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.
The Wedge Guy: What you CAN learn from tour pros
I have frequently noted how the game the PGA Tour players play is, in most ways, a whole different game than we “mere mortal” recreational golfers play. They hit their drivers miles it seems. Their short games are borderline miraculous. And they get to play from perfect bunkers and putt on perfect greens every single week. And it lets them beat most courses into submission with scores of 20-plus under par.
The rest of us do not have their strength, of course, nor do we have the time to develop short game skills even close to theirs. And our greens are not the perfect surfaces they enjoy, nor do we have caddies, green-reading books, etc. So, we battle mightily to shoot our best scores, whether that be in the 70s, 90s, or higher.
There is no question that most PGA Tour players are high-level athletes, who train daily for both body strength and flexibility, as well as the specific skills to make a golf ball do what they intend it to. But even with all that, it is amazing how bad they can hit it sometimes and how mediocre (for them) the majority of their shots really are — or at least they were this week.
Watching the Wells Fargo event this weekend, you could really see how their games are – relatively speaking – very much like ours on a week-to-week basis.
What really stood out for me as I watched some of this event was so few shots that were awe-inspiring and so many that were really terrible. Rory even put his win in jeopardy with a horrible drive on the 18th, but a very smart decision and a functional recovery saved him. (The advantage of being able to muscle an 8-iron 195 yards out of deep rough and a tough lie is not to be slighted).
Of course, every one of these guys knocks the flag down with approach shots occasionally, if not frequently, but on a longer and tougher golf course, relative mediocrity was good enough to win.
If we can set these guys’ power differences aside, I think we all can learn from watching and seeing that even these players hit “big uglies” with amazing frequency. And that the “meat” of their tee-to-green games is keeping it in play when they face the occasional really tough golf course like Quail Hollow. Do you realize less than 20 of the best players in the world beat par for those 72 holes?
It has long been said that golf is a game of misses, and the player who “misses best” is likely to be “in the hunt” more often than not, and will win his or her share. That old idiom is as true for those of us trying to break 100 or 90 or 80 as it is for the guys trying to win on the PGA Tour each week.
Our “big numbers” happen for the same reasons as theirs do – a simply terrible shot or two at the wrong time. But because we do not have anywhere near their short game and recovery skills, we just do not “get away with” our big misses as frequently as they do.
So, what can you take away from that observation? I suggest this.
Play within your own reliable strength profile and skill set. Play for your average or typical shot, not your very best, whether that is a drive, approach shot, or short game recovery. And don’t expect a great shot to follow a bad one.
If, no, when you hit the “big miss,” accept that this hole can get away from you and turn into a double or worse, regroup, and stop the bleeding, so you can go on to the next hole.
We can be pretty darn sure Rory McIlroy was not thinking bogey on the 18th tee but changed his objective on the hole once he saw the lie his poor drive had found. It only took a bogey to secure his win, so that became a very acceptable outcome.
There’s a lesson for all of us in that.
Ways to Win: Horses for Courses – Rory McIlroy rides the Rors to another Quail Hollow win
Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Rory McIlroy wins at Quail Hollow. The new father broke his winless streak at a familiar course on Mother’s Day. McIlroy has been pretty vocal about how he is able to feed off the crowd and plays his best golf with an audience. Last week provided a familiar setting in a venue he has won twice before and a strong crowd, giving McIlroy just what he needed to break through and win again. A phenomenal feat given that, not long ago, he seemed completely lost, chasing distance based on Bryson DeChambeau’s unorthodox-but-effective progress. McIlroy is typically a player who separates himself from the field as a premier driver of the golf ball, however this week it was his consistency across all areas that won the tournament.
Using the Strokes Gained Stacked view from V1 Game shows that Rory actually gained the most strokes for the week in putting. Not typically known as a phenomenal putter, something about those Quail Hollow greens speaks to McIlroy where he finished the week third in strokes gained: putting (red above). He also hit his irons fairly well, gaining more than 3.6 strokes for the week on a typical PGA Tour field. Probably the most surprising category for McIlroy was actually driving, where he gained just 1.3 strokes for the week and finished 18th in the field. While McIlroy is typically more accurate with the driver, in this case, he sprayed the ball. Strokes gained: driving takes into account distance, accuracy, and the lie into which you hit the ball. McIlroy’s driving distance was still elite, finishing second in the field and averaging more than 325 yards as measured . However, when he missed, he missed in bad spots. McIlroy drove into recovery situations multiple times, causing lay-ups and punch-outs. He also drove into several bunkers causing difficult mid-range bunker shots. So, while driving distance is a quick way to add strokes gained, you have to avoid poor lies to take advantage and, unfortunately, McIlroy hurt himself there. This was particularly apparent on the 72nd hole where he pull-hooked a 3-wood into the hazard and almost cost himself the tournament.
It’s rare that a player wins a tour event without a truly standout category, but McIlroy won this week by being proficient in each category with a consistent performance. From a strokes gained perspective, he leaned on his putting, but even then, he had four three-putts on the week and left some room for improvement. He gained strokes from most distances but struggled on the long ones and from 16-20 feet. Overall, we saw good progress for McIlroy to putt as well as he did on the week.
McIlroy also had a good week with his irons, routinely giving himself opportunities to convert birdies where he tied for seventh-most in the field. When he did miss with his irons, he tended to miss short from most distances. His proximity to the hole was quite good, averaging below 30 feet from most distance buckets. That is surely a recipe to win.
When you add it all up, McIlroy showed little weakness last week. He was proficient in each category and relied on solid decision-making and routine pars while others made mistakes on the weekend. Sometimes, there is no need to be flashy, even for the best in the world. It was good to see McIlroy rejoin the winner’s circle and hopefully pull himself out from what has been a bit of a slump. Golf is better when McIlroy is winning.
If you want to build a consistent game like Rors, V1 Game can help you understand your weaknesses and get started on a journey to better golf. Download in the app store for free today.
Club Junkie: Fujikura MC Putter shaft review and cheap Amazon grips!
Fujikura’s new MC Putter shafts are PACKED with technology that you wouldn’t expect in a putter shaft. Graphite, metal, and rubber are fused together for an extremely consistent and great feeling putter shaft. Three models to fit any putter stroke out there!
Grips are in short supply right now, and there are some very cheap options on Amazon. I bought some with Prime delivery, and they aren’t as good as you would think.
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