When discussing the manner of fitting the shaft weight and total weight of a golf club, the conversation should also include fitting the swing weight, or better stated, the head weight FEEL of the golf club at the same time. This is because the two “weights” of a golf club are very much interrelated in their effect on the fitting performance of golf clubs for each golfer.
In the interest of brevity, this segment will discuss the fitting of shaft weight and total weight, followed next by a conversation about swing weight/head weight feel fitting. So we’ll start with the meat and next week we’ll add the sauce to make it a more complete dish!
Fitting the golfer for the correct total weight and swing weight (head weight feel) is extremely important for enabling the golfer to achieve the highest level of shot consistency and swing repeatability. Too light or too heavy and the golfer struggles to maintain a consistent swing tempo, timing and rhythm. Match the weights of the clubs to the golfer’s transition force, tempo, rhythm and strength and a higher level of swing consistency happens, which also results in a greater on-center hit performance, better quality “misses” and fewer “off-the-world” shots.
All experienced clubfitters know when fitting the weight of the shaft that the total weight of the club is being fit to the golfer at the same time. This is because shaft weight is the No. 1 determinant of the total weight of the club. Yes, grip weight and head weight have an influence on total weight, but they aren’t as important as the effect of the weight of the shaft. In short, when the golfer needs a lighter or heavier total weight in the clubs, fitting the weight of the shaft is how that is done.
In fitting the golfer for the best shaft weight, experienced club fitters study the “force and strength” of the golfer and his swing. The more forceful and aggressive the transition move, the more quick and fast the swing tempo and the greater the strength of the golfer, the heavier the shaft weight should be to better match to these more powerful swing and golfer characteristics. Conversely, the smoother and more passive the transition, the smoother and more rhythmic the tempo and the weaker the golfer, the lighter the weight of the shafts and total weight should be.
Another way the good club fitters look at this matter of fitting the weights of the golf club is to understand that the total weight of the club is felt more on the backswing and the very beginning of the downswing while the head weight is detected and shows its influence on swing tempo consistency more from the beginning of the downswing to the release.
Without question, the golfer’s personal preference for the overall weight feel of his clubs takes precedence over any shaft weight recommendation done on the basis of strength, transition and tempo. Shaft weight fitting involves judgment by the club fitter based on experience from having fit many golfers and learning from what golfers of different strengths, transition forces, tempos and weight feel preferences preferred, along with what ended up performing the best for them.
As with any area involving judgment, it is always helpful to have a guideline as a starting point in the decision making process. The following chart can be used as a basic starting point in the shaft weight fitting process. As with so many parts of the fitting process, test clubs should be assembled with the shaft weight being recommended to be hit by the golfer to assist in making the final decision.
A starting point for shaft weight
In the next segment in the series on club fitting, we will finish the discussion of fitting the weights of the clubs by bringing in the co-important specification of head weight feel (i.e. swing weight or MOI).
Many of you might be saying “OMG really? This will be a yawner.”
I’ll ask that you to hang on through the first part of this story, because we’ll get to some other information about grip fitting that many of you may not know.
OK, sure, there isn’t any rocket science associated with fitting golfers for the right grip size and style. Grip size/style fitting is chiefly a matter of golfer preference for what FEELS the best.
“WHAT STYLE AND SIZE ALLOWS THE GOLFER TO MAINTAIN A SECURE HOLD ON THE CLUB WITH THE LEAST AMOUNT OF GRIP PRESSURE?”
The more grip pressure golfers have to use to keep their hands securely on the grip throughout their swing, the more their forearm muscles will contract. And the tighter their forearm muscles, the less consistent golfers will find their swing tempo, timing, rhythm and shot consistency.
The result? More bad shots, which no one wants.
Grip size fitting charts, which offer a size based on a measurement of the hand and middle finger length, stand ONLY as a starting point. Just like a wrist-to-floor measurement acts only as a starting point for length determination, hand/finger measurements are done simply to give the club maker a starting point for coming up with the best grip size for each golfer.
Plain and simple, the golfer has to try different grip sizes to choose the one that is most comfortable and allows him to maintain a secure hold on the club with the least amount of grip pressure. That means trial and experimentation. While many club fitters do this with cut-off shafts and grips installed to different specific sizes, it is better for the golfer to try grip sizes on a fully assembled club. Holding a grip mounted on a cut-off shaft just doesn’t FEEL like a real club and has been known to adversely affect a golfer’s size decision.
