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Modern Golf - Part One One of my favorite things to do at various stages of my life has been to just sit back, relax and reflect on where life has taken me. It's an interesting idea. We are so focused on living our lives looking forward, planning the next move, or in the simplest context simply focusing on the here and now. But when we stop, reflect and truly look at ourselves for who we are, there are some questions you ask yourself. Such as: What makes me who I am? Here's how this applies. A huge part of who I am is built around this sport, and really, this site. I found my career on the golf course. I've been a part of MyGolfSpy both as a member, reader and follower for so long that the mindset has literally burrowed into me. I live my life #datacritic. Naturally my bucket list is inspired by this place, all of the things I've seen, read, thought about, tried and so on. The amount of influence this site and the people here have had on my life can't be overstated. Let's think about this in broader terms. I have a figurative roadmap for how to live my life that's at least 50% golf related. Most of that is from you guys and I won't get that time back. Talk about an effect. If we don't stop and reflect every once in awhile we will never put the proper value on the things we love. This experience is a perfect example of that. Modern Golf never happens without MyGolfSpy and specifically GolfSpy MBP. I've kept you all waiting long enough. Here's the story... Inspired by MyGolfSpy. I've had fittings before. I've had fittings at Golf Galaxy in Pittsburgh, more at Blair County Golf in Hollidaysburg, I've done Hoganfit, had wedge fittings, putter fittings, driver fittings... A lot of fittings. Some better than others, and yet every one of them has left a taste in my mouth, more of a question, can this be done better? See, I want a fitting to be like a science experiment. I need something that will eliminate any and all doubt from my mind. There should be variables, controls, and... data! I want the data to backup my decision and to let me decide what I prefer the look and feel of. As much as I loved my Hogan's I was never professionally fit for them. I used their program, liked them, gamed them for a year and was really a brand ambassador for them. But it was never perfect. I still couldn't shake this idea. There had to be something more... More precise than what I've experienced in the past.This is where Modern Golf comes in. The story goes like this. Years ago while browsing the forum I came across a thread. The place it focused onâ€¦ Just looked like a mecca. I've dreamed, wished, planned and killed probably over 1,000 plans for visiting. It's always been about the money. Plus, it's in Canada. I didn't have a passport and really felt that going international for a set of clubs was a littleâ€¦ ridiculous? Nonetheless, Modern Golf hit my bucket list. This year Becca and I celebrated five years together and we wanted to do something special. Her and I enjoy golfing together very much and this was a wonderful opportunity to cross something off the bucket list. After a few days of planning, it was official, Modern Golf was booked. Fast forward three months and here we are. After travelling all morning Friday and enjoying the beautiful Piper's Heath Golf Club in the evening, I'm sitting in the parking lot of Modern Golf Saturday morning ten minutes before they open. After talking for a few minutes and a few deep breaths it's time for business. Here we go. Modern Golf has a process for their customers. Not only are they appointment only to create a more personal experience, they treat you like part of their family as soon as you walk through the door. It started with meeting Jessica at the front desk. Smiling and welcoming us to the store, she walks us back to meet the crew. Justin (my fitter), Mikey (club builder) and John (Becca's fitter) are all getting their morning started and happily introduce themselves to us. As we all start to talk, Justin gets to work with step one of the process. Modern Golf has broken the experience down into four key segments. They go as follows: the Blueprint, the Fitting, the Prescription and Fulfillment. The key to each of these is that they are executed with laser-like precision. Every detail is monitored, weighed and calculated. They're chasing something I've been looking for in a fitting for years... Perfection. The Blueprint Here's the idea. In order to accurately diagnose your needs they have to first see what you're working with coming through the door. The typical interview process with a fitting largely takes place here. What's beautiful is that it's done in such an unassuming and laid back manner, you're never on guard or over-analyze a response. It's all real and in a comfortable setting. One by one each club is measured, all digitally of course. Length, lie, loft, frequency, swing weight, grip size, etc. Each one is measured and entered into a spreadsheet. Justin makes some really interesting discoveries. My driver? It's a 9.5 degree head turned down to 8.6. It was digitally lofted at 10.5 degrees. My irons not only were inconsistent in length, the