What Are You Looking For In a Club Fitting?

Getting fit for clubs is something every golfer who is any bit serious about their game MUST do.  Having clubs that are fit properly make it easier to contact the ball, control the ball, and hit more consistent golf shots.  However, if you watch any type of advertising on television, you hear about players who have increased the distance by some pretty staggering numbers.  At the rate new clubs are coming out, and with each one promising us to hit the ball 15-20 yards farther, why aren't we all hitting the ball 400+ yards yet?

Now I've been fitting clubs for nearly 12 years and was even named a regional club fitter of the year.  These promotions of extreme distance gains lead many golfers to have the wrong idea about what they are looking for in a club fitting in my opinion.  Too many people are looking for what that one perfect shot will produce as opposed to what are some of the off shots and mishits performing like with a club.

I will use an example from a recent club fitting I did for a driver to use an example of what I feel people should be looking for.  The first screenshot is with this students current driver that he had been playing since he started the game.  What you're looking at on this screen, is you can see the factors that have a major influence on ball flight and distance.  There are several factors that can play into what causes these numbers from a swing standpoint, but that is a different discussion to have. 

When we look at the different categories, the top row of data was for the actual shots hit, while the bottom row represents more of the optimal numbers that could be achieved based on the shots hit.  We can also adjust some of the launch conditions to see what effect those could have on distance.

So as we see, with this driver, the ball was currently going about 212 yards, with a launch that is a little low of optimal and backspin that is too high.  The green shaded area shows the trajectory of these shots where you see a ball that starts lower and rises to a high apex and then falls softly to the ground.  The blue line represents what the optimal shot would look like from a trajectory stand point.

What we see for this player, is that if we can correct a few different areas of the swing, this driver could easily produce shots around 280 yards or more.

We now look at a newer model driver and what I look for to make a decision on whether or not we should upgrade the driver.  First, notice that with this driver, the optimal numbers haven't increased by that much as far as possible distance.  Again, if we hit the ball with some better mechanics, we would reach much higher distances.

But the key to look at in the fitting, is the ones that aren't hit perfectly.  You look at the shots here that were actually hit, and you notice a few things.  With this driver, the player was able to increase club head speed.  Also, the smash factor (ratio of clubhead:ball speed) also has slightly increased.  More current drivers are designed to allow for more forgiveness on mishits.  Also some driver heads are more aerodynamic to help increase club head speed.  Now even though the smash factor is increased with the newer driver, we see optimal number would be 1.50, which means we still are missing the sweet spot of the club on most of our swings.

We also notice, the launch angle of the driver is about the same as the previous driver.  The one thing to note though is this driver actually has 1.5 degrees of less loft on it.  So the driver is helping the player launch it higher, which we saw would be helpful to increase distance.  Also, the new driver has reduced backspin significantly with still some room to grow.

So this driver has improved a few key areas for this player which ultimately leads to more distance.  Nearly 38 yards of distance was gained on shots that were still mishit according to the smash factor.  This is the key thing to be looking at for the recreational player because unfortunately, we will have a lot of shots that aren't hit in the middle of the face.  So being able to look at how the club reacts on the mishits compared to that perfect swing is very important.

So when you go to get fit for clubs, don't look at just what happens when you hit the perfect shot, start looking at how a new club will help bring your lower level shots up to make your game more consistent.  If you do that, you'll be surprised how the clubs will help your game to shoot lower scores!