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

As I wind down this post title sequence, presently looking as though there will probably be two more entries after this one unless anything else comes to mind before then, there are still a couple more select subjects that I at least need to touch on.  The first deals with the particular sequential order of golf club specifications that are to be fit to any given golfer at any given time (assuming right here that more than one specification will be fit, which is not and should not automatically always be the case depending upon individual circumstances).  I will begin by saying that the chosen order of club specifications to be fit to a golfer can create a difference of unprecedented proportion in the final outcome of a clubfitting process, with final results that can be enormously different depending upon the order in which club specifications are fit.  This is particularly true if a selected order of fitting club specifications is gone through once without regard to maybe checking the value of even one previously chosen specification value in case any interactions between specifications might warrant an alteration in any previously chosen specification value.  The existence of such interactions has been decisively disclosed within Waggle Weight Wisdom™, like one’s best golf grip size (necessary to make one’s best golf swing with) being directly related to a golf club’s swingweight and shaft weight values.

Separately and something that should be easier to see is that even if club specifications are selected to be fit in the exact same order, clubfitting results can also be enormously different if the process used for determining one or more specification values is different (such as truly fitting the value of any given club specification directly to one’s golf swing performance as opposed to fitting the value based on golf ball travel results and claiming the fitting is to one’s swing).  Either of these factors can drastically affect final clubfitting results.  Here are just a couple of quick, rather simplified examples, first considering a circumstance where the exact same process is utilized to fit each club specification but the specifications are fit in different orders.  If a desired model of a golf shaft (isolating the shaft’s weight here for simplicity) is chosen before a model of a clubhead (isolating the clubhead’s loft here for simplicity although both shafts and clubheads have multiple specifications associated with them), then a golf club’s loft may end up being markedly different than if a desired model of a clubhead is selected before a model of a shaft, in which case a club’s shaft and total weight may turn out to be very different.  (The same process of fitting the values of these noted specifications is deemed to be fitting based exclusively upon achieving determined launch monitor numbers [without ever inquiring about one’s direct golf swing performance], a rather typical protocol being implemented these days by the clubfitting industry as a whole).

In considering the other circumstance of keeping the order of fitting club specifications identical but where one or more specifications are fit through different processes, fitting for one’s best golf grip size for instance for any given golf club, even when fit in the same order with regard to fitting all club specifications, can produce drastically different results depending on whether fit by way of direct golf swing performance, ball travel or launch monitor results, or the grip-on-a-stick method.  Here, however, I will primarily focus on the circumstance of fitting certain club specifications utilizing just one of these processes (fitting to one’s direct golf swing performance) and the issue of fitting these specifications in different orders.  With this in mind and considering the golf club specifications of grip size and shaft weight, if it is determined to fit for one’s best golf grip size first (through one’s direct swinging performance) by utilizing at least two otherwise like clubs of one’s own as a base of reference, and then fit for one’s golf shaft weight using the determined grip size, it will commonly be found (again through one’s direct swinging performance) that the choice of shaft weight will be in the same general area as the shaft weight used to determine one’s best golf grip size to begin with.

However, if a protocol is utilized where it is oppositely determined that one’s shaft weight is to be selected first (still expressly through one’s direct swinging performance), feasibly using at least two reference, identical grips as a base of reference when determining shaft weight (in similar fashion to using at least two like-shafted clubs of one’s if determining one’s grip size first), if the chosen shaft weight is notably different from the shaft weight in one’s current clubs that would be utilized if grip size were determined first, and then one’s best grip size is determined for the chosen shaft weight (at least two identical such shafts will be needed to select one’s best grip size for that shaft through direct golf swing performance), the selected grip size would commonly be quite different.  So in reversing the fitting order of just these two golf club specifications, one could very easily end up with either a heavier shaft with a smaller grip size or a considerably lighter shaft with a considerably larger grip size in order for one to swing one’s best with either “fitted” club.

