The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Twenty-Seven

Now in saying that one might currently put more of an emphasis on looking for the playing credentials of a clubfitter over school-taught credentials if needing to utilize the services of an outside clubfitter, I am certainly not suggesting that all good golfers are good clubfitters, because a large percentage of them are horrible at it.  As noted, learning clubfitting in its most natural order occurs best after learning how to swing well and developing good confidence in that swing.  And many golfers, even very good golfers, just never make such a complete journey.  As I believe I disclosed earlier, there can be a multitude of reasons for this.  Off-the-rack clubs may be good enough for some players to win with and in such cases perhaps these players cannot really be blamed for not getting into clubfitting very much, because learning clubfitting well can be considerably more demanding both physically and mentally than learning how to swing well.  In other cases golf professionals including PGA members might be so busy teaching swing lessons and/or managing shops as examples that such business concerns just do not allow the time for learning and/or implementing clubfitting the way it really needs to be learned and implemented.  Or a good golfer may just not be interested in clubfitting.

Some reasons for good golfers not knowing clubfitting well are understandable, like never being taught the subject effectively by an entity that may certify these golfers as being all-around skilled golf professionals.  Some reasons are not so understandable.  In situations where such golfers do need clubfitting help, they become subject to the same risk(s) as beginner golfers that do not know clubfitting, having insufficient clubfitting knowledge to know whether a clubfitter is good or bad.  But again, the classroom-type certifications currently available from the commercialized clubfitting trade as a whole are based on multiple incorrect theories and practices to begin with, and then often deformed further by clubfitters having inadequate actual golfing experience.  Thus, finding a clubfitter to work or consult with that has become a good-enough golfer at some point during his/her life to hopefully know clubfitting better than much of the garbage still being taught in school-like settings might slightly increase the odds of getting a better fit over having to contend with a Mr. Credulous Clubfitter.

So it is hardly a guarantee due to the number of various factors involved.  But until the commercialized clubfitting industry is able to straighten itself out (and again if and when that happens I will let it be known where one can go for competent clubfitting services), one might place more of an emphasis on looking for a posting of a clubfitter’s lowest score(s) achieved (absolute scoring, as one can “hide” a lesser talent level behind a handicap index), some type of playing ability test passed, or any other indications of actual playing accomplishments rather than credentials obtained in a school-type setting.

In dissecting the school-like setting more, this would be the unnatural order of learning clubfitting.  As I stated earlier, if not done perfectly in every way this setting can easily result in a product/service that is anything but effective clubfitting by the time taught information filters through a student that may be little more than a golf groupie wanting to be involved in the game for whatever reason(s), but having insufficient experience at actually golfing (and/or other relevant activities) and never playing golf at a level that one might reasonably anticipate of a so-called professional clubfitter.  I will cut right through some of the nonsense perpetrated by the organized clubfitting trade (such as it is) to date, where this trade will commonly presuppose a pairing of a very skilled clubfitter with a beginner Mr. Gullible Golfer, and from that premeditation essentially try to propagate that any so-called professional clubfitter will always know more about clubfitting than any golfer under any circumstances.  This is pure rhetoric and to determine the real truth some apples-to-apples analyses really need to be made.

Under circumstances where a poorly-taught and inexperienced so-called professional clubfitter (Mr. Credulous Clubfitter) is paired with an insufficiently-experienced golfer (Mr. Gullible Golfer), it is reasonable to conclude that the clubfitter in such a pairing will usually know more about golf club fitting than the golfer, even if what Mr. Credulous Clubfitter knows in the way of proper clubfitting is extremely minimal.  But this is not exactly a situation that can accurately define whether so-called professional clubfitters or golfers possess greater clubfitting knowledge within each collective group.  Nor is it a situation that can accurately define how skilled so-called professional clubfitters and the clubfitting trade are as a whole.

