Hitting the Lottery: A Hacker's Guide to Golf Club Fitting

Hitting the Lottery: A Hacker's Guide to Golf Club Fitting​

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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.

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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.

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I met with Brian, Cobra’s traveling rep, the guy with the tent and bags and cases of club parts very conveniently at Sommersett Country Clubs range right here in Reno. I planned on going into the fitting with an open mind. I didn’t call my golfing friends to ask what irons/woods/etc they have or what they use; it doesn’t matter. I didn’t look at reviews, doesn’t matter. What am I using now? Doesn’t matter, they are two decades old, and they weren’t right to begin with. Has ski equipment changed in two decades? I was asked more than once, and since I am coming in starting from scratch, all I know is I am going to get *Cobra clubs. Cobra is a full line company and since I am going custom, I will be set. This is just about how important the fit process is and if YOU choose to try Cobra, great, but also most brands have a similar traveling fit program.

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.

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We started with a 7 iron, to check out how I hit that. The 7 is not my usual reference club, I usually use the 8, but I am here to learn, not to control the fitting. I started with his suggestion, the Cobra LTDx, and while I was hitting the ball well, it was still fading a bit more to the right than we would like. Brian taped the bottom of the club and saw that I was hitting the ground with the toe, opening the face, allowing the ball to fade a bit. Brian brought out a board and sure enough that was it. We switched to a 2* upright and I started not only hitting the ball straighter, but the club was coming through and hitting the bottom of the club and not the toe. While I would hit my old 7 iron 150-155 yards, off of a mat, I hit this new one 160 and that was on grass, a big difference. I will now need to spend a lot of time at the range to learn the new differences in club length.

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.

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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.

Conclusion
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.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

All this talk about gear gets me juiced up to buy more skis and ski paraphernalia! (I liked the connection between the fitters!)
 
I LOVE my Cobra fairway woods. I’ve got the King F8 adjustable 3/4 and 5/6.

my Driver and irons/wedges are from the newish Hogan guys. Love those too.

been eyeing the Cobra putters since they came out with the models with a little toe hang, especially the new black Agera 30 or the Supernova 20, for those times when I feel like I’m a little wiggly with my old TaylorMade Daytona 1. That descending loft face puts a nice roll on the ball….
 
Nice summary. Having been through the fitting process many times for me and someone else, club fitting is one part geometry, one part art and one part feel. Perhaps analogistic to ski equipment, it can also be iterative insofar as our technique adjusts to our equipment. Adjust equipment and our technique adapts. So as an example if clubs are too upright creating toe hits and/or instability at impact, a person’s swing/set-up may have developed in a way to compensate for that. A good Clubfitter can help reduce the iterative aspect.

One caution I’d make is to be careful when relying on a teaching pro for club fitting. For them club fitting is a sideline where they try to make use of clubs from their primary sponsor(s). The more brands a Clubfitter can offer and the more of a dedicated Clubfitter he or she is the greater the chances of optimization. A good way to find the capable club fitters is to contact college golf coaches in your area. They know who they are.
 
I finally got a chance to take the clubs out yesterday onto the course. While they weren't the revelation I had hoped for, it was the upgrade I realiastically expected. I was able to hit the ball straighter and truer than before and I after just one day on the range, I was pretty confident with the distances. In my old set, I had a Pitching Wedge that was good for 100Y and 56* and a 60* wedges, I now have a Gap below the PW than is a really nice 80 yard club and the 54*and 58* below that depending how high and soft I want to the ball to go. The driver is a lot quieter than my old Sumo and the ball flight is really nice, I am not sure of the difference in distance but it feels a bit longer, the same with the 3 and 5 and the 7 (24.5*) is a nice addition as a 160-170 yard club, where I used to hit my 6 iron. What I like the is the amount of confidence they have added. Quite frankly, I didn't keep score for the round because there were a few times where I hit a couple of balls to check out what different clubs would do in the situation.
 
Taking out the professional courtesy, what would the retail price for the clubs be? Also, how long did the fit take? How long did it take to actually get the clubs on your hands?
 
Taking out the professional courtesy, what would the retail price for the clubs be?
Honestly, I am not sure, I didn't price them out.
Also, how long did the fit take?
I spent a little over two hours but there was no one else getting fit so I had pretty much his undivided attention for most of it.
How long did it take to actually get the clubs on your hands?
It took me about a month but I didn't go through normal channels so I am not sure how long the process usual takes and I wasn't in a rush or pushing it.
 
@Rainbow Jenny and I played yesterday at Wolf Run in Reno and had a hoot of a time and not only did I hit the ball well, I scored well too, any golfer knows how these two things can me mutually exclusive. But first, a little back story, as I said in the initial article, Brian, my initial fitter set up the woods for a draw when I was initially fit but this was not done when the clubs arrived so I took it to myself to self medicate and do it myself, not a big mistake but a mistake no less on my part, in that I set the woods up at +1.5* when I went and played the previous time I was back to my usual frustrations so I went back to the range and went from the plus to a -1* and to quote Jon Lovitt "Thats the ticket". This change really showed in my game with Jenny yesterday it that even my mis hits went straight and my fade was remarkably less. This gave me much more confidence on my woods and it showed on the par 5's. In the past, not being a big hitter, I would usually be 125-150 out on the par 5's, yesterday I was 100 or less in and using a wedge (which was ON fire) which helped a lot. The new putter was really good, solit and straight and the two back to back 3 putts were me not knowing and reading the greens, what was frustrating was that I started putting for birdie on both. Speaking of birdies, I finished par-par-birdie-par and any time I have a round where I have more pars than doubles is a win for me.

Wolf Creek #2 with Mt. Rose in the background.
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This hole was really pretty a few weeks ago when Rose was still snow covered.
 

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