Following this guideline, there has been a recent increase in golfer preference for building up the diameter of the lower-hand part of the grip. For example, a right-handed golfer might prefer two wraps of grip tape under his left hand and three wraps under his right hand. That’s great if that’s what’s comfortable for him or her. Remember, getting the right grip size is chiefly a trial-and-experimentation process, but building up the lower hand can be done to help a golfer who indicates that he is turning the ball over a little more than he or she would like.
So comfort and a golfer’s own preferred feel rule all in grip size/style fitting. That’s no news to most of you. What is worth your attention is whether you really do know exactly what grip size you prefer. If you do, you’re assured that you are getting the same size grips when you switch to a different shaft or club.
Because of the VAST amount of variation in shaft butt diameters today, the old tried-and-true procedures for calculating known grip sizes in club making are totally disorganized and confusing. It’s an area in club making that used to be very comfortably protected by standards upon which every company agreed, but it is yet another example of equipment specifications that are out the window these days.
For a very long time in this industry, a men’s standard grip was defined by a diameter of 0.900 inches at a point 2 inches down from the edge of the grip cap, coupled with a diameter of 0.780 inches at the 6-inch point down from the end of the grip. It was from this that the industry designations for under or oversize grip diameters were based. Thus a +1/32-inch (0.031 inches) oversize grip was 0.930 inches/0.810 inches at the 2-inch/6-inch positions respectively, and so on for each of the other common grip sizes.
Ensuring the accurate size was easy. Pretty much all X-flex shafts were made with a 0.620-inch butt, S-flexes were 0.600 inches, R’s and A’s were 0.580 inches and L-flexes were 0.560 inches. To match to this, grip companies made their men’s grips with core sizes to match. Men’s grips were available with 62, 60 and 58 core sizes, and women’s grips had a 56 core size. Match the core size to the butt diameter, use one wrap of 2-way grip tape and you ended up with the standard men’s or women’s size every time.
Oversize grips were created by applying layers of masking tape to achieve the desired increase in the butt diameter to stretch the grip larger in diameter. This, too, was pretty much a standard since virtually every roll of paper masking tape was made with a thickness of 0.005 inches. Hence, for each layer of masking tape wrapped around the butt, the shaft diameter increased by 0.010 inches. And from this came the vernacular of 3 wraps makes a +1/32 inches oversize, 6 wraps makes a +1/16 inches oversize, and so on.
Shaft butt diameters are all over the place now. Different model shafts of the same flex can now range in butt diameter from 0.580 inches to 0.640 inches. Not only that, but masking tape has been cheapened so much over the years that it’s tough to find a roll with the same 0.005-inch thickness as was so common before.
Most masking tape is 0.003 inches thick. Then you have the trend of the grip companies to mold separate grips to “midsize” or “oversize” diameters. Just how large IS this or that grip company’s mid or oversize molded grip?
Here we have one more club spec that used to have standards agreed upon by all that no longer exists. No more is “3 wraps a +1/32” or any other wraps versus size designation. To be sure you get the same exact grip size on all clubs/shafts you play, the only solution is to:
Make note of the butt diameter on the shafts you play.
Note the core size of the grip you use. Typically, this will be seen as a 2-digit number on the underside of the mouth of the grip: 58, 60, 62.
Make note of the thickness and number of wraps of tape used.
Take a final micrometer or calipers measurement of the outside diameter of the installed grips done at different points along the length of the grip.
When you change clubs or shafts and find the butt diameters are different, ensure you get the same final grip size by calculating the combination of butt diameter, tape thickness and final calipers measurement. More work, in other words, but it’s now what’s necessary.
So the next time you tell your club maker your preferred grip size is an XYZ grip with X number of wraps and the grips turns out not quite right, you know why.
The professional club fitter knows that the set makeup part of the fitting recommendation can be one of the most effective ways to offer measurable improvement to the player, especially for the many millions of average-to-less-skilled golfers.
The reason set makeup fitting has become such a valuable path to game improvement for the average player is simply because of the industry’s move to longer-length woods and lower-lofted irons in the past 30 years.
My experiences have taught me that 3 woods with 14 degrees of loft and 43.5-inch lengths are of little to no help to most average golfers. Neither are many 3, 4 and 5 irons, because of their very low lofts. Yet how many average golfers have these clubs within their current set makeup? Most of them, because of the way so many clubs are sold to average golfers.
