The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Thirty-Three

As swinging begins, be sure to keep various critical factors in mind in order to achieve one’s best clubfitting results.  Select basics to reemphasize here in case I inadvertently previously overlooked relevant details include that if one’s aim is trying to improve or change one’s actual golf swing performance, forget about clubfitting until that swing change(s) is satisfactorily implemented and becomes second nature.  It is completely foolish to do otherwise.  And if clubfitting is the explicit purpose at any given time, for goodness’ sake leave one’s golf swing alone, accept it for what it currently is, and place one’s total concentration on the clubfitting task(s) at hand or the benefit gained may be little to none.

It is crucial to understand that the clubfitting described here is truly, truly about fitting golf clubs to one’s pure golf swing at whatever level of development it is currently at, meaning that if one’s true root or base golf swing has an out to in swing path of so many degrees and a steep angle of descent of so many degrees, then the best clubfit to that swing will occur when those swing characteristics are best duplicated, with ball travel fitting addressed in a different, subsequent clubfitting phase.  Not being able to fit golf clubs in this manner means not being able to fit golf clubs to one’s base swing when one’s base swing is right down the target line with a more normal angle of descent either.  This is not about altering one’s true base golf swing in order to achieve certain launch monitor numbers.  That route is a plain and simple fitting to one’s ball travel results and not one’s golf swing, a route which requires little to no knowledge or depth of knowledge of some very basic clubfitting principles and processes that need to be addressed before launch monitor use is even seriously considered for certain fine-tuning elements.

When starting this process of golf club fitting, it is crucial to clear one’s head of various major untruths that have been perpetrated about the game of golf over time and sadly become deeply “stuck” in tradition.  If these falsehoods are not ultimately corrected, the game as it is known today might essentially disappear and the land the game played on used for a worthier purpose.  I can mostly just speculate as to where some of the distorted perceptions rooted in and that currently cloud the game of golf originated and why they might still be in place.  I formerly broadly suggested associations between these horribly inaccurate and long-standing perceptions as a grouped whole, the circumstance that the origin of the game is frequently credited to be Scotland of the United Kingdom, and the more recent sad reality that the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office was the only office applied to (the others being the USA, Canada, and Australia) that was clearly not able to understand, all the way up to the head of the office at the time, and grant a patent for a simple technical advancement of golf club swingweight, named waggle weight, that even a child can fundamentally understand and that will significantly help the game of golf overall in the future.  Based solely on these observations, golf’s deep connections with the UK and the fact that multiple untruths and inaccurate perceptions about the game continue to persist within its “traditions” could be more than coincidence.  But again this is just pure golf-specific speculation at this particular time based on somewhat limited information, noting here that overall and beyond golf I am in fact quite fond of many of the notable traditions the United Kingdom has contributed over time and that have been good influences on me and likely the rest of the world.

As one example of such a horribly incorrect perception of golf that continues to persist (and one that can hardly be solely attributed to traditions regarding golf formulated in the UK at this point), asking mere children whether it is an easier skill to swing at and hit an object that just sits still when swinging at it or an easier skill if the object is moving will typically draw the correct answer of the former being easier.  Indeed, swinging at an object that just sits still requires less physical strength to perform well, less hand-eye coordination, no reflexes whatsoever, and so on.  Yet the tradition somehow continues to exist and is carried on by supposedly intelligent adults that a golf swing is substantially more difficult and sophisticated than virtually all other activities that humans commonly participate in.  The complete opposite is closer to being the actual truth.  The plain fact is that if a golf ball were the size of a tennis ball or baseball (an adjustment made to better equalize and compare root golf swing difficulty with root difficulties in hitting a moving tennis ball or baseball [and that an opponent is also trying to prevent one from hitting]), a golf swing would be considered so easy that few if any golf swing instructors might even exist.  The benefit might be no more than that of needing a swing instructor to learn how to use a fly swatter.

