When was the last time you treated yourself to a custom fitting and upgraded to a new set of golf irons?
If the answer is more than five years, then I would highly encourage you to consider a trip to the pit lane. That is what I did last month, and by the end of my session I was taking the chequered flag.
Now don't get me wrong, I get we are all in tough times right now in this brutal cost of living crisis that shows no sign of relenting.
But at the same time, we have still got to enjoy ourselves.
Otherwise quite frankly, what is the point?!
Hitting the course with friends and looking to better my score from last time out is certainly one thing that puts a smile on my face.
Until I four-jab the final hole for a round of 90, and WhatsApp the boys to tell them I am never playing golf again...
Now a brand spanking new set of premium golf irons will more than likely set you back in the high three figures, possibly even four.
But can you really put a price on peppering more pins and shooting lower scores?
I guess that answer will depend on how seriously you take your golf at this very moment in time.
Spending money on golf lessons with a PGA pro will certainly help improve your game, but the next best thing you can do is invest in your game by opting for a custom fit session to really iron out your flaws.
Despite being in my fortunate role as Editor of GolfMagic, a company I have been representing for 11 years now, believe it or not I had been using the same set of irons for what was coming up to five years.
While the majority of irons I have tested in recent years have impressed me on the whole, I had just never been able to part with my last trusty iron set.
Much of that has been down to adopting the famous old adage of if it ain't broke then don't fix it.
But after a timely visit to Callaway HQ in Chessington, and one very simple switch to my iron setup, that all changed.
My Callaway Custom Fit Experience:
I have been visiting Callaway HQ for business meetings many years now, but never had I previously entered their incredible Callaway National Performance Centre.
Entering the double doors and checking out the inspiring Callaway Tour Bag that was used at the 150th Open Championship and giant photos of the likes of PGA Tour stars Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele, I met up with one of Callaway's Custom Fit Specialists by the name of Chris.
After offering me a drink, looking at my current set up and discussing what I was looking to get out of the session, I explained to him how I was seeking an iron set that looked a little sleeker in head design but still offfered me the forgiveness I required as a 14-handicap hacker.
Chris got me to hit 15 shots with my current 7-iron before we progressed any further.
One very cool aspect of this fitting session was getting to hit balls on the sim down the iconic par-4 18th at the famous Old Course at St Andrews.
We actually got to play at the 150th Open venue for real earlier this year - WATCH HERE
After plugging in my data with my old set, Chris then offered me a couple of different head designs in the latest Callaway range.
He wanted to know which one appealed to me the most, and it was a very simple decision.
I pointed straight away at the Callaway Rogue ST Pro, as that is the one I already had my eyes set on following the club's launch earlier this year.
3 key benefits of being custom fit at the Callaway National Performance Centre:
- State-of-the-art Trackman club and ball measurement system.
- Technical information including club head speed, swing path, angle of attack, launch angle and ball speed.
- OptiFit technology – the ultimate in interchangeable head, weights and shaft combinations.
With my chosen Callaway iron model now in play, Chris then opened up his magic draw containing hundreds of different golf shafts. And I mean hundreds.
I told Chris that I had favoured a Nippon NS950 shaft in my irons for the past five years, so he seemed very keen for me to stick with that. He did want me to at least test out some other similar shafts though to see if I felt any difference in feel, control and balance to both the strike and my swing.
But after several hits with a True Temper Elevate shaft and a Nippon Modus 3 105 shaft, we both quickly discovered the Nippon NS950 was unlikely going to be defeated.
Then came the eureka moment...
Chris wanted me to try something in order to improve my launch and strike location.
My typical bad shot with an iron, particularly a long iron, is one struck on the thin side.
In general, I would say my average ball flight is fairly flat. So much so when I arrive at the golf course, I always pray for plenty of back pin positions.
With that in mind, Chris decided to extend the length of my iron by 1/2 inch to see if that made any difference at all to my strike.
It made an instant change.
I was suddenly hitting the ball straighter because I was consistently striking the golf ball out of the middle of the club face, rather than low and squiffy out on the toe.