It used to be that golfers would buy a driver, 3 wood, 5 wood and a set of irons, 3-PW. Even a recent shift to iron sets of 4-GW still leaves the average golfer with two of the irons with too little loft that many golfers can’t hit well enough to merit carrying them in the bag.
Thus, the common sense goal of set makeup fitting will always be to replace all clubs that the golfer cannot hit consistently well with clubs that hit the ball the same distance, but are easier to hit.
The club fitter’s No. 1 key to set makeup fitting is to find out the lowest-lofted wood and the lowest-lofted iron that the golfer can hit with reasonable consistency in terms of getting the ball up in the air and to fly between the tree lines of the hole. Of these provisos, consistency in hitting the ball well up in the air is key because the fitter can always reduce slice or hook with a length and face angle changein the replacement wood and/or hybrid.
If the golfer cannot hit the 3 wood or 4 wood well up in the air at least 4 of 6 times, the club should not be in the bag. It is far better to have the first wood after the driver be a 5 wood or even 7 wood that the golfer can hit up in the air more than 90 percent of the time and give up a little distance, than to keep hoping for the right swing to be able to hit lower-lofted woods. If the golfer takes lessons and improves, then fine, lower-lofted woods can always be added later.
In terms of the irons, obviously we are talking about replacing low-lofted irons with hybrids or high-lofted fairway woods. Within this is also the matter of what lofts and lengths in the higher-lofted woods are going to deliver the same distance the golfer would have gotten if he or she were to hit the lower-lofted irons well.
Length wise, it is just so much wiser to fit hybrids with the same length as the irons being replacedbecause that leads to a more consistent distance gap between the lowest lofted iron and the hybrid just above it. Loft wise, it depends on the golfer’s clubhead speed.
The higher the club head speed (typically more than 80 mph with the 6 iron), the more likely it is that the replacement woods or hybrids may need to have a little more loft than the irons being replaced to offer the right distance and distance gap between the last hybrid or fairway wood and the first iron.
As to whether to go to a high-lofted wood or hybrid for the iron replacements, the club fitter consults two things:
The more the golfer sweeps the ball rather than hits down on the ball, the more likely that high-lofted woods will be a golfer’s iron replacements.
The golfer’s personal preference/opinion as to whether they are more comfortable or confident with a fairway wood or a hybridis also key to the selection of the low-loft iron replacement clubs.
Club head speed also plays a role in the set makeup determination. The slower the club head speed, the shorter the distance gap from normal 4-degree loft increments between clubs. Why saddle a slower speed player with a combination of 13 woods and irons when a 4-degree loft gap offers only 6-to-7 yards of difference between each club?
For the good player, set makeup fitting certainly will include some of the same elements for the average player. Not all players who shoot in the 70s can consistently hit the a 3 wood high enough or consistently enough off the deck, nor can they hit a 3 iron (sometimes even a 4 iron) well enough to say it is better to keep it in the bag than an easier-to-hit hybrid that flies the same distance.
For many good players, set makeup fitting has to focus on several other areas:
Let’s say you can hit your 3 and 4 irons up in the air. Can you stop those shots on the green as well as you could if you hit a higher-launching hybrid that flies the same distance?
Does your higher club head speed or later release cause a much higher flight with your hybrids so that in high-wind conditions you have control or distance problems? If so, be smart and use hybrids on calmer days and put the lower-lofted irons back in the bag on windy days.
Players who can get a little off line from day to day might consider replacing their 3 wood and 5 wood with a strong 2 hybrid that is in the area of 40-to-41 inches in length for more control.
Different horses for different courses. Good players should always have an array of alternative clubs that are better suited to different courses and different hole designs.
Alternative clubs to considerin the set makeup
A longer-length driver for more wide-open courses and a shorter-length driver for tighter layouts.
A high-COR, slightly shorter 3 wood or shorter length “mini-driver” for tee shots on courses with more tight par 4s and par 5s.
A 3 and 4 hybrid for courses with longer par 3s and par 4s that call for long approach shots that have to stick when they land.
Two drivers — one with less loft, one with more loft — for up and downwind holes on courses where the wind blows frequently and with velocity.
