Finally Fit to Be Fitted
By Terry Moore
According to Steve Huzel, a smart consumer would never buy a new car sight unseen and without giving it a test-drive. Yet, every day he knows golf consumers are buying golf clubs off the rack without the benefit of a "test drive." As manager of Scotts Golf Cascade in Grand Rapids, Huzel is regarded as one of the best and most conscientious clubfitters in the region.
"I'm amazed at the number of people who come to us with clubs not suited to their games," said Huzel. "With clubs with the wrong loft lie and length, these golfers have found ways to compensate for them in their swings." Around golf since 1975 when he started in the "rack room" at Blythefield CC, Huzel has been fitting clubs for the past three years. Hes adept and experienced at all the clubfitting programs of the leading brands PING, Titleist, Mizuno, Spalding, Wilson, et al. Due to the increased awareness of clubfitting, Huzel and his assistant, Andrew Alt, have been very busy this past year. "Yes, the interest this season in clubfitting in this area has been phenomenal," said Huzel. "This winter I was doing eight to ten clubfitting session per day." Huzel says golf consumers are slowly but steadily realizing the benefits of proper clubfitting. Magazines, the Golf Channel, manufacturers websites and the Internet are all extolling the wisdom of having clubs fitted to the buyers particular needs. In early June, I went through a PING fitting session with PING representative Mark Sayre and Huzel. For background, I've had my last two sets of irons checked for loft angle but I've never gone through a complete clubfitting system. Stupid me and I should know better. Like most consumers I neglected to give the time and attention on the front end of the buying process. Well, this time I came to my senses and placed complete trust in the experts. I wasn't disappointed. The crux of the PING system is two-fold: one, determining static measurements; and two, the dynamic fit. As if I was being measured for a custom-tailored Italian suit in the pre-Casual Dress Era, Sayre and Huzel checked my hand size, my height and the all-important wrist-to-floor measurement. I can happily report that my specs were all within the norm and did not require a special call to the John Ball Park Zoo nor to the PING factory in Phoenix. However, if my measurements were indeed something out of The X Files, Ping is the preferred company.
PING offers the most options in lie adjustments, providing golfers from 7-degree upright to 4 degree flat. (Most club manufacturers loft range is from 4-degree upright to 4 degree flat.) And Huzel said he's had several customers in the 7-degree upright category. Sayre explained that the average player measures out at 2-degree upright and that the so-called "off the rack" set is essentially 0 degree flat. Anyway, in the static measurements, I was calculated as needing clubs with 1 degree of lie angle.
But next came the all-important dynamic fitting process whereby Drs. Sayre and Huzel placed my actual swing under their microscopes. Okay, they really watched me hit some poorly struck shots on an impact mat outdoors at the Cascade range. This part of the dynamic equation has always troubled me. I mean, what if you go to a clubfitting session with a bad swing? Won't you be adjusting clubs to an ill-fitting swing? "Yes, clubfitting is not a cure-all for faulty swings," said Huzel. "Many times, we recommend to customers to have a lesson or two before coming to us. Bad swings with the best clubs will still result in bad shots." Sayre concurred and says that's why consumers should consult knowledgeable clubfitters with savvy teaching staff and golf professionals. "One of the key components I look at during the dynamic fit is posture," said Sayre. "The proper posture is essential in how someone will swing the club." In an hour's time, Sayre and Huzel methodically worked me through the dynamic fitting process. I hit balls with impact tape on the clubface, tried out a series of lofts and shafts and provided feedback to my two experts. Meanwhile, they kept a keen eye of my ball flight as I was hitting shots. As Huzel explained: "Clubfitting is still more art than science. It's so critical to watch and understand ball flight and what it tells you about a person's game." Huzel went on to say that especially when in suggesting a particular flex and shaft, he "trusts the eyes." Under Huzel's and Sayre's watchful gaze, I was finally fitted for clubs that were 3 degree upright, an all-important 2 degree variance over the static reading. Obviously, taking the time really no more than an hour to be dynamically fitted was vital in determining the proper clubs for me. I'm convinced that the clubfitting process was a success. Sure, I still hit wayward shots. But as Lee Trevino often says, "that's the Indian-- not the arrow." But the key factor is that the "misses" are nearer the target. And the good shots have the desired ball flight and trajectory. In sum, the clubs are working with me and not conspiring against me when good swings occur. Why I waited all this time to be properly fitted still baffles me. At dozens of courses, ranges and clubs across the state, you'll find smart pros and staff members that'll guide you to the right sticks. I'm just happy a veteran "rack room" guy like Steve Huzel showed me the errors of buying off the rack.
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