Editor’s Note: Following is the fifth of six in-depth instruction pieces in digest form from Top 30 Instructor Tom Patri’s 2005 book, The Six-Spoke Approach To Golf. Tom is one of the most respected teachers and coaches in the game, and we’re honored to add his deep passion and knowledge to the pages of Golf Tips.
In the year 2016 — now 2017 — it is beyond baffling to me why anyone who wants to play this game at a higher level than they currently do still plays with equipment that doesn’t fit them. If you wear a size 10 shoe, how would a size 9 feel? If you have a size 34 waist, how would size 40 pants work out?
I often hear from students when I suggest an equipment fitting that they are “waiting until their swing improves.” No. 1, that may take a while. No. 2, mis-fit equipment will NEVER allow you to swing to balance. With mis-fit equipment, sustained improvement is unlikely if not impossible. Properly fit equipment will allow a balanced motion to, in fact, be developed.
Now let’s talk about fitting and the process a bit. Fitters are like doctors, lawyers — and golf instructors, for that matter. There are experts out there, and there are pretenders. It’s important that the person steering the fitting process is in fact an expert and fits without an up-front agenda. Allow me to explain. For one, I never fit my own students. Why? Because I’ll prejudice the fit. Since the person is my student I have thoughts about what he or she might need. A fitter and the process should be pure, without prejudice and based on factual occurrences (some might call it a science) during the fitting.
Do I look over the specs after my student’s fitting is complete ? Yes, in fact, since I’m a trained fitter myself I insist on reviewing the fit with both the student and the fitter before the student makes the final financial commitment to purchase new equipment. I do this just to understand what the expert found in the fitting process and since the student and I have worked together to be sure he/she understands what the findings showed and why we are moving in a particular direction with shaft flex, lie angle or any other factor. I want all parties to be on the exact same page.
Because I feel so strongly about this important game improvement process, I have long-time relationships with fitters in both my Florida and New York teaching locations. In New York I have worked with Woody Lashen and Pete Makowski at Pete’s Golf in Mineola for years. Pete’s Golf is recognized as a Top 100 fitting location. The boys at Pete’s have done over 75,000 fittings over their 30-plus years in the business. In Florida I work with True Spec Golf in Bonita Springs. Ryan Richardson and his guys do a first-class job and have recently opened a world-class fitting facility. At True Spec I work with Josh Musselman, also a recognized Top 100 Fitter. Both of these fitting locations employ the latest technology, making the process both streamlined and highly scientific.
After the process is complete, one of the things that attracted me to both of these fitting facilities is that once the students’ clubs are delivered if we discover for any reason some aspect of the fit that needs to be tweaked, both locations stand 100 percent behind there fits and allow my students to bring the clubs back for any needed adjustments. Understand that even though these fits are highly technology-based there is still that one curve ball, THE HUMAN FACTOR.
Once the clubs and the student arrive back on my lesson tee, we now are ready and have a realistic opportunity to teach and coach the student to be able to swing to a balanced condition. So often when I see a student for the first time, they are handcuffed to a degree by the tools of the trade. Because they have tried to learn for an extended period of time with various aspects of mis-fit equipment, they have developed non-balanced compensations to try to both get the rock airborne as well as get it to travel in some way toward the target.
There are so many fitting factors: length of club (I see drivers much too long all the time, especially in the hands of my lady golfers); lie angle (no chance to properly compress as well as direct the ball with a bad lie angle); shaft flex and shaft weight (these two factors critically affect a player making balanced motions in tempo, or not); and grip size.
Fitting has come light years even in the last decade. With the advent of extremely technically accurate launch monitors and fitting systems that allow the mix and match of club heads and shafts in the blink of an eye, you can hone in on exact combinations and very often within an hour have the golfer swinging in a much more balanced action while not working nearly as hard with better results. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
It is my opinion, and that of any talented fitter, that equipment can surely translate into bad habits. Conversely, properly fitted equipment can allow you to have a fighting chance to develop a balanced and efficient golf motion. A properly fit set of clubs will change your golf life.
Tom Patri is founder of TP Golf. He teaches at The Esplanade in Naples, Florida. He also spends limited time both on Long Island, New York, and Maryland June-October. View his teaching and coaching bio at www.tompatri.com and reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (239) 404-7790.