Set makeup fitting is really a test of the golfer’s common sense and control over their ego. To play consistently well, golf shall forever be a game of percentages and good misses. Smart set makeup fitting involves using clubs that give the golfer a higher percentage of consistent shots to improve both the percentage of quality shots and good misses.
Do you think Y.E. Yang feels he is less of a golfer or cares if anyone snickers about the number of hybrids he has been known to carry? At least he didn’t when he beat Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
As a final note, the wedges are most certainly an area in which set makeup fitting plays a significant role in the golfer’s goal to play to the best of their ability. We’ll cover that later in this series when we discuss the topic of wedge fitting.
The higher the loft on the clubhead, the more critical it is to be dynamically fit for the correct lie angle. It is also important, however, to have the lie correctly fit for the fairway woods and hybrids to ensure solid impact consistency.
For the driver, lie angle is less of an accuracy issue due to its lower loft, but if the toe of the driver is severely up in the air in the address position — due to how the length chosen affects the set up of the lie for the golfer — the driver lie should definitely be fit to the golfer if for no other reason than confidence and psychological reasons.
Recent studies and observations have shown that the technique where an ink line is drawn on the back of the ball is better for dynamic lie fitting than using a lie board with tape on the sole of the iron. Plus the ink-line technique can also be done while hitting shots from normal mown grass lies so as to avoid having to hit the club down into a hard surface lie board, a practice which does bother some golfers and cause them to possibly swing differently than they do when hitting shots off grass.
The ink line on the back of the ball technique for dynamic lie fitting is simple and logical. A heavy ink line is drawn on the ball with a Sharpie pen. The ball is placed on the ground with the line vertical and facing the clubhead. After impact, a faint image of the ink line is transferred to the clubface. If the line is perfectly vertical on the clubface, the lie of the club is correct for the golfer. If the ink line tilts in an angle up toward the toe side of the face, the lie of the club that was hit is too upright so the correct lie has to be flatter than the lie of the club being hit. Vice versa — if the ink line angles up toward the heel side of the face, the correct lie has to be more upright than the lie of the test club.
In the near future, kits for this technique of dynamic lie fitting will become available that will include face labels with graduated lines to make the determination of the correct lie much easier and more definitive.
For the highest level of accuracy, dynamic lie fitting should be done as the last procedure in the fitting, using a test club(s) that possess every one of the golfer’s determined fitting specs for the clubhead model, length, shaft, swing weight (MOI) and grip size. In lieu of this, a test club for proper dynamic lie evaluation should at least have the length, shaft and swing weight that is found best for the golfer.
In an ideal world, the dynamic lie test should be done with each one of the golfer’s clubs. Obviously, this will take a good bit more time to do. As such, if time becomes an issue, it is OK to perform the dynamic lie test with every other club or even every third club, with the lies of the in-between irons calculated from the actual dynamic lies determined by each test club.
For golfers who have a chronic fade/slice or draw/hook misdirection tendency, the specification of the face angle of the driver, woods and hybrids is the most effective accuracy improvement factor in fitting.
The face angle can also be a remedial fitting specification for golfers who repeatedly pull or push the ball too, although a key reason for a pull or push tendency is an incorrect fit of the total weight and or swingweight to the golfer. Being fit for the proper length is also very important to accuracy improvement with the driver/woods/hybrids, but when it comes to an immediate reduction in a fade/slice, draw/hook misdirection tendency, face angle is No. 1.
As an aside before continuing the face angle fitting discussion, it is common for good golfers and players who hit the ball straight to criticize fitting golfers with a remedial face angle as being a “band aid,” as if the incorporation of a more open or closed face angle in the fitting is a bad thing to do for the golfer. No question, in a perfect world, all golfers who slice or hook the ball would take lessons, adapt to the swing change, and become straight hitters of the ball to then use a square face angle.
Sorry, but that’s not the way it is for a huge percentage of golfers. Some years back, Golf Digest published a cover story in which they stated that more than 70 percent of all golfers sliced the ball to some degree. It is a fact that learning the swing characteristics to hit the ball consistently straight is an athletic move that a whole lot of golfers simply do not have the ability to do. For them to continue to enjoy the game as much as possible, having a properly fit face angle in their driver and woods is critical.
In addition, TrackMan research has proven that face angle is responsible for 80-to-85 percent of the starting direction of a shot. This too supports the decision to make fitting the face angle a very important part of fitting for improving shot accuracy with not just the driver, but the fairway woods and hybrids as well.
