Driver Fitting: It Shouldn’t Be A Long Drive Contest

Distance. Most golfers seek more of it but it does not always guarantee lower scores. Sure, it can help, massively, but the game of golf is made up shots that take a variety of skills in order to shoot the lowest possible score.

Many golfers will tell you that they want to “score better” and “be more consistent” but also add “I want to hit it further.”

That’s fair. It many cases hitting longer drives will put you closer to a green and lead to more scoring chances. That said, it does not mean that when you go for your next driver fitting that distance should be your only deciding factor on the club you choose. That distance has to happen all the time for it to be useful.

I have been through many driver fittings, many by some of the best technicians at leading manufacturers. Some good, some bad, some terrible.

Among those fitters, what stood out was that the best ones did one major thing when they fitted a driver – they looked beyond distance achieved alone to determine the club that would help the golfer shoot the lowest score.

Consider this. A driver is but one tool in your toolbox that you have to help you navigate a golf course. To get the most from it you need a variety of things such as distance, carry, shot shape and consistency. It’s near impossible to maximize all factors but the tendency for most golfers and fitters is to focus on the first thing over anything else.

It’s sexy. It is an easier sell.

But it’s not always right if scoring is the goal.

Chasing balance in a driver fitting is more important that one-shot distance potential

Max It Out

I’ll give you an example. A few years back I was working with a young fitter from a manufacturer on tuning in a driver. We had all the possible head and shaft combinations from the company available to us and the latest measurement technologies. How those all might help in the fitting depended on the operator, my fitter, his knowledge and how he conducted the fitting.

I let him do his thing, putting myself in his hands, but secretly hoping he would ask certain things that would guide my final driver decision. He didn’t.

One thing was clear, his past experiences with many consumers had shaped how he did his fittings. Every second sentence seemed to revolve around getting me more distance.

Of course, I am using the club to play golf, not to win a long drive contest, so we were already off on a road to hell.

Knowing my numbers very well, my current driver was fairly optimized. It launched how I liked, with a respectable level of carry and rollout, and within a “spray” variance that would make most shots playable, if I made a decent swing. There are no miracles, after all.

If he could improve my dispersion and increase my ball speed without compromising my trajectory, it’s possible that a new driver might be in my cards.

After a few swings with my own club his first instinct was to tell me he “would beat it”, indicating his focus was on the distance as the metric to top over all else.

His solution? He grabbed a model from his company, cranked down the loft (which, in isolation, lowers spin and trajectory), and had me swing away. On swings that were “acceptable,” the results were fine. The shots hit poorly had very little spin (1300-1600 rpms) and could not stay in the air; also going further offline. Then I hit one knuckle ball with face control and high enough launch (because I struck it high off the face) that sailed about 15 yards past my current driver.

“See, we can beat it,” he exclaimed.

For…one shot…out of ten.

As I mentioned, that type of achievement is great for a long drive contest where overall distance on one shot matters and the others have no consequences.

But, I am sure you can agree, that is not how golf is played. We need to play all ten shots.

The driver I had been using delivered balanced output, allowing for as much distance as possible on normal swings but also ensured enough spin for stable and usable ball flights on slight miss-hits, with enough carry on those poor shots. That helps predictability when hazards come into play or the turf conditions are softer and roll out cannot be relied on. The overall dispersion on shots hit with my own driver had less variability in distance and direction. For most players that will top the ability to hit one great shot and nine less than playable ones.

So, buyer beware. When you head out for a fitting on that new driver (and I insist you do) be sure to look at the overall picture, not just the distance on a random shot or two.

Having balance in all variables will make make that new driver more playable. You may need to leave a yard or two on the table, but in the end the lower number on your scorecard should keep you pretty happy.

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