How does a fitting work?
The objective of a good fitting is simple:
Finding the right combination of length, clubhead weight, shaft weight, total club weight and flex that produces close agreement between club path and face angle, resulting in straight or slightly curved shots headed generally in the target direction---all with consistency of impact.
Depending on whether we are fitting for a driver, irons or wedges, I’ll have you hit one of your current clubs. After you warm up, I’ll put an impact label on your clubface and have you hit seven shots. As in Olympic scoring, I’ll remove the best and the worst. I will be paying particular attention to your swing path (straight, outside to in, or inside to out) and your face angle at impact----open, closed or square. I’ll also note your swing tempo, whether it be smooth, aggressive, or a blend. I’ll print these “baseline” results, along with the impact label, and we’ll talk about them briefly.
Based on those five “keeper” shots, I will present you with a club that I consider a first step in determining your best club length and weight. As before, we’ll use an impact label to see where you are making contact. You’ll hit seven more shots and we’ll print and label the five keepers, examine and compare them to your baseline fitting data. Throughout the entire process, I will definitely want your feedback on how the club feels to you in every respect you can identify.
Based on the latest results, I’ll then suggest a different shaft, steel or graphite, which may be heavier or lighter, and I may also change the weight of the clubhead. The length, the total club weight, the shaft weight and the head weight are crucial in finding a good fit. The flex of the shaft is also important, but maybe not as important as you might think. I’ll always be interested in how the club feels to you---your input is important. We’ll continue until we find results where path and face angle are close to one another, both close to square, and impact labels are consistent. We may make minor adjustments after that, but nothing major. This process is pretty much the same for drivers, fairway woods, irons and wedges, but there are specific differences. I’ll then build you a sample club with the head, shaft and grip you like and the specs appropriate from our fitting. I’ll have you hit it several times and we’ll see if anything needs to be changed.
Driver Fitting requires some special comments. Virtually every off the rack driver you find in pro shops or big box stores is considerably longer than those used by the world’s best tour golfers. The average length on the PGA tour is 44.5. One of the young players of note in 2014 is Patrick Reed----he uses a 43” driver. The great majority of off the rack drivers are 45.5” to 46.5” long. If the best players in the world can’t control a long driver, how can mere mortals? Finding the correct length, shaft and head weight that allows for consistently good contact with swing path and face angle close to one another is still the real objective.
Determining the correct loft is equally important. In this regard, the male ego is a detriment---it is somehow less manly to have a high lofted driver. Almost everyone, however, can benefit from a more lofted driver. (Most manufacturers have known this for some time and have actually put more loft than what is stamped on the club.)
Having a really good launch monitor is essential in finding the best driver, but that by itself is not sufficient. You have to know how to interpret the results and make necessary adjustments. Important variables in choosing a good driver include 1) swing speed; 2) ball speed; 3) launch angle; 4) angle of attack; 5) tempo time, 6) swing path and 7) face angle. This is where a fitter like me earns his keep.
To illustrate considerations in fitting a driver, we’ll look at my personal situation. Ten years ago I could swing a driver at 105-106 mph; an 8.5 degree driver with a stiff shaft was a great fit. My ball speed was 148+ mph and a launch angle of about 13 degrees was perfect. An average drive was 250 and a good one 275 or more. Fast forward ten years: My current senior swing speed is in the high eighties with an occasional 90+, and a ball speed of about 125-130. I now use a 12.5-13 degree driver with a flex between senior and regular, and a launch angle of 17 degrees will get me the best distance, which averages about 220 yards. The moral of this comparison is not to show the predictable decline with age, but to illustrate the effects of various swing characteristics in a driver fitting. During this period of decline, I have learned a considerable amount about fitting. If I succumbed to ego, and attempted to hit the driver of ten years ago, I’d be lucky to get within 25 yards of my current best fitting driver! I know because I did this experiment the other day.