But let’s get back to the topic of how face angle is properly fit to the golfer. In the fitting process, the clubfitter has to evaluate the following points.
Knowing the face angle of the golfer’s current driver/woods/hybrids and knowing theaverage misdirection amount with the current clubs is KEY to determining the golfer’s best face angle specs. You can’t determine the best face angle without knowing the current face angle on the golfer’s driver/woods that is contributing with the swing tendencies to create the golfer’s misdirection tendency.
Based on a driver carry distance of 200 yards, a 1-degree change in the face angle from the golfer’s current face angle will reduce the misdirection tendency on average by 4 to 5 yards. Based on a driver carry distance of 250 yards, a 1-degree change in the face angle from the golfer’s current face angle will reduce the misdirection tendency on average by 6 to 7 yards. This fact is the club fitter’s primary guideline for determining the best face angle for the golfer.
For example, let’s say over the course of 10 shots with the driver, the golfer displays a 15-to-35 yard range in his slice, with most of them being in the area of a 20-yard slice. With this, let’s say the golfer has a clubhead speed that carries the ball on average 200 yards with the driver. And finally, after measuring the face angle of the golfer’s current driver to be square, the clubfitter now knows he should start the golfer’s test club work with a driver with a 3-degree hook face angle to begin to see how this change will affect his average slice tendency.
Keep in mind, the goal of face angle fitting is NOT to enable the golfer to hit the ball straight. The goal is to REDUCE the misdirection tendency so the golfer can keep the ball much more in play than before. Good clubfitters also know that because driver length has a very strong effect on accuracy, a balance between a shorter driver length with a face angle change that may not be as extreme as indicated by the golfer’s amount of misdirection shot tendency is often the way to reduce a slice or hook.
With these points in mind, it becomes easy for the good clubfitter to identify what new face angle will bring about a visible improvement in accuracy for the golfer with the driver, woods and hybrids to reduce the misdirection tendency and keep the ball much more in play.
If the golfer needs a specific face angle for accuracy improvement, he should never consider playing with an adjustable hosel driver. All adjustable hosel drivers require the golfer to hold the face square to the target line to achieve the loft change from the adjustable hosel sleeve. While it is possible to adjust the hosel sleeve and then SOLE the driver to achieve a face angle change, when doing this it is just not possible to also end up with each golfer’s best fit driver loft at the same time, concurrent with the proper face angle.
Proper loft fitting involves more than just the loft of the driver. Since loft is the main factor of shot distance, trajectory and backspin for each club in the bag, the clubfitter has to consider several factors for each golfer when making the recommendation for the best lofts for each club.
Factors for determining loft
Key to this is the right set makeup for each golfer. As such the most important golfer inputs that are used to help determine the best initial lofts prior to hit testing are shown above.
The following is an overview of the key points in loft determination for the driver, woods, hybrids and irons.
The higher the clubhead speed and the more upward the angle of attack, the lower the driver loft should be for optimal tee shot performance.
The lower the clubhead speed and the more downward the angle of attack, the higher the driver loft should be for optimal tee shot performance.
Launch angle is the No. 1 most important launch monitor parameter to observe and react to in determining the golfer’s best driver loft. Spin outputs come a distant second behind visual observation of the ball flight and the golfer’s clubhead speed. The higher the clubhead speed, the more possibility there may be for a spin issue to be considered in the fitting of the loft. But never should the spin output of the launch monitor trump the importance of the observation of the ball flight shape.
Too many golfers focus too much on the backspin measurement for the driver on a launch monitor – ball flight shape tells you more about driver backspin fitting than a launch monitor.
Learn what a driver shot hit with too much backspin looks like. Achieving the best launch angle and ball flight shape is more important than achieving the best backspin measurement.
Loft is the No. 1 way to change backspin and launch angle. The shaft will change spin and launch angle for golfers with later-to-releases, but only SLIGHTLY. The only way the shaft can reduce backspin for a golfer with an actual high spin problem is if the new shaft is stiffer overall and or stiffer in the tip section than the golfer’s current shaft. It is NEVER wise to increase stiffness in a shaft beyond what is the golfer’s proper flex and bend profile as the way to try to reduce the spin.
