Buy clubs with a high-tech advantage

Pros of my era had to make do with a primitive form of club-fitting. Those of us who lasted long enough eventually got to experience a high-tech version of it. We went from one extreme to the other.

When I turned pro in the 1970s, getting your gear in order was a matter of luck and feel. We had True Temper shafts with a Dynamic Gold stiffness rating—everything else was a mystery. Any time you set a new club down or gave it a waggle your senses would go into overdrive. How did it feel?How did every edge and angle look to your eye?All you had were your instincts. These days I go through one session with the TaylorMade club-fitting crew and come out with a spot-on set of clubs.

I made a statement once that 90 percent of all golfers play with clubs that don’t fit them. That was before I signed with TaylorMade and went through their testing and fitting program. Now I would estimate it’s 99 percent. People say, “I’m not good enough to need fitted clubs.” They see a new set on the display rack, it’s all lovely and shiny, and they figure it’s got to be good.

In the early days I had a trick for testing driver shafts. I would loosen up on the practice tee then start hitting two-iron shots. When the two-irons were flying perfectly, I would grab the first driver and swing. If the ball flew just like my two-iron shots—plus a little height and carry—then that driver was a keeper. If not, it was the club’s fault, because when two-irons are going well your golf swing is where it should be.

The three-wood was the trickiest club to fit yourself for. Probably because it’s the longest club that you strike the ground with. That combination seems to put the biggest demand on the shaft.

I also used to regrip my own clubs, right there in the garden shed with a can of petrol to wet down the tape and dissolve it, so it would stick. The job took forever, because I used cord grips and I had to get the cords lined up just right. What a mess that all was. Once it was finished I took pains to make the grips last as long as possible. I would wash them religiously to get the dirt and oils out, and when I practiced I would hit even-numbered irons on even days and odd-numbered irons on odd days, to make sure the grips wore evenly.

But as I say, much has changed. Nowadays, getting gear that fits you is a high-tech process that is no-mess and no-guess. Any keen golfer who’s been putting it off should bite the bullet and get himself custom-fit.