The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Fifty-Four

The problem is that golfers (including clubfitters here) of all ability levels are in essence currently forced to take a more artistic approach to clubfitting (and/or their golf swings) than desired simply because scientific approaches to certain clubfitting and golf swing elements are incomplete and/or downright incorrect.  Waggle Weight Wisdom™ is in the midst of overhauling much of this information so that it is more complete and/or correct.  Technical components will be better presented, they will become more distinguishable from artistic components and each component type will be put in its rightful place better, and one will be able to more appropriately utilize either or both components toward the best overall improvement and/or enjoyment in one’s golf game.  One of these elements, as I have been discussing, is the particular order in which golf club specifications should be fit.  With the number of different “systems” (and associated opinions) currently around that fit club specifications in different orders, this element of clubfitting currently seems like far more art than science, but this just should not be and the potentially devastating consequences of applying this element incorrectly (especially if not rechecking any club specification values previously fit after any number of additional club specifications are fit) have already been noted.  Because the logic of analyzing this particular element is not really hard to see, there is really no legitimate excuse for how bad the clubfitting industry generally is at applying this element, and I will partially analyze it a bit more here.

I first make the wholly logical assumption that one believes the overriding way for one to consistently play one’s best golf is for one to consistently make one’s golf swing well.  If you do not believe in this and think for instance that a good ball travel result equates to a good mechanical golf swing performance on a reliable basis, then unfortunately you are quite ignorant regarding the actual truth of the situation and boy are you totally wasting your time reading this particular column.  At any rate, as consistently making one’s golf swing well relates to golf club fitting, one of the easiest and most basic things one can do is the following.  Beginning with what has already been well proven to this point in time regarding a golf swing, clubfitting, and sets of golf clubs as developed to date, which is that (if fit well) one can swing consistently well using a standard or traditional set of golf clubs during play, one can first itemize all golf club specifications that can be fit to one regarding such a set of golf clubs.  (Available club specifications can vary.  For example, when considered within the context of the whole of golf history, golf club swingweight is still an extremely new club specification developed only recently, and it may or may not even continue to be around in the future.  Another good example is shaft weight, which had little to no meaning when all golf shafts were basically made of steel and essentially the same weight.  But today this can be considered a legitimate golf club specification for clubfitting purposes.  Specifications [and their associated values] can be added, removed, improved, and/or otherwise altered over time regarding available club specifications that could be fit, just like other changing technology).

In broadly looking at the way sets of golf clubs have developed over the past eighty years or so (approximately since golf club swingweighting came into being) and in considering the itemized list of golf club specifications come up with that have been commonly used over that time period, a specific analysis can be performed.  In comparing these standard or traditional sets of golf clubs with the itemized list of club specifications, one can next determine which of these golf club specifications vary or are different in value from club to club within each set of clubs or the sets as a whole and yet still regularly allow one to swing with motions that are well and consistently coordinated and performed.  To give some examples, the value of the traditional golf club specification named loft is generally distinctly different for each club within a standard set of golf clubs.  The same holds true for the club specification of lie, which is also generally different for each golf club within a set and is generally tied to each golf club’s length.  And that brings me to the golf club specification named length, which also traditionally varies from club to club within a set of clubs and which can vary substantially across the set (such as one swing with a driver that is 45 inches long and the next swing with a 9-iron that is 35 inches long).

The total weight values of the individual clubs within a standard or traditional set of clubs also vary and vary markedly from the lightest club (generally the longest club or driver) to the heaviest club (generally the shortest club or 9-iron [ignoring the wedges and putter here for simplicity]).  (It is debatable as to whether golf club total weight is a legitimate golf club specification and any such discussion is generally intertwined with whether or not the golf club specification of swingweight works well for one, but it is nevertheless included here as a golf club specification for example purposes).  And even if all of the shafts within the set have the same label on them indicating the same exact shaft flex golf club specification value, this is traditionally a relative term and in absolute terms the shaft flex (or shaft frequency value as some people might prefer in more modern terminology) is actually markedly different for every single club within the set.  All of these and still other golf club specifications can be varied in value within a “matched” set of golf clubs, often substantially so between individual clubs (which does not make much sense right now but it will further below), while still allowing one to swing consistently the same (or at least consistently well such that the essential quality of one’s golf swing is not altered, a feat proven through golf history to date).

