings per stick configuration. I put down 5 balls and they want to drag more over. Better golfers by an large figure it out in a few swings and move on. Have no clue what’s going on in their mind. Spending that much money? Posing…just wasting my time with no intent of buying? I agree about static fitting higher handicappers and moving on.

    • Phil

      Oct 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      I can understand the whole “waste your time and not buy anything” complaint, but isn’t that what your holiness is getting paid to do?

      God forbid you waste your holiest of time on a high handicapper trying to get better by looking to you for help in getting better..

      I get it.. You’re being pulled from one of those many club records to break.

      • Jafar

        Oct 13, 2014 at 4:52 pm

        The arrogance of golf shop “pros” is what keeps people away from the game.

        The idea of having 14 clubs to a beginner without knowing what any of them (besides putter and driver) does or is supposed to do is already intimidating.

        People need to get off their high horse and realize the game is already hard enough, buying/trying clubs shouldn’t add to that difficulty.

        • Larry

          Oct 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm

          To add to what you say, when you talk about slow play out on the course more then 50% is the lower handicap players that figure they have the right to take all day playing…..I would reather spend 4 and a half hours behind a higher handicap foursome then 10 minutes behind a group of low handicap players that think every par 5 can be reached in two, they have to watch each others shot and they spend three times as much time reading 4 foot putts. would someone please exsplain to these golfers if they are not plus 3 or 4 and playing over 7,000 yard courses they are not pros, they are amatures like the majority of us and we would like them to get out of are way.

  9. JG

    Sep 28, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Bareny,

    I could not agree more with this article! As a 5 right now I can make anything work for my swing. I have seen this over and over when I switch equipment. I have also been fiti many times and have been fit into really stiff or regular. I have played both with success. I think the way to get fit is take 3 shots and then move on and maybe come back. Very insightful and thank you!

    • Larry

      Oct 16, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Also agree, I hold firm if your about a true 15 or more handicap play what you want, If you love Ping you will play best with Ping Etc.

  10. Teaj

    Sep 26, 2014 at 8:38 am

    I get this the body is a funny thing and will compensate for slight differences. avid golfers can also knowingly change their mechanics slightly to compinsate for say a lighter weight shaft as I know I have altered my swing when I went with a lighter shaft to lessen my draw.

    though I think you should swing the driver more than 3 times, maybe that doesn’t have to be in a row. next time I do a fitting maybe I might have them bring in their 6 iron warm up with this as they are used to this club (I hope) then have them take 2 swings with the driver 5 with the iron 2 driver and so on so not to allow the golfer to make swing after swing naturally adjusting their mechanics to the driver.

    Thanks for the post I enjoy hearing these different takes on any golf related subjects. Food for thought…. and im hungry

  11. Jason

    Sep 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I’m one of those hackers that plays around 16-20 over on a normal round and have never considered myself good enough for a fitting for the reason that I can hit 3 balls and show you 3 different shots. I really would like to upgrade to a new set of irons so I have been working on making a consistent swing before I get properly fit for a new set. It makes me feel a little better to hear what you had to say about fittings.

    • Larry

      Sep 27, 2014 at 2:07 am

      There is more then a chance you may never have a swing that remains the same long enough to make a long fitting worth the time….get fit with a general fitting like the ping formula, then find clubs you like and play into the fit, hitting something you really like and want to play is more important for the higher handicap and sometimes just getting the right shaft flex can make the biggest difference….

  12. KevinS

    Sep 25, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Sorry Barney but that’s crazy. I have been fitting clubs for over 20 years and am also a qualified PGA Professional instructor. All you proved with your test is what I have said all along, there is no standard among manufacturers when it comes to shaft flexes, bend points, etc; The “S” flex in that driver you hit May have been a Lite flex from another manufacturer. The only way to proper fit someone is hit several clubs, look at the numbers on a launch monitor and compare, then when you find a group of clubs that are close, let the player decides what club feels best. If I tried to fit someone after 3 swings before long all my credibility would go away and I wouldn’t have any customers.

