Golf Advisor's Jason Scott Deegan and Tim Gavrich each recently visited specialty clubfitters on their respective coasts. Jason visited a Club Champion location in San Francisco, while Tim went to True Spec Golf’s flagship Miami location.
Afterwards, the two compared their experiences.
Senior Writer Tim Gavrich: Jason, I’d venture to say it’s been a pretty good last couple weeks for us in the golf equipment geek-out department. It sounds like you’re going to be unleashing some pretty huge tee shots the next time we tee it up.
Senior Writer Jason Scott Deegan: I sure hope so. About a decade ago, my first experience being custom fit for a driver propelled my handicap to single digits for the first time. I'm hoping my latest driver fitting - at Club Champion in Danville, California in the "East Bay" - sends me back into single digits again. I'm living proof that getting fitted for your clubs does make a difference. Lord knows my swing is one of a kind. I'm on my fourth or fifth fully fitted driver, because I've played with enough rental clubs during my travels to know I need something tailored to me or it's going to be a miserable round.
Tim, what was your experience like at True Spec?
Gavrich: Whereas you went with a driver fitting, I went whole-hog at True Spec: a full-bag (and nearly full-afternoon) fitting. Since the only clubs I’ve really been fitted for in my life have been a couple sets of irons, and since I’ve got a couple tournaments coming up, I figured I’d take the opportunity to get a few things situated.
Andy Victoriano, the True Spec fitter I worked with, couldn’t have been nicer or more knowledgeable. Within the first 10 minutes, I learned something fairly shocking about the driver I’d been using, and particularly the shaft. Rather than the standard length of 45 inches, it plays at a very long 46 1/5 inches (competitive long-drivers use 48-inch drivers). This means that even though it’s listed as an X-flex, it actually plays more like a Regular-flex shaft, putting it totally out of whack with my other clubs by acting much whippier than is right for me. It’s no wonder that I’ve often felt more confident in my 3 wood and 5 wood than the driver of late.
What was your biggest technical takeaway from your driver fitting?
Deegan: Two things: First, I'm amazed at how much a single change in shaft could affect the ball's performance so dramatically. My fitter and master builder, store manager Derek Westover, would know within two to three swings if the shaft wasn't right for me, and quickly yank it out of the rotation.
Second, seeing the TrackMan numbers are always eye-opening - good and bad. Westover was stunned at my "Smash Factor," a number used to determine how efficient a player hits the ball at impact. I averaged 1.51, above the PGA Tour average of 1.48, he said. I even set a store record on one swing with a 1.53. So why was my best drive only 240 yards? My average swing speed of 87 miles per hour is just way too slow to generate any distance. And to think Tiger Woods' 129 mph at the Valspar is the highest on record this season on tour.
Probably the most exciting moment was when Westover put the PXG 0811X driver in my hands. I'd never hit PXG clubs before, and their reputation had my heart pumping. I wanted to like it just for the 'cool factor' and bragging rights to say I owned a $700 driver. It produced solid TrackMan data but not enough to put in my bag. Ultimately, it was Callaway's latest driver technology, the Rogue, that is on order.
Any new equipment you were glad you tried?
Gavrich: Let me tell you about the putter fitting portion of my afternoon at True Spec. Putting has always been the weakest part of my game, so I’ve accumulated a closet full of putters, mostly picked up on the cheap from the “USED” racks at golf stores. One day, I walked into my local Play It Again Sports location and walked out with three wonderfully grimy, vintage PING putters, for $24 total. Unfortunately, they don’t make putts either, so my search had continued…
…until I hit a few putts on the putting green with an Evnroll ER5 that Victoriano handed me. Evnroll has received some buzz online for its face groove technology, which is graduated such that putts hit slightly toward the heel or toe are supposed to lose less power and stay straighter on line than competitors. Perfect for someone like me who somehow has an easier time hitting the ball flush on 150-yard shots than on 10-foot ones. After holing a couple 30-footers in a row, as well as a raft of 6-footers, I’m fixing to put some pro shop credit I have at a nearby course toward a new Evnroll. With any luck, it will be in my bag for years to come.
True Spec Golf in Miami has a high-speed camera setup called Quintic that its fitters use for putter fittings, but it is only set up for righties. They're looking to transition to ForeSight's new putter fitting camera, though, which will be easy to use for both righties and lefties. To me, putting is about feel, though, and I didn't feel shortchanged by doing a more "old-fashioned" putter fitting on a real putting green.
Overall, I came away from True Spec really impressed with how easily they were able to serve a lefty like me. A big part of their “secret sauce,” not just for southpaws like myself but for all golfers who come their way, is Club Conex, a technology they own that enables them to swap out shafts and heads in all clubs instantaneously.
I've always been a feel player (and very stubborn), so I was ready for a bit of a stylistic clash given how numbers-driven True Spec's (and other fitters') suggestions are. But in the end, Victoriano matched me with clubs that performed and fit my finicky eye. I suppose a true indicator of how well my fitting went was the fact that the following day, I played my worst round of the year so far with my old equipment!
What was most impressive to you about Club Champion and their setup?
Derek Westover analyzes Trackman data during a recent driver fitting.
Deegan: I was just impressed with the overall approach from start to finish. I was sent an email questionnaire before my fitting, so Westover could learn what my goals and expectations were. It was essentially an icebreaker, since he says most golfers show up nervous. This way, he's ready for a conversation about your game before you start swinging.
I was also impressed with the overall vibe and space. Most fittings I've been to have been in cramped, cluttered facilities with tightly packed indoor hitting bays. This Club Champion had high ceilings and plenty of light, which made it feel bigger than it probably was. Everything was new, since it only opened in April of 2017, and organized. Westover had some good tunes playing on Pandora, so it felt like I was hanging out and talking golf in a buddy's basement, not going through golf's version of a science experiment. I never once felt like he was pushing a brand or shaft on me, like you sometimes get in a big box store.
Westover believes that the people hired by Club Champion are the reason the company is growing. He said every hire must be passionate about golf and have at least five years of clubfitting experience. He was a former clubfitter at Golfsmith and still went through rigorous training at Club Champion's headquarters near Chicago to refine his skills. Every order he submits is built by a master builder to exact specifications and he said customers love that the company stands by every product. He says he regularly follows up with customers months after a fitting to find out how their sticks are performing. If there's an issue, he invites them to return to address it. I can see myself returning when I'm ready for a new set of irons.
What were your key takeaways from True Spec?
Gavrich: Speaking of that, aside from my driver shaft-length revelation, an iron lie adjustment was my most valuable takeaway from my fitting. Andy's iron specs recommendations were for lie angles about 1.5 degrees flatter than I had had. Even though I didn't end up buying new irons based on the fitting, I did take my current gamers to have their lie angles adjusted about a week after my afternoon at True Spec, and the results were noticeable. By flattening the lie angles, I was able to straighten out the pull-hook miss that's been killing me on a few iron shots lately. That was a big help, and just goes to show that even though "Only a poor craftsman blames his tools" is a valid golf aphorism, there are ways in which proper clubfitting can make an immediate helpful impact on any golfer's game. Whether it's from Club Champion, True Spec or elsewhere, a properly-fitted set of clubs is significant asset, no matter your handicap.
For more on Club Champion, click here. Prices range from $80 for a one-hour wedge fitting up to $350 for a three-and-a-half-hour, full-bag fitting.
For more on True Spec Golf, click here. Prices range from $125 for a one-hour wedge, putter, driver or iron fitting up to $450 for a full-bag fitting.