To this end, it is imperative to firmly understand at the outset that, despite some unique elements that exist in the game of golf and that need to each be analyzed on their own merits, the same fundamental rules that apply to everything else also apply to golf.  Golf is not “special” to the extent that the general rules of performance and equipment fitting do not apply or apply oppositely (as is inferred above) as they do to all other activities, despite the contention of many entities involved in golf that frequently declare otherwise.  I use this particular example to try to comfort one a little bit and urge some good sense regarding one’s golf swing regardless of one’s current swing ability.  Clubfitting will not be as successful as it should be if one lets it drift into one’s mind that one’s body has to be specifically doing this or that (intricate) movement or be in this or that (intricate) position (advice, often worthless advice, that golfers are constantly inundated with about their golf swings) while performing swings in the course of any given clubfitting session.  It would not be a worthy session if any golf swing adjustments were being were being attempted (or even just contemplated) while in the midst of such a session.  Therefore, even if one is not particularly confident in one’s current base golf swing ability, one must at least act or pretend that one is confident in that swing and hopefully familiar enough with it through sufficient practice and/or experience to know when one’s best execution of one’s current swinging ability is being accomplished and when not.  Not being totally committed to leaving one’s golf swing alone and performing it as naturally as possible at one’s current swinging ability during any given clubfitting session makes the concept of fitting golf clubs to one’s true base golf swing basically worthless.

Now if one wears different hats at different times in pursuit of helping one play one’s best golf, it is time to emphatically brush Mr. Credulous Clubfitter, Mr. Errant Engineer, Mr. Sophisticated Swing Scholar, Mr. Prominent Press, and others off of one’s shoulders.  It is time to put on one’s “player’s” hat and start experiencing the fitting of one’s equipment from the perspective of actually getting out on the street corner so to speak and trying to win against one’s opponent(s) at playing any given game (in the true spirit of how such games are to be considered, which should be not all that serious in the overall scheme of life and yet intense within that context or one’s maximum improvement will be doubtful).  Many of the characters bearing the above and other titles purporting to be experts in golf swing and/or clubfitting principles are in fact quite deficient in their knowledge in one or more required areas for achieving sufficient success at the following clubfitting exercises, often obtaining the bulk of their “expertise” secondhand from others’ materials, materials that in and of themselves may be quite faulty.  Very often having insufficient firsthand experience with all relevant elements as an underlying foundation for such materials, the last thing one should do is blindly rely on advice from such so-called golf swing and/or clubfitting experts without getting on the street corner oneself and confirming firsthand whether these entities have even the very basic knowledge they claim to have.  It is essential to establish such a foundational base to work from at some point, especially given the history the golfing industry has laid thus far.

I begin with a broad sense of all kinds of activities in general.  Some games that people play (and I am not limiting myself here to what might be termed sports or athletics) may not need any type of added equipment to play at all.  One such game that comes to mind is charades, where one is in fact specifically prohibited from using any external devices in acting out a word or phrase for another to try to guess.  A large number of activities or games, however, do regularly include the implementation of additional equipment for participants, and such equipment may actually be mandated and/or regulated for any given game.  For the purpose of this post title sequence, such equipment can be broadly divided into equipment whose specifications are not allowed by the rules formed for the particular activity to be altered or fit in any way by a participant, and equipment that can be altered to suit a participant’s needs or desires (though rules can be in place governing the types and/or amounts of equipment alterations allowed by participants).

Equipment not allowed to be individually fit to participants can commonly be seen in activities known as “ball” games, like baseball, football, basketball, and so on.  While certain equipment can be custom fit to participants playing these games (including one’s wearing apparel), the core of these and other similar games essentially revolves around participants trying to win a competition against an opposition while all use the same, unchangeable ball design whose dimensions are set by the rules of each specific game.  This type of equipment is exactly the same for every participant during the competition.  Such equipment is not allowed to be altered or fit for any participant to potentially suit or give any advantage(s) to any individual over any other individual.

