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

I reemphasize here that if you are an individual clubfitter, so-called clubfitting educator, or any size entity or organization preaching and/or promoting clubfitting in any way and do not correctly comprehend these extremely basic equipment fitting fundamentals (that apply universally to all activities and not merely golf) then you have no business calling yourself a competent professional in this particular field.  You stink at a most elementary level long before any more technical, often very ornate, and often overrated devices like launch monitors might be utilized to potentially fine-tune certain golf club specification values as extensions of (although having no real usable value without) proper underlying clubfitting knowledge.  You are very contributory to the long-standing poor performance record and repute of the golf club fitting industry in general and should consider yourself very lucky that golfers as a generalized group (Messrs. Gullible Golfer) are commonly less experienced regarding athletic performance and even extremely basic equipment fitting and are often elated if the color(s) of their golf grips and/or clubheads are as desired.  If not for business provided from all of the routinely naive Messrs. Gullible Golfer, you might feasibly have essentially no customers at all and rightly so.

And if you have some sort of clubfitting learning certificate(s) on your wall and were not decisively taught the things disclosed thus far within Waggle Weight Wisdom™ as part of your clubfitting education, then you are similarly a naive Mr. Credulous Clubfitter.  Your certificate and the organization that presented it may not be worth the paper the certificate is printed on and you might ponder what else you were taught by the organization that is incorrect and/or incomplete, perhaps reevaluating any support given to the organization and/or the organization’s sponsors.  I mean if one has a reasonable grasp based upon golf ball travel results that independently increasing the grip size or swingweight value of a golf club would generally tend to produce golf ball travel results more to the right for a right-handed golfer (and the clubfitting trade does have a reasonable grasp of this), then it is plausible to think that one would also have a reasonable grasp based upon one’s direct golf swing performance (not comfort) that better swing coordination would be achieved when decreasing one’s golf club grip size as the club’s swingweight and/or total weight were increased (best observed when all else is kept equal).

But no, not the clubfitting trade, which for the most part still insists that one’s golf grip size should remain “scientifically” tied to one’s hand size plus remain unchanged even if other select golf club specification values change.  If not abundantly obvious, such a poor understanding of clubfitting also clearly indicates an equally poor understanding of golf swing performance specifically and general athletic performance from a wider viewpoint.  Now while I cannot accurately predict the future of the clubfitting industry, I can soundly predict that Mr. Gullible Golfer will not be so gullible anymore after becoming familiar with the theories and practices revealed here (with more to come) and will generally have far less use for the commercialized clubfitting trade unless and until this trade alters and improves its past ways dramatically and quickly.  Even taking into account that the fitting of equipment in golf is indeed more complex than in most other activities, the clubfitting industry as a whole is still about as poor as it gets, with multiple badly flawed clubfitting theories and practices even on a remarkably foundational level of equipment fitting.  This is simply inexcusable and gives new meaning to and certainly supports the often-made declaration that golfers overall (including clubfitters and clubfitting educators here) are hardly athletes.

To make this clearer, based upon what has been covered in detail or at least touched upon within Waggle Weight Wisdom™ just to this point, I can make up a relatively short test or quiz to be administered on this day to every so-called professional clubfitter that holds at least one certificate, diploma, or the like that purportedly represents clubfitting expertise.  This test would comprise extremely basic golf swing and clubfitting knowledge questions regarding the rightful reason golfers do and should fundamentally hold onto a golf club in such an odd manner and how to obtain a golfer’s only true swing DNA for the purpose of further swing development or clubfitting to the golfer’s swing, exactly what the 14-inch fulcrum measurement of the swingweight golf club specification represents, and when, where, how, and why this measurement is applied as a very critical clubfitting dimension (I have not expressly detailed this element through this particular column to date, so do not try to get too far ahead and potentially jump to any wrong conclusions).  Other testing questions would revolve around how to competently fit golf grip size and what routinely happens to one’s best grip size as golf shaft weight and therefore total golf club weight changes on an otherwise like club, and the well-defined difference(s) between direct golf swing performance and golf ball travel and/or clubhead path/position results as might be indicated by various swing analyzers and/or launch monitors as examples.  A couple of select questions regarding “feel” as it pertains to clubfitting would be quite appropriate, as would perhaps an inquiry or two regarding how shaft flex change does or should affect one’s golf swing performance and whether such an affect(s) should be any different given different golfing or swinging circumstances.  And maybe I will include a question or two about club face angle (a specification to be corrected here later) for extra credit.

