Clubfitting 101: A Ball Flight Fitting Exclusive

Last post I pointed out how so critically important it is to fit golfers’ clubs to the way they swing, yet at the same time revealed how this really cannot and should not be done to the exclusion of all other clubfitting factors.  Think now about fitting golf clubs based on ball travel alone while completely neglecting one’s swing.  Can this be done?  It certainly can.  Virtually every existing golf club specification might be chosen in this manner.  In fact, though many people may deny it, the plain truth is that fitting golf clubs by way of ball travel basically is golf club fitting as it is executed today and as it has evolved to this point in time.  Launch monitor analysis for instance is predominantly clubfitting to ball travel results, and more extensive monitor use entices the fitting of clubs by ball travel even more than in the past.  Restating some earlier comments also needed here that may not have been witnessed elsewhere in Waggle Weight Wisdom, launch monitor use can contribute to a high-end, fine-tuning process for clubfitting.  But if lacking the proper foundational fitting knowledge first, like how to properly fit grip size or how golf club swingweighting works as examples, a launch monitor will be of little value except for perhaps promoting clubfitting “salesmanship.”

Face angle fitting is done exclusively by ball flight, with a far more correct approach of fitting the specification directly to one’s swing sadly not even known by today’s fitting “experts.”  This is principally the consequence of a very intense but misguided focus on the belief that the end result of good ball travel is also the result of good swinging.  To this day, the failure to see some fairly simple truths has culminated in a rather shallow understanding and explanation of face angle’s true roots and its effect(s) on a golf swing.  Golf club swingweight values are also chosen more and more by extraneous, secondary information such as golf ball travel or ball/clubface impact results instead of what that specification was really designed for.  This barely touches the subject.  Many “certified” clubfitters proudly state in some manner that golf ball flight is the driving force behind their clubfitting tactics, not really surprising since that is what they are taught by their “teachers.”  This is clubfitting today.  Centrally, it is clubfitting by ball travel.  This is capable clubfitting?

Direct swing performance is essentially glossed over in clubfitting today.  Although most clubfitters probably make a reasonable effort to interject a critical factor like “swing feel” into the fitting process, the way to achieve that goal is so poorly laid out for them in their training that it is for all intents and purposes non-existent.  As inferred above, one major reason contributing to the development of current ineffective golf club fitting procedures surfaces in the widespread but incorrect conclusion that good golf swings and good ball travel in effect always comprise one and the same thing.  The two golfing facets are most often deemed inseparable and thus the best ball travel automatically equates to the best swinging.  With no exceptions that I am currently aware of, individuals and organizations promoting the custom fitting process will start off with a pretty standard pitch similar to, “Custom golf clubs are made to fit your specific, individualized swing whereas off-the-rack clubs are not.”  True enough.  Unfortunately, their immediately following comments most often turn to something about golf ball flight that under ordinary circumstances has nothing whatsoever to do with actual swing performance.  This might include, “We will dynamically adjust the lies of your clubs to straighten out your ball flight,” or, “I will set you up with the proper face angle to help rid you of your slice.”  What happened to fitting your clubs to your individualized, specific swing?  An attempt is made to combine two separate issues into one.  The outcome?  The same as it has always been, since so many incorrect theories and practices were enacted at the dawn of more popularized clubfitting that started a few decades ago.  This is very standard protocol within the clubfitting trade.

Should golf clubs be fit by ball travel alone?  Hopefully it is pretty obvious by now that the answer to this question is no.  I have previously elaborated on how one’s golf ball flight and/or golf club/ball contact might be improved while at the same time negatively affecting one’s golf swing.  The effects of such a “backward” approach may not become evident until after rounds of play or more intense practice, but it is somewhat easy to be inadvertently and erroneously convinced of its correctness in a shorter time frame within which to work.  This is particularly true given the type of educational experience given to clubfitters holding “diplomas” from the organizations presently handing them out.  Citing but one of limitless examples is first choosing a grip size not even close to correct for a golfer due to using the infamous (and still prescribed) grip-on-a-stick method, in this case choosing a grip size too big for the player’s swing.  With that, an open clubface at impact and/or ball travel to the right (right-handed golfer) may often occur.  Then, in the name of trying to straighten out ball flight, a more closed golf club face angle is recommended that unknowingly also has a detrimental impact on the golfer’s swing.  Consequently, under the false assumption that straighter golf ball flight equates to better swinging, and ball flight has gotten better (temporarily I assure you), two wrongs are implemented on the golf club specifications that adversely affect the golfer’s swing.

Although launch monitor use is becoming more common, such units have been available and employed by some fitters for probably more than a decade already.  Yet golf scores still have not responded over this time period to the extent that might be expected given the capabilities of these aiding clubfitting devices.  If this does not expose something rather insightful about today’s clubfitting industry, I am not sure what will.