When the golfer does actually have a problem of too much backspin with the driver — one that is verified with a visual analysis of the ball flight shape –98 percent of the time it is a problem that has to be resolved by a swing change and not from an equipment change.
Knowing the lowest fairway wood loft and lowest iron loft that the golfer can hit consistently well up in the air to achieve proper carry distance is the key for choosing:
The golfer’s first fairway wood after the driver.
The number of hybrids or high-lofted fairway woods a golfer needs.
The first iron in a golfer’s set.
This is why proper loft fitting also involves deciding what the golfer’s best set makeup will be at the same time.
If you doubt the golfer’s own evaluation of the lowest loft wood and iron they hit consistently well, always recommend more loft for the first fairway wood after the driver and one more hybrid or high-lofted fairway wood before starting the iron set makeup.
The current lofts of the golfer’s irons play a role in iron loft fitting because no golfer wants a new set of irons that he hits shorter in distance per each number. There is nothing wrong with very low lofts in an iron set as long as the correct judgment is made for the golfer’s set makeup recommendation. For example, the stronger the lofts in the irons, the more hybrids or high-lofted woods there would be and the higher the number of the first iron.
Much lower-lofted iron sets may require a change in the set makeup such that the golfer’s first iron may need to be a 6 iron or even a 7 iron. Never fit a golfer with a loft that he/she cannot hit well up in the air to fly with reasonable consistency.
Loft gaps between clubs should be greater as the golfer’s clubhead speed is slower
4-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed of 80 mph or more
5-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed of 65-to-75 mph
6-degree gaps: 5 iron swing speed under 65 mph
Nine times out of 10, when a golfer hits the ball VERY high the reason is a swing error in which the golfer is releasing the club in a way that allows the clubhead to pass the hands before impact and thus adds dynamic loft to the clubhead to result in the very high flight. In such cases, lower loft(s) will only help a little. The remedy to bring the ball down to a reasonable height will almost always be lessons to correct the impact position error.
Clubhead center of gravity (CG) can help more with loft fitting to achieve a little bit better trajectory for proper carry distance in the fairway woods first, hybrids second and irons last. But the effect of CG on shot height is ALWAYS proportional to the golfer’s club head speed and angle of attack.
The higher the clubhead speed, the more the CG can visibly affect the trajectory of a given loft angle and vice versa.
The more downward the angle of attack, the less the CG can visibly assist the trajectory from a given loft angle.
In other words, the slower the clubhead speed and more downward the angle of attack, the less the CG has any effect on shot height and the more that loft becomes the only factor to improve shot height and with it, proper carry distance for optimizing distance.
The Meat of the Fitting: Putting it all Together to Come up with the Initial Fitting Spec Recommendations
The information in the blue boxes reveals what observation/measurement inputs are to be consulted to make the decisions for what each of the 12 key fitting specs should be for each different golfer. With 12 separate specs to determine, one might think that it would take a very long time to consider each input, one at a time, to come up with each fitting spec. Not so to the trained and experienced clubfitter.
Here’s why: If you look closely at all the inputs for each of the key fitting specs, you will see that many of the key fitting specs rely on some of the same inputs. For example, the golfer’s transition is a swing characteristic in which the golfer starts the downswing with either a strong/forceful/aggressive move, a smooth/passive/rhythmic move, or somewhere in between.
Once the experienced clubfitter observes the golfer’s transition move to start the downswing, his training leads him to make initial decisions for the length, shaft weight, total weight, swing weight/MOI, shaft flex and shaft bend profile SIMULTANEOUSLY. The key difference between the GOOD clubfitter and the not-so-good one? Multi-tasking!
The good clubfitter not only knows that the transition move reveals a lot of inputs that contribute to the decision for each of these six key fitting specs, but he also knows what direction the golfer’s specific transition move indicates.
The more forceful the transition, the shorter the wood/driver length may need to be. The heavier the shaft weight, total weight and swing weight, the stiffer the shaft’s butt-to-center section may need to be as well in relation to the golfer’s club head speed and shaft swing speed range.
A smooth/passive transition move points toward a possibly longer driver/wood length, lighter shaft weight, total weight and swing weight, and a softer flex in relation to the player’s club head speed and shaft swing speed range.
The not-so-good clubfitter might not know what actual specs are determined by the golfer’s transition force, and he may not even know to observe the golfer’s transition move as an important fitting input to begin with.
