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revkev

Fitting/lessons v off the rack/self taught

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In theory this should be a great MGS topic. I just read a Titleist Q and A with Charles Howell III in which he ended by saying that you can’t play good golf with clubs off the rack.

 

I don’t agree. I agree that you won’t give yourself the best chance to play good golf with clubs off the rack but if you have Howell any random box set from KMart and let me have my custom set - I’m betting on Howell by a long shot!

 

Clearly the Indian is the most important part of the equation. So I’m wondering if there is a way to quantify how much better the Indian can get by going from off the rack self taught to fit with lessons.

 

Here’s my story in this regard:

 

As a kid I played every sport in its season. The problem was that tennis, swimming, baseball and golf were all in the same season in Connecticut and baseball always won out. So I played golf sporadically until my senior year of college when a bout with mono and an enlarged spleen took me down. No contact sports for a year - enter golf!

 

My $75 student pass at the local muni allowed me to play a lot. I got pretty good although I don’t know what my handicap was - mid single digits I’d guess - I could break 70 or shoot 85 - very inconsistent. That type of play continued throughout young adulthood until I attended a Jimmy Ballard three day thing. The total retool took a couple of years to settle in but by the time I graduated from Seminary I was very consistent - you could just pick a number between 72-78 write it down and move on. My handicap remained stuck between 4-5 for the next decade.

 

The clubs that I was using were static fit irons, Eye 2’s and I did pay attention to stuff like tapping and bounce on my wedges but nothing like now.

 

My first real fitting was for driver and it came with some lessons - my church had a class A pro and he really helped. As I moved to Florida he had me in a driver ver that fit, had shortened my swing a bit, using a 4 wood for more loft and better results with fairway wood and most importantly convinced me to play a premium golf ball. The handicap dropped to 3.

 

I played in a league in Florida that had a strong group of players in it. Those guys invited me to play in another game that included some really strong players - including some mini tour types. I found a teacher, worked hard on my short game, got fit for putter and my handicap went down to 1 and stayed there for the better part of 3 seasons. An illness, work and family demands plus a lack of fitness undid all that so now I’m fighting my way back.

 

To tally it all up the difference for me between off the rack and self taught was about 5 strokes - assuming I was a 6 in college (reasonable) - I got to a 4-5 through attending the golf school (with a lot of work afterwards), a 3 with further instruction, a driver and golf ball fitting and a 1 with work on the short game and a putter fitting.

 

I should add that a part of the move from 3 to 1 was playing much more competitive golf. My course management skills were greatly enhanced by being forced to figure out ways to score every week, sometimes twice a week, over the course of three years. There will be lots of times when you don’t have it. You’d be amazed at the number of different ways there are to make par on a hole or save bogey and also how bogeys instead of others can help!

 

Thoughts from the Community?

 

How have or would lessons and a full fitting benefit you?

 

 

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Good topic Rev. Not sure what prompted it out of you today but I'll chime in...

My quick answer is: fitting and lessons helped a lot. But mostly the lessons and.... my own desire to do something about my game. Meaning... playing better - more consistently and scoring lower. The lessons / swing tweaks only backed up the importance of playing properly fitted equipment. I spent about two years somewhat recently working on my lessons/swing. My scoring, ball striking, accuracy, hcp and overall enjoyment improved quite a lot. I currently have a 5 hcp on the books. Up from about a 3 through the heart of last summer - early fall playing season. During my time of lessons I also learned that I needed to play a smarter game and focus more during a round. That doesn't mean not having a good time or enjoying the social aspect of golf. I do have fun and enjoy everything about the game more it seems. One important factor on the mental/personal side is learning to accept this game on any given day. As we all know quite well; some days are just better than others. Bad shots and calamities happen. That's just the reality of this game. Learn to accept that aspect of golf and nothing more and you'll shave strokes off your round. 

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Lessons would have eliminated many bad habits from being self taught and having more of a baseball mentality that golf swing mentality.

fittings have benefited by making sure I’m playing clubs that fit my swing and I’m not making my swing fit the club and bringing in more faults. I was fit my first set and most clubs since. The ones I didn’t get fit for I tested on the range to ensure no performance lost. 

