HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort offers some of the best golf on Hilton Head Island. Now it also offers the island's best custom club-fitting experience.
That's because Chris Wycoff, after running the island's most successful custom club-fitting business at his Golf Etc store, has moved his SwingFit operation to Palmetto Dunes and the Robert Trent Jones Ocean Course clubhouse. Wycoff didn't move his entire retail operation, of course, but he set up with a covered hitting bay at the end of the range and a shop underneath the clubhouse where he has thousands of components on hand to build clubs for both resort guests and residents.
SwingFit offers just about every brand imaginable, including the new PXG Clubs (founded by Go-Daddy founder Bob Parsons), which can go for $5,000 and up for a set, as well as Titleist, Mizuno, Ping, TaylorMade, Callaway, Cobra and several other major brands. The shaft offerings are even more impressive, from basic True Temper steel to $350 Fujikura Pro Series shafts and beyond.
Wycoff moved his operation to Palmetto Dunes in February. Among his plans for the near future is an indoor hitting bay, which will give him and his staff the ability to conduct fittings year-round in any weather.
"We've been much busier than we expected," said Wycoff, a Golf Digest top 100 club fitter for 2015. "There's been a lot of exposure here. People are very excited about doing fittings outdoors, seeing full ball flight. It's a more natural environment (than what was offered at Golf Etc)."
The arrangement is a win-win for both SwingFit and Palmetto Dunes. SwingFit gets a built-in customer base to go along with its already loyal group of golfers, and Palmetto Dunes gains an amenity not found anywhere else on the island -- at least not this extent.
Clubfitting at a higher level
For last two decades or so, club fitting has been the buzzword when it comes to game improvement. It has come in lots of forms, from Ping's innovative colored dot system started 40 years ago, to Henry-Griffitts and its lie boards, to the custom-fit carts offered by most golf club manufacturers.
But the ultimate club fitting comes from someone who can offer state-of-the-art dynamic analysis, thousands of combinations regardless of brand and the ability to build clubs with tighter standards than most manufacturers' assembly lines.
What we're talking about here is a tour-quality club-fitting process, which Wycoff said is just as important (and perhaps even more so) for the amateur player as it is the tour professional. That's why a full fitting costs $350 whether you buy clubs from SwingFit or not.
"We have invested incredibly heavy in our fitting technology," said Wycoff, pointing out the tens of thousands of dollars in costs of keeping hundreds of shafts, demo clubheads and FlightScope technology on hand. "We don't really use fitting carts."
Instead, Wycoff and his associates use couplers to put combinations of shafts and club heads into the golfers' hands to try out on Flightscope, which is similar to Trackman, except in addition to spin rates, launch angles, club-head speed, ball speed and smash factor, it can also measure club acceleration and deceleration and where that occurs. In other words, does the club reach its maximum speed close to impact, or a foot before or a foot afterwards. The shaft can make a difference on where that happens.
In addition, SwingFit also offers custom putter fitting using the SAM PuttLab to determine lie, face angle, shaft length, face balancing and other factors that help make putting easier.
And club fitting isn't just about the numbers. Before each fitting, Wycoff or his associates will ask golfers about their game, their goals and preferences. The club should look good as well, Wycoff said, but sometimes a club will look a lot better once they see positive results from it.
Dialing in the right combinations
For a driver fitting -- which is the most popular and costs $200 alone -- there are more than 10,000 combinations from which Wycoff can choose. Of course, after a few swings, Wycoff can narrow the choices down considerably, but it is a process that can take a couple of hours, to be sure.
"There are no best clubs or best shafts," Wycoff said. "It's all about finding that right combination. Once we get the right weight and the right flex and right shaft profile in terms of where its stiffness is dialed in, the club's really going to be working with you."
Using Flightscope, a pattern emerges with each club. The goal is to get a consistent one, which shows up in a graph on the monitor. The result isn't always more distance, which is usually the case, but more importantly, better consistency.
And it doesn't always mean a new set of clubs or a new driver. Often a fitting means a new shaft to an already existing head. Or new shafts for irons. This becomes particularly important as golfers age and club-head speed decreases. Often, golfers can leave a fitting with a new club within an hour. Complete sets take a little longer, of course, but SwingFit's turnaround is faster than most.
"With our building capabilities and huge selection of after-market shafts, we're able to dial in for great results," Wycoff said.