Recently, I spoke with Craig Allan, Master Club Fitter at Sea Island’s Golf Performance Center, about the misconceptions among gear heads, how Tour pros select their clubs and the importance of fitting for all golfers.
“DON’T CHANGE JUST TO CHANGE, CHANGE BECAUSE IT MATTERS.”
Allan says he’s been a club junkie since he was 10 years old, and now has his dream job; he’s a fitter at Sea Island where pros such as Zach Johnson and Billy Horschel not only call their home, but tinker with and dial in their equipment. He works with golfers of all skill levels, however, so he knows the mistakes amateurs and beginners make, as well as what they can learn from the pros.
Zach and Billy
Zach Johnson and Billy Horschel made news in the equipment world this offseason with their switch to PXG, a new equipment company headed by billionaire Bob Parsons. And both players made their switch to PXG under the supervision of Allan, so he saw first hand what a major equipment and sponsor change is like for a PGA Tour player.
What made them switch?
“Tour Pros don’t switch unless [golf clubs] are better,” Allan said. “The irons are undeniably better. [PXG] hit a home run with its irons.”
Allan said he and Johnson not only tested PXG’s new clubs on Trackman, but also took them out to the course to see how they would perform.
“He [Johnson] was peppering flagsticks with them,” Allan said.
While Allan says Johnson takes a very thoughtful and calculated approach to changing equipment, Horschel is less scientific. For example, Allan said once they find a shaft or club that Horschel likes and performs well, Horschel says “OK, I like it,” and it goes in the bag.
The different approaches to making equipment changes varies greatly between Tour pros, and Allan says he’s “seen it all.” Without naming names, he said “there have been some great players (who he has worked with), reluctant to make changes even when a club is better.”
“Sometimes [PGA Tour players] won’t switch because of familiarity with a club, but [a club] always has to be better before it goes in the bag,” Allan said.
Beginners aren’t good enough to get fit?
Should beginners bother getting fit, or should they build a solid game first? It’s a classic debate, and one a PGA Tour Master Fitter is more than qualified to answer.
“A beginner can absolutely get better [through a club fitting],” Allan said. “A fundamentally sound setup is most important, but if they have the wrong equipment in their hands, they will have to make compensations.”
He says any beginner who says he or she isn’t good enough to get fit is making a “flawed statement.” That’s why he encourages all golfers to get fit for golf clubs, even if it’s not a 14-club set. Of course, golf is expensive, and can be quite intimidating at first.
“If a player just wants to get a driver, or a wedge, 7-iron and driver, or a set with alternating irons, it doesn’t matter,” Allan said. “Just get golf clubs that fit!”
But seriously, who benefits most from a club fitting? According to Allan there are two types of golfers who benefit the most from getting fit. One is a golfer who is too stubborn to change his/her swing. They can see drastic improvements from getting proper equipment. Allan also says golfers who are constantly changing their equipment can also see huge gains… as long as they stick to them. They’re going to change anyway, so it might as well be into the correct clubs, right?
The golf equipment world is littered with information — some of it is the truth, some of it is very misleading. Allan breaks down a few of the common misconceptions he hears and reads from misguided golfers, which you might also hear in the GolfWRX Forums, below.
Myth No. 1: “Any shaft can fix any club.”
Allan says: All shaft companies can make a shaft that does certain things, but it has to marry to the club head. A lot of people think that they can put an expensive shaft in any club head and it will perform. That isn’t right. The club head and shaft need to be a marriage. Different shafts give you options to find that right mix.
Myth No. 2: “Tour players change grinds based on course conditions.”
Allan says: People think these guys are changing grinds for each course or for weather conditions. That’s just not true, most of the time. They play the wedges that are best for their game and swing.
Myth No. 3: “PGA Tour players are always changing equipment, so I need to keep up with what’s best, too.”
Allan says: Fine-tuning is more common through the year than equipment changes. Some guys are really sensitive to change, some not so much. But working with Tour players is easy because they know what they want, even the feel players.
So what can gear heads and golfers learn from Allan’s years of expertise and work with the world’s best golfers? Before making a change in equipment, make sure it’s actually better; don’t change just to change.