Fitchip For Players

Golf Club Fitting by Swing Timing

Most club fitters will start off with a questionnaire and particularly the question, "What is your objective more distance or more accuracy?" We will not ask you this question or past history questions because they are irrelevant to your proper club fitting. The question of distance and accuracy is your first clue. When the Shaft is properly fitted, to be back to straight and square at ball impact, your best distance and accuracy will occur at the same time. What that question, when asked, really is telling you is that fitter does not know how to fit Golf Clubs, so the shaft will be back to straight and square at ball impact and provide its peak performance of distance and accuracy at the same time.

There are (6) basic steps to our custom club fitting:

1. FitChip Computerized Swing Analysis - pinpoints the necessary shaft flex/frequency depending on the golfer`s swing timing (club/shaft release to ball impact timing).

2. Demo Equipment - the trial of recommended shaft specifications selected by FitChip for the player’s swing and make a comparison with current equipment.

3. Shaft length is determined to accommodate the player. (his preference or to promote the proper swing posture).

4. Grip size and style is selected to provide comfort and performance.

5. Advanced Ball Launch Analysis - to track all aspects of a player’s swing and ball flight to select Driver face loft angle plus hook or fade bias or offset head.

6. Post-fit Checkup - To track a player’s progress and make any additional adjustments such as lie angle and clubface angles. These should be done only with the final shaft frequency the player will play with.

Other major fitting variables include set make-up (type of Irons, where do Hybrids fit in if any and number and type of fairway woods), lie angle (not to be performed until the proper shaft is selected), clubhead design (mostly player preference), hozzel offset, face loft (using the launch monitor), shaft make (if it can be trimmed to the proper frequency), shaft torque (as low as possible to promote less dispersion with off-center hits), shaft bend point (high kick points are recommended for greater distance when the proper shaft selection provides the accuracy), shaft weight, swing weight, and total weight. These specifications all contribute to improvements concerning ACCURACY, DISTANCE, FEEL, TRAJECTORY, and CONSISTENCY.

Before we discuss these specifications in detail and the reason we use the FitChip fitting system, you must understand the other fitting systems available and their approach to club fitting.

When fitting with the Launch Monitor, the trial and error process optimizes the Launch Angle for carry of the ball for the shaft you are hitting and your clubhead speed. You must remember, however, that optimum carry does not mean optimum distance. If you are not using the shaft that best fits your swing, you are not going to get the best possible results. You must find the shaft that produces the best performance prior to using a Launch Monitor for determining the optimum launch angle. Trying to use the Launch Monitor to find the best shaft for your swing can be a very long and futile exercise. The FitChip will pick the correct shaft for a single club in six swings and a full set of clubs in 24 swings. What the launch monitor is best used for then, is selecting the proper face loft of the clubhead.

Clubhead Speed has been used by the industry as a simple approach to selecting a shaft flex range. However, there is no scientific relationship between clubhead speed and shaft reaction, and it is only someone's opinion to satisfy the better player's ego in the way the industry uses it. It has been experienced many times, that different players with the same clubhead speed, who fit themselves by trial and error, do not pick the same stiffness shaft or stiffness change from club to club, as the player builds his set, to achieve their best performance. Many PGA Professionals have found on their own that they need a softer shaft than what Clubhead Speed fitting would recommend.

Tempo is measured as the time between club take away and return to ball impact. This technique has a better scientific relationship to the clubs shaft reaction than fitting with clubhead speed but still lacks the refinement too accurately recommend a shaft stiffness. Within tempo, there can be too many variations. The length of the swing and the time spent in each segment of the swing can vary greatly. For further explanation, see Tech Talk "Golf Club 101" page on this site.

The Shaft Lab was a follow-on to TureTemper's Determinator, using a dedicated club instrumented with strain gauges to record shaft loading VS time. Even though this is a good approach, the Shaft Lab only uses the magnitude of the load as a fitting parameter, and no timing parameters are used to relate the club reaction to the swing. This system is really a modification of clubhead speed in that the more area under the load curve the higher the clubhead speed. If two players have the same area under their curves, but different peak loads, the one with the higher peak load will get a stiffer club than the other. This is correct in many cases, but without the timing parameter being taken into account, the accuracy and reliability is questionable. This is because the higher peak load could release the club earlier in the swing than the player with the same area under the curve or the same swing speed that would release the club later. Any player that generates a lot of area under the curve without a high peak will release late where a player generating clubhead speed with a high peak load can have a release that occurs early, late or any time in between.

