You’ve finally decided to ditch your hand-me-down set of clubs for a new set, or you’re just not getting the results you expected out of your current clubs. So you’ve decided to book a club fitting with your local instructor.
Wise choice. While hitting demo clubs at your local golf retail outlet or attending a Demo Day are great ways to “kick the tires,” I highly recommend that you do an actual fitting with your instructor. He or she knows your swing tendencies and will better align the equipment to where your swing is currently at and where they envision it going. They’ll be able to fit you to a set of clubs that matches your swing, flexibility and strength, and put you in a set that you’ll be happy with for years to come.
As you get ready to go through the club-fitting process, here are a few things you should know:
Fitting for a Full Set is a Multi-Day Endeavor
My custom-fitting process at Bull’s Bridge Golf Club begins with getting you fit for your set of irons and driver. Once the new equipment has arrived, we’ll head to the range to assess how far you’re hitting your driver, your longest iron and pitching wedge. When we go through a custom-fitting, we have you hit a 7-iron; thus, we have no idea how far it is you hit your longest and shortest irons. That is why it’s imperative to continue the fitting in the second meeting, because we need to make sure the gaps between each club are appropriate.
We call this “gap fitting,” and once we find out the distance variation between your driver and longest iron, we can fit your hybrids and fairway woods so that we don’t have any redundancies or yardage gaps that are too large.
Many of today’s sets have stronger-lofted pitching wedges of 42, 43 or 44 degrees, so many players are opting for gap wedges of 48 or 50 degrees. The sand wedge and lob wedge need to be relatable to the gap wedge, so we try and make the change in loft consistent. It is not uncommon for people to carry three additional wedges of 48, 54 and 60 degrees, or 50, 54 and 58 degrees.
It is important not to rush through this process and thoughtfully create the set of clubs so they make sense. Far too many times I hear students tell me they have longer clubs that are hit the same distance or they have huge gaps between their wedges. You don’t want to be buying new clubs every year. Take the time to do it correctly!!!
You’re Going to Hit a Lot of Balls
Generally, a fitter will start with your 7-iron and test the lie and length of the club. (The lie angle is the angle the shaft goes into the hosel.) Then the fitter will have you hit clubs with varying lie angles and lengths until he finds the correct setup for your swing. He or she will use tape on the sole of the club to assess the lie angle, and also on the face to assess the length. Then it is onto picking the correct shaft. This again will require many swings.
After the data is acquired by the fitter, you’ll be asked to hit similar-style clubs from different vendors and then provide your feedback—the shaft and clubhead type require the students input. Many times I hear people say, “I don’t care, what do you think?” These are your clubs not mine! You need to decide which shaft feels the best and what clubhead you like. Once we’re done with the irons, then we move onto the collecting such data as carry distance, clubhead and ball speed, launch angle, spin rate and vertical descent angle from the TrackMan Launch Monitor, all in an effort to increase your overall distance. Once again, this could require a bunch of swings, so I recommend showing up on time and ready to hit some golf balls.
Your Swing May Leave You
As I just explained, you are going to make a lot of swings and with the different weights, lengths, lie angles and shaft flexes, your swing could be affected and get thrown off. Don’t worry, it happens more often than not. A good club fitter will quickly get the improper equipment out of your hands and get something back into your hands that works. The worst thing you can do is panic; just continue to try and make smooth, balanced swings.
Try the Clubs on the Course Before Purchase
Frequently someone will go through a fitting (or demo) and want to purchase the clubs right away. Then they get on the course and those clubs they hit amazingly well during the fitting suddenly won’t get off the ground. I mandate that my students take their fitted 7-iron and driver onto the golf course a few times. They’ll make a decision on the irons rather quickly, but I ask them not to rush with the driver. Amateurs typically hit the driver 14 times per round, so it’s best to make sure. You should also take your wedges for several test drives. We hit such a variety of shots with our wedges—full shots, bunker shots, chips and pitches—that it’s imperative you like what you have in your hands. If you don’t like them the first time out, it generally will not get better.
There Will Be a Transition Period with Your New Clubs
When you get the new clubs in, there will be a period of transition. Hopefully, the old ball flight you experienced was a by-product of improperly fit clubs, and will be much improved and on target with your new clubs. That will take some getting used to: I don’t think I’ve ever sold clubs to someone they hit shorter. The shots around the green could also have more spin due to newer grooves and a different trajectory due to different lofts, and will take a few adjustments. Take the time to practice with the new clubs and be patient. Tour players generally change clubs at the beginning of the off-season so they have several months to get used to the new equipment.
Paul Ramee, Jr., is the Director of Golf and Lead Instructor at Bull’s Bridge Golf Club in Kent, CT. To book a lesson or club fitting with Paul, the 2016 Connecticut PGA Section Teacher of the Year and a Golf Digest “Best Teacher” in Connecticut, visit paulrameegolf.com or call 860-671-1196.