December 2009

Club Fitting-The Proper Way: (Part 2 of a 3 part Series)

Author: Pete Popovich

Many golfers, or their instructors, do not realize, or acknowledge the importance of proper club fitting. Their belief is that instruction is the only way for a golfer to improve. The reality is improper fit golf clubs can and do cause numerous problems for golfers.

Length
Most club fitting outfits assume that height and gender play a major role in the fitting process in regard to length. It is of the utmost importance that men and women be viewed as people when fitting clubs. Gender does not dictate length nor does height.

A person’s physiology is what determines club length, not false assumptions. Males today are only about one quarter of an inch taller than 15 years ago, and there are many good players, professional and amateur, less than six feet tall. But most major manufacturers have increased their ‘standard’ length by an inch or more!
Studies show that more than 65 percent of golfers are playing with a length that is wrong for them. If a club is the wrong length, it does not allow the golfer to set up properly and the setup determines the motion. Without being able to set up properly, our range of motion is negatively affected and swing faults occur.
Some of today’s OEM’s (original equipment manufacturers) fit clubs too long or too short and try to adjust the lie angle to make up the difference. As a result, the golfer is out of position—standing too close or too far from the ball. This improper setup results in shots hit thin, fat, right, left, etc. Some companies believe all clubs should be longer, regardless of physical characteristics. Neither of these beliefs is logical, much less scientific.

A qualified teacher and club fitter must carefully consider all possibilities and be able to identify the cause of setup and swing problems. For instance, if a golfer has a tendency to decelerate on the forward swing, chances are the club is too long. Physically, we reach maximum speed when our arms are extended and straight. If a club is too long, our arms never get to straighten and we are unable to accelerate through impact or square the club face at impact.

Lie Angle
Most of today’s OEM’s promote and sell clubs with very upright lie angles in an attempt to cure slicing when, in actuality, setting lies so upright causes myriad swing problems, including slices. Some reports have shown that up to 80 percent of golfers are playing with clubs too upright, yet the industry continues to turn them up even more!

To make matters worse, many club fitters and teaching professionals have no idea how to set lie angles. The biggest mistake made is the use of a lie board. Use of tape on the bottom of the club indicating a strike near the heel or toe is a common misconception and completely erroneous. The more upright a club is, the more the right hand (assuming a right handed golfer) is bowed upwards at setup. This bowing causes an improper takeaway, leading to an improper swing plane. On the downswing, the excessive bowing results in contact marks near the toe of the club. These contact marks on the tape and swing flaws were created because the hands were too high at setup in an attempt to accommodate the extremely upright lie angle.

Turning the toe up to reduce slicing is another misconception. Before a club head is shafted, it has a sweet spot; when it is shafted, the sweet spot changes. When the club is in motion, the laws of physics determine the ‘new’ balance point for the center of contact. Since the club head rotates around the center of the axis of the shaft, and the head is designed with specific lie angle parameters, turning the toe beyond those parameters causes the club head to be imbalanced when in motion. If the weight is not distributed properly, the toe of the club will lag when in motion and the club will not square at impact, resulting in a slice or a thin, weak hit.

Loft Angles
All club heads are designed with specific loft angle tolerances. Most people mistakenly believe there are no limits to how weak or strong loft can be set. The fact is, adjusting loft angle affects the weight distribution of the club head. When the weight distribution is changed, and the physics of motion come into play, the odds of solidly striking the ball are reduced. If a club head is turned to a stronger loft than its design tolerance, distance can actually be lost! The weight balance and the impact angle may cause excessive topspin rotation at impact which reduces the ‘lift’ required for proper launch angle. In other words, the excessive topspin rotation does not allow the ball to stay in the air long enough to achieve maximum distance.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about club fitting these past two months and hope you join us next month as we discuss flex and frequency. If you have any questions about club fitting, or golf instruction, please contact the Golf Performance Academy at (843) 338-6737 or visit www.golfacademyhiltonhead.com.

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