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: Hideki Matsuyama from Low Am to low man at the Masters
They say the Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday, but by that time, this year’s iteration was all but wrapped up. Hideki Matsuyama stepped onto the 10th tee with a five-stroke lead and the volatile back nine in front of him. The Augusta pines would be void of roars, though, as Matsuyama’s pursuers near the top of the leaderboard struggled to mount a significant charge. The closest challenger was a late-charging Xander Schauffele, who made four straight birdies to get to within two of the lead heading to the 16th tee. His hopes were then quickly dashed when he dunked his tee shot in the water and eventually made a triple-bogey. Augusta National Golf Club played difficult this spring. Contrary to the record-setting November version, the greens were more brown and firm than typical and required precision. Luckily for Matsuyama, precision has made him one of the elite golfers in the world. He earned this green jacket. He just happened to earn it on Saturday where his 65 was three strokes better than the next-best round. Using V1 Game to analyze his Strokes Gained performance shows Matsuyama gained 6.7 strokes on the average PGA Tour field on Saturday and 4.2 of those were from his iron game.
Matsuyama has always been a premier ball striker and, if anything, poor putting has held him back from winning more. Augusta National is no place for a balky putter and Matsuyama has made some significant strides in that category. While he did not gain strokes on the field in putting this week, he managed to get to average and, with his elite ballstriking, that was enough. Augusta National’s lightning-quick, undulated greens reward a properly-struck shot and punish even the slightest mishit. Matsuyama made 96 feet of putts Saturday (the PGA TOUR average is around 70 feet), including birdie putts of five, 19, 10, four and 10 feet. He also made a six-foot eagle putt on 15. You don’t have to be an elite putter when you have opportunities that close. Good for Matsuyama, because while he filled it up on Saturday, for the week, his putting was sub-standard.
V1 Game breaks down putting performance by distance from the hole, where we can see that Matsuyama lost strokes to the field in all but four distance buckets. He gave significant strokes back to the field from 4-6 feet, 11-15 ft, and 31-50 feet. Matsuyama had four 3-putts on the week, including one on Saturday and one Sunday. That’s progressing in the right direction, but still with room for improvement for the 29-year-old Matsuyama.
If you are going to win the Masters, it always starts with the par 5s and Matsuyama took advantage, playing them in 11-under for the week. He played the par 3s in +1 and the par 4s in even par for the week. Clearly, the par 5s were vital to him being able to get to the required -10 to win the tournament by just a single stroke. Augusta National has arguably the finest set of par fives in golf, each of them scorable and each of them dangerous. With V1 Game’s Hole History, Hideki played the 13th the best at -4 and the 8th the next-best at -3. Hideki made three eagles on the par 5s and averaged 4.3 strokes on the par 5s. That even includes the near-disaster on 15 on Sunday. Matsuyama was consistently in play off the tee and able to challenge the greens with his approach shots throughout the week.
All of the above added up to a healthy lead and afforded Matsuyama some cushion coming down the stretch, cushion that he needed as he got closer to earning his first green jacket. The golf tournament could have turned out significantly differently if young Will Zalatoris could have found a way to play better around Amen Corner, but instead Matsuyama was able to stumble a bit down the stretch and still maintain a two-stroke cushion until the final putt was holed. The Strokes Gained Heatmap from V1 Game for his final round scorecard shows exactly which part of his game became unsteady. Matsuyama overshot the 15th green into the lake and made bogey (Approach). Then three-putted the 16th green and missed a short putt on 18 (putting), knowing bogey was enough to win the golf tournament.
Still, a well-earned victory for Matsuyama. He struck the ball better than anyone else this week and did enough to claim the victory. Augusta National showed its teeth with firmer, faster greens and challenged the field to be precise. Matsuyama has made a career out of being precise. The same strength that brought Hideki Low Amateur honors more than 10 years ago brought him the green jacket as low man in the 2021 Masters.
Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Starting the outdoor golf season with minimal damage
With all the courses opening in the Northeast and the Northwest, we are transitioning from the indoor training facilities to the great outdoor abyss. This talk will help you stick to your guns with conviction and avoid all the new distractions that are going to come your way.
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