In the second instalment of her club fitting blog series, Susan Tyldesley, aka GolfPeach, takes us through her experience on the day of her fitting
The very thought of getting a custom fitting for golf clubs for the first time felt a bit like going for a job interview. It turned out to be nothing like that at all and I don’t know why so many women haven’t done it.
As I walked to my appointment with my first and only set of clubs rattling sadly in the bag across my shoulders, I felt as nervous.
Was I ready for this? Was my game worthy of this?
I wanted to hit it well, I wanted to impress Mizuno’s expert fitters, show them that I actually deserved clubs tailored personally to my swing. I’m a 16 handicapper. They fit Eddie Pepperell.
Now that I’ve done it, I can categorically say that fittings are there for anyone and everyone, regardless of ability.
Any insecurities I may have been harbouring when I entered Mizuno’s Performance Centre were multiplied when I warmed-up next to Mr 59 Oliver Fisher.
He proved as charming and supportive as Matt McIsaac and Alex Thorne, the two fitters that had just been monitoring Fisher’s kick angle and smash factor and had an hour ahead with me.
The fitting bay was kitted out like a flight simulator laboratory.
Rows and rows of shafts leaned against the walls and the control desk was decorated by a mind-boggling range of club heads.
Then there was TrackMan – the magic eye that would analyse my best and worst swings flash bewildering data and graphics onto the screens for Matt and Alex to equate and evaluate.
I felt like a Ford in a Ferrari garage.
“What you’ve got to understand is that none of our equipment or analysis is here to judge you,” Alex told me reassuringly before I picked a club up.
“Oliver Fisher makes good swings and bad swings just like the rest of us. We learn as much from the poor swings as the flushed ones.
You’re not going to hit it perfectly every time out on the course, so we need to try to give you shafts, clubheads and weights that will help forgive some of the off swings.”
That kind of comfort and encouragement was on hand every step of the way from Alex and Matt. They had both just returned from servicing their Mizuno clients at the Masters but there was no adjustment too minor for them to consider.
I started by hitting three shots with my old 7-iron. Matt told me that it was the best club for providing a base point to measure the rest of the bag against.
His TrackMan was at work from the outset, a small boxed recording device placed unobtrusively behind me on the floor of the bay. I hardly noticed it was there.
Three swings were enough for TrackMan to register basic measurements that could then be compared to three further swings with a Mizuno 7-iron fitted with their 3D Shaft Optimizer.
Fancy, I know.
I’m not claiming to be any sort of fitting jargon expert, and that’s fine. I was there to receive some great clubs not a swing analysis diploma and that’s exactly what I got.
To decipher which shafts were for me, Alex and Matt used five key elements:
- Clubhead speed: How fast the clubhead moves through the swing
- Tempo: How quickly you transition from backswing to downswing
- Shaft toe down: A measure of how much the shaft bows during the downswing
- Shaft kick angle: How much the shaft bends forward during the downswing
- Release factor: How and when the clubhead and shaft are released during the downswing
They did their best to explain these factors in laywoman’s terms as their Shaft Optimiser computed them with recommendations made by TrackMan.
“All of these things happen subconsciously and are unique to your swing,” Alex explained.
“Head speed is very important and an area we always try to improve, perhaps with a lighter shaft.
“The basics of your game are not going to change too much unless you make significant adjustments to your swing, but we can change them for you with the help of technology.”
He added, and I knew this was coming: “If there is an area you can improve yourself, it’s your release.
“What we can do is fit you with a club that will try to encourage you to come down on a better line. A lot of it is about physical build. If you haven’t got the strength, then this can affect how you release.”
A fitting, with what was effectively a free lesson. I could get used to this.
I was hitting shots with Mizuno clubs of differing lengths and with versions of the slightly heavier shafts beginning to feel more and more at home with each minor adjustment. Matt was continually running the numbers with Alex behind the screen at the control desk as they balanced the probabilities in search of the optimum setup.
“You suit standard length clubs,” Matt concluded at one point.
“The lightweight shafts are up for discussion, but I think you can be more manipulative and increase your clubhead speed. That’s just physics.”
“I’m looking at your good shots vs. bad shots and we’re already getting 10% more distance through the air compared to your old clubs and there’s a big jump in your smash factor.”
More jargon – Smash Factor is the correlation between clubhead speed and ball speed. It measures the efficiency of the swing by looking at what you’re putting into the swing and what you’re getting out.
“These shafts are actually longer and 15 grams heavier than your old shafts, they didn’t suit your current swing. I don’t think we will give you an iron bigger than the 7.”
And with that, he placed a Mizuno Fli-Hi Hybrid in my hands and my new bag really began to take shape.
The ‘rescues’, as I still prefer to call them, were particularly sweet, easy to hit and I was soon sold on two of them as workable alternatives to mid-irons.
And onto the big-hitting clubs we went.
To my surprise, the fitting for the driver and 5-wood followed seamlessly on from the rest of the process.
“It’s more about yardage separation at the top end of the bag,” said Alex with a new set of figures landing on his screen.
“You will be surprised how many amateurs end up with three clubs for the same job from 150 yards on. It’s not uncommon to see different clubs carrying similar distances despite the reduction in loft.”
“The Fli-Hi recognises that the longer the club, the more difficult it is for the average player to get the ball up into the air, so the centre of gravity is shifted back a little on the 5 and the 4 in order to help with the launch. The shaft is slightly longer to increase distance too.”
“We are recommending a selection of clubs that offers the best shot dispersion both from left-to-right and front-to-back.
“Fitting for distance is a false economy because we are realistic enough to tool you up to cater for the misses as well as the great shots.”
Oliver (we are on first name terms now) was still firing balls into the stratosphere when I left the Mizuno Performance Centre to return to my day job. His misses and my misses land postcodes apart but our shared desire to trim a shot or two off our next card is a common denominator that keeps bringing us back to the range.
That desire to improve is not a sign of serial competitiveness, rather a reminder as to just how lucky I am to have found a diversion from the rest of my life that is rewarding on so many levels.
Part of that reward is progress. My initial reluctance to engage with the tech world of apex heights and shaft kick angles was borne out of a fear that my club golfer’s swing just didn’t belong in it.
Mizuno’s fitting team made me and my very personal glancing blow swing feel a very welcome part of it. I should have done this a couple of years ago.
I was lucky enough to be headed for South Carolina shortly after receiving my new set. Six testing courses in six sun-soaked days. I’ll let you know what I think of my sticks in the next instalment of my blog.
Custom fitting done – so what’s in Susan’s bag?
Driver: Mizuno ST190 (10.5°, Fujikura Atmos Red 5R2 shaft)
Fairway woods: Mizuno ST190 5-wood (Fujikura Atmos Red 5R2 shaft)
Hybrid: MizunoCLK 4 (22°, Fujikura 60 A Flex shaft)
Irons: JPX Fli-Hi (5-6) and JPX 919 Hotmetal (7-PW, all Project X Graphite 60g A Flex shafts in standard length and 0.5 degrees upright)
Wedges: JPX 919 (Project X Graphite 60g A Flex shafts)
You can keep up to date with Susan’s journey with her new clubs on Twitter.