Clubfitting 101: Pondering Priorities and Paths

Last post I approached golf club swingweighting as being fit directly to one’s swinging motion, whereby the specification’s value emerges as one of the most primary and crucial variables to get right if one wants to play his or her best golf.  Now I will look at the same parameter from the standpoint of fitting it to one’s golf ball flight, where much differently the swingweight value is very often one of the last specifications to be chosen.  Now in examining past materials regarding golf club fitting, it is quite easy at least for me to see that most of the authors did not have a sufficient understanding of swingweighting at the time their material was produced to put the parameter into its proper context.  And by this same reasoning, it is also fairly simple to deduce why it is often talked about and fit last.  Even so, I cannot say that I totally disagree with their general findings concerning fitting swingweight when based upon ball travel results.

The particular order of fitting the following specifications may vary markedly amongst clubfitters and clubfitting organizations.  However, they are usually all considered more important than swingweighting and to be addressed before that specification when the priority of fitting golf clubs is “as the ball flies.”  The lies of one’s clubs, the face angles (especially on woods), club lofts, shafts (shafts can be further dissected into multiple sub-parameters), lengths and grip sizes may be included among specifications deemed more important than swingweighting under the conception of clubfitting by ball travel results.  The last two named might be chosen by ball travel results or other meaningless methods already elaborated on.  (Many specifications that I have yet to discuss in detail, including face angle and shaft fitting, also currently encompass certain fitting procedures that I will eventually show are quite poor).  After these other specification values are identified by whatever method(s), a swingweight value is then often chosen near the end of the fitting process by perhaps ball travel numbers, impact tape results, and/or a golfer’s “feel of the clubhead on the end of the shaft at some point during a swing.”  Foolishly, however, this typical definition for the word feel in golf is incorrectly associated with swingweighting.

So as can be seen, a different belief and resultant direction early in the clubfitting process (ball travel versus swing performance) can result in the fitting of golf clubs so differently, and with such different outcomes, that it is almost like trying to fit the same fundamental equipment to two different sports or activities.  Evaluating swingweighting just a bit more as applied in the two very different manners just described, when fitting the specification by swing performance, the swingweight value does not commonly need to be retested for or adjusted when comparing different clubs and/or changing any of the other parameters.  Oppositely for ball travel fitting, if it is believed that any of the specifications mentioned might influence the final swingweight choice, then the swingweight value may have to be reevaluated when any of the other parameters change.  This really defeats the purpose of the swingweighting specification, yet it remains a primary path taught by most clubfitting “teachers” and practiced by most “certified” fitters today.  This is still another feature that has justifiably contributed to the clubfitting industry’s rather poor performance record and reputation of late.

Given the evidence presented, hopefully you are now realizing that the two principle ingredients of golfing success or failure, which are swinging performance attributes and ball travel results, can each effectively support its own independent clubfitting process.  Judiciously, therefore, the two components should be comprehensively analyzed and fit independently in order to achieve the highest quality fitting.  Now certain associations can be and are routinely made between specific swing traits and specific ball travel traits that are often quite accurate.  However, these associations are not accurate enough on frequent occasions, thus I can state that attempting to merge the two is not accomplished clubfitting technique.  I consider this to be so even when approached from an “artistic” viewpoint let alone a “scientific” one.  Many aspects of fitting down each path are grown and refined from completely different seeds that can be totally unrelated to each other.  Thus, many crucial details that would not come into common play when attempting to combine the two processes into one can easily be overlooked and/or ignored.  I can make a generally accurate association that when I see a railroad crossing gate come down, a train engine is coming forthwith.  Yet each of these components has many unrelated and independent features that must be attended to separately if the two are to function at maximum efficiency as a team.  Most of us have probably experienced a malfunctioning crossing gate at one time or another, but of course this is not an indicator that an engine associated with the inaccurate gate is in any way flawed in its operation, or whether an engine is even always present.

Using similar reasoning, I sometimes encounter golfing conditions where I cannot follow the flight of the golf ball after I strike it because of fog, darkness, or sunlight as examples.  In these cases, due to knowing my own swing well, I usually have a good awareness of whether I swung down the target line acceptably or whether I made a swing that would commonly result in a golf ball going to the left or right.  (Specific swing sensations that can be associated with specific ball travel results are something I may address at greater length later on).  Under such circumstances, I use my experience and follow my instinct to where I believe the golf ball may have ended up.  I am correct a large percentage of the time.  But I am also incorrect much more often than I expect from myself, even knowing when I make certain swings generally associated with hitting golf balls to certain areas.  Why such errors can often happen will be looked at next time.