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A Tour Van Level Fitting in Minneapolis, Or How GolfSpy Barbajo Got Xtra-Stiff...

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Extra-stiff? At my age? Seriously?

 

At 54, I figured the only way I'd have an extra-stiff anything would be courtesy of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.  But after Friday's full bag fitting at the 2nd Swing Tour Van Experience in Minneapolis, I am extra-stiff, in more ways than one!

 

Driver and hybrids.  What were you thinking?

 

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2nd Swing's Tour Van experience is the kind of fitting every golfer should go through at least once.  Thomas Elsberry, one of 2nd Swing's master fitters (and my wedge fitter – click here), led me through one of the most enlightening 2 hours of my golfing career. 
 

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The Tour Van Studio is outfitted with most every iron, driver, hybrid, fairway wood head and shaft imaginable, with over 31,000 combinations possible.  There's Trackman, the Ping nFlight system and a gizmo called GEARS – a 3-D, 8 camera computerized swing analysis setup that provides Tour-level data you can't get just anywhere.  And it was this data that gave me the biggest shock since Super Bowl XXXVI (click here).

 

Thomas, as I've stated before, is one truly thorough dude, and walked me through what GEARS could do.

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"With GEARS I can measure not only the club head speed at impact, but the loft at impact, whether the face is open or closed at impact, where exactly you're hitting the ball on the face of the club and the shaft deflection.”

 

Shaft deflection? 

 

Ever seen pictures of a driver swing and the shaft is bent in a really weird shape on the downswing, with the head actually in front of the shaft?  That's shaft deflection. 

 

After warming up, I hit a few with my Nike Vapor Pro with an Aldila Tour Green shaft in stiff.  Here are the nPing system numbers:

 

101 club head speed

148.8 ball speed

15.6* launch angle

2448 spin rate

36* landing angle

Avg carry: 256

Avg total: 281

 

Very happy with those numbers!  I've been hitting Nike very well since the trip to The Oven (click here). 101 MPH kinda surprised me, though - I'm not a young man, but the numbers did make me smile a happy, satisfied smile.

 

Except for the lefts.  Damn near everything went well left. A lot.

 

Thomas then handed me a Cobra Bio Cell driver that looked like it had polyps.

 

2014-12-05 14.04.45.jpg 2014-12-05 14.04.50.jpg

 

Those are the sensors for the GEARS system – they use the Cobra to measure everything, and work from there. Here's what it told us:

 

106.5 club head speed

152.2 ball speed

14.4 launch angle

2909 spin rate

Avg carry: 261 yds

Avg total: 283

 

And here's what GEARS was able to detect: 

 

2014-12-05 14.07.51.jpg 2014-12-05 14.09.40.jpg

 

Thomas started dissecting the data:

 

“First let's look at the club face – you're pretty consistent east to west, but north to south not so much,” he said.  “So shaft length is going to be an issue. This is 46”, so that's a little long for you.

 

“Also, with your delivery I'd wouldn't recommend anything smaller than a 460 head.”

 

Then he started blowing my mind.

 

“The shaft itself isn't stiff enough, either.  Something stouter is going to help you tighten all that up and be more consistent. This is why I like using this machine because based on the numbers, there's definitely untapped potential for how far you can hit a golf ball.”

 

Not stiff enough?

 

“Your average club head speed at impact is 106 – that's an actual measurement by GEARS,” Thomas said.  “The nPing monitor picked up 97 to 100 with your driver, but GEARS picked up 106.  It's not exact, but it's more accurate based on ball speed. What it tells me is we can get some more distance out of you, if we need it.”

 

Thomas, dude, we need it.

 

“This tells me for some reason your ball speed's not translating into distance.  That says there's a little more shaft-wise we can do for you.  All the heads are pretty much similar – Taylormade, Ping, Nike, they're all good, and since your spin is already in the zone we want, there's no reason to change your Nike head.”

 

So the shaft?
 

“The Cobra has a 60 gram Diamana White Plus in stiff – very similar to the Tour Green you're playing now.  And you're deflecting this thing a ton,” said Thomas.  “You're deflecting it more than Aaron (Roth, 2nd Swing's Fitting Manager, who joined us), and he swings 10 MPH faster than you.”

