You signed up for an iron fitting. Smart.
Getting fitted is something we preach relentlessly at MyGolfSpy. When it comes to finding the best-performing gear for your game, it’s an absolute necessity.
We’ve compiled our best tips, based on experience, to help you get the most out of your fitting.
Like anything else, it helps to have a game plan.
Before we dive into specifics, let’s state the obvious: You’re the customer. Yes, the fitter is providing a service but too many golfers show up, passively receive feedback and then make decisions based on incomplete (or, even worse, inaccurate) information.
The active consumer is discerning and understands what questions to ask. This consumer has a clear objective and some idea as to the relative strengths and weaknesses of his/her game. This isn’t to suggest you need to have everything figured out. If that were the case, you’d simply hop online and place an order.
Before we examine two common fitting scenarios, consider the following questions and talking points.
- A set of irons is really a collection of clubs, each with a unique purpose. As a result, a combo set that combines different models is something most golfers should consider.
- Know your primary fitting objective. Is it changing ball flight? More forgiveness? Increased distance? If you have four-plus objectives, you probably don’t have any. Pick one (or two) and focus on those.
- More distance CAN be beneficial. But this isn’t always the case.
- Always, always, always pay attention to launch angle, spin rates, descent angle and shot shape. If possible, get a copy of the fitting recommendations with this information.
- Carry distance is more important than total distance.
- Every fitting is theoretical until you actually get the clubs out on the course. Should the need arise, what options exist to re-fit or tweak specifications within a reasonable amount of time?
It Takes Two
We’re going to focus on two (possibly two-and-a-half) typical fitting environments.
The first is a brand-specific fitting where the golfer works one-on-one with a fitter representing a single manufacturer.
The second is a brand-agnostic setup where a company (True Spec, Club Champion, etc.) maintains inventory from various manufacturers and works with the golfer to find the optimal head/shaft combination.
The “half” scenario is the demo-day experience where one (or several) companies set up at a driving range. Golfers roam around kicking tires and company representatives hand out different clubs to try. This approach is a glorified shopping trip with some basic guidance. And while it’s better than buying blindly off the rack, the primary benefit is being able to try several brands in one location, often without paying for range balls.
A Lot About a Little
The primary benefit in getting fitted by a single brand is that the fitter should be well versed in every club, feature, spec and custom option for each club the brand offers. It also gives that company more control in curating the entire fitting-purchase-delivery process.
The net result is that there’s a better chance to be optimally fitted into clubs from that specific brand.
However, this doesn’t mean the optimal fit from that company will be better than whatever the best option is from any other manufacturer. If that isn’t absolutely, 100-percent crystal clear, stop. Pause and reread the last couple of sentences. This is the primary difference between the two fitting scenarios.
This brings me to my next point. It’s exceedingly unlikely any single manufacturer makes the best 14 clubs for your game. In fact, if you see someone with a bag full of clubs from one brand, you can be relatively certain the primary reason for this is money, not performance.
I’ve been through iron fittings in different environments and, regardless of brand or situation, the quality of the fitting is largely determined by the expertise of the fitter.
Also, fitters, like instructors, tend to develop and refine a fitting philosophy over time. Just some thoughts to keep in mind.
In this instance, I went through an iron fitting with our local Honma rep, Kyle. Honma offers a mobile fitting experience that is designed to mimic a Tour-level fitting, albeit at your home course. Unfortunately for Honma, it decided to eschew the typical retail channels in favor of its mobile platform leading into 2020. And if you were in the business of selling golf equipment in early 2020, the retail space was either terrible or awful. Most golfers had nowhere to play and thus very little need for new equipment. Brick-and-mortar retailers had plenty of inventory but no way to effectively get it to consumers.
Eventually, courses started to open but, without a significant presence at big-box retail, Honma couldn’t capitalize on the surge in demand many manufacturers experienced during the typically calmer back-half of the season. That said, Honma is optimistic that its original plan—though delayed—will yield better results in 2021.
