Over the past twenty or so years it has become more and more apparent that being fitted for your clubs is a game changer. I think that a large part of this is down to how vastly the clubs can be altered and what that means for accommodating the various body shapes and sizes that want to play this brilliant game.
Having said that, the fitting process is by no means limited to your body shape and size, if done correctly it will accommodate your individual swing and the tendencies which may have caused issues for you in the past.
People can often overlook a club fitting as it is an extra cost which they may deem unnecessary, but another way of looking at that cost is to consider whether you would rather have another ten lessons to fix something, or get clubs fitted once which can help a great deal immediately?
I’m not saying that you won’t need lessons once you have a club fitting, but it is certainly an important consideration if you are looking to get better at golf. I hope this article will explain what you could expect from a club fitting and what exactly you can gain from getting your clubs tailored to your game.
What is a club fitting?
You can get a club fitting for pretty much any club in your bag, having said that it seems that the most popular fittings are for drivers and irons. Wedge and putter fittings are just as, if not more, important but we’ll talk more specifically about them later on!
To begin with we will look at iron and driver fittings, what they are and why you could benefit from them.
My experience of iron fittings has been that I hit ten to fifteen shots with my current seven-iron, in order to establish what my shot data looks like with this club. Then I would try out a couple of different heads with a couple of different shaft options. The fitter is the one who knows the information, so I would explain what I am looking for and they will try and fit the head and shaft to match that description.
For example, maybe I tell the fitter that I want to hit the ball a bit lower, they are then going to give me a combination which promotes lower ball flight characteristics. You can also tell the fitter what you might be struggling with using your current clubs (e.g. when you try to hit it harder, you always hit it right). From this information, the fitter can determine what the problem with your current clubs might be.
Initially the fitter will probably choose to attach a new head to a shaft identical, or very similar, to what you have been using in your current clubs. After hitting a few like this you will be able to review the data and talk about how the club feels for you. Even if you love the feel and numbers, you can try as many different shafts and heads as possible in order to see what impact this has on the numbers.
This is the basic part of the fitting but there are many more adjustable parts within a fitting which can alter the results drastically.
You should speak to your fitter about what your game is like. Where do you normally miss your shots? Which shot do you hate to see? Do you struggle with a certain shape? This is when a fitter can really make a difference for your game. For example, when I started playing golf full-time, I was always struggling to hit a draw and could hit a big slice if I got things wrong. My fitter recommended that I get slightly upright clubs which would help my setup and give me some assistance when I tried to hit a draw. It meant that my bad shot, which went a long way left (I’m left handed), was now less of a miss and more manageable for my game. The positive impact of this is at least two-fold as it gave me more confidence that I could hit a draw and less fear of the left shot.
What I really liked about this change was that I could give myself a bit of a break while I tried to improve my technique. I was still going to develop to the point when I would not actually need the upright setup, but in the meantime I could still play great golf. My fitter helped me realise that I need not beat myself up about the poor shots when I could use the club fitting to give me assistance along the way.
On top of that upright change, we made my clubs 0.75 inches longer than standard. I am 185cm tall so this made sense anyway, but particularly so for me because I was trying to avoid too much loss of height in my swing as it was. While my clubs were a little shorter, it was harder to ingrain this change because I was reaching a little more for the ball.
As a younger player, it is absolutely essential that you have clubs which fit your height. If you are using clubs which are too long and heavy for you, your body will compensate for this and you may develop some damaging patterns for your swing (and body) later in life. If you look at some of the kids on social media nowadays, they have incredible swings! They look like a normal adult swing, whereas in the past I feel like I would always see kids swinging long and out of control because they couldn’t handle the weight of the club.
The point of changing the length of your clubs is to make them fit for your setup and encourage a good posture for your game. If your clubs are too long or too short for you, then you can understand a good setup as much as you want but you will never be able to execute it because your clubs don’t allow it.
Club weight can be altered with both the shaft and the head, but I would say the most obvious way to change this is with the shafts. You can have either steel shafts or graphite shafts (or even hybrid shafts now), graphite is lighter and a lot of younger or older players will use these as it can help to create club head speed. Even within each category you can get different weights, steel shafts have a wide variety of different weights and flexes, just as graphite shafts do.
Club weights can also be changed dramatically by the weighting in the head. Some players even add lead taping to the back on the irons or wedges in order to get that weight feeling just right. Again, this is something to speak to a fitter about because if you broach a topic with them, they can explain in far more detail and show you literally on the club where you can adjust things.
A driver fitting is undoubtedly the most enjoyable fitting to do because you get to smash a driver for an hour…it can be a bit exhausting though! It will work in a very similar way to your iron fitting, hitting your current driver first, then trying out different options and analysing the numbers.
I do actually have a tip for these fittings though: don’t just hit it 100% the whole time! I’ve learnt this from personal experience, but you should test out a few different shots while you are here. Definitely hit a few at 100% and see if you can have the confidence to go all out with this driver, but make sure you hit some normal swings and a “fairway finder” as well.
You won’t smash it every time when you are on the course, so figure out whether this driver would work for you in different scenarios.
