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Club Fitting Demystified

How the pros get fitted
All the big-name manufacturers bend over backward to insure that when their clubs are in the hands of the world's best players, they are as perfectly matched to that player's swing as possible. The manufacturers' representatives who follow the Tour each week tweak and retweak clubs to a fare-thee-well, but the biggest strides in fitting take place at the companies' test centers, such as those that TaylorMade, Titleist and Callaway operate in Carlsbad, California. On any day at these facilities, which are not open to the public, you are likely to see name-brand stars testing clubs and balls, many still in prototype.

One of the latest trends at these high-tech centers is matching a player's clubs, especially his driver, to the ball he uses. Over time the companies have figured out precisely which combination of ball spin rate, initial velocity and launch angle will result in maximum distance, but it varies slightly for each ball. The Titleist Pro V1, for instance, will travel farthest when it leaves a driver's clubhead on a trajectory between ten degrees and fourteen degrees while spinning at between 2,500 and 3,500 revolutions per minute. A good fitter using a launch monitor, which records these stats for every shot, can determine which clubhead loft matched with which shaft flex will generate numbers within those ranges for each player. That same club in the hands of the same player, however, may not produce the best results for a Callaway ball or a Wilson ball, and so a different club would be prescribed.

For Tour pros who swing with a consistency recreational players can only dream about, driver-ball fittings cannot be too high-tech or too precise. As handicaps rise, having your driver custom fitted to your ball approaches irrelevance—most of us, certainly, will not have our rounds ruined if in a pinch we have to use Ball A instead of Ball B. The best players, however, should consider arranging such a fitting—especially since the process is fun to go through.

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