Some players buy golf clubs based on what they see on TV or what their friends are playing. Others may have been custom fit for their clubs, but new technology is making it possible to get even more for less. And as we all get older, isn’t that what most of us are looking for?
Custom fitting has been around for years, but the process differs from one manufacturer to another. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that TaylorMade has been on the forefront of new technology when it comes to custom fitting. Cameron Jacobs is a Class A PGA Professional and heads up The Performance Lab at TaylorMade Golf Canada’s Headquarters in Woodbridge, Ontario. Fairways spoke to Jacobs to find out what custom fitting and new R&D can do for us now.
What does Custom Fitting mean today?
Cameron Jacobs: I can tell you what custom fitting is not, it is not just taking out a demo on the course, it is not trying one of your friends’ clubs because it works well for them, or even casually testing a club on a demo day. Custom Fitting in 2018 means spending some time to make sure you’ve got a baseline of what your equipment is doing now, and then improving on it through a well planned 1:1 fitting session with a fully qualified fitter.
At TaylorMade, in addition to leading the market in nearly every product category in Canada, we are humble to work with players of ALL Sizes, ALL Speeds and ALL Abilities, unlocking the best performance in everyone’s equipment. We use balanced measures of art and science to isolate the right specifications for any new equipment under consideration.
Key in this is we don’t fit by handicap, or by some set script, we fit by the needs of each individual. Seriously, whether you are playing on tour, or working to break 100, custom fitting is not a trend or a fad. In 2018 it’s the norm now for all serious players looking at investing their equipment.
How do you capture all the necessary data (ball, club, body) and put it together to determine the appropriate club?
CJ: We have two keys, first of which would be our people. You can have all the metrics and technology in the world, but our Master Fitters are not only experts in deciphering the data, they also understand how to deliver that info to a player while having the best knowledge of our product lines to be able to put the right club together for the player’s game.
Second, would indeed be the advanced technology we use to do the job. At on-site Fitting Events we host across Canada, our Master Fitters utilize Trackman and our MyFittingExp app. However, at the Performance Lab at TaylorMade Canada HQ, we step it up a notch and are proud to offer GEARS 3-D Motion Capture Technology, which we couple with Foresight QC Quad Launch Monitor Technology to pull the whole story together. With north of 1,000 different shafts to test out, along with every head in the TaylorMade product line available to test year-round, no stone is left un-turned.
What are the main benefits of visiting the Performance Lab?
CJ: Quite simply, we are able to deliver the artful science of “the what, the how, and the why” to the player.
The “What” is the Ball Data or where the ball went, or even more formally your launch angle, spin rate, ball speed as well as the distance/direction of a given shot. It’s a must to know the result of a given shot, but a ton of fitting technology stops after this step.
The “How” is the Club Data, which relates to ball impact and club delivery data – Basically what the club did that created the ball-flight on a given shot. This is our first point of separation as we can measure the club’s movement in 3D on GEARS as well as with the club tracking ability of the GC Quad launch monitor
The “Why” is the Body Data, which is our largest point of separation in the fact that by looking at the swing on GEARS in 360° we can show how the movement of the body affected the delivery of the club, which in turn affects the flight of the ball, closing the loop on what went on for a given shot. Looking at the averages builds a baseline for your performance, and allows our Master Fitters to be able to better describe which of the countless options are worth testing out and dialing into the final recommendation
The old methods usually found a club that could compensate for a player’s swing faults (draw or fade bias etc.). Now it appears that you are looking to complement a player’s swing.
CJ: In past, fitting was largely an imperfect science of trial and error, typically with the goal of finding whatever club happened to win out in terms of compensating for a miss to show immediate improvement that day being paramount. Often these fits would result in great success long-term, but sometimes we’d see that a player would be working on something in their game, and end up evolving their swing out of that product, and not providing the best value long-term. In the Performance Lab, we have the time and the data on-hand to empower the player to become a much more educated in how their equipment works. Understanding what their body and club are doing allow them to make a truly well-informed purchase.