swingweight moved 3-4 points from club to club. Walking into this building I've always fought inconsistency and the huge variance in my specs went a long way in explaining why very early on. Having been there for less than an hour, I've already made some huge discoveries. He's done with the bag at this point, so we're ready for step two. The Fitting This one is pretty self explanatory, at least the theory. The practice is a whole lot different than what I'm used to as you're about to find out. Justin hands me my 30 degree Hogan and asks me to warm up. This is the closest to a 6 iron that I have in my set and he wants to establish a baseline to fit from. Needless to say, I shanked quite a few golf balls. Imagine a nervous golfer, low on confidence, trying to perform in a place they've dreamed about for years! Thirty minutes into my fitting, I'm still hitting the ball terribly. Justin never gets frustrated and every so often leaves the room to grab some clubheads/shafts for my fitting. Eventually, after a number of terrible shots in a row, he asks for my club and excuses himself. He comes back in with a roll of lead tape and puts four pieces on the bottom of the club. He hands it back to me and wowâ€¦ What an immediate difference! Suddenly I could find the club face! My strike improved, I focused, put ten good swings on the ball and got my confidence back! Now we're in business. Justin stops me and explains exactly where we stand. He points out that the C-Taper is basically the exact opposite shaft of what I need. I was stunned. I love the C-Taper, it felt so good to me! I was a little confused, but open minded. Let's stop and walk through this together. Right now is where the fitter becomes key. My numbers were showing a massively left club path with an open face at impact. To the untrained eye someone would assume that's an over the top action that causes my ball flight. Here's what Justin explained to me: From the kick point of the C-Taper being so high in the handle, the only way for me to get the face on the ball, at the target, and deliver that on a consistent basis is to pull the shaft completely across my body. In other words, way left. On the other hand, with something where the kick point is at the tip of the shaft it would allow my body to have a more natural release and thus a straighter club path. This should equal more distance and a more consistent strike. I need to take a step back and explain one of the keys that Justin and I spoke about. When I first walked into the bay he explained to me that he can see all of the connections to be made from the ball data. What he can't know from the data is how something feels or how it looks to me. He explains that this is just as important as the data on the screen. We as golfers are fickle people and we have to have complete and total confidence in what we are gaming. This was crucial for me to keep in mind during my experience. At no point was this a launch monitor data session. He used the data as leverage to make a point and a decision. My only job was to express my thoughts of the club put into my hands. That is an incredibly freeing idea because chasing numbers can be quite easy to do. Back to the story. At this point, I'm warmed up and ready to test some irons. He grabs multiple heads from companies such as Epon, Titleist, Callaway, PXG, Ping, Taylormade and so on. I have to give a disclaimer here. While I was trying to be open minded going into this fitting, I was secretly hoping to walk out with PXG. I just love the brand. Basically the fitting works like this. Justin hands me a head and shaft combo, he asks me some questions such as How does it look? How does it feel? and so on as I'm hitting balls. If I don't like something he says good enough and immediately moves to the next thing. What's amazing about the process is that everything is interchangeable. There are virtually no limitations. The system that they've developed is so well thought out that the weight and frequency of the exact shaft that you're hitting is measured. Once you decide on a combination, those measurements are used to build the set. Throughout the course of the fitting I hit a few different heads and finally Justin tells me his goal. I need to get my ball speed to at least 100 MPH. If he can get me there, he's feeling good about our direction. After demoing a few heads he decides it's time to try the Apex CF16. First swing? 100 MPH Ball Speed. Second swing? 105 MPH ball speed. Now we're getting somewhere! Have you guys noticed my distinct lack of shaft talk? Here's why. We're demoing graphite shafts this entire time! As soon as I'm warmed up, the first question he asks is â€œhow open minded are you willing to be?