If you happen to live on the East Coast, particularly in the Northeast, the 2019 golf season is quickly approaching. In fact, it’s currently 51° right now in NYC with the possibility of hitting the 60s just in time for the weekend. In March.
Add into the mix that all of the OEMs have launched their newest offerings, and it’s no surprise that a lot of us are rushing to our closest golf retailer or club fitter to see what the newest equipment is bringing to the table (myself included).
So if you happen to be in the market new equipment, regardless of whether it’s time to replace an off-the-shelf driver or worn out wedges, you should probably make that appointment with your local reputable fitter ASAP to help make sure your clubs arrive on time. And if you’re thinking it’s fine to just buy off-the-shelf, we’d strongly suggest reconsidering.
Indeed, we’ve repeatedly emphasized the value of getting custom fit here on Golficity when you’re looking to purchase new clubs because, truthfully, there’s really no reason why not to get custom fit; just look at the gains Mike and Frank got from getting re-fit for the new Titleist TS2/TS3 drivers over their previous-gen (and also custom fit) 917s.
So, if you happen to be in the market for new clubs (and want to make sure they’re in the bag for that first round of 2019 golf), go get custom fit.
But right after you make that appointment, I’d like to offer some friendly guidance (in combination with Kevin Sprecher’s fitting wisdom) on how to approach the whole fitting process, because regardless if you decide to work with a brand agnostic (such as Club Champion or True Spec Golf) or a brand-specific (perhaps at a Titleist Thursday) fitter, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you have the best fitting experience possible:
Go to Your Fitting Well Rested
I’m going to start with the most basic, but overlooked, piece of advice. For anyone who hasn’t gone for a fitting, you’re gonna be hitting a lot of golf balls. As a result, you’re going to want to make sure you go rested to guarantee that you don’t run out of gas and start getting sloppy with your swing.
This is particularly important if you’re going for a full bag fitting. In fact, I’d highly recommend that anyone who’s looking to get a full bag custom spec’d out break it up over two separate days. This will help make sure that you’re making a quality swing on every swing.
Additionally, even if you’re only getting fit for woods, irons, or wedges, make sure to take your time and be deliberate with every shot. At no point during your fitting should you feel rushed.
Finally, I’d highly recommend you try to hit a simulator or, if possible, the range a few times during the weeks leading up to your fitting just so you’re not hitting balls for the first time or get sore half-way through the appointment. Unless you’re working with a coach, do not try to make any big, last second changes your swing. That said, I’d also recommend that you avoid a lengthy range session the day before your fitting. Like I said, you want to make sure you’re fully-rested and relaxed, not sore and tense, when it’s time to start trying out the new stuff.
Leave Any Biases at the Door
When you show up to your fitting, go in with an open mind and try everything that’s available to you, even if its different models within the same manufacturer’s product line. Do NOT go into the fitting with the mindset that you’re meeting with the fitter just to confirm and fine-tune the club head and shaft combination that you’ve already picked out for yourself.
Why? Because you have NO idea what’s going to work best for you. I mean, that’s the whole purpose of getting custom fit.
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That said, definitely read up and try to educate yourself on all the pro’s and con’s of the newest product offerings and what seems to be hot or interesting to you. Furthermore, I would certainly encourage everyone to engage with your fitter and ask why he’s suggesting certain clubs and shafts. That way, you at least have an understanding of why the fitter might be steering you towards something that you hadn’t originally considered.
As I mentioned earlier, the purpose of getting custom fit is to help identify the clubs that will help you play your best. Fortunately, the fitting simulator numbers don’t lie and, as a result, don’t sell yourself short by showing up for the fitting with your mind made up on each club head, shaft model, and shaft flex that you want to put into play.
Avoid the Distance Trap
As golfers, we all appreciate freeing up some distance with all of our clubs. And it’s impossible not to when we’re watching guys like Rory, DJ, and Brooks Koepka carrying the ball over 300 yards with their drivers (don’t get me started on Cameron Champ).
That said, distance isn’t everything. I mean, it’s great and all to hit 300+ yard drives, but they’re completely worthless if you’re hitting them two fairways over (presuming you haven’t gone out of bounds yet). Meanwhile, the guy who hit it about 260 yards off the tee is comfortably positioned in the middle of the fairway and is setting himself up for a solid score with plenty of par and birdie opportunities.
Accordingly, try to work with your fitter to find that perfect balance of consistent distance and dispersion, along with hitting your optimal spin rates and launch and descent angles.
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Dispersion is particularly important for amateur golfers, since most of us are probably throwing shots away on the scorecard from off the tee. Whether we’re losing balls OB or spending the next 2-3 shots fighting out of the woods, most of us could probably shave 5-10 shots off the scorecard just by placing ourselves anywhere on the fairway (or even a few yards into the rough) more often.
