By varying the shaft length and lie angles of the clubs you try, the fitter ultimately determines the best match. He or she will then have you hit clubs with different shaft flexes, to optimize the trajectory, feel and distance of your shots. In addition, some fitting carts and facilities now have high-tech launch monitors that instantly measure the ball velocity, spin rate and launch angle of the shots you hit. Combined with the fitter's eye, this information helps assure an excellent fit.
You as the fittee don't need to concern yourself with any more of the technical aspects of the fitting than you want to, but there are a few things you can do beforehand to improve the process. First, come up with a list (even if only a mental list) of your most common mis-hits—hook, slice, push, pull, fat, thin, whatever—and do some realistic thinking about what your primary objective is in buying new clubs. For example, you may decide that because of your home-course setup, it's critically important to hit the ball from right to left, or you may decide that you want accuracy more than distance, or vice versa, or to hit the ball consistently low under the wind, or high to hold elevated greens. A good fitting can help you achieve these goals.
Second, it helps to be at least a little familiar with the process and with the different club models marketed by the manufacturer you have chosen. During the fitting itself, a lot of information will be coming at you fast.
Third, warm up well before the fitting begins so that the swings you take under the fitter's eye will be smooth and relatively natural—and once you begin, don't try to game it. Some golfers swing harder during fittings than they normally do in an effort, even unconsciously, to "impress" the fitter; others swing with exaggerated smoothness and timidity in a misguided effort to be precise. As much as possible, try to swing as you would during a regular round. It can be frustrating during fittings if you aren't swinging consistently or if you cannot form opinions when the fitter asks which of two only marginally different clubs feels "better," but do the best you can. Fitters know how to compensate because they have seen it all before.
When ordering custom-made clubs, you're under no obligation to purchase an entire, traditional complement of irons. This makes custom fitting the perfect opportunity to consider altering your set makeup. Most golfers will be better off junking a few of their notoriously hard-to-hit long irons for lofted woods or some of the new hybrids. These clubs, because they have centers of gravity that are lower and farther back, are far easier to hit high and straight than are comparable long irons that supposedly send the ball the same distance. Better players who decide to stick with all irons should consider ordering versions of the long irons with extra game-improvement features, as even many Tour pros are now doing. At the other end of the set, assess your wedges. Top players now routinely carry three and even four wedges, spaced to hit the ball in ten- to fifteen-yard intervals between sixty and 125 yards. You may have to drop a longer club to keep within the fourteen-club limit, but the gain in precision with your wedges will be worth it.
Who benefits most from custom fitting?
As a general rule, the better you are as a player, the more you will value having a well-fitted set of clubs. The main reason is that low handicappers are more consistent. A wacky, erratic swing is going to send the golf ball flying into the woods no matter how well fitted the club. Balls hit with a sound, repeatable swing, on the other hand, will fly pretty much the same way every time—straight, if the club is well fitted, but consistently right, left, too high or too low if the club is poorly fitted. Good players using ill-fitted clubs often end up compensating by developing foul swings, which hurt their games over the long haul and limit their potential.