â€ and begins to talk about the five graphite shafts he has hanging on the wall behind him. We spent a solid amount of time just discussing what he was about to put in my hands. Here was his take, and this left a very strong impression on me: Graphite isn't just for seniors or people suffering from arthritis. Justin was adamant that the properties these shafts open up to manufacturers are extremely valuable to all golfers. His statement was that within the next five years or less, he expects to see more and more players making the move to graphite. That's a strong statement. Traditionally speaking the issue with graphite shafts is the inability for the fitter/build shop to get the swing weight where it needs to be. That's a thing of the past with the new type of shafts coming to market and these issues are disappearing. Think about 20 years ago when drivers were all steel shafted. Does anyone see a wood out there without a graphite shaft anymore? Didn't think so. The same change is on the horizon for irons. Honestly, I don't remember all of the shaft options that we tried. I know I tried Accra, Fujikura and Nippon. What felt amazing right from the start were the Fujikura MCI 80G Stiff shafts. We went from head to head and changed shafts out, but time and time again contact was much more consistent with this shaft. This part was quick and easy. Now that we have the shaft settled, it's time for the head. At this point I'm seeing by far the best performance from the Apex but we still haven't hit the PXG. I mention that to Justin and we swap heads to test it out. He said something pretty interesting to me about PXG. They don't work for all golfers, but the golfers they do work for get stupid good numbers from them. He's extremely impressed with their launch conditions, distance and general ball flight tendencies. This is before my first swing. Off we go, it's PXG time. The feel of these things are justâ€¦Incredible. It's unlike any iron I've ever felt before. Imagine a centered strike out of a butter soft blade and extrapolate that feeling over the entire face. You're getting close to PXG. They're not quite that good off the face, but they're close. Feel is only one element, however. I need good looks, great feel and more than anything distance. Here's what's interesting. Ball speed? 90-95 MPH. I wanted to love these. I hit double the shots with this head than anything else. Eventually I couldn't make my mind up so Justin suggest we take a break and come back to them later. I'll hit the Apex and PXG side by side with the Fujikura MCI and get things finalized. Justin did give me his professional opinion though, he would go Apex simply for the ball speed. I need distance over anything else and to walk away from ten yards is hard to do. Fast forward three hours and I'm back in the bay with these irons in my hands. I hit about 10 balls each to verify the data and it's exactly the same. Ten yards in favor of the Apex. I can't walk away from that. We're in a groove now. I have my confidence back my swing is clicking and I'm hitting the ball well. We start the driver fitting with my Ping G30 LS Tec. My experience with this driver is pretty hit and miss. I love the forgiveness it offers and I very rarely miss a fairway with this driver, but it just lacks so much distance from the spin and launch conditions it generates. We go through an interesting series of events over the next 30-45 minutes. I'm hitting the ball well, it feels great off the face, my swing feels good, I really feel great at this point! Justin on the other hand isn't so comfortable with how I'm hitting the ball. Here's the issue. Most of my numbers are good, I hit up on the ball, I have a mostly neutral path/club face, my spin is decent (it could come down though, but it's not a killer) I was just hitting the ball way too high! 20-23 degrees of launch with a height of around 120 feet is just not cutting it. Justin informs me that the average tour pro hits the driver around 90 feet high. Needless to say we have some work to do. He grabs a whole slew of heads and shafts for me to demo. There's Callaway, Taylormade, Ping, etc. and basically every shaft manufacturer and model you can think of. One by one he builds the clubs, we change settings, play with loft, shaft profiles, anything he could think of I tried. All of these changes are in the pursuit of getting my launch down. We're hunting for 17 degrees. After some time making club changes he decides to give me a drill to help with my launch. Here's how it works: I take my setup, lift the club, close the face about thirty degrees, and then tilt my upper body back to make the club appear square. Next, I swing out and to the right as far as I can and just commit to releasing the club through the ball. I get into position, tee a ball up and take a swing. Suddenly Justin bursts out laughing. He tells me to do the same exact thing again. I do, and he's laughing again. He's getting excited. My launch drops, spin comes down, angle of attack stays the same and we are in business. Now we can dial this in! Finally we narrow the shaft options down. We're between two at this point. The HZRDUS Red and Yellow. It's at about this point that we are still searching for more. My launch has come down but it still isn't exactly where we want it. Justin asks to hold on and runs out of the bay. He comes back in, assembles a new driver and asks me to give it a swing. First swing? 