A 2014 Golf Resolution Suggestion: Get Fit

ImageA sample photo of a club-fitting session

What are your golf goals for 2014? Have you started thinking about them yet?

If you’re a golfer in the majority of the country where they’re experiencing that unfortunate season called winter, I’m guessing the answer is no.

Well, when you do, I’m guessing thoughts will turn to bucket-list courses you want to play, possibly coveted golf purchases to be made and target scores to be shot.

To that list, I’d like to suggest you add one more: If you haven’t done so already, get fitted for your clubs.

This post was originally going to recount the fitting experiences I had in 2013 and how my game benefitted from them, but then I got a better example: my longest golf playing partner.

It was funny how it turned out, but he actually benefitted from my driver fitting more than I did by way of being introduced to a new driver shaft that put him on a path to a dramatic transformation.

Let me back up a little and explain.

I started golfing with Ted about 10 years ago when we met by chance on the first tee box of a golf course in Omaha.

For as long as I’ve known him, he’s been one of the better drivers of the golf ball I know. He’s long had that eye-level, boring ball flight that, as a former sky-baller, I’ve always envied. Then a year ago, something changed.

After I moved out to California and we resumed playing on a more regular basis, I noticed my friend wasn’t the same player off the tee. And the more I learned about the golf swing at the Golf Academy, the more baffled I became as to why.

I suspected a lingering toe injury was partly to blame and that the resulting pain was somehow hindering his weight shift. But then that cleared up and his drives were still taking nasty high and right detours into other fairways.

Finally one day when we were playing last fall, and he was hitting it worse than ever, he asked if he could hit my driver.

After being fitted at Fujikura, I was carrying a demo driver with a new shaft that had started to give me the desired trajectory he used to have.

I’ll never forget his first swing. We were playing a long, slightly uphill par-4 in Costa Mesa. He took his usual backswing and unleashed a 320-yard rope down the right side of the fairway.

Jokingly, I told him I’d need to hold his ID and a credit card if he wanted to use my driver again because I was afraid I wouldn’t get it back.

Anyway, Ted played my driver on the back nine and proceeded to hit all seven fairways and knock eight shots off his front-nine score. It’s the most dramatic turnaround I’ve ever seen on a golf course.

He come off the course ready to toss his old driver in the trash and go buy a new one. I told him it wasn’t a new driver he needed; it was a new shaft. Even after a dramatic 10-hole testimonial, he still didn’t quite get it.

I made him promise to come by and undergo a club fitting at Fujikura and let the pros weigh in before consigning his driver to the scrapheap. But before he left, I actually held his driver for the first time and realized it felt like a paper weight being swung by a piece of spaghetti.

I had him hold his driver and my demo driver simultaneously to feel the weight difference.

“Oh my God is my driver light” was his response.

For those of you that haven’t been fit before, here’s basically what happens: they put you on a swing monitor and have you hit shots that produce an array of visual and numerical feedback on everything from trajectory to swing speed/ball speed and, most import, spin.

The more you work with swing analysis equipment, the more you realize the role of spin in the golf shot and how it influences trajectory and shot shape. Usually reducing and controlling this spin is largely what a fitting aims to do through improving the relationship between the shaft and the clubhead, which sometimes means changing one or the other, as it did for me.

Before I continue, I’m going to out my friend here a bit and tell you that when I told him about how working with this equipment in the past had improved my game, he was less than interested. I especially recall telling him, “You hit a ball and get 20 readouts on what just happened.”

“I don’t want 20 readouts,” he replied.

I countered, “Here’s guessing you want at least five.”

And this is where a big knowledge gap exists in golf right now. We’ve never known more about ball flight, the swing and how the two really work together, yet most of the golfing public continues to know less.

My gauge for this is talking about it with people on the course and watching them stare blankly when I use terms like TrackMan and Flight Scope. If you don’t know those terms, get to know them because you will encounter them in your golf future if you desire to get better. (And, yes, I’m happy to do a future post explaining what they’re all about and how to understand the results.)

Anyway my skeptic friend stepped into a simulator for the first time in December and started discovering the truth about his swing gone wrong.

His old driver, as predictable as ever, replicated the exact results he was having on the course. Right, right and really right where his only swing outcomes.

Among other things, the swing monitor showed Ted’s driver was imparting incredible amounts of side spin on the ball and spin in general.

John Hovis, the fitter that day for Fujikura, processed in the results, took the specs on my friend’s driver, and then made a few insightful observations about Ted’s driving.

The one that wouldn’t have occurred to me in a million years was that Ted had unusually long arms, which was making it difficult for him to get the club through.

To increase his club speed, John took an inch off Ted’s old driver and then added weight to the clubhead to give it a little more heft and feel.

The results were dramatic. We played a round that afternoon at Twin Oaks and my friend found fairway after fairway, even on the toughest driving holes on the tree-lined course. His old swing was back and actually better.

And, for my part, I’ve gained 15 yards more from the new shaft I was fitted for that reduced my driver’s trajectory, tightened my draw ball flight and gave me more roll-out.

So that’s two very positive outcomes with two very different swing solutions.

I’ve now been fitted for everything in my bag, and the results show. I just had my best golf year ever and am looking to improve on that in the new year.

So before you dump more money into rounds that will produce the same results, much less invest in new equipment, considering getting fit and discovering the real truth about your golf swing.

Better golf in 2014? That’s what I call a happy New Year.