Real World Performance
Today, we’re bringing you the real world results. Each of the five participants has had the opportunity to put their fitted shaft into play on the course and tell you about their experience in their own words.
Fitted At: Club Champion Atlanta
Shaft: Fujikura Pro Tour Spec
I arrived at club champion in Atlanta and got started right away by warming up with irons and progressing into driver swings. I swung numerous times with my current gamer (2016 Taylormade M1 with Kuro Kage Silver Tini 60g Stiff shaft) to develop a good base line. We moved into various Fujikura shafts and swung several times with each shaft. I tried 5 different shafts, all X flex, and immediately liked two of them. The Pro Series Tour Spec 73 X-flex and the XLR8 Pro X-flex felt the best to me. They were also the most consistent for me. I went back and hit both shafts again and from there we chose the shaft that best fit my game.
After we decided on a shaft I was able to try it on several other driver heads. I hit the latest from Titleist, Callaway, Taylormade and PXG. My 2016 M1 was the best overall with the Callaway epic in second. My gains with the Pro Series tour spec 73 were great across the board. Accuracy and consistency were most important to me. In the sim I saw an increase from 41.2% to 100% fairways hit. Carry distance went up by an average of 19.5 yards. Dispersion was the biggest difference. My gamer had a dispersion of 43.7 yards while the Fujikura shaft was only 8.5 yards. Spin was also reduced by an average of 400rpms. My smash factor averaged 1.42 with my gamer and was 1.50 with the new Fujikura shaft.
On the course I’m seeing an about 77% fairways hit with a massive reduction in dispersion. Instead of being out of bounds or in another fairway I’m only a few yards in the rough. My biggest miss so far has only been about 20 yards off line. My “missed fairways” are still easily playable in the rough, sometimes only a yard or two off the fairway. Before they were in the trees or out of bounds. Distance in the fitting increased by an average of 19.5 yards and on the course I’m seeing about 10 extra yards on good hits. I had two big misses before, a snap hook and a high push/slice. The snap hook is completely gone and the high push/slice, when it does appear, turned into a lower push/fade and it stays in play. I love the way the club feels with the heavier shaft. My confidence with the driver has definitely gotten a huge boost.
Fitted: Club Champion Santa Monica, CA
Shaft: Fujikura ATMOS Black
Let me start by giving a brief overview of my golf game. I took the game up late as my first round was just twenty months ago, Thanksgiving Day, 2015, as a 45-year-old. While I messed around a little at the range from time to time with friends and their clubs, I had never played on a course until then. I have an extensive athletic background, having played two sports in college, one which led me to be drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 1989 amateur draft, and I stay active to this day. I give that detail because a few of my playing partners have said that I’ve taken to the game quite quickly and I can’t help but think my background has helped me with the hand/eye coordination needed for golf. My first ever score was well over 110 but I, now, routinely shoot in the 80’s. Breaking 80 is my next goal.
I’ve never been through a fitting session for any of my clubs. While I’ve thought about it many times, I was hesitant to move forward with a scheduling as I didn’t think I was good enough to get fit. I know that probably sounds silly but it’s true. As I sit here writing, I can’t help but think there are a lot of golfers that feel the same way I did.
Having now gone through a fitting for my driver and experiencing the benefits of doing so, all I can say to those that are hesitant is to get over it and allow yourself to reach your full potential.
While I carried a driver in my bag, it was rarely used on the course. Reason being, I was much more comfortable with my 3-wood off the tee. Teed up, my 3-wood goes 240-245 yards and finds the fairway more times than not. My driver, on the other hand, would go roughly that same distance but I sprayed shots all over the place. Granted, there were times I would just rip one with my driver but those hits were too far and in between, and usually only on the driving range. In short, I had zero confidence with my driver.
Upon my arrival at the Club Champion in Santa Monica, CA, I was greeted by my fitter, Jerry Azurin. He took a look at my bag and we talked about the clubs I was using. He had me fill out a questionnaire pertaining to the current state of my game and what I was hoping to gain out of the fitting for my driver. Like nearly every breathing golfer, I told him I was looking for more distance and tighter shot dispersion.