For what I will term the “inconstant” golf club specifications (those specifications whose values are typically varied through a set of golf clubs [even if the differences in values are consistent from club to club]), it makes no logical sense that any such specifications can be linked to and can affect the quality of one’s base golf swing performance.  If that were true, then the quality of one’s swing performance would notably vary in accordance with varying values of any such golf club specification within a set of golf clubs.  But this does not conventionally happen, bearing in mind that I have initially presumed golf club swingweight (or a true derivative of that club specification in its functioning like waggle weight) works well for one in principle, and it simply does not technically work for some.   (If specification value increments of an inconstant golf club specification were consistent from club to club within a set and the clubs were always used in the identical sequential order, then maybe some vague argument might be made to the contrary, but golf clubs are not regularly used in such a manner).

The fitting of any inconstant golf club specification(s) as a higher priority before fitting any specification(s) connected to the quality and consistency of one’s direct golf swing performance seriously brings into question the competency even on a very rudimentary level of any clubfitter fitting golf club specifications in such an order.  The nature of all inconstant golf club specifications is such that they can broadly be associated with ball travel results but not the essence of one’s direct golf swing performance.  And it stands to reason that a value of any inconstant golf club specification fit can be notably different depending upon whether any specifications that can affect the essence of one’s direct golf swing performance are fit before or after fitting any inconstant golf club specifications.  So through this analysis so far, any clubfitter that fits any inconstant specification before all golf club specifications that can affect one’s direct golf swing performance are fit first, resultantly making subordinate golf ball travel results more important than the quality of one’s direct base golf swing performance (commonly having no clue or concern regarding justifiably discriminating between these two elements to begin with), is an entirely inept clubfitter and/or clubfitting system.  The fitting of golf club specifications in such a poor and illogical order gives new meaning to the expression that gofers are not athletes.  Keep in mind that this specific analysis and its accompanying results could not be done without definitively separating one’s direct golf swing performance and one’s ball travel results.

Anyway, hopefully having a decent understanding now of what is meant by an inconstant golf club specification within a so-called matched set of golf clubs, one can then examine a set(s) of standard or traditional golf clubs, reference it against the itemized list of club specifications that can be fit to one, and investigate for any “constant” club specifications (specifications whose value typically remains constant within a set of clubs).  Any such specifications are the ones that rightly permit a set of golf clubs to be called “matched” in nature, and in going back to a most primary thinking and reasonably concluding that the core objective of matching a set of golf clubs to begin with is so one can perform one’s golf swing in a best and most consistent manner with all of the clubs in the set, then such specifications are really the ones responsible for whether or not this goal can be achieved.  The fitting of such specifications should always be accomplished first, and the quality of swing performance realized through that fitting should then ideally be maintained while inconstant club specifications are subsequently fit.  The logic of this analysis cannot be disputed even by Mr. Gullible Golfer and/or Mr. Credulous Clubfitter (particularly when one’s direct golf swing performance and not ball travel results is deemed to be the more important root element, which it always should be).  Clubfitting in any other manner is totally irrational.

In moving forward with such an analysis, the golf club specifications of swingweight and, to a lesser extent grip size, are uncovered as two specifications whose values principally remain constant within a matched set of golf clubs.  Not coincidentally, these are the two club specifications primarily discussed in the course of this post title sequence.  (I say “to a lesser extent” regarding grip size because as one example when virtually all golf shafts were made of steel and essentially similar in their weights during a decades-long period after steel overtook wood as the shaft material of choice, and before advancements came about and substantially lighter shafts made of different materials began to be produced, one’s best golf grip size did basically stay the same throughout the entire set.  However, and as described in detail within this sequence, this is no longer entirely valid where for instance one might use a very lightweight shaft in one’s driver and heavier shafts in one’s irons, where the lighter-shafted driver will commonly need a notably larger grip size than the irons in order for one to swing one’s best for all of the clubs within the set.  Good or poor overall clubfitting for such various shafts or shaft types will be particularly proven when switching back and forth between such various completed clubs in direct side-by-side comparisons of swinging the clubs in rather prompt fashion, where swings with the previous club are still firmly in mind when the next club is swung).

As what amounts to some of the most foundational clubfitting information there is, if one does not learn the details presented within this post title sequence and learn them well, then there is really no place to go forward, at least not correctly.  Additional analyses still need to be explored regarding the sequencing of fitting golf club specifications, because as can be observed there are multiple inconstant and multiple constant or at least partly constant club specifications, each available for evaluation for also properly sequencing each within its own respective category in order to accomplish a best final clubfit.  For example, consider the testing done and results obtained within this post title sequence for swingweight and grip size values.  The best swingweight value range for performing my most coordinated swinging always turned out to be identical regardless of what golf grip size (including the grip’s weight) was utilized during testing, therefore proving the best swingweight value range to be independent of golf grip size.  However, my best grip size was not identical under various conditions, being quite dependent on the exact golf club swingweight value, even while remaining within the best swingweight value range (use of the identical golf shaft is assumed).

