Buying golf clubs can be confusing. Every year, manufacturers produce many new clubs. Magazines compare and contrast each product. Many players have questions about which clubs are right for them, and almost every answer begins with, "It depends." It depends on how often you practice, take lessons or play. It depends on your swing, your skill level and your budget. Thankfully, there is one thing that is almost guaranteed to not only help players find the right clubs but also improve their game: a professional club fitting.
Nettra Long, a club-fitter at Golfsmith, says, "If you are a more established player and you can hit the ball fairly well," a club fitting would benefit your game. The fitting will result in increased consistency in your swing, which translates to fewer errant shots and a lower score.
Gary Cricks, director of club fitting for GolfTec's mid-Atlantic stores, agrees, saying, "(Getting) the proper club length, lie, grip size and shaft all play a part in the golfer's ability to get the best out of their golf game and lower their scores."
According to Cricks and Long, although some players get fitted for a whole set of clubs at once, most players usually get fitted for clubs in a piecemeal fashion because of budgetary constraints. Typically, players start with their irons because they are used most often. Only later do they typically get fitted for a driver and fairway woods.
Regardless of which type of club a player is getting fitted for, the mechanics of the fitting are more or less the same. Long says he will first measure a player's height and the distance from his wrist to the floor to determine the lie angle of the club. Next, high-speed cameras and specialized software record and analyze a player's swing, highlighting certain metrics.
In particular, Cricks looks at swing speed, "to determine the proper shaft material and shaft flex for the individual." He also measures "how the shaft loads, releases and kicks through impact" because that "will play a role in the proper shaft weight for someone, which will be an important factor in helping someone achieve the optimum launch angle and spin rate." An experienced club-fitter will then help a player identify the best clubs for their skill level and budget based on those measurements.
Long says an average player might want to repeat this process every five years, not only because a player's swing will change, but also because new club materials and designs will be available. Cricks reports that as players become more serious about their game, they may come in for a "checkup" as often as every six months to analyze very specific swing mechanics.
Players can also be fitted for putters. Cricks will analyze "the path that the putter head travels." Long agrees, saying players typically use one of three stroke types: "a straight back and forth, a slight arc with a slight closing of the club face and a strong arc with a strong closing of the club face." A fitter can help the player select a putter that employs the proper balance for their stroke type.
Regarding ball selection, both Cricks and Long say that this is more of an issue for experienced players. Long recommends beginning players choose less expensive, two-piece balls. "They have a harder feel, but players can get maximum distance out of the ball," he says. "Once players start being able to compress the ball a little bit better, they can move to the higher-end balls."
As far as shoe selection, both Long and Cricks suggest players first prioritize style, support and comfort. Second, players should consider the type of golf they will play. If players walk the course instead of riding in a cart, they should pick a lighter shoe. Finally, look for waterproof shoes that can handle bad weather.
"A lot of people don't see the value in a club fitting," Cricks says, "until they get it done." A professional club-fitter will help players find the clubs that are the best fit for them. If you are serious about your game, a club fitting is a great way to rapidly improve your game.