BASIC FITTING: INCORPORATE IT WITH LESSONS FOR STUDENT IMPROVEMENT
How often have you seen a student come to you for a lesson with equipment that just doesn’t fit? Regardless of your skill as an instructor, improperly fitted equipment makes your job more challenging, to say the least. While it
may not be possible to fit a particular student “on the spot” during a lesson, you can certainly make some suggestions related to equipment that will help the student achieve his or her goals more quickly. And, you don’t necessarily need expensive equipment in order to accomplish it!
A look at posture and club length is a good place to start. Notice if the student has to bend over excessively in order to maintain proper posture. This is a sign the clubs are too short. If the player needs to choke down on the grip in order to hit shots consistently, the clubs may be too long. To be even more precise, use a piece of face tape (or even duct tape) and place it on the clubface. Indicators of clubs that are not the proper length for a player are marks all over the tape. A club of proper length shows impact marks consistently in one area of the tape.
While a lie board can be used to determine proper lie fit, visual observation of ball flight is a good start to determining if a player’s clubs are of the correct lie. Shots that are pushed to the right indicate a more upright lie may be needed; shots pulled left may indicate a flatter lie is in order. (Note these are pushes and pulls, not hooks and slices.) Also, a look at face tape that show marks toward the toe may be an indicator of a player who needs more upright clubs and vice versa.
Take note of how the player’s hands maintain contact with the grip of the club during the swing, especially during the transition from the backswing to downswing. If the hands seem to move on the club, or if the player appears to be re-gripping the club, the grips are probably not the correct size. Properly sized grips are key to consistent grip pressure throughout the swing, and are thus a key to consistency.
If the player complains of the clubs feeling heavy or unresponsive, the shafts may be too heavy, too stiff, or too long. Shaft weight varies from under 50 grams to nearly 130 grams – such differences influence not only feel but playability. Shafts that are too heavy make it difficult for the player to get the ball airborne, and even if the ball gets in the air, distance is compromised. Especially when teaching seniors, women, and younger players, shaft weight and flex are very important. On the other hand, indicators of a shaft that may be too weak for a player are shots that are too high or a general inconsistency of ball direction, even with good swings. The player may also tell you the shafts feel too “whippy” and uncontrollable.
If driving is part of your instruction with a given player, club loft is key to success. As a general rule, a slower swinging player benefits from a higher-lofted driver (and fairway woods, as well), since this type of player does not generate enough clubhead speed to get the ball airborne with a 9°, 10°, or maybe even an 11° or 12° model. In today’s world of high-launch, low-spin golf balls, getting the ball airborne is the key to distance. Conversely, if a strong player hits the ball too high, it might be wise to look for a lowerlofted driver.
While you may be an instructor as your primary role, making sure your students’ clubs are better matched to their swing characteristics not only makes your job easier, but increases the success rate of the student, as well. The basics above are a good place to start to assist in maximum student advancement.
While undoubtedly you have the ability to improve a student’s game solely based on your swing knowledge, adding an equipment element to that improvement makes everyone’s experience much more of a win-win!