Many factors are involved in decisions as to what order golf club specifications are to be fit in, not the least of which is that currently there are very wide variations in perceptions and/or beliefs of golfers and clubfitters, even when science-based fitting is involved let alone artistic-based fitting.  And these perceptions and/or beliefs certainly can influence decisions on a personal and/or organizational level as to what golf club specifications are to be fit in what order.  Such wide variations in thought are partially due to multiple club specifications being involved and the fact that some golf club specifications can influence others in different ways, to different degrees, and with potentially more than one possible solution to achieve any given goal.  But such wide variations in thought are also partially due to considerable misinformation continuing to be ignorantly spread regarding various clubfitting subjects and continuing misunderstandings resulting from this.  Competently correcting this misinformation will help form a much more accurate and stable clubfitting knowledge core than that which exists now, a current knowledge core that faultily instills some very odd concepts and is loaded with incorrect information.

Now before I can even remotely contemplate disclosing the fitting of certain golf club specifications in a certain order, the following information needs to be gone over first.  The “organized” (such as it is) commercial clubfitting industry (or trade) as a whole is currently comprised of many different factions where commonly each likes to do things its own way and where various parties can oftentimes be found feuding about one faction versus another and which might be better or worse.  I use the term faction here extremely broadly to indicate really any entity involved in performing and/or instructing clubfitting theory and/or practice (though some factions comprise multiple individual entities having a common cause[s]).  This can include any small independent organization that attempts to certify clubfitters according to its particular protocols, a larger educational institution, any larger association for professional golfers around the world, a golf club or golf club component manufacturer or distributor of any size performing a clubfitting service, any individual who produces clubfitting instructional material (including a periodical writer), and so on.

At any rate, largely because of what I stated above about so much clubfitting information being out there that is just wrong and/or incomplete, each faction often has its very own “proprietary” system of clubfitting that it has developed, and each system may implement a totally different order of fitting golf club specifications than any other faction’s system.  And one commonly has no choice but to use the specific system of the specific clubfitting faction chosen if needing a clubfitting service(s).  These systems are generally designed such that once any given golf club specification value is selected, the next specification is moved onto and previously selected specification values are not routinely rechecked after subsequent specification values are determined.  In theory at least, this is a desirable goal to pursue and eliminating unneeded redundancies can make any clubfitting system more efficient.  It can work out well (although given the number of golf club specifications and potential interactions among them this may still never be completely infallible) if the golf club specifications are fit in the correct order.  But as I described, if the order is incorrect or otherwise poor (even if the methods used for fitting individual club specifications are excellent), then any number of very different and/or inappropriate golf club specification values could easily be chosen.

And the clubfitting industry overall generally uses some of the poorest conceived orders of fitting golf club specifications to golfers that one can possibly imagine.  One very big part of this situation has been the complete failure of this industry to suitably distinguish between one’s direct golf swing performance and ball travel results as being two distinct elements that are routinely not synonymous with each other and that must be considered independently within a competent clubfitting process instead of ignorantly considering them to be one and the same thing.  And even where these elements are separated, there are still many who contend that ball travel results are more important than the quality of one’s direct swing performance (one might be able to get away with this foolish statement in the short run but certainly not the long run).  It is almost as if no clubfitters exist who have actually experienced the reality of making decent golf swings yet getting poor ball travel results and making unacceptable golf swings yet getting terrific ball travel results.  These things happen on a fairly regular basis for uncounted reasons.  However, in order to experience this, one does have to swing decently and know one is swinging decently at some point.  Perhaps there really are not many clubfitters that have achieved this level of direct playing experience, maybe getting the bulk of their clubfitting knowledge from a book(s) written by one that may be questionably qualified.

For instance, many clubfitters (or clubfitting programs that are presumably developed by so-called clubfitters) consider golf club length to be so important that it is the very first specification fit for.  I will likely discuss this again later so I will breeze through it rather quickly here and hope I portray it understandably.  In assuming a golf club (or clubhead) that is basically not adjustable regarding its lie (this is and is not sometimes the case for various clubhead designs), the lie of the golf club can become effectively different for a golfer as the length of the club is changed (a more upright lie [clubhead toe higher off the ground at address] for longer club lengths and a flatter lie [clubhead heel higher off the ground at address] for shorter club lengths).  This in turn can influence a golfer to address a golf ball more toward the heel or toe of the clubhead (more toward the toe for a flatter lie and more toward the heel for a more upright lie).  For simplicity it may be assumed that the club face/ball contact location when one swings is the same location as the club face/ball at address (though in reality this is often not the case).

