Saturday, April 28, 2007

Callaway Fitting at Indian Wells

I'm down in Palm Springs for the weekend before I head to the MIX 07 conference in Las Vegas. This morning, I had the chance to visit the Callaway Golf Fitting Center at Indian Wells. Unlike the cheesy launch monitor at Puetz in Seattle, the Callaway fitting center has a great setup. Several high speed cameras capturing launch angle, spin rate, head speed, ball speed, etc as well as capturing high speed video of my swing so we can look at it and try to figure out what causes that occasional duck-hook.

The setup is much like in this picture (except I'm not left handed). You're hitting shots from the tee box on the 18th at Pebble Beach and the plasma TVs right in front of you are showing you all of the details of your shot including an animated ball trajectory, layered over your previous shots with the same club. Once we established some baseline data with my own 6 iron, we then tried different Callaway 6 irons with a variety of shafts, then compared their data with the information from my club. All in all we tried maybe 8 different 6 irons with occasional returns to my 6 iron to see make sure the differences weren't just because I was getting warmed up. The club that ended up getting the best results (most on line shots and best distance mainly) was the Callaway fusion irons with a stiff graphite shaft and +1 inch length. The big change from my current Cleveland TA-5 clubs is the updated Fusion design and the graphite shafts instead of steel. I had noticed when I was trying the Taylor Made Burner a few weeks ago that a lighter shaft makes a noticeable difference in clubhead speed. This stayed true in this case.
6 iron stats w/ Fusion:
Head Speed: 76
Ball Speed: 106
Back Spin: 4480
Launch Angle: 21
Side Spin: 47
Side Angle: 0.50
Swing Path: 2.0
Angle of Attack: -3.0
Efficiency: 1.39 (93%) This is how close to the middle of
the clubface I hit it

After the 6 iron, we moved on to my driver. While my Nike Ignite was once godly, it has become wildly inconsistent over the past year or so. Way right, then way left, then way too low... Now, of course, much of this can be blamed on the guy swinging it, but as my swing has evolved over the past couple of years, the club has not kept up with the changes. The first 8 shots on the monitor were all over the place. Good to see the computer sees the same thing I do. We tried a number of Callaway drivers and soon settled on the FT-i. It looks kind of like a book stuck on the end of a stick (as opposed to my Ignite that looks like a Volkswagen stuck on the end of a stick). The unusual square shape is supposed to provide more consistent results even on shots that are not in the middle of the clubface, though I also think that the shape helps make it easier to line up and hit the middle of the club face. Either way, the results were impressive. The first three shots were nearly on top of each other - a slight draw starting out just right and working its way back to dead center. Sweet! I had a couple of bad shots but they were still not too far off from the middle - no nasty slice or duck hook like other drivers, including my Ignite, exhibited. We played around with different lofts and shafts and settled on the 11° stiff shaft with a neutral bias.
Driver stats with FT-i
Head Speed: 92
Ball Speed: 135
Back Spin: 2600
Launch Angle: 13
Side Spin: 57
Side Angle: 3.0
Swing Path: 2.0
Angle of Attack: 0.20
Efficiency: 1.47 (98%)

As we talked a bit more about customizing the clubs, we also decided a couple of extra wraps under the grips would make them fit my hands a bit better which would let me not grip so hard.

Finally, we looked at the video of my swing and he pointed out that I tend to slide too far to the right on the backswing, putting my weight on the outside of my right foot and then I slide back to the left on the downswing which puts me too far ahead of the ball and requires some pretty severe arm action to hit it. Trying to stay more centered with more weight on the inside of my right foot will allow more of a hip turn and will keep me in better position coming down on the swing. Seeing the video of this and this one tip really helped. This one little thing was simple enough that I could pay attention to it during my round that followed and helped a lot with making better contact and hitting fewer (almost none, actually) fat shots.

Interestingly, there was not huge pressure to order the clubs on the spot. Instead, he gave me the printouts of some of the info (I forgot to get some of the other ones because I was running late for my tee time) and gave me his card and said they could order them, or I could order them online. The tricky thing about club fitting is that you can't just go in to a store (or on ebay) and pick them up but once you get them, you know it is right.

The most pressing need is for the driver. I'll probably order that pretty soon since my Ignite is so unreliable at this point. I'll probably wait a week or so on the irons, perhaps go hit them again before placing an order but it will be nice to have something that I know is tailored to my swing. The only other thing I want to ponder is if another brand of clubs would work as well given a similar setup.

Stay tuned!

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