An Iron Fitting: Eric StullIn order to optimize a player's skill and equipment, Titleist believes golfers should be fit for their clubs by a PGA golf professional. This is the story of how Eric Stull, a scratch golfer, was fit for new irons by golf professional Jerry Smith.
Eric is a tall, strong golfer. After spending a year on another staff where he played a set of irons with True Temper's Dynamic Gold S300 shafts, +1/2" long and 2° upright, he decided to make the move to the new Titleist Forged 735.CM irons.
Eric measures 6'3", and his current clubs are slightly longer and more upright. Eric felt that a club change was the perfect time to change his clubs, perhaps lengthening them another half an inch.
I begin each clubfitting session by watching the golfer - in this case Eric, who is my assistant pro - hit shots with his current 6-iron. The 6-iron is a good choice because it sits right in the middle of the irons - it's not short like a wedge nor long like a 3-iron. Also, Titleist uses the 6-iron during their fitting process.
As Eric loosens up and hits a few shots with his iron, I watch carefully to see how his ball is flying through the air and also to see how his divots are faring: are they flat, even divots or does the toe or heel drag a bit through the ground? In most cases, once I start putting different clubs in a player's hands, it generally takes me about six swings to properly fit someone.
The Importance of Impact
Standard specs on a 6-iron are 37.5" and 62.5°, length and lie respectively. Eric is playing 38"/64.5° clubs, so I start him off with a Titleist 735.CM iron matching those specs. He hits the first well, but the next two are hit off the toe. The divot is a little deeper on the toe side, indicating that the club is either too flat or too short. Since it's 2° up, it may be a bit short.
Left: 38"/64.5° with contact a little bit towards the toe. Center: 38.5", 64.5° and good, clean contact. Right: 38.5", 62.5° was an experiment that failed: impact was way too far towards the toe.
Next, I hand Eric a 38.5"/64.5° 6-iron. He hits the ball quite nicely - the extra half-inch is serving him well. I use impact tape to measure ball contact on the face, but I also pay attention to the divots. With this club, Eric's divots are much flatter.
It's important to note that setup position does not matter in clubfitting - it's impact that matters. A golf club's toe is often a little off the ground in setup but it will return to level at impact as the hips clear and the left arm pulls the heel of the club up just a little.
For grins, I next gave Eric a club 1" long but with a standard lie - 62.5°. He hit the ball terribly, digging in deep with the toe and leaving shots out to the right. The ball flight was anything but penetrating and contact felt "heavy," in Eric's description.
Finding the Proper Shaft
After watching a few more swings with the 38.5"/64.5° and deciding on it as the specs, we next tried some different shafts. Shaft weight becomes an issue when you add a full inch to an iron, and Eric was interested in the Nippon NS Pro 970. The NS Pro 970 weighs over 25 grams less than the DG S300 in that length.
The general rule when fitting shafts is to take the lightest shaft you can swing reliably. Put a shaft that's too light in and you'll have trouble controlling the clubface. Put a shaft in that's too heavy and you'll sacrifice swing speed and distance. Eric handled the DG S300 just fine, but he also managed the Nippon shaft quite well.
Eric came to me playing irons that were 38" (+1/2") and 64.5° (+2°) with Dynamic Gold S300 shafts. After fitting him, Eric will be playing with Titleist Forged 735.CMs measuring an extra half an inch long - 38.5" - or one inch over standard. His lie remained the same at 64.5° (+2° upright) and he opted for the lighter-weight Nippon NS Pro 970 shaft.
Jerry Smith is the head professional at Tam O'Shanter of Pennsylvania, where he conducts dozens of fittings and lessons per week for recreational golfers. Jerry is a Class A Member of the PGA of America and a Titleist Staff Member.
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