While not the only way to attempt to choose one’s golf club length, it is nevertheless an extremely common one, choosing one’s length based upon when club face/ball contact is achieved in the center of the clubface as best as possible.  However, this is a derivative of ball travel result fitting and provides no indication whatsoever of whether one is swinging with a beautifully coordinated and timed motion or swinging with an uncoordinated and awkward motion.  The results of this particular test for fitting club length can frequently be close in proximity regardless of whether one swings well or poorly, and in truth golf club balance that can turn one’s swing into an uncoordinated mess in a hurry if not correct is generally just ignored during this particular test.  Thus, one’s direct swing performance may actually get substantially worse even as club face/ball contact broadly gets closer to the center of the clubface.  And then, by choosing club length first, far more critical club specifications like a golf club’s balance that can directly affect one’s swing coordination (where on the clubface one contacts a golf ball is in principle not related to the quality of one’s golf swing performance) is often more difficult, impractical, or even impossible to subsequently achieve due to the club length chosen.

So in assuming that this process of fitting club length is okay, the fact that this process is utilized first within a clubfitting session indicates clubfitting ineptness on multiple levels, one being an inability to distinguish between and/or take into account both direct swing performance and ball travel results in fitting club length and which is the more important, and another being a warped perception of what the more critical and less critical golf club specifications are to begin with.  Furthermore, even though it may frequently hold true, an assumption that club face/ball contact will essentially remain in the same location as other club specifications are subsequently fit after club length is nonetheless a very poor assumption that is subject to many errors, sometimes large errors.  This is especially true if direct golf swing performance is entirely ignored when fitting for golf club length first but then addressed later as an element that is apparently less important than superficial club face/ball center contact, which is every bit as stupid as it sounds as I write it down here.  The fitting of golf club length first (even if by a different process like the stand-at-attention clubfitting ruler) is one reliable way of being able to detect an unqualified Mr. Credulous Clubfitter and/or clubfitting system.

Aside from not being able to properly distinguish between actual golf swing performance and ball travel results, there is also a continuing issue within the clubfitting industry as a whole of inaccurate and/or incomplete understandings of multiple golf club specifications evaluated individually before trying to determine what order these specifications should be fit in.  This of course can contribute heavily to poor decisions being made as to what club specifications should be fit in what particular order.  Golf club swingweight fitting and the specification’s true workings (badly interpreted since its inception about 80 years ago), golf grip size fitting and this specification’s relationships to golf club swingweight and/or total weight (even though I have covered some of this material already), and golf club face angle fitting are just a few club specifications having elements that continue to be terribly misunderstood.  Combined with the preposterous premise that good golf swing performance essentially means the same thing as good ball travel results and vice versa, it should really be no surprise that the order of fitting golf club specifications all throughout the commercialized clubfitting industry is commonly so bad that one’s actual golf swing performance, confidence in that swing, and/or scores can easily get worse after dealing with this industry that is supposed to help golfers play better.

Because this industry overall is still so deficient at understanding multiple foundational clubfitting theories and practices even when something like using only standard weight golf shafts and grips is done during clubfitting, it should also not be hard to understand how this industry is certainly not taking full advantage of newer technology as well as it could on behalf of Messrs. Gullible Golfer in general.  As a case in point, the general cause and effect revealed here in Waggle Weight Wisdom™ of one needing larger grip sizes as shaft weights and thus club total weights get lighter in order to make one’s best possible golf swings is pretty basic stuff of a very fundamental nature.  Not knowing this exhibits a foundational lack of understanding of athletic or other activity performance and related equipment fitting of even a very generalized nature first and then golf swing performance and related equipment fitting more specifically, and this is what the clubfitting industry as a whole exhibits.  This industry does not even vaguely implement a structured process in simple form within its clubfitting regimen to provide for lighter-shafted test clubs to have larger grip sizes on them so golfers could better test such newer technology as it further evolves against older technology in more meaningful side-by-side comparisons.