17 degrees. Ten drives later, with the numbers staying rock solid I'm sold. The head? Titleist 915 D3 in 7.5 degrees of loft. The shaft? HZRDOUS Yellow. This thing is a beast! During my test of the 915, Justin informs me that he recently was able to demo the Titleist 917D3. He had nothing but extremely glowing reviews on it. He recommends I go with that head. At this point I have a level of trust built in him that I take his advice. The 917D3 is the way I go. After a quick break for lunch we get back together to finish the fitting. We're going to focus on the gaps between my five iron and driver. I have to say that going into this fitting this area of my bag was easily my weakest. The long game is where I play like a high handicap. If we can get a consistent yardage from this part of my bag I really could improve my game. I've never had someone take the time and really work through the head, shaft, length and feel options at the top of the bag the same way they would a driver or a set of irons. What I loved about Justin's approach is that we weren't looking for the longest club. It was about hitting a number. That's it. That may sound very basic but a true gap analysis in a fitting is a very uncommon experience (at least for me). We start with hitting my current clubs. I hit my SLDR 3 wood and put three of my best swings of the day on it. Immediately Justin's eyes light up as he sees an opportunity. He grabs the XR16, Ping G and Titleist for me to demo. We also have a range of shaft options here just like the driver. We're looking for a number. 215. That's the number. I hit all of the woods and shaft combos and nothing comes close to the XR16 with the HZRDOUS Red shaft in it. The best part is I'm hitting my number on the nose and it's consistent. We move immediately into the next gap. 190 yards is the number here. At first Justin grabs all different hybrid heads and shaft options for me to try. I line up, start to swing and I'm just getting nothing out of these. Time and again, the hybrids aren't going even as far as my 6 iron! My strikes weren't terrible, there is just something about my swing and hybrids that don't work. So Justin has an idea. He grabs a 5 wood head and we start with the XR and HZRDOUS Red again since it worked so well for me in the 3 wood. A few swings later and we have our number and the club! There was something around a fifty yard gap difference between a hybrid and wood for me. This really demonstrated why we need to try all of the options, walking in the door I would have assumed a hybrid fills this slot. We only have a few short steps left until we're done. Justin and I have a conversation about wedges and he tells me what I've known all along. These clubs are a confidence decision more than anything else. My Edel wedges that I have now are some of the best clubs I own. His only option to get me something new would be to literally recreate these from a Miura blankâ€¦ No thanks. Now THAT would be expensive! We did have a conversation about the shafts however, and I need to lengthen them. He loves the Nippon Modus Pro 115 shafts and games them in his wedges. That's the direction I go. The last phase of my fitting is the Quintic Ball Roll system. This system was pretty cool. It's elevated about four feet off the ground and the surface is completely level. It's roughly twenty feet long and has a control center for the fitter to use. To the right of the golfer there's a screen and multiple very bright LED lights illuminating the ground. I'm invited up and walked through how it works. According to Justin, this is like SAM putt lab just with absolute values. The difference is this system provides accurate and precise data instead of ranges. He considers this to be the most high end putter fitting system available on the market. The goal is to simply putt the ball from its alignment and into the hole on the other side. Justin has to take special care to line the ball up perfectly and invites me to take a stroke. I step up, hit the ball, and he starts laughing. He says â€œI would get fittings like these!â€ and steps onto the platform to explain the numbers. On the right of the screen there are three readings and on the left there are two. On the right you want the data to give a green light out of possible red, yellow or green (it gives data as well, the color symbolizes the data) and on the left you want green and yellow. My first stroke the numbers come out perfect. Justin looks at me and says â€œif you give me 3-4 more putts with the same exact readings I'm telling you to keep that putter and never worry about changing it.â€ Four putts later I walk off the platform hitting all five putts perfect. Edel hits it out of the park again and he recommends no changes. The Prescription The Driver: Titleist 917 D3 8.5 with HZRDOUS Yellow at 7.75 degrees of loft with Black MicroPerf Best Grips. The Woods: Callaway XR16 3W & 5W with HZRDOUS Red shafts and Black MicroPerf Best Grips. The Irons: Callaway Apex CF16 5-PW with Fujikura MCI 80G Stiff Shafts and Black MicroPerf Best Grips. The Wedges: Edel Wedges in 50, 55, 60 and Driver/Digger bounce configuration. Nippon Modus Pro 115 Special Edition shafts with Black MicroPerf Best Grips. The Putter: Edel Williamette with S2 Hosel, 32â€ length and â€œChef's Choiceâ€ design. Fulfillment I'm going to let these speak for themselvesâ€¦ P. S. I know some of the pictures are sideways... Sorry about that. Couldn't get them straight.