A colleague of mine in the custom clubmaking industry once made an analogy between custom clubfitting and washing your car that I believe to be very appropriate.
If your car is dirty and trashed out, you can pull it into the driveway, hook up the hose and spray off most of the surface dirt and grime. On the other hand, you can do a better job in washing your car by filling a bucket with soapy water and scrub off all of the dirt with a sponge and a little ‘elbow grease.’ Or, you can pull out all of the stops and not only scrub the outside of the car, but wash, wipe, vacuum and detail the inside as well and finish with a wax and buff job.
Custom clubfitting is very much the same way. If you realize that you simply bought your golf clubs in standard form, off the rack from a golf retailer or pro shop and you are curious as to whether your game may benefit from being custom fit, there are many different options available in the golf business, all which are termed by some to be a ‘custom fitting.’ The problem is, since 98% of all golfers really don’t know what constitutes a real custom fitting, it’s easy to think you’re getting the ‘full detail job’ when you’re really ending up with only a ‘hose job.’
Real Custom Fitting is not answering five or six questions on a web site to be ‘fit’ into a driver or a set of irons.
Real Custom Fitting is not a cart with wheels filled with different golf clubs and sitting in a pro shop or on the practice range.
Real Custom Fitting is not attending a Demo Day at your local driving range and hitting clubs until you find something you like.
Real Custom Fitting is not something that can be accomplished from start to finish in 20 minutes or less, regardless if you are hitting balls on a launch monitor.
Real Custom Fitting is not done by altering some aspects of an existing standard made set of golf clubs.
Real Custom Fitting IS working one on one with a trained custom clubmaker over a period of at least 45 minutes or more, and frequently over the course of 2 or more visits to the clubmakers shop. Real Custom Fitting IS being fit from scratch, in the same manner as a tailor making a custom suit, with the right clubheads, shafts, and grips being recommended by the custom clubmaker from a wide variety of different models, designs and performance factors. Real Custom Fitting IS the domain of the serious, professional clubmaker who ‘lives, eats and breathes’ all of the information available which will allow him or her to accurately match each golfer’s swing to the best fit set of golf clubs.
Custom Fit or Standard Off the Rack?
Have you walked into a sporting goods store with a high quality tennis department and looked at the rackets? They are all displayed unstrung. No tennis department in a sports store would be complete without an assortment of string dampeners and replacement grips either. Why? Because tennis players do not all play with the same tennis strings, string tension, string impact feel or grip texture and size. In addition, the rackets are also offered in different lengths, weights and stiffness. One size does not fit all in tennis.
Ever strolled into a high quality snow ski shop and looked at the skis, boots, bindings and poles? You’ll see a myriad of different length skis and poles and a seemingly endless variety of boots and bindings. Why? Because skis must always be fit to the ability of the skier or else the skier will have a horrible time on the slopes. One size does not fit all in skiing either.
Baseball or softball? Look at the array of bats in their huge variety of different lengths, weights, as well as the bat handle and barrel diameters. One size definitely does not fit all batters.
Now look at premium brand golf clubs. No matter the fact that the big retail golf super stores carry a plethora of different brand names among the clubs displayed on the racks, all the men’s drivers are 45” or 45.5” long, all of the graphite shaft irons are the same length and lie angle and all the steel shaft irons are the same length and lie as well. Drop one inch and the same goes for the ladies clubs too. Grip sizes are all the same for men as they are among the women’s clubs. Driver and woodhead face angles are all the same. The head to rest of the club weight balance we call swingweight is all the same for the clubs too.
Yes, you do get a choice of loft in the driver. Most golf stores stock drivers for men between 8.5 and 11 degrees, with maybe one model here or there with a little higher loft. Unfortunately there are a lot of golfers who need more than 11 degrees to maximize their driver distance and accuracy. And yes, you also get a choice between shaft flexes from L to X, but only in one model of shaft weight and bend profile design. Golf clubs are offered in much more of a “one size fits all” approach than the equipment in any other sport.
In case you haven’t been reminded of the fact lately, golf is a tough game to master to the point that you can hit the majority of your shots solid, on the center of the face, high enough to ensure full distance for your swing, and with enough accuracy to keep the ball in play. Clubs that fit your size, strength and the way you swing make the task a little easier. Clubs built to some pre-determined set of “standards” definite make it a lot more difficult.
Because the big golf club companies have always built and sold their clubs to some “national average” of golfer size, strength and swing ability, whenever golfers cannot hit the ball reasonably well the majority of the time, they blame themselves for the problem. After all, the game is difficult to master and it can’t possibly be the fault of the clubs, right? I mean, many of the clubs golfers buy are used by the pros on the PGA Tour, so if they work well for them, it has to be the golfer’s fault that he or she can’t hit more than 50% of their shots decently. Right?
Wrong. Yes, the game is difficult to master. But anyone who was reasonably good in sports when they were in school should be able to hit golf shots with more than a 50% success rate. The problem is that ALL golfers need to be custom fit for many more aspects of their clubs than a different driver loft or different shaft flex to be able to get the most from their size, strength and swing ability.
During a television interview aired on The Golf Channel in 2005, Tiger Woods was asked what he noticed the most about the amateurs he plays with in the pro-am events conducted the say before each week’s PGA Tour event. His response was that all golfers need to be custom fit with clubs that could accent the positive things they do in their swings and offset the chronic mistakes they make.
Are YOU still playing with standard made clubs bought off the rack? If you are, you are definitely not going to be able to play to the best of your ability.