Color Me Green
I’ll admit it: I’m a little jaded about fittings. I’ve been lucky enough to be fit by several OEMs in addition to regularly working with one of the most knowledgeable club fitters in the game, so when TaylorMade invited me to their Performance Lab, I was curious to know if they’d be able to show me anything I hadn’t already seen. What they showed me is that I shouldn’t have doubted them. A fitting at the TaylorMade Performance Lab is unlike anything else in the industry.
Setting the Tone
Say what you will about TaylorMade, but they know how to make an impression, and this is absolutely true of their TM Performance Labs. To enter, you walk through a giant metal vault door. Once inside, you see a spacious hitting bay, copious amounts of monitors, and more fitting equipment – heads, shafts, clubs, putters – than you could imagine.
TaylorMade’s expert fitter, Brad Syslo, chatted with me about my game as I warmed up. While I hit balls, he also took measurements of my current clubs and put all the data he gathered into his computer.
Don’t Guess, Don’t Calculate, Don’t Estimate…Measure
Once I was warm, it was time for the fun to start. Brad outfitted me in a motion capture suit, which was really nothing more than some reflective spheres that attached to my body. This is very different than many other motion capture systems because there are no wires or bulky sensors to wear. These reflectors combined with numerous high speed cameras to measure everything my body did during the swing. Even the clubs are covered with sensors. This is important because TaylorMade’s fitting system actually measures the club and club face. Many other systems claim to measure the club, but they actually infer things about the club based on the ball flight. In TaylorMade’s system, the body, club, and ball are all measured independently.
I hit a number of shots, and then Brad walked me through the data. The first thing he showed me is how consistent my shots were: same body positions, same club positions, face angles, paths, etc. This was not meant as a compliment: it’s something that he says is true of everyone, regardless of handicap. Because of this consistency, it only takes a handful of swings for the computer to come up with a recommended fit. This is not the final word, the player always has veto power, but it’s a starting point. In my case, I was there to be fit for the SpeedBlades which is what the system recommended.
Perfecting the Fit
Brad and I started out with exactly the club the system recommended: SpeedBlades, standard length, 3° upright. Brad said I was already in the right shaft weight with my Dynamic Gold S300, so he left that alone.
I hit a few shots with the SpeedBlade and the results were stunning. The SpeedBlades were over 10 yards longer AND they landed more softly than my current irons. Brad explained that this was a combination of increased ball speed and the Speed Pocket technology. My only complaint was that my shots were still too far left, so Brad went to work adjusting the lie angle.
The next set of shots was hit with the same club set at a standard lie angle. This improved the dispersion markedly. Brad explained that the system’s 3° upright recommendation was based on the position of the club and my hands at impact, but it didn’t take into account my ball flight – that’s where the fitter and the golfer come in. Just for fun, he had me hit some shots with a club that was 3° flat, but that change was a little too extreme.
To drive home the point that not all fittings are equal, Brad had me hit some shots off a lie board. Lie boards are commonly used in “big box” fittings, but it is well known that “lie boards lie.” Sure enough, the lie board gave me high marks with the club that was 3° upright, and said the standard club was too flat. Where ever you go to get fit, please keep in mind that the end goal is good ball flight, not a pretty mark on the lie board.
Finally, Brad gave me a different shaft to try. He said that in his experience, Dynamic Gold players are nearly impossible to convert, but he wanted me to try the KBS C-Taper. I’m glad he did: the dispersion tightened up and I picked up a couple extra yards.
Final result: 13 extra yards of carry AND a steeper landing angle. Fitting matters, folks.
Distance Irons, Loft, and Minding the Gaps
I expect that 99% of the time, when Brad makes someone’s 6-iron 13 yards longer, he gets hugs and high fives. In this case, I’m the 1%: I gave him a laundry list of questions instead. Here are the Cliff Notes:
“If my 6-iron goes 188 instead of 175, what does that mean for the rest of my bag? Do I now need more wedges? Do I need different lofts?”
Brad explained that I do not need new or different wedges. Despite the stronger lofts in the longer irons, the SpeedBlades PW is 45°. The SpeedBlades don’t shift all your yardages up; they simply create bigger gaps between clubs. Where my old irons had 10 yard gaps, Brad said that I will now have gaps of roughly 12 yards. The result is that my long irons will gap to my hybrids better, something he sees in very few players’ current sets.
I found this to be the best explanation of the need for distance irons that I had ever heard. I’ve always been skeptical of the logic behind hitting your irons further, but what Brad told me makes sense. Whether or not it works in practice…I’ll report back on that in my full review of the SpeedBlades irons.
The Full Tour Experience
After the fitting, Brad and I agreed on the final specs for my SpeedBlades, standard length and lie with KBS C-Taper shafts, and we placed the order. When you order your clubs through a TaylorMade Performance Lab, they get a little extra special treatment. They are guaranteed to be built within 48 hours and, more importantly, they are built on a separate line where the quality control is at a Tour van level.
If you’re interested in trying a TaylorMade Performance Lab fitting for yourself, they have locations in Chicago, San Diego, Orlando, Palm Desert, California, Houston, Boston, Minnesota, and Turnberry, Scotland. Check out www.TMPLabs.com for more details.
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Very good write up Matt, I’m excited for the Speedblades review. They were my favorite of the 2014 lineup after going to The Kingdom. On a side note I also got to see the custom assembly line where your clubs will be built :)
Let’s be honest, who cares about the golf fitting, let me get a few rips with the Bickell twig! #XXXXXXX-flex
I’m getting fitted at the one here in Columbus and am very excited about it
Nicely Done, Matt. The TM Labs are very nicely done by TM, and their fitters really know their job well.
That second part is really the key. If you put a marginal fitter with all that tech…disaster. But in the hands of a pro, that technology can do the golfer a world of good.
Best Looking Man in Golf, given I know who you are…I ask you this: are we not including Adam Scott?
Nice article Bill. Thanks.
When you say:
“please keep in mind that the end goal is good ball flight”
were you able to evaluate your ball flight outside while fitting and taking decisions?
Isn’t quite impossible to detect a good ball flight with a simulator indoor, regardless of the quality of the equipment?
I haven’t been able to take the SpeedBlades outside yet, but I will soon. That will all be discussed in the SpeedBlade review. The fitting at that TMPL is all indoor, but I think there can be an outdoor component during warmer weather, I believe.
I don’t agree with your last statement at all. The top end technology, whether it’s radar or camera based, is exceptional. I understand that some people simply want to see ball flight, but the fact is that the best LMs can show you everything you need to know indoors.
My understanding is the Chicago location has the indoor facilities for fitting and then an outside driving range. It is located at Olympia Fields Country Club so it would make sense.
Yes, correct on all counts.
How much does it cost to get fit at the TM Lab. Also, I already have the speedblades so is there any benefit or way to be fit still?
I don’t recall the exact cost, and it may vary from one lab to the next.
Since the SpeedBlades are relatively old (by TMAG standards), I don’t know that the labs will have those heads to fit with anymore. That said, you can always go for a fitting and work to find the best shaft, which can have a huge impact.
Looking for a TaylorMade full fitting in South Florida.
For fitting in Florida, I would recommend Club Champion in Orlando or True Spec in Orlando or Miami. Both carry full lines of TaylorMade clubs.