By Cameron Healey
I’ll be the first to admit that the opportunity to walk the fairways is sometimes frustratingly in short supply, despite being in the golf industry. As a 10-handicapper who is, for the most part happy with my game, I have learned to accept my limitations and know that The TOUR will have to get by without me for at least another year! I am quite able to—for the most part— just go out, shoot a score in the 80’s (or 90’s) and just enjoy the game of golf—in its entire splendor. Little did I know, however, that one of those limitations has been (for at least the last 5 years) that I have been playing with a set of irons purchased right off the shelf.
Yes, I can say that now with some confidence. And this is not because of the quality (or lack thereof) of the specific brand. Some golfers do, in fact, blame their tools of the trade. I can now honestly say it after spending two very illuminating hours with the Master Fitters at the new Bellevue location of Club Champion having a set of golf clubs that are custom fit and tailored to your own unique and “imperfect” swing is almost a necessity, assuming you’re somewhat serious about improving your golf game.
Now don’t get me wrong—the clubs available right off the shelf will likely work just fine for the average golfer and for those golfers who just want to get out to the course and enjoy the game. I am certainly one of them. But the prospect of playing with a set of clubs that gives me the best opportunity to shoot lower scores and increase my enjoyment of the game is, quite frankly, very appealing.
Club Champion is a national club fitting and building company, ranked by Golf Digest as one of the 100 Best Club Fitters in the nation for five years running. I recently stopped by their new 3000 square foot Bellevue location to get fitted for new irons using their Trackman launch monitors and also their 16,000 (on site) interchangeable club head and shaft combinations to find just the right fit. Under the watchful eye of GM Eric Hambleton, and Master Fitter and Builder, Andrew Obermeyer, PGA., I set the stage by first hitting approximately 10 shots with my stock 6 iron, helping to form a baseline for Andrew to compare upcoming head and shaft combinations.
We looked at variables such as club head speed, smash factor (measures your golf ball speed divided by clubhead speed), ball speed, spin rate, and carry—just to name a few. My first round of results included a clubhead speed average of 89.1 mph, smash factor of 1.27, ball speed 112.9 mph, spin rate 6673 rpm (6000 is considered optimal) and carry of 154.4 yards. OK, not bad. Andrew also noted the dispersion of those first 10 hits and most were landing “in the ball park” with the errant shot way, way off in left field!
As we proceeded to experiment with different shaft weights, not to mention swapping out the actual club heads, and hitting a ton of golf balls in the indoor hitting bay, Andrew seemed satisfied that we had settled on the optimal shaft and head combination that resulted in the best numbers– including the lowest dispersion rate for my new iron set. Perhaps not surprisingly, there were certain combinations that felt better than others and the swing analysis numbers popping up on the Trackman screen confirmed that feel.
It wasn’t until Andrew invited me to see the pictorial and swing data results on his computer screen at the conclusion of our 2 hour session that I truly understood what had just transpired! With a slightly lighter shaft (Bellingham-based Aerotech SteelFiber i80) coupled with the Srixon Z545 forged iron heads with stock lie, the improvement was not insignificant. Not only did my smash factor increase to 1.41, spin rate drop to 5880, but my average carry increased a whopping 29 yards to a 184.1 yds.—with a six iron. Not bad for a bloke in his 40’s. While I now need to rethink and re-calibrate my yardages, the prospect of improved play and lower scores with my new set of irons is pretty darned exciting.
Granted, the cost of a new set of golf clubs is not cheap, but if you’re committed to game improvement, custom fitting could well be the answer for you. And, the best part is Club Champion’s approach is unbiased– offering club and shaft combinations from all of the major industry brands. “Our approach is unbiased, with no promotion of any specific vendors. Our passion is to find the best combination of components to help customers hit longer, more accurate shots, and more often to lower their scores and enjoy the game more,” says Joe Lee, CEO and president of Club Champion.
Well, there you go! And to celebrate the Grand Opening, for a limited time until June 30th, 2016, the Bellevue store is offering 50% off full bag fittings– normally $350 (now $175)– and 33% off driver, fairway wood, long game, hybrid, wedge, and putter fittings. The studio is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.