Just about every semester for the past six years or so, Henry-Griffitts Director of Account Management and Master Coach/Clubfitter Bill Boltz has visited the Golf Academy in Phoenix to conduct club fitting training seminars. The seminars are usually held in conjunction with PGA Professional Gary Balliet’s 3rd Semester Club Fitting class, but because of my wedding anniversary this past November, I was unable to attend.
Today was a make-up day of sorts for me, and it was an experience I didn’t want to miss! The guys who attended last semester couldn’t stop talking about it. In fact, three of my classmates ended up ordering Henry-Griffitts clubs simply as a result of Bill’s fitting demonstration.
It was an intimate gathering, and in the two-and-a-half hours Bill fitted the five of us (7 students on Tuesday), I was reminded of the power of club fitting and why it blows my mind just about every time I see it done successfully. Club fitting helps golfers reach their full potential. “When a player sees that you care about their game,” says Bill, “That’s when you’ve got em’.”
The whole point of a fitting is to neutralize the golf club so that the flight of the ball is influenced by the player’s swing and not the club. “Your job is to swing the golf club, not hit the ball,” Bill says. “If your clubs fit, you don’t have to work as hard.” The problem is, human beings are great compensators, and we adapt quickly.
Bill explained how lie angle is the foundation of the golf swing. Physics and science shows that you have to manipulate the club to hit good golf shots if the lie angle is off. Most lie angles are ill-suited for the player, especially the lie angles of women’s clubs, which are usually too upright. You have to re-check your lie angles after every swing change, and swing weight can absolutely affect lie angle.
Bill says the five Ball Flight Laws (position of clubface, clubhead path, clubhead speed, centeredness of contact, and angle of approach) are untrue unless the lie angle is correct and the club is neutralized. That sounds like heresy after four semesters of having the laws ingrained into us at the Golf Academy, but it also makes sense if you think about it.
The soles on Henry-Griffits clubs are specifically designed to produce a “quality mark” when hit off the lie board. If you don’t get a quality mark, you can’t get an accurate lie angle. In Bill’s opinion, the soles of the clubs of other manufacturers are inferior in that they’re not designed to give good readings off the lie board. The clubs are also developed more for Tour players, not amateurs.
If the clubface is open at impact, a mark is likely to be produced more on the trailing edge of the club towards the heel. If the clubface is close at impact, a mark is likely to be produced more on the leading edge of the club towards the toe. The club head design can also influence the mark that’s made on the face. Adding offset is going to move the mark more towards the heel whereas less offset is going to move the mark more towards the toe.
The second most important fitting variable is loft. Most golfers don’t have enough of it, especially off the tee, so they try to hang back and swing up on the ball or, if they’re a better player, will swing down on the ball, a steeper angle of attack. The problem with an angle of attack that is too steep is that is produces too much spin, so the ball doesn’t go anywhere.
More loft produces more distance because it produces more carry (up to a point) based on swing speed. You have to match the launch angle to the clubhead speed. I say “up to a point” because there’s a point in every golfer’s swing where too much loft produces too much spin and therefore distance decreases.
I loved the analogy Bill used to illustrate this point. He said, “If there water coming shooting out of a hose and you wanted to make it go further, what would you do? You’d tilt the hose up, adding loft. That’s essentially what adding more loft does to the golf ball. It makes it go further.”
That’s a story I won’t soon forget.
SNAG Golf Demonstration
Earlier in the day, our Advanced Teaching class met instructors John Lower and Greg Hall out at Folley Memorial Park in Chandler for a SNAG (Starting New at Golf) Golf demonstration and to learn more about The First Tee of Phoenix. I was first exposed to SNAG Golf last semester through my work as a junior golf instructor, and to this day, I believe it’s the best way to teach kids how to play golf.
SNAG equipment is lightweight, color-coordinated, and easy to use. Even bigger kids like us couldn’t wait to get our hands on it and start playing! Of course, it’s not cheap. A bag of equipment just to get you started costs around $3,500. The First Tee has incorporated SNAG into its after-school and Tiny Tees programs (Ages 4-6) but also uses it to introduce the game to older kids learning the game.
While SNAG is geared more toward teaching kids the fundamentals of how to swing the golf club, The First Tee focuses more on the social aspect of the game – building character and developing leadership skills in kids ages seven through high school graduation. The program is activity based and mastery-driven to let kids explore and learn.
With the addition of the TPC Scottsdale Champions Course site this Sunday, there will be a total of 15 Phoenix-area First Tee chapters (there are 250+ chapters nationwide). It’s a popular program. Lone Tree Golf Club in Chandler has 350 kids on its roster!
For just $60/yr. thanks to the financial support of charitable organizations such as Thunderbirds Charities, which distributes monies raised through the Waste Management Phoenix Open, students can take up to two 45-minute classes per week on weekdays and weekends. The Tiny Tees classes are usually offered once a month and cost just $5 per class.