“It’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian.”
The above is a quote often repeated at many, many golf courses around our country by players not wanting to spend the time and money to be fitted for golf clubs. The idea, “well if I just practice more, I will get better,” isn’t a totally incorrect one either. So we ask, is this quote true? Well, with no disrespect intended towards the great Lee Trevino, I am pretty sure that massively crooked arrows and bows with tension not properly attuned to the shooter don’t shoot straight consistently no matter what the talent of said Indian. This quote is from one of the great feel players of all time who grew up in a generation of “one size fits all” golf equipment. Over the next several paragraphs I am going to set about convincing you that not only is club fitting a useful tool, but I truly and wholeheartedly believe that Amateurs actually benefit more from it than do the best players in the world.
There are several reasons that I hold that opinion, and the number one reason is this: Professionals are MUCH better at adjusting (to all things, conditions, equipment, etc.) than are amateurs. For example, as a young professional I interned at a golf academy which had a Master Club Fitter working there. I would watch and assist him in many fittings. Whenever we had a professional who was being fitted for a driver, he would only let him hit 3-5 shots with each club/shaft before switching them out. Sometimes he would come back to that club, but again never for more than 3-5 shots. Finally I asked him what the purpose of that was. He responded: “We want to fit these clubs to the way they want to swing the club. If I let them hit more shots than that, and the ball isn’t doing what they want because it’s not the right head/shaft for them, these guys are so unconsciously good that a lot of them will start swinging differently just to make the ball do what they want. And we don’t want that.”
That statement actually supports what Trevino intended to communicate. A good player is going to be a good player no matter what you put in his hands. He could be better with a straighter arrow, but there truly is no substitute for talent and hard work. That being said, I believe the last time I saw Trevino play he was playing with a 460cc metal driver head… which goes back to my idea that the arrow does in fact make a tremendous difference. Even though the pros are going to be better at adjusting, they certainly will play their best golf if they only have to adjust a little bit. In my opinion custom club fitting is the main reason why we see such an excellent field top to bottom every week on the major professional tours. It used to be that only the physically exceptional player had a shot at winning week in and week out whereas now, with equipment helping to bridge the physical gap, mental toughness and determination can shine through more often.
Let’s talk some more about you guys though, the amateurs, and why you all should be fitted for golf clubs. As we just said, you won’t be as good at adjustments as the pros, not because you aren’t talented yourselves but primarily because you don’t get to play and practice nearly as often. So it we accept that limited practice will lead to limited consistency, it would make sense that we would want to make sure we had equipment that not only helped us grow as a player, but also would help us compensate for misses. Statistically last year about 60% of the people who purchased drivers were fitted, 35% of people who purchased irons, and only about 7% of people who purchased putters. While I am happy to see more and more people being fitted for clubs, the numbers for irons and putters is disturbing. First of all, you hit your driver a maximum of 14 times whereas you will likely hit your wedges/irons at least 20 times in a round. Then you will hit your putter 25 times (on a great day) and 30+ on a bad day. Don’t you think it’s important to be fitted for these clubs too? It is crucial to make sure that you have the proper length, lie, and loft on your putter and irons. If you have been fitted for clubs before and these things were not checked, go ask for your money back because you weren’t fitted for golf clubs. Here is what to look for in a proper fitting:
As I said above, if you think you have been fitted for clubs but some or most of these steps were not done, you weren’t fitted properly. Here is something to consider. I believe that club fitting is about 80% science and 20% art/luck. The more people that I have fit over the years, the more artistic and luckier I get. You want to go to someone who has experience and can see the whole picture, not just look at numbers and hand you clubs and hope. Just a few days ago I fit a student, who swings 98 mph, to a regular flex driver shaft. Ninety-eight mph is right in the middle of the stiff shaft spectrum. But, because of this student’s smoother transition, I thought he could get away with a more flexible shaft with a high kick point and low torque to give him some stability through the hit. By the end of the fitting he was actually swinging with far less effort (his words), but the club speed was still 97-98. The effortless feeling swing enabled him to make better contact more consistently, and he picked up almost 10 yards of carry distance.
The above example hopefully shows you why club fitting can be so important. It could, and should, change for the better the way you swing your clubs. I hope that you all will consider being fitted for clubs the next time you make a purchase. Remember, paying 150-250 dollars for a fitting and keeping your clubs for 3 years is WAY less expensive than buying the latest 400 dollar driver that comes out each of those three years, with each of those drivers not being the right head/shaft combination for you. I recommend that you go see a local PGA Professional, and ensure that you are fitted for clubs that can truly help you improve as a player.
Drill of the Week:
This week let us do something that is going to potentially have an immediate, tangible impact on your golf game. Go to your local PGA Professional and ask him if he has a lie board and impact tape. Ask him if he would help you check out the lie angles on your golf clubs. I promise you, if your lie angles are incorrect, and you can have your clubs bent to fix that, you will see an immediate improvement in your ball striking.