A Review of Golf’s Future: Part Two

The second highly critical element to review before embarking on some new clubfitting material is the extreme importance of making a distinct separation between the quality of swing performance and ball travel result.  These two elements can and should be treated as independent parameters.  As a lifelong athlete, there were countless times I got hits in baseball (some of them even winning games) where I was in fact completely fooled by the pitch, off balance when swinging, and maybe even starting to bail out of the batter’s box (an expression for generally backing away from home plate, ducking, and/or turning your back to the pitch because the baseball is initially headed toward your body, [but then the ball often curves back over the plate]).  Yet somehow I still managed to make contact with and hit the ball where nobody was.  Happenings like this are far more common than most inexperienced performers realize, but I will not tell anyone if you do not.

Similarly, at times I encounter miserable conditions when golfing like cold weather and a strong wind against me (which always exaggerates any curvature of a golf ball after being struck) such that it seems I can only hit my 1-iron about 150 yards.  To that I often add poor swinging into the mix (much of that brought about by intentionally playing with certain club specifications that do not fit my swing well and observing the results).  But I still many times manage to hit the ball within close proximity of the target.  I would not say this occurs routinely, but I would not classify it as being rare either.

Alternately, even when I hoped for a baseball pitch at a given place at a given time, got it exactly under those conditions, and made a strong, well-coordinated swing at the ball, sometimes I just plain missed it.  It happens.  Maybe during my forward, front-foot stride into the ball I stepped on a stone or into a crevice that was so minor I was not even consciously aware of it, yet the circumstance had a far-reaching effect.  This is commonly all it takes.  Likewise in golf, there are an infinite number of conditions under which golf swings can be superbly performed and yet golf ball travel is poor and does not provide a true reflection of the quality of swings made.

I will make a simplistic, broad generalization based on experience that for fifty percent of one’s golf strokes, ball travel results will be pretty representative of the quality of swings made.  But for twenty-five percent of one’s swings, ball travel results will be observably poorer and not dependably representative of swings made that were of higher quality.  And then there are the remaining twenty-five percent of one’s swings, where one knows full well that he/she did not swing that well and yet the shot results achieved were better than then should be reasonably expected given the quality of swings.  Such percentages can certainly vary depending on multiple factors like one’s level of playing ability, but you may be surprised at how little difference there can be in this respect between various golfer classifications.

Based on these numbers, it can be seen that the odds do favor ball travel results that are commensurate with the quality of golf swings made.  Thus, if you come to the conclusion in the broadest sense that the best way to play golf consistently well is first and foremost to swing consistently well, then you are right.  But that should be obvious.  Beyond that, however, occurrences where ball travel results do not dependably represent the quality of swings made are equal in number to occurrences where ball travel is reliably represented.  And for occurrences where golf ball travel results do not reliably represent swing quality, the magnitudes of discrepancies can often be considerable.

Thus, referring to clubfitting here, it is downright foolish to consider ball travel results exclusive and/or consistent indicators of golf swing quality.  This correlation is highly fallible and can be easily manipulated and abused.  Shortening the length of a club and/or increasing its total weight are examples that can oftentimes result in better ball striking quality (ball striking quality being a part of ball travel results) while at the same time worsening the quality of swing performance.  One can regularly be misled if relying on this correlation.  Again, swing performance and ball travel results are two facets of one’s golf game that can and should be systematically treated as independent fitting elements.  This should hold true even if my figures above are substantially off in their percentages.  Any clubfitter that fits a golf club based principally on launch monitor results, even if a traditionalized question is added like, “How does the club feel?” and a club adjustment(s) made based on the response(s), is in the end little more than half a clubfitter.

Clubfitting, previously in essence a one-step process, now becomes a more efficiently structured two-step process, the first step being fitting golf club specifications according to one’s base golf swing without regard to ball travel.  The base swing is a swing made with no golf club (or any other device) in hand.  The second step is further fitting club specifications to any desired ball travel result while maintaining the quality of swing performance secured in the first step.  This is the only way to proceed to accomplish both one’s best swinging performance and golf ball travel.  Stated differently, it is the only way to regularly achieve one’s best distance, accuracy, and ball contact together.

To illustrate a theoretical example, if one’s base golf swing is determined to have an angle of descent of five degrees as it reaches a golf ball location and an out-to-in swing path of three degrees across a golf ball location and the express goal is to fit a golf club to this swing, then a golf club only fits this swing when both of these swing parameters are duplicated with an actual club in hand, regardless of ball travel results if actual golf balls were hit.  Anything other than this is not fitting the club to the swing, period.  If it is attempted to alter any base swing parameters in any way to achieve a certain ball travel result (swing/club path data like that provided by various analyzers is synonymous with ball travel data), then this is fitting the club to ball travel result and not the swing, period.

At first thought it may seem counterintuitive to seek such a clubfitting result.  However, fitting a golf club directly to one’s golf swing (fitting a club by ball travel result can be considered fitting a club indirectly to one’s swing) requires different knowledge, has different priorities and procedures, and altogether comprises a different fundamental skill set than fitting a club by golf ball travel result.  And if one does not have this ability, then one just does not have this ability.  When fitting a golfer that already has a competent base swing (see below) and ball travel changes via golf club modifications are not urgent, the clubfitting skill (or lack thereof) to achieve the best performance of the golfer’s base swing via clubfitting becomes rather obvious.

In referencing Part One of this review together with the swing parameters given for the example golfer above, bear in mind that if that swing data was obtained while swinging a golf club (the chronic method) that was anything less than a perfect fit for the golfer’s base swing (a virtual 100% certainty), then that data could be notably flawed.  There may in fact be nothing inherently wrong with the golfer’s swing.  There are countless golfers having very competent swings that are inappropriately deemed flawed due to this inferior system of analysis (connected to both learning swinging and clubfitting).  This review sheds much light on why certain segments of the golf industry have been so ineffectual for so long and makes the noted advancements quite mandatory to improve the industry’s effectiveness and image.