Check out this cool 'Heat Map' graphic below that appeared on the screen during my fitting session. It showed exactly where I was hitting the ball on the face.
This was probably my best one of the day:
As a result of the ball coming out the middle of the face much more consistently, I was seeing an increase in my carry distance (164 vs 175 yards).
Damn, two yards shy of the PGA Tour average...
Throw in an improved strike location thanks to some added length, and the fact I was experiencing five years of improved technology, and I suddenly had the perfect irons for my game now in play.
Take a look at my results below to see the difference the Callaway Custom Fit session made to my shot data with a 7-iron:
ANDY 7-IRON AVERAGE: CURRENT SET (NS950) VS CALLAWAY ROGUE ST PRO (NS950 + ½)
ROGUE ST PRO
My spin stayed similar (just shy of 6000 RPM) throughout the session, but I was still getting more distance as a result of an increase in my clubhead speed and ball speed.
One of the biggest takeaways Chris noted from my fitting session, aside from gaining 11 yards carry distance with my 7-iron and improving my Smash Factor (ball speed / clubhead speed; 1.41 vs 1.46), was a gradual improvement to my club path (-5.9 degress vs -4.4 degrees).
This essentially means that by changing iron sets and making the 1/2 inch switch to the setup, my golf swing has become a little less "out to in" on the club path. As a result, it has contributed to straighter and longer shots, with less curvature and side spin.
Before leaving Chris and jumping back in the car down the M25, we then discussed grips.
There were once again plenty to choose from but I favoured a black/red Golf Pride New Decade Multicompound.
The Multi Compound boasts the Golf Pride exclusive Brushed Cotton Cord in the upper hand area for firm all-weather control, and a soft rubber material in the lower hand for ultimate feel and responsiveness.
My fitting session with Callaway took around 45 minutes in total, and the irons (4-PW) were then sent to me within two weeks.
I am also pleased to say the results I saw during the fitting session have now been transferred onto the golf course.
Long may it continue, perhaps even for another five years?!
Why upgrading your irons after 5 years (and opting for a custom fitting session) is a MUST if you want to improve:
1. Golf swing
After five years, even if you are a professional golfer, your golf swing will have likely changed quite a bit. Look at the PGA Tour players, they change their shafts, spec, models just about every year (some even every six months). Okay, this is because they can, but it does benefit them.
With our golf swings constantly changing, a custom fit session can iron all your flaws and play to your strengths. Only a certified PGA pro or club fitter can do this, so make sure you find the right brand and person to get the job done.
As you can see from my results in this feature, my new irons ended up being 1/2 inch longer and that helped me strike the ball much sweeter and longer than before. That was a switch I had never even contemplated having used standard specs for much of my adult golf career.
Throw in added golf technology, in my case nearly five years of technical improvements, and you suddenly have the best of both worlds.
Technology in our great sport is always advancing and although it's incremental, five years is quite a long time. Your old clubs, although still capable of shooting a low round, will be well behind the latest clubs of 2022 and 2023.
New custom-fitted golf clubs do not guarantee you will hit the golf ball further (although this did happen to me), but you will more than likely see an improved offline dispersion pattern to your golf shots as they will be much more forgiving clubs than before.
3. How often you play
Another reason why you might want to visit the pit lane where your irons are concerned is due to how often you hit the fairways. How often are you really bashing balls every week? If it's once or twice a week, just think how your iron grooves are feeling right now after a period of five years.
Durability of your golf clubs is vital, especially when it comes to your grooves. If you have been playing weekly for five years, that is well over 250 rounds you have been playing with your iron set. Your shafts and golf grips will likely have taken a fair battering, too.
4. Your game
A new iron set will help you become a much more consistent player, and your golf scores will benefit in the process.
As we said at the top of this feature, a new premium set of golf irons cost a lot of money, but if you are playing regularly then surely it is worth the plunge to help you lower that handicap.
Just do not buy off the rack if you can help it. Always opt for a custom fitting as that is the easiest and quickest way for you to improve, along with golf lessons of course.
When it comes to custom fitting, very few brands do it better than Callaway.