Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Find Your Fit
Everybody should get their clubs fitted, right? Two GT editors test that theory out. Read how their experience can help you.
The Tour Fitting
By Ryan Noll
Like the regular clubfitting experience that began with a club set checkup, the tour fitting started with a complete analysis of how my equipment performed at various places on the golf course. This helped fuel a more “real world” fitting experience, as I hit shots from the outdoor practice area, which included chips from off the green, bunker shots, pitch shots, iron shots and drivers, all while my expert clubfitter and PGA member, Steve Grosz, analyzed and jotted down notes based on my shots. For instance, after seeing that I liked to adjust the height of my chips around the greens, Steve mentioned that I’d be better off with a low-bounce wedge. Several iron, fairway wood and driver shots later, we headed into a semi-indoor hitting bay where I got hooked up to a launch monitor for a more technical analysis.
As it turned out, my current iron set—which is a brand new one, by the way—was “fitted” well for me right out of the box (Yes, it can happen, Charlie.) But when it was time to hit my fairway woods and driver, things weren’t quite up to snuff. With my woods (especially with my driver), it seemed as though I had to really fight against hitting the ball to the left. Okay, sometimes way left. I continued to demonstrate my trademark pulled shot for Steve in earnest, hoping he could help me with the seemingly never-ending supply of equipment resources he had available. (Frankly, I was about to assume it was me and not the club. Gasp!)
After sifting though some serious statistical data based on our real-world fitting and the stuff learned from the launch-monitor-rigged, semi-indoor hitting bay, Steve stepped away momentarily and came back with a driver that he felt would be a better fit for my swing. For starters, this new driver was .5 inches longer than my current driver. Secondly, it had a 460cc head, with 9.5 degrees of loft and a stout, X-flex shaft, both which were the same as my current driver. “Hmm, how can a driver that looks so much like my own help me from hooking the ball?” I thought. “Watch me hook this driver too, Steve,” I muttered to myself.
Let’s just say I know what crow tastes like. That driver, the one that looked so much like mine, produced the exact shot I’ve tried to achieve since my clubs were stolen en route from Orlando to a pro-am in Phoenix with Bob Uecker a year and a half ago (e-mail me if you want to know more about that). I didn’t adjust my swing with this new driver, I didn’t swing harder or softer, I just put my normal swing on it and my go-to fade had returned. Now, as a self-professed, semi-expert on the matter at hand, I assumed it was the .5-inch that made the difference, but then again, could it be that obvious? Maybe it was it weight? Loft? Lie? Flex? (All my woods had the same shaft, by the way.) Steve later told me that the factors of shaft weight, lie angle, length and clubhead design are important, but that’s not what was causing my shots to veer hard to the left. The data from his analysis proved my problem was caused by this little thing called “torque.”
Torque is defined as the measure of the shaft’s resistance to twisting during the swing. The higher the torque rating, the more the shaft actually twists, helping golfers close the clubface (and avoid hitting a slice). In my case, all of my woods had moderate to high torque ratings, and for a player such as myself who has no problem closing the face, the extra torque only exasperated my inclination to overrotate my hands and hit it left. The new driver had a shaft with a lower torque rating than my driver and helped prevent me from closing the clubface too soon. I could now start the ball up the left side of the fairway with a gentle fade. Eureka! Steve and the geniuses at Hot Stix had found it!
So what’s the moral of my clubfitting experience? I learned that all it takes to throw a kink into your golf game is to have one variable off when it comes to your equipment. As for the tour fitting, hitting actual shots helped my clubfitter better match the lie/loft of each iron in my bag to my specific tastes, rather than to solely rely on what a computer says is best for me. This experience helped me find a happy medium between what gear is the best fit for me and what personal preferences I’d like to retain in my equipment. (Better players will really appreciate that.) The recommendations also included a full putter and ball fitting, both of which proved enlightening and educational. Turns out, my “set DNA” was better than I thought, with almost everything sizing up pretty well, except for my woods and driver shaft’s pesky torque rating.
If you’re looking to get fitted, consider first how much you play and practice, and decide which fitting is right for you. A standard fitting like the one Charlie went through is ideal for the weekend warrior, and the tour fitting is helpful for those who want a more in-depth understanding of their equipment and what kind of changes need to be made. Even if you find out that most of your clubs are already a good match for you, the confirmation will help your confidence. In most cases, there’s at least one to two adjustments to make, sometimes as a result of regular wear and tear on your equipment. I suggest you get fitted at least once a year, and you’ll see that a great way to play more consistently is to always use equipment that’s best suited to your swing.
And as for actually fixing your swing to help lower your scores, well, let’s just say you’re reading the right magazine to get the job done.
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