By Martin Park – GCA European Clubmaker of the Year 2009
Many readers will already know after being advised by their professional and other experienced players, that to buy equipment, it makes much more sense to have your clubs “custom fitted “to you. Sadly, that little two word phrase has become such a cliché that the customer thinks that by just seeing their professional about equipment, they are having a “custom fitting”. Wrong.
So what exactly, is a custom fitting session? It’s a question that has bothered many customers for many years. It still does. It also bothers me that some people can sell equipment right off the shelf and have the nerve to call it a custom fitted club!
From my own experience of club fitting and building equipment, I analogise a Custom fitting experience to that of a Car Wash. You can have your car washed at home using a hose and some soap. It’s still a car wash, which is like asking your pro which clubs might suit you. Or you can have you car fully valeted by a professional with steam cleaning equipment, soaps, fancy waxes, wheel trim cleaners etc. But it’s still a car wash, right? It’s the same with “Custom Fitting”.
Which makes more sense? Have a shop assistant cast their eye over you and have him select what he thinks works, or go see a club fitting specialist and get the job done properly with some proof that the set you’re about to buy is perfect for your standard of play?
Each professional or golf shop assistant who claims to do “Custom Fitting” may have their own way to do things. Variation is fine, as long as it gets to a conclusive result. However, many of those methods are more likely used just to “sell” the equipment, rather than fit it perfectly to each individual customer. Fitting any golfer perfectly takes time, knowledge, skills and ability.
For years, Touring professionals have received a type of fitting from their respective equipment companies. Usually done by feel, or trial and error. But even then it was not a true fitting. Thankfully with modern technology such as Trackman, Flightscope and other launch monitors, coupled with dedicated club makers, things have changed considerably with the major manufacturers.
Custom fitting is for everyone. Period. If you are going to buy a pair of shoes, you are not going to pick a pair you like without checking the size. You’ll try them, make sure they fit and that they are comfortable. It’s the same with golf equipment, but with this, you’ll need some professional help…and some evidence that they are right for you.
The argument which I hear often about being too new at the game to need fitting, doesn’t hold water either. Let’s face it, the best players in the world could probably take a hockey stick and an orange and get it around the course better than most club golfers. But fitting is for everyone!
In regards to fitting sessions, allow me to tell you what a custom fitting session is NOT. There are many misconceptions!
A professional custom fitting session is NOT …
1. Hitting clubs from a “fitting” cart on the range
2. Hitting clubs into a net
3. Hitting clubs at a demo day
4. Having clubs built based on height or how far you hit a 7 iron
5. Having clubs recommended based solely on swing speed, hitting off a lie board, wrist to floor measurement
6. Having clubs recommended based on handicap
7. Having clubs adjusted by “how they look” as you address the ball
8. Having clubs recommended based on age
9. Having clubs recommended based on “how they feel”
10. Having clubs selected for you on a gender basis.
The primary purpose of a fitting is to identify and establish the club specifications that will assist you in playing your best golf on a more consistent basis. The game is difficult enough without trying to play it with equipment that does not fit you. In order to improve your game it is imperative that your equipment “fit” you. If it doesn’t, you will not play your best. All pros play clubs that are custom fit. They know that golf clubs made to their specifications perform better and take advantage of the swing they have, not the swing they should have.
I believe no golf club should be made based on the golfer’s gender or age. I also believe all golf clubs should be built based on the individual’s golf swing. In a true custom fitting environment, I do not differentiate between a man, woman, junior, senior or disabled. I have only one concern: the individual and their swing. The club fitters’ job is to observe, analyse and determine what head/shaft/grip combination is best suited for the individual and have their clubs built accordingly.
What Is Measured?
1. Launch angle
2. Carry distance
3. Total distance
4. Ball speed
5. Ball spin rate
6. Swing speed
7. Swing tempo
8. Angle of attack
9. Angle of ball descent
10. Centeredness of impact
11. Lie Angle
12. Grip Size
After these have been measured, there are many other things to consider, such as the 21 components to a true fitting.
1. Club head loft angle
2. Club head lie angle
3. Club head bulge
4. Club head roll
5. Club head sole angle on irons
6. Club head face angle on woods
7. Club head hosel offset
8. Club head material composition and design
9. Shaft flex and including butt/tip stiffness
10. Shaft torque
11. Shaft weight
12. Shaft spine alignment or orientation…or PUREing
13. Shaft flex profile
14. Shaft material composition and design
15. Grip size
16. Grip weight
17. Grip material composition and design
18. Club playing length
19. Club swing weight/MOI/frequency
20. Club total weight
21. Set makeup – do we really need that 3-iron that comes with the set?
What is done with the information?
Once we have all the measurements, I will sit down with each customer and go over each one and what they mean and how they relate to you as a golfer. I will then make a recommendation as to type of club head, shaft, and grip and why we recommend what we do. Then we can choose which brand and price range will suit your budget.
Once the decision is made as to the WHAT and you understand the WHY, the process of building your clubs begins.
My own personal standard procedure with building any club involves orienting the shaft in its most stable and playable position in the club head. My own preference is to have each shaft SST PUREd as I firmly believe that this is the perfect way to fine tune a shaft. Some people prefer simple spine alignment, where the hard bend point of the shaft is turned a specific way to aid ball flight. Although no scientific proof has ever been forthcoming to prove any benefit. With SST PURE’d shafts, the shaft is measured in its most stable playing position and inserted that way. And there is plenty of scientific back up that it works.
Any good club maker will also balance the set or club correctly using a state of the art frequency analyser and an MOI analyser and, making sure the correct swing weight applies and that it is right for each customer, and that the basics are also adhered to…lie angle, grip, length, etc.
What you can expect?
With a professional fitter/club builder, the relationship is actually just beginning as you have your fitting. The commitment to you is that the fitter/builder will work with you on anything at anytime that you feel it necessary. If you need questions answered, they are there to answer them. During the life of your clubs, a good fitter will also check your lofts, lies and grips at anytime and advise on any changes.
About the Author – Martin Park is the Head Professional and Director of Golf of Park Golf Academy at both Bornholm’s Golf Klub and Nexø Golf Klub. He has been building clubs for over 15 years. Martin is a fully certified Master Craftsman Club maker and Advanced Fitting professional with the Golf Clubmakers Association (GCA). The GCA Clubmakers also voted him the 2009 GCA European Clubmaker of the Year 2009.
About the GCA – The Golf Clubmakers Association (GCA) is the world’s oldest and largest club making organisation. Founded in 1980, the GCA has over 6000 members worldwide. The GCA is devoted exclusively to help promote the craft of club building and club fitting.