Understanding The Concept of Fitting

The Early Years

The history of golf has a long-storied heritage as evident by the volumes of books written over the years to preserve its treasured past. In the past five hundred years, there has been plenty of innovation and experimentation by our golfing forefathers that has developed slowly into what we have today. So, if you think that golf club fitting is a new concept, you would be sadly mistaken. In fact, the concept of fitting can be traced back to the roots of golf. 

To explain this, let us look at how golf clubs were made centuries ago. One of the first things you should recognize is the concept of mass produced or ready-made golf clubs and eventually the formation of golf club companies didn’t exist until 1890s. Clubs prior were custom made to order to fit a particular golfer, the same as a shoe cobbler would make a pair of shoes or a tailor would make a pair of trousers.  

As early as the early 1600s, individuals were appointed as official clubmakers to members of the royal family. But by the 17th century in the Scottish towns near Edinburgh where the game grew in popularity, each village had a clubmaker who would make the clubs from scratch. The way in which the fitting was conducted in the early day, no matter how rudimentary it may be by today’s standards, is still a form of custom fitting when you really look at it. 

For example, in the 17th century, all shafts were all made by hand. In the days prior to the grip (yes, once clubs were gripless) the clubmaker would shape the butt end of the wooden shaft to fit the golfer’s hands. Later, when grips eventually became available to avoid shock at impact and improve the handle on the club during wet weather, wool or linen was added under the leather strap to increase its size.

old wooden golf iron with wood shaft and leather gripold wooden golf iron with wood shaft and leather grip

To create “feel” clubmakers would often pair shafts of different hardwoods with different clubheads within a set. Clubmakers would carefully select or “match” the wooden shaft’s suppleness (flexibility) with the weight of the head. For example, a lighter head such as a driver was paired with a more flexible shaft material such as ash, while Greenheart was too heavy for anything other than niblicks and putters.

In addition, by sanding or scraping the shaft to form the taper of the shaft the clubmaker could achieve the right amount of “feel” or flex even though this might require numerous visits by the golfer back and forth to the clubmaker. In the event too much sanding was conducted on the shaft this would require the clubmaker to start anew.

Long before copy lathes for rough turning wood heads and large drop forging hammers became available for mass producing raw iron heads, the clubmaker handcrafted and finished each head. Various styles of clubhead, some of which are not allowed in golf today, were created by clubmakers to solve a particular problem or for special situations.  Experimentation was the necessity of the game. For instance, brass soleplates were created to prevent wear and tear from the bottom of a wooden head. Instantly that altered the shot by unknowingly lowering the center of gravity. Now the clubmaker had another option of altering shot trajectory other than by producing clubs of different lofts.

Golf in the Post Industrial Revolution

There are just a few examples as these are all forms of fitting. The way golf clubs were sold soon changed after the turn of the 1900’s as ready-made (or off-the-rack) clubs began to be offered to supply the huge influx of new players entering the game.  However, custom clubmaking did not go away completely. Custom club departments were developed by each of the manufacturers to cater to the elite or professional golfers of the day. 

On the mass production side of things, Lady’s MacGregor Stylized line of clubs featured a basic custom fitting system way back in 1935. It was broken down into four distinct types of players (Tall and Slender, Short and Slender, for the Stocky and lastly for the “Perfect 36”). While it was not as concise as the methods we will use to custom fit in the 21st century, it did recognize that not all players required the same club by promoting  the correct length, lie and weight to improve the stance and confidence in the game.

Lady MacGregor Stylized golf clubs fitting optionsLady MacGregor Stylized golf clubs fitting options

Through the 1950’s virtually all golf club manufacturers adopted the practice of matching one shaft with one specific clubhead design.  For example, a lighter more flexible shaft was paired with a shallow faced driver for slower swinger while a stiffer and heavier shaft was mated with a deeper lower lofted driver. In effect, the manufacturers recognized the entire golf club was a system that needed fitted to the requirements for the golfer instead of the practice we see today which is offering the exact same clubhead design with different flexes and bend points of shafts.

Resurgence of Custom Clubmaking

In the 1970s, a resurgence of custom fitting soon sprung up generating a demand for club repair specialists to perform the work. Instantly a new industry was born, creating a market for tools and component supplies with which alterations to the old clubs could be made. Re-shafting classic clubs with shaft specifications that fit the golfer’s own individual needs, altering the wooden club’s face to a particular loft or face angle or peening lead weight underneath the soleplate to increase the swingweight became more common instead of accepting the club as it came from the manufacturer.