I would like to redefine “shaft loading” as stated by Jeff Jackson. Even though it can occur at the transition point between backswing and downswing, for most players, the peak load occurs at some place during the downswing. The timing of this loading and most importantly the start of shaft unloading is the key factor in club fitting. The key parameter that FitChip uses in selecting a shaft is the time between the start of unloading or shaft release and ball impact.

The golf shaft is a spring. Depending on the stiffness of that spring, it takes a certain amount of time for the spring to recover from the deflected position to the neutral position (the golf shaft straight). It is at this neutral position that the golf shaft reaches its greatest effectiveness (maximum speed and clubface square). As some may have suggested, if ball impact occurs at peak loading, the shaft will still be flexed and be much less than effective in aiding the golfer. Based on spring mechanics, the stiffer the spring, the shorter the time of recovery. The natural frequency of the golf club describes this recovery time and the primary mechanism that drives the shaft back to straight upon release. Therefore the earlier the release is in the swing, the softer the shaft and the later the release, the stiffer the shaft. You will quickly find out using this system that shaft selection has nothing to do with clubhead speed as the industry has used it in the past. In fact, I can show you that if two players have the same time between release and ball impact, the one with the higher speed needs a softer shaft. This occurs because there is a second mechanism acting on the shaft to return it to straight and square. The first one, which we all understand, is the spring action of the shaft that is described by natural frequency. The second one is the centrifugal force pulling down on the weight of the head to straighten the shaft and is a direct function of clubhead speed. Since this clubhead speed induced force is helping the spring action needs to be reduced to get the correct timing to be back to straight and square at the time of impact. Then since the high clubhead speed player gets more help from clubhead speed, he would need the shaft with a lower frequency (softer shaft). Both of these timing mechanisms are accounted for in the FitChip Shaft Fitting System.

The FitChip analyzes this timing and club release problem and selects the club's natural frequency that will return it to straight and square at ball impact. No other system available today for club fitting can identify the point of club release during the swing. This timing is what best creates the feel and timing between the player and his clubs. The data collected by the FitChip (up to 84 full swings) can be downloaded to any computer to view the pertinent individual swing data. You will find that many players have double loads and releases that make the process even more difficult and identify faults in the players swing.

How good are the major club companies at fitting the golf club to the player. They claim to be the best by using clubhead speed and their bag of test shafts and heads in order to find the club you hit best and adjust your lie angles. They have no concern about where the clubhead is with respect to the shaft flex. You would think they would do their best for the professionals on their staff since their winning is important to their sales. The two photos below speak volumes about the success of their approach to club fitting.

Perfected Golf Group Ltd
Perfected Golf Group Ltd

Both of these players are prominent professionals playing for a major club manufacturer. The photographs show distinctively how poorly fitted these clubs are fitted to the players. No wonder these players are having control problems with their drivers. Both players have been fitted with clubs that are too stiff for them. If the shaft was straight, both players would be just approaching ball impact, but because the shaft is too stiff and has already kicked past the straight shaft position, the head has already reached ball impact. Many people in the golf industry will say the clubhead should be forward of the shaft at ball impact. This is true to the extent the centrifugal force at high clubhead speeds will tend to align the butt of the shaft with the center of gravity of the head. However, in both of these cases, the position of the center of gravity is well ahead of the straight shaft position indicating the shaft has kicked through too quickly and is too stiff. When the shaft has kicked through, past the shaft, it’s losing the extra clubhead speed contributed by the kick of the shaft. This Kick speed can be as much as 10 to 12% of the total clubhead speed. Not only has the player lost clubhead speed, but they have also lost power transfer efficiency. This loss of efficiency is caused by the fact that the shaft has built up a load in the shaft that wants to kick the shaft away from impact back to straight. Therefore, any impact on the head will encourage the head to retreat from the ball during impact, reducing the efficiency (ball compression) of the energy transfer to the ball. For some hitting the ball 300 yards, it could mean a loss of distance of 30 yards, not accounting for the probable inefficiency of the impact. The player is also required to manipulate the club or swing to correct ball flight since the head of the club is most likely starting to close as it comes through the shaft straight and square position. This manipulation results in inconsistent results.

Fitting by trial and error and more easily with the FitChip you can ensure that the proper shaft is selected to provide the best combination of accuracy and distance. These two attributes occur at the same time when the player has the proper shaft.

