Are Free Custom Fittings Worth It?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting 3 articles on custom fitting for irons. I am considering changing my irons as I was fitted for my current set when I first started to play. Since then my swing has changed a lot. So I’ve got it in my head that my irons may not be best suited for me and new irons could help improve my golf.

The three articles that I’ll be realising through out  February:

  • Custom Fitting at American Golf
  • Custom Fitting at an Independent Golf Centre 
  • Custom Fitting vs Lesson – aimed at high teens and higher handicappers

Custom Fitting at American Golf

We are all aware of American Golf, and we all have our own opinions and own experiences with them; whether that’s good, bad or indifferent. For the purpose of this article all opinions are my own and based off of my own experiences which i’ll allude to later on. Most of us have more than likely bought from them in the past. I have, in fact you’ll see me from time to time in palm grove jumpers! They are a great convenience for most, especially for the nic knacks that we all have in our bags as most of us live within a short commute from our local store, or we buy from them online.

You are all possibly aware (those in the UK at least) that they offer free custom fitting. As I might be in the market for new irons, and the fact they offer free fittings, who doesn’t like free stuff. I thought this would be a good place to start testing some clubs.

I am a Ping fan, and for the custom fitting with American golf I stuck with Ping. More specifically the I500’s, the reason for this is that I like the look of these clubs and I wanted to keep the irons I was testing the same to allow me to review two individual American Golf locations.

At this point I’d like to ad that depending on what you want to get out of a fitting you should not dismiss any brand.. Instead focus on the results and how the clubs feel to you. Bring this back on track I purposefully stuck with Ping for the American Golf fittings (yes I’ve said this already but wanted to drive this point home).

The two locations are a little less than 9 miles apart, both in South Wales. I’m not going to mention the locations of both stores, as it’s not that important and some may not think its fair.

Before we start let’s just take a look at some base data on my current irons:

Current IronsClub Head SpeedSpin Rate (7 iron)Current Carry DistCurrent Total Dist
Ping I Series Stiff Shafts 2 degrees upright (green dot)Standard Length (https://rookiegolfer.co.uk/2019/01/21/witb/)89 – 92 mph I’m not a tour pro so my swing speed does alter4674rpm149 yards157 yards

Let’s be honest the spin rates are not good; yes the billy big balls of you will make or want to make a comment on my distances too…

So let get into the fittings bays at American Golf:

Location 1

I managed to walk straight into this one, a little bit of luck that the store was quite but the welcome was nice and they were happy to fit me for the irons.

The fitting is only with a 7 iron; and we started by taking a few shots with my current clubs to get some baseline data.  This location was using a simulator at the back of the store in a separate room, I always find hitting clubs inside strange.  The only reason why this can be is my Wife constantly telling me that my clubs are not allowed in the house! So swinging clubs indoors must put me on edge…

So back to the fitting, 5 or 6 shots in the fitter hands me an i500 but doesn’t tell me the shaft. This is not a problem as I don’t know much about them anyway and if I did it’s always good to just test on feel and data rather than preconceptions. This process continued over 5 different shafts, of which one of the shafts was the same as my current irons, Nippon Modus 105s.

They didn’t feel that good compared to some of the other irons I hit. The i500 setup that I felt most comfortable with was handed back to me.  At this point I was told it was a lighter stiff shaft, as my swing speed was just enough for stiff shafts and lighter would be better.

Fitting done… 30 minutes in total, as you naturally would I asked to review the data on the shots I’ve been hitting to be told by the fitter they had been deleted.

Not good! I am possibly going to be spending £800 on these irons and I can’t review any information comparing my current irons to the i500s. Their response was quite blasé, it just didn’t fill me with confidence even thought at the time the shaft I was recommended did feel good.

151 was my carry on the day with my irons, that’s 1.5 yards better than my season average. With the recommend set up I was getting 165 yards carry. These are based on notes I made as soon as I left the store. Yes, that’s a massive gain! However dispersion wasn’t that great, but I’m going off memory and again without the evidence I’m not going to splash the cash on a whim.

One of the big positives from the fitting was at the end there was no pressure or pushy sales person trying to convince me to buy the irons then and there… I don’t respond well or too nicely if someone gets pushy with me. Especially when we are talking about a good chunk of money.

I’m holding off sharing the spec I was recommended. We’ll compare this at the end, so let’s move on to location 2.

Location 2  

Two weeks later and with a fitting session booked in I was back at American Golf, just 8.6 miles away from the original fitting.  This time, I was given a small bucket of balls to warm up on the range and then off into the fitting bay that was set up to hit out onto the range rather than an indoor simulator.

To be honest I thought this was a better set up from the offset!

The fitting started a little different, the fitter at location 2 wanted to know why I was interested in the Pings and what I was looking for the irons to do for me.  I actually thought this was great, as they were looking to understand what I was really after… Even though I told them I only wanted to test the pings. They didn’t challenge me, but they knew what I was looking for the pings to do for me.

Already been warmed up from the range was a huge help, so we hit 10 with my current irons to get a base setting. There were 2 notable miss hits which we left in, but could be removed if needed later on. Straight away the fitter reviewed my current performance with my irons, and explained that the spin was low, and the impact that this could have. He also hinted what he would be looking for the I500’s to do.

Same as location 1 we hit a few with different shafts then had a quick review. This continued for 3 different shafts. Until the fitter wanted to try a heavier shaft, the only problem was that they didn’t have the shaft they wanted me to test that could fit into the ping i500.

