Golf clubfitting is all the rage, and it's more than a fad.
Millions of golfers are discovering the benefits of clubs that match their personal dimensions. In fact, the length, loft and lie of one's clubs may be more important than what they're made of.
While different clubmakers and golf fitters use different methods, they all start with a few basics, such as the player's height, length from wrist to ground, and hand size. Most factor in the golfer's experience, typical ball trajectory (high, medium, low) and direction (left, right, straight), their swing speed with a driver, and what club they hit for a 150-yard shot.
Using this data, the fitter determines the proper measurements for the golfer's irons and woods, including each club's length, lie angle (distance between the shaft and ground with the sole lying flat) and loft, as well as shaft flex and grip size.
Why is custom fitting so important? Because ill-fitting clubs can create a variety of mishits, no matter how good the swing. For example, if the toe of the golfer's 5-iron is off the ground at address – meaning its lie is too upright – shots will tend to fly left of target.
Only by using custom-fit clubs can the golfer be sure that misses are caused by their swing, not their clubs. Many companies offer free online clubfitting, including
Custom Fit vs. Off the Rack Golf Clubs
To play golf, you are going to need a set of clubs – that much is obvious. If you are just getting started in this game, you may be thinking about soon buying your very first set. Or, if you are an experienced player, you might be thinking about upgrading to some new clubs in order to take your game to a new level. Either way, you are going to face one very important decision as you make this purchase. Are you going to purchase clubs directly 'off the rack', or are you going to buy a custom fitted set?
For most golfers, the answer to this question is the first option – they will simply purchase a set off the rack without thinking twice. Unfortunately, that is not always going to be the best solution to your equipment needs. It is highly unlikely that the set you choose from the pro shop shelves is going to perfectly match up with the dynamics of your golf swing. This is why club fitting has become such a major player in the golf industry in recent years. Thanks to advances in technology, club fitting now uses a long list of data points to assemble a set of clubs that is just right for the player in question. If you are serious about playing golf at a high level, purchasing a set of custom fit clubs is the only way to go.
Of course, as a recreational golfer, you have to think about things other than doing whatever you can to shoot the lowest score possible. You need to consider the budget you have for this purchase. You need to think about how much time it will take to have a set custom built for your game. The real world has a way of interfering with golf dreams for many amateurs, so it is important that you think practically about this topic as well. Fortunately, as you will see in the content below, club fitting has developed to the point where it is now within the reach of nearly every golfer. Even if you don't have a huge budget or a ton of free time, you should still be able to acquire a custom fitted set to match your swing beautifully.
In the content below, we are going to take a closer look at the topic of choosing between a custom fit set and one that comes off the rack. We already highlighted the fact that a custom fit set is going to provide you with the best chance to play at a higher level, but why is that the case? What is it about custom fit clubs that will help you improve your game overall? Are there any advantages that go to an off the rack set over one that has been custom fit? The answers to these questions and more will be found throughout the rest of this article.
Why Custom Fitting Matters
To start, let's take an overall look at why it is important to use clubs that have been fitted perfectly to your swing and your body. The golf clubs that you use on the course are an extension of your body in the swing, so they need to cooperate perfectly with the moves you are making in order to hit the ball. In other words, if your clubs are 'fighting back' against what you are trying to do with each shot, the results you achieve are always going to fall short of your expectations. Only when you use clubs that are perfectly tuned to your needs will things come together nicely shot after shot.
The following list highlights some of the ways in which your clubs need to match up with your swing.
- You need the right shaft flex. This is one of the most important parts of club fitting. Each golfer has their own unique swing, with its own speed and moments of acceleration. To match up with your swing, you should have your set of clubs fitted with the help of a modern fitting computer. The technology used today in club fitting makes it easy to pick out the right shaft based on the dynamics of your action. Even picking out a shaft based on swing speed alone is a limited method, as swings with the same speed through the hitting area can have differing dynamics. For instance, one player could load the shaft aggressively at the top with a quick transition, while another player could load the shaft slowly throughout the downswing. Those players may wind up with the same speed at impact, but they will need different shafts to account for the differences in their approach. Playing golf with the wrong shafts is going to make the game much harder than it needs to be – and it is a hard game to begin with.
