Become a complete golfer: Part 6, Equipment

Rob Labritz
USA Today Sports Images
This is the final installment of a six-part series with PGA Professional Rob Labritz, offering up tips on how you can become a complete golfer. Here, we focus on equipment.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Published: Thursday, March 02, 2017 | 8:13 a.m.

Editor's note: This is the final installment of a six-part series with PGA Professional Rob Labritz, offering up tips on how you can become a complete golfer. Each feature will focus on one of six topics: Body, Game, Game maintenance, Mind, Nutrition and Equipment in an effort to help you become the best golfer you can be.

Picking out a set of golf clubs these days can be just as overwhelming as it is for soon-to-be first-time parents loading up items on a baby registry.

Where do you start?

We'll answer that question by telling you where you shouldn't start: in a store picking out your own set off the rack.

Just like the tuxedo or dress you're picking for your wedding, you want your clubs to be properly fit by an expert.

BECOME A COMPLETE GOLFER: Body | Game | Game maintenance | Mind | Nutrition

PGA Professional Rob Labritz put it to us like this: Properly fit clubs might be the single most important thing you can do for your game.

"If you're not playing clubs with the right flex, clubhead, lie, length and weight for your swing, you are already behind the 8-ball," he said. "I can't stress enough how important it is to see a PGA Professional or an expert fitter to get it all right."

While there is a cost associated with a proper fitting, there are times that the cost is discounted or even thrown out all together if you order the new set you were fit for from that fitter. It's worth keeping that in mind.

If you're just getting started with golf or don't think you're good enough to custom fit, you're wrong, says Labritz.

"Golfers generally go to store or online, buy them and start golfing," he said. "That'll get you playing and it makes me happy that we have a new golfer, but you're going to struggle mightily. It's essential -- even for beginners -- to get fit."

Not important just to get fit, Labritz said, but also to determine the make up of your set.

If you're just getting started, you only need the basics -- maybe a long iron, a couple of mid and short irons, a hybrid, a driver and a putter, 6-8 clubs, max.

As you get better and more comfortable, you can add to the set.

The biggest issue Labritz sees when it comes to fittings is, not surprisingly, the inability of some golfers to check their ego at the door.

"Look, just because you're a guy who's in great shape and in your early 30s doesn't mean you need the same shafts Dustin Johnson is using on the PGA Tour. That's just insane," Labritz said. "The object of a fitting is to get you as much forgiveness as possible. Dustin Johnson's swing speed is in the mid-120 mph range. Most average golfers have a swing speed less than 100 mph. Playing with a set that's too advanced for your ability is doing you more harm than good. Go to a really good club fitter. There are thousands of shafts on the market. When you get to these types of fittings, this stuff matters a lot. You want to get dialed in."

Another aspect of a club fitting that can't be overlooked is how YOU feel about the look of the clubhead you're staring down at. You want it to appeal to your eye.

When you're deciding on a clubhead for a set of irons, there are basically three types: A gravity-back, which provides ultimate forgiveness and leads the game-improvement category (great for beginners as they feature a massive sweet-spot and will help you get the ball in the air); Cavity-back, a little smaller than a gravity-back and provides more feedback, but still offers plenty of foregiveness; and finally, a muscle-back or blade. These are the most difficult to hit in that you need to be precise. They will offer the most feedback and feel -- if you hit it great, it'll feel that way. If you don't, well, it's going to feel lousy and the result is going to look that way too.

"Gravity-back irons aren't giving you the greatest feedback on where you're hitting the face of the club," Labritz said. "You don't know where you're hitting it because they're so forgiving. As you start to advance in your golfing career, you might want to move toward a cavity back. You'll start to feel off-center hits. You want to be hitting it solid in the center of clubface.

"As you get even better, possibly a blade. The blades will give you big workability as far as curving it, but you have to be precise. Teaching kids who are serious about the game, I like them to have two sets as they get advanced -- their gamers, like a cavity back -- and a really hard set of blades with the same shaft as the gamers so we can work on solidness of contact, which is super important in getting better."

Mixed sets, Labritz said, are a great idea too. That would consist of a long iron in the game-improvement category, middle irons in the cavity-back category, and short irons in the muscle-back category.

"The shorter the club, the more feel and feedback you're going to want," he said. "With the longer clubs, you're looking for foregiveness, right? You want to be as close as possible to the intended target."

A properly fit set of clubs are imperative in helping you to shoot the scores you want to be shooting.

Rob Labritz, who has played in four PGA Championships (he was low-Club Professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits), is currently the Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in BedFord Hills, N.Y. He was also the PGA Met Section Player of the Year in 2008, 2013 and 2016, as well as the Westchester Golf Association's Player of the Year in 2002, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2016. You can learn more about Labritz at www.RobLabritz.com and you can follow him on Twitter, @Rlabritz, or Instagram @RobLabritzGolf

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.