That’s me hanging out with Bubba at the PING facility in Oakville.
About a month ago, as the season wound down here in southern Ontario, my thoughts turned to new clubs. I don’t know if it’s my brain’s way of keeping golf right up there in my consciousness but I always start thinking of shiny new equipment at this time of year. Maybe it’s the promise of a better next season. Kind of like when you were a kid and you bought all those new back to school clothes and Laurentian coloured pencils! A new beginning!
So my search took me to the PING facility in Oakville for a custom club fitting. My fitter Ryan started the session by learning a bit about my golf game and my objectives for the session. Well what golfer doesn’t want to hit the ball farther so for starters I wanted to see if PING equipment could improve on my current set of 5 year old Callaways (okay maybe 4 years old – I’m trying to justify a new club purchase here). Secondly, I wanted help figuring out if I had the correct set makeup – did I need a 4 hybrid? Was I hitting it the same distance as my 7 wood? Should I carry a 3 wood AND a 5 wood? Or should I saw if off in the middle with a 4 wood?
After warming up a bit, Ryan had me hitting my own 7 iron to create a baseline. I hit a bunch of balls to get an average distance and then I started to hit balls with the PING 7 iron. To begin with I was hitting the women’s Serene clubs and then Ryan changed up the heads and shafts for some other combinations. The result – none of the PING combinations performed any better than my current irons. Bummer. Moving on to hybrids, Ryan was looking for the next club that would produce a 10-yard distance gap. That is, a club that would get me 10 more yards than my 7 iron. The next club in my bag is my 6 hybrid and I could have sworn I hit that club a good 10 yards farther than my 7 iron but the numbers don’t lie. At best I was getting maybe 7 yards so we had to move up to my 5 hybrid. I tried the PING 6 hybrid and actually hit that club as well if not better than my current 5 hybrid so finally… the potential of a new club!
Progressing through the clubs I was surprised to find that I had to move up to a 7 wood as the next club in my bag in order to get that 10-yard gap. All this time I’ve been carrying a 4, 5 and 6 hybrid – I guess I don’t need all those clubs! There wasn’t a great deal of difference in how I was hitting the 3 and 5 woods but we agreed that the 3 wood would be the better club to include because I was getting good distance especially when I hit it off a tee. And the 3 wood is a great club to hit on those long par 3’s – or on any other hole on those days when your driver just isn’t behaving.
So we finally get to the driver. I have to confess that the driver is the MOST changed club in my bag. Where I will keep a putter for 8 years, I likely don’t go more than 2 seasons with the same driver. Its that distance thing – maybe a new one will get me those elusive 10 more yards the manufacturers are always promising! Again we started with me hitting my own TaylorMade Burner driver – I’m not sure what the loft is but its high – it says HT on the bottom. I then hit the PING Serene driver with 12 degrees of loft, and then another combination of a different shaft with a G30 driver head. After all that, my own driver was the winner. Ryan explained all the numbers on the Trackman monitor to me – explained the optimal launch and spin rate and while my own numbers could be a bit better, none of the PING equipment could outdo my current driver.
We finished my fitting session with a putter fitting – yes you can be custom fit for a putter. PING has a cool iPhone app that will analyze your putting stroke – they attach an iPhone to your putter shaft and after 5 putts, I learned I had a “slight arc” style of putting stroke. This helps them determine the best putter for you because apparently putters are weighted differently and different types of putters suit different putting styles. Who knew??
So after 90 minutes and hitting what seemed like 1000 balls, the recommendation was that I don’t change my irons or driver but I could ditch my hybrids for the PING 6 hybrid and then round out my set with the PING 3 and 7 woods.
All in all it was a great experience and I came away a more educated consumer. I would strongly urge any woman to be fit for clubs and don’t just buy a set off the rack. Its like buying shoes – you know you’re a size 7 but not all size 7’s will fit you the same. You don’t have to go to a facility like PING but the next time you’re looking for new clubs try multiple brands. Hit the same club in all sets as an initial comparison – if you love your 7 iron hit every manufacturer’s 7 irons. But don’t stop there. Most golf retailers have simulators now so you can check to see if you’re getting enough of a distance gap between the clubs in the set. And remember, the store will always show a set made up of 4 iron or hybrid down to pitching wedge but you don’t have to buy them that way. If you find you’re hitting those hybrids about the same distance, go for the one that gives you that extra 10 yards over your longest iron. The same holds true with fairway woods.
I’ve decided to hold off my club purchase for now and I’m eagerly awaiting the Golf Digest Hot List edition in the new year. But when I do look at clubs again, I’m going to follow the same approach that Ryan used with me at PING. Then I know I’ll end up with a set of clubs that has been truly fit for me!