Much discussion recently on Golfmagic has centred on custom-fitting, it’s benefits and even its disadvantages. New centres are opening around the country and one manufacturer even plans to install monitors in its 700 outlets to check the swing speed of every customer enquiring about its products.
Golfmagic member Duncan Baker, a six handicapper at Blankney in Lincolnshire, recently visited his local Ping fitting centre at Gainsborough Golf Club, where three bays are set up with state of the art Vector measuring equipment as well as a wide stock of clubs to try and even an artificial putting green.
Golfmagic grilled him on the experience:
My friend was looking to buy a new G5 driver and wanted to get custom fitted for it to ensure he got the right loft/lie combination. I went along and booked myself in purely out of curiosity to see what my strike statistics were (swingspeed, ball speed, height, flight, average distances etc.)
How long do you get?
Each fitting was booked through your local Ping dealer for an hour although after about 40 minutes we had isolated the best combination of shaft/loft options.
What does assessment cost?
It’s provided free as a service ensuring that customers get what is best for them. It is a natural extension of the Ping fitting programme.
What’s the range of equipment available to you?
Putters, wedges, irons, hybrids, fairway woods and drivers are all there in varying lies, lofts and shaft options and in every conceivable flex. Once you have got over the sheer scale of the number of clubs that are there, one of the assistants will move you into one of the bays. They open up the shutters at the side of the shop and you are looking down a driving range.
Once you start to hit balls, every conceivable statistic concerning the shot you’ve just hit will be analysed on £45,000 worth of software and be displayed on a large screen next to the bay. This includes ball trajectory (both ascending and descending), clubhead speed, ball speed, spin rate, horizontal deviation, flight path, shot dispersion patterns and horizontal carry.
The technician works through various loft options, and shaft options and different flexes to find the optimum trajectory, spin rates and dispersion patterns, all to ultimately give you the maximum carry distance possible for your swing.
It’s a very interesting experience - being able to completely analyse every aspect of the golf ball once it has left the club is a revelation, instead of relying on the way the ball flies.
In addition you hit real golf balls down a real range instead of into a curtain or at an image. So you feel that you hit a good shot and then can analyse it to see if the stats match the result. It's surprising. You can still hit a fair distance with bad stats, but when the stats are okay and you make a good contact, the results are very impressive.
What measurements were taken or questions asked about shafts you prefer or are suited for?
I was only hitting a driver and after a couple of balls the assistant moved onto a stiff shaft and we isolated other shaft and loft options until we had got the ball spin down and the trajectory up, according to the measuring monitor.
I only tried the drivers but the same fitting is available to all irons, wedges, utility clubs and fairway woods.
None whatsoever. The guys there are purely fitters. They adjust clubs to suit the customers and their end product is a recommendation, which they give you in a Ping cardboard wallet, together with a brochure. If you ask, you can get a printout of all stats from the balls you hit, even dispersion patterns.
That's as close to attempting to sell me anything as it got. The only way I could buy anything immediately is if I went to the pro shop next door and order the recommended driver through them. The fitters recommend you contact your local pro.
Could it be argued that the Ping session was merely massaging your ego?
I would say no because before I hit a ball, I had established what the fitter was looking for with my mate, and he did the same with me - attempting to maximise distance by reducing ball spin and attaining the optimal launch angle.
In your forum post you talked about the ‘smash factor’. What’s that?
Don't really know but it sounds good, doesn't it? It must be something measurable because they have it all programmed into the software - and they can pull up Bubba Watson's stats (he’s No.1 on the PGA Tour for driving distance with an average of over 320 yards, using a Ping G5 driver) for you to compare and marvel with your own.
What were your own stats? Average swing speed: 116mph (maximum 122 mph). Ball speed: add one-third to swing speed, Carry: 262 (max 272). Smash Factor: 1.56.
What was your overall opinion of the experience?
Very interesting session, I can seriously recommend it to everyone who is looking to improve. Fascinating to see the physics of golf working and how different shaft and loft options help to create the optimum launch angles and spin rates for a drive.
I would give the facilities 9.5 out of 10 (I felt that they could have had more shaft options available at the top end of the spectrum). As for the Ping staff they were very knowledgeable and eager to help. 10/10.
For further information or to book (waiting list currently extends until May): visit www.pingeurope.co.uk