The current generation of golfers will credit Ping Golf (Karsten Manufacturing) for exposing them to the concept of custom fitting. In 1972, Ping introduced its color-coded system for lie angles complete with a diagram showing where to take measurements from and the accompanying color-coded charts displaying proper lie angles based on the golfer’s height and wrist-to-floor measurement. These charts, while modified over time, are still used to fit players today.

In the late 1970s, a horrific car accident left teaching pro Randy Henry with a broken back. Using himself as a guinea pig, he began developing a system in which to fit players based on their natural swing. His efforts soon lead to the creation of Henry Griffiths, a pioneer in custom fitting as they began to offer custom-made clubs as an alternative to off-the-rack clubs that dominated sales for many decades. Slowly but surely, more and more manufacturers began focusing on custom fitting although it was still a very low percentage of the clubs they sold compared to their ready-made equipment.

Behind the scenes at a PGA Tour event is another example of custom fitting at its finest by the work of the tour van technician. At first it was independently owned and operated tours vans run by the likes of the legendary Lou Gibson amongst others who followed and serviced the tour pros. This occurred many years before the corporate vans (or semis) you would see prior to the events today. In the comfy confines of the trailer, Gibson would repair and alter the player’s equipment on site to suit their needs.

Lew Gibson and Senior PGA Tour Repair VanLew Gibson and Senior PGA Tour Repair Van

Soon shaft manufacturers saw an opportunity to work hand in hand with the best golfers in the world in their own playground. True Temper was one of the first to invest into tour trailers and a staff to go from coast-to-coast over 40 weeks out of the year. It was not long afterwards that large original equipment manufacturers unveiled tour vans to travel along the circuits providing their players with the royal treatment and readying them with best possible equipment.

True Temper Tour VanTrue Temper Tour Van

During the 1980s and even proceeding today, component suppliers such as GolfWorks, Golfsmith, and Dynacraft Golf not only authored books on clubmaking, club fitting and repair, but began training thousands of independent clubmakers and club fitters in 3- and 5-day schools at their facilities. These intensive programs provided not only a classroom setting to learn all facets of clubhead design, shaft specifications, etc., but also hands-on training that the student could immediately apply once they arrive back home to their shop.

Dynacraft Golf Clubmaking school classroomDynacraft Golf Clubmaking school classroom

Independent organizations like the Professional Clubmaker’s Society and the Professional Golf Club Repairmen’s Association emerged to form a network of those who had the desire and thirst to learn and advance their skills and to service their local area. Today, the International Clubmaker’s Guild and the Association of Golf Clubfitting Professionals serve as examples of organizations that foster the growth of the business.

In the 2000’s, major manufacturers began to concentrate more on the custom side to augment their strong distribution channel of ready-made clubs. Manufacturers created their own fitting carts strictly for green grass and off-course facilities to demo their wares. As the end of the decade approached, these fitting carts became more comprehensive, complete with interchangeable fittings that the pro or a technician could screw together club combinations with different heads and shafts. The pro or technician could allow the golfer to hit the exact combination on the spot. Now all the sudden, “custom” is hip once again.

What exactly is fitting?

Before you begin fitting, you should have a good grasp on what you are attempting to do. “What is fitting” is an incredibly good question and the answer may vary depending upon who you ask. In the simplest terms “fitting” or “to fit” can mean any of the following:

  • Adjust or make conform.
  • Equip
  • Measure or to cause to be the proper size.
  • Be in harmony.
  • Put in position.
  • Be suitable.

As you can see there are many meanings for the word fit. This book was not written to make an argument that there is only way to fit, rather it is designed to address all the different types of fitting that can occur, and you can make you own judgment on what level or degree that you may want to conduct your fittings.

Understanding the Concept of Custom Fitting - How We Shop and Fit for Clothes

One of the best analogies of what custom fitting is all about is how we shop for clothes. After all, each one of us wears clothes as we can’t go running around in public naked. Thank goodness there are laws for that! But at some time in our life, we all shop for clothes whether it is for yourself or someone else. So, you should have some clear ideas of the concept of fitting; maybe not explained in the following manner. 

