Can My Current Clubs be Custom Fit for Me?
I understand. You’ve become aware of the benefits of professional clubfitting, you want to know 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 the 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 12 key fitting elements, yes, for a fewmore of the 12 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, the shafts can be cut shorter or an extender 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 primary ways to do that in clubheads made for a set bought standard off the rack – weight would have to be put in the very tip end of the shafts or lead tape put on the outside of the heads. A handful of very skilled clubmakers can add weight to drivers/woods/hybrids only by figuring out a way to inject a sticky glue substance inside the body of the head. But not many can do that. 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.
On the other hand if you make your existing clubs longer, you will need to drop the weight of the clubheads to achieve your best fit swingweight. Unfortunately there is no practical way to remove weight from a finished clubhead. 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.
So the bottom line on changing length and swingweight on existing clubs is that it is possible to make the clubs shorter but not likely to have them end up being as playable as you’d like if they are lengthened.
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 hosel to create a new loft for 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 because 17-4 is VERY difficult to bend. So that’s somewhat possible for sure to alter the lie and loft of an existing set of irons and wedges. For your metal woods and driver, sorry, very few heads can withstand a bend of the hosel to 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.
The other side of this are the drivers/woods and hybrids made with an adjustable hosel sleeve that purports to change the loft by rotating the sleeve into a different position. These sleeves only change the loft if you always hold the clubhead with the face square to the target. If you rest the sole on the ground as a routine part of your address position, a change of positions on the hosel sleeve will result in a change of lie and or face angle, not loft.
With a driver this is not too much of a problem because the ball is perched on a tee. A golfer might not be used to having to hover the clubhead slightly off the ground while holding the face square before hitting the shot, but with some practice it can be done. With a wood or hybrid in which the shot is so often being hit off the ground, it is a lot more difficult to achieve shot consistency when trying to slightly hover the sole off the ground while holding the face square.
Shaft Weight, Flex, Bend Point, Torque: If you need different shafts to better fit your swing, no question, any skilled clubmaker can pull the 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: It’s very easy for your old grips to be replaced with new grips that feel better and which better fit your hands 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 golf club. It is chiefly controlled by the weight of the shaft. 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. But if the new shafts are of a different weight than what you had, anytime you change shaft weight re-swingweighting the clubs is required – and we’ve already explained the challenges and limits to that one.
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. As a result of the usual set makeup, most golfers 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 and in modern sets also the 5i). 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: This one’s pretty 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, the right model has to be purchased which usually means an all new set. Yes, it is possible to install a different clubhead on your existing shafts and grips but this does not happen without a depth of analysis to determine the outcome before the new heads are bought.
There is no standard in clubhead design for the length of the hosel and the depth of the shafting bore in the head. If the new heads have a different hosel length and bore depth, they won’t end up the same length and swingweight when installed on the previous shafts/grips.
Conclusion: I know money can be tight, 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. But the best advice I can offer if you are dead set on retro-fitting your current set? 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.