John Dick­son and Rudy Mertz are a teacher-club-fit­ter com­bi­na­tion at The Els Club at Cop­per­leaf.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - The Golf Life -

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.

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