I have helped golfers get fit now for over 30 years, but one thing that always amazes me is how potential customers inquire about purchasing new golf clubs. They may come into the shop or call you on the phone and all they say is “I am 5’ 10”, what do I need?”  The analogy is not much different than someone buying clothes. The key difference is unlike golf clubs, which may only apply to one out of every 10 people in the US population; every person requires clothing and has a general idea as to what size he or she needs.  But that does not mean they know their exact size. If you look at the number of ways we shop for clothes, this can help you understand all the ways that golf clubs can be purchased and/or custom fit.

Here is a list of the six specific ways in which to be fit or purchase clothes that can be broken down as follows. I will attempt to explain how it all ties into fitting golf clubs.

Type Description Fit Price
Hand-Me-Down, no alterations Used and passed on to somebody else Poor zero
Hand-Me-Down with alterations Basic resizing to make it more comfortable Fair $
Off-the-Rack, no alterations Bought and thrown on; fit can be fine if you are a standard size  Good $$
Off-the-Rack with alterations Manufactured to a standard but altered after purchase Pretty Good $$$
Made to Measure Adjustments made to a manufacturer's standard according to your measurements, with more alterations after delivery Very Good $$$$
Bespoke Fully custom made with multiple fittings Excellent $$$$$

Hand-Me-Down, No Alterations

The first example of fitting is no fitting at all. Many times, younger kids often get hand-me-downs from an older sibling. These clothes will be used and simply passed onto someone else that can use them. In any event the clothes may or may not fit precisely. However, the argument is that the child is going to grow out of them anyway. Plus, the clothes have already been paid for so why not wear them? Who cares if they do not fit precisely, the kid is only going to get them dirty, stained or ripped up.

For a beginning golfer, hand-me-down golf equipment from a sibling, husband, uncle, or grandfather is often how many obtain their very first set of golf clubs. In the case of the hand-me-down golf clubs, no fitting whatsoever is done. If the clothes are too big, mom or dad simply just rolls up the sleeves or the cuffs of the pants as a temporary fix. With hand-me-down clubs, often the golfer just grips down on the golf club until it is comfortable.

Hand-Me-Down with Alterations

The best-case scenario with ill-fitted clothes is mom may take out the scissors and cut some length out of the pants and then take a needle and thread to hem the bottom of the pants. With hand-me-down golf clubs, dad or grandpa may cut off the existing grips, shorten the shaft from the butt ends and slip some new grips on. Even basic resizing can be considered one form of fitting and that is often the most affordable.

The most common method of obtaining clothes is purchasing them off-the-rack. This same practice holds true for golf clubs. Why? The number one reason is convenience. Let us say you are in the store and see a short-sleeved polo shirt that looks appealing with the right color and pattern. You look at the tag and it says large. Without even trying it on, you head for the checkout counter. In the past, you have found that large fitted you just fine. But once you get home you look at your closet, you remember that you have several “large” shirts; some of which fit fine, some are a little loose and some might just be a little tight. Why? Well, there is no industry standard for sizing.

large polo golf shirt label sizelarge polo golf shirt label size

If you do not believe me, try buying clothes for your wife, girlfriend, or mom. I simply gave up a long time ago and just let my wife go to the store and pick out what she wants instead of making her angry at me because I bought something that was too large or too small. Believe me you are not going to win any bonus points guessing the wrong size, even though you looked in her closet and peeked at the labels on a handful of clothes.

To give you an understanding why, consider this. Even though there are US standard sizes for women’s clothes, there are no “official” US standards. In the 1940’s and 50’s, standards were developed.  However, sometime in the 1980’s stores began to deviate from this standard. The clothing industry abandoned the old standards, although most claimed they were adhering to them. Why? The smaller sized store brands made the women feel good that they could fit into several sizes smaller. In contrast, it is a badge of honor for big and tall men as they are proud of the fact that they have stores devoted especially to them.

The ASTM (The American Society of Testing and Materials) also published a standard. For those who are unaware of the ASTM, they are one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world comprising over 32,000 members such as representatives of government, manufacturing, academia and even ultimately consumers. The ASTM develops standards for manufacturing among other things. This not-for-profit organization has no technical research or testing facilities; work is done voluntarily by its members. I was briefly a member of the ASTM in the early 1990’s when the golf industry was attempting to adopt standards on golf shafts. So there again are parallels to the clothing industry.