And then there are games in which certain equipment used in the performing of such activities may be altered/fit to suit an individual’s needs and/or desires.  Some games may implement both types of equipment, like in baseball where the ball is unchangeable by the rules, but bats to try to hit the ball with may be varied and chosen by preference by each competitor.  Examples of such fittable equipment include but are hardly limited to baseball bats, tennis rackets, and of course golf clubs that are the more specific subject of this post title sequence.  While not limited to such a characteristic, you may notice that these three particular examples of equipment given are all somewhat elongated in nature, where one end of each implement is generally held onto by a performer and manipulated in order to try to achieve some desired result at the other end of the equipment.  This is the nucleus of what transpires when using such equipment, including golf clubs.

In order to simplify a confusing element concerning golf club fitting at the start, I will very briefly touch on golf club flexing here, a golf club element that is routinely, though unjustly, fixated on to an inordinate degree by a large number of golfers and clubfitters.  Now the nature of golf club design and construction does commonly bring golf club flexing into play “to a higher degree” than either baseball bats or tennis rackets as the other two equipment examples cited.  But even traditional baseball bats that are not rated for any type of flexing characteristics are not absolutely absent any flexing, especially upon impact with a pitched ball and which can certainly influence a competitor’s choice of a bat(s).  Flexing is an inherent characteristic of virtually anything having an elongated nature to it but which may come into play more or less for any given activity.  So golf club flex should not be treated as though it is some sort of mysterious equipment attribute that does not exist anywhere else.  Treating it in such an awkward manner equivalent to believing that one’s golf swing will not be able to function efficiently without becoming obsessed about this club characteristic really exposes one’s lack of expertise regarding performing and equipment fitting principles in general and golf swing and clubfitting principles more specifically.

To perhaps put this in a little better perspective (sarcasm fully intended here because there are legitimate differences in the uses of these compared implements), a fly swatter as mentioned above (another elongated implement) often has an appreciable amount of flex in its handle by nature of its construction and use.  But it is usually just a plain lack of user coordination and/or reflexes that results in a fly being missed, with the flexibility of the implement not really affecting one’s swatting motion at all (over using a more rigid implement) and bearing virtually no responsibility for the failure of one to hit one’s target with the swatter.  I have honestly never heard anyone say that he/she intentionally slowed down his/her swatting motion once begun in order to help the more flexible implement be more efficient from an operational standpoint.  Sober golf club flex discussion can come later.  But at the outset, golf club flex should be considered an element that is essentially irrelevant relative to other far more important elements regarding solid foundational golf club fitting.  This approach is taken simply because, especially with respect to one’s pure golf swing performance and playing the game in its traditional manner, it is essentially an irrelevant element compared with other far more important elements of solid foundational golf club fitting.

Now this first phase of clubfitting will fix one end of an elongated object, in this case one of the constructed test golf clubs, at a predetermined setup and one will swing with some varying values at the other end to make a determination of which value(s) one performs one’s best golf swing(s) at with the particular test club.  So advisedly taking everything into consideration that has been disclosed to this point and with any one of the test clubs in hand and set to a swingweight value of exactly C5 at the start, a sufficient number of golf swings are made to make a firm determination of whether or not one is performing one’s best swinging.  The decision is based upon a comparison (by any of various means, certain of these having already been disclosed and others that will be discussed later) of one’s true golf swing DNA with the experience and/or data gathered when swinging the test club at a swingweight value of C5.  Next, the lead tape already cut to raise the club’s swingweight value to precisely C6 is firmly applied to the clubhead and a desired number of golf swings made for making a firm determination of whether or not DNA-matched swings are made at that value.  I reiterate here that the lead tape should be conveniently handy such that one is able to catch one’s breath if need be from swinging at the previous swingweight value but that is about it, making sure that one is able to swing at different swingweight values in fundamentally an unbroken fashion so that adjacent values can be most reliably compared with each other.

