Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ten Tips For Clubfitting

was asked about clubfitting on the 3Jack Golf Forum and I wanted to give my current thoughts on clubfitting (although I reserve to change my mind).

The problem with clubfitting is that there’s a gap between the agenda of the clubfitter and the golfer and more often than not, both sides do not understand enough to bridge the gap. The clubfitter doesn’t know enough about the swing and the golfer’s agenda to keep those in mind when prescribing the specs for the golfer and the golfer usually doesn’t know enough about how to develop their swing and doesn’t know enough about equipment to figure out if the prescription is a good one. It’s much like sending your car to the shop for repairs, often times you don’t know what the hell the mechanic is saying and you would love to have that knowledge to understand if the mechanic knows what he’s talking about or not. Hopefully this post will give some knowledge to golfers when it comes to club fitting.

Probably one of the worst things to happen to the game is that golfers over the past 15 years have become less knowledgeable about equipment and less willing to make tweaks to the equipment to better fit their swing. I grew up playing golf in the late 80’s and back then it was common to see good golfers using lead tape to get the clubs to feel like they want them to. I suspect that most good golfers back then (and prior to that) played with heavier irons and heavier swingweights than they do now, as I’m one of the few I ever see using lead tape on the irons. And it’s just more than lead tape, good golfers back then (and prior to then) were noted to bend lie angles and lofts, fool around with grips, etc. Ben Hogan is as good of an example as any with his X-Stiff shafts that were tipped 2 inches, the reminder rib in his grip to force him to have a weak grip, his D7 swingweights, and 6* flat lie angles. Even back then they didn’t make irons with those specs. Mr. Hogan dabbled into what he thought would work best for him until he came up with what he believe was the best set of specs for him. These days golfers, from all levels, pretty much play whatever clubs their clubfitter tells them to play.

One of the major issues that golfers and clubfitters tend to not understand is that you can make your swing worse, much worse, if you play with clubs that are fitted to your swing. Let’s say you are not swinging quite well and you are coming over the top with a high handle at impact, that will cause you to hit shots off the toe. The clubfitter will prescribe something like +2* upright lie angles and then over time, those +3* upright angles will force you to have a more upright downswing plane with a higher handle at impact. And eventually what could happen is that you’ll start hitting shots off the toe again and then be prescribed for even more upright lie angles.

Here’s a few of my basic rules:

1. Club lengths for irons should be no more than -1/4” to +1/4” from standard (unless you are 6’6” or taller).

Shaft length is mostly there for distance gapping purposes. A 7-iron is shorter than a 6-iron, in part to make sure you don’t hit them the same length. If you make your irons something like +1”, then you are basically designing them to go further, which is not the #1 priority when it comes to irons. The other problem? You have effectively made the lie angle more upright which will further risk you possibly coming over the top. The standard 5-iron length today is about 37.75 inches long, so I would suggest that taller players go no more than 38” long and shorter players go no more than 37.5” long.

2. You do have the Mizuno Shaft Optimizer, which is a good thing.

The Mizuno Shaft Optimizer is a simple way to determine what flex of shaft is best for you and can pretty much tell you this for any brand of shaft on the market. All that it takes is you have to hit a special Mizuno club that has a monitor on it and you hit a few shots with it. You then read the numbers on the monitor and punch them into the computer program they have and they will give you a top 3 shafts for your swing and the flex needed along with any other flexes for shafts out on the market. When I used the shaft optimizer with Ted Fort, it said that the best shaft for me was a Dynamic Gold SL S300, hardstepped once. I then asked about the KBS shafts and it said I could use a KBS Tour stiff, hardstepped once.

Amazingly, it’s very accurate as I tried the KBS shaft out and it fit to perfection. And I’ve heard others say the same thing with their experience with the shaft optimizer. It’s a really great piece of innovative technology.

3. Avoid upright lie angles like the plagued.

We have to remember that the overwhelming majority of clubs today are designed solely for the weekend hacker. One of the things that club designers like to do is to make lie angles more upright. Why? Because it makes it harder for the golfer to hit the #1 shot that most golfers hit….the slice.

Vintage irons of the past had 5-irons with 59-60* lie angles as ‘standard specs.’ Today we are seeing lie angles typically at 61-62* for a 5-iron as standard specs. And what’s even crazier is that when you go to clubfitters, they’ll usually say you need clubs that are 1 or 2* upright from standard, so you could wind up playing a 64* lie angle with a 5-iron!