The clothing industry never adopted the ASTM standards, however their standard matched more closely to store and catalog sizing than did the US standard sizes. Therefore, both standards may be used even though they are different. Likewise, the golf industry does not have any universally adopted standard either as manufacturers are free to design their goods to several different parameters although there are certain guidelines set forth by the USGA in their Rules of Golf. This is why I say:

“The only standard in the golf industry is there are no standards.”

Now that we have established there are no broad-based standards for all clothing, there are baselines or a basic standard guideline. These specific values as used as a comparison of control and based upon statistical averages to create as best-fit as possible. 

Let me introduce to you a term with which you are probably unfamiliar. Anthropometry is a field of study in the measurement of humans. Statistical data is collected of the different body dimensions and is used to help play a key role in industrial design, ergonomics, and architecture and how clothes are made. Even golf clubs are built based upon average proportions for such parameters as length, lie and grip size.

For example, manufacturers know that the average height of a man in the US is approximately 5’ 9” and for women it is 5’ 4”.  The average weight is 180 pounds for men and 147 pounds for women. The average shoe size for men is 10.5 and for women 8…and so forth.  The US Federal government published a detailed study of a variety of body measurements (MIL-STD-1472). These not only included basic information such as height and weight, but measurements from elbow-fingertip length, calf length, waist height, palm size and numerous other parameters. This was used to create uniforms, boots, flight suits, etc. for a broad range of body types.

Therefore, what is categorized as “medium-sized” may fit the profile of the average sized adult male or female. Those taller or bigger could be categorized as large or extra-large and those smaller as either small or petite. Again, these are general guidelines without being specific. If you are fortunate enough to have an “average” body build, then buying off-the-rack is probably a safe bet.  After all, here is a surprising statistic:

  • Average height for women: 5 feet, 4 inches; 163 cm. About 68 % are between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 7 inches.
  • Average height for men: 5 feet, 9 inches; 174 cm. About 68 % are between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 11 inches.
  • 99.7% of women are between 4 feet, 8.5 inches and 6 feet, 0 inches in height.

More than two-thirds of men and women are within 3” of their respective average heights.  Let me say this one more time, when you look at all women, only one-third are outside of this relatively small range.  So, it is not surprising that manufacturers can concentrate their efforts more on only 2/3 of ladies who are within +3/-2 inches in height of each other.   It makes sense those outside this range will most likely need custom sized clothing.

Unless you have lived a sheltered life or have been living under a rock, you are all already aware of the following:

“One size does not fit all.”

If you look across a crowded room or area where a lot of people have gathered, one thing you will notice is how physically diverse the group is. Even individuals of the same height can vary dramatically in size or weight from one to another. This leads us to the next form of fitting clothes – custom fit.

Basic Fitting (Self-fitting off-the rack)

Even manufacturers know that one size does not fit all so they make ready-made or off-the-rack products available in multiple options. This way one can self-fit themselves with limited information or without the assistance of a salesperson. A good example of this can be found when shopping for jeans. 

For example, when a typical male (5’9”) goes shopping for a pair of jeans, they do not base everything upon his height, rather two important pieces of information. If the person knows what their waist and inseam measurements are, they can purchase a pair of jeans that will most likely fit without having to try them out.  Then the jeans can be selected or paired down based upon the color/finish and leg cut – both of which are personal preferences.

34 x 34 jean size label34 x 34 jean size label

Ready-made golf clubs are offered with the same head, grip, and length. These are what are referred to as stock options. But these same clubs will have different options for loft, flex and (right or left) handedness to offer different options to fit as wide a range as possibly with a limited number of SKUs (stock keeping units).

However, is this form of custom fitting going to create a perfect fit all the time? No, because these are only two pieces of information as in our case with fitting for jeans. And while particularly good pieces of information at that, it does not provide all the pertinent information necessary for a perfect fit. When I was in high school, everyone at that time wore Levi’s. I was one of the fortunate ones who could look at the tag for the waist / inseam measurements and would almost be assured that they would fit before trying them on.

However, there was this one person in our class who played football as well as wrestled and later went on to play football in college. He was extremely muscular, especially in the thigh area. One thing I vividly remember was no pair of jeans off-the-rack would fit his physique. Back then his jeans had to be altered by cutting the sides and sewing inserts into the thighs.

