Henry-Griffitts Custom Club Fitting
This is an article from the Henry/Griffitts by weekly newsletter, it was written by H/G Master Club Fitter and friend Bob Duncan. Please leave your comments.
Are Your Mis-Fit Golf Clubs Hurting You?
Golf is a challenging game, at once rewarding and in the next moment very frustrating. So it’s no wonder so many golfers buy into equipment manufacturers’ promises of better golf by purchasing new clubs. Technology has definitely changed the game, but there may be a serious cost beyond the financial investment.
“Equipment-induced injury” is a concept that has been Talked about for several years by professional teacher-clubfitters who understand the relationship between the swing and properly fit golf clubs for players. In the quest for more distance, and with the misconceptions about what specifications should be, most golfers are using clubs that are mis-fit for their strength, flexibility, and ability. And when clubs don’t fit golfers compensate with their swings.
Adding to the problem is a true lack of ‘standards’ in the club industry. For example, recent independent testing of 2 major manufacturers’ shafts found a difference of a full flex in shafts marked “stiff” (both marked DG S300).
Dr. Tom Carlsen, medical consultant for the PGA, LPGA and Senior PGA tours treated tour players for 5 years. “Lower handicap players actually have a higher risk of injury since they practice more. No tour player will admit to mis-fit clubs, but with repetitive stresses they’re more at risk if their clubs don’t fit. And, they’re more reluctant to change. Most amateurs swing too hard and too fast trying to hit the ball farther. Many would benefit by changing their 8.5 degree driver to a 13.”
As Chris Cooper, TPI certified physical therapist at the Athletic Club of Bend, puts it: “Since I specialize in golfing injuries I am going to have a higher percentage of golfers in my clinic than a normal PT practice. The most frequent injury associated with golf I see clinically is usually some form of low back pain, followed by pathology at the elbow.”
The slice (a ball curving to the right for right-handers, left for lefties) is still prevalent in golf. And, as long as the ball is curving golfers will re-route their swings, blaming the curve on their swings and not their equipment.
Yet, fallacies abound: that most golfers swing so hard they need stiffer shafts in their clubs, that a lower loft always goes farther, and that the ball slices because the shaft is too flexible – these are major contributors to incorrect swings. The results are usually an off-balance swing, causing stress on the arms, wrists, and most importantly the lower back.
“Most amateurs would cut their handicaps in half by learning an on-plane swing and getting properly fitted clubs,” says Dr. Carlsen. “They need to pay attention to their physical limitations and their equipment.”
With mis-fit clubs further swing instruction is a marginal fix, since rather than teaching the proper swing the instructor must teach compensations for what the club is not doing.
Clubfitting only makes sense. The ball is 3 to 4 feet away and swing speeds are between 60 and 130 mph, so anything that changes in that remaining distance will change the flight. And, you may spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars for quality equipment – therefore it should fit you.
“Properly fitted clubs is such an important thing,” says Dr. Carlsen. “Many golfers just run out and buy the hot new driver, while playing a different company’s irons and fairway woods from another. The shafts are all different. How can the 5-wood react like the 4-iron? At least if only one company is in your bag the shafts should be more consistent throughout your set.”
For beginners, it’s very difficult to learn a proper golf swing with a club they can’t hit. In fact, the less accomplished the golfer, the more clubfitting helps. So which comes first and which is the problem, the fit of the club or the mechanics of the swing?
The bottom line is that they cannot be separated. Even with a correct swing, a shaft too stiff or a loft too low will cause the ball to be off-line. Add to that the lack of emphasis on precise clubfitting in the industry – it’s no wonder so many golfers have injuries. With proper balance a club that doesn’t fit will cause crooked shots, which will cause even the best players to change.
So, what’s a golfer to do? A professional’s dedication to teaching often shows through experience in clubfitting, but he/she walks a fine line between correcting the swing and telling golfers that their clubs don’t fit. Compensating for poorly-fitted clubs increases physical stress. Ideally, every club in the bag should fit, and you can play better with 7 clubs that fit than 14 that don’t.
Correct the swing and fit the club. It’s much more than buying a quality set of clubs. It’s about learning a swing that won’t hurt and matching the clubs to it. Regardless of the manufacturer’s promises, you should only buy new clubs if they support a balanced swing with a proper plane.
HG Master Clubfitter