Recently I had sent out a survey to all of my customer base on golf equipment. What I saw is an excellent reflection of the current marketing trend happening in the club retail sales. The term club "fitting" is mis-used to be quite frankly in specifics is a straight up lie. I never see proper fitting done. You could consider it a lost art, much to the detriment of the game of golf.
The modern big box store "fitting" process is more like club trying, with much left on the table and not much explanation at how the club will help you move instead of just make every 19th shot go farther and only looking at the distance on a machine. It really is no one's fault actually, it's simply that commercial targets dictate a maximal number of "fittings" and not a real fitting. They don't have the time to go through a proper fitting which should take 1.5 hours for the irons and nearly the same for the driver, so a total commitment of 3 hours total time to complete properly.
I'm here to let you all in on a little secret. I know of very few people who have bought clubs after a fitting that are/were properly fit. I have a sizeable portion of my business correcting and re-adjusting locally purchased golf clubs. You can imagine the frustration when someone buys new clubs and their lie angles are all out of whack, their lofts are close together, they can't hit their 4 iron and their wedge gapping is not properly calibrate.
They certainly had a process which involved hitting from a hard matt using a launch monitor and trying only to maximize their distance. That's hardly a proper fitting, nor does it do anything to help to educate the client onto how the club fitting should improve their understanding of how to use the club on a variety of lies, under a variety of conditions.
I am here to be transparent, and show you why, how, and when you should consider new clubs. I will also outline all of the variables that should be checked, and only checked by a person that can understand the golf swing, the impact of weight, momentum, tempo, release patterns and most importantly, balance.
In 2016, I went searching in the market to sell golf clubs. I reached out to all of the major brand names, and did not receive one response. It was disheartening to say the least, but I understood that they would rather sell a massive amount of inventory to a golf club rather than sell the fitting kits only to my shop that doesn't push this inventory on the golfer. This was before there was an entry into the market of a large player who is well known now on the market and does approximately 90% of club sales in the UAE and soon to be the region.
So I went to the internet and searched for "best golf club company you have never heard of." I found a company called Henry Griffitts (https://henry-griffitts.com/), who were an old (started in the 80s) boutique hand made club manufacturing company from the USA that would only retail their products through teachers. This sounded ideal!
When I contacted the CEO, he responded almost instantly and outlined that there were some requirements to be able to sell their equipment and the reason that these requirements would in place:
The indoor facility must have the capability to track and read ball flight accurately
The Matt on the simulator must be able to accurately simulate grass and the effects of a proper attack angle
The data from the launch monitor/simulator must be able to accurate produce face, path, horizontal angle (Ball starting direction) as well as ball trajectory details within 1% accuracy.
The facility must certify the fitter via entrance into their own fitting program
The final fitting process involved a trip to the USA factory and a discussion/education seminar with their club builders
The Facility should utilize high speed video or other motion capturing devices to be able to accurately view the impact position of both the body and club.
Reasoning & Rational
Club and Face data is paramount to being able to see in detail what is happening with the club at impact. These details must be maximized
Hard matts give poor real world results as they do not properly account for fat shots or allow for the proper attack angle to be measured which will reflect turf interaction
Bad path and face will never be overcome by a new club. I.e. The clubs were not to be mis-sold or sold to anyone before discussions and fixing of these items during the fit (more on this later). In fact, in some cases they were not to be sold at all, if the golfer had catastrophic issues with the swing and was desperately searching for a "Fix" instead of some lessons.
The fitting process included study, testing and 50+ live fits under a master fitter to be sure that the correct fitting process was used and that the golf club fitting experience maximized balance and consistency
Either we would have to travel to their factory or they would come to ours. We ended up flying their fitter over from the USA for a week
High Speed video or motion capture will clearly illustrate that club head speed is not the factor to be used when fitting a shaft, and that the fitting process would teach us how to evaluate balance instead of only looking at distance of the best shot and trying to sell people that this club was better than the other. We need to see clearly to be able to evaluate each component and then match the club that will help this balance the best.