Most men who go into a store to look for a pair of shoes, go in knowing what size they have normally used in the past. For instance, that size may be a 10 (U.S. Men’s Shoe Size). However, most have no idea of what this size means. One guess would be 10 inches, which would be close.  In the case of a men’s size 10 shoe, the inside of the shoe measures 10.69”. However, this is just one parameter regarding shoe size. The other is the width. These range from narrow, medium to wide. Most shoes purchased off the rack are most likely to be medium or standard sized and to be honest, most men do not know shoes come in various widths or know exactly what width they should use. For the record, especially if your feet hurt, medium width of a size 10 shoe is 4.0”. For narrow it is 3.8” or less and for wide it is 4.2” or more.

For custom fit shoes, multiple points of reference create a better fit (length, width and arch is the third). The Brannock Device® foot-measuring device was designed in 1927 to address custom fitting of feet and became the standard in the industry even today. Coincidentally, it is about the same time that the swingweight scale was developed for the golf industry as a fitting / measurement tool.

Have you shopped lately for a dress shirt? You can go into a store knowing a few of your measurements such as your sleeve length and neck size and go through the bins looking for that size. After all that is why you took the measurements and the reason the shirts are labeled that way. But according to Janine Giorgenti, a New York fashion designer and speaker in her “Dress for Success” seminars says “Calling these shirts custom is misleading to shirt buyers! Just customizing sleeve length and neck size doesn’t really provide a custom fit for 90% of men.” This statement will seem obvious for several reasons as the shirt may still not fit as it does not consider such things as your chest size or your shoulder width. Men with large chests or belly section or those with broad shoulders will find the shirt to be too restricting compared to a flat-chested man of medium proportion.

The Self-Fit Check

To evaluate if an item does fit, a patron can pick clothes off the rack and head to a dressing or fitting room to try the clothes on. This is in a private atmosphere where the person can examine themselves in a mirror to be sure the look and more importantly the fit is proper before purchasing the items. The “self-fit” method may also be known as the “trial and error” method of fitting. 

The equivalent in golf clubs is grabbing clubs off the demo rack or borrowing a friend’s club and hitting balls at the range or into a net. Over time, the golfer might stumble onto a club that works better than the rest. Golfers looking for self-fit should be aware of this. Most clubs you find on a rack at your local golf specialty store or on or off-course shop will likely be each company’s “standard” offerings.  If you are looking for more variety other than the most popular lofts and shaft flex, you are not going to find it on a rack.

Trial and Error Fitting

Over time you are bound to stumble onto something that works better than what you have if you try enough clubs. A club fitter’s responsibility is to use their knowledge to vastly accelerate that process.

Sales Assisted Fitting

Some dressing rooms may have a personal assistant to help one find the style and fit for the individual. It is important the assistant should be knowledgeable of the products they offer. They may also have tape measure and charts to reference different lines and which models may be a good choice for the customer.

Sales associates at sporting goods stores or big box golf retailers will sometimes be trained by their own staff or more likely to have each of the club manufacturer’s sales representatives go over the key points about each product they sell. The sales associate’s job is to assist or direct the customer into a suitable product for their needs much the same way you would walking in a store looking to purchase a refrigerator or high-definition TV. 

There is no fitting other than perhaps seeing the person swing a club into a net in the back of the shop and noticing they swing hard and might be advised they need a stiffer shaft. Or if the player slices, one particular “draw-biased” model might be better than another model the customer might be deciding between.

In recent years, golf specialty stores have become more advanced by offering their customers more detailed information and services. Instead of a sales associate, the customer might consult a club technician who will conduct an extensive fitting session.

Off-the-Rack with Alterations

Ready-made clothes are often purchased off-the-rack and then altered to suit the person. Think about the bride-to-be looking for her wedding dress. To save money, she may shop the clearance rack at the local bridal shop for a style she likes. Then she may have a seamstress alter the sizing so it fits her for what might be the most important day of her life. The seamstress could be a professional who hires out her skills or it could be an acquaintance and do-it-yourselfer that just happens to be very handy with a needle and thread that wants to help.

In larger shops or retail stores the tailor often has assistants to help with such things as measuring customers, pattern making, stitching and other tasks. These assistants usually start out as an alterationist. Their job is to do tasks such as hemming trousers to adjust the length and taking in or letting out the waist area of pants and skirts. Not only will they adjust the fit, but the alterationist may also replace broken zippers or missing buttons on garments.

