By Mark Wehrman, PGA EBS CONTRIBUTOR
Golf, like many other sports, including skiing, requires fairly expensive equipment to play the game. Because of all of the advancements in technology, making sure your equipment fits you is more important than ever. When it comes to golf clubs, we can boil the fitting down to four main things.
The first and most important thing is making sure you have the proper shaft flex. The shaft is truly the engine of the club and the flex needed is directly related to the individual’s swing speed. Shaft flex refers to the bend in the shaft that happens when the club is “loading” in the downswing.
For example, if your swing speed is very high or strong, meaning you would swing a 6 iron over 90 mph, then you would need a stiff shaft flex. If your swing speed is much slower where you swing a 6 iron less than 70 mph then you would need a light flex. If your swing speed is somewhere in between those ranges you would fit into a regular shaft flex.
There are also ladies specific shaft flexes that will generally fit most women but I have, more than once and depending on the individual, fit women into a “men’s” shaft flex, depending on their clubhead speed.
The other thing to consider when fitting for shafts is the type of shaft you are buying. Generally, someone who is fit into a stiff shaft flex will prefer or be benefitted by using a steel shaft. If you are someone who fits into a regular flex shaft you could use either steel or graphite, and someone that fits into a light or ladies flex generally is always going use graphite.
The main difference between the two shafts is the weight. Steel is much heavier than graphite. So, if you are someone who is looking to gain clubhead speed without having to physically swing harder, graphite would be your best option. Now, for the most part I am talking about irons. When purchasing metal woods, you are always going to be using graphite shafts but making sure you have the proper shaft flex is still necessary in the fitting process.
The second factor used when fitting clubs, irons to be specific, is the lie angle of the clubhead.
Most clubs bought off the shelf in a store are going to be standard lie angle. Most golfers are going to fit into a standard lie angle but there are a lot of players that fit in to a lie angle that is more upright than standard or opposite, flatter than a standard lie.
We use a lie board to measure this angle. The process is somewhat “rudimentary” where as we put a piece of electrical tape on the sole of the club and have you hit shots off of the board making sure that each strike you strike the sole of the clubhead off of the board causing a scar on the tape that tells us where the club is bottoming out.
Why is this factor important? Well, if your golf club is too upright for you the heel of the club will bottom out first causing the toe of the club to swing into the ball first which will result in a hook or your shot missing to the left, if you are a right-handed golfer. Opposite effect if your club is too flat for you, the toe of the club will bottom out first hence causing the heel to impact the ball first resulting in a fade or slice, with the shot missing to the right, if you are a right-handed golfer.
Based off of all of this information, if you have bought a set of clubs “off of the rack” I recommend seeing a PGA Professional to check the lie angles for you to determine if the club properly fits you.
Third factor is the length of club.
Women’s clubs are going to be approximately an inch shorter than men’s clubs. They generally will be lighter than men’s clubs too. This is by design but doesn’t mean women will always fit into women’s length golf clubs and same with men. The length of clubs needed is determined by height and arm length of the individual. For example, I am 6 feet 2 inches tall but am able to use standard length golf clubs because I have long arms. So, just because you are tall doesn’t always mean you need longer clubs.
Lastly, another important thing in the club fitting process is the grip size.
There are many different diameters of grips used. We measure from wrist to the tip of your middle finger to decide the grip size needed. Sizes range from undersize, standard, midsize, and oversize grip handles. This size is measured by the butt diameter of the grip. Getting the right grip size on your clubs will help secure the connection your hands feel on the club. Grip is what controls the clubface so I highly recommend checking to make sure you have the proper size grip on your clubs.
I am not advocating that every golfer needs to get fit for clubs and more than likely if you are a novice golfer the clubs you have are more than adequate. But, if you have gotten to the point in your game where you are practicing a lot with the goal of improving your scores, you should check with your local PGA Professional to see if your clubs fit you.