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Senior Golfer - On The Green

Buy yourself a better golf game (Part 1)

The Putting Green

For a person who has played golf for more than half a century, the idea that you can achieve a better golf game by buying a new club or set of clubs is heresy. Hold on, because I renounce this heretical belief. I now believe-because it has been shown to me first hand-that all senior golfers can enjoy a better golf game by getting custom fit and purchasing the right club.

First, a little history lesson. I began playing golf at the age of 12, using persimmon woods, balata balls, and irons that were hard to describe as matched. It was another 10 years before I had a pro analyze my swing and tell me that I needed to have extra stiff shafts instead of regular ones. "So that's why I can hit a 40-yard draw with my driver and four-wood!" I replied.

Flash forward to a demo day last fall at Cog Hill, where I went checked out a Callaway iron set. After watching me hit about a half dozen iron shots, the rep told me that he could custom fit me with a set of irons that would have me hitting the ball higher, farther and straighter. The rep uses a computerized system called Trackman to identify and measure various parts of the golf swing, such as swing speed, spin rate, launch angle, and more. Armed with this information, the clubfitter can help the golfer identify which club is best for the individual golf swing. Got all that?

Ever the golf skeptic, I said, "Sure," but I really meant, "Who are you kidding?" To determine the validity of the rep's premise, I went to the PGA Superstore and asked to be custom fitted for a new set of irons. I went to a hitting bay, where Wilson was custom-fitting its new C200irons for players. You can go to any pro, golf store such as Golfsmith or Golf Galaxy, or club fitting place, such as Champion Golf, for a custom-fitting, and they will do basically the same process.

The first thing Jordan Twidell, the Wilson service specialist, had me do was answer some basic questions about how long I've playing, my handicap, my ball flight and distance with a 7 iron, and what I wanted from my new set. He then had me swing my current 7 iron to get a baseline of swing information on Trackman. He asked what I wanted most to improve my game, and I replied, "Hit the ball longer, straighter and with more consistency."

After hitting about a half dozen shots, we went to the Trackman to check out the numbers. He pointed out that my swing speed (92-94 mph) was strong for a 71-year-old, but that my launch angle was steep and that my spin rate off the clubface was a little too high.

He asked me to hit three shots with the clubs he put in my hand and he would get the statistical information on Trackman. I could tell by looking at the screen that I was hitting the clubs 153-156 yards on the fly, with eight to 10 yards of roll.

After hitting three different clubs, he asked me how each one felt, and then he took out a tool to tweak the clubs. Compared to my existing 7 iron, I was hitting the ball about 10 yards farther and with the same height trajectory. Twidell said that hitting a 7 iron about 10 yards farther may not mean much to me, but it could be a world of difference for many players.

We then went back to Trackman to compare the three clubs I was hitting. Before getting there, he took a ruler and measured the distance between my hands and the floor. "You're tall, and so you might shafts that are a little longer," Twidell said. I told him that I had been hitting standard length clubs for decades, and his measurements indicated that this was the correct length.

At this juncture, I told Twidell that I was overwhelmed with information about golf clubs, and simply wanted to know which shaft was best for me-that is, senior, regular, or steel. He told me that his goal was to not only look at the shaft, my swing speed and how far I hit the clubs, but also the side spin, compression rate, and hitting angle.

Based on the numbers, I was hitting the regular shaft the best, but there was still a need for better ball compression, and don't ask me which factor indicated this, because I can't remember.

Before we moved on, I told Twidell that I used oversized grips, and wanted them on my new clubs. He said that he had noticed this when he felt the grip on my current 7 iron, and so he made sure that the clubs I swung had oversized grips.

Twidell now told that we were going to get on the lie board. This was to determine whether my clubs should be upright or flat, and to what degree. He said it's very common for senior amateurs to hit either fat or thin shots because they don't have the proper lie angles, not because they have bad golf swings.

I hit about five to six shots, and he examined the bottom of the club to see whether it hit mark was on the toe, the heel, or in the middle. In this respect, the examination showed that was fine with a standard lie.

This is the end of Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 in June, when you can ask yourself that all important question, "Can I buy a better golf game?"

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