The biggest thing our Master Fitters do so well is that they work to uncover whether a player is set with their swing and need equipment to COMPENSATE for their miss, or if they are working to improve their swing, and need equipment that will COMPLIMENT the improvements they are working on. Especially with the driver, we are very fortunate to have adjustability built right in to many of our products with moveable weights and adjustable loft/face angle settings that can grow with the player’s development.
Imagine if we set up a club to protect against a slice, and the coach works on a player’s swing to produce more of a draw, that “anti-slice” driver might now create some hooks. With a bit of foresight and collaboration between the coach and the fitter, the player will come out of it with the best fit long-term. On the flip side, if the player is happy with their swing as-is and are not taking any lessons, they can happily let the equipment compensate for their misses and enjoy their game to the fullest.
You say you want to empower a player by giving them data that they can use to make changes. Is that only for players in a structured teaching environment or can the average player use this at home or on the range by himself?
CJ: We see many people confused as to whether they should get custom fit before taking lessons, or after they’ve “changed” their swing. Truth of the matter is the answer is both – as instruction and fitting work hand-in-hand. Quite often, it’s a bit of a chicken & egg type scenario. For example, a taller player might have a really hard time learning to get into solid posture in irons that are too short. Whereas some things might evolve over time like the lie angles in a player’s irons or wedges, which can be adjusted as needed based on the direction a coach is working on.
Sometimes a player is not working with a coach at all, but can glean valuable info on where they can improve their swing by looking at some of the data we pull together in the Performance Lab. For each client, we prepare a take home kit with data from GEARS for their own learning purposes, and as I see more and more players taking videos on their phones and comparing it to their favourite pros swings on YouTube or tuning into the Golf Channel, players are taking more and more ownership of their game.
I’d always recommend enlisting a PGA Professional from a ClubLink Academy to guide a player through the process, but there is a ton of great info within reach of all players, at any budget, so long as they have an internet connection.
The fitting process is almost a “how to guide” on how to swing your driver. Metrics prove what’s happening so proof is more than anecdotal.
CJ: Absolutely. As I mentioned, the fitting process at the Performance Lab is much more educational in nature, but we’re not there to change your swing. However, players do come to understand where their inefficiencies are, and if they want to change any of them, it’s their choice. Most golfers are playing for the love of the game and see it as recreational at best, so typically players will take any form of compensation to advance their distance and accuracy. But for those hard-core players bent on eking out every last drop of performance, we give them the info that is not easily observed on the range to be able to go back to their coach and work on things further. What I can say is that as good as the product is now, there are certainly benefits for the player that strikes their driver with an upward hit vs. those hitting down in terms of the ability to launch it high and spin it low for more distance. It’s pure math, and it’s non-negotiable.
Is there an obvious “next step” for most players?
CJ: Some people might think that with the rules and regulations the USGA imposes on equipment that there is no room left to improve, that we’ve maxed out. If that’s the case, why are we seeing the average distance increase on all levels of play around the world? Simple, R&D will continue to find new ways to find performance in an engineering sense inside of those regulations, plus the fitters and coaches are getting better and better at optimizing their players every year.
Twist-Face Technology in M3/M4 drivers is a great example of that this year. While the enhanced curvature of the face saw us producing straighter shots on mis-hits, we found the confidence that the player gained from hitting it straighter allowed them to swing more freely with more confidence, resulting in greater speed, which gave us an improvement in both distance and direction. If you haven’t been fit for one yet, you are missing out!
Down the road, I can tell you it will only get better, we’ve only scratched the surface of really moving launch conditions forward. In our testing, we’ve seen a launch angle of 17° with a spin rate of around 1,700 rpm as the optimal window to max a player out in terms of potential distance. Most people can’t get there right now, but one day they will. What does that mean in a real-world scenario? Imagine this: at 17° and 1,700 rpm, we would see a player slow enough to be using a regular flex shaft hitting it north of 260 yards!
If you haven’t come to visit us in the Performance Lab, I’d welcome you to do so. If you need any info about custom fitting, we are happy to answer your questions.
For more info please call 1.800.668.9883 x 4 or visit www.taylormadefitting.ca