Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Custom fitting--Or How I Should Stop Worrying and Love To Bomb.

A few times a year I learn of a new product or service that makes me wonder, "If I [bought product or hired service] would my game really be taken to new heights?" Well, this thrice-monthly's obsession is brought to you by Doctor Grip. He's Dave Butler, a club fitter in Northern California who runs his shop out of a green trailer (aptly named the Butler Cabin) next to a small driving range. His website is chock-full of cool info, but here's one tidbit I found particularly enlightening:

Drivers "Basically the Same"

Is there that much difference between one driver and another? Absolutely, but for a different reason than you might imagine.

David Butler performed a test, recently, to determine which of fifteen name-brand drivers hit a golf ball the ball farthest. He fitted a low handicap player to an optimum shaft, and then had him try all the club heads. He found virtually no difference from one to the next. It was all about the shafts.

Based on that study, your choice of drivers becomes a matter of personal preference. A player should choose his big stick based on how it looks, sets up, feels through the swing, and sounds at impact.

In David Butler's fitting center, you too, can duplicate that test and apply it to your game. David will determine the proper shaft based on objective scientific factors, and then plug that shaft into quality, proven drivers. You decide which of them most appeals to you.

So now that you reach the fairways more often, how about hitting it stiff to the greens?

Pretty amazing, huh? Good to know, considering that I payed $125 for my used Cobra SS 427 cc driver, and new drivers typically go for $500. Most drivers will last for 10,000 ball strikes, so a trade up is not necessarily required.

In his fitting, he uses only two models of shafts for irons, and one for woods. His iron shafts are True Temper, and they're shafts that TT only offers through custom club fitters. He says the wood shafts, the Diamana from Mistubishi Rayon, are a "little more expensive," so I looked them up online and found them for $275. I can only imagine the iron shafts are similarly pricey. By no means am I implying I'm not worth a $275 shaft--if I had the money I'd have no problem whatsoever in spending it--but my game had better be in tip-top shape before I fork out that kind of dough. Which brings me to my next question...

Club fitters are always claiming that properly fitted clubs can make a huge difference in your game, while teaching pros claim it's the swing; manufacturers claim a high MOI is the secret. Taken together, these add up to a thoroughly confusing dilemma. I guess the only way to resolve the conflict is to actually try all three. So, over the next year, I am going to try all three. Southern California has some of the best golf teachers in the biz, and I'm inclined to hire someone from the Brady Riggs camp--he's an instructor who's been featured in the big golf mags a few times (but--yikes--is $25o an hour) but has a few proteges who are affordable, and who sound solid. Then, after the lesson phase is well under way, I'll decide who my club fitter will be. Could be Doctor Grip, or Max Out Golf, here in Socal. Then, and only then, and only on recommendation of either the fitter or the teacher, will I consider trading my venerable Ping Zings for newer clubs (although Doctor Grip says that forged clubs, due to their higher density, will hit balls farther than cast, and as you all know, Ping is the King of Casting.)

As my Year in Golf progresses, I'll post updates to let you know how things are going.

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