Clubfitting 101: Fluff Without Fit Fundamentals
It should hopefully be realized by now that the only truly legitimate way of fitting clubs in a proficient manner is by applying clubfitting both directly to one’s golf swing and directly to ball travel results within the same well-designed, comprehensive clubfitting program. Perhaps the logic of this statement seems so straightforward and simplistic that at first thought one might think something like this must surely already exist within the golf industry. But if this is what you think, you are badly mistaken. I shall begin here by evaluating whether these two basic fitting elements that, when combined determine how well golf clubs are fit to a player, can be implemented simultaneously during the fitting process. The only rational conclusion regarding this specific analysis is emphatically no. For starters, there is the fact that the two “actions” primarily occur during different time frames. Now in a strict technical sense, there is a bit of overlapping between the two. Part of a golf swing is still occurring after a ball has begun traveling (that which goes on during the follow-through after a golf ball has been struck, and what goes on during the follow-through can indeed be very influential toward fitting golf clubs).
From a practical standpoint, however, a golf swing takes place and is completed, and can even be totally analyzed, before ball travel and its analysis is begun. I can complete a swing and before even looking up inherently know the details of the performed swing and what was good or not good about it. After that, yet still before the ball has barely moved (if it moves), a ball travel analysis might take place. (I previously noted how the quality of golf club/ball contact would come under a subcategory of ball travel results, something I will probably discuss more at another time). The fact that a golf swing motion can also be thoroughly and competently analyzed without actually hitting a golf ball is another indicator that a swing and resultant ball travel can be distinctly separated and considered wholly on their own merit(s) and at different times from each other. The best fitting of golf clubs to players can only be accomplished by way of separating, analyzing, and building on each facet independently.
This being the case, with two completely separate approaches to now be considered as opposed to a “combination of one” approach that is most prevalent within the clubfitting industry, some critical questions arise that never had to be asked or answered in the past. For instance, should a specification (grip size for instance) be fit by the way one swings, the way the ball travels, both if possible and in what order if possible, and are the process and top priority of fitting any given golf club specification essentially the same whether attempted by swinging or ball travel results? Now eliminate the “fluff” for a moment. Many high-end technology concepts, while very legitimate, may be considered clubfitting “fluff” for the highest (and most often tiniest) degree of fine-tuning that usually can best be taken advantage of by players or clubfitters already owning solid fundamentals. These can include launch monitor analysis, shaft profiling, and loads more (and of course the advertising claims that go along with them [this absolutely includes the claims of the independent clubfitting trade]). But no player or fitter will ever be able to take advantage of this advanced “fluff” to the extent desired without first knowing the answers to the above questions and the principles behind those answers. Since one’s true clubfitting competency is determined right here at this base foundation and long before any “fluff” is implemented, let me explore some of these root issues.
I earlier made the statement that there is no exclusive connection between a golf swing and golf ball travel. To help prove this, I reveal here that the way to fit any given golf club specification directly to one’s golf swing or directly to ball travel is commonly so different it is like two people trying to communicate with each other and accomplish something while using language the other does not understand. Not to be confused with making “associations” between the two, swing performance and golf ball travel comprise happenings of totally different natures. Thus, they each have different priorities to look for and fit to and which are generally not related to each other. From this perspective, it is usually rather easy to determine whether somebody is fitting a club specification based on swing or ball travel data. This can be valuable information toward evaluating any clubfitting program.
Also because of the somewhat sharp contrast in fitting the same golf club specification to swing performance and ball travel results, there will ordinarily be little concern regarding whether an identical fitting process can be used for either swing or ball travel fitting and which one to choose. It will not be as if the fitting of each specification will be intruding, encroaching, or competing against itself when contemplating fitting using swing or ball flight methods. In staying with relatively simple grip size fitting for example, fitting this parameter exclusively to ball travel requires the observation of ball flight and the altering of grip size correspondingly. Ball flight that curves (slices) to the right for a right-handed golfer will frequently turn straighter by using a smaller grip. (Note here that cause and effect statements like this by me and others usually generalize that other golf club specifications fit okay for a golfer, which is certainly not always true. Too large a grip size can also cause fairly severe hooking of a golf ball when coupled with certain other golf club characteristics, a subject better discussed in more detail later). Oppositely, if a pattern shows ball flight curving consistently to the left (hooked), then trying a larger grip size may help provide straighter ball travel. It is a fairly straightforward process when combined with a respectable amount of experience, but so is what will be discussed next.