Club Fitting for the Ages, the Dark Ages that Is
I will begin by making a very brief run through some of what a golfer can expect from a typical golf club fitter today. I will mention just a few select items now and not describe a comprehensive fitting, but you will clearly get the drift. The term “clubfitter” as I regularly use it here refers to anyone who attempts to perform (or preach) the service of fitting golf clubs to others who are not capable of attempting the task on their own for whatever reason(s). My definition of “typical” comprises about 70-75% of clubfitters with roughly similar levels of expertise. An additional 20% are downright bad. Like golfers, there are truly some superb clubfitters out there, but I may be overestimating their existence at 5-10% of those engaged in the science/art of golf club fitting.
First consider the overall concept of clubfitting called “dynamic” fitting, which is bandied about so much in the golf industry in recent times it has become a genuine joke. Actually, what is so funny is not that the term is applied in golf club fitting, as dynamic fitting is the only justifiable way to fit golf clubs, but rather the context in which it is used. Clubfitters have been applying the term dynamic over the last several years, “as if that is a new discovery. An analysis and resultant specification selection(s) based upon golfer/club/ball performance while in actual motion has always been a quest” (from Swing With Swingweight No More: An Introduction To Waggle Weight). This goes back to the invention of the wheel. The way many clubfitters introduce the term today, like they just invented the notion, is downright hilarious. It kind of makes me associate clubfitters with current television commercials by the Geico Insurance Company and with the slogan, “So easy a cave man can do it.” Now it is absolutely true that technology has come to such a point that a golf swing and its related equipment (along with everything else on the planet) can be analyzed more thoroughly and accurately than ever before. But to endure so many clubfitting wizards say something to the effect that “We are finally beginning to fit golf clubs based upon the dynamic properties of the swing in motion instead of just static fitting properties and measurements as in the past,” is rather insufferable, yet the norm among typical clubfitters.
One highly influential factor overpowering clubfitters to claim that golf club fitting has previously been based on static measuring principles is the foundational club matching concept of swingweighting. Even though a golf club slowly oscillates before coming to a standstill in the normal operating of a traditional swingweight scale, typical clubfitters today often refer to this proven method/apparatus as an irrelevant, “static” measuring tool. Most have come to the conclusion that the parameter has nothing whatsoever to do with nor influences a golf swing in motion, and even if such a device were continued to be used in the future, its fulcrum point location should be moved elsewhere. Yet if you bluntly ask these same clubfitters when, where, how, and why swingweighting functions the way that it does, you will predominantly see their jaws drop and receive a blank stare for a time, after which you might receive a response similar to “Nobody knows the answer to that,” or “It is just an arbitrary measurement that is just an approximation of certain swing forces” (fancier words for still saying they do not know). I humbly beg to differ. Swingweight of course is a measure of an extremely dynamic motion indeed, a motion from which is derived a golf club specification that offers control over every moment and movement of one’s golf swing (also taken from the article cited above), and its fulcrum point is precisely positioned in a perfect place for many players.
After they reveal their “expertise” that swingweighting is nothing more than a static measurement, an increasing number of clubfitters will say they will finally provide you with the advantage of being fitted in a “dynamic” manner for the benefit of your golfing performance, done by replacing swingweight with a specification named MOI (Moment of Inertia). Utilizing that concept of club matching will place up to fourteen golf clubs into the bags of most players that will each feel different at address and at the instant a golf swing begins. You will be told you will swing more consistently as a result. I did not know so many clubfitters doubled as comedians. Try telling basketball players that by design you will supply them with a different weight basketball before each free throw attempted and that you anticipate their motions will become more consistent as a result. How long do you believe it would take them to stop laughing? I will make other direct and more detailed comparisons between MOI and swingweight later on. Stay tuned for a couple more examples of clubfitting follies.