Based upon these results, fitting for a precise golf club swingweight value must be done before fitting for golf grip size or an incorrect grip size could easily be chosen for one.  Performing proper tests involving various club specifications and thoroughly analyzing results including any interactions between specifications can provide data and evidence like that above toward developing a proper order of fitting golf club specifications for comprehensively accomplishing the best and most consistent clubfitting results.  And an improper order could be devastating, like choosing far less critical golf club length first (not really relevant to one’s essential swing quality) and choosing a length that makes it difficult if not impossible to subsequently efficiently achieve a much more critical golf club swingweight value for one (extremely relevant to one’s essential swing quality).  I will plausibly address this topic further when addressing other golf club specifications individually.  In examining this topic only briefly here, I did make certain assumptions that may not always hold true, and because of the potential number of various elements involved there could be justifiable exceptions to the protocols presented here based upon the cumulative circumstances of any given situation.  But overall, this is extremely sound clubfitting theory and practice that should be considered a foundationally correct outline for the proper order of fitting golf club specifications.

Of all of the various concepts that can be evaluated with respect to golf club fitting, the concept of golf club matching is perhaps the most important, with consequences ranging from having 14 different golf clubs that can be used effectively for various golf strokes and that essentially all perform like one single golf club (if done well and as far as one’s base golf swing performance is concerned) to a veritable hodgepodge of 14 clubs that the greatest golfers of all time would struggle to swing consistently well from club to club (if done poorly).  Efficient golf club matching (of which the fitting of club specifications in the proper order is an integral part) is needed even when merely a single golf club is fit, for it is assumed that the single club will be integrated with others to form a complete set to golf with and that the club will ultimately have to be swung consistently well alongside the others in the set.  This is a remarkably different situation than just swinging the same club over and over again during the fitting of a single golf club (not as difficult to swing consistently well) compared with integrating the club into one’s entire set of clubs (more difficult [for anyone] to swing consistently well when switching among many individual clubs).  A golf club that might be swung great when fitting for a single golf club might be swung horribly when actually being integrated within the rest of one’s set of clubs, thus the fitting of a single golf club must be approached no differently than if an entire set of clubs were being fit and matched to each other.

Sadly, despite the rather simple logic indicating that it should be fit first (presuming one cares first about gaining one’s best possible and most consistent golf swing performance), not only do most clubfitting entities not account for the extremely critical club matching element first, but many clubfitting entities today do not even fit for a valid club matching specification at all.  Perhaps these are the best indicators yet of the current very sad state of the clubfitting industry as a whole.  One of various manifestations is simply providing one with a so-called fitted golf club(s) having a standardized swingweight value without actually fitting its value to one during the clubfitting process.  This attitude is essentially one of ignoring something not capably understood, still basically the norm among golfers and clubfitters regarding golf club swingweight.  Fitting this club specification but doing so essentially last is another manifestation of this attitude.  Another manifestation related to not capably understanding golf club swingweight is replacing swingweight matching with MOI (Moment of Insanity) golf club matching, an absurd club matching concept on multiple levels that indicates a lack of judicious understanding of golf swing performance and golf club fitting among the concept’s supporters.  Such clubfitting entities should be categorically avoided, because final clubfitting results will be basically worthless even if all other club specifications are fit exceedingly well, with one ending up with golf clubs inadequately matched to each other and where one will not be able to swing consistently well among the individual clubs.

Another extremely important item of information to help qualify the workings within this post title sequence deals with the structural element of the way in which one holds onto a golf club.  I reemphasize here how uncomfortable and unnatural it can be for one to take a standard overlapping or interlocking golf grip and/or place one’s hands in the positions on a golf club that can be termed traditional if one is unaccustomed to it.  (These are hand positions that golfers in general would basically end up with on their own in time anyway regardless of whether forcing such a grip at the start, but forcing it at the start might aid in accelerating the learning process.  This certainly does not apply only to golf and learning anything new can feel awkward at the start, even if history indicates it is fundamentally correct and in the long run it is the right thing to do (reasonably easier to do and stay with if and when the logic of such a fundamental is properly explained to one).  Even though I was a very experienced and fairly successful baseball player into college already before seriously taking up golf, I still clearly recall how awkward it felt to take anything close to what would be considered a traditional golf grip even after all of that baseball experience.