This is because it has always been primarily taught by so-called clubfitting experts and so firmly (and predominantly blindly) believed by Mr. Gullible Golfer and Mr. Credulous Clubfitter alike that one’s best golf grip size should be “scientifically” fit exclusively by the physical dimension(s) of one’s (top gripping) hand without swinging to begin with.  And then on top of that the determined grip size should remain the same regardless of all other club specification values used.  It is little wonder that with such deep conditioning for so long, combined with so many other underqualified people throughout the industry that are unable to see how badly flawed this particular clubfitting theory and practice is (just one of many), that the foundational structural relationship between one’s golf swing, golf grip size, and shaft weight has never really even entered the “mind” of the clubfitting industry to this point.  Being quite funny and quite sad at the same time, this process of fitting golf grip size is more badly flawed than choosing one’s shaft flex based upon one’s static body weight without swinging either (because a golf club’s grip is in direct contact with one’s hands when swinging and its shaft flex is not).  Perhaps it might be better seen now how the order in which golf club specifications are commonly fit has developed so poorly to date within the clubfitting industry as influenced by very poor understandings of certain club specifications individually, resulting in clubfitters and clubfitting systems and organizations that are sorely underachieving with a poor reputation overall that will not begin to change unless and until this trade becomes more properly educated.

Because of the illogical and downright ridiculous order of fitting golf club specifications to golfers that the clubfitting industry has more or less come to regularly or traditionally utilize, many people might probe this post title sequence and think that somehow I chose subject matter here that is perhaps more suited to be in the middle or end of a clubfitting process.  But this is simply not true and the material discussed within this sequence really comprises the essential heart or foundation of the only truly valid means of clubfitting, without which not much else can be done (in a proper manner) unless and until what has been discussed within this sequence has been properly understood and accomplished first (although certain topics may yet have to be expanded on more).  These are the base topics needing to be analyzed and comprehended early in order for other clubfitting elements to be successfully built upon them.  Some golf club specifications for instance are simply not as critical as others, particularly referring to whether or not they exert influence on one’s golf swing performance, and just from this an outline can begin to be drawn toward developing the best sequential order of fitting golf club specifications.  (I have also taken this foundational approach with the golf swing instructional subjects I have addressed to this point).  Beyond this, however, sequencing a specific list of golf club specifications in the best order for fitting clubs really requires that each specification be thoroughly and correctly understood independently first.  And certain of these specifications I have not even discussed yet, so a comprehensive order cannot and should not be considered right now.  I can offer that as more correct information is revealed, a correct order of fitting certain club specifications will sometimes take shape on its own by way of inescapable logic even before I might specifically address such a topic.  And very shortly, I will at least examine two particular golf club specifications with respect to their proper fitting order.

And here I need to add some qualifying information.  Golf club fitting is unquestionably part art as well as science, and to that end there might always be some “artistic” variation in the order in which certain golf club specifications are fit by various clubfitting entities.  In addition to having functional specifications, completed golf clubs and component club heads, shafts, and grips have nonfunctional artistic elements associated with them such as various shapes, surface designs, materials, and/or manufacturers that can attract (or repel) golfers and/or clubfitters.  Further (and sometimes in combination with that just stated), specific methods of fitting specific golf club specifications, the number of specifications and their type(s) chosen to be fit, and/or the order of fitting the chosen specifications can have nonfunctional artistic elements that could influence different orders of fitting club specifications.  However, the better and more completely each golf club specification is explained and understood with respect to its technical functioning (both as a stand-alone specification on its own merit and its interaction(s) with other golf club specifications, the more the clubfitting process becomes a workable, logical science and the less it becomes an art.  And once done effectively there will be little if any variance to the order in which golf club specifications are fit compared with the past, particularly when it comes to the club specifications proven to be most important toward helping one swing and play one’s best.  I will yet utilize this concept with other elements that can currently be considered nothing more than artistic (but should not be) because of the way they are so broadly and subjectively defined.  This is not to say that my goal is to completely rid clubfitting of its art side, because I really do not want to do that.  But I do intend to help put the science and art sides of clubfitting (and swinging) more into their proper perspectives and places.