TEACHING & FITTING
John Dickson and Rudy Mertz are a teacher-club-fitter combination at The Els Club at Copperleaf.
There are few places better to go in Gauteng if you wish to improve your golf than The Els Club at Copperleaf. This Tshwane golf estate, which has boomed in popularity in recent years, has the most spacious practice range facility in the country.
Tucked away in a corner of the range, near the tenth tee, is a building where John Dickson, the No 2-ranked teacher in South Africa, works side-by-side with clubfitter Rudy Mertz in a well-fitted workshop. While operating independently most of the time, they form a unique combination in local golf.
It’s an indoor facility, but the doors open up, so while being fitted you can hit balls down the range, instead of into a net in an indoor studio. For some golfers it’s important seeing the flight of your shots, rather than being told by a computer how the ball fared.
Titleist use the facility on Mondays for their players and clients.
Dickson moved to Gauteng from Durban Country Club last year, and has quickly assimilated himself at Copperleaf. He has a steady flow of pupils during the week, ranging from top Sunshine Tour professionals to new golfers. Dickson loves to be busy, and is constantly coming up with ideas and introducing novel training aids to make lessons more interesting for his pupils. And now he also has Mertz on hand to add another component to his teaching bow.
“Teachers and club-fitters are a natural fit,” says Dickson. “If a golfer is looking to be fit for a new set of clubs, he or she wants to take a good look at how they are swinging before being measured for those clubs.
“During a fitting, data may show the golfer to be slicing or hooking the ball. Rather than being fit for clubs that will try to help eradicate those faults, the better option is to first have a lesson to fix the swing. In fact, you should never have a clubfitting when you are playing badly.
“And when I give lessons I encounter players with badly-fitted or unsuitable clubs which hamper their progress. One of our members, a well-built young guy, came for a lesson. He was hitting a big cut with his driver, and his tee shots never went further than 200 metres. I couldn’t fix him, but Rudy could. He had been fitted for the driver he was using, but at the time he had been recommended a regular flex shaft. His golf had improved since then, but the regular shaft was doing him no favours. Rudy took over and gave him a fitting. He put an extra stiff shaft into the driver, and the member straightened out his slice, and gained 45 metres off the tee, easily the biggest gain I’ve ever seen.”
Rudy is relatively new in the art of clubfitting, having undergone his training with master fitter Greg Smith, who operates out of the Wits Golf Academy in Johannesburg. He previously worked in the pro shop at Copperleaf, and has now found his calling. I asked him to replace the shaft in a Ping
i20 driver. The previous shaft had broken at the point where it entered the clubhead. Rudy and I soon discovered why.The Ping driver needed a special ferrule for the shaft to lock into. The person who had fitted the original shaft had glued it into the head. It was inevitable that it would eventually snap.
Gripping clubs has become easier for club-fitters. Replacing grips used to be time-consuming, and a golfer would have to wait for the grip to set before using the club. Rudy demonstrated with an airguin how, in a matter of seconds, grips are taken off and put on. In his workshop he had logoed Els Club grips. Effectively, with a clubfitter on hand, Copperleaf members can change their grips whenever they wish, in an instant.
Modern clubfitting is about radar technology measuring data. Dickson made an interesting point about clubhead speed, which differentiates the average club golfer from a tour pro. “It’s better to have a lower swing speed accelerating through the ball, than a faster swing speed which is decelerating,” he said. That's why smash factor is so important.” – Stuart McLean
John Dickson (centre) with clubfitter Rudy Mertz (left) and biokineticist Hannes Schoeman, who form part of John Dickson Golf.