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A common sense approach to club fitting, from the guy who fits Zach Johnson and Billy Horschel

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Next time you hit the range or golf course, take a good look into your golf bag. Is there a specific, meaningful reason that each one of those clubs is in your bag? If not, it’s probably time for a change.

Recently, I spoke with Craig Allan, Master Club Fitter at Sea Island’s Golf Performance Center, about the misconceptions among gear heads, how Tour pros select their clubs and the importance of fitting for all golfers.

“Don’t change just to change, change because it matters.”

Allan says he’s been a club junkie since he was 10 years old, and now has his dream job; he’s a fitter at Sea Island where pros such as Zach Johnson and Billy Horschel not only call their home, but tinker with and dial in their equipment. He works with golfers of all skill levels, however, so he knows the mistakes amateurs and beginners make, as well as what they can learn from the pros.

Zach and Billy

Zach Johnson and Billy Horschel made news in the equipment world this offseason with their switch to PXG, a new equipment company headed by billionaire Bob Parsons. And both players made their switch to PXG under the supervision of Allan, so he saw first hand what a major equipment and sponsor change is like for a PGA Tour player.

What made them switch?

“Tour Pros don’t switch unless [golf clubs] are better,” Allan said. “The irons are undeniably better. [PXG] hit a home run with its irons.”

Allan said he and Johnson not only tested PXG’s new clubs on Trackman, but also took them out to the course to see how they would perform.

“He [Johnson] was peppering flagsticks with them,” Allan said.

While Allan says Johnson takes a very thoughtful and calculated approach to changing equipment, Horschel is less scientific. For example, Allan said once they find a shaft or club that Horschel likes and performs well, Horschel says “OK, I like it,” and it goes in the bag.

The different approaches to making equipment changes varies greatly between Tour pros, and Allan says he’s “seen it all.” Without naming names, he said “there have been some great players (who he has worked with), reluctant to make changes even when a club is better.”

“Sometimes [PGA Tour players] won’t switch because of familiarity with a club, but [a club] always has to be better before it goes in the bag,” Allan said.

Beginners aren’t good enough to get fit?

Should beginners bother getting fit, or should they build a solid game first? It’s a classic debate, and one a PGA Tour Master Fitter is more than qualified to answer.

Craig Allen

Craig Allan, Master Fitter at the Sea Island Golf Performance Center

“A beginner can absolutely get better [through a club fitting],” Allan said. “A fundamentally sound setup is most important, but if they have the wrong equipment in their hands, they will have to make compensations.”

He says any beginner who says he or she isn’t good enough to get fit is making a “flawed statement.” That’s why he encourages all golfers to get fit for golf clubs, even if it’s not a 14-club set. Of course, golf is expensive, and can be quite intimidating at first.

“If a player just wants to get a driver, or a wedge, 7-iron and driver, or a set with alternating irons, it doesn’t matter,” Allan said. “Just get golf clubs that fit!”

But seriously, who benefits most from a club fitting? According to Allan there are two types of golfers who benefit the most from getting fit. One is a golfer who is too stubborn to change his/her swing. They can see drastic improvements from getting proper equipment. Allan also says golfers who are constantly changing their equipment can also see huge gains… as long as they stick to them. They’re going to change anyway, so it might as well be into the correct clubs, right?

Misconceptions

The golf equipment world is littered with information — some of it is the truth, some of it is very misleading. Allan breaks down a few of the common misconceptions he hears and reads from misguided golfers, which you might also hear in the GolfWRX Forums, below.

Myth No. 1: “Any shaft can fix any club.”

Allan says: All shaft companies can make a shaft that does certain things, but it has to marry to the club head. A lot of people think that they can put an expensive shaft in any club head and it will perform. That isn’t right. The club head and shaft need to be a marriage. Different shafts give you options to find that right mix.

Myth No. 2: “Tour players change grinds based on course conditions.”

Allan says: People think these guys are changing grinds for each course or for weather conditions. That’s just not true, most of the time. They play the wedges that are best for their game and swing.

Myth No. 3: “PGA Tour players are always changing equipment, so I need to keep up with what’s best, too.”

Allan says: Fine-tuning is more common through the year than equipment changes. Some guys are really sensitive to change, some not so much. But working with Tour players is easy because they know what they want, even the feel players.

So what can gear heads and golfers like myself learn from Allan’s years of expertise and work with the world’s best golfers? Before making a change in equipment, make sure it’s actually better; don’t change just to change.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Ray G

    Apr 19, 2016 at 4:50 am

    Find a fitter that tells you the truth, knows what he’s talking about and tells you the truth. I’m fortunate to know a guy like that. The biggest factors in fitting are lie and shafts. I’ve been going to the same guy for about 3 years and have seen real improvements. I’m down to a 5 handicap some due to his fitting and some due to consistent lessons. The bottom line in golf is to shoot the lowest score or kick your buddies butt in a match. If your serious about the game, find a fitter. In the Hartford CT area, Todd at Prove It Golf is the guy!

