Customizing the Clubs

Here's where the rubber meets the road (or the driver meets the ball, so to speak). It was hard to decide how to organize this section, because customizing is really the mapping between two domains:
  • The characteristics of the golfer for whom the clubs are built, and
  • The characteristics of the clubs.
Should the chapter be broken down by properties of clubs, or of the golfers that will use them? I finally decided that since I was trying to represent a two-dimensional (at least) mapping, I'd need a two-dimensional organization. So we begin with a table, where the columns are parts of the club and the rows are traits of the golfer. If there is a customizing effect worth talking about at the intersection, it is noted; for instance:
  • For the trait "Swing Plane"
  • You can adjust in the "Clubhead" using "Lie angle", or
  • You can adjust in the "Shaft" using "Length".
  • The entries in the table are links to the relevant section in subsequent pages.
First let's look at the table. But before we get down to using it, read the rest of this page for details about how it is organized.

Factors For Customizing
The Golfer The Club
Clubhead Shaft Grip
Clubhead speed (distance)
[ see note 1 ]
Loft Flex
Hand height
[ see note 1 ]
Lie angle Length
Hand size Diameter
Trajectory (low/high) Loft
Kick point
Direction (slice/hook) Face angle
Swing plane (upright/flat) Lie angle Length
Swing arc (sweep/downward) Sole camber
Sole bounce
Swing precision (repeatable?)
[ see note 2 ]
Cavity Back
Sole camber
Sole width
Special problems:
- Back pain Flex
- Hand, arm pain Material Diameter
Note 1 - See also the section on swingweight, which is a composite of all the parts of the club.
Note 2 - This refers to a beginner's club or a "game improvement" club, vs the club of someone with a perfectly grooved swing.

Within a cell, I have tried to keep the characteristics in order of decreasing effect. For instance, the "Clubhead's" effect on "Trajectory" is most pronounced by varying "Loft", then "CG", and least by "Offset". After the table, the rest of the section is organized so that you can find the effects noted in the table. So scan the table, check out the traits of the golfer for whom you're building the clubs, and go to the club features to read how to choose components to match the clubs to the golfer.

 One important caveat about using this table:

 Don't try to cure FAULTS through choice of equipment. That should be handled with lessons and practice. Rather, match the club to the characteristics of the player's game and frame. Examples:

  • DON'T try to cure a slice with a small grip, unless you're sure the grip was too big to begin with.
  • DON'T get a closed-face driver to cure a slice.
  • DO match the flex of the shaft to the speed of the golfer's swing.
  • DO choose the length based on the golfer's hand height and swing plane.
  • It's OK to make the club more "forgiving" for a beginner, or for someone who doesn't play enough to maintain a really consistent hit.
In short, build the club for the game to which the player can reasonably aspire in the short term... say, before it's time to buy the next set. Exception: if the fault is really a compensation for an ill-fitting club, then by all means fix that problem.

This philosophy -- don't cure a swing fault with a compensation in the club design -- is controversial. It is what I believe, but you will find a lot of clubfitters who disagree, even experienced and successful ones. Let me present why I feel as I do, then leave you free to choose your own philosophy in the matter.

Adam Young's book "The Practice Manual" distinguishes between learning and performance. There are ways to practice to improve performance as quickly as possible. But such improvements tend to be short-lived and, more important, fragile; they probably won't work under pressure. There are other ways to practice that maximize learning; they give slower improvements in performance, but the improvements are lasting and robust.

Using clubfitting to cure a swing fault is akin to short-term performance improvement. It may fix the symptom, but not the underlying fault. If the golfer never takes lessons nor practices, that may actually be OK; the fault is not going to get fixed anyway, so relieving the symptom is an improvement of some sort. But if you are fitting a golfer that is willing to improve, fit them to a swing that their physical condition allows and let them focus on learning, so the performance improvement is long-lasting. Why is this preferable? Because the golfer who is willing to do what is necessary to learn may be stymied from doing so if you have built a compensation into the club. That compensation may get in the way of the next improvement step.

Last modified May 13, 2017