In fact, I can guarantee you that any future rounds of golf will be significantly more enjoyable when you’re easily finding your ball and lining up that second shot without worrying about how you’re gonna punch the ball out of the trees or hit out of some hairy, downhill rough.
With respect to spin rates and launch and descent angles, all of which also affect carry and total distance, there’s likewise target numbers you’ll want to hit with each club. Spin and launch and descent angles are all very important factors that need to be perfectly balanced when dialing in your irons because, in contrast to woods (where the goal is primarily to maximize carry and roll-out distance), you want to make sure your irons are traveling a consistent distance and spinning enough to hold the green (instead of rolling out an extra 10-20 yards).
Understand Your Yardage Gapping
Now this is going to be more applicable to your irons and wedges, but these are your scoring clubs.
So you’re testing out head and shaft combinations and find a setup that you’re hitting 25 yards further than your current 6 iron. There’s no doubt this is awesome and will definitely make longer Par 3s and second shots on Par 4s considerably easier, but there’s just one thing: did you actually gain 25 yards?
Allow me to elaborate.
Since most clubs probably don’t have lofts stamped on the bottom, we’ve been led to believe that all 6 irons are essentially the same. Wrong. In fact, “6” irons can drastically differ between different manufacturers and models, whether you’re upgrading to the current generation of the “same” models or switching brands.
Case and point: I used to play Callaway X-22 irons. They were great, but I eventually decided to take my game more seriously and get custom fit for some clubs. Ultimately, I decided to go with the Srixon Z 765s (forged cavity backs) and, without getting too fan-girl, I love them.
Naturally, though, one of the first things I noticed was that I gained ~15 yards of carry with the new clubs. Ironically, some of those gains are simply due to the differences in lofts. You see, despite the X-22s being “game improvement” irons, which would’ve led me to believe they had stronger lofts to help hit the ball further, the X-22 6 iron measured in at 30° of loft, while the “better player’s” Z 765 was 28°. In other words, the more modern, “better player’s” iron had stronger lofts than my older, “game improvement” clubs.
Yes, some of the distance can be attributed to having the proper shaft, which will help hit my target launch windows, spin rates, etc., but there’s no question that the largest factor is that the Z 765 has 2° stronger loft, which makes it a bit closer to the X-22 5 iron.
As a result, I’d highly suggest to anyone who’s in the market for a full bag of new clubs, get fit for your irons first. That way, after your fitter has helped identify your new iron set and expected distances, you can start considering what wedges and long clubs you’ll need to properly gap the full set.
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On the other hand, if you’re not updating your entire bag and just your irons, you should probably investigate if you have any overlap at the top of your bag (e.g., your new 4 iron goes the same distance as your tenured 3 Hybrid) or newly-created gaps at the bottom (e.g., you’ve now got ~25 yard gap in distance between wedges). Depending on your set composition, it might be time for you to consider adding another wedge to help cover all your short game yardages.
In sum, whenever you’re thinking of putting some new stuff into the bag, try to be conscious of the specs of what’s going out. While changing your driver or putter won’t have the same impact on the rest of your clubs, adjusting anything in the middle could possibly disrupt that “perfect harmony.”
Be Honest with Your Fitter (and Yourself)
Your fitter has seen thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands, of swings, and it’s unlikely that he’d describe most of them as “tour-quality” or “pretty.” And that’s fine because you’re getting fit; this isn’t a test or a lesson. So when you show up for your fitting, be honest with yourself, your fitter, and (perhaps most importantly) your skill level.
Blades look beautiful and they’re certainly something to aspire towards, but the very last thing you want to do is spend a bunch of money on clubs that look great, but unfortunately don’t help you play any better. If you’re taking lessons and/or seriously working on improving your game, tell your fitter and maybe consider something you’re not proficient with now, but can grow into. Likewise, if you’re not that dedicated and just want to have fun when you get out with the friends, then let the fitter know so he can provide you with some extra forgiveness.
Also, as I briefly-mentioned earlier, don’t try implementing new swing thoughts or changes mid-fitting or over embellish your skill level. If your driver miss is a huge slice, own it.
Your fitter will probably ask you some important questions (“are you taking lessons?”, “how often do you play?”, or “what’s your common miss?”) that will help them determine what equipment might best serve you. Experimenting with swing changes and claiming that you never slice the ball isn’t going to help you get the most out of your fitting.
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In closing, there’s one more piece of advice I’d like to offer concerning a piece of the fitting process that’s rarely given the attention it’s due: the golf ball. Ironically, more dedicated golfers can be very particularly about the golf ball they put into play, but quickly forget about this when they get fit and hit whatever the fitter has.
While I completely understand this may be something that’s completely out of everyone’s control when doing an outdoor fitting, it’s something entirely in your control when your getting fit. Therefore, if you happen to be getting fit inside, contact your fitter and feel free to ask what ball they’re using and, if it’s not the ball or comparable to the one you game, would it be possible to bring your gamer and get fit using that.
Otherwise, have fun and enjoy the experience.
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