 

GEARS showed my shaft deflection averaging nearly 39mm (with the 1 outlier).  Thomas says 12 to 20mm is ideal, but 20 is the maximum. 

 

“With that much deflection, that's where the inconsistencies in the face are coming from.  That's a reason why you're not hitting the sweet spot every time, or even the same spot every time.  When you're north and south like that, deflection keeps adding loft to the club.”

 

We started dissecting the data even further.

 

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“You're clubface is typically closed, which makes sense because you hit the ball left a lot,” he said.  “And you do come over the top.  I saw that from your wedge fitting, so you basically hit a pull, but that's fine.  As long is you aim correctly, you're good because you're consistent.”

 

“You're attack angle is positive – you're coming up on the ball.  That's why you're getting really good spin characteristics,” Thomas went on.  “A lot of time guys with these numbers (out to in club path, closed club face) will spin it a lot, but you don't because you come up on the ball with a positive angle of attack.”

 

This was more driver technology, golf club physics and swing dissection than I was expecting, but now you get it: Thomas is thorough.

 

“When you hit high on the face, bulge and roll takes over.  A driver face is not flat,” Thomas explained. “If you hit the ball above the X-axis, there's technically more loft up there.  So if you hit a 9.5* driver on the high part, it's probably more like 11.5* of loft. If a guy is super-consistent up there, and we know he's always going to hit the ball above the equator then he's going play a low-lofted driver.  Guys who hit low on the face need more loft.

 

“Same thing with the curvature of the face.  Hit it off the toe, we know the ball's probably going left. This info helps me so we can get the impact creeping over to the sweet spots. We can do a little of that with the shaft.”

 

So what does this all mean to a 54-year-old hacker?

 

“It means you could definitely play with a shaft that's a little more stout,” he said.  “You hit your driver pretty consistently. Left, but consistently.  You hit the Cobra farther, but all over the place.  We may not be able to beat your driver for distance, but I think we can tighten up the dispersion.”

 

Thomas didn't have any shaft adapters for the Nike yet, so we decided to use the Callaway X2Hot Pro head I played most of last season with the stiff Aldila Tour Green shaft:

 

99  club head speed

145.9 ball speed

15.3* launch angle

2173 spin

33* landing angle

249 carry

275 total

 

Then we started testing X-stiff shafts. I firmly believed my chances of swinging an X-Stiff shaft were long gone.  But Thomas kept saying it's not all about swing speed.  So we tried the Aldila Tour Green in X:

 

101.5 club head speed

149.7 ball speed

13.3 launch angle

2270 spin

30 degree landing angle

240 carry

268 total

 

Whoa.

 

Thomas started analyzing.

 

“By going up in flex we picked up 3.8 MPH ball speed,' he said. “Typically you add 2 to 3 yards per mile an hour of ball speed, so this means you could gain 9 to almost 12 yards worth of distance, as long as I make the launch numbers match.  Here we might take that 8.5* head and add a little loft to it.  Then we'll have the extra speed along with the right launch angle. That's where you'll get more yards just because of the shaft.

 

“But just going to the X, that means you could hit the ball 9 to 12 yards farther. Doesn't mean you will, but the potential is there.”

 

We tried a few more shafts, the Graphite Design AD DI7, the Fujikura Motore and Fuel and others before hitting paydirt with the Fujikura 73 Pro Spec.

 

It's a pretty badass looking shaft!

 

fuji.jpg

 

The first few waggles told me it's pretty firm, like swinging a piece of rebar.  The numbers, however, spoke loudly:

 

101 club head speed

149.2 ball speed

15.6* launch angle

2193 spin

35* landing angle

261 carry

284 total

 

Compare these numbers to the stiff shaft Nike numbers above: very similar, with better ball speed and slightly lower spin. The difference? Pulls were very much under control.  All shots landed in the fairway – on the left, but in the short grass.

 

“With this shaft we achieved a good ball speed and with a different shaft profile, we launched a little higher,” said Thomas. “We went from 13.3* to 15.6*, so we have better launch characteristics without changing the head. We also spun a little less.  That shaft has been doing that for a lot of golfers.

 

“Your carry went from 240 to 255 between the two extra stiff shafts.  And compared to the stiff shaft we beat the carry by 6 yards.  Now we're starting to realize the potential of your ball speed.” 

 

I am very anxious to try this shaft in my Nike head.