An alterationist in the clothing world would be the equivalent of a club repairman in a golf specialty store or on or off-course pro shop.  They will take clubs that are ready-made and make quick alterations to suit the player. For instance, you may hear, “I don’t like that grip, can I have another style or perhaps size.  Can you make that club ½” longer (or shorter)?”

epoxying a graphite shaft extender into the butt end of a shaftepoxying a graphite shaft extender into the butt end of a shaft

The clubs could come from the store or shop or perhaps brought in after purchasing the club on eBay, used club bin or from their next-door neighbor’s.  The distinction between off-the-rack with alterations and the next part I will discuss is who is ultimately responsible for the fitting.  In the case the customer wants the club longer or shorter or wants another style or size of grip may be solely the responsibility of player and not the club repairman (alterationist).

Just like there are many do-it-yourselfers who will alter clothes, there are many do-it-yourselfers who will do basic alterations on their golf equipment. Component suppliers such as Hireko cater to those hobbyists who like to tinker with their own clubs. This is another example of self-fit.

Made to Measure (Order)

If you are tall, short, lanky, or overweight, you have one arm or leg longer than the other or clothes off-the-rack simply do not ever seem to fit, you have probably investigated made to measure or sometimes said as made to order clothes. This is an alternative to paying someone else to alter a brand-new garment and often it can be more economical.

Step one is usually to find a consultant or someone that can measure your sizes and record that information for you like weight and height for men, and height, weight and bra size for women, the proportions of their hips and thighs, among other things.

The next step is to find the style and fabric you want in the garment you have selected. The last step is for the tailor, dressmaker, or another qualified individual to customize the existing pattern and size it correctly to fit the proportions of the individual.

Most golfers that get “custom” fitted for clubs go under the made to order category. The technician or fitter is equipped with some basic tools like a ruler to measure hand size or wrist-to-floor measurements or a radar unit to measure swing speed. The technician can look at charts to help determine which clubs may be suited based on the fitting system of the manufacturer. In other cases, they may have a more elaborate set up with a launch monitor and computer to analyze data, while their customer hits balls into a net with the selection of clubs they have on hand.

The technician at the golf specialty store or the on or off-course pro shop will order the club to suit the golfer using the stock set up as the baseline. For instance, the golfer’s hands might be larger. Instead of taking one of the standard drivers off the rack, cutting off the grip and replacing it with a larger model in the style the customer liked, that club is ordered directly from the manufacturer.

Most major manufacturers have what are referred to as custom options. They may have 15 different grips and 30 different shafts that have been qualified for use in their clubs.  With irons and wedges, these can often be altered for lie angle and bent at the factory or the lengths can be slightly longer or shorter. In a matter of a week or two, the club shows up and the customer can pick it up. Again, these are all stock items with minor modifications that have been made to order.

custom golf shaft and grip options from Titleist websitecustom golf shaft and grip options from Titleist website

On-Line Custom Fitting

I like to categorize on-line fitting under made to order, but separate this from on-line purchasing, which is simply buying ready-made products. Custom sized clothes can be purchased off the internet with a click of the mouse. The customers from the privacy and convenience of their home can enter several measurements into the website’s custom fitting form and the on-line retailer can produce the clothes to fit the specifications. These might be measurements one has taken from a recent professional fitting or ones the customer took on their own.

Custom fitting forms can vary considerably from one on-line retailer to the next.  Often the better fit will be a result of the on-line retailer asking for additional measurements or having a reference book of various manufacturers’ sizing. In addition, there are virtual fittings where the customer can see ahead of time what the pattern of clothes would look like on them.

While you can imagine the downside to fitting on-line, merchandisers are getting more advanced. One company called The Right Size asks customers to supply information about their own best-fitting, most-liked clothes and then returns a list of the clothes that most closely fits that profile. The technology uses ‘dynamic clustering’ a method used by weather forecasters to predict patterns, to reduce merchandise returns from online shoppers.

on-line custom golf club ordering pageon-line custom golf club ordering page

In a matter of days or weeks, someone from perhaps a half a world away is customizing an existing pattern and sizing it correctly to fit the individual based upon the measurements typed into the on-line fitting form. Made to order golf clubs on-line is not a new concept and continues to grow each year. In many cases a virtual gallery will show what the completed club (components) will look like. But aside from the cosmetics of the club, the customer is expecting something more; a club that will work well for them based upon the information they provided. 

