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Custom-made Golf Clubs

Custom-made golf clubs provide links weapons made expressly for you
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Laurence Fishburne, Jan/Feb 00

(continued from page 2)

Many club companies have portable fitting systems that are operated by club professionals and professional club fitters. The advantage of going to a club professional for a fitting is that he is likely to have several brands of clubs for sale, and may have a fitting system for more than one. This means that you won't be captive to a particular club maker, and may mean that the correct driver for your swing will come from one club maker, the fairway woods from another, and the irons from a third.   Ping has a system that is fairly standard for the business.

The fitter takes static measurements, such as height, wrist to floor distance of the lead hand, wrist to the longest finger, and the length of the longest finger. This helps to determine shaft length and grip size. The fitter also will want to know the average carry and roll of your driver and the average carry of your 5-iron. He then watches your ball flight and looks at the marks on the impact tape on the sole of the club. He can check several factors against a color-coded chart that cross-references lie angles and shaft lengths.  

The Zevo fitting system is a small, portable version of Callaway's big box. Another Southern California maker, Temecula-based Zevo has developed FITZ, which stands for Fitting Intelligence Technology from Zevo. Its dry circuit board and computer installed in a small indoor swing room develop what director of marketing Gerry Stefanko calls a swingerprint. "We can analyze a player's swing in 10 swings," says Stefanko. "We can determine the club head speed, the angle of attack, the loft and lie angle of a club."  

Kenneth Smith Golf Clubs in suburban Kansas City has sold catalogue golf clubs for decades to better players who know what they want. It will also make custom clubs for players who want a better game but don't know what they need. Kenneth Smith president Pat McMahon says that it isn't enough to match a line of golf clubs to a player. You need to match each club in a set. "We don't think that most companies have the ability to make exactly what each player needs," says McMahon. "We are craftsmen here. We can individually weight each club in a set, individually tool each lie angle."  

If you were to go on site for a club fitting, you would fill out a four-page questionnaire and be given a series of static measurements, including a tracing of your hands to determine the right grip size. You would be asked to bring your clubs for analysis, then you would be asked to hit balls--with every club in the bag if necessary. After a thorough reckoning of how you hit each club in the bag, the properties of your custom clubs are determined. "We have certain shafts made for us that have 36 different flexes," says McMahon. "That's how specific we can be."  

The process of club fitting can be both a fascinating and perplexing journey. You may find yourself adrift in a sea of  specifications that will differ in some degree from manufacturer to manufacturer. But you will also learn something about your swing, about how your posture and swing plane and physical strength act together to determine how well you hit the ball. You may learn that you don't need more upright clubs, you just need to stand more upright. You may learn that instead of club shafts with more whip for weaker players, you are strong enough for firmer shafts that will help you keep the ball under control. In the search for custom clubs, you can also find out what's worst and what's best about your swing. You can work to eliminate the bad and accentuate the good. A customized swing. Now that's a revolutionary thought.  

Jeff Williams writes on golf for Newsday.

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