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Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual

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Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Sean Foster-Nolan

    Mar 2, 2021 at 7:08 am

    Call me a traditionalist, but I like the hands on feeling of a fitting, trying different head/shaft combinations, as well as watching the ball flight.

  2. Roy Nix

    Mar 1, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    Nice article. I have been offering online fittings for some time now and it’s working for my customers. I had to close my bricks & mortar shop a few years ago, but after nearly 20 years of fitting with a Flightscope and tracking golfer’s characteristics to specific shaft types and head designs it works online. I require videos and lots of email back an forth (so I have an audit trail) I can zero in on all aspects of what my golfer needs and build it for them.

  3. dj

    Feb 27, 2021 at 7:47 am

    Quote: Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.

    Most golfers don’t have access to a launch monitor or if they do, it’s at a golf shop that does club fittings.

  4. amgpuma

    Feb 26, 2021 at 8:29 pm

    sounds like medical consultation by phone during this distopian times. Sorry, no you cannot be fitted by sending figures from a launch monitor to a clubfitter. You need to try several shafts and heads then adjust loft, lie, swing weight etc etc etc. Does the club fitter gonna do it by telepahy or they gonna spent a fortune in shipping?Sorry dont see the point. Virtual checking of your figures achieved with your existing set is anything but custom fitting

  5. SV

    Feb 26, 2021 at 10:55 am

    What I don’t understand with a virtual fitting is how does the person being fit obtain different product to try? If everything is based on your clubs, video and launch monitor data, how does the fitter know what will be “the One” for you? There could be several that meet the need.
    Let me say, based on in person fittings, I am skeptical. As an example, I have been consistently told my irons should be 2* flat. In reality, on the golf course when I use 2* flat irons the heel catches and I hit a big hook. Bend them to 3* flat and they work fine.

    • Holden Tudiks

      Feb 26, 2021 at 12:22 pm

      Because we don’t play golf on range mats in a booth. Club fitting is a grift.

      • Carolyn

        Feb 26, 2021 at 1:32 pm

        Agree and there are no houses or fear of hazards when hitting indoors on a mat. Think about how well you hit that warm up bucked off a mat before your round only to hit your first drive out of bounds or 25 yards down the middle?? Also the article fails to mention once you get you numbers how long it is going to take for the club company to deliver your clubs…right now if you look around the web you will find club companies are anywhere from 3 weeks to months before your “Customized” club will be delivered…

      • amgpuma

        Feb 26, 2021 at 8:23 pm

        guess you havent been fitted properly, a grift is what major oem do by selling their clubs

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Opinion & Analysis

To Mr. Whan: Make Walker Cup Trophy Club a one-and-done

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I’ll be brief: the United States Golf Association should make the $500 Trophy Club ticket a one-and-done for the Walker Cup. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as a lead-in to its limited-spectator policy, the May 2021 edition will eliminate free access to the event. In lieu of the open-arms policy of every other playing of this team competition, the USGA has announced that only those with $500 to spare will pass through the gates of Seminole Golf Club, in Juno Beach, Florida.

I attended the 2009 playing at Merion, and the 2013 matches at National Golf Links of America. I wanted to be at Los Angeles Country Club in 2019, but the odds were not in my favor. Even though I was granted press credentials for both 2009 and 2013, I was gratified to see hundreds, if not thousands, of my fellow golf aficionados in attendance. These were lasses and lads without connections, without memberships, without any other means of access than the largesse of the governing body of golf in this country.

In 2025, the Walker Cup will return to our country, and will be held at storied Cypress Point Club, in Carmel, California. You see the trend here? These are the most historic (and most private) clubs in America. Access to the common man is unavailable, except for events like the Walker and Curtis Cups.

Mr. Whan, you and your association have pledged to expand the game of golf, to welcome people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, and identities. Here is one small but important opportunity to put your mouth where your money isn’t. The USGA makes a lot of money at its annual Open championship. Leave the other kids alone, especially the amateur events. Free and easy access ensures that the game outlives us all, just as our foremothers and forefathers envisioned.

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Opinion & Analysis

When Bryson lit up the Masters as an amateur (Masters 2016 WITB)

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When a young amateur named Bryson DeChambeau turned up at Augusta National Golf Club in 2016, there was a magnetism of curiosity attached to the 22-year-old.

After all, this was not your typical amateur golfer. 

He donned a Ben Hogan style cap, was known to test his golf balls in epsom salts to check whether their centre of gravity was off and played a unique set of clubs with every iron and wedge cut to the same length as his favoured 7 iron.

In a world with so much conformity, unusualness becomes a force of its own.

That was certainly the case with Bryson at the 2016 Masters, who even had notable names for his 37.5-inch wedges and irons, which were otherwise only distinguishable from their differing lofts.

  • 60-degree wedge – ‘King’ after Arnold Palmer’s 1960 Masters win
  • 55-degree wedge – ‘Mr. Ward’ after the Masters Low-Am 1995 winner
  • 50-degree wedge – ‘Jimmy’ after the 1950 Masters champ Jimmy Demaret
  • 46-degree wedge – ‘Keiser’ after the 1946 Masters winner Herman Keiser
  • 9 iron (42 degrees) – ‘Jackie’ after Jackie Robinson’s famous number 42 (same loft)
  • 8 iron (38 degrees) – ‘8 ball’
  • 7 iron (34 degrees) – ‘Tin Cup’ in honor of the film: 3+4=7
  • 6 iron – ‘Juniper’ after the 6th hole at Augusta
  • 5 iron – ‘Azalea’ after his favorite par 5 (13th hole)
  • 3 iron – ‘Gamma’, which is the third letter in the Greek alphabet

DeChambeau took the trip down Magnolia Lane having, just a year previously, become only the fifth man in history to win the US Amateur Championship and the NCAA Division 1 Championship in the same year.