- You need the right shaft lengths. This is a basic point that really doesn't require a high-tech computer to work out, but it is important nonetheless. You need to have your clubs built to the correct length in order for them to fit nicely in your hands at address. This is not much of an issue with the woods, but it is quite important in the irons. It should be noted that you won't necessarily need long clubs just because you are tall from a height perspective. The important point is how far your hands are from the ground when your arms hang down naturally, and that distance can vary independent of height. For instance, a tall person might actually fit nicely into a 'stock' set, where a shorter person with short arms may need longer shafts. Also, longer clubs are more difficult to hit than shorter clubs, so beginners will generally be put into the shortest possible shafts that still fit their body properly.
- You need the right lie angle. Again, this is a point which relates to irons rather than woods. Lie angle and shaft length are two points that are intertwined in club fitting, as you can use a longer shaft if you flatten out the lie angle and move farther from the ball. Or, if you move the lie angle upright, you will likely need to shorten the shaft slightly. Like shaft length, it is possible to settle on a lie angle with low-tech methods such a sole tape and an impact board, but higher tech solutions will typically be more accurate.
- You need the right ball flight. At the end of the day, club fitting is all about producing a ball flight that you can use effectively on the course. Most people will first be encouraged to go through a club fitting because they are unhappy with some aspect of their ball flight out on the course. For instance, you might find that you are hitting your driver too high. Or, you may feel that your long irons fly too low. Whatever the case may be, a good club fitter will work to bring your ball flights into a range that makes them easy to use in a variety of weather conditions.
It's safe to say that club fitting is extremely important in the quest for lower scores. Playing with the wrong equipment will not only make it harder for you to improve your game, but it will make it difficult to enjoy yourself on the course – you will be fighting your equipment rather than just playing golf. It is easy to put off a task such as club fitting, but you will be glad you took the time to have it done once it's complete.
Let the Process Work
By this point, you are hopefully convinced that club fitting is an important piece of the golf puzzle. If you have decided that you are going to go ahead with a professional fitting in order to improve your play, there are a few things you should know about the process. Read through the points below before your fitting appointment to make sure you get the most out of this experience.
- Trust the professional. If you get only one thing from this entire article, let it be this – you need to trust the club fitting professional who is help you find the right set of clubs. The club fitter you are working with has been trained to do this job, and he or she has experience helping many golfers fill their bags with the right gear. Second-guessing the professional in this case is only going to lead to trouble – and in the end, you won't wind up with the right clubs for your swing. Just as you should trust the medical professionals when you go to the doctor, you should also trust the golf pro when you go for a club fitting. You are paying for their time, after all, so it only makes sense to listen to what they have to say.
- Ask questions. It is possible to both trust the experience of the club fitter and also ask questions about the process. There is nothing at all wrong with asking plenty of questions during the fitting, as you are trying to educate yourself along the way. Anything you can learn about club fitting is going to help you down the road when the professional is not by your side. Most golf pros who perform club fittings are happy to chat about equipment in general and your needs specifically, so engage them in conversation throughout the session. To make sure your questions are well received, be sure to ask them honestly in search of information, rather than asking questions which make it sound like you are questioning the process.
- Make your normal swing. When you know your swing is going to be measured, it is easy to fall into the trap of swinging as hard as possible in an attempt to 'impress the machine'. For instance, when hitting your driver as part of the fitting, you may reach back for a little extra in order to maximize your swing speed. That might seem harmless enough, but it can skew the results of the process. After all, the whole idea of the club fitting is to build a set of clubs that is going to fit your needs on the course. The only way to do that successfully is if you actually make the swing that you will be using during real rounds of golf. By making a swing that isn't representative of how you play, you are giving the machine inaccurate information – and therefore, you will get inaccurate results. You need to set your ego aside and simply make the swing that you would use if you were standing on the first tee to start off a normal round of golf.
Following along with the established process is the key to making a club fitting session work for you. A busy club fitter will be doing this same process day after day, meaning they have it down to a science at this point. Put your game in their hands, make normal swings, and trust in the results that they present to you when all is said and done.