  2. Speedy

    Apr 17, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Club fitting is usually a scam, directly tied to full-price “custom” equipment. The average sap is easily swayed by cascading data and convincing rhetoric of better scores. Too often, the club-fitter gets it wrong, due to ill-conceived biases and wonky readings and analysis.

    Figure out the flex and the lie on your own nickel, and you’ll be most of the way there. The rest is playing and practice. Lots of it.

    • doc G

      Apr 18, 2016 at 9:57 am

      i have always had the same feelings about “fitting”Cynically speaking it is just a new way of selling clubs!

    • hawk

      Apr 19, 2016 at 8:30 am

      I agree with this. Most club fitters also only have one or two cart brands, usually Titleist, Ping, Mizzy, and maybe TM. To me you can’t get a real fitting when the guy is trying to marry you to the latest Titleist and isn’t even considering other irons.

      A real true fitting would be one with hundreds of shaft options, and club head option with true controlled testing. I do my own testing at my local golf shop and they love watching me do it. I keep everything controlled. I use the same shaft and switch between different heads I like, so I can see which club head is actually better for me. I also use the same club head and change shafts to find the right shaft for me. Of course every visit is different too! Some days a MP-5 with a xp95 S shaft is perfect. Other days a MP-25 with KBS tour 90 is perfect.

      However; like you pointed out, when a club fitter is involved there is always a sales pitch to something. I recommend anyone who can turn an allen wrench try out their own club head and shaft setups at the golf shop. Use a fitter to get lie and length but then do everything else yourself.

  3. Loser Smizzle

    Apr 14, 2016 at 3:07 am

    Gosh I wish somebody would pay me loadsamoney so that I can star in some cool black&white commercials touting the sweetspot as big as Yexas and not a win a thing all year since the switch and then blame it all on the balls because PXG doesn’t make balls

    • AllBOdoesisgolf

      Apr 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

      gosh, I bet I know when you were born…. instant give me wins now I want everything for free

  4. 8thehardway

    Apr 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    One woman who Peppered the flag Was Dottie and it was probably because she wore those great hats. I saw her during a practice round at the (then) Marriott Seaview and she asked us why New Jersey golfers were so polite; i said “None of your business.” and she laughed.

    I think getting fit is a great idea but don’t expect to swing like Dottie Pepper.

  5. Lowell

    Apr 13, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Sometimes it’s the arrow most of the time it’s the Indian.

  6. Steve

    Apr 13, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Get fit or do not get fit but make sure you are buying and playing what you totally want…in other words do not get fit into anything but the ones you been dreaming of playing. If you have been longing to play Ping (or any other clubs) get fit for them and do not give in to these clubs will improve your game thing…..It cost a lot of money to play golf and besides getting in a good round the feeling of have a bag full of clubs you love is part of the fun.

  7. Jordan

    Apr 13, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    “Some guys are really sensitive to change,”

    Jordan Speith cracking his driver head was reported like someone he knew died.

  8. Simon

    Apr 13, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    What does his statement about tour pros only switching to “better” clubs actually mean? All clubs are built to the same tolerances. They are mostly the same in terms of performance. Players will switch if they like the look and feel over their current clubs. They will switch because of sponsorship. I think trackman can play a roll with drivers because of the adjustability on offer these days. But iron and wedges not so much.

    • Ronnie Smith

      Apr 13, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      Simon you are the only one rite $$$$$$$$&$$$$?

  9. Leon

    Apr 13, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    “Tour Pros don’t switch unless [golf clubs] are better,” Allan said. “The irons are undeniably better. [PXG] hit a home run with its irons.”

    What a joke. They change because the money. And since Zach and Billy changed their equipment, I never saw them finished inside top 10 this season. How about their performance of the last season?

    • Tom

      Apr 13, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      good post Leon

    • Matt

      Apr 13, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Zach 5th at Bay Hill

      • AllBOdoesisgolf

        Apr 14, 2016 at 10:21 am

        shhhh don’t cloud their vision with facts

    • ComeOnSense

      Apr 13, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Well said !!That’s right, ever since they switched to… “better golf” , Horseshoes & Johnson’ game went south quick.
      And also,remember they are getting paid less to play PXG… yeah right .lol
      So they switched to club brand that’s not giving them good results , they earning less and they got fitted using common sense? lol

  10. Regis

    Apr 13, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Everything he says is true. But most golfers (even avid golfers) are not going though the process of getting properly fit. Secondly, most don’t have repeatable enough swings to justify anything more than a basic fitting session. My alternative : If you know your swing look at the clubs with the most shaft options that fit your swing speed (Taylor Made, Titleist and Callaway all have a pretty hefty selection of no upcharge options with their drivers) With the irons its more limited but some do offer multiple options when it comes to both steel and graphite iron shafts. Then go to your local guy or even a big box store if they have the ability and choose one or two newer models with different stock shaft options and always test them against your current gamer.