Recently, when working in Florida with one of the top 10 golf instructors that were interested in the FitChip as a fitting system for his school, I had a chance to fit several of his students. The one student was a PGA professional and instructor from Canada taking lessons. He was hitting stiff shafted clubs but was not totally happy with them and was interested in trying the FitChip system. As a result of the testing, I put him in a driver that was two flex ranges softer than a senior shaft. He just shook his head until he hit the test club against his on the Launch Monitor and got more distance and less dispersion. I ended up building him a full set of new clubs. He called after he got home and played with the clubs saying, “ My friends were laughing at me because the shafts were so soft, until we got on the course and I was out driving them by 50 yards and was always in the fairway”. He then proceeded to win the Canadian Club Professional Golf Tournament with his new clubs.

Specifications for the Fitted Club

This section describes the data gathered by the FitChip and presented in chart form by the FitChip computer analysis program. This data will be used in formulating the final specification of the custom golf clubs that fit the player's SWING TIMING. This timing concentrates on getting the club/shaft back to straight at ball impact where your club achieves the best performance of distance and accuracy.

There is no other fitting system on the market that addresses this approach with the exception of trial and error, monitoring performance, which can be limited by time, prejudice, and has no way of truly identifying that the shaft is back to straight at ball impact and obtaining peak performance.

The FitChip gathers clubhead acceleration/clubhead speed data when placed on any club, which is typically shown in Figure 1. From this data, the computer analyzes the data to produce the clubhead acceleration curve, as shown in Figure 2. This curve is used to locate the time of peak acceleration or (point at which the shaft starts to kick back, time increment 126) shaft release, and (time increment 173) ball impact. The red line represents the unloading of the shaft, through 1/4 cycle of its natural frequency, from the flexed position back to straight and square at impact.

In these charts, two different swings are overlaid to demonstrate the players' consistency or inconsistency. During the time interval, described by the red line, the club releases/kicks and must return to straight and square at ball impact for peak performance (best combinations of clubhead speed and accuracy). Matching this player's timing with the club depends on the natural frequency of the golf club shaft as a spring. It is this natural frequency that is derived by the FitChip for each swing. Bad swings can be deleted, and the best swings averaged for the build to frequency.

The frequencies (blue dots) for each swing and the average frequencies (red dots) for four different clubs are shown in Figure 3. A line drawn through these points will define the frequencies at which to build each club in a full set of properly fitted custom golf clubs, as shown in Figure 4. You can select a Linear or Curve as the best fit to the data to build the clubs to.

To build each club in a full set of properly fitted custom golf clubs, as shown in the Build-to Table Figure 4. The multiple sloped lines in Figure 3 represent the slope of the Golf Industry, and most Club Builders build sets too. We build your clubs based upon the slope or curve your Swing Timing requires (the red or yellow line in Figure 3)!

Most standard sets of golf clubs on the market today use identical flex category shafts tipped a consistent 1/2" increment from club to club, and then butt trimmed to the finished length. This process makes each shaft stiffer by approximately 4.3 cycles of natural frequency as the clubs get shorter. Through thousands of fittings with FitChip, we find that very few players are properly fit with this 4.3 cycle progression as predetermined by club and shaft manufacturers. Just as a standard size, off the rack suit, will not fit properly everywhere on the body, seldom does every club in an off the rack set. Thus most players with these clubs have a favorite club. Most individuals have a unique curve or line depicting their individual swing timing, and their clubs should be built accordingly Figure 5. Sometimes on straight lines, sometimes on curves, sometimes on positive and sometimes on negative slopes. Everyone is different, and unless you have a set of clubs built with this system, you will never have a fully fitted set of clubs, for which you can say, "every club in my bag is my favorite club.

From Figure 5 you can see the major differences in these players and some unexpected results. For instance, the senior player has the stiffest set of clubs from this diverse group of players. This senior player had won the National Senior Amateur and was approached by all the club companies to play their clubs, and of course, since he was a senior and had a relatively low clubhead speed, they put him in senior shafts. At that time, he lost his game completely and came to me to analyze the problem. A FitChip fitting told us he needed the stiffer clubs and almost on a flat line. Once I built this set for him, he returned to the winner's circle on the senior amateur circuit. These curves were selected to demonstrate how you can not expect conventional club fitting procedures to fit players by class or clubhead speed. However, the FitChip system will define the perfect custom golf club fit for any players swing.

The Club Pro had the long smooth swing with the very early release requiring the slower kick of a soft shaft. However, the shorter clubs required a stiffer shaft because, on purpose, he was trying for more backspin in these scoring clubs. While in the case of the PGA Pro, a winner of the PGA Championship, his longer clubs fell on the 4.3 slope, but the swing timing changed in his shorter scoring clubs to a flat line to achieve more accuracy and consistency.

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