If you are in the market for new custom fit clubs and club fitting, here are some things you need to know so that the clubs you spend good money on help you play better golf. The 5 words at the end of the last sentence “help you play better golf” is our reason for providing you with the following insider information, most of which you will never hear from golf stores or golf websites because their key objective is to sell you new clubs. If somehow they help you play better golf in the process, then that’s a bonus. However all too often they don’t perform any better than your current clubs and sometimes they may even perform worse.
So if your aim of buying new clubs is to help you play better golf, we’d advise you to give the following points some careful consideration.
1 – Why is custom fitting so important?
Winners in all major sports will tell you how important it is to be competing with customised equipment. Golf is no exception to that rule. In fact the margin of error in golf is so small that playing with customised equipment becomes even more important. Fact is you will never play to your full potential unless you are playing golf with customised equipment.
Some think that it is only top players who benefit from custom fit. This is definitely not the case. Good players could possibly adapt to their equipment given enough time but they choose not to do so. They make sure their clubs are customised to fit their golf swing, rather than having to modify their golf swing to suit their clubs. The average amateur doesn’t have the skill to adapt to their clubs. So all the more reason they need to be playing with custom fit clubs. Tiger Woods was once asked what his best tip would be for beginners. His answer was to make sure the beginner was playing with custom fit clubs. Otherwise, they will likely develop swing faults which could take years to correct. He himself has played with customised equipment from day one. His dad made sure of that. So if you seriously want to improve at the game of golf, playing with customised equipment is absolutely essential.
2 – New technology by itself is of little value unless it is custom fit
Today’s golf magazines and websites are full of advertisements for new clubs with the latest technology and claims that they will revolutionise your game. What you need to know is that this technology by itself may do nothing for your game. In fact it may even make your game worse if it is not properly fitted to your own personal requirements.
Imagine for a minute that a major brand has introduced the latest running shoe with extreme spring technology in the sole, vibration dampening to reduce injury, gortex uppers to let your feet breathe, everlasting laces that never need replaced, etc, etc.
Sounds impressive, but keep in mind that the only way you will benefit from all this new innovative technology is if you buy a pair that fits your feet. Shoe size, width fitting and comfort are essential. In other words it is the fitting process which makes all of this shoe technology work. Without the fitting process the performance of this super-duper running shoe will be no better and perhaps even worse than the one you wear right now.
Same goes for golf clubs. It doesn’t matter what new innovative technology is in the latest revolutionary driver, if the loft, face angle, length, shaft weight or flex is wrong for you, it ain’t going to improve your tee shots. Remember it is the custom fitting process which allows you to fully benefit from any new technology.
You would never consider buying a pair of expensive shoes without checking your size and trying them on. So why not apply the same sound logic when buying your new golf clubs
3 – Be wary when someone is trying to sell you custom fit clubs
Custom fit clubs or the custom fitting process are terms widely used in the golf industry but if anybody wants to fit you for golf clubs, your first question to them should be “What do you offer in terms of custom fit?” Reason being that the level of custom fitting can vary so much in relation to the time spent and the level of expertise provided by the club fitter.
It’s like when someone says they have washed their car at the weekend. Without asking them for details, you have no way of knowing if they hosed it down in 10 minutes or spent several hours cleaning and polishing the outside and valeting the interior. If a garage offered you a 10 min basic car wash or a 2-hour complete valeting service for your car at the same price, which would you choose? Which do you think offers the best value for money? A no-brainer you might say. So apply the same sensible logic to custom fitting.
A proper custom fit session for irons, a driver, a set of wedges or a putter could take around 1 hour for each when performed by an experienced club fitter. This allows the fitter enough time to ask relevant questions, check the spec of your current clubs, see how they perform and then fit you for new clubs. Usually, the personalized fitting session will be included in the price of the clubs. This may mean the clubs are a little bit more expensive than you would pay from a discount golf store, but by having them properly custom fitted to your own personal requirements, you will have the added confidence of knowing that they will help you play to the best of your ability. In other words, they will provide you with real value for money. Some specialist fitting centres will also provide you with a personalised after sales service should your new clubs need some fine tuning at a later date.
4 – Avoid online club fitting
You may have noticed that some internet sales companies offer online fitting where you enter such things as your height, weight, handicap, hand size, distance you normally hit a 6 iron, etc, etc. This then supposedly generates the build spec. of your ideal set of clubs, which they hope to sell you online. As we said previously there are various levels of custom fitting, and this is definitely one of the worst. A static online fit is only marginally better than buying standard clubs off the shelf. Nowhere near the level of custom fitting service expected from a reputable club fitting centre.
For a successful custom fit session, the fitter needs to:
- Spend time talking to you about what problems you are having with your current clubs and what you are looking for in the new clubs
- Check the spec. of your current clubs
- Take some static measurements from you
- Look at your swing dynamics and shot performance on a launch monitor
- Let you test various head and shaft options
Only then will the fitter be able to determine your fitting spec. based on feel and performance. The improvement in performance between your current clubs and the newly fitted club should be obvious for all to see. This can only be achieved by visiting a reputable club fitting centre. Online fitting is no substitute for this.