He had joined Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and Ryan Moore in doing so.

Inspired by Homer Kelly’s ‘The Golfing Machine’, DeChambeau also revealed on the week of the Masters in 2016 that he had a fascination with Bobby Jones. Jones, who had famously won the Grand Slam in 1930 and had, like Bryson, altered many of his clubs so that they were also the same length.

When DeChambeau spoke about Jones and his achievements in his pre-Masters press conference, the 22-year-old suggested the possibility of doing something special.

For the opening two rounds of the event, DeChambeau was grouped with defending champion Jordan Spieth and Paul Casey – and something special was certainly abound.

While Spieth stormed into the lead with a round of 66, DeChambeau held his own against the course, opening with a level par 72, which would keep him within sight of the lead. But it was in round two where Bryson showed not just his talent but how, even as an amateur, little could faze him.

On Friday, having flown the opening green at one, DeChambeau faced a delicate chip back down the green. He poured it into the back of the cup, and a magical day was underway.

A bogey at the third followed as the scoring became increasingly difficult in the windy conditions, but as his competitors stuttered, Bryson became inspired.

Using his one plane swing, the 22-year-old birdied the seventh before spinning a wedge back to a few feet on the ninth to move to 2-under par for the event.

He would give that birdie back on 10, but despite the poor weather conditions, he would tame Amen corner, beginning with an approach to 9-feet on 11 (which he later admitted to pulling) – a hole which saw just six birdies on that Friday.

At the 12th, DeChambeau fared even better, knocking his tee shot to 2-feet. He was one off the lead.

He stayed within one of the lead after 35 holes before it all came unstuck on the 18th hole. DeChambeau pulled his tee-shot on the last and found an unplayable lie off the tee – he ended up making a triple bogey 7.

It was a sour finish that left him T8 on the leaderboard, four strokes back.

Speaking on the drive on 18, and the subsequent one which followed, DeChambeau said

“No, I hit two pulled drives. I don’t like the left-to-right wind on that hole and ultimately with this closed gap, I thought seeing those flags out there on 1 right where the leaderboard is blowing to the right,

I thought it was going to move it right, and subconsciously I came a little bit over the top and had a closed clubface. It was only two degrees closed. That’s what does it.”

A third round 77 took DeChambeau out of contention, but the youngster showed his metal on Sunday, hitting back with a round of level par thanks to a birdie on the 72nd hole.

The T21 finish gave Bryson the low-amateur award that year as well as the best finish from an amateur at Augusta since Ryan Moore finished 15th back in 2005.

The 22-year-old was as candid back then as he is today and revealed following the tournament that he had “messed up” his preparation for the event by practicing too much earlier in the week.

“Again, going back to preparation, the only thing I would change is how I spent my time resting, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Unfortunately messed up and, you know what, I’m 22, I’m still young and learning how to manage my time. That’s the one thing that I think I’d change.

Ultimately my body took a toll this week and my hip. Really haven’t talked about it too much, but my hip gave out the second round, on 15, and ultimately led me to pull those two shots. I wouldn’t say that’s the full reason, but at the same time, it did affect me. It was unfortunate, but again, it’s a learning experience.”

It was the week Bryson introduced himself on the world stage and showed the massive amount of potential and determination he possessed, which would ultimately see him become a major champion.

In the next few days DeChambeau will return to Augusta National and will of course draw more attention than any other player in the field.

His introduction was one of intrigue and potential, but when he takes the trip down Magnolia Lane next week, the focus will be on whether Bryson can block out the noise, pressure and expectancy, and fulfil his destiny of becoming a Masters champion.

As a 22-year-old Bryson said after his first Masters experience:

“I think people talk about how every five years, you change as a human being, and that is absolutely true.  I mean, I’ve totally changed and what I would tell younger Bryson is, be patient and keep learning every day. Those are the two things that I would tell him.”

You probably don’t need reminding. It’s been 5 years since Bryson first stole the show at Augusta National.

Bryson DeChambeau 2016 Masters WITB

Driver: Cobra King F6+ Pro (7 degrees)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Tour Limited 70X
Length: 45 inches (tipped 2.5 inches)
Weight Setting: Sliding weight removed

3 wood: Cobra King F6 (14.2 degrees actual loft)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Tour Limited 70X
Length: 43 inches (tipped 2 inches)
Lie Angle: 61.5 degrees

Utility: Cobra King Utility (18.5D)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Black Hybrid 6.5X (105 grams)

Irons: Cobra Fly-Z+ (3, 5), Edel Forged Prototype (6-9)
Shafts: KBS C-Taper Lite 115X
Length, Lie: 37.5 inches, 73 degrees
Head weight: 280 grams
Lofts: 20 (3), 25 (4), 30 (5), 34 (6), 38 (7), 42 (8), 46 (9)

Wedges: Cobra King (46, 50, 55 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: KBS Hi-Rev 135X
Length, Lie: 37.5 inches, 73 degrees
Head weight: 280 grams

Putter: Edel “The Brick” prototype
Grip: SuperStroke Slim 3.0 (Blue/White)

Ball: Bridgestone B330-S

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Wilson Staff wedge and Bushnell Wingman review

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It’s a short one this week, but I’m reviewing the new-er Wilson Staff Model wedge and the Bushnell Wingman GPS and speaker. The Staff Model is a solid forged wedge that offers good feel, spin, and turf interaction for a slightly lower price. The Bushnell Wingman is a golf GPS and a bluetooth speaker in one. It has a TON of golf stuff built into it, but can also be used off the course to listen to your favorite tracks!

 

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