The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Thirty-Two

Keeping all of the elements discussed to this point firmly in mind, only a few select details remain to be discussed before one can begin a clubfitting session that is truly worthy of what one’s golf swing deserves no matter what talent level one’s swing is currently at.  Of paramount importance, know that this primary testing deals in direct golf swing performance without regard to any ball travel results (that comes later).  And a critical part of this primary testing involves golf club swingweighting.  Now while the technical aspects of swingweighting will be examined in its own post title later, there are some non-technical, humanistic elements regarding this club specification that need to be briefly discussed or defined here and understood before testing begins.  Swingweight (or swing weight), as its very name implies, concerns how well one is swinging a golf club.  In its broadest sense, it is about whether one is swinging with a well-coordinated motion like that of an efficiently operating machine or swinging like an uncoordinated oaf (which happens to every golfer on the planet, no matter how talented, when certain golf club specifications are not fit well to the golfer [though this may not be easily observable if just casually observing one’s swing]).  Swingweight is about making a golf swing that allows one to achieve the maximum clubhead speed one is able to at whatever current level of golf swing ability one has.

Swingweight is also about making a golf swing where one is best able to control the golf swing being made.  By control I do not simply mean swinging right along a target line as might be indicated by swing or launch monitor results.  Control means that if one wants to intentionally swing on an out-to-in path or an in-to-out path, on a steeper or shallower angle as any given swing might call for, if one wants to fully release the clubhead or not as desired during a swing, and far more, one can achieve these things in a most efficient manner with one’s golf swing.  There are many people that will say golf is a game of “sacrifices,” whereby if one wants to obtain one’s greatest clubhead speed one will have to give up some accuracy and vice versa.  This is fundamentally nonsense with respect to both pure golf swing and equipment fitting performance.  A well-coordinated golf swing and an ideally fit golf club to that swing will permit both one’s maximum clubhead speed and maximum clubhead control of the club jointly with no “sacrifices” needed.  Both clubhead speed and control will suffer (although often at different rates depending on exactly what has changed) when the fit of the club becomes less than ideal in any way for the golfer’s swing.

Swingweight is not about achieving the best club/ball contact as checked with the use of impact tape on a clubhead as just one example.  As I have previously explained, one that is truly skilled at knowing golf swing performance (ideally supplemented by knowing general athletic performance as well) and related equipment fitting can help one achieve better club/ball contact even as one’s golf swing itself becomes more uncoordinated and inefficient (and vise versa).  By now you are hopefully learning well through Waggle Weight Wisdom™ that one’s golf swing performance is one’s golf swing performance and one’s ball travel result is one’s ball travel result, with no exclusive link between the two and each needing to be wisely attended to in steps that are separate.  Swingweight is not about some sense of shaft flexing at isolated places like the start of one’s forward swing for instance (although certain golfing circumstances can make shaft flex seem more influential of golf swing performance than it actually is, which I will discuss more later).  The untrue yet still-rampant old wives’ tale (or “old golfers’ tale”) that associates one’s swingweight value with one’s shaft flex, which lacks rather simple logic and displays a continuing lack of knowledge of foundational swingweighting, continues to stink up the overall performance and reputation of the clubfitting trade, and rightly so.  How this can possibly continue to be taught and listened to is extremely enlightening about the golf industry in general and the clubfitting trade more specifically, and I will elaborate more on this later also.  Swingweighting is about the core coordination and efficiency of one’s golf swing performance.

More regarding what constitutes one’s best golf swing motion (or a different way[s] to describe or define it) is distinctly planned for Waggle Weight Wisdom™ a little later, as addressing that here would require getting deeper into certain topics that would go too far off the current root topic too much.  But I refer you here to the previous Waggle Weight Wisdom™ sequence of Decoding One’s True Golf Swing DNA if not previously familiar with that work.  Very briefly, it describes one’s true golf swing DNA as only existing and determinable when one is swinging without any golf club or other substitute device in hand.  This is the only way that a theoretically perfectly-fitting golf club is consistently available for each and every golf swing made by a golfer and the only way to determine what one’s true golf swing DNA comprises.  Traditional golf grips like the overlapping and interlocking styles make such a process realistically achievable and quite efficient, and in fact accomplishing this process is precisely the reason that such golf grip styles have developed in the first place.  Anyone contending differently, including but hardly limited to stating that such gripping styles are implemented because a golf swing is difficult to perform, has no idea what he/she is talking about and needs to be reeducated, as that statement is categorically untrue and believing it can lead to believing other untrue old golfers’ tales.

