It's that time of year - coming up to Christmas - when most of us are maybe winding down our golf activity as the nights draw in but already thinking ahead to Spring and how we might take our game to the next level.
Though finances might be a little tight in the current climate, there's no harm in window-shopping the latest golf products and perhaps setting up a custom-fitting session through your local pro - just in case a new driver or set of irons catches your eye.
Putting myself in the situation of hundreds of thousands of golfers, whose mouths are watering at the prospect of new equipment being launched, I did just that last week and had the Cobra/Titleist fitting centre at Brampton Park, one minute off the A1 near Huntingdon, update my driver and iron specifications.
During its exclusive launch to European press last month at the Archerfield Links resort in North Berwick I'd had my head turned by the latest Cobra ZL driver (£299), which made a big first impression on me with its feel and distinctive sound so different from its predecessors, the ear-shattering Cobra L4V and the more refined and less noisy Cobra L5V, the first of the brand's adjustable-headed drivers.
I was disappointed to learn that since I was last analysed in 2008 my swing speed had dropped by 5mph to 89 mph - a likely combination of age, the odd pound or two around the waist and lack of practice.
However, the draw sidespin I generated (an average of 29 revolutions/per minute) matched that of a typical Tour pro, while the backspin (2,700 rpm) compared to a pro's 2,400 rpm was in the right area but creating a tendency for the ball to climb to much.
"Never confuse backspin and sidespin," said Dan. "Loft delivers backspin and can be your friend to keep the ball straight but it will tend not to give you the yardage you want. And the closer you can get to zero side spin will be to your advantage.
"With the lower lofts the pros use, backspin drops and the shot shape becomes more apparent. With amateurs it's finding that fine line between control and keeping the ball straight and also getting performance out of the club to get good yardage out of it."
Here's how Dan analysed my game and finally came up with a Cobra ZL club specification which he says will make the most of my ability:
"In terms of how you attack the ball, you get a little bit steep through impact, making it very difficult for you to launch the ball high and as a consequence you tend to strike the ball low in the face and delivery a low ball flight. By delivering the clubhead on an upward path to a slightly higher tee peg you will make the strike higher in the clubface and the ball will launch higher and quicker. Try to get your swingpath a little flatter through the ball to help that launch trajectory."
My ball flight
"Shot shape-wise you say you tend to lose it to the right on the bad swings, so we're looking to find the type of shaft to help you keep the face square (at impact) and straighter down the line while using the adjustability of the head (the Cobra ZL has three settings - a neutral 0.5-degree closed, 2-degree closed and 1-degree open, using the wrench supplied with each club).
"The main issue with your swing and flight pattern is the attack angle and the way you strike the ball. It's just a little bit low so in the fitting, we'll be working to get that launch angle up to 11-13 degrees from its 6 or 7 degrees. We'll try the 10.5 and 11.5 degree heads to see how high the higher lofts get in the flight and to see if they give us a better performance or whether they rob us of a little distance. We want a longer carry and total distance.
Over the next few minutes Dan inserted different combinations of weight and flex of Aldila Voodoo shaft, head loft and neutral and closed settings, analysing the results by eye and on the TPL monitor.
It soon became clear that the standard 59 gram Aldila Voodoo regular shaft (mid flex) fitted to a 10.5-degree head set in the closed position was the best combination for my swing as long as I concentrated on delivering the clubhead on a flatter path toward impact instead of the downward path I'd tended to attack the ball.
My final spec
"The Aldila Voodoo is a stock shaft with the Cobra ZL driver that has been tweaked to get the best out of the ZL head," said Dan. "I've now adjusted the 10.5 degree to 2 degrees of draw to help you hit it straighter and changed the shaft from the heavier regular, which was too strong and too heavy and preventing you from releasing the head. It had resulted in more slices, loss of control and too much contact low in the face and a loss of distance and yardage.
"By inserting the original 59 gram Aldila Voodoo shaft we've now got a 10.5 degree head releasing through impact which helps strike the ball better and on a straighter path. With a closed setting on the 11.5 degree loft it spun the ball too much and climbed without distance. You had to hit it perfectly to get the best out of it.
"The 10.5 (with the closed setting) will get the ball to flatten out at the top of its flight and not climb and stall. Getting the backspin rate lower enables you to still launch the ball nice and high and get a bit of release with your distance.
"The right specification will also effect the feel and sound of the club. Hit low in the face, the ball makes a distinct 'click,' higher and there's a softer sound to it and an improved feel.
Dan was pleased with the final handful of shots I hit with the Cobra ZL driver created to the preferred specification. Checking the monitor one last time he said:
"Good shape, straight down the line and the launch angle up in double figures. If anything, you get a tad low in your launch angle which is down to you. A bit steep still in your angle of attack and with spin rates we're getting, you're very slightly high.
"But it's a fair trade off and the higher you get your strike pattern into the face, the launch will start to pick up and the spin rate will start to drop. I'm convinced you'll get a good overall performance, from the new spec."
My new Cobra ZL driver arrived today and I'll report back in due course on how it performs.
Tell us on the forum...your experiences of being custom-fitted at one of the National Fitting Centres.
Footnote: To arrange a fitting at one of the national club-fitting centres - regardless of brand of club - it must be booked through your local PGA professional and will cost around £25 for either full bag session or for any combination of driver, irons, fairways metals, hybrids and wedges. Your local pro will be billed for the session and it should be passed on to you or deducted from any subsequent purchase.