Drivers are so adjustable nowadays that you seriously can get one built in a way that suits you perfectly. In particular, there are many driver options with a draw bias due to the general amateur’s struggle with a slice.
On top of this, you can also switch the weighting around in a lot of the modern drivers, or have ones which you can adjust the loft on even after you have bought it. This can be great for the different styles of golf you may play (links, parkland, windy, wet etc.).
I would recommend asking your fitter to explain what the adjustable weights can do to your club. They will be able to tell you what your normal setup should be, but it is good to have an understanding of what moving the weights vertically or horizontally (on the bottom of the club head) will do to your shots.
The sheer number of shafts available is pretty mind boggling as well. You can get a shaft with a low kick point, or mid, or all sorts. I’m not going to explain what that means because you don’t really need to know for now, your fitter will help to explain why the different options have certain impacts on your ball. But you also have flexibility options. Generally speaking, the faster your club-head is, the stiffer you need the shaft to be.
You would be surprised to see how much the golf club bends during a golf swing, so if you have a lot of power, you do not want your shaft to be too flexible because it will make it particularly difficult to control.
Drivers are the most adjustable club in the bag, so you should take advantage of that if you are playing in greatly varying conditions throughout the year. For example, on a wet day you want the ball to carry further as there will be little run, so maybe increase the loft, and vice versa on a drier or windier day.
You may not actually be aware, and I know that a lot of amateurs don’t understand the options available with wedges, but wedges come in many different shapes and sizes. The big area of change tends to be the ‘bounce’ that you choose for a club. Bounce will come in a number ranging from 0-12 normally, 12 meaning a lot of bounce, 0 meaning…zero. A club with a higher bounce number will have a larger sole to the club. You will often see higher bounce on the most lofted wedge and it will help with bunker shots quite often.
If a wedge has very little bounce, then it essentially means that the bottom edge of the club is sharper and helps you to dig into the ground. These wedges are better for harder ground conditions because it means there is a smaller surface area that will come into contact with the ground. If a large amount of bounce is on the bottom of the club, then it can make contact with the ground and quite literally “bounce” up if the turf is firm and doesn’t allow it to dig. Low bounce wedges would be better for you if you play on a links course, or other firm based ground.
On the other hand, if you imagine wet and soft conditions then you don’t want that low bounce club because the sharp edge is going to dig into the ground and can make a fat shot more common. In these conditions it is better to have a higher bounce wedge which will do less digging and give you a little more margin for error with your strike. This is why it can be helpful to have high bounce for a bunker shot as it will glide through the sand with less friction; lower bounce might dig in too soon and mean that you can’t maintain the speed required to get the ball out of the bunker.
I won’t go into too much detail here because we have a specific article on this website about choosing the right putter for you. The general point of a putter fitting is to end up with a putter which suits your putting style and you feel comfortable with. If you have a stroke which is very straight back and through, then you would be better off using a face-balanced putter, often a mallet style which is larger. However, if you rotate the face quite a lot, then you need a putter which allows the head to do this, like a more classical looking style.
The ‘neck’ on your putter is also important to consider. This is the style of connection between the head and the shaft. Some necks are almost non-existent, some are long and bendy. The point of a fitting is to explain to the fitter what you like the look of, then using the numbers that you create, finding the best head and neck combination for you.
I highly recommend getting a putter fitting if you are struggling with your putting. You really are barking up the wrong tree if you have a rotational stroke but you are using a face-balanced putter because the putter is never going to release and you will push your putts all day long. If this doesn’t make sense to you, then it would be a good idea to get a fitting so that someone can take some data on your stroke and give you a helping hand.
Bonus part of a fitting
A club fitting could be the only time that you actually get to hit balls with a launch monitor next to you and this could be an invaluable experience. You will get some data on how far the ball is going, but you can also use this opportunity to see how the ball may react differently if you try to hit a high driver, or move it back in your stance, or maybe that it actually goes shorter when you try to hit it too hard. These are all valuable pieces of information that you can take with you beyond the fitting.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to have an idea of what you want the fitting to achieve for you. If you just go in and wait until you find one that feels nicer or looks better, then you can miss out on what will really benefit your game. A fitting can be an added cost (if you don’t buy any clubs), so take a bit of time prior to the session to think about what you want to learn or change about your game, then you can get the best value for money. This is when a fitter can really do a fantastic job for you because they have all of the information, but if you don’t give them any direction then it is more difficult to hone in on a genuine development for your game.
I strongly recommend that you get fitted for your clubs. It can cost more, but if you buy new clubs from the same place that you have them fitted, then you often find that the cost of the fitting gets put into the club purchase, so the fitting is essentially free. I think that the most valuable asset you can gain from a fitting, beyond the clubs themselves, is having a deeper understanding of what makes the golf ball move differently and how you can alter things with either your swing or your clubs.
The fitting process is remarkably interesting due to the great depths of analysis that you can go into. That analysis is what allows you to tailor your clubs to your own game and probably save you a few lessons along the way. So before you buy your next clubs, find a fitting center and do your golf game a favour!