The most important technology in golf equipment today isn’t limited to new titanium alloys and advances in golf ball polymer chemistry. In fact, it’s not really about traditional golf equipment hardware. It’s about making traditional golf equipment work better by not merely getting the right clubs fit to your specs, but making that process of getting the right-fitting clubs faster.
New and improved fitting software packages from several companies aren’t just smarter in their design, they’re making the first steps of clubfitting more efficient—and with that, most likely more attractive to golfers who are hesitant about whether a fitting is worth their time based on the quality of their game. Some of the new and upgraded programs include advances in fitting software and expanded procedures, as well as new use of motion-analysis tools that convert your swing data instantly to fitting recommendations.
One of the leaders in the use of motion-capture data to provide near-instantaneous fitting recommendations has been Mizuno’s Shaft Optimizer, which was first introduced in 2010. Shaft Optimizer uses strain gauges to measure five swing elements to determine a series of most ideal shafts to match up with a player's swing and his choice of irons. The entire process takes as little as three swings. The Shaft Optimizer, with updates launched at January's PGA Merchandise Show, adds a gyroscope to help assess the proper lie angle, a distinctly more natural approach than asking players to hit balls off the traditional lie board.
“Establishing the correct lie angle is one of the hardest elements of iron fitting because of false strike board readings,” says Bill Price, director of fitting at Mizuno. “Most golfers find it uncomfortable to make their normal swing and strike through the board, while players who swing across the line get false readings caused by too much face rotation as the clubface is not square to swing path. By embedding a gyro within our Shaft Optimizer, we’re able to overcome both issues.”
The expanded Shaft Optimizer captures 40 data points with every swing, and after just a few swings a player gets shaft recommendations in rank order from Mizuno’s list of shafts that includes more than 40 options in iron shafts alone.
Callaway is another company with a new motion-capture shaft fitting analysis tool. It introduced FITS earlier this year, which like Mizuno’s device is designed to provide shaft recommendations in five or fewer swings. The FITS device screws in to the grip of a driver or 7-iron and communicates through bluetooth to analyze data points that produce a swing profile that then matches to any of the dozens of shafts in Callaway’s library. The sensor technology in Callaway FITS was developed by Kinetek Sports, the creators of the ClubHub swing analysis and shot-tracking system that can be used both on the course and on the range.
“This is an innovative, easy-to-use analyzer system that’s been years in the making,” said Anthony Newville, Callaway’s manager for custom fitting and strategic partnerships. “We are confident that it will help to streamline the custom fitting experience, and get golfers fit into the right equipment for their game.”
Tools like those from Mizuno and Callaway, as well as past efforts like Ping’s nFlight Motion and Srixon’s Z Swing Analyzer, are not exactly meant to eliminate the need for the expertise of a quality club fitter. Instead, they are an added benefit that a fitter can use to start the fitting process. It’s important that golfers don’t think of these tools as a self-service alternative. But in an age where the launch monitor provides vital data that directs a clubfitting and at the same time provides a golfer with confidence that there are real differences in one adjustment or recommendation vs. another, these motion-capture tools empower golfers to take the next step toward putting game-changing equipment in their hands, not merely because it’s technological superior but also because it’s the right tools for the right player.
As Ping’s John K. Solheim recently said in announcing the company’s 2018 Top 100 Fitters, “Some golfers feel they’re not good enough for a custom fitting, or they don’t see the need. But when these highly trained fitters dial in the proper specs and the player sees improvement on the very first shot, that’s a thrill that wins them over. When you’re suddenly hitting one solid shot after another, your confidence soars and you’re excited for your next round. You can see what’s possible because now you’re getting more from every club in your bag. A fitter and the golfer working together made that happen.”