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July 1, 2017

Clubfitting: Inside and Out

Top Fitters Can Provide a Quality Experience and Expert Fitting Indoors or Outdoors

BY: SCOTT KRAMER

There is good and bad in every clubfitting location. We asked some of America’s top fitters about their preferences – indoors or outdoors – and why it’s important for fitters to have experience and knowledge with both.

PROS AND CONS

Each type of setup has its own merits and shortcomings. The positives of outdoor fittings are that the golfer can see live ball flight and interact with natural turf – assuming the fitting is being done on real grass. And fitters can see how the golfer aligns to the target.

It’s all very realistic. Yet it’s not the most-controlled environment in that weather can be penal if the fitting area isn’t covered. Hot or cold temperatures, wind and rain can all affect results – and the swing. Furthermore, using range balls different from the golfer’s typical ball can throw things off. So if a player starts generating high spin, for instance, the fitter may wonder if it’s caused by the swing, wind or the golf ball? Plus, golfers may start trying to self-correct their ball flight in an attempt to stop a fade or hook.

For indoor fittings, the pluses are that there is no weather affecting flight, it’s a sterile environment allowing for a more-controlled experience; and golfers can always use the regular ball model they play. The downside? No live ball flight. So golfers seeing a computer projection of their shot shape may not trust it. The affects of artificial turf for iron and hybrid shots can also play a role, as it may influence the attack angle a player takes into the ball.

How PGA Pros compare settings

Scott Chaffin, PGA General Manager and Director of Golf at Mile Square Golf Course in Fountain Valley, California: “You see ball flight outdoors – that’s what customers prefer. While its environment can’t be controlled, fitting outdoors with a launch monitor allows a better fit because of the ability to see ball flight along with having the data. That’s the ideal situation. Many of the launch monitors on the market today calculate ball flight based measurements taken at impact. That essentially negates the influence of outside forces like wind, temperature or type of golf ball. That’s why, even when fitting outdoors, it’s important to have the launch monitor with you.”

Virgil Herring, PGA Instructor at Golf Channel Academy in Nashville: “I prefer an outdoor setting every time, given weather is not an issue. I can see ball flight, check divot and turf interaction, and guarantee clients that what they see happening is real and not animated. When weather has an impact, indoor provides control. The launch monitor and simulator technology is better than ever and provides amazing data that can be used for a consistent fit. But I don’t see how they complement one another: If you have the ability to see balls fly, you should definitely do that. It will remove any doubt. TrackMan allows me to know things my eyes can’t see, but my eyes definitely know what it’s supposed to look like. I wouldn’t do one without the other, but if I had to, I would trust my eyes on fitting outdoors more than a monitor completely indoors.”

Nick Sherburne, Founder of Club Champion Golf: “Having used both, I prefer indoor fitting. It’s a more intimate experience free of distractions and elements, and isolated to focus on the right things instead of how the ball performs downrange. Indoor and outdoor do not complement one another. Outdoor is great for a tour player or superlow handicap, who has a defined ball flight. But the variables of relying on ball flight for average golfers can be dangerous. You don’t want to agonize over every shot, but rather the tendency and swing mechanics to fit for trends. Indoors allows players to not focus on flight that much but rely on the fitter to get the right club in their hands. Long story short, a trained fitter with the proper equipment can diagnose a fit in all conditions. It’s just that some conditions make it easier or more enjoyable than others.”

Mike Fay, PGA director of player performance at Boyne Golf Academy in Harbor Springs, Michigan:“We use Gears and TrackMan indoors here, and also TrackMan outdoors in the summer. It’s the best of both worlds. Gears gives us a lot of information that TrackMan doesn’t, and viceversa. Both are valuable. When we go out on the range, seeing and validating what Gears did to change the swing indoors helps us sells clubs. By splitting our fitting sessions between indoor and out, we’re covered both ways in our quest to get accurate fitting measurements. Golfers like to see both ball flight and launch monitor numbers. We show them the ball flight and why it does what it does on Gears. It helps them play better.”

The Tour Professional Preference

Brad Syslo, U.S. Grassroots Program Manager at Wilson Golf, has conducted thousands of fittings with amateurs and touring professionals, using the latest technology in both indoor and outdoor settings. “Tour pros definitely prefer outdoor fittings, as ball flight is key to them. Most amateurs think tour pros rely heavily on launch monitor technology when testing new equipment. Most of the time, the player’s observing ball flight and the fitter’s confirming what’s being seen on the launch monitor. It can differentiate what a player feels versus what’s really happening.”

Do range mats influence a fitting session?

Are outdoor sessions on real grass more advantageous than indoor clubfitting, because they give a read truer to a course’s turf? Allen Gobeski, PGA general manager of Cool Clubs, an independent clubfitting chain, avers that golfers change their swing when hitting irons from a mat – often altering fitting results. “I’ve proven through countless hits on a launch monitor that I shallow out my angle of attack when I hit off a mat,” he told Golf Range Magazine. “You naturally swing differently on a mat than off grass.” However, not everyone agrees mats influence a swing. Club Champion strictly does fitting indoors at its locations, leading Sherburne to say that people changing their swings for mats is “mostly” a fallacy. “TrackMan allows us to monitor attack angle and how players move through the ball. The variance even when a player is trying to make a change is so small if any that it doesn’t change the fit. We use Fiberbuilt mats to simulate real turf to get the player comfortable, and for the fitter to hear turf interaction.”

Does the Environment Impact the Sale?

Location apparently doesn’t affect if clubfitters are more likely to close the sale: Fitters we informally surveyed at various indoor and outdoor facilities collectively claim that 90 percent of their fitting sessions result in club sales. Still for peace of mind, seeing seems to be believing. “When purchasing equipment, students want to see the ball fly and not just rely on the monitor,” insists Robbie Hendrickson, PGA general manager and head pro at Three Lakes Golf Club in Malaga, Wash.