If the golfer had paid for a professional fitting, often they will be able to take that information with them. That information could then be used such as ½” longer, 2 degrees upright, mid-size grip, etc. But realize that each manufacturer has a unique set of standards as we shall see later in this book. That ½” longer you were just fitted for may end up being an inch longer as that manufacturer or website starts off with a longer standard length. That why it is best to talk in numbers like a 38” 5-iron instead of ½” longer or shorter.

Often the retailer will have tools or widgets like a golf club fitting calculator to help golfers on their website select the correct clubhead design, shaft length, flex or grip size based on answering a few questions or inputting a few variables. It is imperative that the consumer honestly answers the question if they expect the club to fit. Saying they hit the ball straight but miss 8 out of every 10 fairways to the right or say they hit their drives 250 yards when it is really closer to 210 yards is not going to provide a good fit at all.

One of the basics of the golf club fitting process is in the form of length charts. These are used to aid a sales associate or even an individual self-fit themselves as in the case of an on-line fitting form. The length chart may consider not only the height of the golfer but the wrist-to-floor measurement too which are based on statistical averages. While two golfers may have the same height and wrist-to-floor measurement it does not consider that one golfer might be a svelte 150 pounds, and another might be 500 pounds with a large gut to swing around. These are things an on-line fitter might miss that a golfer fit in person will not.

Someday in the future, the on-line retailer who does the best job by asking the right type of information and obtaining accurate measurements can lead to a fit that may quite possibly be as accurate as being fit in person.

Performance Centers

Already in the works is the creation of 3-D body scanners which can send some 300,000 data points from your body to a computer. This is the holy grail of custom fitting to make sure the clothes are fit to the nth degree. Once you pick out the style, fabric and design your custom-fit garment can be sent to you.

In golf, there are performance centers, some of which are conducted one-on-one with a technician from a major golf manufacturer. High speed multi-angled cameras and sensors-laden vests may be used to accurately track the not only the club but the entire body before impact and afterwards capturing the ball flight and launch conditions to pinpoint the exact set of specification with the same level as a tour player would receive. But bring your wallet as this experience may cost hundreds of dollars per fitting session, not including the cost of the clubs.


Most likely you will not be familiar with the term bespoke, which is an English term to mean an item custom-made to the buyer's specification. It is derived from the verb to bespeak or to "speak for something" or in the specialized meaning it is "to give order for it to be made". Bespoke is used primarily in the fashion industry as someone who individually patterns and crafts men's clothing. This is analogous to the female version “haute couture,” or custom made from the highest quality with extreme attention to the detail and finish.

You may more commonly refer to this profession as a tailor, and you guessed it the phrase tailor-made. A tailor-made suit is completely original. It contrasts with made to measure or made to order which uses pre-existing patterns and is then adjusted to the individual measurements. The tailor does it all from soup to nuts. They do not have the skills just to do the sewing or alterations, but they must have a strong understanding of all facets, including all the various fabrics, patterns, and stitching techniques as well as mastery of both hand sewing and machine sewing. A tailor might be found in a normal retail environment or may work out of their home, a studio, and may work part-time or full-time. 

If you are looking to buy a custom suit, there are five basic steps involved. The first is to find a reputable tailor. Once there, you and the tailor consult over the type of color and fabric you want the suit to look like. The next and most major step is for the tailor to take detailed measurements to be able to fit the suit. Now that is done, you can select the style you want and personalize it (double-breasted, types of buttons, etc.). Lastly is the final fitting to make sure the suit fits you exactly as measured. If not, alterations are made, and the final fitting is repeated.

yellow tape measureyellow tape measure

In all the steps, the tailor is involved and fully intimate with the customer’s needs. That is the key difference between bespoke (custom tailored) and made to order clothing. However, there are many individuals who can fit and make their own clothes from start to finish. They may use the same exact fabrics; same stitching and the suit can fit like a glove. After all, the tailor may be making a suit for themselves. The total cost could vary from the cost of the components to make the suit to several thousands of dollars. The greater the cost typically the higher quality materials are used, but much of the price can be in the reputation of the tailor.

There is the equivalent in purchasing a golf club as you can find or seek out professional clubmakers who excel at fitting, repairing, and building clubs from scratch. Some of these professional clubmakers go on to serve the best golfers in the world. 

Let us say you were ordering a custom set of golf clubs. The first step involves getting measured by a club fitter (a tailor or bespoke of sorts), who makes, repairs, or alters golf clubs professionally. The steps for getting a custom-made suit are like getting a custom-made set of golf clubs.