I am not even contemplating getting into questions that are more detailed or fine-tuning in nature, limiting myself to asking some of the most basic general questions about golf swing and clubfitting performance that would serve as the foundation for more advanced information that would come afterward.  A remarkably enlightening number of clubfitters already having even multiple clubfitter training certificates handed out by various entities but not yet acquainted with this column would score absolutely zero on this test of primal clubfitting theory and practice and naturally would not be able to gain an endorsement of the WaggleWeight® or Waggle Weight Wisdom™ trademarked names.  This would not be the somewhat standardized test administered to date for obtaining clubfitter credentials based principally on the clubfitting teachings of a few individuals that are emphatically underqualified in select areas of this specific field.  The number of so-called professional clubfitters that would miserably fail such a rudimentary testing would be an eye-opening revelation to the clubfitting trade scarier than some of the creatures I encountered during Halloween season just passed.  The continuing failure to correctly learn these extremely basal yet extremely critical golf swing and clubfitting theories and practices will continue to augment the poor performance record and reputation of the commercialized clubfitting industry as a whole already accumulated.  Fortunately, any entity properly bearing either trademarked name above would be highly proficient in understanding these theories and practices.  Not settling for less than either name if needing to look for outside clubfitting aid can help assure the most capable clubfitting results and the best experience possible, as these names represent the best in understanding, developing, and applying golf swing and clubfitting theory and practice correctly.

In continuing to dissect the many attributes that have resulted in the dismal performance record and reputation of the clubfitting trade, another reform that will be soundly made by all entities bearing the WaggleWeight® and/or Waggle Weight Wisdom™ names is the fundamental elimination of “packaged” clubfitting generally geared toward fitting every available golf club specification to a golfer for one or more clubs at a set price.  This is a current attribute that, similar to a formal clubfitting interview or its equivalent, tends to cater primarily to beginner or lesser-skilled golfers and makes the clubfitting trade overall appear rather amateurish, which I guess is really as it should be given the current overall poor performance of this particular industry.  This approach to clubfitting also has a basic “air” about it that discourages golfers from learning about clubfitting as much as they can on their own and utilizing the clubfitting industry for any elements they need help with.  This approach is another presumptuous golf attitude that golfers as a generalized group are not capable of fitting any club specifications to themselves well without the “expert” help of the clubfitting industry, which is a complete joke given how inept this industry commonly is at fitting certain club specifications to golfers.  From the perspective of a golfer looking for clubfitting help, if all that is available is a packaged driver fitting from any given entity for example and it can be determined that the fitting of just one single golf club specification of the driver is executed wrongly, then this can essentially render the entire driver fitting process useless (highly dependent upon the exact specification[s] that is fit poorly) and the entity offering only this driver fitting in a packaged form might be prudently avoided.

In elaborating further on this particular topic, there are multiple golf club specifications to be dealt with and fit regarding any given golf club.  While some club specifications can and do interact with each other and affect each other’s values in the course of clubfitting as has already been discussed, at some point even these specifications need to be isolated from each other as much as possible for purposes of correctly understanding and working them independently, which can be achieved extremely efficiently when in the right hands.  But the clubfitting trade has traditionally taken an approach equivalent to needing to have one’s automobile entirely overhauled every time it is taken to a repair shop even though only one isolated repair may be needed.  This has typically been the approach regardless of whether or not the ultimate goal is to get a new club order (but getting a new golf club order has to date been the underlying goal of most clubfitters and clubfitting systems and hence this type of packaged clubfitting, as all golf club specification values are desired in order to make a club).

This is a case where, just like direct golf swing performance and ball travel result should be distinctly separated within a competent and comprehensive clubfitting process, club fitting services and club making or production services should also be distinctly separated into completely independent and stand-alone services as another of multiple changes the clubfitting industry needs to make if it is ever to get out of the total mess it has created for itself.  Another manifestation of this poor protocol that routinely links club fitting and making when they are mutually exclusive of each other is where any clubfitting fees are deducted from any club purchase made from the same entity.  One or both services often suffer, frequently very badly since most elements of the two services really have nothing whatsoever in common with each other.  This is particularly demeaning of the clubfitting, turning it into a quick, cheap, and superficial process intended more as a vehicle to help promote club sales rather than the critical element of overall golfing development that it is and that needs to be independently addressed in depth to achieve competent results.