 

A couple of pieces of information need to be added here.  A little over a year ago my swing speed was 95 MPH, maybe 97 with the stars aligned.  That's when I started a workout routine at the Minnesota Golf Academy and 12 weeks of lessons with the Hack To Jack program.  250 with a driver was my goal.

 

X-Flex?  Riiiiiight….

 

“Don't worry about flex or weight,” said Thomas.  “Don't look at them, just hit it.  I'll often start guys with a 90 gram X shaft just to see what happens.  A guy last week came in who not in a million years would have bought an X-flex shaft. But the numbers are the numbers.” 

 

So it looks like an X-Flex Fujikura 73 Tour Pro Spec for me!

 

I did try that shaft in a couple of different heads, last year's Cally Alpha and the Titleist 915.  Results were virtually the same in terms of spin, launch angle and carry and both landed in the middle of the fairway, lending credence to Thomas' proclamation that these heads are all pretty darned good. 

 

There's a ton more information to mine from the session. We also went over hybrids, which I'll add later this week. 

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I appreciate the incredible detail you transcribed.  That's where all the gold is.  Your spin numbers, even with the worst of shafts, are the envy of everyone on here.

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Great experience! I would love to get the opportunity to do that someday.

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That sounds like a great experience and a necessary fiting for any serious golfer. I really hope I can find a place locally to get a session that complete.

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Was particularly impressed with the detail provided by the GEARS machine. They're planning on adding some functionality that will allow you look up your own stats and 3D swings online. Should be ready by the PGA show in January.

 

Thomas shared tons of interesting info on fitting and club technology in general - I'll write that up in a separate thread later this week....

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Positive angle of attack and very low spin no matter what you try.   You get that launch up and it almost sounds like the fitter is telling you to take bigger cuts with a stiffer shaft and see what happens.

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Positive angle of attack and very low spin no matter what you try.   You get that launch up and it almost sounds like the fitter is telling you to take bigger cuts with a stiffer shaft and see what happens.

 

 

Thomas told me I have a pretty aggressive transition, which causes me to throw the club pretty aggressively from right to left. A heavier and stiffer shaft should help the case of the "lefts" a little.  

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When you get everything sorted out and have a chance to play for 10 rounds, I would like to know how much your HCP changed.

 

Sounds like a great experience and want to know if it's worth my effort.

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I'm jealous!  If I could only be 54 again... sigh... ;)

 

Seriously, I wish I had the time and money to make a trip up there in the next few weeks, but unfortunately that's not the case.  I have a lot of faith in my fitter, but he doesn't have technology like that available and, no matter how good you are, being able to provide that level of detailed information will make you better.

 

I AM going to make a trip up there later this year, that's for sure!

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I'm jealous!  If I could only be 54 again... sigh... ;)

 

Seriously, I wish I had the time and money to make a trip up there in the next few weeks, but unfortunately that's not the case.  I have a lot of faith in my fitter, but he doesn't have technology like that available and, no matter how good you are, being able to provide that level of detailed information will make you better.

 

I AM going to make a trip up there later this year, that's for sure!

 

Let me know when -- maybe we can set something up for you...

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Let me know when -- maybe we can set something up for you...

We can discuss in Orlando, in a few weeks ;)  It will be closer to Spring before a trip to the Twin Cities will be feasible, particularly if any club/shaft changes are in order!

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Am heading back to the Tour Van tomorrow - friend who is a scratch is going through the same process.  He's never had a real fitting before - seriously interested in what he comes up with.  

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Am heading back to the Tour Van tomorrow - friend who is a scratch is going through the same process. He's never had a real fitting before - seriously interested in what he comes up with.

That should be an interesting experience for both of you. Give us an update afterwards?

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Just wanted to let everyone know, I've got a GEARs machine at the CLAY DX Sports Labs inside CLAY Health Club + Spa right on the CT/NY border in Port Chester, NY.  All MGS folks are welcome!

 

Best,

Michael

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Just wanted to let everyone know, I've got a GEARs machine at the CLAY DX Sports Labs inside CLAY Health Club + Spa right on the CT/NY border in Port Chester, NY.  All MGS folks are welcome!

 

Best,

Michael

 

Thanks for sharing that Michael -- it's a VERY cool system!  Highly recommended...

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Damn...I hope I can still play an X when I am in my 50's!

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