Adjusting to Your New Gear
Many golfers head out to the course with high hopes the first time they get a chance to use their new set of clubs. After all, with a bag full of clubs that have been perfectly fitted to your swing, what could go wrong? Shouldn't you expect to play improved golf right away with your custom fitted set? Well, not necessarily. While it should be a good thing for your game in the long run to have custom clubs, you might not see the benefits appear on the course as quickly as you would like.
For one thing, your ball flight is going to be different from what it was with your previous set of clubs. This is a bigger deal than you might think at first. It takes times to adjust to a new ball flight, as you are going to have to change the way you pick targets on the course. For instance, if you used to hit a small fade and you are now hitting a small draw, you are going to have to aim on the opposite side of the hole – and that is going to look 'weird' at first. It shouldn't take too long for you to adapt your eyes to your new reality, but don't expect it to happen immediately.
In addition to the change in your ball flight, you will almost certainly be hitting the ball a different distance as well. Depending on the changes that were made to your equipment, you may be hitting the driver farther, your irons farther, or both. Again, it is simply going to take time and experience to get used to your new distances. Adding distance is a good thing in the long run, but it may cause you to make poor club selections during the first few rounds with your new sticks.
A big part of the adjustments that you need to make comes down to trust. Even though your previous set of clubs may not have been perfectly suited to your swing, you did develop a level of trust in them over the years. With experience, you learned which clubs liked to turn the ball in which direction, and you learned how far they were capable of hitting the ball when struck cleanly. There is no substitute for experience with regard to learning the ins and outs of all of your clubs – even when the set you are using has been perfectly matched to the dynamics of your swing.
For the purposes of learning how to play with your new set of clubs, your time is going to be better spent on the course rather than the driving range. The driving range is great for a lot of things, but it really isn't going to help you learn how your new clubs perform. You can't judge distance based on range balls, and even the trajectories that you achieve are going to be different from what you get out of a real ball. Do your best to play several rounds of golf in a relatively short period of time after getting your new clubs in order to speed up the learning curve.
When to Consider an Off the Rack Set
With all of the positive things we have said so far about custom club fitting, you might be thinking that there is never a reason to go with an off the rack set. However, that isn't necessarily true. Yes, most golfers will be better served to look into custom fitting, but that doesn't mean that there is no room in the game for stock, off the rack sets. The following points highlight a few reasons why you may want to stick with an off the rack model.
- Cost is an issue. In order to go through with a custom fitting, you do need to have some money available in your golf budget. Not only will you need to pay for the fitting session, but you will also need to pay for any new equipment that you decide to purchase as a result of that session. That new gear could be something simple like a replacement shaft for your driver, or it could be an entire new set. If you simply aren't willing or able to spend money on custom clubs at this time, you can stick with an off the rack set. Your performance will likely suffer a bit, but you can still have fun playing golf while saving some money in the process.
- Time is an issue. You are also going to need to set aside a small amount of time for a club fitting session. Sure, it really isn't much time in the big picture – usually about an hour from start to finish – but you may not have the time to spare in your schedule. It is certainly faster to just walk into a golf shop and buy a set off the rack rather than completing an entire professional fitting.
- You are a total beginner. In many ways, it doesn't make sense for a total beginner to go through a complete club fitting session. The idea behind a club fitting is to put together a set of clubs that is going to perfectly match with your swing – but your swing is still changing from round to round as a beginner. At this early stage, you will likely be better served to simply use a 'stock' set of clubs while learning the basics of the swing and the game. Once you have some experience under your belt, you can then go for a fitting to take your game to the next level. Should you go ahead and get fitted while just learning the game, it is likely you will need to be fitted again in the near future once your swing has improved.
If any of the three points listed above applies to you, it might be best to hold off on scheduling a club fitting session at your local course. You can certainly revisit this topic later and you may decide to go through with a fitting at that time.
For the majority of golfers, a professional club fitting session is something that should be seen as a necessary part of the game. Club fittings are not particularly expensive, they don't take very long, and they can even be a bit of fun. In the end, you will be left with a set of clubs that matches your swing nicely, and you will have the opportunity to play the best golf of your life in the near future (on the transition period is complete, of course). Off the rack clubs will do in a pinch, and they are a good choice for beginners, but custom fitting is popular because it works. Good luck, and enjoy your new set of clubs!