If a company is offering online fitting then you can be sure that their key objective is the sale. By chance, the new clubs might improve your game but if they don’t, then the company is not obliged to do anything about it because it was you yourself who determined your own fitting spec.
5 – Not all PGA golf professionals know how to fit golf clubs
You might be surprised to hear this as most golfers rely on their club pro when seeking equipment advice. However, keep in mind that not all golf pros are trained to perform specialist club fitting. They get very little custom fitting in their PGA exams although some make a point of learning this later. So although your pro may be one of the best instructors around, don’t assume they also know how to fit golf clubs.
Only by asking relevant questions will you find out their level of knowledge and what service they can offer. Some pros may claim to be able to fit clubs but may not have the facilities such as a launch monitor or a suitable number of fitting clubs to perform the task adequately. A reputable PGA pro will know his/her own limitations and will be only too happy to provide you with sound advice, perhaps referring you to a fitting centre close by.
However beware the pro who tries to downplay the importance of custom fitting and just by chance, there is a set of clubs in the pro shop which he/she would definitely recommend. I guess you can’t blame the pro for trying to clear stock but if it’s improved performance you are after then this is certainly not the best way of going about it.
6 – Don’t be fooled by impressive facilities
A reputable fitting centre will generally have a launch monitor, a range of fitting clubs and an experienced clubfitter to take the fitting session. Nowadays a launch monitor is essential in order to study ball flight and the player’s swing dynamics. Only with a launch monitor can you measure key parameters such as swing speed, ball speed, launch angle, spin rate, etc. This data can be stored and the performance of different clubs can be compared so that the player and the fitter can determine which club is performing best.
No matter how impressive the facilities, it is the expertise and knowledge of the professional fitter which ensures a successful fitting session. He/she needs to be able to interpret and analyse the launch monitor data whilst at the same time knowing how your swing dynamics are impacting on the shot. Experienced fitters will also have a good understanding of the various shafts and heads used in the fitting system.
You can be confident that national fitting centres for the major brands have suitably trained staff on hand to fit you properly. However some fitting bays in golf shops may seem well equipped but if the fitter is an inexperienced sales person, you may not get the quality fitting experience you are seeking.
Think of this analogy. You can go out today and buy a stethoscope. You may even know that one end goes in your ears and the other end goes on the patient’s chest to listen to a heartbeat. But that doesn’t mean you can do the job of a doctor. It is the doctor’s experience and wealth of medical knowledge which allows him/her to make the diagnosis. Only then does the stethoscope become a useful medical tool. Same applies to launch monitors and the various other tools used in clubfitting.
7 – You don’t always get the specified club(s) you ordered
OK so you have been custom fitted for your clubs and placed the order according to your fitting spec. Job done you would think. Unfortunately even with some of the major brands you will be sent clubs which don’t match your fitting specs. “How come?” you might ask.
Well like most other industries, the golf industry works to tolerances and these must always be taken into consideration. For example heads being supplied from reputable foundaries may have a loft tolerance of +/- 1 deg. So if you are expecting a 5 iron with a loft of 27 deg. and a 6 iron loft of 31 deg. you may end up with the 5 iron at 26 deg. and the 6 iron at 32 deg. The yardage gap between these clubs would then likely be too great. It would be nice to think that equipment companies would be checking for this before the clubs are sent to the dealer/customer but this rarely happens. So ideally club specs should be checked when they are received from the supplier to ensure that they match your recommended fitting requirements.
8 – Niche club fitting centres can provide high-end premium product built to exacting specifications
There are niche club fitting and club making centres which offer a level of club customization and club building far superior to that being offered in golf discount stores. They have the time to build custom clubs to a very high spec. using tighter tolerances and meticulous attention to detail. Here at AGT, shafts are aligned, weighed and frequency matched. Loft and lies are adjusted to +/- 0.2 deg. and swing weights adjusted to +/- 0.5 swing weight points. Grip sizes are checked with micrometers if necessary.
The clubs you find in a general golf store will not be built to such a high spec. You may think the cost of all of this would be prohibitive but you might be pleasantly surprised if you just ask for a quote.
9 – Remember custom fitting is an ongoing process
If you are buying new custom clubs based on a fitting you had several years ago then keep in mind that club fitting is an ongoing process and that the spec. which suited you then may not suit you now.
When getting fitted for new spectacles most everybody will undergo another eye check. Reason being that we all know our eyesight changes over time and we want to make sure that our eye prescription is correct before spending more money on a new pair of glasses.
Same thing applies to golf clubs. As your physical ability and golfing ability changes over the years, so too will your club fitting requirements. So to be on the safe side make sure you book a fitting session each time you purchase new clubs.
When buying custom fit clubs you should keep all of the above in mind. With this insider information you are now in a position to get fitted properly and purchase new clubs which will help you play better golf.