While discussing club fitting, I was inspired to coin a term: “method club fitters.” Just as golf is cursed with many “method teachers” it has just as many “method fitters.”
Let me define my terms: a method club fitter is someone who tells you what you should play without asking many, or any, questions. He tells you, “This is what you should play. Buy it and leave.” Just as a method teacher is convinced that everyone should swing the club a certain way, the method fitter thinks that he knows the right club for every golfer.
Why do we have method fitters? I think there are two primary reason.
1) Too much technology, not enough knowledge. Over the last five to ten years, the advancements in launch monitor technology have been nothing short of amazing. Flightscope and Trackman can tell us everything we would want to know about what the golf ball and club. What’s more, these technologies are more accessible to the average golfer than ever before.
Here’s the catch: the machine can’t fit anyone. The machine is just a tool, no different than a hammer or a saw. Without a skilled fitter operating it, the machine does nothing more than flash numbers and pictures across a screen. It is the fitter’s responsibility to take all the data and use it in a conversation with the player.
Unfortunately, what happens more often than not, is that the fitter uses the machine as a shield: “Here are your numbers, these numbers are good, these numbers are bad, buy this club.” The golfer, likely already intimidated by the setting and his own lack of knowledge, is left to nod and accept the recommendation, playing an utterly passive role when he should be no less than an equal partner in the decision making.
And why does the fitter use the technology in this way? I don’t ascribe any malice to his actions, just ignorance and sloth. Depending on the setting, the fitter’s “training” may have consisted of watching a PowerPoint presentation and filling out a quiz. He is likely as overwhelmed by the information as the golfer! And why doesn’t he get active and educate himself? Because he doesn’t have to…he has a shield.
The problem of too much technology and not enough knowledge contributes to the second cause.
2) Fitting is seen as a science, not an art. There are many things about fitting that are scientific. For example, we know exactly the best combination of launch and spin, at any given ball speed, to produce the longest drives. But does that mean that a fitting should end the moment those numbers are achieved? Absolutely not. What if those ideal numbers are achieved with a club that the player hates the look, sound, or feel of? What about accuracy; how much distance should we give up to be in the fairway?
The ultimate goal of club fitting should be to find a club that allows the player to perform his best. The fitter doesn’t know if he’s reached that point without input from the player.
There are many levels of custom fitting
While still not the norm, custom fitting is becoming much more common. I would guess that if you’re reading this, you have had your clubs fit. What I hope you take away from this post is that there are many levels of custom fitting, and the next time you are in the market for clubs you should look for a “better” custom fit.
A bare bones, method fitting is still better than buying off the rack. Even the most uneducated fitter can get you into a club that is the right length with the right grip size, and that’s a start. But the next time you are buying clubs, I would suggest finding someone who not only has the tools to fit you, but also the knowledge. Finding a fitter like that might be a little more difficult (though if you’re reading this, you’ve found one), and working with them might be a bit more expensive, but when you consider the cost of clubs and the frustration of playing badly-fit equipment, I think the difficulty and expense are worth it.