    • Barney Adams

      Sep 27, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      I. Kept. Data for 2 years as a club fitter . No doubt whatsoever after 2 maybe 3 hits you are adjusting to the club. Golf being a one shot game doesn’t allow that latitude on course.

    • Tom v

      Sep 28, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      You are missing the part where he hit irons in between. Then moves to another driver. After decades of fitting myself I couldn’t agree more with Barney here. The golfer adjusts every single time to the driver. If you are fitting people that are not adjusting then there might be other issues. This holds true even more for tour guys who many times don’t even look at numbers and base it entirely on feel and how the ball flies. 15 years ago I witnessed a tour pro walk on to the range with 50+ drivers and hit a few shots with each and could immediately tell if it was going to work. He walked away with 3 clubs that he liked of the 50+. Point being, it doesn’t take more than a few swings to tell if the club is going to work. Not 2-3 total swings but break it up with other clubs in between and adjust/try different clubs. Just beating balls doesn’t help anyone, the golfer will eventually adjust or he will need a different club.

  13. BobbyL44

    Sep 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    I actually couldn’t agree less!

    In 3 swings you’ll hit a club that best matches your current swing, sure, but that club may not help you achieve your more optional swing.

    Nobody wants to believe that you should guy your swing to the club, but why not?

    I bent my lies flatter to promote more of a body release, at first thought I’d ruined them but now rotate through the shot better than ever without having to worry about the heel of an upright club getting stuck in the ground. Most players can’t swing that way today because the clubs are too thought to allow it! Having the clubs in the right position (lie angle) forced me to do that.

    It’s no different to running barefoot. It teaches you to run with proper form and when done properly (ie. Slowly and for short distances) it improves running efficiency. All the new technology yet running injuries having increased because they prevent good form (the cushioned wedge under the heel). This is exactly like the change in golf clubs (lighter, more upright, etc).

    Now I’m not advocating going from Nike shoes to a barefoot marathon overnight will make you an elite runner, the same as I wouldn’t say that going from upright cavity backs with graphite shafts to old blades with stiff steel and flat lie angles is going to make you a PGA Tour player.

    However, if your swing has flaws today’s technology allows you to run from them, hide from them, so they more often than not get amplified, they don’t disappear.

    With clubs that are ‘correct’ for purpose but not ‘fit’ for your (current) swing you may just find you force change in your swing and take your game to a whole new level.

    • BobbyL44

      Sep 25, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      Thought=upright (damn auto-correct!)

    • Alex

      Sep 25, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Remember though…we’re talking club fitting. Not swing changes.

      There is no club that will “fit your swing better” in those terms. Nothing to “grow into swinging better” or anything like that. The only exception would be a draw or offset driver versus a neutral one.

      3 swings is perfect for narrowing down your choices. After you have your 5-6 contestants narrowed with the 3 swings each idea, then you can hit a few more with the 1-2 left to see any fine tuning. I would constantly switch though. Never hit more than 4-5 in a row with one on a certain setting. Then that’s just practice.

      • Brad B

        Sep 30, 2014 at 11:00 pm

        Two ways to fit (IMO) – – – #1, fit to the swing you have; #2, fit to the swing you want.

        For most people who decide they want to improve (rather than just have fun with what they have), the fit for the “swing they want” would be different from “swing they have” . . . . makes sense to get the fit that will work once you incorporate what you’re working on.

        • Barney Adams

          Oct 1, 2014 at 7:01 pm

          That swing I wanted. 60 years later I still want; no find!

          • sandman499

            Oct 5, 2014 at 5:05 am

            I have always thought the lighter the shaft, the faster the swing and more distance. You said some players hit the steel shaft better and farther, but still wanted graphite shafts. What am I missing? Why would they hit the steel shaft further then the lighter graphite? Thanks for the great article. sandman499

          • ABgolfer2

            Oct 13, 2014 at 9:11 pm

            HAHA – no kidding. The swing I want looks a helluva a lot different from the swing I see on video. I just want clubs that make sense for me. Can I trust that I’ll be able to make my somewhat natural swing (tweaked with lessons and practice but after almost 30 years my terrible swings look really close to my my goods ones on video) and that the club face will be aligned the way I visualized it at address as it reaches the ball. The swing is what it is at this point.

