Bringing Order to Anarchy - Your Arrows

By: Bob Duncan

How important is a golf club? After all, you're the one who is swinging it, right?

Still think that it's all about the Indian and not the arrow? You'd better get some straight arrows because clubfitting has finally come of age, and if you really want to win that next Nassau bet on the golf course you need to get clubs that fit!

There are at least eight things about a golf club you can change to make it better for you. So, which comes first, the golf swing or a fitted golf club? The answer is simple: if a beginner can't reasonably hit the first club you give them, then what good is it to try to improve their golf swing?

You won't hear much of this elsewhere, but a good clubfitting can make the difference between playing very well and quitting altogether. If you're going to swing a golf club, then anything you do to that club will affect the ball. Because of your desire to hit it straight, the resulting ball flight will affect your next swing.

A perfect example is buying a set of clubs for a beginner that aren't fitted and telling them that they can have a good set once they get better. That's like giving a beginning race driver a Volkswagen Beetle and telling him as soon as he gets better on the track he can drive a NASCAR. Good intentions don't go very far in this scenario, since the beginner can't improve because the clubs won't let him!

It's often said that the driver is the hardest club in the bag to hit. If that's the case, then you've got the wrong driver! Not necessarily the wrong brand, but at least the wrong specifications. After all, the ball is up on a tee. In fact, often starting a beginner with a driver - one they can hit! - is the best way to get them to progress because the ball is on a high tee. That may mean starting with a large-headed driver with a loft as high as 19 degrees (they're available!). Of course, starting a beginner with a 10-degree driver would normally be the kiss of death. In other words, LOFT is the No. 1 factor in a player's performance.

Next most important is the LENGTH of the club. If it's too short, the player is going to top the ball, thus altering the next swing - and the next, and the next. If the player makes a good attempt at a swing he should at least be able to reach the ball.

You might think FLEX is next, but it's not. Actually, the WEIGHT of the shaft is more important than the flex. What's the difference between a graphite shaft and a steel shaft? Most people think it is flex, with graphite being softer, but the difference is actually weight! You can make either graphite or steel in any flex you desire. SHAFT WEIGHT will definitely affect your performance. The heavier the shaft, the lower and straighter your shots will be, and the lighter the shaft the higher and more variable your shots will be. Many players try to make their clubs heavier by adding lead tape to the head, but that changes the overall weight, the swing weight, and the shaft flex. Sometimes it works, but changing to the right shaft weight is more advantageous. Unless you hit several different shaft weights to compare, it's difficult to tell what you really need.

Yes, FLEX is next. As you make the flex softer the ball will go higher and farther left, and stiffer will go higher and farther right. There is a popular misconception that softer shafts don't catch up and leave the ball to the right. Actually, when you make a good swing the shaft will spring forward through impact, and the softer it is the more forward it will spring, thus closing the face. If the shaft is too stiff it will not kick forward, leaving the face open, which often causes a slice. One manufacturer even offers up to seven flexes for you to test!

The LIE ANGLE of the club is very important. The lie angle is tested at impact, with the sole of the club properly parallel with the ground. If the club is heel-down it will cause the ball to go to the left, while toe-down will cause it to go the right.

isn't more forgiving. The best way to test this is to use a completely interchangeable clubfitting system with a pro in which you can change to any shaft specification and test it. Once you have a reliable loft, length, weight, flex, and lie angle, you can change the head designs to see and feel the effects.

Bob Duncan is a 25-year PGA Golf Professional from Redmond, OR, with a strong player-coach philosophy. Bob is the author and developer of the new GolfeCoach, a personal coaching guide for high school -college players and teams based on 15 life success lessons and on-course coaching. Bob has given over 8,000 hours of golf instruction and coaching and has custom-fit over $1.6 million in golf clubs. Visit or email Bob at