After the tests, the study, the manuals and the discussions about ball flights, dispersion charts, and all components of the club itself, the fitting trainer flew over from the USA and spent 4 days with us in our facility helping us do free club fittings to our customers and our friends. The process was an eye opener, and it something that day really stuck in my head that the fitting trainer said to me: He told me that the golfer learns by ball flight (Seeing the ball as they had imagined, and that club fitting would impact the golf swing by about 40%). Neither of those two statements really rang true to me until I started to fit my students for golf clubs. Now I understand completely what he meant, and I think that 40% influence is far too little of a number. I would say that the club impacts the golfers ability to swing and manufacture ball flight much more than it is credited.
In saying so, I am about to tell you basic things that will fly against the "norms" in the current industry and why as a golfer you should really really consider the following variables in reference to the above 2 points (Ball flight and club influence:
My Un-Popular List of Fitting Statements
1) Weaker Lofts will Make you a Better Ball Striker - Without Question
2) Longer Clubs is Almost Never Better!
3) Fat Grips or Plus 4 Grips DO NOT Stop Hooking
4) Lie Angles Matter... The MOST
5) Hybrids are Never a Solution to the Long Game
6) Massive Offset is a Cheat, and Cheating is Not Good for You
7) Longer Driver Shafts is a Terrible Idea
8) Golf Clubs Can and Will Hurt You
9) NOBODY Talks or Thinks about Balance
10) Tempo is KING
My Un-Popular Justifications
For beginners, and for High level professionals, the attack angle is a key component of the quality of strike. The ability to deliver a descending blow on the golf ball in all shots where the golf ball is on the ground, is the key to being able to strike ball then the earth. A golfer only needs to hit the ball and ground a few times to understand the massive benefit both to feel and also to result in ball flight.
Commercial Sales of Clubs and pressures to deliver massive amounts of mass produced golf clubs has meant that manufacturers have had to find ways to "improve" on something all desired by golfers without having to really change anything. Changing lofts is the easiest of all methods, but they have inadvertently created massive swing errors as a consequence. Don't believe me, check the loft chart across time:
What's so disheartening about this is the addition of new club nomenclature into the mix, especially at the wedge end of the game. The Pitching wedge has lost 10 degrees of loft from the 60s to now! 10 Degrees, wow. And this is one of the most important clubs for scoring in the bag.
So how does this create swing faults? Well it's very simple. The average golfer knows that the ball must fly a certain trajectory to maximize carry, that's even without putting that person on a launch monitor. Golfers and Humans intuitively know which ball flight will maximize carry. When you listen to professionals talk about a "Window" or seeing the ball in the correct spot when they look up, this is exactly what they're talking about.
Overtime, the golfer will start to manufacture the loft that is being delivered at impact in order to achieve this ball flight. Across the nearly 10 years I've been in business I have seen so much scooping of the club in order to generate loft that it got me to thinking about why people do it? They do it because the golf club they are playing is far far too strong lofted for them to achieve the required trajectory to hit the distance they need that specific club to go. Most golfers hit their 4, 5 and 6 within 5 yards of each other.
The second massive swing issue caused by the club is the moving of the ball position further back in the stance due to having to create this attack angle whilst scooping. If the golfer starts to scoop they will naturally hit the ball fat or thin. Their attack angle will be so shalllow that they will start to move the ball back in search of the feeling of striking the ball first. This movement of the golf ball backwards is a kiss of death.
Sure it works for a few swings and the golfer thinks they've finally cracked it, but they have just infected their golf swing with a major flaw. Changing the ball position requires one to change their tempo to be able to hit the ball. Ball further back from their front foot, means a faster tempo and release is required, thereby removing the ability to create the proper sequence in the swing. The downward slippery slope to bad shots has just begun.
What's the Proper Way to Do It & Why We Need More Loft
The ball position should be 1 clubhead width from the heel of the front foot. The butt end of each club should point to the lead hip socket or groin area. This is the same for all clubs as all clubs have a designed level of handle versus head positioning.
