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The Right Stick

Larry Olmsted
Posted: December 1, 2007

(continued from page 2)

Max Out's Performance Analysis includes shaft analysis, swing analysis using the company's patented Launch Max launch monitor, equipment recommendations, lie and loft analysis and, if needed, adjustment of your existing clubs. You can add a putter fitting and order custom clubs.

Like TaylorMade, other top manufacturers have precision club fitting and swing analysis for their sponsored players, but almost none makes these available to the public. The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) is the minor exception. The package is mainly aimed at small corporate groups of six and can be booked only through your local Titleist PGA golf pro. The appeal of TPI is that it emulates the true tour fitting experience offered to Titleist players, and includes a three-dimensional body motion analysis of your swing, along with a complete physical examination and personalized exercise routine that were designed by Dr. Greg Rose, president and founder of Clubgolf Fitness Center, the largest golf-specific health club in the United States. Then there is a swing analysis, putter analysis and custom putter fitting by Dave Phillips, a Golf Magazine Top 100 teacher. After fittings and recommendations are made for driver, irons, wedges and balls, a complete set of custom-fitted Titleist clubs is given to each participant. The package also includes a mental golf analysis, nutritional consultation and even a custom FootJoy golf shoe fitting. Attending TPI gives you a glimpse into the world of a top professional golfer.

Golfers of all abilities will greatly benefit from equipment that is precisely customized for fit and with the right shaft and performance characteristics, and any of these next-generation fitting sessions will improve your game. Which one is best for you depends on whether you want just an equipment fitting or you also want to learn more about your swing, as is the case at TaylorMade Performance Labs. If you want a whole gamut of golf-related health and strategy advice, there is the Titleist Performance Institute. No matter where you go, the fitting cost itself may be irrelevant when compared with the new gear you will want. These companies are happy to give you printed club specs to take to any retailer, but due to the high level of customization and particular shaft recommendations, it is easier just to order them directly after the fitting. Graunke estimates that 90 percent of Hot Stix visitors buy some or all new clubs. Performance Labs's McLendon says, "For most people who come through the lab and then test out our recommended clubs, the immediate performance gains are so substantial that the money issue goes out the window and the question is, 'How fast can I get them made?'"

Some golfers dread that a detailed club fitting will improve their game and thus change their swing, making the gear obsolete, but the truth is the worse gear you already have will become obsolete equally quickly, and chances are that initial changes will be minor enough so that your new equipment can be tweaked as you progress. All of the specialty fitters cited a preponderance of high handicappers as among their best customers. "The Hot Stix client is the avid, affluent golfer," says Graunke, "but that doesn't mean scratch. We get plenty of 20 to 25 handicaps." In most cases high handicappers benefit more from club fitting than better players, who have less room for improvement. McLendon agrees: "Many people are concerned about getting fitted without reaching maximum improvement first, but you can't think that way. If you look at the percentage of improvement, the players who benefit the most are the players who aren't that good. Since we opened, our average customer has had an index of 20. We get scratch players, but while people think that is the lab's target customer, it is actually a small percentage."

Golf is ultimately a game most of us play for fun, but there is no doubt that the better you play, the more fun it is. Many avid golfers buy new drivers, putters or even entire sets every season, spending hundreds or thousands of dollars in pursuit of better scores, when less money could go a lot further toward lasting improvement through proper club selection. I am truly more excited to play than I have been in years, thanks directly to my high-tech fitting experiences, and while golf is not a cheap sport, just the feeling of elation my new clubs have given me is priceless.

Larry Olmsted is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.

Illustration by Hadley Hooper

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