To further exemplify, I will temporarily randomly select a figure here of seven golf club specifications that if fit well to one will take care of all that is needed to help one swing and play as well as possible (through clubfitting).  The combined knowledge regarding these seven club specifications will vary widely among individuals.  These individuals will of course include beginner golfers that may essentially know nothing about any of the seven (and might not care) and perhaps think that face angle is the smirk angle on the face of a clubfitter when introductions are made (some know-it-all clubfitters commonly treat all golfers in a rather degrading fashion despite the fact that many such clubfitters are truly more clueless about certain clubfitting principles than the golfers themselves).  Then there are golfers that have achieved extremely high skill levels at playing the game.  These golfers can ordinarily (although not always) be considered more knowledgeable regarding clubfitting than golfers with less playing skill.  But nobody knows everything, thus most golfers of even tour-level performing ability can be safely assumed to also be deficient in understanding clubfitting to some performance-affecting degree.  However, in such cases deficiencies are more likely to be in understanding perhaps just one or two specifications or specification elements that may be preventing such a golfer from taking that next step forward.  Yet clubfitting with such a golfer might be more intense, detailed, and/or time consuming (possibly making the difference between missing a cut by a single stroke in or winning a tournament) relative to clubfitting with a less knowledgeable and more casual beginner.

The clubfitting knowledge of most golfers falls somewhere between these two examples.  Again the clubfitting industry overall caters more to lower-end golfers, with its common clubfitting interviews that are rather frivolous in nature, its typical offerings of packaged clubfitting only, plus other protocols most golfers beyond starting clubfitting knowledge would credibly and commonly avoid.  But there are also are uncounted moderate golfers that genuinely need serious clubfitting aid, not as beginners that such clubfitting industry garbage is primarily geared for, but as golfers that are more skilled and do not need to fill out another worthless interview sheet and do not need to have every one of their golf club specification values gone over again every time they need to consult with an experienced clubfitter for help (provided the clubfitter is even skilled enough to assist a golfer at that level, which bluntly most are not).  Such situations might sometimes be little more than a golfer testing out certain golf club specifications and/or components that the clubfitter has and the golfer does not with the clubfitter saying virtually not a single word, or perhaps the golfer getting some measurement data from one or more devices that he/she does not have.  As it generally does not take very long for golfers to become aware that different equipment specification values can in fact directly alter their golf swing performance, it stands to reason that golfers who want to perform their best would commonly take on the bulk of the responsibility for learning about and fitting their own equipment, only leaving tasks to others when such golfers may not have certain measuring tools, supplies, and/or components to perform desired tasks themselves.  Typical packaged clubfitting and other current protocols of the clubfitting industry seem to demean such responsible golfers and encourage them to avoid the commercialized clubfitting industry.

These are sound reasons why clubfitting services should fundamentally be changed (and will be fundamentally implemented by any entity bearing the noted named trademarks) to rates principally based on time and not the package concept the clubfitting industry has become more traditionally known for (though I cannot absolutely rule out a “beginner’s clubfitting package” or something similar as an occasional exception to the fundamental practice).  This change to a time basis for clubfitting services is also influenced partly by the requirements disclosed here of how to fundamentally fit golf grip size in a competent manner.  This process just for fitting one’s golf grip size could in principle require more (but shorter) sessions and possibly approach or exceed a time equivalent to some others’ packaged clubfitting processes for all of the critical club specifications, which might be stated as being anywhere from 5 to 25 different golf club specifications depending upon whom one is listening to.  (So one does not start to panic, know that competent clubfitting processes for certain other club specifications do not require the same kind of time as that needed for determining one’s best grip size).

Among other things that continue to portray golfers as a whole (I include the clubfitting trade as part of golfers here for this specific evaluation) as being rather ignorant about the amount of dedication and time needed to fit golf clubs really well is the way in which raw time frames are discussed to try to distinguish between “inept” and “superb” clubfitting sessions by any given clubfitting entity.  When a figure of one to two hours for example is thrown out by one who was just “totally” fit for a golf club, many people will scoff at that “inept” figure as being an impossible time frame within which to competently fit a golf club.  Yet if a figure of say fours hours of clubfitting time were stated instead, many of these same scoffers would drop their jaws in amazement as going above and beyond the call of duty and sight unseen call that particular clubfitting session and/or entity quite “superb.”  This type of circumstance that pretty regularly occurs shows how laughable the attitudes of many golfers and much of the clubfitting trade currently are, as without really even trying or realizing it I might spend six hours over a couple of days (partly swinging and partly working on the clubs swung) analyzing ranges of swingweight values or grip sizes using a structured testing regimen to see if the single golf club specification being worked on changes in its best value for my swing among only two or three golf clubs set up properly for such testing.  And I might still be nowhere even close to collecting all test results needed to firmly arrive at a desired answer.