Its a tough call on what to tell people to do first between lessons or fittings.  I think it’s brst to have clubs that fit the person and their swing do that the bad habits don’t develop early and I get the argument if someone doesn’t know how to swing/play golf how could they get fit or spend the money on a fitting and/or new clubs.  One could get fit and find irons of a similar style and shaft that may be a 1-2 release cycle old to save money while having clubs that are going to give them the best chance at some sort of consistency 

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Of course posters can take this thread anywhere but I’m really wondering how much difference fitting and lessons have made in your game or how much difference you think they will make.

Clearly JLukes thinks lessons will take him to the next level. They and fittings did me - there’s a long way between a 6 and a 1. It took time and improvements across the board. I lacked distance by the time that I got to a 1 so fitness was the last area that needed my attention.




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2 hours ago, revkev said:

Of course posters can take this thread anywhere but I’m really wondering how much difference fitting and lessons have made in your game or how much difference you think they will make.

Clearly JLukes thinks lessons will take him to the next level. They and fittings did me - there’s a long way between a 6 and a 1. It took time and improvements across the board. I lacked distance by the time that I got to a 1 so fitness was the last area that needed my attention.




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Thinking a little more about it imo it also depends where one is with their game and/or what they’ve done previously.

someone who has been fit into their clubs already and are happy with their setup if they have the funds to take lessons, time to work on the stuff that come from the lessons and to put that into play will benefit more from lessons than another fitting. Unless upgrading from clubs thst are 4+ years old the chances of finding a large jump in distance probably isn’t there and dispersion may improve a bunch but probably not to the point it shaves off a big number of strokes.

someone who is playing clubs that weren’t fit could probably go either way and see an improvement. 

Once I started taking the game more serious and used lessons and practice time I dropped my hdcp significantly.  As my time to work on the game shrunk over the last two years my game has seen the effects.

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Can I throw another category into the mix here? I know this is on that website, but it's written by a friend of mine, and the only coach I've taken a lesson from: http://www.golfwrx.com/536948/why-golf-coaching-works/

The article makes a distinction between instruction and coaching. I think this is helpful. The web has made a ton of information available to us. This is instruction. What it rarely gives is coaching: not only specific diagnoses for our specific faults along with drills for fixing them, but also the kind of personal motivation that we need to push through those changes.

I'd compare it to schooling. A person can be an autodidact. But going to school provides two things: direction to the better resources, and accountability. Most of us, if we're honest, need those external helps for anything important.

So why do I remain self-taught? One answer is just pragmatics: I'd love to go to Matthew for regular lessons, but don't value it highly enough to commit to an hour drive each way plus cost.

The other is that, as much as I enjoy it, golf isn't important. If I'm getting it wrong, the stakes aren't that high. And the experience of discovery is enjoyable to me.

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RickyBobby, Plaid and MPR all speak to something very important.  Motivation matters.  There's no sense to taking lessons if you aren't motivated to improve.  You have to be willing to put the time in or there's no sense.

Also I've never quite understood the difference between instruction and coaching.  To me an instructor is a higher level than a coach.  So while I didn't turn to that other website I appreciate the distinction being made.  Given those definitions instructions can be a dangerous thing.  If I read or watch a video tip it may not apply to the issue that I'm having.  I could attempt to implement something that makes my issue worse.  If I have a good coach he or she will supply the fixes that I need, supply the motivations and also provide periodic check ins.

Instruction has been sporadic for me - there has been some that has work and other that has been a disaster. 

@MPR - golf is my stress release.  Because I was once fairly good at it once it becomes a stresser if I don't play well enough to satisfy myself.  So while it's not that important on the one hand - I get that, appreciate it and always recognize that however I've played that's true, it's important enough to my overall well being that I'm willing to devote some time and expense to playing it well. 

 

Make sense?

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So here are my quick thoughts.  First it will depend on where the player is with their game and what they want to accomplish.  I'll use myself as an example.

