With the weekend warrior in mind we created Bump and Run, a weekly Q&A with some of the game's top instructors. Each Friday, a teaching professional will occupy this space and answer questions directed at improving your game. This week it's Kevin Walker, President & CEO of FuZion Golf and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
President & CEO, FuZion Golf, Jupiter, FL
- Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers
- 2004 Horton Smith Award (contribution to education), New England PGA
- 1995 Colorado PGA Section Teacher of the Year
Notable Students (past and present): Brad Faxon, Tom Kite, Gary Hallberg, Mark Wiebe
Walker, who has taught at such places as Nantucket Golf Club, Castle Pines Golf Club, Doral Golf Resort & Spa and Kapalua Resort, formed FuZion Golf along with partner Chris Dempsey after years of watching clients unknowingly use faulty equipment.
'Basically, I found out that the equipment being sold to me to sell to my clients wasn’t being built to the standards it should’ve been,' said Walker. 'I felt there was an opportunity to help players get to a higher level by combining precision instruction along with precision equipment.'
To submit a question to Walker or one of our teachers, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and check back every Friday to see if your question got answered.
Why is it so important to get custom fit for golf clubs?
Buying something off the rack is not advisable for anybody because the chances of it being right for you are slim. At the very least, if the equipment is checked or tested for weight, length and firmness, you have a chance for a semi-matched set of clubs. Unfortunately, there are very few golf shops that are equipped with an analyzer to measure the actual firmness of shafts.
If you buy your clubs incrementally, which is what most people do – driver one year, new set of irons the next – you're going to have very different profiles and flexes just because of the random nature by which the manufacturers produce their stuff. So now, if you’ve got clubs that are not matched to each other, the only way to hit the same type of ball flight is for you to adjust your golf swing. That’s pretty hard to do, especially for the average golfer.
You often hear people say, 'I love my 5-iron but I can’t hit my 7-iron.' That's because the specs don’t match each other.
There's one big buyer beware. Equipment manufacturers will go to one of the shaft manufacturers and say, 'We want your shaft in our new line of drivers next year, and we’ll pay you $5 per shaft and buy 200,000 shafts.' What the shaft manufacturers do is produce a shaft that’s basically rolled graphite – what we call no profile – and put the paint scheme on it that the equipment manufacturer wants. It’s completely random. When you buy something off the shelf, you can’t have it tested, and your chances of it being the firmness it says is almost nothing. The inside joke here at FuZion is that the 'S' on the stiff shaft stands for Senior [flex], because that’s what they usually come out to. I’ve seen extra-stiff shafts flexed out at ladies’ flex, but it says 'S' or 'R' on the shaft so the consumer is trusting the manufacturer.What can you do as a club-fitter to get me more distance, strictly from an equipment standpoint?
What happens a lot of times is that you can have a fairly efficient swinging motion, but if you’ve got the wrong profile of equipment in your hands it’s not going to efficiently transfer energy to the golf ball. We look at ball speed and smash factor. If someone has 100 miles per hour of clubhead speed then we ought to be able to get him up to 150 mph of ball speed. If you consistently see someone making solid contact with the ball, but their smash factor is only at 1.40, something is causing a loss of energy transfer. And a lot of times it’s the shaft. Usually what we're looking for is a shaft that will transfer energy and give you maximum ball speed.
When you put someone on a launch monitor (Trackman), what numbers are you paying strict attention to from a club-fitting standpoint?
We’re looking at ball speed, launch angle and spin rate. We’re tying to optimize those three things to get the maximum smash factor (1.50). If you have 100 mph of clubhead speed and a 1.50 smash factor, that means your ball speed is 150 mph.
If you're someone with a low swing speed, you’re probably going to need a little higher launch angle and spin rate to keep the ball in the air longer. If you have a really high ball speed, then you want to reduce the spin as much as possible so the ball gets up in the air and stays in the air longer, and when it lands it gets maximum roll on the ground.
Too many people are starting to look at equipment now and say that spin is the enemy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. As an example, my partner here at FuZion,
What I look for is the angle of attack (whether the club is ascending or descending into ball), path (from the inside, outside, or straight on), and clubface (open, square or closed).
The clubface determines where the ball starts, it’s not the path. The reality is the face determines where the ball starts and the path relative to the face determines which direction the ball curves. If your face is closed, the ball is going to start to the left of your target line. Therefore, if you want to hit a fade, the face needs to be closed at impact so the ball starts to the left of the target and curves back toward the target.
Traditional instruction says that an open clubface is what causes a slice. Not true?It's possible the face is open; it depends on where the ball is starting. You’ll definitely slice it if the face is open at impact and the path is from the outside, but the ball will start to the right [of your target line] and curve farther to the right. That’s why you really have to look at what the starting direction of the ball is. What I’ll get people to do as a drill is put a shaft on their target line, about five yards out in front of them, and pay attention to which side of that shaft the ball is starting on. That will tell you where the face is at impact. Once you’ve gotten the ball to start from the correct side of the target line for the desired ball flight, then you can work on your path to soften or make the curve greater.
So if I wanted to hit a draw, I'd want the face open at impact?
The clubface is going to be slightly open to the target, and the path is going to be slightly more from the inside than the face is open to the target. In other words, if your face is two degrees open to the target at impact, and your path is four degrees from the inside, then that’s a ball that will start slightly to the right [of the target line] and turn slightly to the left. I call it the 50 percent rule, which is if your face is two degrees open, and your path is four degrees from the inside, which is 50 percent, the ball will start slightly to the right and turn back to the target and stay within the target line; it shouldn’t cross over the target line.
Any advice for the weekend warrior? Something that may help them drop a shot or two during their Saturday or Sunday round?
Establish a shot pattern and do everything you can to not deviate from it. The best example is Bruce Litzke. When I worked for Jim McLean at Doral, we’d use Litke as an example all of the time. The guy does nothing but slice the ball, but he slices it every time. Kenny Perry is another good example: Every shot he hits moves from right to left. If the average golfer could go out and establish a pattern of ball flight, then they could go out and manage their game. If you slice the ball, you set up on the right side of the tee box, aim down the left side [of the fairway] and let it curve back at the target line. And you don’t fight it.
The average golfer gets in trouble because they don't have a consistent pattern; they’re always trying to hit a different shot shape or correct the ball flight. If you find a pattern and don't deviate from it, you'll be far more consistent.
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