Club Champion Fitting – First Hand Experience

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For years I have written it’s vital to play with properly fitted clubs, not just the driver but everything in the bag through the putter. Golf Magazine found eight out of nine golfers gained distance and scored lower using clubs made for them after a custom fitting. Surprising perhaps, but what really got my attention was the report showed 90 percent are playing with clubs that don’t fit.

With that in mind and having been through sessions by the major manufacturers I knew my time with the fitters at Club Champion Golf in Orlando would be interesting.

Club Champion has 15 locations around the country and a first class repRob Stumpf_ClubChampion_600x650utation for its services to golfers of all skill levels not just professionals and low handicappers. Upon arrival at the Orlando shop, manager Rob Stumpf who is also a master fitter, talked with me about what to expect and the fact Club Champion has, “10,000 plus combinations of heads and shafts. We have over 100 drivers alone, in full compliments of weights, flexes, models, and lengths.”

He emphasized since they don’t represent just one manufacturer they can use any clubhead and any shaft from any maker so Club Champion’s fitters using the data from Trackman can determine the proper club for each individual.

The process is simple. Stumpf had me hit a few drives with my current driver (one fitted by its manufacturer) then, using a similar shaft with a quick-change hosel, he had me hit drives with several different heads. Once he was satisfied the head was correct, several shafts were tried until ball flight, spin rate and other numbers were as good as my swing was capable of producing.

CC driver wall_640x440After the session, which costs $150, the specs representing the best combination were emailed to the main office in Chicago where the new driver was built and within a few days it was in my hands.

So what did it prove? The new driver (a Cobra King LTD head with a Fubuki K60 shaft) raised my smash factor–the relationship of ball speed and clubhead speed–from 1.45 to 1.50 giving me another ten yards of carry without changing my swing one bit. One might say, “10-yards…that’s an expensive 10 yards,” but when accompanied by a better trajectory to give more run out and about half the left-right dispersion, for me it was a big deal.

In effect I’m now playing a shorter golf course but additionally any concern I might have felt over my driver fitting me properly is gone.

Stumpf also had me hit my irons, which I really like, with no thought of changing but he instantly saw results could be improved with a lighter shaft of different construction. Seeing the point he was making I had them changed out from 90-gram steel to the Aerotech SteelFiber i80. It is the quickest half to full club gain in distance I could ever have done, plus the trajectory and spin are better.

Stumpf also shared his thinking giving an expert’s view of the Trackman data and revealing some very interesting points.ClubChampion_logo

“Smash Factor is the first and most important thing I look at. Smash Factor measures efficiency by dividing ball speed by club head speed, thus indicating both how close to the center of the face the customer is hitting the ball and how much the club combination (head and shaft) in turn is working for them. Height, spin, direction…all important, but I almost can’t concern myself with the rest of the numbers until I know the customer is hitting the ball as squarely as their swing allows, and that the clubs are assisting them when they do still miss the center of the face by retaining as much ball speed as possible.”

He continued, “When Smash Factor is optimized on a driver, I know the customer has the best chance of their longer drives occurring more regularly. When Smash Factor is optimized with an iron, we see longer iron yardages but as importantly, if not more importantly, more consistent iron yardages between their good shots and their not so good shots.”

Then Stumpf moved on to evaluation of “…the height and spin of the ball by looking at ‘Land Angle’. This number ties into how the spin rate and launch angle either worked together or didn’t on the shot. Because what’s considered ‘Optimum’ on launch and spin depends on the ball speed the player produces, and because different players have different ‘Attack Angles’, there is no one launch angle and no one spin rate that works for everyone. It depends on how they work together for the individual. Land Angle (measuring how steep the ball is descending) shows me whether or not the player is getting the best compromise between carry distance and roll with the driver, as well as carry yardage and effective stopping action on the irons.”

“Finally I look at ‘Face Angle’ and ‘Club Path’. Depending on the golfer’s directional miss, we either look at heads that are neutral, closed, or open in their face angle to get them hitting it straighter down the fairway, or at the very least, reduce the severity of the miss and get more consistency with the off-line direction of the ball. The best players in the world don’t hit the ball dead straight on every shot, but the better players do know that if they’re going to miss, it’s likely only going to be in one direction, and that the miss is playable. The weight of the shaft we also find to influence the ‘Club Path’, with the trend being lighter shafts working better for faders, heavier shafts working better for drawers of the ball.”CC0033_640x640

“It is certainly possible to help anyone that comes in. The common misconception is that we’re here only for the scratch golfer. Nothing could be further from the truth. My average customer is about a 10 to 15 handicap. If they care about the scores they shoot then I can help them. One of the common questions I field is “What if I’m swinging different the day of the fitting?” The reality is as “off” as our swings can feel at times, the general shape of our swings are about the same. I’m not being funny when I say it’s actually my preference to fit someone who is a little “off” in their swing because I know how to better assist them based on their misses. If someone comes in and just stripes everything it can be harder to see what will be better for them when they’re struggling….which for most of us is more often than we might admit!”

