The Importance of a Custom Golf Club Fitting
Every year, the equipment manufacturers come out with new models of their drivers, irons, and putters, counting on the fact that a significant portion of the golfing public will continue to subscribe to the notion that they can simply “buy a better golf game.” Fortunately for those companies, there will always be millions of golfers who are hungry to improve and who are hoping that these new “magic wands” will somehow solve all of their woes – and they are willing to spend a lot of money in that quest.
Unfortunately, their faith in the healing powers of these new clubs is not always rewarded. It seems, more often than not, that they find either no improvements at all or they find small, modest improvements that don’t quite seem to justify the size of the investment they had made.
Can brand new equipment improve a golfer’s performance? To an extent. Advances in technology, materials, and design can sometimes provide incremental improvements. But it’s a rare case where a golfer will see a reduction in their score of, say, 5-10 strokes per round simply by buying the latest golf club(s).
That’s not to suggest that golfers shouldn’t ever buy new equipment. If you’re able to afford it, it’s smart to leverage the latest in club technology.
But for someone looking to make a significant improvement in their scores, there’s a better way than simply hoping that expensive, off-the-shelf equipment will provide the answer.
Custom Golf Club Fitting is That Better Way
No one reading this article would go into a clothing store and buy the first suit that they liked, without getting it tailored. Everyone knows that if they want a new suit to look good on them, it needs to be customised to their specific physical characteristics. We all have different body types and sizes, and it’s obvious that the same suit isn’t going to work for everyone.
And yet, golfers routinely buy their golf clubs that way. It’s very common for golfers to purchase golf clubs right off the shelf, totally unaware of the critical importance of ensuring that these new clubs are a proper fit for their specific height, strength, swing speed, etc.
The odds that new, off-the-rack clubs will somehow miraculously be a proper match for an individual golfer’s specific body and swing profile, are about the same as the suit-buyer lucking into a perfect fit without needing any alterations at all.
What Exactly is Custom Golf Club Fitting?
Custom club fitting entails first measuring a golfer’s physical characteristics and then, using high-tech, computerised equipment, capturing all their important swing data. Both steps are done for the purpose of then designing or modifying golf clubs so that they will be an ideal match for that player’s unique attributes.
When your clubs have been customised for you, you’re able to make a smooth, biomechanically proper motion, the result of which will be a balanced, powerful, and efficient golf swing.
On the other hand, when your clubs are not properly matched to you and your swing, the mismatch can result in detrimental compensations that could lead to swing flaws and bad habits.
As just one example, consider the golfer who doesn’t have a lot of strength trying to swing a club that is far too heavy for them, or which has a shaft flex that is too stiff. The effort needed to swing that poorly matched club could cause all kinds of swing faults that unfortunately could become ingrained in their swing for a long time, not to mention the immediate negative effects it could have on consistency and performance.
How Important is Golf Club Fitting? Check Out the Data
Several years ago, a firm by the name of Sports and Leisure Research Group undertook a study to examine this issue in detail. What they uncovered should be an eye-opener for all golfers. The core finding of their analysis? Almost 90% of golfers may be playing with golf clubs that don’t fit them properly!
While it’s probably surprising to our readers that fully 9 out of 10 golfers are “victims” of this unfortunate statistic, I suppose that, in a way, this could be somewhat reassuring to amateur golfers, who now realise that the source of their high handicaps and less-than-perfect swings might be something other than their level of talent. Their ill-fitted clubs might be playing a potentially significant role.
Here’s a few of the other findings that came out in their report: 92% of golfers who were custom fitted using a launch monitor realised immediate benefits with their new equipment. Eight out of ten golfers who did get custom fitted hit the ball more accurately and more consistently. Those golfers who got custom fitted were 22% more likely than those who did not get custom fitted to see a reduction in their scores of 2 strokes or more, while 56% saw a reduction in their scores of 5 strokes or more per round!
To reiterate our earlier point, it is highly unlikely that golfers would see these kinds of remarkable improvements simply by purchasing new, off-the-shelf equipment.
In commenting on this study, Sports and Leisure Research Group President Jon Last said: “This study is a wakeup call for every golfer who wants to get better. We spoke to thousands of golfers coast to coast and the majority had no idea of what true custom fitting is all about and how it can shave strokes off their score cards.”
What To Expect at a Golf Club Fitting
Although fitting sessions may vary slightly from place to place, here’s how a typical custom fitting would proceed:
1. First Step
Usually, the first step in a custom fitting session is a static measurement of all the golfer’s relevant physical characteristics (height, arm length, hand size, wrist-to-floor measurement, etc.). This data will be important when the ultimate determinations are made as to proper club lengths, correct grip thickness, etc.
