The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Thirteen

The issue of a player understanding clubfitting on his/her own plays such a dominant role in a player’s overall golfing talent that golfing careers have been destroyed due to players (even players with efficient golf swings) not knowing clubfitting well enough to capably apply this element of one’s swing performance, which is active any time a golf club is in hand when swinging.  In some cases a player might start out strong in a golfing career but then seem to completely disappear from the face of the earth when clubfitting becomes a relevant issue because he/she never adequately experienced it before and cannot solve it (even with an abundance of so-called professional clubfitters around that can supposedly help).  Of course there can be many other reasons for such “disappearances” aside from clubfitting issues.

In other instances seemingly bright future golfing careers may hit immovable obstacles when certain clubfitting knowledge becomes critical and the players never realize such knowledge.  Now there are certainly cases where players that score well are quite clueless about clubfitting basics on their own and perhaps they are very fortunate to be associated with someone that really knows clubfitting well to assist them.  But then again these are often the same players that eventually appear to drop off the face of the earth if and when such associations end.  One decision for players is whether they want to take a major risk of delegating such an important part (clubfitting) of their golf game or whether they want to dedicate themselves to learning clubfitting as though it is a mandatory requirement of learning about the physical and psychological elements of their golf swing performance (which it truly is).

Know that if and when one develops an efficient golf swing and then develops expected confidence in that swing, at that point one’s golf swing essentially becomes clubfitting.  And putting one’s golf swing in the hands of today’s clubfitting industry that continues to use impertinent and dysfunctional processes like the grip-on-a-stick method or similar to choose golf grip size based on one’s hand size and the stand-at-attention clubfitting ruler for choosing golf club length is not something I would recommend for any level golfer.  The golf swing and game that one may have worked so hard on to improve can easily be put into a state of regression or destruction through the use of such unqualified processes.  I do not care if a given golfer is breaking par every day.  If he/she believes these are good fundamental clubfitting practices, then he/she does not have a very deep understanding of either golf swing or clubfitting performance, serious underlying issues that may (or may not) catch up with and obstruct any further improvement by the golfer at some point.  A judgment regarding whether to utilize a so-called professional clubfitter (and if so whom) can be a critical choice that can ultimately affect one’s golf game development far more than any swing instructor or method chosen to help develop one’s golf swing.

There can always be general exceptions to using the clubfitting trade even in its current state of inadequacy, particularly if a given clubfitting establishment might have certain devices or components to try out that may be impractical to obtain on an individual level.  For instance, even a tour-level golfer may find it unwise to first spend money on a pricey launch monitor and then have to learn how to operate it when the end result might well be an adjustment of the golfer’s driver loft by only one degree.  As I have already stated, the better the “pre-launch-monitor-use” knowledge of clubfitting to begin with, the less of an impact such a device will have on the final outcome.  Yet it may still be intriguing for the golfer to visit a clubfitting facility to test a launch monitor even if it might not be wise to personally own one.  A similar situation might exist for some lavishly-priced golf shafts or other components, where few individual golfers may personally spend such an amount for a single golf shaft to experiment with, yet many golfers might still be curious to swing with one at a clubfitting establishment.

The important thing to remember here, and what makes all the difference in the world, is how much or how little pre-existing clubfitting knowledge one has before even entering such an establishment.  The more and the more accurate the clubfitting knowledge one has upon entering, the less of a chance there will naturally be to blindly accept any poor clubfitting advice (irregardless of how inadvertent such advice might be).  The less one has in the way of applicable clubfitting knowledge upon entering, the greater the chance that such circumstance will conclude with a monumental clubfitting failure.  Taking into account what (and why) I have explained about the golf club fitting industry categorically being the worst in all of sports (bred from golfers) and golfers categorically presuming they are athletes (because they are able to play golf) when overall they are not (some bred into clubfitters), there is perhaps no better exemplification of the old saying of the blind leading the blind when typical clubfitters and typical golfers work together on clubfitting.  If analyzing the situation in this manner and since the number of golfers is exponentially greater than the number of clubfitters and clubfitting teachers (one choice per individual), it could be argued that the deepest roots of the problem(s) with the clubfitting industry (as well as the swing-teaching industry if one happens to believe there is a problem[s] there as well) really comprise the golfers themselves and not their “representatives” that try to perform and/or teach clubfitting.