In reviewing another segment of my earlier work, perhaps you will recall the three broad divisions of learning how to play golf well, which are learning how to physically swing, learning how to fit equipment, primarily but not limited to golf clubs (part physical and part mental), and learning how to mentally play the game.  There are also highly critical, yet intangible in nature, interconnected details between the three, such as the amount of confidence one has in one’s swing, which although not specifically disclosed is actually the innermost core that substantially determines how much success one will ultimately achieve at the game.  Of these three elements, golf club fitting can be the most difficult and time consuming (unless as just implied for example one never develops adequate confidence in one’s swing, is habitually drawn back to working on that swing, and thus never gets into a depth of clubfitting that one who develops more confidence in one’s swing would).  Now despite the continuing traditional perception to the contrary, I will reiterate here how technically easy a golf swing is relative to more traditional athletic activities where a moving object is commonly swung at that someone else is attempting to prevent one from hitting well or hitting at all.  A golf swing necessitates less physical strength to perform well, less hand-eye coordination, no reflexes whatsoever, no active anxiety of potentially more severe bodily injury during play as experienced in so many other sporting activities, and more.

After determining the way one will hold onto a golf club (a predominant factor in the way one’s golf swing will develop over time), it is primarily a matter of performing an untold number of repetitions to further develop and hopefully develop confidence in that swing.  (I know, developing such confidence is much easier said than done, especially in the face of all of the so-called golf swing experts as well claiming that one has this or that “swing flaw,” and for whatever reason[s] these people and/or the golf industry in general sure do seem determined to try to make and/or keep a golf swing far more difficult in everyone’s mind than it truly is [which will certainly backfire on the industry at some point].  But the simpler one’s approach is toward golf swing mechanics and technicalities, the easier it is to develop such confidence).  And if successfully developing sufficient swing confidence, from there it is a matter of moving on and learning other facets of the game, knowing and accepting that one’s swing can change over time due to many factors, but considering this to be an evolution of one’s golf swing and not a development of any “swing flaws” (even if such evolution is for example the result of using ill-fitting golf clubs).  Any such swing evolution can be adjusted for through the able application of golf club fitting principles to keep one’s swing and game at the highest level possible at any given point.

To that end, learning how to physically swing a golf club can essentially be considered a rather “finite” activity, where as a practical matter only so much can really be done based largely on one’s physical bodily attributes before one had better move on and learn other disciplines that are equally if not more critical to an overall learning of how to play the game consistently decently.  (I am not encroaching here on one’s effort to make and keep one’s physical body and comprehensive health as fit as possible over time, a ceaseless and worthy endeavor, but I consider this to be more of a universal desire to live that pervades all walks of life and not something that is just specific to golfing, although I include here the desire to develop and keep in shape golf-related muscle, flexibility, and coordination).  And there are plenty of precedents with respect to other activities humans have engaged in that when applying plain common sense provide solid proof as to how uncomplicated a golf swing is and how easy it is to effectively develop relative to so many other activities humans have engaged in and been extremely successful at accomplishing.  Athletically speaking, it does not get much easier than a golf swing as long as one does not confuse genuine golf swing proficiency with other elements that interact with and influence that swing, like routinely swinging different individual golf clubs every swing, a separably analyzable circumstance not existing in virtually all other activities.

And regarding clubfitting now, unlike conscious golf swing development, this is a facet of golfing that can in essence be considered perpetual in nature that never really ends and should always be consciously repeated at some point as long as one continues to play the game.  There are two principle reasons for this.  One was just described, that being very natural golf swing evolutions (not flaws) of an unconscious nature that occur over time even if one’s swing is consciously left alone.  This might comprise an improvement in one’s swing through practicing or a loss of swing flexibility as one ages, either condition of which may need an adjustment in one or more golf club specification values in order to achieve one’s best possible swing performance after any swing evolutions.  The second reason is continuing advances in golf club and club component design and construction, which will plausibly never end.  This can also include equipment advancements like the development of new or improved golf club specifications or specification values along with devices to measure them, as well as new or improved clubfitting tools or methods.  Attempting to take advantage of any such advances in technology is a rather instinctive trait.  So wanting to repeat a clubfitting routine as new advancements come out to see if any of one’s club specification values change and/or anything new is liked better is quite natural of one that intends to continue golfing and wants to play one’s best, at clubfitting intervals that can vary widely by personal preference.