Go Ahead, Have a Fit
JUNE/JULY 2016

The Met Golfer

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Golf is a game of numbers. Golf is in fact an obsession of numbers: Handicap Indices and Slope Ratings, strokes gained putting, and the winning score in the 1923 Moldavian Mixed Four-Ball Championship; numbers drive our game. But what about your numbers? Do you know them?

Think club-fitting isn’t for golfers like you? Think again.
BY KEN VAN VECHTEN

More than 90 percent of us don’t, if industry estimates of how many players never go through a club fitting are any indication. And even if you think you know your numbers, you might be deluded: nearly every Cro-Magnon spouting off in the grill room about his 306-yard drive is more likely to have an extraterrestrial encounter than to have gotten that far down-range with one swing.
 
So in the name of all that is holy and righteous, or at least attainable in the here and now, below are five dos and don’ts when it comes to getting help getting the right stuff in your bag.
 
Bridge the Gap. Club spacing has been all the rage in recent years if print ads and editorial copy are any indication. It is in our best interest as players to have each club move us forward a proper increment of yardage as we pull each successive one out of the bag. Most of the chatter has been about wedges, since the days of two wedges long ago disappeared.
 
Au contraire, says PING. “I see far more issues with gapping at the top of the bag than the bottom,” says Bill Iseri, the company’s master fitter. “From the 3-wood to the 4- or 5-hybrid and longest iron, that is the toughest part of the bag, particularly for average speed and low-launch players,” whose swing dynamics make it more difficult for them to achieve meaningful yardage differential across the longer clubs.
 
Don’t put something in the bag simply because it has a certain number on the sole or to bring your tally to 14 sticks. If you hit two clubs pretty much the same, leave one at home and save the weight.
 
Talk the Talk.Interaction is key. A good fitter will ask about your game, patterns, strengths and weaknesses. A good fitter also will key on your tactile sensations as you migrate through changes in shaft and clubhead. Share freely and trust your instincts. She may be armed with enough data to fill your entire golfing dossier, but your hands and ears still have a say.
 
Now Walk the Walk. Fitters don’t care if you’re a stick or a stump; they won’t cringe when you top three in a row and they won’t be awed by a macho spiel. They just want to get you in the best-matched clubs for you in the real world. “Be open-minded and give the fitter feedback,” says Chandler Carr, product manager in product creation for TaylorMade-adidas Golf Company. “But don’t tell the fitter what you think you need, or talk about your Sunday best, that one lifetime hit. All of that will be obvious from the data and ball flight.”
 
A fitting session can be a high-tech learning experience. What I’d thought about my swing for years, the cause and effect, was simply 180 degrees off, I’ve learned.
Dance With What You Brung? “It’s the chicken-and-egg debate,” says Scott Klemme, instructional director at Centennial Golf Club in Carmel. “Do I fit you for right now or fit you for the swing toward which you’re working? There is no right way or wrong way, it’s unique to each person and their goals.”
 
TaylorMade’s Carr suggests that players hold off on a complete bag turnover if they are in the middle of “big swing changes,” but he also believes all golfers of whatever ability have a “fingerprint,” an action or move that may be variable but nonetheless stays generally consistent no matter how they try to change.
 
Question (Some) Authority.“I prefer to go on ball flight,” adds Klemme, who fits outdoors on green grass. “Technology has its place, but ultimately, if you’re not getting the ball flight you want, then it’s not of any use to you.” Far from being a Luddite, Klemme simply is saying you can’t take the human out of the equation. Bridgestone Golf reps often point out that Mr. Feel, Fred Couples, has little interest in data and flight tracking. While high-speed cameras, tracking radar, and flight algorithms provide objective information, golf swings don’t happen in a computer. The physical matters as well as the theoretical.
 
You Are Good Enough, Bunky. Nearly across the board, the #1 misconception in club fitting is that the less-skilled need not apply. “Skepticism runs across the handicap range,” says Club Champion Golf Marketing Vice President Jay Hubbard, whose outfit operates a series of any-brand speciality fitting and club-build labs all across the country, including one in Hackensack. “Sometimes a better player might’ve had a bad fitting experience in the past, so they’re leery. Higher handicap players question if their skills warrant a fitting, yet they actually benefit the most. For the higher handicap golfers we see much more significant performance increases. It certainly is easier to go from a 15 to a nine or a six than from a six to a two, but everyone benefits regardless of the skill level.”
 
We rely on experts, those in the know, in all facets of our lives: Mechanics, doctors, sommeliers, the guy at our favorite bistro who never has missed a daily recommendation. Why should golf be different? Help is out there.
 
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