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Club Fitting
by Joan King

Are your golf clubs fitted to your golf swing?

When I first learned to play golf 45 years ago, I was "fitted" for the length of my clubs by standing next to my club golf pro who measured where my fingertips fell in comparison to his. The length was determined in relation to the length of the clubs he used. Women were given clubs that were "whippy" and men clubs that had stiffer shafts. Then you hit clubs of different manufacturers to see how they "felt."

The fitting of golf clubs has come a long way since then. In 1983 Henry-Griffiths, Inc. of Idaho introduced a revolutionary concept of custom-fitting golf clubs to individual golfers. Using teaching golf professionals they devised a method of determining the best club for each person's individual swing and golf game. Most major golf club manufacturers now offer fitting options.

Up until the 1980s the length of a standard driver was 43 inches. Golf clubs were designed for the average golfer with a height from 5'6 to 5'8". At 5'10" I didn't fit that range, and for years I played with clubs that were too short and I "dipped" trying to reach the ball at impact.

H-G realized that golfers were getting bigger and taller and needed longer shafts. Since it is harder to hit the ball with a longer shaft, they put larger heads on the clubs to compensate. Golfers loved this concept because they were able to hit the ball farther and more consistently with the same swing. Light weight graphite shafts and titanium heads also reduced the effort needed. Today the average length is 45 inches. With each added inch on the driver, the average golfer adds another ten yards.

How do you get fitted? What is the "fitting" process?

I have been "fitted" for clubs several times. The process takes one to two hours and is usually done by a golf professional who has been trained by the golf club manufacturer in this process. The pro will have many different clubs with varying lie angles, shafts and club-heads for you to hit.

On the driving range, you will be given clubs that have tape on the sole of the club. You will then hit off a fiberglass board that produces scuff marks to indicate where the impact occurred. The fitter then reads and measures the lie at impact. By using this process with different clubs the club with the best lie angle for you can be determined.

What is the lie angle?

The lie angle is the angle between the shaft of the club and the bottom of the club-head. As you can see from the diagram below, the lie angle determines the direction of the ball. At impact, if the toe of the club is up (lie angle too upright) the ball will go left. If the heel of the club is up (lie angle too flat) at impact, the balls will go to the right.

For instance, if your balls are continually going to the right, your brain will tell you that you are doing something to make that happen. As a result you will be afraid of hazards, and O.B. to your right and tense up. Or you might compensate by trying to square the clubface by increasing the rotation of your arms.

When you have a set of clubs where the lie angle is set for the face to contact the ball squarely, your consistency and confidence to hit the ball straighter will increase. Your clubs will then be working for you, not against you.

Who should buy fitted clubs?

If the clubs you are playing with now do not have the best lie angle for your swing, you do not need to buy an entire new set of clubs. Any good club maker or perhaps your golf pro, can bend the club to the desired angle. It is well worth it to erase mental doubt and establish confidence in your clubs and golf swing.

All levels of golfers can benefit from a fitting session. It usually includes some golf instruction. Better golfers can probably compensate for ill-fitting clubs better than beginners, but believing in your swing is one of the major assets of your mental game. It would be like using a pair of glasses that were the wrong prescription for you. You would continually be compensating by moving away or toward objects in order to see clearly.

Phil Mickelson and other PGA Tour players have taken club fitting to another new level. Due to the added length at the Masters, Phil elected to carry two drivers in his bag and leave his sand wedge in the trunk of his car. He played with his two drivers at the BellSouth in Atlanta, to see if his strategy would work at the Masters the next week. Obviously it did as he won by 13 shots. His Callaway Big Bertha was fitted for him to fade the ball (right to left for a left-hander), and his one-inch longer, weighted Fusion driver allowed him to turn the ball from left to right.

Phil appeared confident and relaxed winning back to back tournaments with this two-driver strategy. "I decided there were too many shots off the tee (at the Masters) where I needed different distances, and these drivers are (traveling) different distances" he said. "All of the right-to-left holes, I didn't have to hit it very hard, and all of the left-to- right holes, I had to hit it pretty far. I have a driver I hit a long way that draws, and I have a driver that fades and stays in play… It's great because I only have to play with half the trouble."

Mike Weir didn't like the appearance of his driver face appearing open. So he had his 10.5 degree driver bent to get the look and shape of a 9 degree driver.

Rich Beem won the 2002 PGA Championship with a 7-wood bent down to 17 degrees of loft because he liked the look of the size and the way it set up squarely.

Vijay Singh reworked his Callaway Big Bertha 9-wood to a 7-wood loft of 7 degrees open so he can hit it high like a 5-wood that goes about 240 yards.

Allen Doyle had his Adams titanium driver bent 2-1/2 degrees closed to avoid hitting the ball right. He noted that recreational players can profit from the same concept. He said, "I had a Cobra offset driver in 1999 and people chuckled at it. I gave it to a pro-am partner who was slicing, and it went 20 yards farther and straight."

Establish belief in your clubs and in your swing like the pros. Have your golf clubs fitted to your golf swing so you won't have to doubt your ability. Belief is one of the strongest mental golf keys you can own. Believe in your equipment so you can trust your swing.

"If you expect the best, you will be the best. Learn to use one of the most powerful laws in this world; change your mental habits to belief instead of disbelief. Learn to expect, not to doubt. In so doing, you bring everything into the realm of possibility." ---Dr. Norman Vincent Peale


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