By Doug Rikkers
GolfTEC Director of Teaching Quality
By Don Guckenberger
GolfTEC Senior Market Analyst
By Peter Reese
GolfTEC Vice President of Marketing
EYES ON THE
PRIZE: Where the driver fits in
For many golfers, the tee shot is simply the first shot on each
hole. One hit with equal measures of trepidation and exhilaration. To them, the goal is simply to avoid bogie-inducing
trouble along with a double dose of humility.
Other golfers manage the course, assigning high strategic
importance to their tee shot’s placement. In this case, fairway landing zones are selected using driving distance
as only one factor. For these
players, the well-placed drive creates opportunities to score.
This guide’s objective is to enable golfers to move from the
first cadre to the second, recognizing driver selection is critical to playing the
game beyond a hazard-avoidance level.
PARTS OF THE
SOLUTION: What comprises a modern
- Grip - The top portion of the
driver where the hands meet the club.
- Shaft – The portion of the
club between the grip and the club head.
- Flex – Indicates the
stiffness of the shaft., usually ranging
from Extra Stiff (X) to Ladies (L)
- Weight – Measured in grams,
this is the actual weight of the shaft. Steel shafts generally weigh more than graphite.
- Torque – The amount of
resistance the shaft has to the twisting
in the downswing.
- Loft – The angle of the
clubface, measured in degrees, at address in relation to vertical from the
ground. Higher degrees result in a higher launch angle at impact.
- Face Angle – The angle of
the clubface, measured in degrees, at address in relation to the target
line. One degree left or right results in 12 yards off line on a 200 yard
- CC – Short for Cubic Centimeters,
this is a measure of the volume of the clubhead. 460cc is the maximum
legally accepted size for a driver
- Length – The total distance
from the top of the Grip to the bottom of the Shaft (or back of the heel
of the club).
- Carry Distance – The
distance the ball will travel in the air before hitting the ground.
- Roll – The distance the ball
travels after hitting the ground.
CHOOSING WISELY: How to select a high-performing driver
The path to Driver Bliss diverges immediately when shopping
for a new club. To the left is the
Self-Service Sea, a broad expanse of options that proliferate with each issue
of every golf magazine. To the right is the Custom Fitting Forest, a
less-obvious landscape where hidden pitfalls and potential rewards prevail.
The Self-Service or Rack option, in reality, carries of
level of complexity simply because the choices are many. In the same way, the number of drivers
that are out of phase with your swing, skill level and playing goals is high
– and even overwhelming. In this case, critical factors like the driver’s
length rely upon guesswork and the club’s feel in a hitting bay or on the
range. When skill, goals, and
physical differences are factored in, any particular Rack driver has a less
than 12% probability of matching. That’s before performance variables like grip type and shaft kick-point
are considered (pushing the probability well under 10%).
Beginning and casual players can tolerate a Rack driver,
assuming at least some basic measurements are taken by a moderately-skilled
retail employee. Rules of thumb
are applied, and developing a solid swing should be the player’s focus prior to
investing in anything but an entry-level driver costing up to $250.
Custom Fitting, an option left unexplored by over 85% of
active players (GTE research), is where science and art should be expected to
converge – and where facts about the driver’s performance need to be elevated
well above feelings or undying brand loyalty. Not a one-size-fits-all category, Custom Fitting encompasses
a wide spectrum of options from a quick-fit to advanced analysis that would
make a NASA engineer stand up and cheer.
Most golfers sacrifice distance to gain accuracy or vice versa. A properly fit club can help you stay above the line, improving your problem area without sacrificing your strength.
THE PRICE OF SUCCESS: What investment is warranted
Increasingly, the full range of Custom Fitting choices is
attracting attention from both avid and aspiring players. In part, this is because club makers
are unveiling new lines several times a year, with many drivers incorporating
player-tunable features such as clubhead weight shifting. At the same time, fitting technology is
now accessible to non-Tour players at reasonable price points.
The goal is to get past the high probability (80%+) of a
misfit with a Rack driver and employ a moderately-priced fitting to get to a 95% plus confidence factor. Here, the cost of the dialed-in driver averages $250-$400
for most players apart from a shaft upgrade.
In the current competitive market that affects both club makers and retailers, the variance in price on any model is far
smaller than in years past. Online
reviews and e-commerce have further narrowed pricing disparities to make
full-service club sellers a viable value option once again.