The ball position forward allows your eyes to see the ball in front of you and to move toward it in the downswing. We know this as weight shift and it is so critical to having the proper sequence, the proper tempo and the proper attack angle that I consider it one of the largest causes of swing issues in golf. Now if the ball is forward we can confidently shift our weight to our left leg (right handed golfer), and that allows us to move the bottom of the swing in front of the ball. This also allows our attack angle to change to negative.
Attack Angle and Clubhead Speed & Massive Distance
A golf swing is an upside down catapult system, which means that you first shall shift the weight to the left, and then strike downward toward the ball. This is the same for all clubs, including the Driver. Yes, hit down on the driver so the swing bottom on the driver is in the same place as where the 6 iron would be and will rise naturally into the ball. You won't hit the ground because the Driver is much longer and flatter than an iron. Try it and See.
When we swing down, we are maximizing the centripetal force on the club and increasing the clubhead speed. We are also inadvertently maintaining the wrist hinge as well as getting the hands in front of the ball and assisting the weight shift. All amazing things to have in a good golf swing.
The above illustration outlines how the golf club works through impact and how with a proper attack angle we gain speed, strike and launch. Above we can see that the movement of the club down toward is in harmony with gravity and centripetal force. We are not fighting them but using them to increase the club head speed.
You will also note that the point of max acceleration is after the ball (delivered by a great tempo) and that allows you to generate the most force in the strike on the ball. The red line touching the golf ball is the club head and you will note that it's angle is the loft of the club. You can easily see that the lower the loft of the club, the lower the launch angle, the lower the ball flight and the less likely to achieve the club fitting agenda of fitting to the proper ball flight trajectory. A stronger loft delivered with a negative attack angle will greatly decrease the launch angle, not to mention the release and turning of the clubhead through impact, we can easily reduce 4+ degrees of loft on the launch angle through proper strike and release. You need loft to be able to retain the correct ball flight. Strong lofts reduce this for all golfers, and you will need massive amounts of clubhead speed to be able to create the proper launch conditions. That's not most people I know or instruct.
Oh, one more thing. There is a reason Tiger Woods has the weakest lofts of tour but still hits it as far as everyone else. Guess what, he's delivering the loft correctly at impact. Ever wonder why he was and is one of the greatest iron players in the world? Here's an image from long ago from the Nike Tour Truck of Tiger's Loft Specs. They're closer to the lofts of the 1990s and 1 full club weaker than the average weakest club of today's set (refer to above spreadsheet).
Go LONG! - NOT
There is an absolute obsession with distance. And most people can understand that more distance often comes as a result of more clubhead speed. However, that isn't actually the entire story. Distance comes from ball speed, and ball speed is king. So, why would someone want a longer driver or a longer club. What you're actually doing is slowing the clubhead speed down. I'll explain to you why.
The image on the left shows a driver set up image. The reason I have shown this set up is that a longer club will need a flatter lie angle to be flat at impact. So the longer you go, the flatter the lie angle and the more the club will swing to the inside. This is a straight away swing fault of extraordinary proportions because it can easily cause an over the top move. The longer the club, the more upright you must stand and the less control you have to forces swinging away from your body. This outward momentum does a serious number on your spine as you
Shorter clubs are easier to hit and more accurate given that they swing under the shoulders and allow for a better and more controlled set up position. The longer the iron gets the harder it will be to hit.
There is a very useful and true rule of thumb for club fitting called the 25/38 rule. This rule states that any length of club more than 38 inches and any loft under 25 degrees will be difficult for the average golfer to hit properly. Given the above loft chart and the trend for longer and longer clubs, we can comfortable say that most people will have a difficult time hitting most modern 5 irons and with almost certainty that a 4 iron is out of the question for nearly everyone. The reason being is that you need to have enough club head speed and proper attack angle to create enough drag on the golf ball via spin to be able to keep the ball in the air and have the proper trajectory. Please see above about attack angle and loft.