Fit to be Tried

RSS

Eventually, and maybe not as far into the future as you might think, it will come down to dynamic fitting. Its inevitable.
 
There are too many smart and monied equipment companies in golf not to level the playing field when it comes to the limitations imposed by golfs governing bodies. Already we are approaching those limits, across the board, in moment of inertia, coefficient of restitution and clubhead size.
 
The golf ball and the golf club shaft still offer something of a new frontier. But eventually all the best club makers will have arrived in the same chapter, if not on the same page.
 
And when that inevitable relative parity arrives, it is my opinion that the technological battleground in equipment will be in dynamic fitting.
 
All of which is why I arrived at the PGA of Americas Learning Center IN Port St. Lucie, Fl. Thursday to get a look at one companys current state of the art TECHNOLOGY. And its why I asked an expert, Gene Powell about my theory.
 
What weve done for the touring pros for years is going to become more commonplace for the amateurs, he told me.
 
Powell is the Manager of Operations & Technology and a PGA Certified Instructor at the Learning Center. And he patiently put me through my paces at his facility on something called the Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade (MATT).
 
TaylorMade is in the forefront of making dynamic fitting available and affordable to the general public. The goal, Powell said, is to match the ability of players to perform with the ability of the equipment to perform.
 
Its simple, really. In theory, there is a set of golf clubs that perfectly fits Tiger Woods. And somewhere there is a set of golf clubs that perfectly fits Joe Duff, 16 handicap.
 
Joe Duff still has to swing the club. And Joe Duff will swing the club better if he works on his flexibility in the gym and his game on the range. But Joe Duff will never succeed with Tigers optimum set and vice versa.
 
Which brings us back to MATT. Using multiple high-speed cameras MATT gathers and distills important swing information. The result is an animated three-dimensional computer image of your swing from every conceivable angle. The result is also a data-driven personal club recommendation.
 
It takes about an hour. And the charge is $50 for a driver fitting and $50 for an iron fitting. TaylorMade currently has more than a dozen MATT performance labs scattered across the globe from Dubai to Japan to Portland, Oregon.
 
For a higher price, people like Gene Powell will also combine a fitting with a golf lesson. Video equipment enables the teacher, in this instance, to compare the students swing and positions with the swings and positions of the best players in the world. MATTs teaching companion is called the Motion Reality Golf System.
 
This ability to over-lay and compare, with exact measurements, allows the charting of movement changes, says Rick Martino, the Director of Golf Instruction at the Learning Center. In addition to the science, the system is user friendly and the students have fun watching their motions.
 
I can attest to that. Swinging a club, hooked wirelessly into the video equipment, I was especially interested at the end of the hitting session to view the computer data and images on a screen and discuss the results with Powell. I learned, among other things, that my ball speed is that of an avid golfer. And that MATT recommends for me a light shaft weight in a custom shaft and a tip flex of medium stiff.
 
The computer also recommended steel shafts in the irons. But when I told Powell that I had been using graphite shafts for more than 10 years, he didnt try to talk me out of that notion. Powell was open to discussion because he knew I knew more about my game than he did. And I liked that openness. But I wasnt there to hear myself talk and his points usually made more sense than mine. When in doubt, the computer broke the tie.
 
At the end of 90 minutes of testing and listening my brain had absorbed about all it could handle for one day. Powell, I think, could sense the glazed look. No problem. On my way out the door he handed my a printout of all the data of my swings (the lab is indoors) and a CD with images complete with the ability to stop any of the charted swings at any point in the swing.
 
The next step will be to demo the fitted clubs and report back to this website with the results. I have previously been tested at the PING facility in Phoenix and am fully aware that Titleist, Cleveland, Callaway, Nike, to name a few, and several independent brick and mortar golf studios have the ability to make magic similar to the kind MATT produces.
 
David Leadbetter, like Martino, one worlds most widely-recognized teachers, wrote this recently in the March issue of Golf Digest: We use a variety of state-of-the-art, swing analysis devices, including sensors that are placed on the body and the club to record energy transfer.
 
But the point of this report is a larger one and it is this: R&D in club fitting is, in my opinion, the next big thing in the golf equipment industry. The R&A and the USGA control the actual implements with which we strike golf balls. But they will never, and should never, place any limitations on the science of optimization that is club fitting.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt