A Critique of Today’s Golf Club Fitting Theorists

Ralph Maltby and Tom Wishon have been two of the more familiar promoters of golf-related information and products over the last two to three decades.  Mr. Maltby’s Golf Club Design, Fitting, Alteration, and Repair, first published in 1974, opened up a new era in the study of golf clubs.  Roughly a decade later, Mr. Wishon first notably appeared on the scene, generating his own materials and gaining a following.  Both men may be considered pioneers in select areas of the golf industry and golf clubs, with knowledge that is no doubt superior to mine in many respects.  Each of these gentlemen might well have a hand in every aspect of golf clubs that I listed in my prior post, but I believe I read Wishon say that component design is by and large his favorite field, and likewise I am aware of Maltby’s design studio where his similar passion unfolds.  Because it is so difficult to be a master at even one field, their expertise in each area should be judiciously evaluated individually.  While I am not qualified to judge their abilities with regard to other of the club-related occupations mentioned, I am more than qualified to judge their wisdom regarding the distinct discipline of golf club fitting.  My review of their clubfitting experiences, theories, and practices is less than favorable.

I will go out on a limb here and assume that everyone would like to perform his golf swing consistently well.  There is never a more critical fundamental concept when attempting to perform any type of activity than to assure that the equipment needed to achieve the activity feels the same to the performer every time he is preparing to carry out the action and at the instant it begins.  This “prerequisite” is such a primal need toward consistency of performance in the course of life that it ranks barely below a human’s need to breathe.  Pre-swing movement in golf is where swingweight is used to accomplish this mission and where the method’s fourteen-inch fulcrum point is derived from.  Within the many books of Maltby’s and Wishon’s I have purchased, plus in writings of theirs I have read elsewhere, which is not all-inclusive of their work but substantial, neither author has come anywhere close to explaining this most central specification of golf club swingweight in an accurate and relevant manner.  Proper theoretical viewpoints are missing, as are practical visions that golfers could make legitimate use of.  Even when my experience level was little more than that of a novice and I did not know the significance of this seemingly mysterious parameter, it was pretty apparent to me when looking to Maltby and Wishon for swingweighting help that they also found it to be mysterious.  They were unable to satisfactorily define it in terms of a golf swing and club and pretty much skirted around its crucial issues.  Their failure to correctly decode such a basic theory has never inspired confidence in me with respect to the golf swing and clubfitting knowledge they possess.

Regarding other specifications, Ralph Maltby’s conclusion is that wood face angles appear more open to many players because of an optical illusion.  Tom Wishon concludes that face angle should be fit based on the way the golf ball flies.  Neither seems to grasp what this concept is all about either, recommending fitting procedures that may induce golfers to regress overall.  Some simple relationship facts between a golf swing and golf club are never presented that would allow the face angle parameter to make more rational sense within the context of all golf club designs, not just woods in particular.  Both authors promote variations of fitting grip size by the “grip-on-a-stick” method I previously elaborated on, a wholly ineffective way of sizing grips.  Neither uncovers essential information about round versus ribbed grips.

These are just a sampling of items concerning golf club fitting that continue to be misinterpreted.  Placing their other acknowledged skills aside, when reviewing the clubfitting materials of these two theorists, I often shake my head wondering whether they are talking about the same game I am and if they have the right combination of indispensable experiences to deeply know a golf swing and clubfitting.  Most of the theories developed by Maltby and Wishon emanate from an overall philosophy of golf club fitting that is quite flawed at its root level.  I will break this down and reform it in future posts.  With such a poor foundation for clubfitting currently put forth, the talent these men truly possess in other areas is not brought to light as effectively when getting into some more advanced and fine-tuning golf club concepts.  That is truly a shame, because they indeed have the needed courage to lay their beliefs on the line for public scrutiny in an effort to help advance golf.

The doctrines developed by Ralph Maltby, Tom Wishon, and a few others have become the backbone of current golf club fitting industry methodology.  Unfortunately, these same protocols have been directly contributing to the virtually no improvement in golf scores throughout the time such advice has been promoted, despite mammoth progress in other golf club technologies.  There is no mistake in my analysis.  In certain ways clubfitting may even be headed backward, such as with the fairly recent introduction of moment of inertia (MOI) golf club matching, meant to replace swingweight.  There have already been an unknown number of people who have reported favorably on and/or purchased that system, yet its designers and supporters have never been able to correctly decipher the old, proven swingweighting system first.  This is quite revealing on multiple levels.  Also, MOI followers often disagree on points that explain when, where, how, and why the new system functions.  For these and other reasons that I will detail in future postings, I satirically refer to the current MOI clubfitting method as Moment of Insanity.