Service review: Even women deserve a professional club fitting

A woman can get a golf club fitting at her local golf retailer, a local demo day or a brand-agnostic custom fitting franchise. Here’s a review of our experience with Club Champion, which has 26 locations and more on the way.

Image of Club Champion club fitting optionsOVER THE YEARS I’d acquired quite the crazy quilt of golf clubs, and other than a few matching irons remaining from my last fitting and purchase from a demo day 15 years ago, I had nothing resembling a set.

So two years ago I worked on a GottaGoGolf report on club-fitting that made my head spin. I had the feeling that every fitter wanted me to buy the brand that paid the biggest commission. I couldn’t understand the bombardment of statistics. I did not like hitting balls in a cage.

This year, at the end of a disappointing golf season in which I made an effort to change and improve my golf swing, I went to Club Champion for a complimentary full-bag fitting. Finally, I feel I can make a recommendation to other women to give this a try.

MY CLUB CHAMPION EXPERIENCE

The manager of my local store, Mitch Anderson, is a walking, talking Wikipedia of club fitting — shafts, heads, bounce, grips, loft, lie and, most important at Club Champion, smash factor.

Yes, smash factor. But more about that in a minute.

The first thing he did was chat with me a bit about my game, my goals and my budget, to make me comfortable in a space where I was about to spend the next four hours and hit hundreds of golf balls. We talked about the set I have and which clubs I loved most, which ones I wanted to replace. I explained that I wanted more uniformity among my clubs, and that I really wanted a new driver and wedges. I told him I’m a pretty good putter and was happy with my two Pings.

Then he introduced me to the TrackMan launch monitor, yes, indoors in a cage, and explained some of the numbers that would appear on the screen when I hit a ball off the mat, which was fiber-built to act like turf. I complained when I had to use a 7-iron for the fitting, because I usually use my Cobra Baffler instead. But I was swinging well and it turned out to be a good test club.

First, we tried a bunch of different shafts with the same test head, looking for the shaft that would give me the most distance combined with loft. And here’s where Mitch told me about smash factor, which is your ball speed divided by your clubhead speed.

That’s the favorite metric of company founder Nick Sherburne, whose wife, by the way, calls him the “sicko of all sickos” when it comes to tinkering with his golf game and golf clubs. He says smash factor is the best indicator of the efficiency of a golf club. If your ball speed is 40 percent higher than your clubhead speed, no matter how fast your swing, you’re getting PGA Tour numbers. So if you’re swinging in the 70s, smash factor is a lot more fun to look at than swing speed.

Once we had the shaft right, we tried heads for all the latest irons from several different brands. It was kind of like finding the perfect dress for a big event and now looking for the shoes that go with it.

By now I had hit many balls. So we took a break from the cage to go to the putting lab, where Club Champion measures 28 variables with the SAM PuttLab. I drained just about all of my practice putts, and after looking at the data Mitch suggested that I add 3 degrees of loft to my putter, which he did right then and there. And he put a few other putters in my hands to try.

Great putter I thought I was, I had to have a new Odyssey O-works putter. I thought it was ugly, until I rolled a few putts. Still, I tried to resist. I tried that no-fail strategy of going home without it, thinking I’d forget about it. Now it is my new BFF.

I rested a bit after the PuttLab and then got fitted for wedges, an easy task now that I had my shaft. By then I was so exhausted, I could not swing a driver very well. Nevertheless, I became fond of the Ping G400 fitted with a cool Veylix Aplina shaft.

Mitch sent me home with a whole sheet full of recommendations and prices, with everything fitted to my swing down to the one-and-a-half wrap under my new grips. I took some time to think about it, because I wasn’t going to replace my entire bag, and when I emailed questions he called me right back.

NOTE: If you are going to do a whole bag fitting, break it up over two or three different sessions. Most people, said Mitch, just come in for the driver fitting or the iron fitting or the putting analysis — whatever it is they need at the time. Prices range from $80 for a wedge fitting to $350 for the full bag, with other options listed on the menu page and occasional specials if you sign up for emails.

WHY I LIKED CLUB CHAMPION

At Club Champion, a golfer is a golfer, and even a bad golfer is respected. Mitch and his colleagues go through a four-week company training program where they learn how to make customers comfortable and how to help them make the most of a fitting for which they’ll pay good money that’s not refunded just because you buy clubs.

There aren’t women’s clubs at Club Champion. We’re not pigeon-holed that way. Shafts and heads are fitted to the swing, not the gender.

Club Champion builds everything, so there are thousands of combinations of heads and shafts. It’s not like going into a store where you try five different 7-irons. It is custom fitting, which must be especially heavenly for lefties. “We have 35,000 demo combinations,” Sherburne said. “And we’re agnostic. All clubs are equal.”

And I especially appreciated that customer service matters at Club Champion.  If they build you a driver, you can be sure you will get a follow-up call asking how things are going. If any adjustments are necessary, that’s already built in to the price you paid.

The price, of course, is higher than what you’d pay for clubs off-the-rack. Think couture vs. Macy’s. And if you want the world’s most expensive clubs, you can get them at Club Champion. But you can also say, “I have X to spend, help me make the most of it.”

I ended up ordering the new Ping driver, the two Cleveland wedges and the putter, and then had the rest of my set — a TaylorMade 4–wood, Mizuno hybrid and the Cobra F-Max irons and hybrids — reshafted, the 4-wood with the Veylix and the rest with the Accra 50i iron/wedge shafts. Golf Pride grips now match on the entire set, and when I have my clubs regripped every year I will have them all regripped.

Even though I was tired at that point in the fitting, my Ping driver seems perfect for my swing. I feel more confident in my club selections and even my putting stroke.

Business is booming for Club Champion, and I can see why.

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