Clubfitting 101: First Things First?
There are two and only two fundamental ways to directly analyze and fit golf clubs to golfers. The first is a no-brainer, rather obvious to even the most inexperienced of players (and clubfitters) after being involved in the game for only a very short period of time. This is, of course, by the flight and/or roll of the golf ball after being hit. Even those who struggle with consistency of ball contact, in all but the most extreme cases, generally consider ball contact secondary to the distance and direction that the ball goes when they do make decent contact. This is a normal and understandable feeling from a human perspective.
At first glance, it would seem that accepting this almost “instinctive” state of mind and pursuing it from a clubfitting standpoint would be the very best way to approach one’s quest toward fitting golf clubs in the most effective manner. In fact, this probably is the best way to approach clubfitting up to having a certain amount of experience, knowledge, and confidence. Many elementary principles can indeed be learned about causes and effects between golfers, golf clubs, and ball flight when focusing on fitting by golf ball travel. Much of what can be learned at this stage is not necessarily golf specific in nature and can apply to many other sport and life experiences as well. As examples, grip sizes that are too large in diameter and/or too heavy, as well as golf club total weights and/or swingweights that are too heavy, will often result in one hitting the ball further to the right (for right-handed golfers) with less distance, both signs that one may not possess the needed strength to swing with the particular specifications. But I had already experienced these same general happenings when hitting in baseball long before getting into golf. Particularly if lacking other similar experiences, ball flight fitting can still offer much valuable knowledge. I will go more into ball travel details later when talking about individual golf club specifications.
In breaking down clubfitting into some of its smallest parts, though, let us focus on ball flight fitting for what it is and only what it is for a moment, which is ball flight and nothing more. As a stand-alone consideration, if the golf ball flies too high, too far to the right, or if you leave your putts short, various golf club specifications might be adjusted to try and correct the way the ball is traveling, but the coordination and timing of your golf swing are totally irrelevant. If showing a tendency toward hitting behind the ball or slicing it, adjustments deemed appropriate can be made to your clubs to try and minimize such occurrences, but the rhythm and balance outcomes of your swing are not to be considered factors at all. When looking at clubfitting prospects in this light, even those most inexperienced in golf matters might express some doubt as to whether ball travel is in the end the single most important and relevant game-changing aspect when it comes to highly competent clubfitting.
Getting back to reality, and perhaps influenced some by thoughts of the above statements (which come to mind to everybody at some point), few people actually fit golf clubs based on ball flight alone. The same reality, however, is that most fit golf clubs in such a way that is so close to ball flight exclusively that it may as well be considered as fitting totally in that manner. And it is becoming more so. Launch monitors for example, generally considered a requirement now by clubfitters and golfers alike, add an abundance of golf ball travel information never obtainable in the past. This additional scientific data must analyzed and rationalized, focusing even more attention on golf club fitting by ball flight. In the right hands, the data provided by such high tech machines can be a very valuable additional tool. For those who lack the proper foundation of knowledge to begin with, however, having a launch monitor and working to digest its data may make them even more prone to miss other critically important matters they never had any experience with to begin with, perhaps lessening their chances of ever learning such skills in the future. The apparent motto of many “professional” clubfitters (and teachers of clubfitting) that approximates, “Ball flight comes first,” has typified the state of the golf clubfitting trade and the approach of its leaders for decades now. Most current clubfitting theories and practices are based predominantly on this premise. The “other” way to fit golf clubs will be talked about next time.