Hitting the Lottery. A hacker's guide to golf club fitting
I have won the lottery. I am not talking Powerball or any of the other, you-have-a-better-chance-of-getting-hit-by-lighting-twice-get-rich-quick lotteries, but the ideal custom ski boot fitting lottery and that is actually a custom golf club fitting lottery. A lottery that you don’t have to be lucky to win, just smart and open-minded to win. So how is it the same? Let me share my findings.
My Golf Backstory
Back around the turn of the century (I still love saying that) I played a fair amount of golf. I started taking the game seriously … I am not talking looking to get a single digit handicap serious, I liked playing from the whites and I played “Bogey Golf”. Bogey golf? I played as if bogey (one over) was par, so if I shot an 88, I felt I was 2 under (with 90 being Bogey for a 72 par course. Yes, I know, math is hard). I’d go to the range 2-3 times a week and play another 1-3 times. Serious in that a good round was less double bogeys than pars. Serious in that if I went to play with some clients, I didn’t embarrass myself and that even a bad round was still pretty good. I was content at being average. I was fortunate in that I had a very flexible schedule to play and in the car business, that is rare, and I was able to play a fair amount and was pretty content with my game, until I moved to Reno.
You would think Reno would be a great place to continue playing golf and it is. But, it is also great for a lot of other things, so golf just wasn’t as important as it once was and I didn’t have 5 hours to spend on a round. I would still go out and play maybe a couple of times a year, the occasional scramble, or when we traveled, like a road trip through Kentucky where I would stop to play a round or two with @Gary Stolt. Gary is still convinced I can still get a lot out of my game, even though I took a bunch of time off.
About this point: You can replace every time I said golf with skiing and every club fitting with boot fitting. What? Nowhere did I ever say that I got a club fitting? Yes, you are correct. Even when I made my way around the course it was with a mishmash of clearance bin woods and clubs bought from a friend that were fitted not for me, but for the friend. In the past year, I realized my mixed bag of clubs are 20-25 years old, and if I was a skier who’d taken a break from the game, would I get back into the skiing with two decade old skis and, specifically, boots? Heck no! I jokingly thought to myself that if my clubs were ski gear, they wouldn’t be indemnified.
Does what I said so far sound like to many like a bootfit, or lack of bootfitting story? How about the “I bought these boots from my buddy, they were custom fit. (Yeah to HIM).” I am now that guy who gets to experience a skier’s need to get boots, but as a golfer who needs to modernize his gear.
Hitting the Lottery
Through some friends, I got acquainted with a guru of club fitting, Ben Shomin, of Cobra Golf, personal fitter for Bryson DeChambeau and Ricky Fowler. Ben is a fitter amongst fitters, but it would be like Joe Skier getting one of the fitters on the FIS World Cup to fit his intermediates’ boots. Well, not a good plan, just as the average 20 day a season skier wouldn’t want or need that level of bootfit, I didn’t need Ben, I needed Ben’s guy, Brian.
One of the first questions I have as a bootfitter, especially with someone that is just getting back into the sport, is: “What are your goals?”. Let’s say they used to ski a lot, but in the past few decades they only got out a couple of days. They are skiing blues and the occasional black, but only when it was groomed and they didn’t do bumps. That was me if I described myself as a golfer. I played froth whites, usually around 6000 yard courses, and I move the ball for a better lye and take 2’ gimme’s. Now my goal for golf is still not become a scratch golfer, but to get back to being a competent golfer again. I plan on going to the range once a week and playing 6-8 times this summer, and am just happy getting my game back where is was, shooting bogey golf, ideally under but not over.
About the Fit Process
I didn’t know if this was to be indoors with a simulator or outdoors at a range, but it was outdoors and hitting off of turf and not a mat. Just as if someone walked into a shop I would know just how old their gear was, Brian immediately carbon dated the age of my mixed bag of sticks.
I didn’t ask Brian why he chose the LTDx and why not the Air-x or King Radspeed? (I later found them on Cobra Golf’s site). It didn’t matter to me why, other than Brian knew they weren’t the clubs for me. This is no different than me fitting someone in a certain boot and them asking me about another boot on the wall. While still on irons, he asked me about my long irons and what I hit, I replied that the longest I had in my bag was a 6 and above that an 18* and 22” rescue clubs, then 5 and 3 woods and my driver.
On to the woods, starting with the driver. Brian asked me to take a few hits with my current driver, a Nike Sumo 10.5*. He jokingly said it will wake up the others on the range and not until I switched over to the Cobra LTDx Max did I realize how loud that Sumo was. In the two or three hits of the Nike I was getting my usual 200-215 yards (with roll). He set up the Cobra at 10.5*D, the D for draw, and my distance did increase to some hits in the 230 yard range. While these distances aren’t PGA tour lengths, right now my club speed is only in the 85-88 MPH range … I am hoping with some practice I will get it back into the mid 90’s where it was when I used to play a lot and maybe get my drive up to 240-250 yards.
I never had good luck with my 3 wood and I was going to work around that and just go with a 5 wood, but Brian asked me to humor him and he set up a LTDx 3 and sure as poop, he was right. Of all the clubs I hit, it was the truest as far as ball flight. OK, add the 3 wood to the list. The 5 wood he chose was money, and since I can now get 160 yards out of my 7 iron, I can go with a 22.5* LTDx Hybrid 7 wood and that will fill my 170-175 yard shot. Woods are done.
Wedges are my one stumbling block, I am using Titleist Vokey 56* and 60* and I had a lot of confidence in them. He suggested that I go to 54* and 58* and I reluctantly agreed; he is the professional. The same with my putter. I thought I was happy with my Callaway 2-ball but Brian assured me the new The KING 3D Printed Agera 30 Black would be better and after a couple of strokes I had to agree with him, add one to the list.
OK, the chances of getting access a Ben Schomin or any (current) World Cup fitter and access to their contact list (I was about to say Rolodex but that could have been missed by many) is pretty nonexistent. But like skiing, start asking the Pros, instructors on the hill, who does their fitting, who do they trust? Check with your local pro shops what their procedure is or when the traveling demo tent will be coming to a range near you. Like ski boots, a custom fit is not going to get you on to the World Cup, and new clubs won't get you qualified for The Masters, but it will make your game more enjoyable or less unenjoyable, frustrating and limit your use of four letter words to single digits in a round, especially for someone like me coming off of clubs that are old enough to drink. Like again with boots, maybe it is time to not just get new clubs, but get the right new clubs, fitted just for you.
- Who is a custom clubs fitting for: Everyone who does not want to have to adjust to the gear, but have the gear set for them. Just as a bootfit is key to your skiing progression.
- Who is it not for: Someone who is fine just hacking around.
- Insider tip1: A club fitting is a bootfit, ski demo and stance alignment all in one.
- Insider tip 2: Like with visiting a bootfitter, you have two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion.
- One thing I would change: Not knowing what I didn't know, all the time I wasted in not doing this earlier.
*Disclaimer: There was some professional courtesy in the fitting and purchase of Cobra.