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Poor Man’s Club Fitting

When I was young and drinking (I quit when I turned 50 last year), I came up with a cocktail that is perfect for hot summer afternoons, I call it the Poor Man’s Margarita.  Great for those moments right after mowing the yard in 90 degree heat.  It’ll take the edge off the pending heat stroke, take your mind of the chigger bites, and give you another reason to be dizzy.  Oh yeah… it’s good.  The drink is made by mixing a shot of tequila in a glass of iced Fresca.  Sometimes a little more tequila than that, it depends on how many you’ve already had prior to mixing this one.  As you probably know, Fresca is a carbonated lime aid drink of sorts and tastes somewhat like, well a little like anyway, a margarita mixed with 7 up.  Yes, Fresca is still available, but you have to look for it.  Throw in an optional slice of lime and you have a perfect and easy drink for a hot afternoon, but never use salt.  Why do I bring this up?   Well, like making a real margarita can be a bit expensive and getting the right mix of ingredients can be tedious, club fitting can be expensive and tedious as well.  Like I usually opted for the Poor Man’s version of the drink, in club fitting I have also opted for the poor man’s version for my irons.  I’ll explain.

I have been doing a bit of research into the variables involved with proper club fitting.  I am not an expert, but I am a weekend golf warrior and know just enough to be dangerous and this is what I know.  Follow me here…  You’ll contact your local pro or fitting expert and get a quote for an iron fitting, driver fitting, putter fitting, or all of the above.  The costs can range from $300 down to about $100 depending upon the technology used and the fittings desired.  I’m sure there are those who will fit you for more $, but I have a place I trusted and $300 is what they charge now for the ‘full monty.’  Let’s just say you go for an iron fitting.  When you go for the fitting they will measure your height, arm length, wrist to ground distance, and the span of your hand to start the process.  This will give them a starting point for a grip size, shaft length from standard, and the appropriate lie angle.  You’ll get a couple of clubs – say 7 irons of differing makes – and hit some balls from a lie board.  Based on the marks on the taped sole of the clubs from the lie board he will refine a lie angle to your swing (assuming there is a club with the length shaft you require!).  Now that you have the right lie angle and length shaft, you’ll hit some balls to determine your swing speed which will give the pro an idea of the shaft type you require.  By shaft type, I mean should it be a regular flex shaft, a stiff flex shaft, and so on.  It can also be either graphite or steel, but for the purposes here, let’s just say steel.  Here’s where the technology comes in.  He may have a custom sensor golf simulator package that when you hit a ball will tell him club speed, launch angle, ball speed off the club face, spin rate, distance, shot shape, shot dispersion, which testicle hangs lower in the follow through, and the list goes on.  Now the pro will tell you that there are no industry standards to shaft flex.  A Ping stiff may not be a Mizuno stiff (if they are different shaft makers), that is, one may be subtly softer than another .  So, if you are getting fitted because you are looking to reshaft an existing set or order new,  he will recommend you get the shafts frequency matched and spined.  Oh yeah, you’ll also of course need shafts with the correct kick point (oh I am sorry we call it ‘bend profile’ now) so that you get the correct shot trajectory.  So now we have chosen the maker and flex of the shafts and will frequency match them.  The pro (or company you order from) will individually fit the shaft on an apparatus that attaches to the butt end extending the shaft horizontally so that the tip is free and unattached.  He will then put a standard weight on the tip, pull it down a standard distance and it will begin to oscillate.  The oscillation rate is measured on each shaft to determine stiffness.  Depending on the rate of oscillation and desired stiffness, the pro will then enter into a process called tipping.  He will cut the correct amount of shaft to length from the butt and the tip to establish the desired oscillations which will translate into the desired frequency or stiffness.  Once that is complete, he then spines the shaft.  Spining is accounting for inaccuracies in manufacturing of the shaft where stiffness may be different depending upon the side of the shaft that must bend during the swing.  He is effectively finding the spine of the shaft so that when the club head is attached, the spine is in the appropriate position.  Does your head hurt?  Do you want a stiff Poor Man yet?

Now, let me give you the poor man’s version.  You already own a set of irons, but you are not quite sure they are right for you.  Let’s take a look at a website that will help us out.  A great site for this is the PING website: http://www.ping.com/fitting/default.aspx.  They have a terrific web fitting program you can use to get you into the ballpark for grip size, shaft length, lie angle and stiffness for all of your clubs – irons, driver, etc…all you have to do is get someone to assist you in the measurements (it can be difficult to get accurate measurements by yourself).  Based on these measurements the program will recommend shaft length, grip size, and will give you a color code for lie angle –  the associated lie angle is available on the site that follows..ie…white is equal to 3 degrees upright and so on (http://www.ping.com/pdfs/PING_Color_Code_Chart.pdf).  Now if you were like me, you took the advice of a friend, bought irons off the shelf several years ago and have been playing with them since.  I bought a set of PING i3’s, black dot and standard length.  It turns out I require white dot (+ 3 degrees upright) and plus a ¼” to ½” in length.  That my friends is a great deal of difference.  Okay, so I sent my PING i3’s to PING and had them bent to a white standard (they can bend them max about 3 degrees because they are cast, not forged).  I did not change the shafts.  I have JZ Stiff which are correct for me, but a little short.  I went to the Golfworks website, purchased some simple shaft…don’t laugh…butt plugs and added ½” in length and regripped them myself with standard size golf pride New Decade Multicompound (half cords) – the size grip PING recommended.  Now I haven’t had the shafts spined, oscillated, frequency matched, tipped, dipped, or slathered in rattlesnake oil (although the rattlesnake oil sounds kind of cool) and I have been hitting these irons unbelievably well since the changes.  These i3’s are so much more satisfying to hit, and the extra length of the shaft and better fit has translated into added distance for every club!  Nice.  One other thing to note.  For every ½” you add to the shaft length, you will also add a couple of points of swing weight.  Most modern irons come off the shelf at about a D1 swing weight.  Add ½” and they will be at about a D3.  I found the difference to actually feel better.  If you are buying new clubs, but do the fitting yourself, then you can specify swing weight desired and they will manage it. 

Maybe someday I will have a more detailed fitting done and shafts frequency matched for my swing…maybe… someday.  But for now, I will try and do it or arrange for club changes myself.  So, I would at this point when I was about 28, fix myself a Poor Man’s and sip it in celebration of a poor man’s fitting well executed.  But alas, I am not 28 and no longer a drinking man so I will merely bask in the pungent odor of Golfworks’ environmentally safe grip tape solvent and dream of birdies to come.