While none of that directly impacted my fitting with Kyle, it can be beneficial to have some background on the brand, especially in a single-company fitting scenario.
Let’s Get Fitted
Back to the actual iron fitting.
The first question Kyle asked was, “What are you looking to improve?” One point for Kyle.
I told him I didn’t want to chase distance but I wanted to explore different weights/flexes of shafts to see if we could tighten up ball flight and dispersion.
Regarding set make-up, my wedges are 50, 56 and 60 degrees. I also carry a 5-wood which leaves me seven open slots. My initial thinking was to go 5-PW and then possibly some sort of driving-iron/utility club.
Honma carries four iron models in its TR line (TR21 X, TR20 P, TR20 V and TR20 B). The TR 21X is a hollow-bodied, player’s distance iron. At the other end of the spectrum, the TR20 B is a single-piece forged muscle-back iron. Given that Honma developed the line to offer myriad custom combinations, I wasn’t surprised that Kyle ultimately suggested that I combine the TR21 X and TR20 V.
Only The 7-Iron
As opposed to a driver fitting, iron fittings revolve around a single club, generally the 7-iron.
It would be cost- (and inventory-) aversive to carry all possible shaft/head combinations for every loft offered throughout a set. That said, this often results in a player trying to envision how a club will look and perform in a different loft.
Case in point: Through trial and error and gathering data via the Foresight GC Quad launch monitor, we landed on a suitable shaft. Kyle’s process was simple. We hit a few shots with different shafts and then assessed the data. Because our goal was improved accuracy, we found the shaft that produced the smallest ellipse that represented the highest concentration of shots while maintaining an acceptable carry distance.
Not that my numbers should dictate what anyone else does, but the best shaft/head combo produced 6,000-6,500 rpm backspin, a launch angle of 18 to 20 degrees and a descent angle of +/- 45 degrees. The total carry hovered around 180-185 yards at 5,000 feet of elevation. To be clear, these numbers aren’t markedly different from my trusty gamers (Mizuno MP-20).
However, because we felt it would be beneficial to switch to the TR21 X in the longer irons, it was a bit of a guessing game as to how this might impact performance. It’s not a drastic leap to tell a golfer, “Hey, hit this 7-iron but imagine it’s a 4-iron.” Then again, if the point of a fitting is to eliminate variables, this exercise reaffirms the reasonable expectation that a company provides a follow-up fitting once you receive the clubs.
Each manufacturer fits golfers based on a set of priorities. However, at the end of the day, every company wants to sell clubs, and fitters are generally incentivized based on sales targets.
The difference often lies in how each company (and each fitter) goes about closing the deal.
The primary limitation for a company like Honma is that its best fitters know that selling a full bag of Honma clubs looks great on paper but doesn’t entirely serve the needs of the golfer. With that, the prudent approach is only to buy a new club if it offers better performance than what you already own.
For what’s it’s worth, Taylor Hull (Honma’s master fitter in Vancouver, British Columbia) echoed similar sentiments.
In my conversations with both Taylor and Kyle, it’s clear Honma understands that even the most open-minded consumers aren’t likely to purchase a full bag of Honma clubs after a single fitting.
In fact, it’s often easier to build trust by starting with an “easy win” where the golfer can see a clear performance difference. It might mean selling a single wedge or fairway wood, but no sale is too small to matter, right?
Honma produces proprietary graphite shafts (Vizard) for irons and metalwoods. Apart from PING, which co-engineers shafts with UST Mamiya among others, this is atypical for the industry.
The tradeoff is similar to that of Honma’s mobile fitting experience, in general. Proprietary shafts typically reduce the selection of competing products. In this case, more Vizard shafts mean fewer high-end Fujikura, Mitsubishi and Graphite Design shafts in the fitting quiver.
We also have to mention build quality and spec tolerance. If the optimal fit came from a 7-iron with 34 degrees of loft and 62 degrees of lie, D3 swing weight and a shaft with a CPM of 300, then it stands to reason that any deviation from those specs could impact overall performance.
You don’t necessarily need to know exactly what each of those specs means to appreciate the concept.