He led me to the hitting bay where Trackman was setup and where I would spend the next hour. After warming up a bit, we dove right in and took my numbers with my “Gamer”, a Callaway Great Big Bertha (GBB). My “Gamer” was a 9 degree driver that I had set to 11 degrees with a neutral face angle, and the shaft was a stiff flex stock Fujikura Evolution II TS. I was hooking the ball bad with my “Gamer” and, for some reason, never truly felt comfortable. I kept fighting with myself as I found it hard to get aligned to the target. Again, I’ve never been fit for a club but more importantly, my discomfort was based on having never hit in a simulator, or indoors for that matter, so it took some getting used to.
After hitting a few shaft combinations with the GBB head and never getting anywhere near ideal driver numbers, Jerry went over my tendencies and then proceeded to educate me on the relationship of shafts and club heads to each individual’s swing. I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to golf components so I found what he was telling me to be a great learning experience. He broke down the technical information in such a way that I had no problem following him and I was completely understanding on why the shafts I had hit weren’t working for my individual swing. He felt I would be best suited with more weight at the head and a shaft with a higher bend point.
Whereas my “Gamer” had a swing weight of D1, for my next trial setup, Jerry added some lead tape to my GBB club head and matched it up with the Fujikura Atmos Black shaft. After he handed me the club I knew this would be different as, in my hands and with a few practice swings, it felt that much better than the rest. I could actually feel what the club head was doing as I swung it. I proceeded to put up a few of the best carry numbers of the fitting but there was still had a tendency to hook the ball. Even with those hooks, there were quite a few hits with this combo that felt incredible. I want to say I felt the trampoline effect as the ball jumped off the face.
Truth be told, I hit hooks during this fitting that I’ve not seen on the course since I began golfing so I’m chalking that up to my first time hitting indoors on a simulator as I was never quite comfortable with my setup at address or aligning myself properly to the on-screen target.
My best ball striking, spin, total distance and dispersion numbers of the day came on the last shaft/head combo (Fujikura Atmos Black with Taylormade’s M1 club head). Even with a smash factor average of 1.49, two of the hits felt harsh and didn’t deliver these great numbers to my hands. Prior to seeing the numbers on Trackman, I would have said two of the shots with this combo were my worst of the day. With that said, the third and final hit was my best overall with a smash factor of 1.52 and it was also the most insane feeling. With that shot, the fitting ended and we looked at all the numbers for the day.
Having tried several Fujikura shafts during the fitting, the shaft that worked best for me was hands-down the Atmos Black. Now came time to decide on the head to pair with the Atmos Black and, for that decision, I needed more time.
While at Club Champion, I could not make up my mind. There were some deep conversations going on in my head. Here’s just a sampling: Yes, the M1 put up the longest drive of the day and felt incredible on that last strike but those other two hits stuck in my mind; much too harsh for my liking. That “Wow” feeling that I had on my last hit with the M1 club head was duplicated a few times with my GBB club head and I saw my best carry numbers with that Atmos Black/GBB combo.
Overall, this was an incredible experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to get fit for any other clubs in my bag. While driving home from the fitting, I was actually upset at myself for waiting so long to be part of this process. It was very evident that I was not allowing myself to reach my full potential by just buying a club off the shelf with a stock shaft because it looked good, my buddy was having success with it or it was simply priced right.
Following the fitting, I made an appointment with my PGA Pro and we went over the numbers achieved. He took a look at a photo from my fitting, zoomed in on it and said some of my hits to the left could have been a result of my shoulders being misaligned and playing the ball near the middle of my stance. As I stated before, I’m fairly new to the game and tend to still forget some of the basic fundamentals, like alignment and ball placement. I must admit, it was a driver fitting so I was definitely in “Grip It and Rip It Mode”.
My PGA Pro preferred the club head speed and carry numbers I put up with the Atmos Black/GBB combo and felt my ball speed, ball striking, spin numbers and angle of attack would improve with proper alignment, ball placement and a few other changes in my setup. With that information, I chose my “Gamer” as the club head to be matched with the Fujikura Atmos Black 6. My PGA Pro was correct, along with his instruction, I’m hitting the ball like never before. As I previously stated, prior to this fitting, I rarely hit my driver because I was so inconsistent with it. Well, that’s no longer the case.
