What's golf club fitting and why is it important? We talked to Brett Porath, a PGA Professional and Director of Golf Club Fitting for Titleist to find out.
PGA.com: We appreciate you joining us, Brett. Anyone who plays golf regularly has heard about the importance of being properly fit for golf clubs, but not everyone understands why it's so crucial and -- at the same time -- beneficial to their respective game. Can you please tell us why this is so important?
YOUR CLUB FITTING
Have you been thinking about getting properly fit for golf clubs by a PGA Professional? There are numerous ways to do so. For the purposes of this story, we detailed the fitting system provided by Titleist. Other big companies have their own fitting facilities and PGA Professionals nationwide can fit players for a wide variety of clubs.
Porath: Over the past 20 years, the conversation has trended from, 'should I get fit?' to 'where is the best place to get fit?' Golfers draw inspiration from those who perform at the highest level of the sport and the stories of tour players dialing in every aspect of their equipment have helped all golfers recognize what fitting can do for their game. The knowledge that each club in your bag is set up to perform optimally inspires confidence and helps you get the best performance and improved scoring.
PGA.com: It seems that over the last several years, fitting has become more scientific. Whereas I can remember using impact tape at fittings a decade ago, now there are tools like Trackman. Can you please explain what Trackman is and what it does? And also, how valuable a tool has Trackman become for club fitting to a PGA Professional?
Porath: The use of launch monitors has made club fitting more precise than ever before. In the 1990s, launch monitors were used solely by manufacturers as their costs were too high for a golf course to justify. As the technologies improved, costs came down, ease of use increased drastically, and many local golf courses purchased launch monitors to conduct more precise fittings.
The use of a launch monitor allows everyday golfers to measure their launch and spin and compare themselves to tour professionals and to get closer to ideal ball flight. Most people think of launch monitors as devices to help maximize distance for drivers. While this is true, a launch monitor also allows you to optimize 3-metal performance; dial in distance gaps among fairways, hybrids and long irons; determine your longest iron with playable green-stopping trajectory; and effectively gap your wedges.
Trackman is a leading ball-flight monitor that uses radar to measure ball launch, ball flight and club delivery in great detail. We use Trackman and other launch monitors in both R&D and clubfitting settings in order to accurately measure golfer and equipment performance.
PGA.com: A fitting can be an eye-opening experience for the person being fit. But how rewarding is it for a club fitter?
Porath: A lot of club fitting is about the specs and details, but we can't forget that the goal of a fitting is to help educate the golfer and improve their performance. It is very rewarding to see how appreciative golfers are when you help them improve -- we hear from golfers who say they won't buy a club without seeing their fitter to get their opinion. That's the kind of trust and loyalty earned by helping people improve their play.
PGA.com: When I talk to people I play golf with, many seem to think they can't afford to go through a fitting. Can you bust that myth? Are custom-fit clubs really that much more money than what someone would buy off the rack?
Porath: Premium golf equipment is expensive. It's important to make purchases that will help improve performance and give better feel and control. For the most part, custom clubs cost no more than off-the-rack clubs. We have set up our metals with a large variety of no-upcharge, high quality, premium shafts of varying flexes, kick points, and feel so that golfers can get the performance and feel they need with no shaft upcharges. Some fitters waive fitting fees if a purchase is made and some charge their standard lesson rate. Either way, the cost of a fitting is small compared to the cost of clubs and pales in comparison to buying clubs that don't work well and then having to buy another set shortly thereafter.
PGA.com: One thing I learned during my fitting experience was not only the importance of being fit for proper clubs, but also the proper golf ball. Why is the golf ball so important for the average golfer?
Porath: The golf ball is the one piece of equipment used on every shot and its importance cannot be understated. It has to perform at a high level from 1 to 175 mph -- on the putting green, for partial shots near a green; wedge shots; full iron shots; and on the tee with a driver. Too many golfers make a ball choice based upon drives alone. The best way to find the right golf ball is to start from the green first and find the model that has the feel you want while putting and allows you to hit pitches and wedge shots with the feel and ball flight you prefer. Once we know what ball model you prefer, we use that golf ball during the club fitting to more closely match on-course performance and select clubs that get optimum performance with your gall ball model of choice.
PGA.com: What makes a great club fitter?
Porath: We are fortunate to have so many talented PGA Professionals as fitting partners in our fitting network. I speak with them all the time and think it boils down to caring, commitment and communication. They care deeply about helping their golfers improve, they are committed to improving their fitting every day, and they are skilled communicators who can take complex concepts and explain them in a way that golfers can understand.
PGA.com: Can you tell us how an average golfer benefits from this?
Porath: For those golfers who want a tour-level fitting, we offer half-day club fittings at our Test Facilities in Acushnet, Mass. and Oceanside, Calif., which can be booked by calling 888-262-7202. We also have a fleet of Tour Fitting Vans which bring a tour-level fitting experience to local golf courses across the country.
Because not all golfers want the same style of fitting -- our fitting network consists of many levels of fittings to match the level of detail consumers want at locations near them. The website has a description of each of the levels and we have a fitter locator.
PGA.com: How often should people consider being fit for a new set of clubs?
Porath: I think most serious golfers are always looking for an edge and chance to lower their scores. Because golf swings change over time I suggest that golfers have a check-up session at least annually with their fitter to make sure each club in their set performs with proper trajectory as intended and is effectively and evenly gapped. As course conditions change, the desired trajectory could change and a player's wedge bounce might need to be altered.
PGA.com: What do you love most about your job?
Porath: That's tough because there is a lot to love about what I do. I get to utilize industry-leading research and the best designed golf clubs in the world to build a fitting network that helps our PGA Professional partners be expert fitters. The icing on the cake is when I hear how much our products and fittings help golfers improve and love the game even more than in the past.
PGA.com: Final question for you, Brett. Make your final argument to our readers: If they've never been fit for clubs before, why is now the time?
Porath: Serious golfers share a lot in common -- we enjoy competition and in order to improve take lessons and practice. Every club in a serious golfer's bag should be fit by an expert to help you reach your potential as a golfer.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.