The point is this: the best clubfitters not only know what key fitting spec each of the different swing characteristics and fitting inputs point to, they know what specs the inputs point to and they can keep them all circulating in their mind at the same time while they observe and measure the golfer. A proper fitting is NOT done by taking the golfer through each of the fitting specs, one at a time. Proper fitting involves knowing what golfer inputs contribute to what fitting specs and thinking about what each fitting spec should be simultaneously as indicated by each input.
I’ll put it a different way. With knowledge of what golfer inputs indicate what key fitting spec outputs, the very best fitters have a general idea of what the initial specs of the golfer’s test clubs should be by the time the golfer has finished hitting warm-up shots with different clubs. They are observing the golfer’s swing characteristics while he warms up and hits balls on the launch monitor and thinking about what each of the swing characteristics point toward in terms of specific fitting specs.
Now let’s take a quick look at the cause and effect for each input for each of the key fitting specs starting with length.
The Wrist-to-Floor measurement gives us ONLY a starting point for what lengths will becomfortable for the golfer to prevent him/her from bending over too much, crouching down too much, standing too straight and otherwise putting the golfer into a position that is less than optimal for their stance, posture and swing from a comfort standpoint. The FINAL lengths become a matter of combining the analysis of the other six points in the above chart with this basic credo in mind.
The more forceful the transition, the faster the tempo, the more outside-in the swing path, the more upright the swing plane, the more the golfer has problems with off-center hits, and the worse the golfer’s athletic ability, the SHORTER the lengths need to be within the golfer’s comfort level over the ball and in relation to the starting point for length from the wrist to floor measurement.
Conversely, the smoother the transition and tempo, the more square to inside-out the swing path, the flatter the swing plane, and the better the golfer’s athletic ability,the LONGER the lengths could be beyond the wrist-to-floor measurement starting point. Remember, it’s COULD BE — not should be — because longer lengths beyond what the swing characteristics and comfort considerations dictate do contribute to a drop in shot consistency, swing repeatability and a decrease in the center hit performance.
The very best clubfitters also know which of each of these seven inputs for length fitting carries more weight with regard to making the final determination for the best lengths for the golfer. In addition, far more thought and analysis is placed on these inputs for driver and wood fitting because of one more basic club fitting credo related to length fitting.
The longer the length beyond what is necessary for golfer comfort and consistent stance/posture position, the more difficult the club will be to swing consistently for EVERY golfer.
Following is a compilation of additional points about fitting length that we teach to clubfitters to help them become more and more proficient.
Not more than 10 percent of all men should ever try to play with a driver length that is longer than 44 inches.
Most average male golfers should consider a driver length of 43 inches to 43.5 inches.
Virtually no women golfers should try to use a driver length longer than 43 inches, most women should use a driver length shorter than 43 inches.
When in doubt, err on the side of shorter length for the driver.
For a male golfer to be correctly fit into a driver length longer than 44 inches or a woman golfer to be correctly fit into a driver length longer than 43 inches, the golfer should possess the following swing characteristics:
Smoother Transition Force and Smoother Swing Tempo
Inside-Out-to-Square Swing Path
Average-to-Flatter Swing Plane
Above-Average Golf Athletic Ability
The second longest wood should never be longer than 43 inches for men or 42 inches for women — the second longest wood is lowest lofted wood that the golfer can consistently hit for shots off normal fairway lies. More will be covered on this in loft fitting, but you never want to fit a golfer into a fairway wood loft that he/she does not have the ability to get well airborne with good consistency. So for some golfers, their second longest wood might be a 3 wood, but for most and others it may be the 4, 5 or even a 7 wood.
If the golfer’s best driver length is shorter than 44 inches, the second longest wood should be 1 inch shorter than the driver. If the golfer’s handicap is more than 15, make the second-longest wood 1.5 inches shorter than the driver.
The length increment between fairway woods should not be less than 1 inch. Less can contribute to compressing the distance gap between woods.
The wrist-to-floor measurement is a good way to start the length fitting process for the irons or hybrids, but not for the driver or woods. Driver and wood length is purely about what lengths offer the most control, consistency for the golfer’s ability.
Being taller than average height does not mean you have to play with lengths that are longer than standard. It is the combination of height + arm length + posture and stance that determines each golfer’s best iron and hybrid lengths.
