Custom Golf Clubs? Yes, But Not Today: Part One

I am a firm believer in personalized golf club fitting to help players improve, maybe even more so than those trying so hard to tout its potential benefits.  Before regularly touching a golf club, I already had more than a decade of experience playing baseball and other sports, becoming very familiar early on of how equipment changes can alter one’s performance and to what degree.  Unfortunately, today’s fitting of clubs to golfers is one of the worst examples (if not the worst) in all of sports regarding how to effectively fit related equipment to those playing their respective games.  Currently existing clubfitter “diplomas” help to prove my point, but that is best left for a different post.  Now the last thing I want is for you to take my word that what I say is true.  I am quite certain there is at least one reliable, accessible source that has tracked the average scores of the golfing population through the years, though I do not know whom.  When found, the results will eloquently speak for themselves.  Given the equipment advancements over the decades of lighter shafts and overall club weights, club heads that seem the size of my house now and allow longer club lengths, more sophisticated and accurate golf club fitting analysis devices, and so on, you would think a pretty good size dent might be made in the scores of typical golfers, but this has just not been the case.  In fact, when analyzing some highly specific details of play, there has likely even been backward progress in certain areas of golfers’ abilities of late.  Much of the blame for this can be directly placed on the custom clubfitting segment of the golf industry.

Poor clubfitting skills are presently dominant among every sector that claims to be good at the task.  This includes PGA members of the U.S.A. and other countries, professional “certified clubfitters” as briefly alluded to above, sales representatives of every type, including “clubfitters” of major manufacturers of golf clubs, fitting clubs to oneself, golf teaching associations and schools, and certainly authors who devise many of the theories and practices utilized in golf club fitting within their books, magazine articles, and the like.

In one respect perhaps this is understandable, as club specifications such as swingweight and face angle are odd little creatures not encountered in other equipment fitting, and they do require time and experience to learn correctly.  Consider my own personal journey.  Although I had already scored multiple sub-par rounds, attended the PGA Tour Qualifying School two or three times, and considered myself qualified enough to begin calling myself a professional golfer by the late 1970’s, I declare it was an additional ten to fifteen years of virtual full-time working at my game before I even started to grasp how the technicalities of swingweight and face angle were truly meant to be applied.  And I already had some technical knowledge and schooling before beginning.  Like everybody else with limited experience at a trade, I really had no choice or options back then but to assume and believe that what was promoted with respect to proper clubfitting was correct.  Once done, it can first be a slow, hard process just to learn and admit that those you depended on for such insight are not as accomplished as you once thought.  Then, deciphering what is correct in order to confidently overcome past learning requires still more time.