One of the least understood areas related to golf equipment is the matter of what constitutes a truly professional custom club fitting analysis. Over the past 10 years, club fitting technology has evolved from trial and error to a practice that is verified by technical research and analytical experience.
Even with the advancements of club fitting technology – which have been plentiful — and the advancements that are sure to come in the future, the best club fitters will always possess a combination of technical knowledge from years of study combined with judgment that is only acquired by the experience of fitting different golfers and learning from each encounter.
The biggest hurdle golfers face in their desire to be custom fit is an understanding of what constitutes a professional club fitting analysis. To many hitting numerous drivers on a golf simulator in a big box retail store until a sales person says “this is the one” constitutes being fit. A professional club fitting experience, however, is much more than that. It is a process that requires the analysis of numerous measurements of golfers and their existing clubs combined with an extensive observation of their swing characteristics to determine proposed fitting specifications. Those specifications are then verified or adjusted through observations of shot results and feedback from golfers.
Don’t think you’re good enough for a fitting? Think again. The procedures that truly professional club fitters use to fit scratch golfers are the same one they use to fit golfers who shoot in the 100’s. I’ve spent more than 30 years in serious club fitting technical research and have communicated and counseled with hundreds of club fitters. I’m also aware of the confusion among golfers about club fitting, so I wanted to offer an overview to explain what is behind a truly professional club fitting experience.
The Goal of Professional Club Fitting
The goal of a quality fitting analysis is to fully analyze golfers, their swing characteristics and game improvement goals to determine each of the 12 Key Fitting Specifications for every golf club that will allow golfers to play to the very best of their given ability and to be able to benefit the most from lessons they may take from a competent teaching professional.
Let’s get something straight right off the bat. Golfers of average ability, those who shoot between roughly 80 and 100, experience the most visible game improvement from proper fitting. The reason is because a very high level of their inconsistency comes from their inability to control clubs that are too long, too low lofted, too heavy, or too light. Often times, their set makeup is also improper, which magnifies many of the swing mistakes they make.
Don’t get me wrong – an accurate club fitting does not CURE swing mistakes. Rather it reduces the severity and the frequency of less-than-perfect swings to allow golfers to be more consistent than before.
Anything short of this “full specs, full bag” approach to fitting will not deliver maximum game improvement to the golfer. Look at it this way – if a competent club fitter can identify and deliver every one of the key fitting specifications for every club in the bag, why settle for less by going to a place that cannot do that? It will result in less than the maximum possible game improvement and enjoyment.
Professional Club Fitting Inputs and Decision Making Factors
The above chart (click on it to make it bigger) presents an overview of the “inputs” and “outputs” of a professional full specs fitting analysis. The accumulation of all these factors represents the complete sum of what the professional club fitters need to know to conduct the fitting analysis in a manner that provides all the information from which the most accurate recommendations can be determined. While this chart may seem very extensive and even complicated, I can assure you that for the best club fitters, these areas of information are a routine part of their actions and thought processes during the fitting analysis. Those who are not competent in club fitting won’t be aware of even half of this information necessary to determine a golfer’s best fitting specifications.
Starting with the light orange boxes on the left, the Key Fitting Specifications lists all the fitting parameters that need to be determined for each club for which the golfer is to be fit. The Technical Data Required lists the reference materials the fitter may need to combine with various points of analysis of golfers and measurements of their current clubs to help determine the Key Fitting Specification requirements. It is also important to ask golfers their opinion of what Golfer Improvement Goals they feel would be of the highest priority for the club fitting experience to help them achieve.
The light green boxes on the right side of the chart reveal the measurements of the golfer and his/her current equipment along with the observations and specific evaluation points of the golfer’s swing characteristics the fitter needs to know. This is combined with the Technical Data Required to obtain the full complement of inputs from which each of the 12 Key Fitting Specifications for each club are determined.
The light blue boxes in the center of the chart explain what inputs are consulted to determine each of the 12 Key Fitting Specifications for the golfer.
In total, the above chart represents the entire amount of information that is required to determine what each of the 12 Key Fitting Specifications will be for each club being fit. The procedures and the time required can and will vary from one club fitter to the next depending on the fitter’s knowledge, commitment, experience and efficiency.
Please understand this analysis is offered to make golfers aware of the depth of knowledge, information and experience that the very best club fitters strive to learn to guide golfers into the best equipment for them. By no means do all or most of the people who offer club fittings follow or possess this level of fitting knowledge. Some do, however, and in the science and craft of club fitting this is the pinnacle to offer golfers the utmost in a fitting analysis.
Ways to Win: Risk management – Cink uses experience to beat the young guns
In “Ways to Win,” we track the PGA Tour winner’s rounds using the V1 Game mobile app and then analyze how they got the job done using the same tools available to V1 Game users.
Following up his earlier victory this season at the Safeway Open, Stewart Cink did it again and ran away with the RBC Heritage this past weekend. This time, he essentially won the tournament by blitzing the field on Thursday and Friday with a pair of 63s to set the 36-hole scoring mark for the tournament. Cink made it look easy those first two days with his well rounded game, allowing him to coast down the finish. He was never truly challenged on Sunday and cruised to a four-stroke victory and his second of the season as a 47-year-old.
Using the Strokes Gained analysis from V1 Game, it is clear that Cink did the separating with all areas of his game on the first two days.
