If you are a seasoned golfer or even a new golfer, chances are you’ve heard about club fitting – but wonder if you should consider custom fit clubs. Many golfers think club fitting is for the tour professionals and not amateur players. I like to ask people, if you have a size 8 foot, would you wear size 10 shoes? Most likely not, yet golfers appear content playing with equipment that is not custom fit for them and their golf game.
Research shows that 92 percent of golfers don’t play with the right clubs for their swing – so this means once you get custom fit, you will see an immediate improvement in your game. Women more than men, tend to “accumulate” handed-down clubs – which many times are too long and too heavy – not to mention have larger and usually worn grips. Treat yourself to the experience of club fitting to make sure your clubs are right for you. Your session may cost between $50 and $100 (depending on full fitting or just a few clubs) but most Professionals and fitters will credit the fitting fee toward a purchase if you buy new clubs.
How do you get started? Visit your local PGA/LPGA Professional or club fitter and ask to have your current clubs fit for your body type, height and swing. You can schedule a club fitting to check your current clubs and the club fitter can make adjustments to your set based on the results of the club fitting. If you are in the market for new clubs, you will definitely want to be fit for the new clubs so they are made for your body type, height and swing speed to help you achieve the best results.
Many variables and characteristics will be evaluated during your fitting, including the shaft type (steel or graphite) shaft flex (women’s light, regular, stiff, etc.) loft and lie angle, hand size (to determine proper grip size), grip and swing speed. You can imagine a five-foot female would not want the same clubs as a six-foot male – and vise-versa. Perhaps you feel like your 7-iron and 8-iron go the same distance – this could be due to the fact that both clubs have the same loft – and your Professional or club fitter can check this for you.
Ask your Professional or club fitter to help you determine the distances you are hitting the clubs. Ideally you should have a difference of 10 yards between each club (if your 6-iron goes 130 yards, the 7-iron should go 120 yards, the 8-iron 110 yards, etc.)
If you decide it’s time for new clubs, now what do you do with the old clubs? Before you find a spot for them in the garage, basement or attic, ask your Professional or club fitter if he or she accepts trade-ins. Similar to trading in a vehicle, golf club trade-ins are hassle-free and allow you to earn credit toward purchasing new clubs. The value depends on the condition and age of the clubs, but the industry standard PGA.com Value Guide can give you an idea what the fair market value for your equipment will be if traded-in.
You will enjoy the game more with properly fit equipment and will soon save a few strokes each round.
The annual PGA Merchandise Show just wrapped up a little over a week ago with more than 1,100 vendors showcasing their equipment, apparel, accessories, etc. to the more than 40,000 people in attendance. This is the chance for golf manufacturers to show their “latest and greatest” to golf Professionals and buyers, who will in turn offer the equipment and products for consumers. Every year Golf Digest magazine hosts a “Hot List Summit” at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, Arizona where clubs are tested and evaluated for the Golf Digest Hot List. A full detailed list of clubs and their ratings will be in the March 2017 issue of Golf Digest or can be found online at GolfDigest.com.
Here’s a sneak peak of what to expect for 2017 for each club category (those earning GOLD ratings):
Last week we talked about the importance of getting ready for the 2017 golf season and to evaluate your golf club grips. This week it’s time to look at your golf shoes – most golfers will walk anywhere from three to five miles during an 18-hole round. If you play two rounds of golf a week, you would walk more than 500 miles a year. Due to swinging, twisting, torque, balance and walking on all kinds of turf and pavement, the need to replace your soft spikes increases even more.
Here are some helpful hints for taking care of your golf shoes and more importantly, your feet.
An advantage of two pair of shoes allows you to have waterproof shoes if you tend to play early morning when the dew is still on the ground or to have a “nicer” pair of shoes that you can wear to guest day events or for tournaments. Plus, most women golfers I know are experts at having multiple pair of shoes that “match every outfit!” Technology has come to golf shoes as well - designed to keep your feet comfortable and dry - while still looking good.
Finally, take a personal golf shoe inventory of your collection of golf shoes. Most golf manufacturers offer a one or two year waterproof warranty – meaning if your shoes are older than two years, you may benefit from investing in a new pair with a new waterproof warranty. Whether you replace spikes or purchase new shoes, make sure they are comfortable and keep your feet stable during your golf swing.
If you are in a part of the country where golf is seasonal, one of the best ways to get ready for the new golf season involves some simple maintenance. Take a look at your golf grips – if the grips are worn or haven’t been changed in the past six months, it’s time to get new grips.
To get ready for a new season, clean your grips with a wet, soapy towel and wipe them thoroughly. If your grips are slippery or appear worn, you need new grips. Slippery grips cause you to hold the club with more pressure and this interferes with making a good golf swing. A general rule of thumb is to re-grip your clubs once a year, so the beginning of the season is a great time to re-grip.
Visit your LPGA or PGA Professional for help in getting the proper size grip for your hand. He or she will ask your glove size or will measure from your wrist to your longest finger-tip. Next your Professional will ask the types of climate conditions you play in – is it wet/humid conditions, fair weather or dry, sunny weather? Do your hands sweat when you play? Do you prefer a soft or firm grip or one with a smooth or rough texture?
Grip technology is constantly improving and manufacturers now offer grips designed for a number of variables - some with cushion under the grips and some designed to absorb moisture (perspiration, rain, etc.) Grips come in a variety of fun colors - which allows you to add some color and personality to a normally boring grip.
Once you have new grips, your clubs will feel new again and you will notice an immediate improvement, which leads to better shots and lower scores.