I never got a fitting until recently and haven't taken a lot of lessons since being fitted.   Most of my improvements came from lessons and fitting for me was trial and error with clubs.  Since being fitted  for most of my clubs, I haven't seen a lot of improvement in my overall game.  The exception to this would be putting and I would say my improvements are because of fitting based on coaching.  I say coaching instead of instruction because I was given advice and information that I needed to use to improve my putting.  We didn't fix my mechanics,  but developed an approach and fit the putter based on my decisions.    

For me to get better,  I don't think fitting would do much,  I need instruction/coaching.  With some short game improvement,  I think I can get myself down to scratch.  I hit the ball well off the tee,  I make some mistakes with approach shots that didn't completely go away with fitting,  I have technique issues with my short game witch costs me most of my strokes, and because of coaching I can do my own putter fitting/assessment.  

In my mind,  I need instruction and practice to get better.   Having the opportunity to hit lots of different clubs and shafts I can see how some combinations could lead to some consistency improvement but generally off the rack vs fitted clubs won't make a lot of difference where I am with my game.   

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4 hours ago, revkev said:

RickyBobby, Plaid and MPR all speak to something very important.  Motivation matters.  There's no sense to taking lessons if you aren't motivated to improve.  You have to be willing to put the time in or there's no sense.

Also I've never quite understood the difference between instruction and coaching.  To me an instructor is a higher level than a coach.  So while I didn't turn to that other website I appreciate the distinction being made.  Given those definitions instructions can be a dangerous thing.  If I read or watch a video tip it may not apply to the issue that I'm having.  I could attempt to implement something that makes my issue worse.  If I have a good coach he or she will supply the fixes that I need, supply the motivations and also provide periodic check ins.

Instruction has been sporadic for me - there has been some that has work and other that has been a disaster. 

@MPR - golf is my stress release.  Because I was once fairly good at it once it becomes a stresser if I don't play well enough to satisfy myself.  So while it's not that important on the one hand - I get that, appreciate it and always recognize that however I've played that's true, it's important enough to my overall well being that I'm willing to devote some time and expense to playing it well. 

 

Make sense?

The instruction vs coaching is an interesting topic.  To me I view instruction as teaching which would be where a large majority of amateurs fall with the need to learn fundamentals, sequencing, course management and so on.  Coaching imo gets more in depth and it’s a combo of teaching but more focused on specific aspects to the game to improve that weakness. Coaching gets more into devolping practice plans, round strategy, etc.

In my experience when I’ve taken a lesson here and there during the season it’s me trying to fix something in the swing and learning to fix it on the course if things start going wrong and many times amateurs don’t take enough lessons consistently so it’s a lot of instruction time. When I spend 6 months with one of the pros I use on a coaching program my game transformed from a mid hdcp to a high single digit.

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The instruction vs coaching is an interesting topic.  To me I view instruction as teaching which would be where a large majority of amateurs fall with the need to learn fundamentals, sequencing, course management and so on.  Coaching imo gets more in depth and it’s a combo of teaching but more focused on specific aspects to the game to improve that weakness. Coaching gets more into devolping practice plans, round strategy, etc.
In my experience when I’ve taken a lesson here and there during the season it’s me trying to fix something in the swing and learning to fix it on the course if things start going wrong and many times amateurs don’t take enough lessons consistently so it’s a lot of instruction time. When I spend 6 months with one of the pros I use on a coaching program my game transformed from a mid hdcp to a high single digit.


Have you read Utley’s book? I prefer him to Pelz because he is so simple. Better would be a lesson and practice. The short game is so easy and cheap to practice. Throw your wedge and putter in the trunk - 20 minutes a day twice a week on the way home from work.

Good luck!


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10 hours ago, revkev said:

 


Have you read Utley’s book? I prefer him to Pelz because he is so simple. Better would be a lesson and practice. The short game is so easy and cheap to practice. Throw your wedge and putter in the trunk - 20 minutes a day twice a week on the way home from work.

