Golf clubs of different makes and models differ from each other in hard-to-spot ways. You can’t see the lie angles of the irons; you can’t, from the markings, tell much about shaft stiffness and flex points; and the loft angles on the woods don’t tell you much, either, because of internal weighting patterns that offset or magnify the effects of simple loft angle. Even if golf equipment were standardized and fully labeled with specifications, you still wouldn’t know which ones were ideal for you.
Thankfully, professional clubfitting has come a long way in the past 15 years. That said, most amateur golfers don’t know whether they’re getting the best that modern fitting has to offer. A careful survey of what’s out there reveals the following fine points of clubfitting expertise and service. Make sure you’re getting as full a menu of it as possible:
>> Get fit outdoors, where the full flight of the ball can be observed.
>> Expect your fitting to start with a check of your own irons on a flat sheet of plastic called a lie board. Your irons will be taped on the bottom (and often on the face, as well) to show whether the lie impact mark is correctly in the center of the sole and the ball impact mark is correctly in the center of the clubface. If these marks are off, expect the fitter to test you with irons of a different lie angle.
## Look for a logical sequence of diagnostics, starting usually with iron lie and proceeding through shaft flex, flex point (high, low, mid), shaft length, head design (offset, non-offset, low-profile, etc.) driver loft, grip size, etc.
>> Very likely the fitter you go to these days will have advanced digital diagnostic equipment, in particular a launch monitor. Devices like this produce lots of great information in a real-time manner. Such data as launch, angle, spin rate, clubhead speed, ball speed at launch and the trajectory, roll and overall distance of the shot are produced without delay. Make sure the fitting professional explains these readouts to you, and how they relate to your swing action and the specifications of the club.
>> Most fittings aren’t specifically golf lessons, but a skilled clubfitter will be commenting knowledgably on your swing form, letting you know whether it seems to be getting more natural and unforced–which is the goal–as the session proceeds.
>> When a certain set of club specifications are finally recommended, a full-service fitting company will generally need to send this data to its factory to have the club components selected, prepared and assembled. It’s unlikely the set that’s right for you will be waiting back at the shop on the rack or in a box. (You should, in fact, be able to order just a couple of the irons and perhaps a driver, paying only for these few clubs, if you so choose.)
It’s natural to want a printout of your specifications, and some companies will oblige. Others will resist, feeling the data is hard-earned by the fitter’s expertise and shouldn’t rightfully be passed on to some other club assembler. It’s also likely the fitting company will feel that the specifications can’t be precisely replicated using the components manufactured by a different company.
One final point: Don’t expect all the answers and all the help to be delivered in one fell swoop. Consider scheduling three or four lessons in a series, with the fitting incorporated naturally and organically into the process. Hitting enough shots to actually get you through all the different club (and even ball) variations the fitter can offer is tiring. After 30 or 40 mnutes you are likely to be worn out, which means any further work will be counter-productive. Improvement is part swing action, part equipment, so arrive with an open mind and you’ll be intrigued and encouraged by what you learn.