The first is to find a reputable clubmaker. After which, you and the clubmaker consult over the type of clubhead type and specification that will suit your game. The professional clubmaker has at their disposal the ability to select from a wide range of clubheads, shaft and grips and not all from one manufacturer.

The next and the most crucial step is for the clubmaker to take detailed measurements to be able to fit your clubs. Now that is done, you can select the style you want and personalize it such as the color of the shaft or grip if offered in multiple versions that will match what was fitted. Lastly, the final fitting is to make sure your custom-made clubs fit you exactly as measured. If not, alterations are made, and the final fitting is repeated. 

Each set of custom-made clubs is unique and built to fit the individual golfer’s needs. From the start of the selection and interview process until the final fitting, the professional clubmaker is involved in all facets as he or she works one-on-one with the client.

You may get the same quality of fit at a few golf specialty stores or at an off-course pro who has at their disposal all the latest high tech measuring equipment, a slew of fitting carts in which to fit that can screw together quickly and provide far more options. They take that information and send off for your order instead of doing the work themselves. That is the difference between the bespoke and made to order golf clubs. In the long run, the customer is only interested that the clubs they paid for perform well no matter how or who accomplished it.

OEM golf club fitting carts inside a golf pro shopOEM golf club fitting carts inside a golf pro shop


As accurate as 3-D body scanners or getting the full work from a golf performance center by the most qualified of technicians, one must realize that we do change over time. What happens to that custom fit suit, shirt, or pair of pants when you gain 10 unwanted pounds that you can’t seem to shed off or if your weight fluctuates wildly? Or what happens to your golf clubs when your swing plane and attack angle suddenly decides to change course?

Clothes can simply be re-tailored to fit bringing us full circle to a previous fitting choice which is basic resizing. This is why there is a network of golf shops and independent clubmakers who specialize in fitting and then altering existing clubs (such as regripping and reshafting golf clubs) to suit the player. If you are reading this book there is a good chance that you will be doing retrofitting as well as custom fitting components from scratch.

Choosing the right level of fit for the right situation

As mentioned before, I wanted you to understand all the different methods that can be considered fitting. As you can see there is a wide array of possibilities. Before you decide on what level or degree that you may want to conduct your fittings, I want you to consider the following scenario.

Let us say you are off to see your Uncle Charlie. He might be the rich uncle with the massive pool in his backyard in which you want to soak up the fun and sun on your vacation. Perhaps you don’t own a pair of swimming trunks, so you head down to your local mart. You will probably look at the sizes available (medium, large, extra-large, etc.) based upon your waist size.  Once you find the possible selections you narrow down the selection based on appearance and perhaps on price, knowing full well this may be the only time you are going to swim in the near future. Then you are head off to the cashier. 

On the other side of the spectrum, you may have ambitions to become an Olympic caliber swimmer. You may go to get a full body scan to get a custom fit swimsuit that fits them like…well, a second skin. What may cost upwards of $500 to reduce drag in the water, your goal is to lower your time by 2 percent or the equivalent of about one second in your specialty - the freestyle 100-meter race.

In the end, both are swimming suits, and each requires some sort of fitting. Buying golf clubs is no different. There are the very basics of fitting to get started and then there is advanced fitting for players at the highest levels.


“Both are forms of fitting, but the degree of the fit depends upon how much involvement you or your customer will have.”  


As a golf club fitter, you may have to offer different forms of fitting rather than one cookie-cutter approach to fitting regardless of who walks into your shop. I can tell you from personal experience after all these years of fitting players, the latter does not work. Be open-minded to the concepts of fitting.

A couple final notes on fitting

What kind of expectations can you expect from a fitting? The customer might expect miracles like 10 strokes off their score or 25 more yards with their driver. But you are looking for improvement so that the customer will see tangible benefits like less putts per round, more fairways hits, more greens hit in regulation, etc. It is best for the customer to look at their scorecard after a couple of rounds after the fitting and see whether it has bettered their score or possibly set a new career low.

You as a fitter must be realistic. After all, the people who you will fit will most likely come from a 50-mile radius of your shop.  By giving false hope and incorrect information will only catch up with your reputation as a club fitter. You do not have to be brutally honest and tell them they better take a series of lessons before they come back but use some common sense and dignity as if you were to walk through your own door as a customer.

Modern Guide to Golf Clubmaking

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