This summer, Golf Digest, in cooperation with Club Champion Golf, has embarked on a study on the effects of clubfitting. A group of 10 players of various handicaps agreed to participate in the study, each going through a full bag fitting and having their set changed partially or completely. We're checking in with them through the summer to chart their progress. They've now had their new clubs for several weeks, and what we're seeing is the change in their games is exciting and frustrating, sometimes in equal measure.
Club selection has been a problem for a number of participants, including Darryl Wiggins, who picked up nearly 5 yards of carry (174.8 to 179.5) with his 6-iron during the fitting. He says the added distance has caused him some trouble gauging shots with his old go-to club: "I had always loved my 7-iron. I just knew where it was going and how far." "I just haven't gotten there yet with my new 7 iron." Joe Jung, Master Fitter from Club Champion in Willowbrook, Ill., says Wiggins' post-fitting struggles with club selection are far from unusual, and for good reason: "When you face a 145-yard shot over water, where you used to hit a 7-iron, pulling a 9-iron can be terrifying. Inevitably, there's going to be an adjustment period."
Glenn Goldsborough says that being fitted has made him raise his standards, which is causing him to become more frustrated when his game goes south: "I think I've been putting more pressure on myself, because I have these clubs. I've made a significant investment in my clubs. I should be playing better."
Our participants have also experienced surprises throughout the process. Wiggins went back and forth between r- and s-flex shafts in his irons before the fitting, so he was impressed when he got his hands on the KBS CTaper R+ shafts. He pinpointed "the ability to get a nice feel and not the wider dispersion I had anticipated" is what sold him on them. Goldsborough's biggest surprise was one he welcomed with little effort: "I was actually getting more distance even with a slower swing speed." The reason? Club Champion replaced the 65-gram graphite shafts in his irons with 120-gram steel shafts, or in a way the difference between driving a Mini Cooper and a Peterbilt. This switch decreased his clubhead speed with his 6-iron from 87.8 to 82.9 mph, but his ball speed increased by 8.1 mph (110.8 to 118.9) and he picked up 5.3 yards of carry (171.6 to 176.9). That improvement is only possible because now he's hitting the center of the clubface, something he clearly wasn't doing before.
Goldsborough's fitter, Jim Yenser, said this was possible because the heavier shafts produced higher launch and spin. Golsborough had an "aggressive transition" at the top of the swing, so with a lightweight shaft he struggled to square the face up at impact, leading to poor contact and wide dispersion. According to Yenser, "He was hitting the steel shafts higher because he was compressing the ball more," meaning the ball carried farther, too.
For some participants, confidence in their new clubs has come right away. But others find themselves still waiting. Stan Ludwick says he has complete trust in his new set, especially his irons. Kurt Johnson, however, has not experienced this immediate surge in confidence, but he believes that the assurance will come shortly. "I have been working on it, so I think I will really see the benefits and rewards soon."
Why do some players turn their gains from the fitting into lower scores faster than others? According to Jung from Club Champion, the ease of the transition is a function of the old set's "level of appropriateness." "Most, if not all, people that come in see improvements in their ball striking and ball flight. But if someone's clubs changed dramatically in length, weight or flex, the adjustment time will be longer," he added.
"Stan is a good player, and when he came in his set was very close." "Because his equipment needed only minor changes, he is already seeing results," Jung says. Stan's scores with his new clubs speak for themselves. In four rounds he is averaging 76.3, nearly a full shot lower than his pre-fitting scoring average of 77.2.
Babcock's new clubs haven't yet produced the lower scores he's looking for, but that hasn't diminished his confidence. In fact, they've made the game more enjoyable: "I'm playing better with more consistency, and that is always fun."