Can My Current Clubs be Custom Fit for Me?

Posted by on Sep 9, 2011 in Clubfitting | 5 comments

I understand.  You’ve become aware of the benefits of professional clubfitting, you want to see if custom fitting can make a real difference in your game, but you don’t want to spring for a totally new set of clubs because your clubs aren’t that old.

Can your existing clubs, or can clubs you just bought off the rack in a golf store or pro shop be custom fit to your swing and how you play?

For a couple of the 13 key fitting elements, yes, for a fewmore of the 13 key clubfitting elements possibly, but for all of them, no they can’t.  In addition, the number of fitting specs that can be retro-fit to meet your needs depends on the skill of the clubmaker doing the adjustments to the clubs.  But rather than talk around this, let’s talk directly about it by going over each of the fitting specifications, one by one.

Length and Swingweight:  If your best fit length is longer or shorter than your existing clubs, sure, the shafts can be cut shorter or extenders can be epoxied into the end of the shaft to make them longer.  That’s easy.  The tough part is whether the clubs can be re-swingweighted to meet your swingweight requirements after the length change.  If the clubs are cut shorter, you’ll likely need weight added to the clubheads to get the swingweight back up to the proper level that matches your swing and preference for the feel of the clubhead.  There are only two ways to do that in clubheads made for a set bought standard off the rack – weight would have to be put at the very tip end of the shafts or lead tape put on the outside of the heads.  And for graphite shafted clubs, to do a proper job of adding weight in the tip end of the shaft, the clubmaker has to remove each shaft to put the weight in from the tip end.

If you need to drop the weight of the clubheads to achieve your best fit swingweight at the new length, sorry, that cannot be done.  While grinding weight off the head seems a solution, in practical terms this really can’t be done on any metal woodhead because the walls of the head body are too thin.  On stainless irons, weight could be ground off, but few clubmakers have the equipment or skill to refinish the heads to look good.  On forged irons, the heads would have to be re-chromed at about $40 a pop or else they’ll rust.

Loft and Face Angle:  It’s unlikely you would need different lofts for the irons, but if you did, a skilled clubmaker with a loft and lie adjustment machine should be able to bend the new loft into each iron head.  If the heads are made from 17-4 stainless steel (most PING and CALLAWAY irons) you’ll have to find a very experienced clubmaker to do the bends.   So that’s possible for sure.  For your metal woods and driver, sorry, you can’t change the loft or the face angle so if you do need a different loft and face angle on your driver and woods, you’ll have to buy a new clubhead.

Shaft Weight, Flex, Bend Point, Torque:  If you need different shafts to better fit your swing, no question, any skilled clubmaker can pull your old shafts and install the new shafts.  But if the new shafts are of a different weight or to be installed to a different length than what you had, anytime you change shaft weight or length, re-swingweighting the clubs is required – and we’ve already explained the challenges and limits to that one.

Grip Style and Size:  Piece of cake for your old grips to be replaced with ones you like the feel of and which fit your hands better for comfort.   The only thing you have to be aware of is if the new grips are a lot lighter or heavier than your old ones.  If so you may need to have the swingweight adjusted to get it back where you like it for your swing tempo and timing – and once again as I’ve explained before, this could be a problem.

Total Weight: Total weight is the overall weight of the whole club.  It is chiefly controlled by the weight of your shafts.  So if you need a lighter or heavier total weight to better match to your transition force, tempo, rhythm and strength that’s done by changing to a lighter or heavier shaft which still has the right flex, bend point and torque to fit your swing.  See the comments above for shaft changing.

Set Makeup:  So many golfers have bought off the rack clubs in the usual set makeup of 1, 3, 5, 7 woods and 3-9, PW, SW irons.  Most of them are playing with sets that have at least three clubs they can’t hit well enough to merit them being in the bag (3w, 3i, 4i).  If the clubfitter recommends a set makeup change, plain and simple this means buying the clubs new you need to get the set makeup where it needs to be to help your game the most.

Clubhead Design:  Well, this one’s obvious.  You can’t magically change one style of clubhead into another.  If the clubheads on your existing set are not the best for your manner of play, now you really know you an attempted retro-fit of your existing clubs is a total waste.

Conclusion:   I know money can be tight these days for a lot of us, so a retro-fit might seem to be the best of all worlds to help golfers get fit without buying a whole new set from scratch.  Best advice I can give you if you are dead set on a retro-fit?  Retro fit the irons but be fully custom fit from scratch for a new driver and woods.   Seriously though, the only way to really experience the full game improvement benefits from professional clubfitting is to be fully fit by an expert clubmaker for all custom fit clubs, each one custom built from scratch to fit you and your size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics.  It really can make so much more difference than trying to cobble together your existing clubs to fit.

Until next time, best wishes in this great game,

TOM

5 Comments

  1. I am a assistant professional golfer who has just custom fitted a client. His wrist to floor measurement was 37 inches, he is six feet tall and i initially thought he might need more upright clubs, ping recommends white dot which is three degrees upright but seems excessive.

