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Are you playing the right clubs?
Carly Frost - Golf Today's Ladies Editor
October 2011

Custom fitting is the modern way of ensuring you buy the right golf clubs, yet there are still very few golfers that make that extra bit of effort to get clubs that are perfectly suited to their game. Golf Today invited three-handicapper Debbie Richards to experience a custom fit from independent specialists Golf Principles in Basingstoke for the first time and the results were eye-opening...

Are you playing the right golf clubs? It's a question that we should all be asking ourselves. The chances are, like most golfers, you have bought your golf clubs straight from the shop shelves. If you were lucky you will have taken a demo club out onto the driving range and had a few hits, but apart from going on your instincts of what looks, feels and seems to fly well, the rest has been guess work.

Step in custom fitting. It's a service that all the top equipment manufacturers offer but there are also a handful of independent custom fit specialists across the UK that offer a fitting where you have a choice of all the top brands plus a whole host of specialist golf shafts to fit. Golf Principles based in Basingstoke is one of them.

Company founder Jason MacNiven is a former TaylorMade European Tour Experiential Manager. After years of building clubs for the top players in the world Jason realised that there was a gap in the market for providing the same world-class service and attention to detail that Tour professionals receive to club golfers. It's a high quality service and the end result is that the customer walks away with a golf club that they know for a fact is optimised for their build and swing.

"The whole process is about maximising your game," explains Jason. "A golfer using a poorly fitted club is like a car fitted with the wrong engine - it just won't drive well! I am brutally honest with the customers that walk through my door and tell them what's right or wrong with what they're using. The beauty of being independent means I can offer a vast and unbiased selection of product."

The set-up of Golf Principles is impressive. It's a large indoor custom fitting studio where you hit into a net and your ball flight is tracked by a state-of-the-art Trackman launch monitor, instantly displaying the vital statistics of each shot you hit. The Trackman is accurate to within 0.001% and gives Jason all the information he needs to recommend the right clubs for every golfer.

"Justin Rose came to see me a few years ago because he had been struggling with his 5-wood - for some reason it was the one club in his bag he couldn't hit. After a few minutes of hitting shots on the Trackman it was obvious that the club was completely wrong for Justin. He wasn't hitting his usually powerful draw but fighting a weak fade. On closer analysis I discovered that it had been fitted with an extra, extra stiff shaft by accident! Which just proves even the best players in the world can be using with the wrong clubs."

The Golfer: Debbie Richards
Handicap: 3
Number of years playing: Since I was a junior!
Equipment background: I have never been for a custom fit before I've only ever bought clubs off the peg and based my purchasing decision on the feel and what seemed to hit the ball well. For the last year or so I've been really struggling with my driver. It's about 8 years old and feels a bit tired. It's not hitting the ball as sweetly as it used to and I'm conscious that as I'm getting older it's probably not doing me any favours in terms of distance. I'm looking for more consistency off the tee. My bad shot is a weak push out to the right and I'd like to find a club that I feel really confident using and hopefully hit it long and straight down the middle again.

Current driver: Callaway Big Bertha, 10 degree, fitted with the Callaway lightweight 55 gram shaft.

Initial driver stats:
Ball speed: 112 mph
Vertical launch: 11.7 degrees
Launch spin: 4010 rpm
Smash Factor: 1.32
Carry distance: 169.8 yards
Total distance: 189.8 yards

The Custom Fit Expert, Jason MacNiven, says:

Debbie has a fantastic technique and is clearly a competent player but the fact is her driver is not suited to her swing. You can see this from the Trackman statistics. The main statistic we look at is the Smash Factor - this is the magic number in custom fitting. It's calculated by dividing clubhead speed by ball speed and that ultimately is the calculation of how efficient your swing is. With a driver the optimum Smash Factor figure would be a reading of 1.50 and this reduces as the club gets shorter to around 1.35 with your irons. Debbie's Smash Factor with her current driver is just 1.32 - so the goal is to improve this figure and make her more efficient and effective off the tee. To do this I will get her to test a number of different shaft and clubhead combinations until she finds a club that not only looks and feels great, but maximises her performance.