Since receiving my new driver, I’ve been out on the course five times with it and I hit 69% of the fairways (38 of 55). Also, confirmed by range finder during play (pace of play not affected), 18 of my drives in the fairway went +280 yards total distance and 7 of those 18 drives went +290 yards. For reference, I’m in Southern California so the five rounds were played in +90 degree heat, the course was in great shape and the fairways allowed for some ball run.
Needless to say, I’m extremely thankful for this opportunity and, as a result of Jerry’s knowledge and his club fitting experience, my new driver has instilled a confidence off the tee and my overall golf game that I never had before. My driver fitting was a complete success. Now if I could only putt. Guess that’s my next fitting. Hey Jerry…
Fitted: Club Champion Denver
Shaft: Fujikura XLR8 Pro
I experienced the Club Champion/Fujikura fitting at the Denver location in Highland’s Ranch with Mitch Anderson. The whole fitting at the facility was a great experience, being able to see real time results with the Trackman monitor and seeing how much shafts affect club head speed/ball speed and overall distance gains was a big help for my game.
Ultimately after testing the majority of the shafts on offer from Fujikura I was fitted into the Fujikura XLR8 Pro 53, 45.5 inch length, currently increasing my current driver fitted length by 1 inch over all. I saw an increase in club head speed of almost 2mph, ball speed increase of almost 6mph and smash factor increase from 1.4 to 1.44 equating to an overall increase in distance 11 yards.
Interesting aspects of the fitting I found was that the number of data points can become overwhelming to the layman, however under the expert guidance and knowledge of Mitch, all of this was distilled down to the key points that showed where the biggest gains were being seen. Seeing how much a shaft affects performance off the tee when you have access to the latest equipment, launch monitors and club fitting experts brings a new light to the game for the regular player. The offerings provided by Club Champion mean the weekend player can have the same or similar experience the professionals get and it is well worth it to understand how much fitting and equipment selection can help your game.
Some of the downsides I did find was when I initially received the shaft after being put together I found that the results didn’t immediately translate into performance on the course. I struggled to get the shaft to work on the range warming up then noticed I had developed a high slice which is abnormal to my typical miss. I had put the new MCC Align grip on to try out through this process, but what I found was the grip was actually aligned incorrectly and leading to an entire driver setting off from suggested at the fitting. My older driver (Titleist 910D3 9.5, setting of B1) was actually a full setting out from the latest 917D3 driver which was an accident by Mitch during the build phase. I returned the club for re-fitting of the grip to the correct and Mitch was kind enough to actually hand deliver the club to my house.
Took the new shaft out the next day and again struggled to get the driver to perform as expected and I believe the majority of this is myself, getting used to the extra length from my previous shaft and the grip. I am hoping to get back out and put the shaft back in play to realize the gains seen on the Trackman.
Overall, I am very happy with the process, the fitting experience was second to none and I inquired on club fitting for new clubs and pricing and found that they are pricing themselves in line with the major retailers meaning that when I get the ability to upgrade my equipment I will be able to use their services without hurting my wallet.
Fitted: Club Champion, Willowbrook, IL
Shaft: Fujikura ATMOS Red
I had a big golf outing coming up in the beginning of June and really wanted my new shaft for it, so I schedule my fitting with Club Champion at their Willowbrook, IL location as soon as I could. This was my first time being fit for clubs at this kind of level. Upon entering the Club Champion facility I was extremely impressed. Shafts and clubheads filled the 150ft wall that lined the back end of the hitting bays. My fitter, Roger, had me warm up and then hit some shots with my current driver set up. I hit a couple good ones, a couple bad ones, a couple left, a couple right, and a couple way left. Once he felt we had a good baseline to work with, the fitting began. My fitter would swap out shafts several times throughout the process allowing me to hit 5 or so shots which each shaft. Some shafts worked for me and some did not. The 4th or 5th shaft we tried was the Atmos Red 6s shaft. What stands out the most to me when I hit this shaft for the first time was the fact that I striped the first couple drives I hit. As I had all ready mentioned I was hitting some good ones, some bad ones, some going left, some going right. I was astonished to see my drives going right down the target line multiple times one after the other. I was in golfer heaven at this point. My fitter continued the fitting swapping out different shafts, shaft weights, and flexes. We must of went through the entire Fujikura lineup. After going through a few more shafts (probably close to 10 in all), a bottle of water, and a golf glove we put the Atmos Red 6s back in and validated the performance we saw when I initially hit it. Same old story, I couldn’t miss with this shaft. We then preceded to dial in the head some more by adjusting weights and lofts. Finally we went and picked out a grip for my new big stick, Golf Pride MCC plus 4 grey and red to match the shaft, SHARP! After my fitting I had a week until my big outing. Club Champion was awesome and had my driver ready to go in three days.
