The old adage is that a good craftsman never blames his tools. Well, you can throw that out the window in golf. Mostly.
Advances in technology have created clubs that add distance and help correct mistakes, no matter which flavor of mistake you prefer.
“I’ve seen people pick up 20 yards with irons without losing accuracy,” said Western NY PGA professional Steve Latimer.
He’s one of the teaching pros at Pennfair Golf in East Rochester. Latimer says the wrong equipment can make it difficult to improve. It takes a professional fitting to figure out what each player needs, but the process is fairly simple.
“We bring your own equipment in. We see the performance and then we put some other equipment in your hands,” he says.
The three main areas where Latimer checks for improvement with new equipment are ball speed, launch angle and spin rate. There are no wrong numbers. As you might expect, the goal is to provide the right “fit”.
A player with a low launch angle wants more spin to hold the ball up in the air longer. Conversely, a player that hits it high wants to reduce spin to avoid hitting a balloon ball.
While creating more ball speed does lead to longer shots, a player still needs to use the correct shaft to pair with the ball speed they can generate.
“A regular flex (shaft) is going to be in the 70 mile an hour ball range and you’re probably gonna carry the ball 130 yards (with a 7-iron),” Latimer says. “Stiffer flexes in your 80s, maybe your low 90s. Your carry is probably going to be in the 150, 160, 170 range. Those really fast swingers, they’ll carry the golf ball 190 yards, 200. So, certainly a heavier weighted extra stiff shaft is what they’re gonna need.”
Shafts do weigh more or less. A stiffer flex shaft could vary in weight from 80 to 130 grams.
There are also different levels and types of improvement for players of different abilities.
“The lesser skilled player is going to be looking for a game improvement (club) with a bigger clubhead, a low center of gravity and able to create speed on those mishit shots,” Latimer says. “We’re not going to put a game improvement club in a single digit player’s hands.”
It can get overwhelming. We haven’t even covered the variety of brand names or club head styles available. That’s why you should try to get every style of club in bag fitted at the same time.
“We like to worry about one aspect of the game, whether it’s iron fitting, a driver fitting, a wedge fitting. We even do ball fittings as well,” Latimer says. “I love the people who come in here with an open mind.”
Club fitting pros will simplify the process. For example, you might find a club head you want to play. The pros will then try that club head with a variety of shafts to arrive at the right fit.
“Having the best equipment you can possible have will give you the best opportunity to hit the shots that make you enjoy the game,” Latimer says. “Nobody wants to be bad at this game.”
There is not a hard and fast timeline for deciding when you need new clubs. The hardcore golfers who play multiple times a week will need the “latest and greatest stuff” as Latimer puts it. If you’re someone who gets nine holes in here and there during the summer, that ten year old driver might only be improved incrementally by new gear.
The best part of the club fitting experience is that the pros understand there is a sizable financial commitment when it comes to purchasing new clubs. You won’t have to guess about the right decision for your situation.
“We’re gonna tell you if our new equipment isn’t as good as what you’ve got there,” Latimer says.
Even after finding the new equipment that’s right for you, it will take a while before those clubs become consistent performers. However, you will start hitting significantly noticeably better shots right away.
“One of the cool things is when people do come in here with the wrong equipment and we show them the difference,” Latimer says. “It is that ‘wow’ moment that is really enjoyable as a club fitter.”