Now I have predominantly referenced more serious players in my discussion thus far today, but this can be readily reduced in detail for more casual players by more simply associating better clubfitting with lowering one’s score and resultantly having more fun (these are universal concepts for all golfers whether they are beginners or tour players).  But even in simplifying certain details, other details remain extremely basic, and it is very important to not judge the competency of the golf club fitting industry just by the broad generalized premise that the industry can lower one’s average golf score without trying to seek out more quantitative information than that.  For example, if one’s average score is reduced by three strokes per round via clubfitting and it can be absolutely determined by a circumstantial analysis that a reduction of three strokes is the most that can be achieved, then the industry should be commended.  If, though, it can be absolutely determined that a six-stroke reduction per round could have been achieved under the same circumstances, then one should not be so quick to commend the clubfitting industry anymore.

Now such absolute figures of average stroke reduction may never be possible.  However, I can authoritatively detail the many poor processes the clubfitting industry continues to routinely use, explain exactly how to correct them, and with this information work out some informed conclusions regarding how much better the clubfitting trade overall could and should be on a consistent basis.  I can then draw some further educated conclusions based upon this knowledge.  One of these conclusions is that, even though many golfers’ scores may show some improvement after a clubfitting session, most of these golfers likely remain (justifiably) unsatisfied in that they sense through their play that they were not helped by the clubfitter and/or clubfitting program as much as they might have been, with another sense that trying it again would just produce similar results.

The poorer the general performance of any given service trade, the more important it is for “customers” of that trade to acquire as much experience and proper knowledge of the field as possible if the customers are to obtain a competent level of success.  And at this point in time the golf club fitting industry overall is about as poor as it can get.  Yet it is an industry whose success and efficiency is imperative for the future health and growth of golf.  Based on these statements, while a high degree of correct clubfitting knowledge is obviously necessary in order to be successful at self-clubfitting, an even higher degree of correct clubfitting knowledge may be necessary when dealing with an unknown clubfitter if one wants to potentially avoid a complete clubfitting disaster given the current general state of the clubfitting trade.

In addition to the points raised today, I have recently discussed that checking the fit of your golf club(s) and adjusting if necessary is essentially an ongoing process that should be repeated again and again (at intervals that can vary widely for reasons including but not limited to how much your swing and/or body is changing and at what rate[s]).  Aside from potentially saving time and money in the long run by learning to perform as much of this task(s) on your own, you may also eliminate a common frustration of being fit by different clubfitters over time who can easily have very inconsistent ideas and procedures regarding how to fit golf clubs to you (unless you use the same clubfitter your entire life).  With these aspects in mind and although I have already discussed certain club “making” tasks that go hand in hand with many club “fitting” tasks, I feel compelled to add a little more clubmaking information next for reference purposes that I have yet to address and that I feel is important to add based on where this post title sequence has been and where it is going.

For another bit of supplemental clubmaking information regarding shaft and clubhead decisions for test golf clubs, I believe I have yet to specifically note that both shafts and clubheads can have tip/hosel diameters that are different from one another, even when staying just within men’s components and just within parallel-tip shaft types for example.  I have discussed certain elements of taper-tip versus parallel-tip shafts at length already including that each shaft type has a different tip-end design/diameter.  But even within each shaft type, tip designs and/or diameters may vary.  During any given period of time there may be what is considered a “standard” tip design for each type, but technology is constantly changing and the standard might not be the same a few years from now as it is today.  So I will not even list here what the most common shaft tip diameters are in use today.  Just be aware of these potential differences as being quite normal and (hopefully) in the name of progress if investigating available shafts for use in making test clubs.

Similarly, clubheads may also have varying bore sizes to accommodate different shaft tip designs and diameters, so this is another element that one must at least be aware of when choosing components to work with.  I used to purchase components extensively from the GolfWorks that Ralph Maltby founded and developed, and among them were clubheads billed as having “universal” hosels in that they were made in such a way that they would accept either taper-tip or parallel-tip shafts without modification, a clever offering back when parallel-tip shafts were still somewhat novel and taper-tip shafts were still utilized noticeably more than they are today.  I do not know if such clubheads are still available, as it has been years since I have looked at and ordered such items.  Despite the fact that I have presented and must continue to prove that numerous theories and practices within Maltby’s works are incorrect, I acknowledge here that I probably would not know many of the things I have learned to date if not for the customer-oriented policies and services of the GolfWorks when I purchased extensively from the company, and I will always be thankful for that.

Having mentioned that, I will now note here that mismatched golf shafts and clubheads are assembled all the time (within prudent limits) and done so very safely and effectively when perfect matches are not available.  As an example, I am still hitting a driver that has a steel taper-tip shaft installed into a parallel-bored metal wood head, for which a metal shim was made to wrap around the shaft tip before installation into the clubhead hosel to make sure all of the epoxied parts fit together to my satisfaction when assembling them.  I am still hitting that driver quite a bit for at least ten years now.  And even when perfect matches are available, tolerances in shaft tip diameters and/or clubhead hosel borings can sometimes necessitate a modification(s) anyhow before the components will fit together safely and effectively.