At the other extreme is a very conscientious, school-taught professional clubfitter (so-called professional clubfitters are often defined by any school-taught credentials the clubfitter might have) being paired up with a very skilled golfer.  This golfer knows his/her swing better than anyone else, has good confidence in that swing, knows how to fit golf clubs to his/her swing and golf game through considerable time and effort working at being the best golfer he/she can be, and may for instance want to try out one or more specific components that the clubfitter has but the golfer does not.  In this situation it is rather preposterous to think that the so-called professional clubfitter by diploma or certificate through a school-taught environment (even with added experience) would typically know more about clubfitting than a performing golfer of such skill.  It is just not reasonable to conclude that even the best school-taught clubfitters that know clubfitting as well as it can be realistically taught in such a setting know clubfitting better than the best golfers that know clubfitting well.  This higher-end situation, where both parties have higher respective skill levels, is far more relevant if one wants to make a single, broad determination of which party is generally more skilled at clubfitting, or at least which party should be more responsible and accountable for the best fitting of golf clubs to the golfer.  I will give you a little hint as to the answer.  It is not the clubfitter.

Now let me qualify this more by stating that I am referring to the knowing of sound, foundational clubfitting principles and practices that use as few extraneous devices as reasonably necessary beyond a golfer’s knowledge and inherent senses to implement, yet still be implemented masterfully.  I am not referring to the usage and operation of glitzy, high-end, supplementary (but also superfluous and fundamentally unnecessary) gadgets like launch monitors.  For a golfer already knowing and applying clubfitting well, the subsequent use of such devices commonly results in very minimal (if any) changes to the golfer’s clubs (perhaps a one-degree change in driver loft as an example).  Many highly-skilled golfers still never go near things like launch monitors because of potential device inaccuracies, miscalibrations (some unintentional, many imaginably intentional because of options to “adjust” such devices), and/or other legitimate reasons.  They fit themselves very skillfully and feasibly even better without such devices that can be highly overrated and even disadvantageous with respect to implementing solid fundamental clubfitting.

On the other hand, Mr. Credulous Clubfitter can very easily bungle a clubfitting task on a golfer on an extremely fundamental level even before any launch monitor work is begun.  Knowing this, knowing that in the end it is their responsibility anyhow, and also knowing that it is in their own best interest to learn how to fit golf clubs to themselves well as one part of becoming a complete golfer both physically and mentally, I have noted before that uncounted high-end golfers have their own club making/fitting workshops.  They will generally not hesitate to go elsewhere if needing to use or wanting to try something they do not personally have.  But good golfers knowing clubfitting well usually consider any clubfitting suggestions emanating from such encounters to comprise supplemental advice to certainly consider but not automatically employ at the behest of outside clubfitters (no matter how good) that do not (and should not) know their swings and golf games as well these golfers themselves know such elements.

Noting a couple more elements here that further support the natural order of learning clubfitting well, those that have a greater need or urgency to do something well will usually become more successful at it.  Playing in a competitive environment desiring to win (or desiring not to be embarrassed if one is not playing one’s best or hates to finish second) usually elicits a greater sense of urgency to learn clubfitting well than when working in a classroom setting toward a certificate.  And there are no “secrets” being taught to potential clubfitters, as the same materials used in most classroom settings are generally available to all golfers to procure and analyze if desired.  In fact, golfers often prove or disprove things in the field first (part of the natural order) before such things make their way into the classroom.  Differently, once learned by a competitive golfer, certain clubfitting details may be kept secret particularly during the golfer’s competing days due to the intense competitive nature of the game at very high levels, and even beyond that for various reasons.  I did that, and still do, but now in more of a business arena rather than a physical performance one.  Being unaware of some of these elements, Mr. Credulous Clubfitter (often school taught) naively and often presumptuously thinks he knows clubfitting better than he does, one reason why he is Mr. Credulous Clubfitter.

The natural order of learning clubfitting may seem to not apply or even work in reverse at lower levels of performance quality when Mr. Gullible Golfer comes in and knows even less about clubfitting than Mr. Credulous Clubfitter (which is most often the case but there are always exceptions).  And the clubfitting trade overall sure would like this seeming reversal that places school-taught clubfitters over actual golfers in terms of clubfitting expertise (the unnatural order of clubfitting) to be believed and applied as the universal order of clubfitting without a shred of legitimate evidence to support such a position.  But this is a backward delusion that can never be dominant.  A most competent clubfitter will take a golfer inexperienced at clubfitting, explain to him/her what needs to be known about the process as it unfolds and any test results obtained, and help the golfer make whatever decision(s) is necessary in a role as a clubfitter that is as submissive and supplementary as possible, keeping the critical natural order of clubfitting in tact as much as possible for the best clubfitting results (and the best fitter and golfer relationship).