Fitted: Club Champion, Santa Monica
Shaft: Fujikura ATMOS Blue
My name is Manny Maldonado and I was 1 of the very lucky 5 participants to be chosen by PluggedInGolf.com for the driver fitting at Club Champion. This included the fitting, Fujikura golf shaft, grip of my choice and SST PURE service, which were all complimentary of each company. I made my fitting appointment and made my way down to Club Champion in Santa Monica, CA. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by my fitter Jason Franklin who is the General Manager and Master Fitter/Builder at that location. After Jason explained the process of the fitting and goals I was looking to achieve, I began by warming up in the hitting bay. Jason took the specs of my driver including the length, swing weight and hosel settings in order to give us a base line. After warming up with some wedges and irons, I was ready to get the driver going.
We began by tracking a few shots with my current setup utilizing Trackman software. My current setup was the 2016 TaylorMade M1 9.5° at 44.5” with the Matrix Ozik Black Tie 6M3 S-Flex at a D5 swing weight. After logging some initial swings with my setup, we jumped into the Fujikura line and began with the ATMOS Tour Spec Black. It was not giving me good numbers with Trackman so we moved onto the Pro and Speeder line. With each line/model Jason did not log the first few shots, as every new shaft had its own unique profile. We came back to the ATMOS Tour Spec line for my last shaft, but decided to try the Blue model. The Blue model gives players a mid launch and mid spin rate. It gave me the most optimal numbers, which included an increase in ball speed, smash factor, carry yardage, total yardage and overall feel. Jason decided we should take off half an inch and keep the swing weight at D5. It was decided that I would get the ATMOS Tour Spec Blue 7X at 44” while retaining the same swing weight with my M1. The last step of my fitting was selecting a grip and I chose the Golf Pride MCC Plus 4. Jason placed the order and finished by giving me a demonstration of the SST PURE process. It is a shaft alignment technology that improves the consistency and performance of any golf shaft that is PURE’d. The system analyzes the structure of any golf shaft and identifies its most stable bending plane, or Neutral-Axis.
Fast forward 10 days and my new gamer had arrived. It was truly astounding as Fujikura golf was kind enough to allow me to get the 2017 ATMOS Tour Spec U.S. Open Limited Edition version of the Blue model. Proceeds from this shaft will be given in scholarship form to the Folds of Honor Foundation, which benefit children and spouses of service members killed or disabled in service to our country. After getting range time in with my new setup, I was very confident in where my game would improve on the course. I took the new driver setup to the course for its first round and having an outstanding round was an understatement. Everything that I had seen an increase in during my fitting, literally transitioned right over to the course. On the opening hole that measures 420 yards, I smashed my drive down the fairway and was left with an approach shot of 85 yards. Out of the 4 Par 5’s on the course measuring over 520 yards, I was able to reach or get within chipping distance on all of them in 2 shots. My most favorable stat of the round was hitting 11 out of 14 fairways. This was huge for me as my dispersion has always been inconsistent. Needless to say, this round will forever be a priceless memory to me as it’s a product of what being properly fit can do for you. I’d like to thank PluggedInGolf.com for selecting me, Club Champion Santa Monica for hosting and Fujikura golf for the shaft. I encourage everyone who has never gone through a proper fitting to look into it and see how it can improve your game.