A Daring Second-Guesser of the Bombastic Clubfitting Trade: How Dare Ye!

On the Worrisome Reasonless Xenogolf Internet golf forum, a poster with the member name of wcgolf has made an inquiry regarding clubfitting indicating that he commonly second guesses everything. In this case it was a recent clubfitting he had gone through and where he is skeptical about certain results obtained, asking a question or two and soliciting the opinions of others before he buys a set of irons. I will respond here to wcgolf as follows.

Your second guessing and skepticism are very well founded. They should be strongly directed at the commercial clubfitting trade, which as a whole is currently about as bad as it can possibly get from top to bottom. (This includes the clubfitting section of the forum that you made your inquiry on, which [due to its generally poor accuracy and quality of countless responses] has substantially contributed to a steeper decline in performance and reputation of the clubfitting trade in recent years).

But your second guessing and skepticism should also be directed a little at yourself, as you unfortunately and clearly do not understand certain very basic clubfitting elements as correctly as you think you do and have certain preconceived notions that are flawed (perhaps learned incorrectly from the very forum you inquired on and/or other outlets). This will also hurt you and contribute to clubfitting results not as good as they might otherwise be no matter where you might potentially go to for a next clubfitting.

I will briefly touch on a couple of points in your inquiry to prove what I mean. First, if you have a bad two-way miss when using an S300 shaft, that is most likely a swing performance issue (unrelated to any shaft characteristic[s] that you seemed to initially believe). From a clubfitting standpoint, it is much more likely to be a swingweight or grip size issue (or both) that is influencing your actual swing mechanics to be physically inconsistent. Do not overestimate the importance of the shaft overall (as most uniformed golfers and so-called clubfitters do), especially concerning how well and consistently you are able to physically swing. Fitting a club in accordance with your actual swing is in essence a totally different and unrelated aspect (and a far more critical aspect overall) of competent clubfitting than fitting according to ball travel result “numbers” as commonly referred to today.

Your comment of, “and being fit all the way down to swingweight,” somewhat indicates a process and/or belief of a specification that should basically be fit last (if at all). That is pretty typical of the clubfitting industry today. But for the very large percentage of golfers for whom the specification works as intended, it is the foundational specification that determines whether their underlying swing mechanics are performed well or performed poorly like uncoordinated messes from the ground up. It is fundamentally the very first specification and specification value that needs to be chosen in order to obtain one’s best and most consistent swing performance (with no regard whatsoever to any ball travel results). And thereafter it needs to be meticulously maintained for every single club tested, or all subsequent launch monitor results will be completely invalid.

Then there is the size of the grip, to which you commented, “Threw a mid size grip on it” (one of the clubs you tested). I can assure you that for every single golf club you place in your hands, there is one and only one grip size that will permit you to consistently achieve your very best possible swing speed and control with that club. And your best grip size can vary from club to club (sometimes substantially so) based on other golf club parameters, including but not limited to club length and shaft weight. And your best grip size needs to be properly configured for every single golf club you test, or again every subsequent result and number you get from a launch monitor to try to fine tune ball travel results will be completely invalid (because you simply will not be able to consistently swing as well as you are capable of).

(An alternate, less knowledgeable, less effective, and more problematic method would be to keep the grip sizes the same on all tested clubs [at a size that might be nowhere even close to being correct on any given club for any given golfer] and test different shaft weights to try to best fit one to a golfer’s swing mechanics. This is the approach predominantly used by the clubfitting trade today. While easier and more convenient for the trade to implement [no big surprise there], it is less correct, less competent, and the process has severe limitations and flaws that routinely prevent the best clubfitting possible for any golfer [today and even more so into the future as club components presumably continue to evolve and advance]. To illustrate, if fit in this particular manner you would need to maintain the same grip size that you tested with [even if not proper for you], because if you thereafter change it then the shaft weight chosen would likely not be correct or best for you anymore).

