MAXING YOUR GAME
A clubfitting with Srixon proves an education, and is an important step to improving your game.
If you haven’t yet gone for a clubfitting, you’re missing out on golf’s most game-changing technology. Not only will you find a set of clubs that could make this game easier to play, but you’ll learn interesting statistics about your potential.
Clubfitting is a growing industry in South Africa, with an increasing number of outlets around the country, and there are different ways of approaching it.
In Gauteng I went to a fitting with Srixon Sports, which began with hitting pitch shots using a wedge analyser, and continued on the range at the World of Golf with a purpose-built swing analyser driver that figures out the correct set of clubs for you.
And I visited an outstanding facility at The Els Club Copperleaf estate where leading teacher John Dickson works closely with clubfitter Rudy Mertz on the range, a two-in-one solution for improving your game. (See story starting on Page 48.)
Srixon Sports used to have Cleveland equipment, but that range has been replaced by Srixon, the mighty Japanese brand, more famous locally for its golf balls, which is gaining traction worldwide.The only Cleveland products they now import are wedges and putters.
While I was at the World of Golf, the No 1 women’s amateur locally, Ivanna Samu, was being fitted for her Srixon clubs to replace the Cleveland set she has been using. Last year, at age 15, she became the second youngest winner of the SA Women’s Amateur. Samu strikes the ball impressively, and I asked clubfitter Riaan Spangenberg, of RS Golf, to provide me with her TrackMan stats.
TrackMan is a highly efficient (and expensive) launch monitor, using radar technology. It works through microwaves reflecting from a moving golf club and golf ball, and gives you a wide variety of interesting data when the software starts downloading the result of every shot you hit on the range. Spangenberg says he concentrates on just eight sets of data when doing a fitting for Srixon. “We look at the important data which impact on a golfer’s game,” he said. “Things like hang time just don’t have any relevance for the average golfer.”
There’s clubhead speed and ball speed, which we’ve heard about, but if you divide ball speed by clubhead speed you get your Smash Factor. If you’re hitting balls with a driver on the range, monitored by TrackMan, this is one of the key stats that gets your attention. It shows the amount of energy transferred from the clubhead to the golf ball. My first smash factor was 1.44, and the figure to reach is 1.50.
Another absorbing stat for me which came out of all the available data was attack angle. This shows how steep you are coming into the ball on your downswing. It determines the club path and quality of the strike. Initially I was registering a figure of minus 1.8 degrees with the driver, which is a no-no. To maximise distance off the tee, you need to hit up on the ball and create an attack angle that is closer to minus one. Feedback from TrackMan on every drive taught me to stay shallow and do that.
Interestingly, women golfers on the LPGA Tour have an average attack angle of +3 degrees with their driver, while men on the PGA Tour have an angle of minus 1 degrees.
Spin rate, launch angle and carry are other important stats for the clubfitter when analysing a client.
I started the fitting by hitting balls with the Srixon swing analyser driver. The analyser is attached to the shaft and provides instant feedback for the clubfitter in terms of a number out of 10. This tells the clubfitter the suggested set make-up of a client.The better a player you are, the closer the number will be to 10. This swing analyser is currently available for fittings at The
Pro Shop or Golfers Club stores.
In my case it suggested that I put hybrids and fairways in my bag, and leave out long irons. That’s good sense for many golfers today. And the beauty of Srixon’s clubfitting process is that they will make up whatever set of clubs you desire. It’s not a case of having to buy long irons that you don’t need.
“If a golfer wants more hybrids in the bag, or a wider selection of wedges, we can do that for him or her,” said Srixon sales manager Mark O’Brien. “You’re not limited like you were to a standard set of clubs off the rack. And, here’s something special we also do in terms of irons. Your 5-iron head can be different to that of your 8-iron. You can have a cavity-back head for forgiveness in the 5-iron, while the 8-iron could have a forged head. It’s all part of our willingness to fit golfers better.”
Srixon marketing manager Chris Schwegmann summed it up best. “The idea is to fit the golfer, not fit the product,” he told me. “The clubfitting process is about adding value and knowledge.”
In a Srixon clubfitting you also try different shafts to suit your swing, and the one that performs the best is fitted to the set.
To check out which type of wedge suited me, a SwingByte analyser was attached to the shaft of a Cleveland Rotex 2.0 wedge. If you want to impress your mates with the kind of spin on pitch and chip shots you see from the tour pros, this club is incredible. The ball backs up quickly, thanks to micro-milling between the grooves, and a patented Rotex mill on the face. The analyser shows your approach into the ball (shallow or steep), and that determines the amount of loft and bounce you need when buying a wedge. Cleveland has the 3-dot system of bounce options. Thicker top lines and larger heads make them easier to cleanly hit tight shots around the greens.
O’Brien, who has for many years played provincial golf for Ekurhuleni, confessed that he’s not that clever with his short game now that he’s playing the Senior amateur circuit. He prefers Cleveland’s game improvement Smart Sole wedges. They are unusual looking clubs, but highly effective. The idea behind the Smart Sole is that there are only two kinds of short-game shots: a high, lofted pitch and a low, running chip. So Cleveland have offered two wedges designed to make these specific shots easier.The Smart Sole C is a 42-degree chipper with an upright lie angle to simplify the stroke, while the Smart Sole S, with its wide sole, makes bunker play that much simpler as the club tends to power through the sand. It’s also good out of rough.
Once my fitting was done, and it usually lasts between 30 and 45 minutes, I felt more empowered about my game. Don’t expect a lesson while you’re hitting shots with TrackMan in place, but the data you get is something valuable you can take back to your teaching pro.
“TRACKMAN DATA LIKE SMASH FACTOR AND ATTACK ANGLE WILL GIVE YOU A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR GAME.”