It is the golfer’s swing characteristics and golf athletic ability, however, that determines each golfer’s best driver and wood lengths.
Hybrids should be fit to the same length as the irons being replaced with hybrids.
Exception: A hybrid can be longer than an iron of the same loft when the player wants the hybrid to replace a fairway wood.
Using 3/8-inch increments between the irons can be good for all golfers to offer more comfort and stance consistency with the higher loft irons to result in better shot consistency and accuracy with the higher loft irons.
There is no specific rule for wedge length fitting – golfer comfort and golfer stance/posture is the guide for wedge lengths after the PW. Increments of 1/4 inches, 3/8 inches, 1/2 inch or even same length are all acceptable depending on the golfer’s comfort, stance/posture and manner of play with each wedge.
Most golfers have to like they way their clubs look at address, so the psychological side of club head selection is very important. If golfers don’t like the way their new clubs look, the success of the overall fitting can be in jeopardy — regardless of how much improvement there is.
That’s why it’s important to fit golfers into club heads that have the potential to improve their performance (misdirection tendency, overall launch conditions/trajectory, etc.), but also keep the shape and style of the club heads a priority.
Clubhead shape/style elements to identify and match to the golfer’s preference typically involve height and blade length of the head, sole width, topline width, topline slope, leading edge radii, offset/face progression, sole radius/bounce/design, back design, and so on.
But while most of these aspects of the “look” of the head may be judged on an esoteric or qualitative manner, there are most definitely performance-based elements of the head design that have to be a very important part of the fitting of the clubhead. As such, there always has to be a balance in the clubfitter’s recommendation and the golfer’s acceptance of the head model.
That’s why when we teach clubhead model fitting, we begin the process by stressing the following guideline to clubfitters:
Within all of the clubhead models that satisfy the golfer’s personal preferences for shape features, style, finish and cosmetics, recommend the ones that have the highest MOI and the best off-center hit performance.
If the golfer also needs the utmost in distance and forgiveness for his ability and game-improvement goals, expand your recommendation to include the ones with the best face design for highest COR and best variable thickness construction.
When it comes to the pure performance side of clubhead fitting, the more experienced clubfitters will also keep these points in mind:
For golfers with a definite need to reduce a slice or hook, recommend driver, wood and hybrid models that are available in different face angle options or those can be adjusted or bent to achieve the correct face angle to reduce the misdirection tendency.
Center of Gravity (CG) changes — either higher/lower or closer/further back from the face to achieve trajectory, shot shape, spin and shot height fitting goals — certainly can be attempted in the head recommendation. The effect of such CG changes may not bring about as much shot shape improvement as hoped, however, because they are so much affected by individual golfer characteristics of clubhead speed, consistency of the delivery of the head to impact and swing error tendencies.
In other words, don’t expect too much change in shot shape from a CG difference in a clubhead unless you are a more accomplished player with a higher-than-average clubhead speed and a proper impact position.
This does not mean that the clubfitter should ignore the benefits of a lower or more rearward-located CG for golfers with slower swings speed or those who need help keeping the ball in the air. Just don’t expect a big change in doing so.
While the final decision for the clubhead is always in the hands of the golfer, clubfitters should do their best to diplomatically explain the tangible benefits for using a clubhead model with a higher level of game improvement features than the golfer may think they need. Golf is a tough game to begin with and using a clubhead that cannot reduce the negative effects of swing errors is not the wisest decision if the goal is to play to the best of your ability.
What matters, what doesn’t
It usually takes BIG differences in head design technology to bring about small-to-medium differences in shot performance.
A COR difference of 0.030 or more is significant for distance increase. A difference of 0.010 is not.
An MOI difference of more than 1000 g-cm2 is significant for improvement on off-center hits. A difference of 600 g-cm2 or less is not.
A vertical CG difference of more than 5 millimeters is significant for shot height and spin differences. One less than that is not for the vast majority of golfers.
A face-to-back difference in CG of more than 8 millimeters can be significant for shot height and spin differences, but only for golfers with later-to-very-late releases. A face-to-back difference in CG of 5 millimeters or less is insignificant even for later release players.
The more radius on the iron sole from face to back, the better the sole design is for EVERY golfer to very slightly help reduce the degree of “fatness” of a slightly fat shot. More face-to-back sole radius is also good for more consistent sole-to-turf interaction with Bermuda-type turf as well as for shots hit from the rough.