2. Second Step
Then the professional fitter conducting the session will want to observe the golfer hitting shots while using their current set of clubs, to assess and quantify all the golfer’s relevant swing characteristics, and to determine how the golf club is affecting their ball flight.
Typically, the fitter will use a sophisticated, computerised tool called a launch monitor to assist in this part of the data gathering. Things the fitter will be assessing and measuring at this point are:
- Club head speed
- Ball speed
- Club head angle of attack (ascending or descending, and by how much)
- Club face angle at impact (open or closed, and by how much)
- Club path (in to out or out to in, and by how much)
- Ball spin rate
- Launch trajectory
The information derived through this process will become the input from which specifications are determined for the eventual club customisation. For example, data gathered through the physical assessment and through the launch monitor analysis will determine the proper club length, lie angle, weight, and grip size specifications that will be recommended, as well as the best type of club head design based on the golfer’s skill level, and the appropriate shaft flex and kick point.
3. Third Step
The final step in the fitting process is for the fitter to assemble “test” clubs that mimic the ideal specifications that were determined in the previous steps. Many fitting sites have a large, diverse inventory of various heads and shafts on hand for just this purpose, allowing the fitter to intermix different head/shaft combinations. This allows the golfer to then hit more shots using clubs with the recommended specifications to confirm whether the assessments have been accurate. Once again, the launch monitor will be utilised to validate the new (hopefully improved) swing and ball-flight results.
You can see that a proper club fitting is a very meticulous process, as it should be when attempting to determine the specifications that will create the perfect fit for the golfer. Getting things wrong or incomplete could negatively affect the golfer’s performance, and that is precisely what a properly conducted custom fitting is designed to avoid.
For those unfamiliar with the process, you should understand that the result of a custom fitting is NOT the production of a newly manufactured, unfamiliar brand of clubs that are built from scratch for you. What actually happens, once your fitter has zeroed in on your personalised specifications, is that those details are communicated to your club manufacturer of choice (e.g., TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist, Cobra, etc.) through a “special order” and that company then makes modifications to their standard clubs so that they are customised to your unique needs.
So, the end result is that you’ll then have the same popular brand-name clubs that you’ve read about and seen in all the golf shops, except that yours will have been modified to reflect the precise specifications that you and your fitter have painstakingly developed.
What Should You Bring to a Golf Club Fitting?
Well, obviously you’ll need to bring your current set of clubs. You’ll be hitting a lot of shots with them to enable the fitter to gather all the initial swing data. Besides that, just make sure you’re well rested and prepared to make a significant number of golf swings.
How Long Does a Golf Club Fitting Take?
Well, it depends. Each fitter will be slightly different in terms of their approach and thoroughness. Also, the timeframe will obviously change depending on whether you’re focusing on just one club or an entire set. On the low end, it should take about an hour. On the high end (for a full set), it could take as much as 2 ½ hours.
How Much Does a Golf Club Fitting Cost?
Once again, the answer is: it depends. Primarily it depends on where you go for the fitting. There’s a wide range of possible costs that you might see, based upon whether the fitter is a local golf professional or whether the fitter is employed by one of the large corporate entities that focus specifically on custom fitting services (e.g., GolfTec or Club Champion).
A common pricing structure is to charge one cost when assessing and customising one individual club (e.g., your driver), and a higher cost if the golfer wants to have an entire set of clubs customised. Individual golf club fitting costs will range anywhere from $50 to $125, while complete sets generally range between $250 up to about $400.
And it should be noted that the costs mentioned above are the costs for the custom fitting service itself, not for the actual customised golf clubs. You would have to pay separately for the golf clubs that you eventually order after the fitting process is complete.
It can be stated with a fair degree of certainty that almost every golfer who goes through a custom fitting will see improved performance and lower scores. The same can’t always be said for golfers who buy “off-the-shelf.”
If you are looking for a better Return on Investment, a custom fitting is the way to go. The potential for improvement could be dramatic. Keep in mind, though: while getting custom clubs will help you improve (significantly, for many), you shouldn’t expect that you’ll make it to the Tour any time soon. You’ll still hit poor shots from time to time, but the important thing is that you’ll hit fewer of them, and they won’t be quite as punishing when they happen.
Finally, one last thought to address the inevitable concern of beginners and higher handicappers who feel that custom fitting is just for “good” players, and that they should delay a fitting until they get much better. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Although a custom fitting can help all golfers regardless of skill level, it is particularly effective for beginners and those with higher handicaps. Keep in mind that improvement can be hindered when using clubs that are ill-fitted. Swing flaws can be developed and ingrained. It is far better to develop your game using golf clubs that match your swing characteristics and don’t hamper your improvement.
For those just getting started in the game, and for those veterans who want to lower their handicap, a customised set of clubs will foster better swing mechanics, more confidence, and lower scores. And all that equates to more fun on the golf course.
- Bill Sullivan