Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fairway Clubs

There are two things you notice when you get the opportunity to watch tour level players. The first is how impressive they are off the tee and the second is how they seem to hit their approach shots just the right distance. They make a controlled swing and the ball ends up pin high.

Iron and hybrid play is not about potential, it is about predictability. What amount of effort, with the club selected, will produce the correct distance for the shot? For almost all of us this means finding the pace of swing that provides consistent contact with the ball and then learning how far you can hit each club in the bag with that tempo. This repeatable effort is always less than our maximum.

One of the most productive sessions we have at the United States Golf Academy is when we use our Trackman launch monitor to find the correct distance gaps between clubs in a set. We use this information to help our players put just the right clubs in the bag, one club at a time. When I was a young player the idea of a matched set of clubs was very important. How they performed was really up to the player. Today we take advantage of technology to “blend” each set to fit the distance and trajectory requirements of our players. We are not concerned at all with what the clubs are called. We need a club for specific distances. We have 11 clubs to fill in the yardage gap between the longest club – driver and the shortest wedge you carry. The end result for every set is a different combination of fairway woods, hybrids, irons and wedges depending on the players needs. Another goal in this fitting process is to help every player hit the long clubs higher and the short clubs lower. Controlling the trajectory is key parameter to controlling distance. This is much easier to do with all of the available options we have in today’s equipment.

Unless you have an unlimited budget and the patience to go through a trial and error process to identify each club, you are much better served by finding an experienced professional to make sure you get exactly what you need. As a word of caution beware of the fitter who attempts to fix a swing flaw with an equipment bias. Too many clubs are fit to correct and when you do that you limit your ability to improve. As your swing improves the built in bias curves the ball in the direction it was built to achieve. Good swings produce bad results. Our Academy professionals, as is the case with most PGA professionals, are trained to look at the swing and equipment together rather than separate issues.

Next week we dive into the mysteries of putting.

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