Thereafter, fitting a golf club to one’s true golf swing DNA comprises replicating one’s true swing DNA motion with any given golf club in hand.  This process of clubfitting to one’s golf swing is truly what it says it is and nothing like the typical clubfitting trade’s current process of “saying” that a golf club is being fit to one’s swing when the club is actually being fit in accordance with launch monitor results.  At best that is a very indirect and superficial way of trying to determine how well one is actually swinging.  It is often done without a peep about one’s actual golf swing performance by either the clubfitter or golfer.  This is a situation that clearly defines how tragically poor the clubfitting trade overall continues to be as of the date of this particular posting.

Next is to find an appropriate area to test at.  This could be done at a driving range for example while actually hitting golf balls, or it may be done right in one’s own backyard with no need for any golf ball, just picking out a spot where a golf ball is desired and performing one’s golf swing about that simulated golf ball.  I have done each extensively through the years based on the cumulative circumstances surrounding each clubfitting session.  There are pros and cons to each.  Rarely is it disadvantageous to hit real golf balls to help improve one’s golf game.  The real impact of golf clubs and golf balls will help improve the strength of muscles involved toward making a stronger golf swing, and hitting real golf balls comprises an underlying practicing of one’s hand-eye coordination, even if there is some other outward purpose for why the swinging is being done.  Neither of these critical attributes can be worked on when swinging without hitting real golf balls.  During clubfitting sessions like the following that deal with pure golf swing performance, however, one must be disciplined enough to completely ignore the results of ball contact and travel (elements that will be considered after actual swing performance is addressed first and then maintained).  Ignoring ball travel results can be learned well provided one learns the causes and effects of the appropriate elements involved and believes in what one is doing.

To exemplify, one could swing a golf club having a lie angle that is so upright, with the toe of the clubhead so far off the ground, that one might naturally address and hit golf balls quite toward the clubhead hosel, potentially producing some horrible ball contact and travel results.  Yet if certain other club specifications fit one’s swing well (including but not limited to swingweight), one can still swing superbly despite such horrible ball travel results.  The last thing one wants to do in such a case (unless one is an incompetent clubfitter) is to alter a given golf club specification such that one’s swinging performance gets worse, even if the change results in better ball contact and/or travel results with the otherwise unaltered club.  That would be extremely poor clubfitting protocol, yet it is very common protocol for the clubfitting trade that currently routinely considers the best ball travel result on the surface to mechanically equate with the best swing performance.  That is a pretty high level of clubfitting ignorance and some awfully funny clubfitting specifications are often recommended via such clubfitting protocol.  (Solid scientific reasoning can be applied to help determine which golf club specifications should be fit earlier and later, and this will also be discussed later on).  Such inept clubfitting protocol has actually become more prevalent with the more widespread use of launch monitors in recent years, contributing to many, many gofers (of all playing abilities) looking and playing worse than they really are and feasibly contributing to the noteworthy number of people that have abandoned the game lately.

So it is absolutely critical to ignore ball travel results during certain clubfitting tasks in order to ultimately obtain the greatest overall clubfitting success.  Now while hitting real golf balls anyhow can be beneficial as stated above, doing so when that specific element is not required can have some drawbacks.  For testing swingweight values for instance, it is commonly more inconvenient to gather up, keep organized, and transport all of the cut strips of lead tape from home to the driving range, with no real advantage obtained (from a clubfitting perspective).  Furthermore, driving range mats can be rather poor at times, curling up to a degree that can easily and unknowingly affect one’s golf swing and also golf club specifications, and the whole mat can move around a little when swinging, not exactly an ideal situation for working on something as crucial as clubfitting.  But hitting directly off the ground if available at the driving range is no bargain either, because a conscientious, constant effort needs to be made to keep all clubs and clubheads tested free from any buildups of grass, dirt, moisture, and the like.  During certain clubfitting tasks, especially of a fine-tuning nature, such added elements can be enough to change clubfitting results.  (Part of clubfitting under ideal conditions, which should always be pursued to the best of one’s ability in order to achieve the best results, should certainly include avoiding wet conditions.  Clubheads that get wet for instance, particularly when longer clubs and/or larger clubheads are involved, can add swingweight value to a club that is more than most people probably realize).

