PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

A Fitting story: A game-changer mid-season

July 25, 2012

Golf Digest summer intern Kevin Tarsa is a better player who's in the middle of a summer of tournament golf. But he was intrigued with the equipment editors' frequent discussions about the benefits of clubfitting. He decided to see what all the talk was about. Here's what happened:

"It's not a more forgiving club--it's just more forgiving for Kevin," my clubfitter Woody Lashen told me.  This was way too cool, I thought. Why hadn't I taken advantage of this earlier? Whatever the reason, I'm never buying a club off the shelf again.

My trip last week to Pete's Golf on Long Island (one of America's 100 Best Clubfitters) provided me with the kind of experience I had never seriously considered--but obviously should have: a complete metal woods clubfitting. My clubfitting history was of a slightly higher caliber than the average golfers'--but not by much. I'd bought my gamer after comparing the ball flights of several name-brand competitors at an outdoor range, rather than simply grabbing the club with the flashiest graphics on display at the store. But that was back in 2009, and I figured it was about time I put my clubs to the test, on a launch monitor, to see if there was something better out there for me.

The first thing Woody asked me to do was describe my game: "Scratch player, smooth swinger, average trajectory, most common miss with my driver is a block to the right." The drive lost to the right, I explained, was my way of guarding against my dreaded shot, the hole-ending snipe to the left. I hit my Titleist 909D2 well, but I thought there was definitely room for improvement, and Woody soon validated my conjecture.

When I hit my gamer on a launch monitor for Woody, it quickly became apparent that I was spinning the ball too much, averaging just nearly 3,000 rpm. After he evaluated how much I loaded the club coming into impact, Woody determined that my current shaft, the stock shaft, was too whippy for me, and that I could benefit from a soft X-flex.  This was rather shocking to me, because I always considered my swing speed to be too low for anything more rigid than a Stiff shaft. I guess the point is I didn't really know until I got on a launch monitor. Woody opened my eyes to his cardinal law of shaft-fitting: "The shaft doesn't know how fast it's moving." You can swing the club slower than Ai Miyazato, but nonetheless cause the shaft to bend dramatically during your downswing. Or you can swing as fast a PGA Tour player, but hardly cause the shaft to bow at all (think Steve Stricker). I learned that I was more of the slow-swinging, heavy-loading type.

After an hour of testing, we found what we thought was the perfect head-shaft combo for me: A Titleist 910D3 with an Oban Kiyoshi shaft. With the new Titleist head, the difference was most impressive--spin down to around 2400 rpm, 3 mph faster ball speed (probably a combination of more solid contact in the center of the face and more confidence to swing away), and much tighter dispersion on off-center hits. But when I went to test the club at my home course that night, the transformation became undeniably clear. Hazards I could not even think about reaching before, the ball carried with ease.  I had unbelievable control over the ball's trajectory; I could blast the ball into the sky, or I could hit a penetrating laser through the wind. But the best part of all, my miss to the left was gone.  Woody had set my D3 in the "most fade" position (what Titleist labels C-1), and this, coupled with the stiffer shaft and the low-spin head, made me feel like I could release the club as hard as I wanted.  The farthest the ball would travel off-line to the left was three yards--the tail on a tight, beautiful draw.

I guess switching drivers in the middle of my summer tournament schedule was risky. But I had a feeling there was something out there better for me. Getting fitted has only increased my confidence. Woody even pointed out something that's helped my game through the bag: My old grips were too small.  Talk about relieving grip tension.  But instead of changing the grips on my irons now, I think I'll hold off and just getter bigger ones when I order a new custom-fit set.