This resulted in me using the shaft the fitter wanted me to try, but with a Taylormade p790 head. To be fair this is the Taylormade equivalent of the i500, but it’s not the i500. Regardless I hit a few shots and can’t deny they felt pretty good. I’m not a fan of Taylormade and I have hit the p790 before but that will be in the next article.  Whist I was testing this the fitter was trying to see if any of the other American Golf fitting centres had this particular shaft I was testing available..

At this point in the fitting we are about 40/45 minutes into it. Discussing the data, talking about the shots and the clubs this fitting felt better and a different experience to location 1.

Just before we moved on to checking the lie angle, word came back that no American Golf Fitting Centre had the shaft I was testing on the Taylormade. (I’m not telling you the shaft at this point as we will compare at the end). However this felt strange that the shaft I was going to be recommended I had not hit the i500 with. The data we were comparing was not accurate as it was all on this shaft and Taylormade head. That by the by we moved on to lie angle.

I mentioned at the start I suffer with a push, and my clubs are 1 degree more upright that what I was originally fitted for in 2018. When discussing this with the fitter, I was told that there was a good chance this is partly the cause for my push.

However a club that’s too upright goes left not right! Want to know how I know this? A sign similar to the below was right behind me in the fitting bay! Naturally I challenged the fitter, the response started to knock my confidence in this fitting, and it had been going pretty well.

The response was, Ping use to have a different colour code system. Green may have been 2 down not 2 up.  This seemed strange but not completely impossible, even though I was told by the pro who I bought the pings off of that they were 2 upright. So following a quick search green dot for the last few years have been 2 or 2.25 upright..  So instead of holding his hands up with an honest mistake I was told something that is wrong.

So we moved on to some impact tape on the sole of the club to test the lie, it was in the middle of std and 1 degree upright. So the fitter amused me and changed the club angle to 1 degree up, for one shot. To my shock the tape showed 2 degrees down! Opps the clubs was adjusted the wrong way. So with another quick adjustment I hit another shot, again it was close to 1 degree upright but I was told that standard was what I needed.

I was then priced up and fitting finished.

Lets summarize two very different experiences location 1 was very much wham bam thank you mam. Done in 30 mins, no data and just a price and recommendation on spec.

Location 2, much more in-depth just over an hour long. However riddled with some confusion on lie angle and testing the right set up.

So what did each location custom fit me for:

LocationShaftLie AngleLengthCarry Distance
1XP TRUE TEMPER 95 s300 (Stiff Shaft)Black Dot – STDStandard165 yards
2Dynamic Gold 120 (Extra Stiff)Black Dot – STDStandard156 yards

What’s your initial thoughts?

Mine…. Confused! Two locations, two weeks apart and less than 9 miles separating them have spec’d me in for Ping i500s on my request but with two different shafts. That yield two different results one was seeing a massive gain in distance the XP TRUE TEMPER 12 yards. The other better spins rates, 2 yards carry and a tighter dispersion. However location 2, recommend something that I have never hit before.  I tested a Taylormade! And got those results, I was not asked or it was not suggested by location 2 that I should test the taylormade with other shafts as the results look promising.

Surely the results should not be so different. I appreciate i could have been fitted for and ended up with stiff shafts but a different brand of shaft and marginal weight difference but not 95gs stiff shaft to 120grams in extra stiff. Considering swing speed charts say 100mph is what extra stiff starts at I’m nowhere near that!

Yes there are benefits to either set up, one distance and the other tighter dispersion and a minimal gain in distance. That might be ok for some, but not me. However the process and the two fittings have left me confused and lacking confidence in committing to either set up as I’m not sure I’ve been fitted correctly. I don’t want to be buying new irons next year!

Needless to say, I’m not buying either set up or buying my clubs from American Golf. Considering we are told in golf magazines, social media and by teaching pros to get custom fitted the margin for error seems a little bit too large for my liking in the two examples. It does not fill me with confidence and in fact it confuses me even more. This is what has prompted me to write a series of articles on custom fitting.

I’m not denying that both setups offered some form of improvement on my current clubs, but there is not enough evidence in these fittings. What if you assumed all custom fittings were to the same standard you could of ended up changing clubs for some short term gains and be back in this position in a year or twos time.  That’s not value for money!

Surly the ultimate purpose of custom fitting is to find a set of clubs that are suited to your swing, standard of golf and to your future goals. Giving you the best performance not exclusively for a short term gain, but give you a level of consistency and performance you can rely on and improve with.

I would like to make clear that i do not have anything against american golf, this based on my own experiences as discussed. Of course if you knew the exact set up you wanted there is nothing wrong with buying from american golf if the prices and lead times suited you.

Next week’s article I’ll be continue to talk about custom fitting, but instead I’ll be at an independent golf centre that charges a small fee for fitting and specialise in it.

Until Next Time, Happy Golfing

4 thoughts on “Are Free Custom Fittings Worth It?

  1. Eight0eightnation February 10, 2020 — 11:49 am

    Great read Rookie! I for one have yet to have any kind of fitting, paid or free. I did once go into my local big box golf shop to look around and they told me I’ll get a free fitting if I bought clubs, well I didn’t but he did offer to go through some basic fitting plan and from what I came out with was that they take your numbers recommend a couple of clubs and shaft flex but that would be the extent of it, no shaft brand or type and no in depth trial of heads. The fitting felt rushed and not personal, I suppose because it was free. I am still in search of a respectable fitter.

    Like

    1. It’s difficult, I think a lot of people believe all custom fittings are the same. Part of it as well in understanding what you want out of the clubs you are looking for.
      Thanks for the comment.

      Like

  2. Interesting article Lewis, what surprises me, although I have had it in my visits to different branches, is how different their customer service is from each other

    Like

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