Good luck!


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I haven’t read his book but I will check it out for sure.

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I have never been fit for clubs ( I would like to do it), but I think lessons and practice would make the biggest difference.

I have taken a few lessons over the years, and practiced what I learned. My game definitely improved. I'd like to think being fit would also improve my game, but I think the gains there would not be nearly as noticeable as lessons and practice.

I also think that the more you just play the game, the better you will become just by virtue of developing a sense for what and how to do it..... your brain figures things out when something is done repetitively.

Some people will never be "good" at golf, no matter how much they spend on fittings, lessons, playing or desire. Some people could be very "good" at golf, but they would just rather play the game and enjoy the social aspect of it, rather than devote a lot of time and money to it.

I think I could be a "good" player. I just don't have the time or disposable revenue for fitting, lessons and practice at this time. I'm guessing I'm surely not alone there.

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I'm mostly "self-fitted" after using some on-line tools as guides, a demo-day driver fitting, hitting off of a lie board, some trial & error and just sheer range time & play. I generally know now where and what I need and have based many acquisitions of equipment, (like my recent shaft upgrades) on all of that combined information. I still use a gap/distance chart for easy club reference since I haven't played enough to have them all memorized yet.

I am also nearly 100% self-taught. I've had only one lesson to date, though I'd like to take some more in hopes that some good instruction will help be more consistent, especially with long-to-mid iron play. However, I constantly watch instructional videos and often will take some of those lessons and ideas to try out and work on.

Thus far, I think I've done a pretty decent job and have dropped my scores down to sub-100 more often than not and even broke 90 late last season on one occasion. Can I be better and be sub-90 more often than not? You bet! I just need to play and keep on learning.

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Interesting topic, rev. Last weekend when I was at golf galaxy swinging the TS2, I had a good discussion about the topic with the guy that was helping me. His recommendation to me was lessons first to refine my swing and make it all more repeatable before focusing on what club might be best for me. 

The crazy thing about this game is I feel like I used to have a fairly sound swing (but didn't have time or money to work on it) until a couple years ago when back trouble started. I picked up a lot of bad habits to avoid pain. My back is quite a bit better now, but the flaws remain. I've had a couple lessons and have been working on the primary flaw. Depending on what happens this year, I may try Golftec or something that will totally break down my swing and see what happens.

 

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This is going to be a big do as I say not as I do. Lessons over fitting is a far better way to improve. As a matter of fact in my opinion it’s not even close. The problem is because of very successful and aggressive marketing the average Joe believes the path to better golf is primarily achieved through equipment, innovation and technology. Custom fitting can tighten your shot group but lessons will build the fundamentals needed to consistently execute the movements needed to hit a golf ball the desired direction and distance.

I’m both self taught and self fitted. I have had exactly one 15 minute lesson. The instructor was on the phone the entire 15 minutes and didn’t even notice when I packed bag then headed to the parking lot.

I started playing golf in my early 40s. If I had taken lessons from day one my journey would have not only been much easier, my ceiling would be much higher. As it is I struggle with all kinds of swing faults conditioned and reenforced by 100s of range balls. It’s extremely difficult to unlearn improper technique.

Recently I was custom fitted a Ping G400. I spent two hours hitting ball after ball while changing heads and shafts. What I came away with was a great experience and a better understanding of my own tendencies. Still the “fitted” driver only provided me marginal gains. A two hour lesson would have been much more beneficial.

My advice to anyone who will listen.......buy used clubs and take lessons. You should continue to take lessons until you get within sniffing distance of the 70s before considering a custom fitting.


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Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Nothing against guys who play well self taught but they’re a very small minority versus lessons players. Fittings are kind of similar to me, equipment built with the player in mind will work for them while stock gear might not. Long run though consistency is king no matter how funky it looks.


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To be clear I’m not pitting lessons against fitting.

I’m asking how much better you’ve gotten through lessons and fitting over being self taught and playing off the rack equipment.

It was worth about 6 strokes for me but that’s from a creaky 6 or 7 to a solid 1. It’s very hard to shave off strokes in that territory.

