Friday, February 4, 2011

Driver Custom Fitting

A colleague of mine returned from getting just about all his clubs custom fit. After doing a bit of reading up on the subject, I wondered why more golfers haven’t considered the option, especially when it comes to the Driver.

I’ve recently read a fair amount (and have come to realize through my own experience in trying to get a club selection together) about the fact that the marketing of clubs are starting to dominant a club’s manufacturing and design, as apposed to making the club practically easier to play with for the everyday hacker - which is most of us that buy the equipment.
Nothing illustrates this point more plainly than the tendencies of clubs to employ increasingly longer shafts. My old Spalding 5 iron is a good 2 inches shorter than my Taylormade Burner Tour 5 iron. The Marketing fobs would tell you that this gives you more club head speed, and thus your ball will travel further. This is true, IF you can manage to hit it as consistently as a club that is shorter, which face it, most of us mere mortals cannot. Not only are we conned into hitting more inconsistent shots (only to be kept motivated by the 1-in-10 that we actually middle), but are lead into the trap of creating a massive distance divide in the shorter end of the club spectrum.
So practically for me what used to be a 20m meter gap between my SW and PW (nicely filled with a GW), is now a 30m gap!
This necessitates another wedge to fill the gap, and dumping a long iron which I have less of a need for. The result being that I’m left with exactly the same club setup, just different number on the bottom of the club.

Now take this marketing foobar to arguably the most important club in the bag – the Driver. I say arguably, because  most people think it’s the putter – but I’m of the opinion that what use is the putter, if your driver doesn’t even give you the chance to get to the green! Put another way, given the choice, would you not rather have Tiger’s driving skill than his putting?

Interesting fact – the average length of a Driver on tour is 44,5 inches. Imagine my distress when seeing the average driver length that is sold on the shop floor – easily about an inch longer than what the pros use. A case in point is my current driver – the Callaway FT-i – touted as one of the most forgiving drivers yet (and the reason why it’s in my bag) – it’s shaft is 45,75 inches long! Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I’m going to have more difficulty hitting a club that’s a full 1.25 inches longer than the average length on tour. Here’s the kicker – according to some sources, that extra length doesn’t give you much more than a few yards in extra distance, even if you do manage to middle it.
Now my question is this: Would I rather hit it more consistently, or a few yards further. My answer is (as should anyone who take’s their golf seriously), is definitely consistency.
So I thought I’d go for a custom fitting for my Driver:

I took my Driver in to golfscience, a local company specialising in club fitting. The process started off with a series of measurements of my current Driver – Shaft stiffness, MOI, COR, Length, Face Angle, Grip Width etc. Interestingly even though the number stamped on my Driver is 10 degrees of loft, it turned out to be closer to 11,5 degrees from the centre of the face. Also, the further up the face, the more the angle of loft increases.
After all the measurements, I set about hitting some balls on the launch monitor. I was quite surprised to see my swing speed average out at about 105 mph – topping out at 116 mph when asked to “give it a whack”. What was rather insightful was the video feedback from the cameras directly behind me and across from me. Turns out my down swing is rather “inside the line”, resulting in my tendencies to hit hook and block shots. Also, from the video evidence, my release (one of the 4 factors used to determine the shaft bend profile) was rather late, resulting in quite a bit of bend on the shaft when beginning the down swing. If you haven’t had your golf swing recorded on video before, I highly recommend it. If you’re looking for a digicam to do the work, I recommend casio’s line of high-speed cameras. They can take high speed video (up to 1000 fps) without breaking the bank.
What was also interesting was the use of impact tape on the face of the Driver – turns out I hit the ball quite high on the face more often than not – resulting in high launch angles.
After my session in the net, we sat down and analysed the data and I was recommended the following:

1) The first and most obvious change, was to shorten the Driver down to a manageable 44,5 inches.
2) Get a smaller grip. Turns out my grip is way too thick for my rather small hands
3) The stock shaft is about a 90% fit for my swing, although because of my release, I could use a little more stiffness in the tip
4) The face launch angle is 1 degree to high – I would reach optimum distance with a 10 degree (true measurement) face.

In short, if would like to improve your game, go for a swing analysis at your qualified local custom fitter. If nothing else, you’ll gain a better understanding of your swing, and what to look out for when purchasing your next set of clubs.

Happy Golfing!

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