In plain fact, it is when dealing with inexperienced golfers that it really becomes evident whether the clubfitting trade overall is good or poor.  Many poor clubfitters can still look pretty good when dealing with better players because many better golfers already know what they play well with even if the clubfitter is clueless.  But not when inexperienced golfers are fit.  The clubfitting trade disregards the natural order of learning clubfitting and teaches clubfitting theory and practice in a manner that displays misunderstanding and/or downright disdain toward this simple and very natural order of clubfitting.  The result is very poor fundamental clubfitting theories and practices routinely applied from individual, non-certified garage clubfitters to clubfitters that are certified by this or that entity to the clubfitting programs of the largest club manufacturers and that especially surface when golfers less-skilled at clubfitting are fit for clubs.  The inadequate results this trade has always produced and the accompanying poor reputation are well deserved.

Now there is one more clubfitting character that plays a pretty large part in this great tragedy that needs to be discussed before swinging and clubfitting can begin in earnest.  This would be “Mr. Errant Engineer,” a member of another ongoing faction commonly visible within the golf industry that thinks he knows golf club fitting better than anyone else, but in the end is often among the most misguided (and presumptuous) of all with respect to golf club fitting knowledge.  Mr. Errant Engineer can often be worse than Mr. Gullible Golfer or Mr. Credulous Clubfitter (the same individual can hold more than one of these titles simultaneously) and he has contributed substantially to the problems and poor reputation that have developed regarding the clubfitting industry.

Mr. Errant Engineer often displays a worthy knowledge of engineering with respect certain topics, only the topics very often have nothing to do with swinging a golf club well and/or effective golf club fitting.  Often even more lacking in relevant practical experience than Mr. Gullible Golfer or Mr. Credulous Clubfitter in part just due to occupational differences and goals in general, when Mr. Errant Engineer does not have a proper frame of reference to apply his knowledge to with respect to golf club fitting theories and practices, some very irrelevant (yet amusing) directions can be taken.  Mr. Errant Engineer can be a very valuable asset to golfers, help golfers comprehend certain things that they may not be informed about, and help provide golfers with implements to try to help them play their best golf.  But it is critically important to know that in the overall scheme of things he still plays a supplementary role that does not alter the natural order of learning clubfitting in any way.  In fact, with some of the things that Mr. Errant Engineer often states, this may be the best evidence yet for golfers to clear their heads of such so-called experts and attempt to fit their clubs to themselves just through personal experience until further notice.  Even novice golfers can fit golf clubs to themselves better than when following much of Mr. Errant Engineer’s clubfitting advice.

I suppose my engineering side does sometimes feel dejected (I do have an undergraduate engineering degree that my parents worked awfully hard to pay for) when it has to take some of the orders it does from my golfing side.  But there has never been any kind of internal dispute as to who should give and take the orders when the ultimate goal is to play the very best golf I am able to, not even when I was already a degreed engineer but still a relatively novice golfer.  It is a rather straightforward relationship that is pretty hard to get wrong when considering things as a whole.  If my engineering side did not regularly submit to my golfing side as being the leader and take on a supplementary role, I certainly would never have developed the specific knowledge regarding a golf swing and related equipment fitting that I have.  But despite this essential chain of command, my engineering side still considers itself to be a very grateful part of this specific “team” that would not have come this far without the engineer’s invaluable contributions.

I can assure you in no uncertain terms that it is the golfer that ultimately needs to dictate what specific engineering needs to be accomplished in order to play his/her best and not the engineer that dictates how to swing a golf club and/or fit clubs.  If it did not work this way then the clubfitting industry would operate like, well, it would operate much the way it does right now, not a good indication about the future overall health of the game if this continues.  As an example I point to the development of the advanced waggle weight golf club specification as something that from an engineering standpoint is not that difficult an undertaking, yet an undertaking that would have never been considered and/or addressed by my engineering side if my golfing side did not explain what was wanted and why to my engineering side and order that it be undertaken.

