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Club Fitting Demystified

Getting custom fitted for golf clubs is one of those things, like flossing, that most of us know we ought to do, but for some reason many of us don't. With flossing, our perverse negligence persists despite twice-yearly exhortations from our dentists and bountiful free samples of floss. Similarly with custom fitting, the vast majority of us have never submitted to the process, even though doing so may take as little as thirty extra minutes and usually doesn't add even a nickel to the cost of new clubs.

Secretly, I suspect, we're dubious about the benefits. Regarding flossing we figure, sure, in the distant future our gums may rot, but for now our teeth have no trouble tearing into porterhouse steaks, so why bother?With custom fitting we acknowledge the possibility of some subtle benefits somewhere down the road, but we also know we're going to have fun hitting whichever shiny new clubs we buy, and we'd simply rather spend our time playing than off in some pro shop getting confused by concepts like lie angle and flex point that we only dimly understand. Custom fitting seems complicated. Where do we even begin?So most of us don't.

To be honest, most golfers won't see their games instantly and radically transformed by custom fitting. Yes, there are a few golfers out there currently saddled with grotesquely ill-suited equipment who will see immediate benefits. For them, the swings that produce their best shots will not be the same quirky swings that produced good shots with their old equipment but rather far more natural-feeling swings, and the feedback loop from such wonderful shots will soon bring about more consistency. Even for some of us now using only marginally ill-fitting clubs, similar improvement will happen over time. But in the short term, for the majority of golfers, not much happens. That's because for typical golfers with typical swings the best-fitting clubs won't differ all that much from the standard clubs sold in pro shops, which they probably already have in their bags. Over the years, manufacturers have learned a few things. The standard clubs they market are least-common-denominator products, ingeniously designed, like network TV shows, to have the greatest possible chance of working acceptably well for the greatest number of people. That doesn't make them inferior; in fact, the quality and craftsmanship of most clubs for sale these days is dramatically better than it was even a decade ago. But it does suggest that richer satisfaction awaits anyone willing to expend a little effort to get optimally fit rather than accept the approximate fit of off-the-rack clubs. And until you go through the process, it's impossible to know if properly fitted clubs will help you a lot or just a little.

As a bonus, the process of being custom fitted is itself rewarding. When you work with a competent fitter, you can't help but pick up a few insights into why your inimitable swing sometimes produces the screwy shots that it does and probably a useful tip or two about how to correct it. You'll also learn much that is interesting about golf clubs in general and how they are designed to work their best. Once you have your new clubs, you'll know that the tools in your hand are the best they can be for you, and that confidence never hurts. The only real downside is that you can't blame your bad rounds on your clubs anymore.

Still, the intimidation factor remains: Most golfers who have never been custom fitted, and even some who have been, are put off by the process because there seem to be so many factors involved and because the jargon can quickly pile up knee-deep. For this article we have talked to expert fitters, club makers, pros and average players with an eye toward boiling the process down to its essence. The truth is that getting custom fitted is a lot simpler, and often also a lot more interesting, than most golfers think. There really isn't any reason not to do it.

STEP 1
Select a Manufacturer

A common nightmare vision of custom fitting is that it begins with a slew of measurements and analyses—arm length, hand size, swing style, body type, brain-wave rhythm, whatever—and then casts the fittee adrift on the high seas of the golf market to find the appropriate matching club for himself. This would indeed be a horror, worse than having to pick out clothes for your wife. You could begin this way, by getting measured, but the problem is there's little consistency in standards from one club maker to the next; one degree upright for company A may be two degrees flat for company B, and so forth. So the sounder approach is to first decide which manufacturer to buy your clubs from, and only after that submit to the actual custom-fitting part of being custom fitted.

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