Thursday, September 29, 2011

Can My Current Clubs be Custom Fit for Me?

Posted by Tom on Sep 9, 2011.

I understand. You’ve become aware of the benefits of professional clubfitting, you want to see if custom fitting can make a real difference in your game, but you don’t want to spring for a totally new set of clubs because your clubs aren’t that old.

Can your existing clubs, or can clubs you just bought off the rack in a golf store or pro shop be custom fit to your swing and how you play?

For a couple of the 13 key fitting elements, yes, for a fewmore of the 13 key clubfitting elements possibly, but for all of them, no they can’t. In addition, the number of fitting specs that can be retro-fit to meet your needs depends on the skill of the clubmaker doing the adjustments to the clubs. But rather than talk around this, let’s talk directly about it by going over each of the fitting specifications, one by one.

Length and Swingweight: If your best fit length is longer or shorter than your existing clubs, sure, the shafts can be cut shorter or extenders can be epoxied into the end of the shaft to make them longer. That’s easy. The tough part is whether the clubs can be re-swingweighted to meet your swingweight requirements after the length change. If the clubs are cut shorter, you’ll likely need weight added to the clubheads to get the swingweight back up to the proper level that matches your swing and preference for the feel of the clubhead. There are only two ways to do that in clubheads made for a set bought standard off the rack – weight would have to be put at the very tip end of the shafts or lead tape put on the outside of the heads. And for graphite shafted clubs, to do a proper job of adding weight in the tip end of the shaft, the clubmaker has to remove each shaft to put the weight in from the tip end.

If you need to drop the weight of the clubheads to achieve your best fit swingweight at the new length, sorry, that cannot be done. While grinding weight off the head seems a solution, in practical terms this really can’t be done on any metal woodhead because the walls of the head body are too thin. On stainless irons, weight could be ground off, but few clubmakers have the equipment or skill to refinish the heads to look good. On forged irons, the heads would have to be re-chromed at about $40 a pop or else they’ll rust.

Loft and Face Angle: It’s unlikely you would need different lofts for the irons, but if you did, a skilled clubmaker with a loft and lie adjustment machine should be able to bend the new loft into each iron head. If the heads are made from 17-4 stainless steel (most PING and CALLAWAY irons) you’ll have to find a very experienced clubmaker to do the bends. So that’s possible for sure. For your metal woods and driver, sorry, you can’t change the loft or the face angle so if you do need a different loft and face angle on your driver and woods, you’ll have to buy a new clubhead.

Shaft Weight, Flex, Bend Point, Torque: If you need different shafts to better fit your swing, no question, any skilled clubmaker can pull your old shafts and install the new shafts. But if the new shafts are of a different weight or to be installed to a different length than what you had, anytime you change shaft weight or length, re-swingweighting the clubs is required – and we’ve already explained the challenges and limits to that one.

Grip Style and Size: Piece of cake for your old grips to be replaced with ones you like the feel of and which fit your hands better for comfort. The only thing you have to be aware of is if the new grips are a lot lighter or heavier than your old ones. If so you may need to have the swingweight adjusted to get it back where you like it for your swing tempo and timing – and once again as I’ve explained before, this could be a problem.

Total Weight: Total weight is the overall weight of the whole club. It is chiefly controlled by the weight of your shafts. So if you need a lighter or heavier total weight to better match to your transition force, tempo, rhythm and strength that’s done by changing to a lighter or heavier shaft which still has the right flex, bend point and torque to fit your swing. See the comments above for shaft changing.

Set Makeup: So many golfers have bought off the rack clubs in the usual set makeup of 1, 3, 5, 7 woods and 3-9, PW, SW irons. Most of them are playing with sets that have at least three clubs they can’t hit well enough to merit them being in the bag (3w, 3i, 4i). If the clubfitter recommends a set makeup change, plain and simple this means buying the clubs new you need to get the set makeup where it needs to be to help your game the most.

Clubhead Design: Well, this one’s obvious. You can’t magically change one style of clubhead into another. If the clubheads on your existing set are not the best for your manner of play, now you really know you an attempted retro-fit of your existing clubs is a total waste.

Conclusion: I know money can be tight these days for a lot of us, so a retro-fit might seem to be the best of all worlds to help golfers get fit without buying a whole new set from scratch. Best advice I can give you if you are dead set on a retro-fit? Retro fit the irons but be fully custom fit from scratch for a new driver and woods. Seriously though, the only way to really experience the full game improvement benefits from professional clubfitting is to be fully fit by an expert clubmaker for all custom fit clubs, each one custom built from scratch to fit you and your size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics. It really can make so much more difference than trying to cobble together your existing clubs to fit.

Until next time, best wishes in this great game.

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