Check out this article from the Wall Street Journal:
Just as there are people who still don’t believe men walked on the moon (the Apollo “landings” supposedly took place on sound stages), so there are people, I’m told, who still don’t believe that getting fit for golf clubs is worth the effort. They visit a retail store, perhaps inspired by a television ad, and plop down $300 to $1,200 for a set of irons without testing them.
“If these are good enough for Sergio Garcia, they’re good enough for me,” they tell themselves. The clubs certainly are good enough, but the reason they work so well for Mr. Garcia is that they fit him like a second skin.
I have a strong anti-complexity bias when it comes to golf. The game is meant to be fun, not a source of stress, which club fitting—daunting and incomprehensible to many—clearly can be. I also hate to nag. But if you’re going to buy clubs anyway (which need not be as often as the “new and improved” storylines of most golf-equipment marketing would have you believe), you really ought to be properly fit. The process is not onerous; it’s actually quite informative, and it benefits higher handicappers as much as low handicappers. Most importantly, it will make your subsequent golf less frustrating because well-fit clubs promote a more efficient swing. It’s possible to hit the ball straight with poorly-fit clubs, but usually only by introducing complicating compensations that rob the swing of power and make it hard to repeat consistently.
There are, of course, degrees of being poorly fitted. Most clubs are the manufacturers’ time-proven calculation of those that work well for the largest number of people. But, to put things in fashion terms, if off-the-rack clubs fit you and your swing without adjustments, you’re a perfect size eight.
Even the most rudimentarily trained sales clerk at a sporting-goods store will direct golfers to models with generally appropriate characteristics, such as stiffer shafts for fast swingers and whippier shafts for slower swingers. They will also nudge higher handicap players toward irons with bigger, more forgiving clubheads and drivers that get the ball airborne easily. In more advanced sessions, the fitter will watch customers hit balls, either indoors in a hitting bay or outdoors at a range, and custom order clubs with just the right length, grip size, shaft flexibility and lie angle (the angle between the clubhead and the shaft). The cost of such basic fittings is usually deducted from the price of the clubs purchased.
Electronic launch monitors collect and feed data about spin, ball speed and trajectory into a computer. For maximum distance with modern balls, drives by a typical male should climb quickly at between 12 degrees and 15 degrees, spin at less than 3,000 revolutions per minute, flatten out at 125 yards to 150 yards from the tee and descend at between 28 and 38 degrees. The ideal numbers vary depending on a player’s ball speed and other factors, but launch monitors can help dial in the best clubhead and shaft combination for any swing. (Note: you can’t rely on “stiff” and “regular” shaft designations from manufacturers, because there is no industry standard.)
Over the last few years, I’ve been fit for clubs many times using various methods, and had cobbled together a set that I felt fit pretty well. My irons came from a fitting at a super high-tech TaylorMade facility. My driver recommendation, the third iteration after an initial launch monitor fitting, came from an experienced fitter using his naked eye at a “demo” day at a local range. My putter was the result of personal tinkering.
I offer these details not because they are relevant to anyone else’s particular fitting needs, but to illustrate the types of issues a good fitting can address. “One of the main benefits we provide is peace of mind,” Mr. Ferguson told me afterward. Golf, as has been often noted, is a game of confidence.
—Email John Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page W8
Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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