I was recently in Wellington, NZ. Whilst there, I took the time to have my golf-swing analysed by a swing analyst using industry-standard measuring equipment. Basically, this gear involves two cameras – positioned side-on and from the rear – that measure club-head swing-speed, angle of approach into the ball and likely launch trajectory. They probably measure a great deal more, but that will do for the purpose of this story.
For some years now, golf-club manufactures have offered an increasing range of options to discerning golfers wishing to match the unique characteristics of their golf swing with the corresponding flex/kick-point/launch angle of the latest gear. Not so long ago, golfers would walk into a golf shop and select a driver based on looks, feel, and whatever they may have read. We would then make a decision as to whether we took the stiff-shaft version, the regular or the senior. Not anymore.
Many of the big manufacturers now have several different flex options within each of the five common flex ratings. Extra stiff, stiff, regular, seniors and ladies used to be our guide, but now there are several options within these categories. For example, assume a golfer has a club-head swing speed of 95mph, he/she may be advised to look at a club with a shaft of regular +5 or stiff +1 (depending upon the manufacturer’s code), as that is the swing speed that sits on the regular/stiff cusp.
The PGA Tour’s statistics, year-to-date for 2014, using tee-shots from selected par fours and fives, shows Bubba Watson having the fastest average club-head speed of 124mph. The slowest is Paul Goydos whose average is 103mph. As for the women, the average club-head speed on the LPGA Tour is 96mph.
But club-head speed alone will not determine distance. Ball-spin and launch angle play a part. There is many an instance where one player will consistently hit shots with greater carry but will still finish behind. Club and ball manufacturers are constantly working on providing the golfer with the best possible outcome. Possibly at the risk of making some great courses redundant, but that is another story.
All this is designed to have the golfer – of whatever ability – deliver the club-head to the ball with maximum efficiency for his particular swing. Now, more than ever before, the amateur golfer can have clubs fitted to match a particular swing, whether irons or woods, be they 5 or 25-handicapper. Now, people who sell golf clubs are not merely retailers; they are swing-analysts who, having analysed your swing on their equipment, will then recommend certain options that will work best for you. These options could involve TaylorMade, Ping, Titleist, Callaway, Cobra et al. They will have you hit balls into a monitored screen and inform you which club sent your ball longer, or straighter. You can then make an informed decision – unless you happen to live in Pattaya.
Wellington, my home town, is small. With a population of circa 400,000, it would not have one-quarter the number of golfers that Pattaya boasts. Yet the golf-fitting procedure I undertook is now regarded as industry-standard. The same would be true throughout the rest of the golfing world, except it seems in Thailand.
Aircraft luggage restrictions meant I couldn’t buy a driver from that Wellington shop, but I told them that from the outset. As a result, they recommended I take the info they had gathered and apply it to the manufacturer’s recommendation, in the event Pattaya’s golf retailers didn’t have similar equipment. In truth, golf retailing in Pattaya hasn’t developed from where it was 10-15 years ago!
From the large and well-presented golf shop in the Outlet Mall, off Trapprasit Road, to the Ping appointed shop on Third Road, they offer nothing but what you see in the rack. There is a shop further up Third Road which is sign-posted “Club Fitting” but unless you want Ping, you will finish with a composite club made up from different suppliers.
Golf is huge in Pattaya. Yet here, in 2014, golf retailers are asking customers to buy off the rack. With the options available today, buying golf clubs off the rack is not only archaic, but risky. You owe it to yourself to ensure your next purchase is fitted precisely to your swing. Only then can you assume all that effort you put in will be adequately and fairly rewarded. This applies to irons as much as it does to drivers.
The next time you walk into a golf retailer and ask to have your swing analysed, and they can’t do it, find someone who can. These days, golf-club retailers who can’t match clubs to your swing are simply taking the piss.
Perhaps there is a business opportunity here? Maybe you could be the first to offer Pattaya golfers a decent club-fitting experience? Buddha knows, it’s long overdue!