As this is the first edition of Golf Club Fitting Corner with Jake, I want to preface the fact that even though I am a certified Callaway Golf Master Club Fitter, this series will not be a Callaway commercial. Instead, I will be educating you on the importance of getting fit for clubs in your arsenal, and how I believe are the best ways to go about getting properly fit for each type of club.
In the inaugural issue, we’re going to discuss getting fit for the “big dog” – the driver!
The goal with the driver is very simple – hit the ball as far and straight as possible. This is more prevalent than any other club in the bag. This is achieved via a combination of maximizing ball speed and optimizing launch conditions.
Let’s talk about optimizing launch conditions. In order to do this, a quality launch monitor is necessary, which is why we haven’t spared any expense at Hawk’s View and have invested in the latest top-of-the-line model, as well as software to help organize and sort the data. In a driver fitting, I am looking to find the ideal combination of the launch angle and backspin rate of the ball coming off of the face of the driver.
What is the ideal combination you ask? While it certainly varies based on ball speed, the majority of players would find maximum distance and accuracy in their driver with a 12-14 degree launch angle and a backspin rate of 2,000-2,500 RPM (revolutions per minute). Slower ball speeds would benefit from slightly higher launch angle and backspin rates (i.e. 17 degrees and 3,000 RPM) as the ball will stay in the air longer to maximize carry distance.
This is where expert club fitting comes into play. The primary factors of a club (disregard the swing itself for now) that influence the above launch conditions include loft of the face, the head construction, and potentially the shaft (more on shafts in a bit). Generally speaking, every degree of loft influences backspin rate by approximately 250 RPM (i.e. if a 10.5 degree driver produces 3,000 RPM of backspin, you can expect roughly 2,625 RPM from a 9 degree driver with the same head and shaft). Believe it or not, launch angle will be very slightly affected, if at all, by changing loft. Launch angle is more of a bi-product of the attack angle via the swing itself.
Head construction also plays a large role in dictating launch conditions. Essentially, this is where the center of gravity is located within the head of the club. For example, a driver that has weight positioned toward the rear of the club (away from the face) will tend to have a higher Moment of Inertia (MOI), a.k.a. more forgiving, but generally speaking will produce more backspin. On the contrary, the more forward the center of gravity is positioned toward the face, the less backspin will be produced. These “weight forward” drivers do tend to have lower MOI, a.k.a. less forgiving; however, new technologies on how the club face itself is manufactured are helping to alleviate this issue. Most of today’s major manufacturers offer both a “weight back” and a “weight forward” model of driver; in general, the “weight forward” driver will produce approximately 400-500 less RPM of backspin than its counterpart.
To help improve accuracy, most of today’s drivers also have either adjustable perimeter weighting or models with fixed weights positioned in strategic lateral locations. When there is weighting geared more toward the heel of the club (near the hosel), this produces more of a draw bias, and can help limit the amount of sidespin to the right for a right-handed player (slice). The opposite is true if the weighting is geared more toward the toe of the club – a fade bias is produced, helping to reduce the amount of left side spin for a right-handed player (hook).
Now onto shafts, which has become a hot topic of conversation of club fitting, especially in the driver world. In my extensive club fitting training and experience in fitting hundreds upon hundreds of people for drivers, the shaft is very player and swing dependent. I am not saying by any means that the shaft isn’t important; however, what I am saying is that the same shaft can have two opposite effects for two different people. Essentially, the shaft plays a very important role in dictating how a player delivers the club to and through the ball, and we want to find a shaft that helps the player deliver the club in the most efficient manner possible. Variables of shafts include flex, weight, length, and kick-points (where the shaft actually flexes during the swing).
As mentioned, the goal is to find the shaft that helps the player deliver the club to and through the ball in the best manner possible. By doing so, when equipped with a shaft that has the proper flex, the shot dispersion should be as tight as possible, a.k.a. a consistent flight. As I am working through shafts with a player, I am constantly asking him/her, “How does that shaft feel to you?” It is very important that the player is comfortable with how the shaft feels, especially in terms of flex and weight, so that he/she has confidence swing after swing.
Players who struggle to find the sweet spot of the driver may see huge benefits from a slightly shorter shaft length. For these players, I usually start with a shaft that is 1” shorter than standard (44.5” instead of 45.5”). While on paper this may translate to a slightly slower swing speed (the longer the shaft, the more potential speed can be produced), I tend to see ball speeds skyrocket as these players are now finally hitting closer to the sweet spot of the club. More ball speed translates to more distance!
Another type of player who may benefit from a shorter driver shaft is one with a more upright swing plane. There are many players who tell me that they hit a 3-wood much better than the driver, and the majority of these players have upright swings. By getting their driver shaft length closer to the length of their 3-wood, they end up hitting the ball more solidly, and reap the benefits of modern day driver technology.
While all of this may seem very overwhelming, as an experienced, educated, and passionate club fitter, I am able to seamlessly get through all of this in typically 30 minutes or less. That includes warm up time, gathering & analyzing data of your current driver, experimenting & analyzing data with fitting components, and finishing up by bombing drives down the fairway with your new, custom fit driver. I assure that the fitting process will not only be painless and simple for you, but will actually be very enjoyable and educational!
- How much distance can I gain with a custom fit driver over my current driver?
While this is dependent upon the technology of your current driver and how well it is fit for you, rarely will you see less than 10 yards of gained distance. The average distance gained with a driver fitting is about 17 yards. However, in several cases I have seen increases of 30+ yards, including a 55 yard gain.
- Will a custom driver only benefit better players?
Absolutely not! In fact, the largest gains in yardage and accuracy tend to come from higher handicap players. As long as you can make decent contact with the ball, and have anywhere near an acceptable swing plane, I can dial you in for a driver.
- Is the fitting session really free?
Yes, this is a complimentary service at Hawk’s View, even including your time in our indoor studio if you are getting fit during the winter months.
- Are custom fit drivers more expensive than those “off the rack”?
Unless you opt for an up-charge shaft, a custom fit driver costs exactly the same as one that is “off the rack”. Examples of upcharge shafts include Oban, Tour AD, and Paderson.
- Are the standard shafts any good?
Today’s club manufacturers are equipping their drivers with premium shafts from name-brand companies such as True Temper/Project X, Aldila, Mitsubishi, UST, and Fujikura at no additional charge to you.
- Can I get any type of grip I want?
For the most part, yes (as long as the driver manufacturer has access to it). You can even get any size you want, and I can help you determine what size is best suited for you. Sizes can be nailed down to 1/64” increments!
- When do I get my custom fit driver?
More often than not, I will have a driver with your specs in stock, and if you are happy with the standard grip, you will get it right away. If I don’t have exactly what you need in stock, a special order is placed, and the manufacturer will build the club and ship it typically within 10 business days. If preferred, I can even ship it directly to your residence.