Is there anyone else with an educated guess as to how much they improved through lessons or fittings or both?


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I really do like this topic, @revkev. As one who has had only a single lesson and has never had a fitting, I can't write about how lessons and fittings have dropped my scores. And I want to reiterate: I'm not against lessons and fittings. It's simply that in my circumstances, they haven't made themselves available to me in a way that works.

So here's my followup to my earlier comment. One of the main reasons to go to a coach is that he actually has a clue what is wrong with your swing, and can get you on the road to fixing it much faster than you plugging in random swing tips from Golf Digest. I agree with this completely.

If you don't have a coach, you have to have a way to get real feedback about what's happening with your ballflight, what in your swing is causing it, and how it might be fixed. For me, one path to get those answers is technology.

I've written in another thread that I just had the privilege of buying a SkyTrak. The launch monitor data from the SkyTrak is quite well-regarded by those who have compared it with the $25,000 launch monitors. Suffice it to say that, if you know how to get the most out of it, you can get good data about what your shots are actually doing, even more than you can get on the range just watching them.

I'm adding to that a camera that not only records video of my swing, but allows me to watch my swing as I'm swinging by feeding a live stream to my tablet.

And then I plan to use the little Zepp swing monitor on my glove.

With these pieces of tech, I think I will be well-equipped to know what my ball is doing and why, without it being a mere guess. With those facts, I ought to be in a good position to look for solutions to the problems that are present.

This isn't a recommendation that anyone else do it this way. I enjoy golf, and I also really like gadgets. This is fun for me.

But I'll say this: with this setup, if I'm unable to drop from a 15-handicap to a single-digit handicap this year, I'll definitely have to concede the argument that I need a coach.

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To be clear I’m not pitting lessons against fitting.

I’m asking how much better you’ve gotten through lessons and fitting over being self taught and playing off the rack equipment.

It was worth about 6 strokes for me but that’s from a creaky 6 or 7 to a solid 1. It’s very hard to shave off strokes in that territory.

Is there anyone else with an educated guess as to how much they improved through lessons or fittings or both?


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I was fitted for the Ping I210 irons I tested. My scores didn’t get better nor did they get worse. I hit the ball higher but not further nor straighter. When the testing was complete I went back to my Mizuno irons which were not custom fitted. They are standard across the board. Immediately after returning to the Mizuno irons my handicap began to move towards low single digits and currently sits at 1.4. During the testing with the custom fitted irons I stayed consistent at a hcp of 4.5.

My off the rack Ping G Driver I hit on average 81% of the fairways over 219 rounds. With the custom fit G400 and just 6 rounds my fairways hit has dropped to the mid to low 70s. The distance with the G400 is between 5 to 10 yards further than the G. The G is a 55g Reg shaft while the G400 is a 65g Stiff. As a disclaimer on the launch monitor my distance with the G400 improved significantly, however, I have yet to use it on a course that was not soaking wet. I believe in time when things dry out I’ll get the increased distance I was hoping for evidenced by the dry launch monitor data.

I do plan on taking a series of lessons in the near future. Upon completion of those lessons I’ll be better able to fully answer your specific question.


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7 hours ago, revkev said:

To be clear I’m not pitting lessons against fitting.

I’m asking how much better you’ve gotten through lessons and fitting over being self taught and playing off the rack equipment.

It was worth about 6 strokes for me but that’s from a creaky 6 or 7 to a solid 1. It’s very hard to shave off strokes in that territory.

Is there anyone else with an educated guess as to how much they improved through lessons or fittings or both?


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With lessons over a 3 year period and using 3 different instructors from 2014-2016 I went from a 15 to a 9.  I don’t recall the number of lessons buts it’s close to 20. 2015 was a 12 lesson package with one instructor over a 6 month period.but it care with s bunch of work practicing and some frustration but thru perseverance the results came.

What fittings have done is making the golf swing easier because I’m not trying to manipulate a swing to get results and they have optimized the performance I can get from my swing.

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