When Debbie is swinging at her absolute best with great speed her current driver goes well, but when she is not quite on form her bad shots are really bad, and that's a sign not just of poor technique, but that she is fighting against a shaft that is too strong and heavy for her. This is evident in Debbie's shot dispersion statistics; nearly all her bad drives miss to the right of the fairway and don't travel as far. Because the shaft is too heavy she can't release the clubhead back to square and loses out on accuracy and distance. By switching to a lighter weight 40 gram shaft with a lower kick-point it will help Debbie to both release the clubhead back to square, straightening her drives and will help her to swing with more confidence and speed, improving her distance. Here are the results...

Recommended driver: Cleveland Launcher Ultralite XL270, 12 degree, fitted with a Miyazaki C-Kua 39 gram shaft.

After-fit statistics:
Ball speed: 119.7 mph
Vertical launch: 14.0 degrees
Launch spin: 3190 rpm
Smash Factor: 1.43
Carry distance: 178.5 yards
Total distance: 202.8 yards

Debbie's verdict: "I've never hit shots on a launch monitor before and I found the whole experience fascinating and really quite revealing. The statistics really do give solid validation to the benefits and weaknesses of the clubs you are hitting. I don't mind the fact that you can't see your shots fly. It focuses you on what looks and feels best and then on achieving the maximum performance. I was amazed at what a difference the new driver I was fitted for made to my overall distance and accuracy and the most important thing is that if felt so perfect too! The beauty of the service Golf Principles' provides is that I now get to take this demo club out onto the golf course and test it properly before choosing to buy.

I play my best golf when I am confident, and I can't wait to stand on the tee with no doubt in my mind at all that this is the right driver for me. Taking one of the variables out of the equation is huge. Now I know that the only thing to blame for my bad shots will be my swing!"

After her driver custom fit Debbie was so impressed with the findings that she decided to return to Golf Principles to have all the other clubs in her bag checked. Here are a few other interesting findings and recommendations...

Debbie's irons: Mizuno MX17, fitted with a 60 gram graphite shaft

Jason says: Debbie loves the look of her irons but her weak shots are powerless and often thin. Like her driver, she has a set of irons with a shaft that is slightly too heavy for her. I would recommend switching the shafts in her irons for a lighter weight option.

Debbie's woods : TaylorMade Burner 3 & 5 wood, 40 gram graphite shaft

Jason says: Nearly every golfer that comes to see me has a favourite club in the bag - one that by chance just happens to tick all the right boxes - the right weight, the right flex, the right loft and so on. Most of the time it's complete luck! Debbie has a perfect example of this in her golf bag as she is carrying a couple of fairway woods that have a lighter weight shaft and are perfectly suited to her swing, so it is no surprise that she loves them.

The only trouble is that at Debbie's swing speed there is very little gap between the distance she hits them. I would recommend that Debbie takes both woods out of the bag and replaces them with a 4-wood. This will free up a club in her bag allowing her to add in an additional wedge, which will vastly improve the scoring element of her game - the part that accounts for 60 per cent of the score.

Debbie's wedges: Mizuno 50 & 56 degree, steel shaft

Jason says: Like many lady golfers Debbie has opted for one of the only wedge options available in the shops and that's the standard steel shafted wedge. I would recommend that Debbie has the same lightweight graphite shaft fitted in her wedges as in her irons, this will give her much greater consistency of feel and playability throughout the set. In addition, if Debbie chooses to switch her fairway woods as I have recommended above she will be able to change her wedge make-up so that she carries three wedges with more even (smaller gaps) - I suggest 50, 54 & 58 degree - this will give her the ultimate shot-making creativity and options around the greens.

For more information visit or to book a custom fit experience at Golf Principles call 01256 359865 or email:

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