I think a good rule of thumb is to go no higher than 60* with a 5-iron. Trackman’s ‘rule of thumb’ is that you need to ‘swing left’ ½ of the amount of your attack angle in order to square up the path. But, that is IF your vertical swing plane (aka downswing plane) is at 60*. I think there is a connection here with that and the standard 5-iron and I’ve found that it’s tougher to ‘swing left’ if your lie angles are too upright.

4. CP and CF Likely Require Different Lie Angles.

The left pics show a CP Release and the right pics show a CF Release. I could be wrong on this, but I believe that CP releases will likely require flatter lie angles because the handle is likely to be lower at impact. That being said, I would recommend not going upright with a CF release. I would probably keep it no more upright than the standard 60-61* for a 5-iron. Most golfers CF release though, but for those looking to learn the CP release, they probably need some flatter lie angles.

5. Driver length should be about the same distance as a measurement from the ground to about 1” above the belly button.

One of the major problems with drivers these days is that they are too long for most golfers and then the golfer cannot get the proper waist bend and that forces them to turn the shoulders too flat which causes them to come over the top and lose their balance. I’m 6’4” tall and from the ground to 1” above my belly button is 44.75”. So imagine those guys who are 5’8” tall and using 46.5” drivers.

6. Keep Your Iron Shafts weights to 115 grams and heavier

This is if you are interested in developing your swing. Light shafts are designed to make the irons go further, which is not the #1 priority with iron play. They also get the golfer into poor mechanics. If you’re not too interested in developing your swing and you are older or a female, then lighter shafts are for you. It amazes me how many female collegiate golfers use graphite in their irons, one of the reasons why I find most female golfers swing mechanics to be poor compared to the men.

7. You should keep your swingweights at least at D-2 or heavier.

Again, light clubs ingrain bad mechanics much more easier. I would recommend that the 2-4 irons be the lightest swing weight, the 5-8 irons being the middle swingweights and the 9 – LW being the heaviest. You may prefer a set with something like a d2 in the 3-5 irons, d4 in the 6-9 irons and d6 in the PW-LW. But, that’s up to you. However, I would suggest to avoid going light if possible.

8. Avoid lie boards and use the line test instead.

Awhile ago I came across a nice research paper that I have been looking for ever since, but cannot find it. However, the one thing it mentioned was that lie boards ‘lie.’ In fact it said that lie boards almost always call for more upright lie angles than the golfer actually needs to have. The problem is I cannot find the article to try and verify the research. However, it made a lot of sense to me…if anything…because every time I’ve seen somebody get on a lie board they are told they need the club made more upright.

I find the ‘line test’ to make much more sense as a way to figure out the lie angle.

I would probably suggest that you do this on your own because I think 99% of the clubfitters out there will not use the line test. I would recommend starting off with your 5-iron and seeing what happens with that. I would keep in mind that I really don’t want a 5-iron with a lie angle more upright than 60-61*. If the line test tells you that you need to go flatter, you may want to guestimate how much, we’ll say 2* and then get the club bent and try the line test again. And eventually tweak it until you get it right. Then you can bend the rest of the clubs. From there you can try the line test with the rest of the clubs (because the line test accounts for shaft droop, so unless you had your shafts ‘pured’, the shaft droop could make the necessary lie angle different).

9. Prefer forged over cast

I prefer forged over cast because if anything, I can always change the lie angles and lofts if needed with forged over cast. I also feel that there is generally a difference in feel over say 1025 carbon steel that is forged versus 8620 carbon steel that is cast. So the feedback is greater.

10. Cavity Backs vs. Blades

Here's a post I did awhile ago on a study done on blades vs. cavity backs.



Right Wing Political Junkie said...

Proper fittings help enormously but ONLY if the clubs are fit to the swing you SHOULD have, not the one you walk into Golfsmith with.

Nick said...

Great post Rich. Although the only thing I don't agree with is length of clubs.

Over the past 50 years golfers have become bigger stronger and taller. I've always played with clubs that are a half inch over the 38" five iron standard. I've always believed that the 1/2 extra length is more natural than the standard length for someone of my height.

That being said, the same is not true for the driver. STandard used to be 43". These days that's a 3 wood. I've used a 44.25 inch driver for the past 6 months and am straighter and longer because I make better contact.

Anyway...Just my 2 cents.

Rich H. said...

shaft lengths in irons are primarily there for the purpose of yardage gapping. If I have to exactly the same clubs, but one is 39" long and one is 38" long, I'll almost be guaranteed to hit the longer iron further.

Nick said...

Ok, I agree with that. But from a postural standpoint. Especially with the Short irons. I'd rather have the extra half inch so I don't have to bend over more than neccessary in my golf swing.

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