Cink was hitting it close and making putts, a time-honored recipe for success. Interestingly enough, his putting started to wane over the weekend despite his irons staying relatively hot on Saturday. He actually lost over a stroke to the field on each weekend day with his putter. Still, by that point, Cink just needed to avoid mistakes and force someone to make a big run to catch him. That big run never came and the leader did an excellent job of avoiding mistakes over the course of four rounds. Part of minimizing mistakes is a newly-implemented risk system created by Cink and his son, now caddie. Cink simply takes environmental and course condition factors into play and grades the shot as red, yellow, or green. This helps him pick conservative targets that he can be aggressive to and prevents costly errors.
In fact, using V1 Game’s Virtual Coach, Cink had zero three-putts, zero two-chips, and only a single penalty on the week. He played nearly to his potential and maximized his return on the excellent ball striking.
If there was anything to improve on for Cink, V1 Game tells us it would be driving, followed by putting. However, that would just further elevate him above the field. He led the week in Strokes Gained Tee2Green and in Greens in Regulation (GIR).
Not only was Cink hitting greens (almost 80 percent of them), he was also hitting iron and wedge shots close. Using the V1 Game proximity view, Cink averaged six feet for shots inside 75 yards and just 24 feet for shots from 175-200 yards. Talk about stuffing it! This takes a tremendous amount of pressure off of his putter where he was not challenged to lag from great distances.
The histogram view from V1 Game shows Cink gained significant strokes on the field from each yardage bucket under 200 yards. While he lost strokes off the tee and with mid-range putts, Stewart was solid throughout the bag with no real weakness. When he did miss the rare green, his short game was up to the task and made it easy for him to scramble for those crucial par saves.
Most 47-year-old PGA Tour players have more of an eye towards the PGA Tour Champions, which becomes available at 50 years of age, however Cink has found a way to compete with the young guns. Consistent golf and solid ball striking is always rewarded. His golf was impressive and the change to his son as caddie seems to be paying dividends. If you need your own caddie that can help you choose the right targets and pull the right club, download the free V1 Game app today and take advantage of the Virtual Caddie. Virtual Caddie learns from your golf and helps give specific advice tuned to your game, much like a seasoned caddie on the PGA Tour. Whether you are learning the game or a seasoned veteran like Stewart Cink, V1 Game can help you play your best golf at any age.
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The Wedge Guy: Playing your best
No matter what our experience, ability and handicap, all of us golfers have one thing in common–we want to play the best we can every time we tee it up. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. Having a bad day on the course is just part of the game, it seems, regardless of your skill level. But there are things we can do to make that happen less often, and other ways to get back on track when a round begins to go awry.
Let’s start with giving ourselves the best chance of a good round every time.
Setting up a good round
It all starts on your drive to the course, or even when you are getting dressed to go play. Think about good shots you’ve been hitting recently, and good swings you’ve made. Picture drives that were long and straight, iron shots that just hunted the flag, recovery shots that saved par and putts that dropped. I know it’s a cliché, but there really is no substitute for positive thoughts when it comes to golf.
When you get to the course, whether you change shoes in the parking lot or the locker room, S-L-O-W….D-O-W-N. Savor the fact that you have a round of golf in front of you —not work, not yard or house chores. It is time for F-U-N!
Give yourself a chance to perform your best golf right from the first tee
If it’s worth taking a few hours out of your day, it’s darn sure worth taking an extra 10-15 minutes to give yourself a chance. Stretch your legs and back/shoulder muscles that have shortened up from a few days or a week at the office and/or even a few hours of sleep. This is crucial to performing your best. Take a dozen or two back and forth horizontal swings with your sand wedge to get the blood flowing. These aren’t “practice swings” but more like baseball swings to further stretch out your shoulders and back and upper arms and get the feel of the club in your hands.
And for Pete’s sake, hit at least a dozen or so shots before you go to the first tee. At least a few chips and/or pitches and some putts. You have to get the feel of impact refreshed to have a chance.
Getting the derailed train back on track
We all are going to hit bad shots, no matter what kind of game you have, but what wrecks a round is when you get it going sideways for more than one hole. When that happens, the round can still be saved, but the key is to remove the stress caused by the bad shots or holes and build on something you can believe in. It is normal to find yourself tightening up as a result of a bad hole or two, so take an extra minute to “step outside”. Walk away from your group (since you are probably last to hit now anyway), and take some deep breaths. Get your tension down and get positive thoughts back into your head. Take some practice swings with those positive thoughts back in mind.
Here are what I find to be four keys to getting the train back on track
Reach for the 3-wood. If you have hit a couple of bad drives, drop back to the 3-wood, and get one in the fairway. It won’t be all that much shorter than your driver, and it will build some confidence. If the driver is the problem, in fact, bench it for the rest of the round.
Play to the “safe” side. If your iron shots are not sharp, play to the safe side of the greens and give yourself a chance to avoid the big number and put a par or two on the card. When you get your “mojo” back, you can fire at the flags again.
Play the fault. If you are blocking shots right, or a hook has raised its ugly head, play it! That is, if you can’t find the fault and fix it quickly. The range is the place to fix things, the course is for scoring. Unless you can find the fix quickly, just “dance with who brung you.”
Loosen up. A few bad shots will cause us to build body tension, and the first place that manifests is in our grip pressure. You cannot hold a golf club lightly enough, in my opinion–your body won’t let you. But you sure can get into a death grip quickly when the tension mounts. Run a mental check on your grip pressure and lighten up, particularly in the right thumb and forefingers. It will change things immediately.
So, there are my thoughts on playing your best. I’ll bet the readers have their own suggestions, too, so let’s all share our ideas, OK? This should be fun and informative for all of us.
And as always, if you have a topic you would like me to address in a future column, just shoot me an email to [email protected].
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