    • john

      Apr 14, 2016 at 9:32 pm

      you are right that a chopper doesn’t have a consistent swing. You are wrong in thinking that their swing changes THAT much – 2mm out from the center of the face and weird stuff happens to the ball… But mostly, your dimensions don’t change, your height, arm length, hand sizes and physical strength don’t change from swing to swing, saying “i’m not good enough to need fitted clubs as i’m not consistent enough” is wrong. Your body is consistent.

  11. Matt

    Apr 13, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    “What made them switch?”

    Money.

  12. Ike16

    Apr 13, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Soon as title of the article came into view the thought jumped out that you had something from the real master fitter Tom Wishon. You see, Tom Wishon wrote the book “Common Sense Clubfitting”. Such are the disappointments in life!

  13. Philip

    Apr 13, 2016 at 11:50 am

    This article has as much misinformation as information … tour players don’t change unless the new gear is better. Once again, political correctness within an industry = misinformation.

  14. Ian

    Apr 13, 2016 at 11:44 am

    “golfers who are constantly changing their equipment can also see huge gains” – I stopped reading after that…

    • Bob Pegram

      Apr 13, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Ian –
      You obviously didn’t even read the rest of the sentence, let alone the rest of the article. The rest of the sentence said, :… as long as they stick to them.” In other words, as long as they stick to the properly fitted clubs and quit changing clubs, those properly fitted clubs will benefit them.

      • Tom

        Apr 13, 2016 at 3:39 pm

        It means you/we can’t ell Ian anything cause he won’t listened.

  15. MIKEYP

    Apr 13, 2016 at 11:27 am

    I am as average as golfers get and I have tweaked my clubs, shafts, lies, lofts etc. alot over the past few years. I have seen changes and improvements in ball flight, length and feel but my scores have stayed pretty consistent. The article says PXG irons are better but the guys playing them are not winning tournaments.

    • Desmond

      Apr 13, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      Is it their iron play? or the rest of their game?

      • Sad Smizzle

        Apr 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm

        but they were “peppering the flagstick” supposedly lmao

    • Mike

      Apr 13, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Great Observation! If I were “peppering” flag sticks with my irons, I wouldn’t have to be a decent putter to win. I would be winning at all levels. Of course, unless everyone was playing the same set of irons….

    • birdy

      Apr 13, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      you’re the type that runs out and buys a certain brand of club the same week a guy on tour wins with that brand. like the guy who wins tournament with great putting so you look at the witb and rush out to buy that same putter……because so and so ‘won with it’ lol

    • c smizzle

      Apr 14, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Spot on. Even if trackman is picking up small improvements on the range fact is Johnson and Horschel are playing worse.
      There is the odd driver ( 2004 burner) or 3 wood (rocketballz), or even ball (prov1) that did give measurable improvement on the course for a lot of players, but its the exception not the rule.

  16. Jaacob Bowden

    Apr 13, 2016 at 11:11 am

    “Tour Pros don’t switch unless [golf clubs] are better,” Allan said. False. Tour players switch for a variety of reasons, for example contractual obligations to help sell the latest products, better incentives, personal relationships, brand identification, the allure that something else might work better, etc. The clubs don’t always end up being better.

    • Bobtrumpet

      Apr 13, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Jaacob, are you saying that pro golfers intentionally play clubs that aren’t as good for their game as they could be? I know you guys can make just about anything work, but isn’t draining to have to work extra hard to make a club perform when there’s an easier (read: better) one available?

      • Scott

        Apr 13, 2016 at 3:08 pm

        I think that he is saying, “Since Brand X is now paying me, these are much better than my old sticks”.

      • RG

        Apr 14, 2016 at 8:46 pm

        That’s ridiculous “Better?” So Tiger and Rory switched to Nike because they were better than his Titleist? PLEASE!!! So the $250,000,000 they each got had nothing to do with it? PLEASE! Bryson DeChambeau is giving up his Edel set immediately because the set from Cobra is better? PLEASE!!THEY ARE BEING PAID TO PLAY THOSE CLUBS! Come to your senses man. There is no “better” there is only different.

    • Mark

      Apr 13, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      Does Rory come to mind with a huge Nike contract.

  17. Christosterone

    Apr 13, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Great article as usual…it was fun to see smylie Kaufman play the Cleveland XD from a few years ago painted to look like a woodie with a brass face…
    They are selling new on eBay for like $60…

    -Christosterone

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Putter: Scotty Cameron T22 Newport 2 Prototype

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord (Midsize) round

Ball: Srixon Z Star Prototype

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

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