On June 1, 2018 Golf Datatech released its newest consumer study, titled the Evolution of Custom Fitting Golf Equipment in the United States, Consumer Attitudes and Experiences. The following are a few personal observations as well as highlights from the study, which is the only ongoing analysis of this means of selling golf clubs in the US. The first investigation of the Custom Fitting business was done by Golf Datatech in 2001, and a LOT has chanced since.
There is no doubt that custom fitting of golf clubs has become widespread, particularly among private club players and those with significant assets/household income. However, while the majority of Serious Golfers have been custom fit at some point in their golfing lives for clubs, about 1/3 have never done so, and the data suggests most of this group probably will never cross over to being fit, because they don’t believe fitting will improve their game enough to justify the costs involved. And while many golfers get fit without any extra costs at their local Off Course shop or thru their golf professional, the costs of being fit at Custom Fitting Specialists (which is the fastest growing sub segment) is frequently substantially higher, frequently over $100/session.
During the weeks prior to completing the analysis and write-up I went to several Custom Fitting Specialists as well as traditional Off Course Specialty Stores for individual driver fittings. I paid full price for fittings and none of the Fitters were aware I was doing research on the fitting. Immersing myself in the fitting process allowed me to better understand how consumers view being fit, and ultimately led to a much more informed and insightful analysis of the category.
As someone who has been in the golf industry for 33+ years, with many of my early years spent in club design, marketing, and development, I’ve been witness to the evolution of fitting. And it certainly has changed. What was once a category owned by Ping in the 1980’s with their bright yellow full-page ads for static fitting in Golf Digest or Golf Magazine, has now evolved into a high-tech world of data driven instant feedback utilizing clubs that can be adjusted and modified on the spot.
However, even with all the high-tech equipment and technology built into the fitting process, the Fitter themselves are still the key to the final outcome. Fitting golf clubs remains more of an art than a science, and the skill level of the fitter is critical to not only getting a proper fit, but also for controlling the direction of the session. My experiences in fitting varied widely, from highly technical and data driven to loosely constructed sessions where I directed the brands and models I was interested in. But in every case the “numbers” associated with the new product that was recommended were superior to my current “gamer” driver, improving the launch angle and reducing backspin closer to my ideal to maximize distance and minimize off target hits.
Custom fitting does work. When properly fit by an experienced fitter, it improves most players ability to strike the ball more consistently, which usually results in more distance and better control.
The real question golfers have to answer prior to being fit, is just how important is it to absolutely optimize their potential, and how much are they willing to pay? There are several unique shafts in the marketplace that may work for an individual golfers swing, some of them significantly more costly than the ones offered by OEM’s in their stock clubs, some at the same price as stock. However the process of sifting and separating the wheat from the chaff requires time, a lot of swings, and the willingness to seek out the best possible fit.
For more information on the results of the Study please visit the Golf Datatech website by clicking on the link below.
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