The interview below was originally published by Inside The Grip on December 8, 2020.
A QUICK NINE WITH NICK SHERBURNE OF CLUB CHAMPION
The customization of golf clubs has taken off tenfold in the last few years. Amateur golfers are starting to realize the benefits of customizing his or her game to achieve greater results. This is where Club Champion comes into play. The nations #1 club fitter with more than 70 locations nationwide. I wanted to know more about Club Champion, and the many benefits this company can add to your game so I interviewed Nick Sherburne, Master Fitter and Club Champion Founder.
1. Can you talk a little about how Club Champion started, and what motivated you to start the company?
20 years ago, I started the company that would eventually turn into Club Champion in 2010. I was a passionate young golfer who was willing to do anything to become better. I’d worked at Cog Hill’s range and was lucky enough to see the PGA Tour come through regularly, bringing with it the Tour trucks and club trailers. I got to see professional players tweak their clubs and experience products and processes that “normal” golfers didn’t know about. So I began to dig in — I wanted to do those things to my equipment. It was a love affair at the right time since it coincided with the advent of launch monitors. I saw an opportunity to bring Tour treatment to the everyday golfer, and to help players grow in the game and become their absolute best. What Club Champion is today took many years to refine and I would say we are still always looking for ways to improve.
2. What have been some of the biggest hurdles for Club Champion?
Like any business, we had to figure things out as we went. Once we were able to truly define our goal and what sets us apart from competition, things started clicking into place. We knew we didn’t want to split our focus between fitting, lessons, apparel, etc. — those stores already exist. We wanted to be specialized and be able to employ true experts in the craft of fitting and building. Once the focus was streamlined and we were able to prove there was a demand for our services, the challenges have just been finding new markets and new opportunities to bring our methodology to a new group of golfers.
3. How important do you think customization has been in the golf world? Are you seeing more and more amateurs wanting custom sets of clubs?
Yes, more and more amateurs are looking for clubs that fit their game as opposed to the reverse. Customization is a no-brainer on the PGA Tour and other professional circuits — we essentially play the same sport by the same rules as those pros so it makes sense to approach equipment in a similar way. For a sport that’s so widely played, there’s still a lot of grassroots word-of-mouth involved; a guy gets fitted clubs, starts bombing it 50 yards past his playing partners and suddenly the rest of that foursome is booking appointments based on that anecdotal proof. The more that people see the process works, the more amateur golfers we see looking for custom sticks.
4. I understand each golfer is unique in his or her game ability, but is there an average or percentage of stroke difference after a Club Champion fitting?
We’ve done club tests with publications like Golf Digest that show our fittings save an average of six strokes per round. They also add an average of 21 yards off the tee and another 13 yards with irons — all that said, those are just the averages. We’ve seen golfers come in and find 30+ yards off the tee, crazy upgrades in accuracy, etc. It’s really a case-by-case basis but even the averages are incredible.
5. What is the popular club that golfers get fitted for?
Putter is most important but driver is most popular. People love seeing the distance and dispersion changes, as well as upgrades in metrics like ball speed, smash factor and more. It’s a very powerful club and the changes tend to feel really big, even if it isn’t a club we use on every hole.
6. Would you say it is harder to fit a lower handicap or a higher handicap player?
Neither is difficult for us to fit but higher handicap golfers see the most gains. If someone is playing single digits, there isn’t usually a ton of low-hanging fruit to dial in. If it’s there, we find it, but those people usually have more understanding of how their swing relates to their equipment and vice versa. However, for a mid- or high-handicapper, we may be dealing with someone who has a great swing but clubs that are two inches too long. Or maybe their lofts are all over the place; maybe they assumed they needed a stiff flex but that’s actually all wrong. There are so many simple upgrades that can be made to clubs that by the time we get into the intricacies that other fitters don’t think much about, we’ve already measurably tightened up that golfer’s game.
7. I think at times players get a narrow-minded look into the club manufactures. They are only focused on the top brands. How beneficial is it for you to have 50-plus club options for players?
All told, we have 45,000+ hittable head and shaft combinations in every store. Many are from “top” brands like Callaway and Titleist, but we also offer niche and boutique brands because there are some really high-quality clubs out there that just don’t have the marketing dollars to be seen the way the big guys do. I think we would be doing our golfers a disservice if we only carried the biggest names because there might be a golfer who really jives with Fourteen wedges or a Bloodline putter. Same applies to shafts and grips — the more we have available, the higher the probability that we find the perfect fit for the largest number of golfers.
8. How often do you recommend a player get fitted? Is it yearly or multiple years
Depends on their game and how often they play. In a perfect world, golfers would be checking in on their equipment every season, even if it’s just to check lofts and lies or to regrip. You don’t necessarily need a new set annually but if your swing is changing or the conditions in which you play have changed, that might mean it’s time. Or maybe it’s been a few years and you’re losing distance. Or maybe you’ve come back from an injury and need clubs that work with you instead of against you. It’s up to the golfer but we’re always going to advocate that more frequent is better than the alternative. Worst case scenario (or best case, depending on your perspective), we tell you the clubs you have are still the best possible option and you can continue to hit the course with confidence.
9. What would you say to a player who thinks getting fitted for clubs will not help their game?
First, I’d want to know why they think that. Do they not understand what a true custom club fitting actually is? Do they think a fitting is just a lie board and eyeballing a few swings? In those cases, it’s really about educating the golfer. We would break down the process and show them the data from third-party sources like Golf Digest to prove that it works and it isn’t just for pros. Any player who thinks a fitting can’t help their game is missing out on a huge opportunity for improvement, so I’d always challenge that person to come in and see for themselves. The data doesn’t lie.
Club Champion is the nation's #1 custom club fitter, offering Tour-level fittings to every level of golfer. With 50,000+ hittable clubhead and shaft combinations, Club Champion will upgrade your game — call us at (630) 654-3301 or click here to book your fitting.