Fitting for the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Player
Over time we have all read articles about fitting and why it is important and how it can help your game.
As a long time Golf Magazine “Top 100 Teacher“, a TrackMan Master and Partner, I certainly have my views on why fitting is important for the different level of golfers, but the more I pondered “fitting” the more questions I had.
I came to realize that only thinking from the teaching standpoint does not tell the whole story, I wanted to discuss club fitting with a TrackMan Certified and Golf Digest “Top 100 Clubfitter”; How fitting differs from level to level and if it’s a necessity for some players but not for others. Therefore, I called one of the best guys I know – Scott Felix, of Felix Clubworks, in Memphis, Tennessee. (@felixclubworks)
In this article he and I will discuss “fitting” for three levels – Beginner, Average and Advanced Golfers, from the “teacher’s standpoint” and the “fitter’s standpoint” to uncover any secrets that each of you should know…
Teacher: Tom Stickney
The way I see it the beginners have no consistent motions, but they do have some type of “baseline” action that makes fitting them for length, lie, and loft a good idea.
I have seen too many never-ever players that have hand me down clubs that are set up in a way that makes starting the game impossible, too short/long, too upright/flat, etc.
Fitter: Scott Felix
I agree but don’t forget that as a fitter we can also do other things that makes your job as the teacher much easier.
With my beginners I focus on making sure the following aspects below are under control so they can start from a good athletic position so teachers like Tom can take it from there.
Beginners’ Fitting Keys:
- Head Model
- Shaft Flex
- Grip Size
Length: Puts the player in the most athletic posture to make the most repeatable swing they can at this level.
Lie Angle: Helps to get the club moving thru the turf in the most consistent manner possible, coupled with the ability to counter their miss tendencies.
Head Model: Select a head design for them that is the most forgiving and works with their tendencies.
Shaft Flex: Beginners must have the proper shaft weight and flex that maximizes consistency and distance output.
Grip: This is one of the most forgotten fundamentals of fitting… Do they have a grip type that works with the weather they play in most often, and secondly, do they have the proper grip size based on their hand size and shot pattern they desire.
Obviously from this point they can take lessons, practice, and start on working on getting better, because now they have clubs that works with their body frame and beginning tendencies.
The biggest issues I see with the average golfer is their set make-up, shaft flex, and playing too little loft throughout the bag. Personally I see far too many 3,4,5 irons and excessively low lofted drivers that don’t spin enough.
Not to mention the fact that OEM’s today have reduced lofts across the board and for players with little speed having too little spin-loft can also be a big problem for distance output and stopping power on the greens!
First of all the average golfer needs to follow the steps above first and foremost, then over time, we can move on to the more advanced things.
Average Players’ Fitting Keys:
- Basic Fit
- Head Design Bias
- “Feels” from the Clubs
- More Attention to Shaft Details
- Set Make-up
Basic Fitting: After they figure out “how to play” with their basic fit they have likely grown out of their first initial fitting and want to move into more personalized fitting options.
Head Design Bias: After playing for some period of time and becoming more familiar with different club designs some type of player bias develops… These biases make people dislike thin/thick toplines, offset, or colors.
Feels from the Clubs: As you play more players will also tend to gravitate towards certain “feels” and acoustics from the different models and this also defines more of the clubs they would like to play if possible
More Attention to Shaft Details: At this point these players have more than a simple baseline motion… They have tendencies… At this stage we can begin to fit them into heavier or lighter shafts, stiffer or softer shafts depending on their overall ball-flight and shot patterns.
Set Make-up: At first the fitter usually suggests to the player what clubs should be in their bag from the set make-up perspective but now it starts to be up to the player himself. The Average Golfer now knows that they don’t like high lofted woods or mid-range hybrids and thus they want to substitute these for something else.
So at this point it’s more about personalizing the tools they have, in order to play the game better than they could with the basic beginner clubs that I guess they have out grown?
Yes, they are starting to have a better understanding of how they like to play and they are looking for different ways to fill gaps in their game, or find clubs that can lower the probability of hitting the poor shots that they struggle with during their normal round.
At the highest level of amateur golf and non-PGA Tour professional golf, I am still amazed to see the number of players whom have worn out wedges, faulty lie angles, certain clubs players must “work around” in order to hit well, and drivers that flat out – don’t fit!
It just goes to show you that some really good players just put their hands on the clubs you give them, and figure out how to make them work. But if they can make these faulty clubs work to a high level only relying on their natural talent and compensational skills, just how good could these players really be if they had clubs that worked for, not against, them?
I equate it to a guy running the mile for time in shoes that are a touch too small, not grossly out of whack just a touch. Sure they can finish the race and maybe even place, but over time they will foul up their gait using the wrong sized shoes, it’s things like this that can lead to injuries, poor performance, and a lack of confidence in the end.
Agree, I see the same things as well. I cannot understand wedges that are worn out, or just bought off the rack, while the REST of the set is fit correctly!
Advance Golfers’ Fitting Keys:
- Basic and Average Fit
- Special Touches
- Maximizing Input vs Output
Basic Fitting: After they figure out “how to play” with their “average player” fit they have again grown out of their second stage of fitting and may want to move into very highly specific personalized options.
Special Touches: The advanced player has a great understanding of the way they play what shot patterns they “see.” By fine tuning the very specific areas you can really make a difference… For example altering the bounce on irons and wedges can make them more or less playable based on their usual angles of attack. Moving the CG location in drivers by hot melting the head can also serve to increase or decrease right or left bias tendencies etc.
Maximizing Input vs Output: Advanced players have a more consistent golf swing and because of this they want to decrease the level of their misses so they are more playable. Changing the settings of the players driver can make a huge difference in playability and confidence at this level.
Not to mention using the TrackMan 4 to dial in the driver’s spin numbers, landing angles with the irons and overall height at the apex of the ball’s flight. It’s my goal to make the game as easy as possible for the advanced player, by giving them tools that fit their needs and react in a more positive way when they make a poor swing.
Every player is different and unique in the things that they need from their teacher and clubfitter – It takes BOTH parties working in unison, so that the player has the best information and tools for their day’s work.
Agree… Sadly even at the highest levels it seems that teachers and fitters still don’t work together as much as they should. Not even on the PGA Tour!
It’s very important at all player development stages for the fitter and teacher, to discuss what they are trying to do with the client at that time.
This information allows fitter and teacher to formulate an equipment set up and lesson strategy, to help the client improve quicker than ever before!
Share your thoughts and comments below..