Let’s say you get an estimate to replace a window in your home with an opening of 36 1/8 inches. If the window shows up and it’s off by 1/128 inches, it’s probably OK. If it’s off by a full inch, that’s an issue.
To be clear, each manufacturer has its own quality control practices and building tolerances. So rather than assuming anything, it’s worth asking what you should reasonably expect should you decide to purchase.
A Little About a Lot
So-called brand-agnostic fittings purport to give golfers optimal performance by selecting components from an array of manufacturers.
Club Champion and True Spec are two of the largest fitters in this segment of the market. Each operates multiple locations throughout the United States and, in the case of True Spec, Europe as well. That said, there are plenty of one-off local options, such as New York Golf Center in Manhattan, that offer a similar approach.
On paper, the mix and match philosophy makes a great deal of sense. It acknowledges the reality that no single brand makes the best equipment for any golfer. Moreover, it’s less likely that the golfer will feel like the fitter is pushing one brand over another. But it isn’t fool-proof. More on that in a bit.
Ultimately, the fundamentals of an iron fitting should revolve around three components, regardless of environment, philosophy or corporate structure.: 1) The golfer’s objective, 2) the fitter’s product knowledge and expertise, and 3) the ability of the fitter to match the equipment to the golfer based on the objective.
It sounds simple but devil … details … all of that.
Compared to a single-manufacturer fitting, brand-agnostic fitters have a far more extensive inventory from which to select. That’s a clear and undeniable advantage. Also, most incorporate class-leading launch monitors such as Foresight GC Quad or Trackman to record all pertinent head and club data. So what’s not to like?
The benefits are obvious and make great fodder for commercials and marketing materials. It’s easy to see why a serious golfer with a more flexible budget would go this route.
That said, it’s fair to discuss the foibles, which tend to be more obscure. A wall full of shafts and drawers replete with fitting heads looks mighty impressive when you walk in the door. But the chance your fitter has encyclopedic recall and can compare head/shaft combinations on the fly is winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning on the same day unlikely.
The alternative is that the fitter is well-versed in several brands and works within those confines as often as possible.
In addition, fitting software can help narrow acceptable choices based on selected parameters. It’s a bit like paying for a cable TV package with 225 channels but only watching 10.
Cost is always relative. The only reason I’m bringing it up in this context is that it’s worth considering at what point you might be throwing good money after bad.
The margins on expensive aftermarket shafts and services such as SST PURE shaft alignment tend to work disproportionately in favor of the fitter. Whether any head/shaft combination or service is “worth it” is a simple matter of opportunity cost. Given three head/shaft combinations, each with varying costs, the question is, “Does the difference in price justify the potential difference in performance?”
Ultimately, it comes down to whether you, the consumer, find value in what the fitter is trying to sell you. Some golfers are willing to spare no expense in order to account for every variable. Others have a larger range of what qualifies as acceptable.
Is there a perfect option? Not necessarily. What’s clear is that every alternative has clear benefits and some drawbacks. That said, some level of fitting is vastly better than blindly buying off the rack.
Fitting is an evolving discipline within the golf equipment space. Before launch monitors, common fitting points of analysis included ball flight, divot patterns and lie boards. Now, data is ubiquitous and the best fitters will separate themselves chiefly through an ability to cater to the unique swing characteristics of each golfer.
Speaking of which, I had no idea whether Maya Angelou cared much for golf, but she did state, “When you know better, do better.” What we know now is that strokes-gained analysis allows golfers to quantify performance far better than generic statistics like fairways hit, greens in regulation and number of putts.
This shift in knowledge likely represents the next frontier in fitting. It’s only getting easier for golfers to gather personalized data. But evaluating, assessing, connecting and responding to real, on-course performance and using this information to make more informed decisions about equipment … wouldn’t that be something?
While you ponder that, I’m going to adjust the settings on my smart thermostat and book the oil change my car just reminded me I should have taken care of two weeks ago.
What questions do you have? What other information might be helpful?
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