Clubfitting 101: Weaving a Tangled Web of Golf
I assume that most clubfitting educators are hard working, believe in what they teach, and are honest about what they choose to reveal. After all, most if not all people that declare such information have other direct or indirect business interests associated with what they disclose (I am no exception), so logically the quality of disclosed fitting information will affect those other interests. But in the end it is what it is, and what it is right now is unfortunately pretty bad clubfitting theory and practice.
I will not call the process of incorporating clubfitting by ball travel amateurish, because including ball travel fitting in a comprehensive program can be very valuable and should absolutely be included. But Waggle Weight Wisdom bluntly says that fitting essentially by ball flight alone, or fitting while considering both ball travel and swinging where ball travel is the first and/or higher priority, is shortsighted, backward, and ill advised to the highest degree. Doing so exposes one’s insufficient knowledge and/or experience with respect to combining underlying swing performance and clubfitting. I always anticipate an “ends justifies the means” attitude from unskilled amateurs, but it is very difficult for me to regard such a person or organization having a like approach as being a high-level “professional” in the clubfitting field. Ball travel is virtually always the first thing that comes to mind for most amateurs, but truly competent professionals know that the root element in playing well lies elsewhere. Let me portray a little more of what the fitting industry has “grown” to this point from its planted seeds of promoting superficial and amateurish ball travel fitting as being the foundation of playing golf well.
A decade ago I might have said clubfitting knowledge and skill was perhaps only slightly below average compared to other sports or activities. More than any other medium since then, however, the explosion of the World Wide Web has really revealed how truly bad this industry is. The effects of past teachings can first be observed by making a check of any of the virtually unlimited number of golf websites that try to explain one of the most basic club specifications there is, that of swingweight. To date, I have not witnessed one single site that comes anywhere close to displaying very simple facts respecting how the specification functions (also a powerful indication of related golf swing comprehension). And they cannot display it now without likely infringing on copyrighted material. Many authors are so far off base in attempting to explain this straightforward concept it is like they reside on different planets, including an abundance who try to associate the release during the forward swing (when the swing is nearly finished) with swingweighting and its fulcrum location, concluding the fulcrum is fully in the wrong location. Now here is something the fitting trade can(not) be proud of, 80 years of radically misunderstanding something they have promoted. And it gets worse.
Many such websites have “forums” associated with them, in which unsuspecting golfers are bombarded with answers from more “experts” further contorting information that is already faulty to start with. Some are forum “sponsors” trying to drum up more business. While I have addressed many of the following issues separately already, here I will string together just a small sampling of these erroneous but very common declarations to better depict their overall impact. Some of these paraphrased statements remain much the same as their original forms by those who initiated them. Others barely resemble their original forms any more, having been further twisted by other clubfitting “authorities” on the web and then spread rapidly and widely among fitters and golfers due to today’s information transmitting mediums.
“MOI club matching is an advancement of swingweighting” (the two specifications are complete opposites in their functions and cannot be related in such a manner).
“Swingweight is related to shaft flex” (perhaps golf’s longest-lasting old wives’ tale still around).
“Swingweight is just a number,” “Swingweight is just a ‘static’ measurement” (totally clueless), and “No one can tell the difference between (?) swingweight point(s)” (number varies depending on the “expert”).
“Club length (or lie, or loft) is the most important fitting specification” (specifications that can affect ball contact and/or travel quality, but specifications that generally do not directly affect underlying swing performance like certain other club specifications do, assuming that you care about swing performance).
“Grip size should be chosen based on comfort” (great if you want to be comfortable, not so great if you want to score your best).
“A launch monitor is an absolute necessity for fitting clubs” (almost too silly to comment on given the lack of even very basic clubfitting knowledge still around today. I have seen a scant number people admit that their launch monitors “look impressive” for helping to promote sales, but that their level of clubfitting expertise is no different and/or better than before. For their honesty, I award them the first annual WaggleWeight Award).
“Only one specific, pre-determined angle of one’s body posture is best when fitting clubs,” and “The backswing is not relevant toward effective clubfitting, only the downswing matters” (one of my personal favorites).
Notwithstanding that clubfitting has an “art” component to it, these are some of the most uninformed statements perpetuated by some of the most unknowing proclaimed fitters and/or golfers. Following these fallacies will make golfing harder than it needs to be. Even worse is that many of those making the above comments are displaying clubfitting “certifications” on their walls, certifications primarily awarded still based on the inexpert fitting material(s) developed by a sparse number of individuals who have (inadvertently) taken the craft backwards in some ways recently. The saddest part is observing forum participants who receive the above advice and who then make a comment to the effect of, “Your answer was great as usual and you are the best.” No, the golf clubfitting industry is not in too much trouble! Fortunately, this is all about to change in a very big way.