National surveys show that close to 90 percent of amateur golfers play with clubs that aren’t fitted. Even though the fitting trend is becoming more popular, the concept is still foreign to many players, particularly those who think their game isn’t good enough to go through the process.
Obviously, those in the club-fitting business beg to differ.
“Any discerning golfer benefits from a fitting. If you care about your game and your score, you should have fitted golf clubs,” said Nick Sherburne, a master fitter, club builder and founder of Club Champion. “I actually think that the higher-handicap player benefits more than a scratch golfer. Getting a set fit for maximum performance gets them on their way to a better game.”
Club Champion, with 15 shops in the Midwest and on the East Coast, branched out in March with the opening of its first West Coast store. The shop, in Santa Monica, is the first of what the company hopes is several stores in the western U.S.
"We are excited to bring the experience to the Los Angeles area,” said Joe Lee, CEO, and president of Club Champion. “Our passion is to find the best components to help customers hit longer, more accurate shots and enjoy the game more.”
On the eve of the Santa Monica store opening, Sherburne answered questions about the club-fitting process:
Q: If a swing has obvious flaws, do you still go ahead with the fitting?
A: I recommend that if you’re going to commit to lessons, you might want to go get those lessons and then come in. That being said, not many actually commit. If you’re only going to take a couple lessons, then get fit first. In that case, getting fit means you won’t be fighting your current equipment, which doesn’t help the instructor do his job.
Q: Have fitting techniques or numbers changed much in the past few years?
A: People ask all the time when they should get fitted. When you start not seeing the performance you expect, that’s when you should investigate. Of course, there are variables, too, such as an injury, the age group you’re in or if you simply have the hankering to get something new.
Q: Are there any equipment trends you’re seeing this year?
A: Most of the major manufacturers are touting improved aerodynamics, such as Callaway working with Boeing. It’s kind of gotten to the point where adjustability isn’t as big as a couple years ago because it only sells so much and there are really only a certain number of golfers who are going to adjust their clubs. Larger 460cc heads in drivers and more swing speed with all clubs in the bag are also concepts being marketed this year.
Q: In general, what’s your feeling about adjustable clubs? Can players become too reliant on them and switch settings too often?
A: I think people switch too much without understanding what they’re actually doing. That’s the beauty of devices like Trackman that can show what adjustments are doing and how it affects swing plane and launch. For example, turning the loft up closes the face and turning the loft down opens the face. Most people don’t know that. The general public should be very careful with what they’re doing. It’s not that they shouldn’t; they just need to understand what they do and why they do it.
Q: Are there certain things you look for or seek to enhance during a fitting?
A: Any engineer and any golf company will tell you that speed trumps everything. So you want to get as much efficient speed as possible for a golfer.
Q: Where does the speed come from?
A: It depends on the player, but the big answer is that it comes from everything. It comes from the head; it comes from the shaft; it comes from the weight of the club and how efficiently it’s swung. There are a lot of guys that swing really hard but don’t get speed efficiency back to the ball because their swing is so disconnected.
Q: How long does a typical fitting take?
A: If you’re coming in for a driver and woods, you’re looking at 90 minutes; the same thing for a set of irons and wedges. For a putter, maybe 45 minutes. If you want a completely new set, at least three hours. We’re obviously not swinging the whole time, so it’s not as daunting or tiring as some people might think.
Q: How do a person’s physical capabilities or stature work into a fitting?
A: That’s the beauty of a fitting. No matter a person’s height, hand size, flexibility issues or what have you, a set of clubs that works best for you will only make the game more enjoyable. One size definitely doesn’t fit all, so to speak.
Q: For game improvement, what’s more important – a better swing or fitted clubs?
A: If you really care about your golf game, there are multiple things you should be doing. You should be doing something physical, such as an exercise program. Fitting is obviously another proven factor in game performance. And then there’s lessons and practice. You should be hitting all four of those pillars to get a better golf game. When golfers ask, ‘Should I get lessons or should I get fit?’ I tell them they need to do both. Now, more people would rather get fit because they’d rather buy a game than go and take lessons 20 times and work on their game. I’ll tell them equipment will help to a certain degree, and you should play with the best clubs for you, but I’ll never deny that you should have a good teacher, too, and be willing to put in the time in that area as well.
By Al Petersen at southlandgolf.com