Part of striving for ideal clubfitting conditions also includes searching out level ground to swing from (often easier said then done) or circumstances where one can turn and test from different terrains for comparison purposes if an unlevel lie is all that is available and it is decided that any given terrain may affect one’s golf swing.  Swinging from terrain that is angled to an indeterminate degree could influence one’s golf swing and clubfitting results, and when at the driving range one can be pretty much stuck with the conditions existing at the specific location chosen to test.  I cannot, for instance, turn oppositely and hit golf balls into the street to verify any given clubfitting result if the range location I am at is not very level (or even just swing in that direction without a hitting a golf ball due to people commonly being in proximity to that area of the range grounds).  But if clubfitting in one’s own yard absent unnecessary golf balls for certain clubfitting procedures, then one is generally more easily able to turn around and swing uphill, downhill, or sidehill as desired to validate results when anything less than perfectly level ground is worked from (virtually always), clearly advantageous when performing certain clubfitting procedures.

One does not have to permanently lock oneself into the type of location and condition(s) initially chosen for testing and one can evolve over time based on one’s circumstances.  Such evolution, whether by voluntary choice or forced circumstances, can ultimately contribute to one’s depth of knowledge and confidence in one’s golf swing and clubfitting ability.  When clubfitting at home, I used to work more on the grass, but I usually had to change into my golf shoes for more secure footing (this should not typically be done for common-sense reasons where one’s spikes cannot penetrate the ground surface, including on representative rubber driving range mat styles).  I also frequently had to go stretches without being able to clubfit at all due to rainy periods and resultant unacceptably muddy conditions, the ground was rather unlevel in many spots, often inducing perhaps needless additional swinging, and more.  Fortunately I currently have a reasonably level concrete patio in the yard, and when mounted with a carpet or other suitable substitute where I can swing effectively, I have preferred that setup more in recent years.  Again, I still do a fair share of clubfitting at the range for various reasons, not limited to sometimes testing the same thing with the same club both at home and the range to confirm that I obtain the same clubfitting result under both circumstances.

I recently discussed some pluses and minuses and some potential strategy regarding wearing a golf glove during clubfitting that might help improve the accuracy and/or consistency of one’s clubfitting results and possibly one’s confidence in such results.  Similarly, this information concerning some pros and cons (plausibly I have overlooked one or more others unintentionally) and some potential strategy regarding different clubfitting locations, their typical accompanying conditions, and how one’s true golf swing DNA relates to such conditions, may help augment one’s knowledge of these topics and might help one select a location and/or strategy to best implement any given clubfitting work based upon one’s physical and/or psychological circumstances.

The protocol for the first segment of testing will be to choose any one of the test clubs and begin swinging at the lowest swingweight value of the range chosen (C5 in this case) with the goal of determining whether one is able to make one’s best golf swing(s) at that swingweight value.  When that decision is made, the lead tape required to raise the club’s swingweight to the next sequential value (C6) is firmly applied to the clubhead (in fundamentally the same position as when the tape was originally cut to length so as to minimize potential swingweight value variances) by one’s desired means (discussed a little earlier).  (Subsequent lead tape should be securely applied in a fashion having symmetry to it such that the appropriate tape can later be conveniently accessed and removed).  With the lead tape that should be conveniently available, the amount of time required to increase the test club to the next successive swingweight value should ideally be long enough to catch one’s breath if needed from swinging at the prior swingweight value, yet short enough where the experience of swinging the prior swingweight value is still firmly imprinted in one’s mind for comparison purposes with the next value.

