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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

Hey, you with the 7-iron in your hand. Yes, you with the Calla-Made Cobra-Titleist-Ping titanium, oversized, diamond-faced, guaranteed-tour-action ultimate weapon.  

You, with the 150-yard carry over water, alligators and quicksand into a 20-mile-an-hour breeze and a hailstorm of locusts.   Got the right club?  

No, it's not whether it's a 6-, 7- or 8-iron. It's not about this shot, or any other shot you are about to play with your current set of clubs. It's about whether you have the right set of clubs in the first place. Do they have the right lie angle, the right shaft flex, the right grip size for you? Do your clubs fit your flat, inside-out swing or your upright whiplash backswing or your half-swing, bad-knees bunt action? Do your clubs help you get the most out of your game, whether you are a scratch player or a 20 handicapper?  

If you are preparing to spend $1,000 or more on a set of clubs, then it's about time you had them fitted to your golf swing. It won't take much time, won't cost you any more money, and you may learn much about your swing in the process. Most major club makers can fit you to a custom set of their own clubs, whether it's done at something like Callaway Golf Co.'s high-tech, computer-controlled fitting center at its corporate headquarters in Carlsbad, California, or by a teaching professional equipped with fitting programs provided by manufacturers like Ping and Zevo.  

All fitting programs have one purpose: to match a set of golf clubs to your swing style, swing speed and body type. Whether you are tall, thin, strong and athletic, or short, plump, weak and pathetic, golf club makers want you to know they have a set of clubs for you, a set that doesn't come with any guarantees but does fit the way you swing a club.  

Clubs purchased off the rack can perform well and last an eternity. Plenty of players only care that they wield a club that advances their ball rather than their score. And practice, practice, practice is almost assuredly a better way to lower any player's score. No one ever opened a box of new clubs and saw a swing fall out.  

But there's no denying that equipment custom fitted to your size and ability will help you play better. When you have the feeling that the club can do the work and all you have to do is swing it, then you have the confidence to make the best swing you can.  

It's important to remember that the person custom fitting you to clubs ought to be a PGA teaching professional, or at least someone with a reputation for putting players and clubs together in harmony. What you think you need and what you actually need might differ widely. A teaching pro who can analyze swing planes and ball flights can help you narrow the field of clubs and swing properties that can fit your game. Whatever the method of a club maker's fitting program, the goal is to determine your specific requirements in several areas: shaft length and flex, club head lie and size, club weight and swing weight (the force the player feels in the club head when he swings), and grip size and composition.  

Shaft length is a function of a player's height and arm length combined with his swing posture. A shaft sized too short causes a player to hunch over and lose balance. Too long a shaft can cause too flat a swing. Shaft flex, the amount of whip in a shaft and where along the shaft it occurs, can determine how far you hit a ball. Distance is also a function of swing weight and overall weight. The lie of the club, the angle between the hosel (socket) of the club head and the head itself, is important in making square contact with the ball. Fitting programs may be as simple as a pro handing you several different drivers and 5-irons, either of one club company or many, and having you swing them until you decide which one is for you. That's the old-fashioned way, but of course golf isn't old-fashioned anymore.  

You won't realize this any more clearly than after walking into the Callaway Golf Performance Center. In this big box of a room, there are bright lights, a hitting stage, a several high-speed cameras, a computer and a television to which the computer broadcasts a simulation of your ball flight right down the fairway of the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. Callaway has gone to all this trouble because it has the money to do so, wants you to play its extremely popular clubs (you didn't think you'd get fitted for another club maker's clubs, did you?), and wants those clubs to be what your swing requires.  

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