BRAIN: How you can improve
your odds with Self-Service drivers
Typically known as a “static fitting” or “floor fit,” this under 30-minute encounter will
look at 1) height and arm length to determine club length, 2) estimated swing
speed to choose shaft flex and 3) grip to ballpark grip size and style: By definition, swinging a club is
– Many players will insist on a specific brand instead of accepting
alternatives that are better choices
– Don’t purchase clubs with the wrong length or flex, even on clearance
– Some golfers purchase drivers that are either too steep or too lofted
for their swing. Buy a loft that compensates for your perceived ball flight
challenges: High trajectory drives suggest a lower loft, and vice versa
- What are the specs for the drivers being
considered? Each manufacturer has a different standard for driver length
and lie angle. You might need to
adjust the length or lie purchased if the manufacturer’s “standard” doesn’t fit
- Can I demo the club on site – or even
borrow it to test on the range or course? Many locations offer demo driving
either with an indoor cage and simulator or on a driving range. Some will allow
you to play a live-fire round. Expect
to leave a deposit when the club leaves the four walls
- What new models are on the horizon? Unlike
the car industry, club manufacturers release new models multiple times during the
year. Ask about new drivers coming out if you’ve got the ability to hold off
purchasing until later
ALL FOR ONE: What custom fitting does to deliver player-specific performance
For optimum fit and driving confidence, the fitting session
needs to be “dynamic,” relying upon an array of accurate data inputs and
verified club comparison statistics. In more rigorous fittings, your drive may be captured using launch
monitor technology to gather key metrics including swing speed, launch angle,
backspin/sidespin rates, face angles at impact and more.
An accurate fitting uses these measurements to narrow the
options to only those that match your body, driving goals and budget. From there, your preferences and the
fitter’s experience come into play to gain both mechanical and psychological
advantages in the tee box.
fitting process – Insist on using a launch monitor in your fitting
process to guarantee reliable, repeatable results
club comparison database – Be aware of results that were intentionally
narrowed to accommodate a club maker or retailer’s sales goals
basic specs – Double-check that the results you receive account for the
variations in “standard” specs between manufacturers – the same challenge
present in static fittings as well
- What happens during your fitting session? The process needs to include static and dynamic measurements and technology
that integrates the two. Seeing your swing on video alongside key measurements
is far more reliable than the “trust my eyes” methodology employed by some well-intentioned
- What about after-market shafts? Make
sure your session considers the value of after-market driver shafts, weighting
the performance benefits against the cost
- Delivery of clubs? In many cases, a
custom-fit driver can be in your hands within days of your order, and warrants
this slight delay in gratification over a grab-and-go Rack driver
- Clubs on hand to compare? Don’t be
surprised if your exact driver configuration isn’t available as a demo
club. This is simply because of
the personalized nature of a player-specific product. Ask the fitter for models that are reasonably close and
expect even higher performance from your custom-fit driver.
BIG DOGS, PREPARE TO
BARK: What next steps make sense
Jot down a few quick thoughts about your playing level,
current driving results, and goals for improvement. This allows you to evaluate how important driving
performance is to you and your game. Such reflection may put the higher cost and greater potential of
Custom-Fitting into perspective. Then consider local availability of Rack and/or
Custom-Fit options. A quick
introductory visit can further clarify which you pursue as straighter and
longer drives become the mission.
GolfTEC IMPROVEMENT CENTERS have given over 1.7 million
lessons to over 170,000 clients. Equipped
with advanced launch monitor, motion capture and video technology, each is
staffed with knowledgeable fitters who understand the golf swing as well as
club performance. The PERSONAL
CLUB FITTING session, a popular Custom Fitting service, offer golfers of all
abilities the ability to identify the optimum driver for their game and goals.
PGA and LPGA Professionals expertly interpret system results
and club recommendations. In conjunction with Swing Labs, GolfTEC incorporates dual
digital cameras and a Vector® Launch Monitor into the process to tightly narrow
the range of options. On-site club testing verifies specific clubs and personal
preferences. Often, even the most
personalized driver or iron set will be delivered within a week of the PERSONAL
CLUB FITTING session, accompanied by GolfTEC’s price matching guarantee (see
Improvement Center for details).
Visit FitMyClubs.com for full details including the location
of nearby GolfTEC Improvement Centers throughout the United States and Mexico.
This article reprinted
with the permission of GolfTEC Enterprises, and features contributions by Doug
Rikkers, Don Guckenberger and Peter Reese.