Are correctly fitting clubs more important than your swing?
Which is more important to improving your game: your clubs or your swing? – All about the clubs
The question of whether your clubs or your swing has more effect on your game, has been asked for a long time. Many golf instructors believe that your swing may be more important than having correctly fitting clubs. But golf club manufacturers advertise that the latest clubs can virtually perform for you. So is the swing more valuable than your clubs in helping you shoot better scores, or vice-versa?
After golfing for nearly 50 years, teaching for nearly 35, having owned a golf shop, and been fitting and selling clubs for nearly as long, I’ll give you my unbiased opinion.
Because of the depth of this subject, I’ll be discussing clubs in this article, and the swing in a next article.
If you want to get the most from this article I suggest you leave yourself plenty of time, so you can really absorb the information. This isn’t a quick read, and it’s not intended to be.
First, the clubs.
There’s no doubt in my mind that having quality golf clubs that are properly fit is critical if you’re going to play your best golf.
Here are some examples of common activities where a correct fit is important.
I see people from time to time riding bicycles without the seat adjusted for their leg length, and they cycle very inefficiently with much more effort than is necessary.
It’s obvious this rider’s bike needs some adjusting. What about your clubs?
Here’s another one: My wife Nancy has our computer screen tilted slightly downward and to the left. I tilt the screen back just a hair, and to the right. Subtle differences, but customized to our height, posture, and eye level.
I often see people using clubs where the ball is positioned too far away from them, and the shafts are obviously too long. Or I’ll notice grips that are too small for their hands and can’t possibly let them swing their best.
But, the biggest one is when people have too many clubs in their set and can’t possibly make use of many of them. Most people just buy clubs of a popular brand, or someone gives them a set, or they pick up a used set, and they think these clubs that haven’t been properly fit for them are sufficient to play their best golf. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Clubs you may have invested quite a bit of money in but haven’t been properly fit, are like buying a size 40 designer suit when you wear a 44. As costly as it might be and as nice as it might look, it’s worthless if it doesn’t fit you.
Here are what I consider to be most important reasons for having clubs that will perform at the highest level for you. I’ll list them in the order of most important to least important – although each one plays an important role in proper fitting.
Beyond a doubt, the single most important variable is that the golf shaft must be the right flex, the right weight, and the right length for your body type and swing. The slower you swing, the more flexible the shaft must be to propel the ball up in the air and get sufficient height and maximum distance. The faster you swing, the more rigid or stiff the shaft must be in order to hit the ball the correct height and control the direction of the ball.
These three shafts flex in various amounts, and each of them is designed for players of different swing speeds.
The length of the shaft, even if it’s made a half-inch shorter or longer than standard, either sets your body in a position at address to strike the ball solidly, or if overlooked causes you to mishit the ball way too often. Mishitting the ball even a half-inch off the center of any club will cost you a tremendous amount of distance.
So the 7-iron you’re hitting toward a green you mishit by half an inch, has no chance of reaching the green. Incorrect shaft length is a common problem with many golfers, and is most damaging on drivers because they’re the longest club in your bag and the easiest to mishit.
For the majority of golfers, the drivers sold today are too long for them by an inch or more. This holds true for both women and men. Remember, the longer the shaft, the harder it is to hit the ball in the center of your clubs. And center hits give you maximum distance.
Shafts that are too heavy, and too stiff are the absolute worst. They make it impossible for the golfer to hit the ball accurately and to gain as much distance as possible. We all know if you try to lift an object that’s heavier than your physical strength allows it’s useless to keep trying. I see many golfers swinging clubs that are way too heavy for them, yet they still play these clubs, unaware of how much they’re hurting their game.
If you’re in the under 200 yard off the tee category, you absolutely should be using graphite shafts that are of the right flex, weight, and length. If you’re still swinging steel shafts which can be literally twice as heavy as graphite, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.
