Matt Kilgariff, Director of Player Development at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.), says professionals should start the fitting process by “interviewing” the golfer. Questions should be non-judgmental and designed to lead the player to share with you their strengths, areas of opportunities, desired ball flight and short- and long-term goals.
By Matt Kilgariff, Director of Player Development, The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe (Calif.)
To be competitive and increase revenue, clubs’ golf staffs should be prepared to perform customized golf club fittings for members, as well as non-members.
When fitting golfers for clubs, processes and procedures for diagnosis should remain the same. However, a cookie-cutter approach is not the most effective way to meet the needs of your members and provide them with exceptional service.
The key to success for all parties is to keep the fitting experience consistent. To do this, staff members who will perform fittings should observe the primary club fitter, to understand the process of diagnosing a golfer’s specific needs. Fittings are about customer service first, and physics and engineering second.
Start the fitting process by “interviewing” the golfer. Your questions should be non-judgmental and designed to lead the player to share with you their strengths, areas of opportunities, desired ball flight and short- and long-term goals. Be sure not to judge any book by its cover, and do not allow a player’s age, size, shape, gender or handicap cloud your fitting diagnosis and technique.
After the interview, begin the diagnosis process, starting with ball flight. Data should be prioritized starting with speed as most important, followed by launch, spin and dispersion (left or right). To correct any of these, you must begin work on the weakest part of a player’s bag.
Next, move on to scoring clubs. Key factors for these clubs include peak height, which should be the same for all scoring clubs for most golfers, and land angle, which should be the same for all scoring clubs, no matter what.
For other irons, length is the most consideration, followed by lie angle (based upon your visual observation and what the player hopes to accomplish with the shape of the ball flight) and ball speed, which should be +/- less than 2 mph/club and equals distance control.
The difference between irons should be an increase or decrease of 5 mph in ball speed. If there is a decrease, start to blend by transitioning to hybrids. If two adjacent clubs lose greater than 3° of land angle, transition to a hybrid.
For the club head, first address the size of the club head, as it provides the energy. The larger the club head, the lower the center of gravity, which makes it easier to gain ball speed that gets the ball in the air.
For a driver, club fitting should focus on correcting a hook or slice, versus a push or pull. When fitting for a driver, do not just fit for club head speed. Pay close attention to the transition (load) at the top of the backswing. The more backspin you put on the ball with the driver, the better the chance it could curve off line, resulting in a loss of distance. To take out spin, decrease the loft by 1°, which will lead to a decrease of 500 rpm. To decrease dispersion, go shorter, heavier, stiffer or de-loft.
For the shaft, the focus should be on how the shaft length controls the centeredness of contact and dispersion. The flex of a shaft controls club head speed and tempo (load). Heavier weight will provide more control, and lighter weight will control distance. And the amount of torque will determine a soft or hard feel.
For wedges, always use a wet towel to clean the club face, as dirt allows for the ball to roll up the face, resulting in high flight and no spin. Bounce is another key consideration; fit for grind (bounce) and then do yardage gapping. Blind test for bounce and hit balls, to get a proper feel and narrow down the selection. More bounce will provide lower flight by controlling where the ball is hit on the face, while lower on the face will keep the flight down and spin up.
A final important step in effective club fitting is testing and communication. Resist the urge to overtest. Stop when you and your golfer get the results you are looking for. And provide just the right amount of information for your player to make an educated and informed decision.
Matt Kilgariff is a PGA professional who spent much of his career working for Butch Harmon and the Harmon Family. Prior to joining The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, he was Director of Player Development at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. He has also been on TaylorMade’s National Advisory Staff since 2012.