If you’ve browsed the site you’ve seen me pose the question “What if I wasn’t terrible at golf?” and offered my advice on “What to expect when you’re expecting to play golf.” I implied and intended to follow up with stories of practice, range time, and personal triumphs. This is that article. Sort of. I also had my first golf club fitting.
I was able to go play a few times last summer. My oldest son joined the game a bit. The culmination of our summer of golf was a tee time in August outside Memphis while visiting Mississippi for a wedding. It was on this steamy day in the high summer of Tennessee that a couple of fateful events happened in my golfing career.
An Outing to Remember
I played the hole of my life on a par five early in the round. The hole was a split fairway providing a sane place to layup for the average golfer and a farther fairway for the scratch golfer and foolhardy alike. The farther fairway was to the right and separated by a barrier of soggy bottomed fescue. I, with an eye towards course management, aimed towards the right side of the safe zone and teed off.
I smashed it. The ball left the club, somehow, at a 45 degree angle in the general direction of the danger zone. I cursed losing my ball to the tall grass, but my brother swore that he thought I cleared it. After a brief search of the fairway we found it leaving me something like 170 yards to the green. A poor 5-wood off the crisped southern fairway grass rolled into a greenside bunker. A crisp sand wedge got me out onto the green well short. A lag putt put me within a few feet. A nervy putt fetched me my first par of the year, and what was likely my first par on anything longer than a par 3. I considered it my best hole of golf ever.
On the next tee box I snapped the head clean off my driver.
My brother watched the clubhead travel farther than the ball. “Looks like you’ve got a club fitting in your future.” And that was the end of my summer of golf. I never wrote a follow up article because I didn’t really do anything to improve my game.
A very old driver
Living in Michigan our golf courses begin to open in early April if the weather permits. Now at the end of April I’ve twice had early morning tee times delayed due to frost. Late in the winter, knowing that the season was months away, I knew it was time to go in for a club fitting.
When I arrived for my fitting I was greeted and requested to fill out a form. I was asked if I brought in my old driver. I sheepishly replied that I had snapped the head off of my old driver. The greeter shrugged at that. “Nothing to compete with. Good news.” It occurred to me that I had a Callaway fairway driver in my bag, so I ran to bring it in. When I returned with the club a few folks behind the counter took a few looks. The man checking me in chuckled and explained technology had come a long way. They should be able to find a club that would beat that thing.
As my fitter met me and guided me to the room for my golf club fitting I began to think about how old the club really was. My first bag of clubs were bought from an uncle heavily used around 2008. He had them for about a decade before he sold them to me.
Buttering me up
On the way into the fitting room the fitter asked me how often I played. I answered truthfully: lots of driving range time, three rounds in the past year, and about five rounds in the past decade. I sensed sincere surprise in his ‘Oh’. It seemed we both had doubts as to whether a fitting made sense for my level of golf.
I had managed to Frankenstein together a bag of clubs, a grip, and a swing that would yield the occasional par. My rounds tend to yield +30s and take a few sleeves of balls. This was to be my first interaction with any form of golf professional, and I was afraid to be told “these clubs can’t help you.”
The fitter had me get on the mat aiming out the bay door w/ my old Callaway. I executed my normal routine perfectly: two practice swings then ball contact with a pretty good slice. I repeated this a few times before the fitter said this to me.
“You don’t swing like someone who plays twice a year. I like that swing.”
I was finally able to relax. The anxiety of not belonging here melted away, and I was ready to try out some clubs.
He showed me the measurements board that showed information like club head speed, club head path angle, and club head face angle.
- My club head speed was around 105 mph
- My club head path angle was out to in, about – 2°
- My club head face was… extremely closed
It was my closed club face, he explained, that was causing that slice. He watched my setup as I closed the club face, then turned my grip to hold it open. A friend had suggested this to me years ago to fix something that was wrong with my swing. He advised me to let the club sit how it wants to at address.
My next swing I smashed it. We started rotating through club heads, manufactures, and shafts. We settled on a Cobra LTDx Max w/ a stiff shaft that was slightly shorter than stock. The fitter moved the heavier weight in the Cobra head to the ‘Draw’ position and tuned it to – 1.5° giving me a clubface angle of 10.5°. With this configuration I was regularly hitting 250 yards in the air, called ‘carry distance’. My longest was 270 yards. Having never watched golf, or played with someone with talent, I didn’t know if this was good. I know it felt good; the fitter’s enthusiasm was contagious.
I picked up a Cobra Ltdx 4 hybrid w/ a 21° face. Off the turf I was able to hit it 200 yards regularly. There was no dialing in for this club; it just worked! No club fitting necessary.
The News so Far
I’ve played many, many rounds of golf so far this season. I’m averaging 230 yards w/ my driver on the course. I’m averaging 160 yards with the 4 hybrid. Given some range time I can get into a groove where I reconstruct that perfect swing, but on the course I’m missing most fairways to the right. I’ll follow up soon to tell you about my experience with the Arccos system for tracking shots during a round, everything I’ve learned about golf math, drills I’m doing at home for pitching and chipping, and what I’m doing to straighten out this driver. For now I’ll tell you what I meant to tell you last season. It appears I’m around a +32 golfer. What I can get done in a single round of golf it takes most pros a round and a half.