          • timbleking

            Oct 20, 2014 at 10:21 am

            Sandman,

            There is a no-return point on shaft stiffness on both direction. Either too hard, or too weak. In both cases, you just lose energy that the shaft is not able to compensate. It all dépends on your tempo, I would say.

    • Ryan K

      Sep 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      Oh boy, I hope you don’t do any shoe fitting or sports/running training. I’m just sayin..

  14. MHendon

    Sep 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Yeah most Pro’s follow this rule, usually its about 4 to 6 shots to determine if its the right club for you. I’ve always followed that rule too.

  15. gvogel

    Sep 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I’m glad Barney said it, because I have felt the same way for a long time.

    Yesterday I was out fooling around with a couple of G30 drivers which I have bought, and the results were mixed. I reached for my G25 driver and striped it, just the shot I like to hit. What did that tell me?

    Here is some advice: if you hit a demo club and you love it – buy the demo if at all possible!

    The same holds true for wedges and putters.

    • DK

      Sep 26, 2014 at 1:18 am

      100% agree. Reminds me of when I last changed my putter. Was in the shop to kill time and just took a few putters to try. Tried an Odessey black metal #8 for fun and my word, it felt so good and so natural in my hand. Then I tried almost every putter on the rack, and none felt even as close, even the other Odessey Black metal #8s available there. I knew I had to get that particular one even though it was slightly scratched up while the other same model ones were pristine. I always say, when it feels right, just grab it regardless the cost.

    • timbleking

      Oct 20, 2014 at 10:23 am

      Agree 100000%.

    • Jim

      Oct 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      I learned this from a pro a long time ago and it has saved me time, money and frustration on a grand scale.

  16. James

    Sep 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    One of the differences between a good player and an average player is just what Barney said, that is that a good player can make adjustments to hit about any shaft and the average player can’t. Proper fitting is indeed important but there are things a fitter can’t measure like feel.

  17. Marc

    Sep 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Makes sense, but I guess it has to be assumed that the golfer has a decent level of repeatability in his swing. Which begs the question, how much can club-fitting help a high handicapper?? It’s a tough situation for a club fitter when a customer doesn’t have the consistency to make repeatably solid contact, but expects results.

    • Alex

      Sep 25, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      Static fitting can help a higher capper more than dynamic fitting in a lot of cases. If they’re consistent you can fit for lie angles somewhat…but you can’t really go into shaft fitting or tuning trajectory like you can with someone who is more consistent.

  18. nikkyd

    Sep 25, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    This makes a lot of sense BA . I always ask people ” ya dont buy and wear the wrong sized shoes do ya?”

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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: March (belatedly)

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Editor’s note: All latency on the publishing here is the fault of the Editor-in-Chief.

As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the third installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here.

Absolutely. Meet me up north (and, to himself, what have I got to lose?)

No sense in putting the cart before the horse, as the old pro used to say, as cirE “Flip” Hedgebow used to ignore. As March came to a close, as cirE locked the pro shop for the last time until November, he took a leap of faith. How big of a leap? Let’s get through March, and find out.

Speaking of carts and horses, March for Flip always came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion. That ran contrary to the folklore but, all things considered, there was always a 50% chance of things running contrary.

No, the best reason for topsy and turvy in March, for Flip, was explained by his birthday. Being born in the middle of the month might suggest balance to some; for him, it was a constant reminder of the chaos that led up to his earthly arrival, tempered only by the madness that ensued. If that’s balance, you can have it.

In Flip’s world, March was about the arrival of the most seasoned of snowbirds, the ones with more than five years of retirement under their growing-shrinking belts. Some were expanding, as they had given up on fitness; the rest were shrinking, as the truest effects of age caught them up. In each case, this pod arrived with military precision, knowing where and when nearly every penny would be spent. No frivolity remained in their schedules, no ambiguity survived from younger, budgeting days. No longer minnows, they recognized that uncertainty stalked them, and that all of their remaining wits needed to center on a small and precise target. The smaller, the more precise, the better…for the women.