After the golf shaft, the next aspect of clubs of great importance is the combination of clubs within a set. Here’s a simple analogy: If you only use a handful of kitchen utensils at home; for example knives, forks, spoons, glasses, some pots and pans, spatulas etc., you certainly wouldn’t need to outfit your kitchen with all the utensils a professional chef might have. Chefs makes use of these additional utensils because they have the need and the skills to utilize them properly. If you had the many utensils a chef used, most of them would sit gathering dust, so there’d be no point having them in your kitchen.
The same holds true when you have clubs in your set you never use, or attempt to use, but aren’t able to make them function properly. A clear sign you have more clubs than necessary is when you notice you hit two or more clubs the same distance. This is especially true for most women who aren’t able to create much clubhead speed.
7 club sets are a good option for those who drive under 150 yards. My wife Nancy drives about 130 yards and has 8 clubs in her set – all properly fitted to her.
So for many people, having less clubs in their set, but being properly fit for them is a smarter choice. For golfers who only hit their best drives 150 yards or less, a set of 7 to 9 clubs is all they’ll need. Can you imagine an elderly woman who only drives 100 yards having use for a full set with 14 clubs?
By the way, the USGA sets the limit of 14 as the most clubs anyone can carry in their set. Once you hit your tee shots around 200 yards or more, the full 14 clubs should give you distance gaps where each one goes a different distance. Once you find that two of your clubs are going exactly the same distance, one of them is no longer necessary.
Club fact: A perimeter weighted iron head will keep mishit shots straighter than the compact blades the tour pros use.
The third most important aspect would be that the clubhead design especially in the irons has proper weight distribution built into them for your skill level. Most tour pros use a smaller more compact iron head which allows them to maneuver the ball high, low, right, and left because of their advanced skill level.
The average golfer would be better suited with the weight distributed more around the top of the club, the toe and heel, and the sole to help stabilize the clubhead, so it twists the least amount possible on mishit shots which are common for most golfers.
This KZG clubhead has most of the weight taken from behind the clubface and placed around the outside. This design helps correct shots that are hit off-center.
This Callaway tour blade head is designed for a highly skilled player. The chrome finish is beautiful to look at, but they’re difficult to control unless struck near the center of the face.
When looking at models of clubs, take notice of where the metal is on the head. The more metal you see around the perimeter of the head, the more stable it will be on your mishits. This means the back of the iron will be hollowed out, so the weight that would be behind the face is now moved to the outside of the clubhead. These type of heads are the most forgiving, and much easier to hit for the average golfer than heads that have the weight more evenly distributed throughout the head.
WARNING: The best iron head design will fall short of helping you at the highest level if the weight, flex, and length of the shaft is not properly fit to you.
I’ve always considered the shaft to be like the engine of a car. No matter how attractive a car is from the outside, the engine determines how it performs. So it is with golf shafts.
The paint color and graphics on a shaft have nothing to do with how it will perform. It’s the proper fitting of a shafts weight, length, and bending characteristics that give you optimum performance.
The last one I’ll cover today is grip texture and the size (diameter) of the grip. Although this is the fourth aspect I’m mentioning, the grip size is of high importance. You wouldn’t wear shoes that don’t fit, or a hat that fell down over your eyes, or slacks that hung on the ground, so why would you think you can swing and control a golf club if the grip doesn’t fit the size of your palm and the length of your fingers!
The grip is the only part of the golf club that comes in contact with your body, and through your hands this allows you to control the club and the direction of the ball. If the feeling in your hands holding the club isn’t comfortable, and the grip doesn’t fit your hand size you will never – and I’ll repeat – never consistently make solid contact, and have control over your ball. You’ll constantly be making subconscious adjustments in your swing.
So in the end, your clubs and how well they’re fit serve a vital role in playing your best golf.
Free Club Evaluation.
If you’d like me to take a look at your clubs at no charge or schedule a FREE swing evaluation, call or text me at 727-776-8380. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next article: How important is your swing?
Thank you for being a part of our golfing family!
Dedicated to your best golf ever,
Michael Riso, Teaching Professional, PGA Associate
EFT Advanced Golf Practitioner
Clearwater Country Club and Largo Golf Course