The number of swings made at each swingweight value can vary widely and can range to a minimum of one of course (which I would not really recommend after all the hard work done just to reach this point) to literally a dozen or more depending on exactly what one wants to experience.  Beyond general full swinging, I will often make some swings from different directions or orientations for different perspectives (even from a level working area).  I will also often make swings intended to curve a golf ball one way and then another, swings that can be a little different from a swing to attempt a straight shot and that can offer added clubfitting details to consider for one who ever attempts such shots.  Furthermore, I will also often make swinging motions that include different types of less-than-full swings, all the way down to rather small and subtle chipping strokes.  Here is a decided plus of being able to comprehensively clubfit to one’s true golf swing DNA without the need for hitting actual golf balls, as I generally make more swings and more types of swings under such conditions than I would if I were at the driving range hitting actual golf balls.  For instance, I would rarely hit smaller chip shots on the range in large part because range balls traditionally need to be paid for and one can often make chipping stokes in an unlimited number for free, with or without golf balls, when working at home.

While some of the following will likely be repeated later in a different post, I want to strongly assert here about making less-than-full swings as being a critical component of effective clubfitting.  I introduce a phrase here that is all too common in the thinking of not only golfers in general but also of those working in the golf industry hardly limited to so-called professional clubfitters and golf swing and clubfitting educators.  The phrase is, “thinking with one’s hormones rather than brains,” which can essentially be interpreted as being so fixated on and possessed by the distance one can achieve that one is really not able to see things right in front of one’s nose.  A unfortunate byproduct of this thinking is an incorrect belief that if one is able to get a best clubfit for the fullest, hardest of swings one makes with any given golf club, than all less-than-full swings down to the smallest of chipping strokes will automatically fall in to place with that club and be made with the same best-fit motion as that made with the full swing.  In addition to being the equivalent of illogically saying that one will naturally learn to how to run before one learns how to walk, further proof of how irrational this thinking is can be seen in the club specification of Moment of Inertia (MOI) golf club matching (Moment of Insanity in terms of efficient golf swing performance) that has come and gone a few times over the course of golfing evolution.

In keeping with the thinking with one’s hormones rather than brains statement above, the technicalities of measuring and fitting a golf club’s MOI value (in its “standard” form of being measured about the butt end of a golf club) only ordinarily come into play during the fullest, hardest of swings made (and only then toward the very end of one’s forward swing for whatever benefit that is supposed to provide).  That is the only time and place where a golf club’s technically measured MOI value can potentially be sensed by a golfer for essentially an instant (and even that is highly debatable given golf swing mechanics and MOI technicalities).  But the technical aspects of measuring a golf club’s MOI value do not ordinarily come into play at all for and are completely irrelevant toward normal chipping strokes, because a golf club is just not ordinarily moved and sensed during such strokes (and other types of less-than-full swings) in a way that corresponds to the way a golf club’s Moment of Insanity value is measured.

When analyzing the specification’s technical operation (which I will discuss more later) in combination with instinctive golf swing mechanics normally generated by golfers, resulting in the specification not even being applicable to chipping strokes and other types of less-than-full swings), MOI supporters are at the very least implying that the smallest, most subtle golf strokes are not nearly as important as full swings and/or that the precise fit of one’s golf clubs is not nearly as important for the smallest, most subtle golf strokes as it is for full swings.

I urge one to learn from this debacle created by certain segments of the clubfitting trade (a debacle that displays a very poor understanding of golf club fitting [and related golf swing performance] by the very trade that is supposed to help golfers with clubfitting) to help assure that this particular embarrassing history does not continue to repeat itself again.  Learn well that the smallest strokes made, as the foundation for all larger strokes, are equally if not more important than the largest strokes from both root swinging and clubfitting perspectives.  The correct fundamental reasoning that is derived from one’s brains and not hormones is that the smaller strokes form the foundation for the larger ones and the smaller ones need to be performed ably first or there is no valid place to go from there.  The larger swings are simply extensions of the smaller, more basic swings with added swing segments that need to be coordinated ably beyond the smaller swings.  Thus, performing some smaller swings when fitting certain golf club specifications (not limited to swingweight), even among clubs that one would not usually be expected to swing in such a manner like one’s driver (though small strokes certainly can be played with such a club), can be extremely beneficial toward expert clubfitting.