Like all men, the old guys appreciated the consistency and precision their wives brought to their worlds.

Like all men, the old guys detested the ever-encroaching, loss of control over their own destinies.

They would enter the pro shop, grab the latest hat like a modern-day Judge Smails, and set it at a rakish angle, atop their sleek domes. Flip learned quite early on that the only way to ensure the sale was cash. When the wives invariably came to complain and demand a refund, Flip could “only” offer a pro shop credit, guaranteeing that something would be purchased. If they bought it on account or on a card, the sale was irretrievably lost.

Flip expected these purchases from his March gam: the cheapest golf balls, when their supply of northern culls ran out; the attire from last fall, or even the previous summer, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer when March 20th arrived; and some odd or end that the pro had overlooked, lost to some sort of missionary of time. The only thing stronger than the will of the spouse, was the desire of the old guy to make some sort of purchase, to re-establish some semblance of power and control, for at least a moment.

How did you get your name, and why is the last letter, and not the first, capitalized?

(silence. he rarely heard the first question, as everyone knew him as “Flip;” he never heard the second one, as no one paid attention anymore.)

Two stories are a lot to tell. Let’s save both answers, even if it’s just a little while.

(silence. she wasn’t satisfied)

If the red hair caused his eyes to move from the mundane nature of packing and sealing boxes, everything else physical compelled him to put down the tape gun, sense that his throat was dry, know that he would not clear it without a squeak, turn away for a bottle of water, take a swig for lubrication, and, finally, turn back with his finest Axel Foley smile, and greet her with: How long have you been retired?

It was an incalculable risk. There was a 90% chance that she would react with an I’m not that old sort of affront, turn on her heels, and march out the door. There was a 5% chance that she would get the joke, and would stick around for another exchange, before smiling awkwardly and departing. There remained a 5% chance of something else. On this 21st day of March, that final 5% wafted in.

Wafted in, in the guise of a lesson he thought that he had planned. Planned for one of the wives, a late-sixties model whose swing was frozen in time: the unlikely combination of a forward lurch of the torso, a reverse pivot of the feet, and right in the middle, an impossible heave of the hips in one of four unpredictable directions. If anyone were to discover a fifth cardinal point, it would be Agnes Porter. Until this moment, Flip Hedgebow gave thanks that the world was blessed with just one of her; more than one might have tilted the globe off its axis. Now, he offered up a different type of gratitude, thanks to the visage of her granddaughter, who bore no resemblance to the matriarch, beyond the title of Agnes Porter.

They write that a story may be deemed worthy for its inerrant language, or for its compelling events. The story of Agnes Porter the way-younger and Flip Hedgebow benefitted from both, along with an overdose of peripeteia.

 

Artwork by JaeB

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!

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Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.

 

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between good amateurs and those who are not-so-good—and between the top professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—lies in the consistency of their pre-shot routine. I read an interesting account on this subject after the final round of the 1990 Masters when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Greg Norman. I know that was 30 years ago, but the lesson is just as relevant today.

This particular analyst timed the pre-shot routines of both players during the first three rounds and found that on the final day that Norman got quicker and quicker through his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

Anytime you watch professional golf—or the better players at your club—you’ll see precision and consistency in the way they approach all of their shots. There is a lesson there for all of us—so, here are my ideas of how the pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land, and roll. It is certainly realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches, and putts, as they are all very different challenges. As you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

On any shot, I believe the best starting point is from behind the ball, seeing in your “mind’s eye” the film clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight path it will take, and on greenside shots, just how it will roll out. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and take as many practice swings as it takes to “feel” the swing that will produce that visualized shot path for you.

Your actual pre-shot routine can start when you see that shot clearly and begin your approach the ball to set up. From that “trigger point,” you should work hard to do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. When you are out there “banging balls,” don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot.

So, guys and ladies, there’s my $.02 on the pre shot routine. What do you have to add?

 

 

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