And a word of advice, “Once properly fitted, the performance difference between most clubs from one year to the next is often times small. There are certainly instances where one of the vendors makes a major breakthrough in their technology causing noticeable improvements, but generally speaking most people will start to see an appreciable difference in technology every 3 to 5 years after being properly fit. The head technology changes much quicker than the shaft technology, with heads changing every year, and most shafts having at least a 3 year product cycle.”

With this in mind, a visit to Club Champion can be the best investment in your game you have ever made.

Titleist NXT Tour & NXT Tour S

NXT_Tour_TourS_ Pkg_640x445Every golfer knows the Pro V1 and Prov1x are flagships for the Titleist brand. Because of their performance they are number one in sales and at the same time the most expensive ball on the market. But, however dominant the Pro V1 franchise is, Titleist does make other models and stablemates NXT Tour and NXT Tour S should not be overlooked.
NXTs are both less expensive and a different construction than Pro V1s but for average golfers their performance certainly makes them worth a look. We conducted trials of both NXTs with four golfers having a range of handicaps playing under a variety of conditions.
First let’s deal with the price. At my local golf shop a dozen Pro V1 or Pro V1xs are $48. NXT Tour or NXT Tour S are $35. That’s a difference of just over a dollar per ball so, keeping in mind there are some inherent performance differences, should the price differential be important to you the decision is easy.
The next reasonable question is, “what’s the difference between the two NXTs and how is it significant?”
NXT_Tour_TourS_cutawayThe NXT Tour is a three-piece construction with a two layer core and Titleist’s Fusablend cover of 302 dimples in a complex tiled octahedral pattern. Fusablend is their propriety formulation and is softer than the Surlyn used for many other non-Tour category ball covers. The NXT Tour S is a two-piece ball with a somewhat softer Fusablend cover compared to the Tour but with the same dimple design.
Based on the construction the NXT Tour should be longer off the driver because of less spin, have a higher trajectory than the NXT Tour S and run out more on the green.
The results from our average players were interesting. They used both the white and yellow colors in the Tour S but only white in the Tour because it doesn’t come in yellow. Each of the four liked the yellow’s increased visibility even to the point of saying not only was it easier to see but in one case commenting the color gave him some added confidence.
Each player thought the Tour was longer than the Tour S though without actual measurements all agreed the difference wasn’t large. The comparative amount of check or roll out was judged by two of the players (15 and 18 handicaps) to be about the same but the five and 12 handicappers both thought there was discernably more spin on short shots with the Tour S. This seems to make sense due to the softer cover of the Tour S and the fact it even felt softer for most every shot.
The 12 handicapper said of the NXT Tour, “For my particular game this ball was long off the tee, great for my second shot and had tremendous feel around the greens. I particularly noticed that it reacted very well with wedge shots around the green.”
Comparing the two the 15 handicap wrote in an email, “Both the NXT Tour and the NXT Tour S Yellow seem to go about the same distance for me. The rest of the performances seem to be equal and I like both, but prefer the yellow Tour S.”
The conclusion is if the NXT Tour and Tour S are a fit for your wallet there is no question they are quality golf balls with performance that will complement most anyone’s game. As a side benefit, the yellow color for the Tour S may even be a visual aid as well.
Images Courtesy of Titleist

Recycled Golf Balls – Less Expensive Performance?

PickedBalls_1500x844We put recycled 2016 model Titleist Pro V1x golf balls from LostGolfBalls.com head to head with those fresh from Acushnet and can confirm what others have previously reported. There was no measurable difference in distance nor trajectory for every club in the bag from driver through wedges.
So why is that significant?
There’s really two reasons. Golfers play used golf balls because after one hole every ball is “used” to some degree and some golfers even play them exclusively. You know, those “previously loved” ones lost by others often in a watery grave.
Secondly, the question of how much the performance is compromised by spending time in a water hazard appears to be answered. If the ball is relatively a recent water resident most of us will find it still plays just fine. Having said that, if you’re getting ready to tee it up in your first professional major or maybe just the club championship no one would dispute spending the money for new ones.
Also, the reason we tested recycled Titleist Pro V1s is obvious. They are the bestselling new ball and according to Gary Kruegar, CEO of LostGolfBalls.com, Pro V1s and Pro V1xs are the ones most requested by his customers, “By far the most popular. There isn’t even a close second.”
Kruegar also told us that though the number of lost balls in the U.S. is immense, “No one is sure [and] 200 to 300 million seems to be an estimated range.
His company recycles—which means washes, inspects and grades–some 43 million golf balls per year and there is also a thriving business in refurbished golf balls, those that have had the cover treated to remove stains and/or repainted.
Recognizing that the island par-3, number 17 at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla., is the site of a guesstimated 140,000 lost balls per year where does LostGolfBalls.com get its raw product from? Again Gary Kruegar, “Our largest retrieval operation is in California, with Texas and Florida close behind. Bandon Dunes, Hazeltine, TPC Scottsdale, and PGA West, Champions Golf Club are some big names.”
Bottom line, Kruegar sells first quality—meaning virtually no blemishes, no scuffs–2016 model Titleist Pro V1s and Pro V1xs for $26.99 discounted to $21.59 plus shipping which depending on where you live probably takes the cost per dozen to around $30. Order two dozen and the cost per drops to about $26. The local golf shop is selling new ones for $47.99 per dozen. It’s your decision.