This is the second in a four-part series on state-of-the-art clubfitting and diagnostics for extreme game-improvement. We began it with a review of the latest clubfitting tools and techniques from Ping, TaylorMade and Titleist. And we explained why the average player—not just the touring pro—benefits greatly from going through the club fitting process. This installment takes the reader to the very heights of high-tech game-improvement—the so-called “destination” fitting centers and labs where tour-pro treatment awaits the weekend golfer.
The recreational golfer of this era has it pretty much made when it comes to custom club fitting and the modern means of acquiring new golf equipment—from two perspectives.
1) He can visit a laboratory-type setting to undergo advanced clubfitting plus ball-flight evaluation and have experts diagnose him exactly as they would a PGA Tour pro, and
2) When he leaves with his super-tuned gear, unlike the tour pro, he does not have to earn a living by beating the world’s best.
The true citadels of high-tech club fitting are a phenomenon dating to the mid-1990s, when a compelling set of golf-tech stars first aligned. One of them was advanced shaft technology, the product of engineers studying new ways to build strength, consistency, lightness and design variety into carbon composite shafts. You can’t offer ultra-custom club fitting if you can’t vary the component specifications in a comprehensive manner. That’s why this piece of the puzzle was a vital one.
Other factors that allowed leading companies to build their ultimate labs for game-enhancement were:
- breakthroughs in clubhead design and materials
- new ball-flight measuring equipment
- emergence of body-motion sensor technology
- growing expertise about how it all worked together
When a golf ball gets struck at one of these futuristic fitting centers, its trip through the air will be measured in a dozen different ways—more, certainly, than an average golfer would imagine. The expected metrics of carry distance, launch angle and ball velocity are complemented by readouts of flight time, azimuth, side spin and aerodynamic drag.
Today, you can travel to the destination clubfitting center called The Kingdom, established by TaylorMade at the Reynolds Plantation golf resort in central Georgia, and have one of those just-like-the-pros-get experiences. Obviously, there is plenty of fine custom-fitting that a company like TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist or the other leaders can provide outside of places like The Kingdom at Reynolds Plantation. But they won’t offer the depth and breadth of information—or by all means the wow factor.
Callaway Golf has been perfecting its Performance Center fitting facilities for years—having developed a two-tiered network of these gear-fitting hotbeds. As proof of how global golf has become, note that Callaway’s Corporate-tier centers have addresses in Sydney, Seoul, London and Tokyo, as well as at its southern California headquarters. The company’s Retail tier of Performance Centers can be found from coast to coast in 10 different U.S. states. They go mobile, as well, with a pair of Callaway Tour Fit Vans that bring the tech to your town.
Callaway’s tech world of precision analysis and fitting takes place in an eye-popping “fit bay” that utilizes the CPAS—the Callaway Performance Analysis System. Among the blinking gadgets and sensors in the CPAS are high-speed optics and software that gather in all the goodies of club speed, ball speed, launch angle, spin rates, attack and path angles. This captured data gets poured into a ball flight simulator that displays each shot’s results on a jumbo monitor.
To grasp why TaylorMade isn’t shy about calling its center The Kingdom, picture a NASA-like setup there, consisting of nine high-speed cameras, a launch monitor and a dedicated computer to process and analyze swing data. The system behind it all is Motion Analysis Technology by Taylor Made—or MATT for short. What really sets this pilgrimage apart from the club fitting you would get at your local trained professional is what happens next: You can have your golf clubs built on-site in the TaylorMade PGA Tour Trailer for next-day or even same-day use. Kind of like pulling the family sedan into the pits at Daytona and having a new engine bolted in place while you wait.
Like many of the more sophisticated fitting processes, the one you’ll find at a Titleist Performance Center produces a three-dimensional digital animation of your swing. To capture the data that generates this 3D figure, the TPI centers use a proprietary MRI motion-capture system. Among the data it provides are all of the rotational speeds of your body—hips, shoulders, etc. As a test subject in the TPI centers, you’ll have your physical flexibility and strength isolated and indexed, so that overall efficiency goals can be specified. From there the efficiency of ball launch, ball trajectory and consistency is also measured, as part of the club fitting aspect of the operation.
Some golfers still resist the swift changes and advancements to our sport’s technology, but for most frustrated ball-strikers The Kingdom and places like might as well have a yellow brick road leading up to it. In fact, a 30-year veteran golfer from Baton Rouge, Donnie Chatelain, placed his visit to the TaylorMade Kingdom at Reynolds Plantation in super-select company as one of “only two golf trips to have ever exceeded my expectations.” The other was Chatelain’s first trip to Augusta National Golf Club to watch The Masters.
Like Augusta during Masters week, The Kingdom at Reynolds Plantation is frequented by the likes of Sergio Garcia, Sean O’Hair and U.S. Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer. Sure they can strike it a little flusher with their TaylorMade than you can with yours, but when you return from a Kingdom visit and take money from your foursome that weekend, it’s the same kind of thrill as they get holding trophies.