This is just a bit of first-grade-level clubfitting stuff where no launch monitor is even needed and in fact should never be used in order to best perform certain foundational clubfitting tasks. Such tasks should be skillfully attended to before even considering launch monitor use if any meaningful ball travel results are to be subsequently obtained. And if done properly, it will generally be found that the shaft parameters overall are considerably less important than most people think, affecting ball travel results to some degree but ideally not directly affecting any swing mechanics and the essential quality of one’s swing (the way other more important club specifications can and do).

But for those that do not have any of the above knowledge, then to them the “mysterious” golf shaft commonly becomes a component that has one or more “magical” properties to it that can dictate the physical mechanics of one’s golf swing performance. And under such circumstances, the golf shaft and its various characteristics (including though not limited to its flex and/or weight) do in fact become more important fitting variables than for those who have more and more correct knowledge regarding other clubfitting theories, practices, and specifications. And this is really the way it should be.

Bear in mind that shaft flex as one example is traditionally a “relative” element, with each shaft from driver through 9-iron typically having different shaft frequencies even if they are all labeled with exactly the same flex. And millions and millions of golfers have swung each of these different flex shafts within the very same set of clubs the very same (or at least equally well) for nearing a century now (referencing when the specification of swingweight was invented and provided that other far more critical club specifications than shaft flex are properly fit to such golfers). This is not an extremely difficult problem in logic, where one plus one must still equate to two.

There are in fact two distinctly different and critical major steps that must be attended to within a highly competent and successful clubfitting process. And what the clubfitting industry currently and generally tries to do is start right at step two to try to accomplish certain ball travel results using a launch monitor device, typically with no consideration whatsoever of how certain golf club changes can and do affect the root or base mechanics of a golfer’s actual swing and swinging ability. The results are commonly quite farcical. To this day, the trade is basically incompetent and essentially still in its infancy regarding understanding, implementing, and achieving step one of an effective and valid clubfitting process. That comprises first fitting a golf club to a golfer’s underlying swing mechanics and capability (which the golfer presumably worked a certain amount on beforehand [often quite hard]) before proceeding with trying to achieve certain supplemental ball travel results.

As indicated above, this needs to be done without regard to any ball travel results and in accordance with a golfer’s current swinging ability in a direct manner. Once properly fit, the foundational and primary club specifications that can literally affect a golfer’s base swing mechanics need to be set for every club tested, thereafter adjusting secondary club specifications (such as certain golf shaft parameters) toward obtaining wanted ball travel characteristics. A launch monitor may be used if desired, but it is nowhere near as crucial as many people believe. In fact, such devices can be so poorly adjusted and/or utilized by so-called clubfitters that are inadequately skilled and educated in the field that the overall fit for a golf club(s) can emphatically turn out to be far worse than if no launch monitor were used.

(Note that ball travel results include derivative or associated elements hardly limited to where ball contact occurs on a clubface as just one example. Analyzing such an element is an extremely poor, indirect, and invalid attempt to determine how well one is actually swinging and has nothing whatever to do with a capable direct analysis and independent quality of one’s golf swing performance and mechanics).

Summing up, you have unfortunately been badly fit by a presently incapable clubfitting industry as a whole, with no valid reason to believe that the trade will become any more capable in the foreseeable future. You have also been very poorly informed regarding certain clubfitting topics based on your own comments. And that is to be fully expected if you are getting the bulk of your information from online golf forums, perhaps the very worst places at the present time to get legitimate golf swing and/or clubfitting guidance (though certainly not the only places where terribly faulty clubfitting materials continue to exist).

Now I do not doubt that many people responding on such forums mean well and want to genuinely help. But meaning well and posting even tens of thousands of times do not amount to an individual that has the relevant learning and experience to really know any given subject adequately. In some cases, those people that post the most on such forums and are proclaimed to be experts (by themselves and/or others) actually appear to be the least informed regarding the subject(s) being discussed (sarcastically stating that maybe if they swung more and posted less it might help their scope of knowledge some). Yet their responses are routinely believed by golfers (and clubfitters alike) that on the whole are far more gullible than participants in most other activities. This glaring combination of factors has been very detrimental to the game of golf in general and the clubfitting trade more specifically since such forums (along with the formats they commonly operate by) came into being.