I also reemphasize that the lead tape should be applied in essentially the same position that it was placed when initially determining the exact amount of lead tape that would be needed, or swingweight values may be undesirably and noticeably off upon the lead tape application during actual test swinging.  Placing the exact same amount of lead tape all the way on the toe of a clubhead will increase a club’s swingweight value slightly more than if that tape were placed in the middle of the clubhead, and placing the tape on the clubhead’s hosel will increase the club’s swingweight value slightly less than if it were placed in the middle of the clubhead (and results can be cumulative if continually adding lead tape in a different place than it was when initially determining the amount of lead tape needed to achieve specific swingweight values).

Take note here that the same golf club can have the exact same swingweight reading, yet various amounts of weight can be placed at various locations of its clubhead in manners that can notably alter ball travel results.  But that is a completely different clubfitting concept than is being worked on here, which can be evaluated later.  If hitting real golf balls during this testing, it is again critical to ignore ball travel results and not get into manipulating lead tape placement in an effort to alter ball travel results.  As described above, that may unwittingly cause errors in swingweight values.  With one’s pure golf swing achievement at stake (unless one considers that unimportant), the crucial factor at this point is the actual swingweight values of the test club(s), so the lead tape must be applied to achieve that very specific goal and not any kind of goal of achieving a certain ball travel result.

The noted process is continued until all of the swingweight values have been tested an appropriate amount, taking mental (and perhaps physical) notes of anything that might be deemed relevant within that fitting session.  To aid in explanation, I will perform this process with the test golf club having the M62 core size golf grip on it first and reveal results as they are for me as a prototypical model of what to expect.  Bear in mind again that this testing assumes swingweighting works well for a golfer and as such will work in the described manner.  Adjustments for golfers for whom swingweighting does not work effectively will be entertained after one comes to understand some very basic elements first.  Now rather than thinking in terms of hopefully coming across one and only one swingweight value that one might make one’s best golf swings at, the next item of note here is that one should fully expect to find a “range” of swingweight values that one can swing well at.  If this were not the case, then when a golf club were regripped during its life (which typically happens uncounted times to any given golf club) with a grip that is on the lighter side of the model’s tolerance range as one example (absolute perfection is just not achievable), then the club’s swingweight could rise to a value that affects one’s golf swing, with no reasonably-expected way of reducing it (assumes a non-adjustable clubhead).

Thus, one had better hope that one is able to swing well over some range of swingweight values so one does not have to potentially make other alterations to a golf club every time the club is regripped.  Fortunately, such a range generally exists even for golfers having a very high degree of perception, and in this regard the traditional golf club swingweight specification and scale are rather well configured.  In my particular case, I initially grip golf clubs with a very light grip pressure, one (but not the only) factor that can contribute to having a sensitive perception of a golf club’s effective clubhead weight.  And even for me, I can perform acceptably-coordinated swings over a range of swingweight values that spans about two swingweight points.

This is not to say that I cannot feel any difference(s) at all within this swingweight range.  At the lightest end of my acceptable range I definitely get a sense of the clubhead being a little too light for my swing, and at the heaviest end I do get a sense of the clubhead being slightly too heavy.  But the definitive factor in the end regarding the swingweight range chosen is how well I swing, period.  And over the chosen range my golf swing is still acceptably coordinated to the point where I know I am essentially achieving my best clubhead speed and control with that particular golf club even though I can perceptibly still detect clubhead weights that are a little on the light or heavy side as the case might be.  The determined cutoff point for my swingweight range comes when the coordination of my golf swing breaks down to the point of swinging like an uncoordinated mess and like I never swung a golf club before in my entire life.

Everyone should ideally experience a range of swingweight values through which one will perform one’s best golf swings.  In my case of testing a range from C5 through E0 in one-point increments with the M62-gripped test club, I make acceptably-coordinated golf swings when the club’s swingweight values are at the marks on my (mechanical) scale of D2(.0), D3(.0), and D4(.0).  The center or median value of that range is thus D3, which is a fairly common swingweight value all the way up to tour-level players and only very slightly heavier than what might be commonly anticipated among more average players (though on an individual basis any given golfer can prefer almost anything, even beyond the testing range suggested here for swingweight values).

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