Perhaps nothing represents this situation better then the following example.  There is a PhD type whose work is apparently followed by some in golf, as I occasionally see other people pointing to his work.  The specific name is not worthy of mention here for various reasons including that this particular Mr. Errant Engineer is hardly the only one engaging in material that discloses various engineers’ views on “proper” golf swing and clubfitting fundamentals.  Some have put out complete books containing comparable information and which may have been published at an earlier time.  The believing and following of such information indicates how many Mr. Gullible Golfers and Mr. Credulous Clubfitters there really are, as this Mr. Errant Engineer has publicly displayed deficiencies in the understanding of certain even very rudimentary golf club fitting theories and practices.  I exchanged a couple of e-mails with this individual years ago already, informed him that he was incorrect about something critical with respect to playing golf, and offered him a complimentary copy of an article I wrote a while back, titled Swing With Swingweight (Swing Weight) No More: An Introduction To Waggle Weight, that explains what golf club swingweighting truly is.  The first response I received was one of a know-it-all attitude, never hearing anything back after I sent a second communication.

To really show how sad this current situation is, in the above-mentioned article I noted that swingweighting, and in particular its designed fulcrum point location, tends to be a better fit for better players, so many less-experienced or less-practiced players never get the chance to experience how swingweighting is truly meant to operate in a practical manner.  Perhaps that is fair, perhaps not.  But that is just the way it is.  I also disclosed why this discrepancy exists, although that particular information is not something I will reveal here at this time.  Now like in most things there are always exceptions, and there have been some great golfers for whom swingweighting was/is not really a viable golf club specification.  But when all is said and done, there are not all that many exceptions.  So one could broadly conclude that if a person cannot correctly explain the whys and wherefores of golf club swingweighting, then that person probably never became a decent golfer at any point in his/her life, and more often than not that conclusion would be correct.  But far more importantly, even if the specification does not work for one personally, one really has no business calling oneself a clubfitter or clubfitting educator if one cannot capably dissect how this extremely elementary and long-proven golf club specification works for most competent golfers.

Now most of you have probably experienced events like I have, where something is learned in school in more of a theoretical manner, even doing well on the test covering the material, but then it is quickly forgotten about, moving on to new material and left wondering why in the world you were ever taught that.  But then years later you have a more practical experience with something and eventually it dawns on you that you learned about how that works way back in school.  Well this obviously happens to people having PhD or other higher education degrees just like the rest of us, because in referencing this Mr. Errant Engineer’s work and what he states about swingweighting and MOI (Moment of Insanity) golf club matching, it is quite obvious that he has never experienced swingweighting in a practical manner in the way in which it works for most better and more experienced golfers.  Resultantly, he has no accurate frame of reference whatsoever to apply his theoretical engineering knowledge to.  This is rather tragic for the golf industry in general when such content is displayed by someone purported to be an expert in the field when he is clearly not, and even more tragic for all of the individual Mr. Gullible Golfers and Mr. Credulous Clubfitters that blindly abide by such content.

This is just one of several poor clubfitting aspects openly presented by this individual that can take a golfer’s game (of any skill level) backward in a hurry if following such advice, much of which has its roots in believing that swinging at and hitting an object that just sits still is more difficult than really is (again a frame of reference issue).  An industry that is populated throughout with people that generally do not have an amount of athletic performing and/or related equipment-fitting experience that is in line with what might be expected from an industry that attempts to call its game a sport that is played by athletes is one potential reason for such an ongoing issue.  Although hardly the only issue, record numbers of golfers have left the game during the period that more or less coincides with the existence of this work, and the continued existence of such works by such Mr. Errant Engineers may to continue to persuade more golfers to leave the game until such errant information is corrected.

This solid and deep foundational base that includes the natural order of learning golf club fitting on the intellectual side along with physical aspects surrounding the effective construction of test clubs, will if learned well serve as a strong foundation for not only the following specific testing but also for subsequent topics to be discussed.  Results will be best, understood best, and appreciated best with this foundation firmly in place.  It shall hopefully serve one well toward keeping one’s focus on what needs to be done and provide some wisdom to better know what to believe and ignore from the likes of Mr. Gullible Golfer, Mr. Credulous Clubfitter, Mr. Errant Engineer, or from a cast of other golfing “authorities” like “Mr. Sophisticated Swing Scholar, Mr. Merry Manufacturer Marketer, Mr. Forum Fanatic, or Mr. Prominent Press.”  And with that, testing can begin.