To illustrate, after you stated that your swingweight value was selected based on where your club/ball contact was located, Stuart G. or another proclaimed clubfitting “expert” should have (and likely would have if having the correct knowledge) replied that more skilled players and/or clubfitters generally do not fit swingweight in that manner (and neither should you). That is not what the specification is all about. And his comments regarding golf club swingweight and total weight both being important (while extremely common on such forums) were problematic at best. Broadly speaking and speculating that traditional swingweighting can work for you, a properly fit swingweight value will allow you to play and swing your best with clubs that vary quite significantly in their total weights. Of the countless number of people that have abandoned the game in recent times, I cannot help but wonder how many of them might have been influenced to some degree upon ultimately learning how faulty and even laughably absurd untold answers and/or comments are that continue to be publicly posted and widely spread, particularly through online golf forums.

Thus, while I have seen Stuart G. provide some good answers to certain inquiries or types of inquiries, and despite nearing 20,000 posts, his clubfitting knowledge regarding certain (even extremely elementary) topics nevertheless remains woefully deficient. And he appears to be among the most knowledgeable that currently posts on the forum. So can you imagine what most of the other so-called experts are like regarding their lack of proper knowledge of foundational clubfitting elements and the resultant damaging effects (past and ongoing) on the game of golf as a whole and the clubfitting trade more specifically? As I have distinctly pointed out elsewhere, and at least partly due to the posting terms commonly published by such forums, no one with half a brain (unless ignorantly unaware of the terms) would ever post any legitimate corrective, advanced, and/or original work directly to such sites.

The result is that such forums are mostly populated with the same types of unqualified respondents and information that have over time essentially created the present horrific clubfitting trade mess to begin with. Most posters largely just keep on rehashing the same invalid nonsense they taught and/or learned in the past and that never has and still does not make any logical sense. And if and when they do come up with anything newer (and that they are willing to publicly post under the terms of such sites), it is typically derived from originally faulty material that they somehow still believe in, commonly leading to other theories and/or practices that are even more absurd in nature than the previous faulty materials.

And now a new generation(s) of followers needs to initially and blindly accept what has become an increasingly large public “library” of seriously flawed information. And when trying to implement and ultimately learning how poor and technically incorrect much of the material commonly is (along with witnessing the behavior displayed by many people within the industry that contributed to creating the library), countless additional people will likely continue to find something better to do with their time and money. In view of this, and based on the adverse effects the cumulative archives of golf instructional forums have already had on the game as a whole and particularly the clubfitting trade, a suitable title for that particular body of matter overall within golf history might best be the “Golf Library of Shame (or Death, since the effects of the material have already contributed in no small measure to the near death of the clubfitting industry as it currently stands).”

The clubfitting trade’s long history of poor performance results and reputation speaks for itself, is still firmly intact, and in fact is currently getting even worse in some ways thanks at least in part to the existence and operation of golf forums. The trade still does not even understand how certain (even longstanding) club specifications are to be properly fit to golfers and how certain specifications and specification values relate to each other, even on a very rudimental level. If serious about your golf game and in light of the continuing overall ineptness of the trade, at some point you might want to consider searching out a qualified independent clubfitting consultant for yourself.

Such a consultant might not necessarily directly fit you for any clubs (or any individual parts or specifications of any clubs), but a qualified consultant would as examples be able to help educate you properly in critically needed areas before (and/or after) proceeding with a clubfitting by any other party (including in-person and/or remote fittings), help you to navigate through the plethora of erroneous nonsense commonly inflicted by so-called clubfitters and/or clubfitting educators (educators that themselves are commonly still quite deficient in knowing certain crucial clubfitting [and/or swing performance] elements properly even though they may have already written a book[s] on the subject), and/or help guide you toward a clubfitter(s) that is truly qualified in the field (if any).

And from the opposite standpoint, a qualified consultant could also help to straighten out or further improve the operation of commercial organizations like educational institutions and clubfitting entities as examples, guiding them to be able to teach and/or perform clubfitting far more successfully than they have been able to in the past. Good luck.