Most of us know it's important to have our golf equipment properly fit. For example, using the correct clubs that are fit to your swing and body-type can vastly improve your score and your enjoyment of the game. But did you know that there's more to "fitting" than just the clubs themselves? Take your game to the next level by making sure you've been fit for the correct golf ball.
If you think about an average round, most scoring opportunities happen around the green. Many women have difficulty reaching the green in regulation, so when looking for more distance, they select a low spin golf ball that helps with additional distance but isn't designed to hold shots into the green. Most golfers can benefit from a softer ball that is designed to land softly and stop on the green rather than hit and skid off the green.
Many golf ball manufacturers offer golf ball fittings, however how the assessment is completed may vary. Some manufacturers use online fittigs - where you answer questions about your game and the computer determines the best ball “fit” for your golf swing, shots, etc. Alternatively, you may be lucky to participate in a ball fitting at a local demo day – where you can actually hit and compare golf balls using actual measured data. One added benefit of completing a ball fitting is that you will typically score a sample pack (usally two golf balls) for to try and test out the results!
Most companies have moved away from "compression" golf balls and offer two and three-piece golf balls designed to help players score better. When you are shopping for golf balls, look for a ball with more spin and stopping power. Go through a golf ball fitting and you will find and be able to tell the softer feel of the ball coming off your clubface. They are designed to offer more stopping power and to help you shoot better scores.
Keep the fun going and lower your scores - talk to your local Professional to help you find the best golf ball for your game.
Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, you likely have goals when it comes to your golf game. As we discussed last week, you may want to practice a specific part of your game (short game or putting), take additional lessons or maybe shoot a specific score or achieve a certain handicap. As part of starting the 2017 golf season properly, make a list of some goals you’d like to achieve this year.
Before you play your first round of golf, make at least one trip to the practice tee. PGA Professional Chris Foley offers the following hints to include during your first session:
Start your session by doing some general stretching of your shoulders, back, hips and legs. It is important to get your golf muscles loose anytime you go to the course or practice facility, but especially the first time back or if you haven’t been very active. A good way to loosen up is to take a couple of short irons, holding them together and swinging them back and forth slowly. Also hold a club behind your neck on your shoulders and do a few twists at the waist to help loosen your back.
The short game is the hardest area of the game to get your feel back. Good putting is critical to scoring well and spending some time on the putting green important. Begin by finding a putt with very little break on the putting green. Place several balls at a distance of about three feet and work on hitting solid putts into the back of the hole. Try to make 10 to 15 in a row before ending your putting practice.
Next, get a feel for distance. Pick out the two holes farthest away from each other on the putting green. Take several balls and putt the balls back and forth, trying to get all of the balls to stop within a foot of the hole.
The motion made chipping the golf ball is a miniature version of the full swing. Hitting crisp, solid chip shots will translate into solid hit shots with the full swing. Remember, the correct technique is to set-up with a narrow stance, weight on the front foot and the ball position off the instep of the back foot. Grip down on the handle of the club and make a short, brisk accelerated stroke. To make the ball go up in the air, let the leading edge of the club work down to the ground.
Start your practice of the full swing with your shortest club (lob wedge, sand wedge or pitching wedge) and make short, easy swings. As you start to get a feel for finding the center of the clubface, start to make full swings. Progress your way through your clubs by hitting a series of shots with every other club in your bag. Move from sand wedge to nine iron to seven iron, etc. Finally, hit a hybrid, a fairway wood and then the driver.
Going through this type of practice session will give you a good idea of where the golf ball is going and give you a feel for hitting the ball solidly. Confidence plays such a big role in how we play, so starting the season off properly will make lowering those scores much easier.
As we just flipped the calendar from 2016 to 2017, many people start the New Year with a list of New Year’s Resolutions. Common resolutions include the typical things like exercising more, eating smarter, losing weight, etc. but how many of you have Golf Resolutions? Who doesn’t want to play more? But have you taken time to sit down and plan some golf resolutions? Do you want to practice a specific part of your game (short game or putting), take additional lessons or maybe shoot a specific score or achieve a certain handicap?
Golf, unlike most sports, involves a new start and reset at the beginning of every year. The professional Tours reset with the official money earnings starting over and the golf manufacturers launch new equipment, new golf balls, new apparel, etc. all designed to help golfers improve and play their best.
Last year at an LPGA event, I heard LPGA Founder Shirley Spork challenge everyone to play 9-holes of golf once a week. If you live in a part of the country that allows year-round golf, that’s a great challenge to accept since playing more golf will generally lead to playing better golf.
While many golfers like to say they will play more golf, a better golf resolution for a new year should focus on game improvement. Start with a realistic goal of practicing the part of your game that causes you the most trouble. Do you struggle getting off the tee? Perhaps you shy away from using fairway woods? Do you have confidence hitting bunker shots both from the fairway and around the green? Do you routinely have more than 36 putts during an 18-hole round? Make a plan to practice on your trouble area for 30 minutes once a week for a few weeks. Many golfers prefer to play vs. practicing – when in fact, the best way to lower your score is to actually practice. Establish a one-hour time frame to practice your short game – spend half an hour chipping, pitching and practicing shots from the bunker, then practice putting for half an hour. You will gain confidence in your short game as well as save a few strokes each round.
Other common golf resolutions include working on your game by taking additional golf instruction from your local PGA/LPGA Professional. You may have specific things you want to work on with your Professional (not hitting a slice, gaining more distance, hitting hybrids better, getting out of the bunker on the first shot, etc.) so be sure to explain your goals and have them incorporated in your lesson plan from your Professional. By seeking additional golf instruction, practicing and playing, you will be on your way to lower scores and meeting your 2017 golf resolutions.