I often questioned myself as to why in the world I was attempting to do something that felt (and looked) so awkward to me at the time and working to place certain parts of my hands in certain positions for what seemed like forever back then until I could hopefully get used to it enough so that it became second nature and apparently “natural.”  This was made harder for me since I had already achieved some measure of success as a hitter in baseball, thus thinking why would I or should I alter my grip to such a degree?  Plus as mentioned above, other than the fact that most good golfers did it and taught it that way (that alone was sometimes not persuasive enough to continue working at it), to me there was no real convincing technical reasoning around for why I should continue trying to grip a golf club in such a way in order to help motivate me to continue forcing the issue.  Fortunately, Waggle Weight Wisdom™ has decisively disclosed the legitimate reasoning.

So doing the right thing regarding learning how to take hold of a golf club (especially if wanting to learn it sooner rather than perhaps later) may necessitate that one be notably uncomfortable or unnatural for a time.  And since this is generally a gradual process and tough to know with absolute certainty (for anyone of any playing level) when the process might be totally complete, this is one of the aspects that makes fitting one’s golf grip size based on comfort rather than swing performance (or golf ball travel results if not skilled enough to do so through direct swing performance) such a ridiculous concept supported only by those that are not sufficiently qualified to be clubfitters or clubfitting instructors.  Thus, everything else done by such a clubfitter or taught by such a clubfitting instructor should really be treated with due skepticism until soundly proven otherwise.  But at any rate, having disclosed these aspects, there can be two distinctly different structures in the manner in which one takes hold of a golf club.  To a certain extent this mixes some golf swing instruction with some clubfitting mechanics or at least includes certain elements of both taking hold of a golf club and clubfitting.  Here I use the simple and apropos terms of “developing” and “developed” to help define these two different gripping structures.

In the developing gripping structure, one will generally make a carefully conscious effort to place one’s hands upon a golf grip in a very specific manner that is trying to be learned.  The duration of the developing gripping structure can be an undetermined period that can vary widely from golfer to golfer (some will actually practice it for an entire lifetime).  In this gripping structure all or certain parts of one’s hands (often meticulously positioned one limb at a time beginning with the thumb or heel pad of one’s top gripping hand and proceeding from there with other gripping structure recommendations) will ordinarily be placed in principally the same positions all the way around no matter the size, material, and so forth of any golf grip being held onto (and I would submit that it basically needs to be this way for a time during a development phase of one’s gripping structure).  This will generally occur even for highly qualified professionals that might decide to change their gripping structure for whatever reason(s).

But at some (again undetermined) point, a decision is commonly eventually made to trust the golf gripping structure that has been learned to that point and change one’s approach from a conscious effort of gripping to a virtually unconscious act and effectively natural manner (so that other critical elements in the succession of learning golf can be properly attended to).  Essentially upon making such a decision, one’s gripping structure becomes a developed gripping structure.  The biggest point to relate here at the outset, and a very major point, is that in the developed gripping structure one’s hand positions will naturally and routinely change positions on different golf clubs (largely due to various grip sizes found on different clubs) to a notably greater extent than when the developing gripping structure is implemented.  The testing protocol within Waggle Weight Wisdom™ is based upon the developed gripping structure, and if performing the disclosed testing while one is implementing the developing gripping structure, it should be reasoned out that testing results could be quite different than that which I have published to date.

Though I call it the developing gripping structure here and while generally I would never personally recommend such a gripping structure to anyone on a permanent basis, I have seen golfers, occasionally very good golfers, that upon limited observation do outwardly appear to implement such a gripping structure on a permanent basis.  I still have pretty vivid memories of doing the exact same thing myself when I was trying to learn how to hold onto a golf club more efficiently, and maybe at the time I thought the process would be a permanent requirement.  I note again that I did struggle with the gripping structure at times, particularly psychologically with why I should continue to pursue it, also noting again that convincing reasoning (to me) for doing so was not really given in any of the many materials by many different people that I studied back then.  But fortunately, that missing reasoning has been rightly revealed in Waggle Weight Wisdom™.

