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Happy Hour

Equipment expert doesn't believe we should talk about 'fitting' anymore—it's all about 'optimization'

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JD Cuban

Even though a recent survey of avid golfers by Golf Datatech suggests that a “custom fitting has become a virtual requirement in a new iron set or driver,” the more honest statement is that the majority of everyday players still have not been optimized for the clubs in their bags, said Chris Marchini, director of golf experience for Golf Galaxy and Dick’s Sporting Goods, during his recent appearance on the Golf Digest Happy Hour.

Indeed, with the influx of new golfers into the game, the data suggests they are less likely to be fit for clubs. The Golf Datatech study shows that while 1 in 5 golfers with handicaps of 20 or less are going to a club-fitting specialist for their next club purchase, only 1 in 10 are when their handicaps are over 20.

Marchini, who covered a range of topics in his Happy Hour from smash factor to shaft length to landing angles and why you might not need 14 clubs, talked about the hurdles to getting everyday golfers to embrace the benefits of the "right" clubs. As a matter of fact, during his talk he suggested the word “fitting” isn’t one he likes to use anymore.

“What we’re really doing with a fitting is trying to get a player optimized,” Marchini said. “Equipment has evolved, continues to evolve. What we knew a year ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, we're a lot smarter today. Fitting's the same way. And I think the next iteration of fitting and why I don't even like using that term anymore, the next level is what I call ‘optimization.’

“Because fitting has been talked about so much, I think it becomes part of the umbrella statement that we hear a lot in the industry. ‘Optimization’ speaks a little bit more to an individual. I think the rough estimate is there's 26 million green grass golfers in the United States right now. And if we plotted all of them out, there'd be 26 million different places in the journey. No one's going to overlap somebody. We have to meet each golfer where he or she is on the journey. It is really about getting to funnel it down to somebody who's standing in front of me in that moment. And that's the fun part. That's the relationship piece, the connection piece between fitter and golfer. And it's invaluable today.”

While the obstacles to a fitting are as common as they are often based on fallacies (not good enough, not consistent enough, won’t make a difference, not worth it), Marchini said one thing golfers shouldn’t be worried about is whether they know enough to get fit for their clubs. Just as you don’t go into a doctor’s appointment feeling like you have to come with your own WebMD diagnosis ahead of time, Marchini said just come into a club-fitting as you are, with an open mind—and, of course, bring your clubs.

“I'd be paying attention to aesthetics. How’s it look? How's it sound? How's it feel?” he said. “But my advice is to go in totally brand agnostic. And make sure you share your ultimate goals with your fitter. What is the biggest thing you're trying to accomplish here? What do you want to see change? If you have questions, ask questions. One of my favorite things about people I fit is their curiosity.”

You can watch the complete Happy Hour with Marchini, as well as our key takeaways, right here. Be sure to read about and watch all of our previous live webinars, here, and be on the lookout for our next Happy Hour, offered exclusively for Golf Digest+ members.