Watching the U.S. Open today — in between editing news pages for Metro's weekend paper, of course — I know my swing will never have the velocity of the world's best players. Heck, I won't ever even have the swing speed of my weekend playing partners like Sean Stoneback, who lash out at the ball with an organized destructive quality.
But as Sean and other guys often tell me, I need greater ball-striking speed if I ever want to improve on my high handicap. As a guy that breaks 100 about five or six times a year (out of about 25 rounds), I sure as hell need to improve my scoring.
So it was with great intrigue and hope that I agreed to check out Philadelphia's newest addition to the golf community, club fitting and building company Club Champion in Bala Cynwyd. Their staff accepted me and my old sticks with open arms, apparently having seen hackers like me before.
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I walked in with all my clubs, from my 10-year-old Calloway Big Bertha to my who-knows-how-old, secondhand Gary Player iron set. In between those dinosaurs, two equally-old "Perfect Club" hybrids and my only newish club, an Adams hybrid 3-wood, shared the space under my arms with my two most prized possessions: 51-degree and 46-degree Cleveland wedges.
"You know, most people bring the clubs in a golf bag," company vice president of marketing Matt Seigel joked.
I laughed and it hopefully showed these guys that I was a true novice when it comes to club fitting — as if my clubs didn't give that away a minute later to one of the Bala Cynwyd shop's master fitters, Steve Harrow.
After lining up my clubs, Harrow asked, "Which clubs do you want to do first?"
I wanted to blurt out: "Driver! Obviously, the driver!"
But I had a feeling that was the wrong answer. And Harrow quickly confirmed my intuition.
"How many times a round do you hit your irons?" he asked. He doesn't want to know. But bottom line: I swing my driver 13-14 times a round, my irons: ah, many times.
I was soon standing in front of the coolest machine in sports today: Trackman. The technology that can chart what seems like countless statistics about your real-life swing (because you're actually swinging full-speed with real golf balls).
After some practice swings, I was pounding six-irons into the computerized drap on the wall (pictured).
Then, Harrow mixed and matched some different club heads and shafts. I hit about four or five balls with three different types of heads: Razor X, Mizuno 800 and Redline.
The last two brought great improvements in average carry, but the Redline not only added 20 yards of carry but also increased ball speed, length and smash factor (which is a less obvious but equally important stat.
Harrow described fitted clubs as a tailored suit compared to one off the rack. I left Club Champion's facility feeling even more confident, even if I haven't yet purchased a set of those Redline irons. One of Harrow's simple, yet astute observations was that my Gary Players are too long for my stance.
So instead of standing farther from the ball, I decided to start choking up on iron shots, particularly 4-, 5- and 6-irons.
The fitting is already paying off. In one of the two annual "Sharkey Shootout" scrambles I played at the Jersey Shore shortly after the fitting
, I stroked lots of solid approach shots and my team finished first at 6-under. Thanks Club Champion, can't wait to see how many times I break 100 once I get around to buying some fitted clubs. (It'll have to wait a bit until I'm clear of my wedding this month.)