Though there can be exceptions as is frequently the case, I would basically recommend that for the best clubfitting results one wait until one is in a state of using the developed gripping structure.  And this is not just because clubfitting results could be substantially different than that exposed here.  It is also because the developing gripping structure can in principle be considered forcibly fitting one’s golf swing (through forcibly positioning one’s hands on a golf grip in the identical manner regardless of the grip’s characteristics [specifically but not limited to the grip’s size] and through which one’s golf swing will subsequently be affected), whereas the developed gripping structure can in principle be considered the opposite, which is fitting the golf club/grip to one’s natural golf gripping structure and thus swing.  If the former sounds worse, that is because it is worse, broadly comparable to as one example forcing one to try to employ the exact same spine or upper body angle (relative to one’s lower body) when addressing a golf ball and subsequently swinging regardless of what golf club length is used.

While some people appear to believe in a constant or an ideal spine angle premise, golf history has solidly proven that the essential coordination quality of one’s golf swing does not change or diminish with a changing spine angle (assuming of course that no special circumstances need to be prudently considered like a physical handicap or an inordinate amount of discomfort through any such range of spine angles).  Better overall play may even be accomplished despite this specific “inconsistency.”  (Bear in mind that posture changes are routinely required even when swinging the exact same golf club [length] off of different terrains anyhow [a naturally occurring and/or often an intentionally planned golf course feature], sometimes more so than posture changes required due to club length differences).  Similarly, a clubfitting process where one is using the developing gripping structure may be less successful and/or advantageous (compared with where one is using the developed gripping structure) toward achieving the best possible clubfit for one’s base golf swing.  Also, fitting golf clubs where one is using the developing gripping structure may be contributory toward delaying, preventing, or even regressing any further efficient development or evolving of one’s base golf swing.  Make no mistake, however, insofar as one is at least still swinging, clubfitting when the developing gripping structure is used by one is still a far superior means than when using the totally inept grip-on-a-stick method for fitting one’s golf grip size (assuming that finding one’s best golf grip size is the goal for the purpose of this particular discussion).

So to continue, I now form my golf gripping structure in a very natural (developed) way after it was quite unnatural at first and I had to force at least some aspects of the structure for a time (developing) until I became sufficiently confident in the structure.  I now allow my hands to conform to whatever particular golf grip is on any given golf club.  First in very generalized terms, as a golf grip size altogether becomes larger, my hand positioning overall naturally tends to move into a little weaker position (more counterclockwise when sighting down the shaft centerline from the butt end of a club for a right-handed golfer), and reversely as a golf grip size altogether becomes smaller, my hand positioning overall naturally tends to move into a little stronger position (more clockwise).  Ideally there will be no natural variation in one’s hand positioning when in a limb-only base state because the grip (or rather grip substitute as a result of the effective linking together of one’s two hands) fundamentally never changes in size.  Such natural variations in hand positioning (which can lead to subsequent swinging differences) that occur between limb-only and club-in-hand circumstances (also applies to side-by-side club comparisons) are extremely important.  They are (and should be) greatly influential toward the selection of multiple golf club specification values (not limited to one’s best golf grip size) that best fit one’s base golf swing when clubfitting to one’s swing, noting here that there are multiple golf club characteristics aside from golf grip size that can influence natural variations in one’s hand positioning on any given golf club.

And since coming this far on this specific subject, I shall record certain additional details before completing this post title sequence.  I note here that this cause and effect regarding grip size and natural hand placement on a golf club (developed gripping structure) can in fact be further detailed for each hand independently.  Now when considered individually, a larger grip diameter under one’s top gripping hand will tend to influence a weaker hand position with that hand.  But a larger grip diameter under one’s bottom gripping hand will oppositely tend to influence a stronger hand position with that hand (more clockwise for a right-handed golfer.  These occurrences are not overly difficult to reason out and/or test.  So each hand can be influenced individually, yet with a cumulative effect that ultimately determines exactly what one’s hand positioning will be on any given golf grip/club (with both hands together considered to be single unit now).

To exemplify such effects, some golfers like to have grip diameters increased, but only under the bottom gripping hand, and most will still simplistically term this a larger grip size (which it is not overall).  It is not uncommon to observe stronger hand positioning actually being taken under such circumstances, with the bottom hand stronger due to the increase in grip diameter under that hand and the top hand being pulled a little stronger due to the influence of the bottom hand as the hands try to stay together as a mated unit.  And when ball travel results might go more to the left (as they often may when stronger hand positioning is taken on a golf grip/club) than when grip size diameter was smaller under the bottom hand, some golfers might dispute (based upon such results) the proven, correct, and well-known cause and effect of larger diameter golf grips overall generally influencing weaker hand positioning and/or ball travel results generally more to the right.  Such a dispute and incorrect conclusion is often the result of not correctly understanding one or more relevant details.  These details are important to comprehend now as they will be pertinent in discussing and understanding certain topics being considered for later.