Having been in the golf business for almost three decades I have come up with two main conclusions—not enough people take lessons and everyone should have a club fitting session on a regular basis (every couple of years). After all, if the best golfers in the world do this, shouldn't everyone?
I recently had the opportunity to head out to the Club Champion facility in Hackensack for an extensive club fitting (this was prior to the opening of their Long Island location). I had a wonderful experience. Getting fit with the proper driver was well worth the trip. I'm hitting longer and straighter, and feeling more confident when I tee it up than ever before. While golfers certainly need to consider taking lessons, being custom fit for clubs should also be a priority.
What is really significant about getting fit (your clubs, that is—the gym is another story) is that there are tens of thousands of combinations and the only way to find the right clubs is to work with a professional fitter, With today's technology, you can get your equipment dialed in to improve your game for peak performance.
Golfing Magazine recently sat down with Club Champion club fitter Hiroshi Okada to discuss the launch of its new location inside the John Ondrush Golf & Fitness Academy and the concept of club fitting.
JG: Let me get right to it. Why should someone get fit?
H: Many golfers use ill-fitted equipment, adjusting their swing to the club. It should be the other way around—fit the club to the golfer. Use the swing they have and match the equipment to that.
For example, if you were to swing a club, it feels one way to you and that exact same club will feel different to me. The golf swing is like a fingerprint—it is different for everybody. To maximize a golfer's swing, they should be fitted properly.
When you get fit, you get better. Golf Digest followed a group of Club Champion customers and found that 8 out of 9 added an average of 21 yards off the tee and lowered their scores by as much as 6 strokes per round. Whether you are scratch golfer or a high handicap, a club fitting will help you play better.
JG: What do you think are some of the misconceptions that may contribute to golfers not getting fit?
H: Many golfers believe they are not good enough to get fit. I think that is the main misconception. Actually, it is the other way around. Higher handicap players often see the most significant gains in distance, accuracy and lower scores. A better player of the pro can pretty much swing anything and have some success with it. They can adjust their swing to any particular club. An inexperienced player or a recreational golfer really cannot adjust their swing to match a particular club. It would be better to get fit on a regular basis as your game progresses.
JG: Now that Club Champion is on Long Island what is it going to take to get more golfers to get fit?
H: It is all about getting the word out and letting golfers know the value of club fitting. To get the word out we do a lot of advertising to promote our brand and encourage golfers to get fit. But most important, we rely on word of mouth and customer referrals. We are a performance-based company, so when a customer's new clubs perform well they refer us to their friends.
Club Champion's location inside the John Ondrush facility is quite unique. It really is a place on Long Island that every golfer should come to see.
JG: Tell me a little bit of the history of Club Champion and how you arrived here on Long Island in the John Ondrush Golf & Fitness Academy.
H: Club Champion actually started in a small shop in Chicago in the 1990s. It has grown to over a dozen locations in key golf markets around the country. We are now the largest premium club fitter in the country. This location here is our sixteenth location. Long Island was always on the radar and is a great golf market with passionate golfers and many fabulous golf courses.
Club Champion's location inside the John Ondrush facility is quite unique. All of our other locations are storefronts. Here, we are inside of a golf facility. It's wonderful to be here because it is a one-stop shop for golfers—the facility has fitness, physical therapy, golf training, and now club fitting. It really is a place on Long Island that every golfer should come to see.
JG: Tell me about the Club Champion philosophy.
H: We employ only master fitters and have over 15,000 hittable head and shaft combinations from all of the major brands. You can hit any combination of head or shaft. That's not possible at other fitters who use OEM fir carts.
When you get fit at Club Champion what you wind up with is the exact club built to your specifications. Unlike many fitting studios, we have a team of professional club builders who build to the exact fitting specifications identified during the fitting. In fact, our build team builds more than 30,000 clubs per year.
Our fitters are specialists. We don't sell shirts, training aids or golf shoes. All we do is fit 45+ hours a week. That makes us unrivaled experts at fitting, and we use only the latest club fitting equipment including Trackman launch monitors, SAM PuttLab, and SST PURE machines.
Let me put it to you this way. If Chef Bobby Flay and I have the same ingredients to make a chocolate cake, when all is said and done Chef Bobby Flay's chocolate cake is a lot better than mine. He is a professional chef and he knows how to combine the ingredients in just the right measure. It is the same thing with golf club fitting. Some competitors may have the same ingredients but Club Champion has professional club fitters and builders. We put together a better club for each individual golfer.
JG: What is a key element to club fitting that helps you make a better club?
H: I think it is the tolerance and attention to detail. We have very tight tolerances. When you have a club fitting at Club Champion, what you get fit for is the club you are going to get. Those tight tolerances are backed by our Perfect Fit Guarantee. We guarantee that the results you will see in the fitting bay are the results you will see on the course. If I fit you, and Trackman says you added 20 yards, you will see 20 yards on the course.
JG: Let me clear something up. When Club Champion fits someone for clubs, the club could be from any manufacturer—Ping, Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade or PXG. You're getting specs and numbers during a fitting to create a club for them to do what? What happens?
H: Yes, you are right, we sell all of the major brands as well as premium brands such as Miura that you may not be too familiar with. When a golfer comes in for a fitting we can use their current clubs, sell them new clubs, or simply provide then with specification for the club(s) that will perform best for them. In the end, the golfer's performance gets maximized and we zero in on the customer's potential to play better.
JG: Welcome to Long Island. I hope more golfers will now go out and have a club fitting session.