I get many questions when someone is buying a golf club, or a whole set of clubs; “What company should I purchase golf clubs from?” “What are the right clubs for me?” “How many golf clubs do I need?” “What should my set make up consist of?”
The most common question is, simply, “Do I need a new set of clubs?”
There is no one great answer to this question, and everyone’s situation is different. I have seen players get fit for a new driver on a launch monitor, and the new driver cannot outperform their driver that is 10 years old. This is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. I have also seen a new driver outperform last year’s model.
My first response to someone who wants to know if they need new clubs is: “You need to get custom fit.” Getting fit for new clubs does not mean that you are going to buy a set. However, in my experience, new clubs will outperform golf clubs that are between 3-5 years old. That is a very general statement, but holds true for most fittings.
In recent years, there has not been an increase in ball speed with drivers, with all other factors being equal. Ball speed is the biggest influence in distance. The objective of most golf club manufacturers has been to move the CG (center of gravity) around in the club head to optimize a golfer’s ball flight. That is a tough job, since all golfers are different.
Golf club manufacturers in the last 1-2 years have made adjustable weighting in the club so a fitter, or the player, can move the CG towards the club face or towards the back of the club head. This ability to change the CG can help the golf club appeal to awide range of golfers.
The CG forward, or more toward the club face, will lower spin and lower launch, but will cause a bigger dispersion rate on off-center hits. Highly skilled golfers with high club head speed are usually the players who need lower spin, because at high club head speeds it is hard to keep the spin on the golf ball at an optimal rate to maximize distance. Also, highly skilled players do not hit the ball off-center as much, so the dispersion rate is not as important. The exact opposite for a driver with the CG in the back, or farther away, from the club face. The ball will launch higher, have a higher spin rate, and off-center hits will not go as far off line, in theory. This is beneficial to most golfers. The lower the swing speed, the higher the launch is needed to maximize distance. There are obviously boundaries to that last statement.
The two paragraphs above are to give you a little taste of how complex a golf club, and a golf club fitting, can be. The main point is, go get fit. There are so many variables to cover in a fitting; club length, CG weighting in the club head, grip size, club shaft, lie angle, club head model, hosel setting, etc. Some really high level fitters will get into cutting different ends of the shafts, whipping the shaft, and torque of the shaft, where the sweet spot moved due to the change in the CG of the club head.
In the end, it is about shooting lower scores, not making a launch monitor show us really good numbers. If a launch monitor tells me a student needs 15 degrees launch on their driver to optimize distance, but when I put the components together that getsthem the launch angle, and they cannot control the golf ball, those components do not help. Playability is what a good fitter is looking for, and we hope to get the player some more yards with the playability.
Buying a driver (or any club for that matter) off-the-rack is a thing of the past. Get fit for every club you purchase from now moving forward. Getting fit does not mean you have to get new clubs. There are a lot of companies telling you that you should buy their driver and you will get 20 more yards, guaranteed. They have been running that same guarantee since 2005, and they launch a new driver every six months. If you bought every driver they have offered since 2005, and each guarantee came true, you would have gained 400 yards!
Most companies make really good clubs, with up-to-date technology. The important part is to get fit. If you buy one off-the-rack, and do not like the club, it is not because of the company, it is because the club does not fit your swing.
And whatever you do, do not buy a golf club because a professional golfer like Dustin Johnson hits it 350 yards. He is getting paid to play that club, and he could hit any club that is properly fit 350 yards. Go see your local PGA professional, and get fit for clubs that fit your swing.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titleist staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.