    During the fit i gave him a club with a netural lie angle but one inch longer than standard, he flushed the club twice out of the middle so much so that it was imposible to tell that he had hit the club twice from the impact tape.

    I am looking to make sound recommendations, would you advise on any different lie requirements or just stay with the added length.

    Thankyou for your time

    • TOM
      Based on our wrist to floor chart data, a 37″ measurement indicates a STARTING point for length as a 44″ driver and 38 1/4″ 5-iron. Note I said STARTING POINT. Whether that becomes the final length depends on the golfer’s, 1) golf athletic ability; 2) swing path; 3) swing tempo/timing; 4) point of wrist-cock release. Better ability, inside out path, controlled tempo and later release means the length COULD (not should) go longer than the WTF initially says. Lesser ability, outside in path, quick/fast tempo and early to midway release means the lengths should never go longer than what the WTF initially says. Do also remember in irons, there is no rule that says the length increment between irons has to be 1/2″. For players who measure to need longer lengths in the irons, it is a good idea to move these people over to a 3/8″ length between irons – doing that means you do not have to go as long on the lower loft irons and you automatically see the mid to higher loft irons get longer by progression. After all, with people who have shorter arms for their height, it is usually in the 7, 8, 9, wedges that they end up needing the longer lengths to prevent them from having to crouch or bend over as much. 3/8″ increments helps that a lot more than going overall long and staying with 1/2″ increments.

      Lie wise, really, I have to be honest – there is NO GOOD WAY to be accurate in lie fitting using only wrist to floor and height. Lie in the irons should always be fit dynamically – putting tape on the sole of the iron, hitting balls off a hard surface board, noting where the board impacts the sole, and making the lie adjustments based on getting that sole impact dead center on the sole. No static lie fitting chart/method can take into account how the shaft droops down and how we golfers do not have the same hand position/posture with every iron at the moment of impact. Dynamic lie fitting does.

      TOM

  2. Hi Tom. The old chestnut about peripheral vs blade/forged vs cast. Appreciate your comments. I’m a graduate of what used to be the San Diego Golf Academy and a good friend of Gene Bonk who I am delighted to see is now one of your Clubmakers. I have had the same set of Mizuno blades since 1998, with DG SL regular shafts since 2005. I’m 55 and off a 6 here in Swaziland, southern Africa. Always been a short hitter, early wrist cock release, relied on the short game to hammer Gene(he may beg to differ). Recently I was handed a Taylor 8 iron shovel (CGB) with 65gm graphite shaft which I proceeded to smack over the same green I had minutes before hit with a 5 iron. Did it 5 more times just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Now, I subscribe to the “blade equals game improvement” on the basis that my swing had better be good to catch that little devil dead centre. Buuuuuut! 8 iron over a 5 iron??? Even with the ridiculous lofts they con us with today, that is an amazing difference. So here’s what the diablito on my shoulder is whispering: Georgie Boy, swallow the ego and get the shovels. El angelito meanwhile is insisting, Shove some graphites into the blades, pick up 10 metres and be happy. If there was a Wishon man in southern Africa, I would go. But the nearest is 4,000 miles way in England.
    Final thought: I have debated with Gene my ultimate carry set – 10 clubs: putter; driver, 16 and 22 degree hybrids; 4 irons with 6 degree gaps (28, 36, 42, 48); 52 and 58 degree wedges. What’s your opinion on the need for 14 clubs? Thanks Tom.

    • George:
      Thanks much for the post!! When I happen to take a drive cart to play fast and get more holes in before dark, I have been known to carry over 20 clubs in my bag! Since I am a designer, that’s my prerogative because I can always say “I’m out testing clubs”. . . HA!! But when I sling the old bag over the shoulders and head out to walk, that number never exceeds 13 sticks in the bag!! I’m a strong believer in only carrying what you need to give yourself no more than a 15 yd difference between clubs. 15 yds is 45 feet and the last time I checked, most greens were at least 50 feet deep from front to back – and most of us are reasonably proficient in being able to 2-putt from 45 feet most of the time. So 15 yds is a distance gap between clubs we can all live with easily. And in viewing your proposed set makeup, I should think it would satisfy this gapping requirement.

      As to the shovel or the blade, for you as a very experienced player, the decision has to come down to which one do you REALLY like the looks of behind the ball day in and day out? And after that, ask yourself this – now that you know how far you can hit the shovels, if you did go with the shorter hitting blades would there ever be a time when you regretted not having that distance with the blades? As long as the shovels are decent looking enough behind the ball to never cause you to vomit when you address the ball, most golfers would opt for the greater distance. BUt in the end, it is YOUR decision!!!!

      TOM

  3. In reply to George. I understand that the Golf Science guys in Cape Town do TW clubs. They might even be in JHB which should be closer to you.

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