People are constantly asking me how much a golf club fitting can actually help them. Or they say something like, “Who cares if my clubs aren’t perfect, I’m not good enough anyway.”
I have written about this particular subject in the past, with expert opinion, but recently I have been able to experience firsthand the obvious problems of using bad clubs. I found myself in a situation where I had to use a friend’s set of clubs because I didn’t have mine.
Of course, I’m not going to turn down a round of golf just because I don’t have my own set, so I used his clubs for the day. My friend uses shafts that are much less rigid and we use clubs with very different designs.
Now, that’s not all bad when playing golf with clubs that aren’t perfect for you. Golf is more than just pulling your personal best; you can definitely have fun regardless of your score. You can also adapt your swing to the equipment during the round to avoid big pitfalls.
But for many of us, a score is important. And if you want to shoot your best round, using clubs made for your golf swing will help you enormously. Here are the two main things I learned after playing a round of golf with bad clubs.
1. They punish you even more for bad swings
One of the main benefits of using clubs made to fit your swing is that they restrict dispersion. You can still hit a hook or slice, but instead of hitting houses all day, you might be standing in the tree line.
For example, I have suffered from a bad connection with the driver all my career. Over the past few years, I have learned through adaptations and troubleshooting that a stiffer rod helps reduce that lateral rotation and prevents me from hitting it out of bounds when I miss it. I also usually couple an X-stiff shaft with a low rotation driver head.
When I used my friend’s soft-flex game enhancement driver, however, my tee problems came back. I missed the big shots on the left and also on the right. I tried slowing my swing to reduce excessive shaft flex, but without success. Instead, I found some success using its stiff and flexible fairway wood, which I relied on throughout the round, even on par-5s and long par-4s.
When you play the wrong tree for your swing, as I have clearly discovered, there are a lot of problems at stake.
Tim Briand, Senior VP of GOLF.com’s sister company, True Spec Golf, recently helped me break the rules when it comes to matching shaft flex to your swing. He says that, in general, a driver shaft that is too stiff will cause shots to take off too low, spin too low, and they will fly too low. A tree that is too weak, on the other hand, can cause shots to spin too much, fly too high, and expand scatter patterns.
While playing with a too weak driver shaft, I was left with two options: adjust my swing and figure out how to make it work, or keep losing distance and sprinkle it all the way. I actually chose the third option. I gave up and started hitting the most reliable 3 wood. That solution isn’t as fun or effective as hitting a driver long and straight, but it’s better than losing every golf ball in the bag.
2. Unpredictable distances that lead to less trust
So we’ve established that badly fit clubs cause more variance in performance, right? Well, this not only harms directional errors but also causes problems with remote control. And if your club head is delivered to the golf ball in unpredictable ways, how is it possible to hit the ball with precise yards?
One shot may rotate too much while another shot may have too little spin. Yes, mistakes and bad swings do occur, but using clubs and shafts that match your swing style works to tighten windows and make distance more predictable. Therefore, using improper irons for your swing turns club selection into a guessing game.
For me, using irons I did not know, I decided to aim for the center of the green regardless of where the pin was. I figured he’d give me the maximum margin for error when I inevitably picked the wrong club or hit an off-center shot. (This strategy, by the way, is good for golfers even when playing with perfectly matched clubs, so it’s something to keep in mind!) With my normal, fit clubs, I feel comfortable aiming to pins from certain distances, but when I can’t trust I have the right club, I can’t trust myself to stick a hidden pin. I played defense instead of offense for the whole round.
It’s not that fun to play golf when you are uncomfortable with your gear and constantly compromise. Peace of mind, comfort, confidence and predictability are important reasons for having clubs fit in your bag.
The round of golf with my friend was a lot of fun and I figured out how to make it work with his set, but in no way could my game be optimized with the wrong tools.
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