Rob Burbick can be found in Nike Golf’s PGA Tour van, where he helps some of the world’s top golfers find the right equipment.
If there is one lesson that translates from players on the PGA Tour to ordinary golfers, Burbick believes it is this: All golfers should take advantage of a launch monitor when getting fit for golf clubs.
“You need to match your golf clubs to your ball speed,” he said. “The slower your ball speed, the more spin and higher launch you need.”
Some amateurs don’t achieve maximum distance because they don’t use drivers with enough loft. And they need to create enough spin to keep the ball in the air.
Launch monitors measure ball speed, launch angle, spin and other parameters. They measure or calculate carry distance. They can help golfers understand the performance of their golf clubs, particularly drivers.
In the past, finding the proper driver required a large selection of drivers – different heads, lofts, shafts.
Now, thanks to adjustable heads such as Nike’s STR8-FIT, Titleist’s 910 series and TaylorMade’s R11, the process has been greatly simplified. Even fairway woods and hybrids in which the loft, lie and face angle can be changed are available.
What difference does fitting make?
“Some amateurs might find as much as an extra 15 or 20 yards if they haven’t been fit using a launch monitor,” Burbick said. “The requirements for touring pros are different. They might pick up a few yards with a different setup, but accuracy is the really big thing. They have to drive it in the fairway.”
Thus it made sense when Nike staff member Lucas Glover went to a Nike square-headed driver (SQ Sumo2 Tour/9.5 degree) in 2007, won the 2009 U.S. Open with it and steadfastly refused to change drivers until the middle of 2011.
In the last several months, he has switched back and forth between the SQ Sumo2 Tour and a new VR prototype model
Generally speaking, square-headed drivers are known for their accuracy, although most golfers can’t hit them quite as far as modern aerodynamically designed drivers.
“With this new driver, and with several others,” Burbick revealed, “I was able to beat (achieve better numbers on the launch monitor) his old driver. But he was comfortable with it.
Most golfers will switch drivers if they feel they can achieve more distance. Tiger Woods has made a steady transition from a 43.5-inch steel-shafted driver to a 45-inch graphite-shafted driver. His irons, however, are a different story. His iron specs have never changed in any respect – same shaft, length, loft and lie.
“In all the years I’ve worked with him, there is nothing different about the irons,” said Burbick, declining to talk about the exact measurements for length, loft or lie.
The iron shafts are no secret: True Temper Dynamic Gold X-100 with some tipping to make them slightly stiffer.
Burbick did say one thing, referring to lofts: “His irons are not strong. In fact, not many (PGA Tour) players use strong lofts. You see them hit those monster iron shots. They just flat out hit it that far.”
More advice from Burbick on being fit for golf clubs: Find a fitter who understands the golf swing. “They know how the club is working and how the golfer is reacting,” he said.
Another tip: If a club doesn’t feel right in the first five swings, find another club. “After that, golfers will learn to adjust,” he said. “Human beings are very skilled at adapting to different golf clubs. Even average golfers are very good at it.”
On the subject of changing grips, Burbick just laughed. He talked about the personalities of different Tour players.
“Justin Leonard will change his grips every month,” he said. “It’s just like clockwork. It’s just like changing the oil in your car.”
On the other hand, there’s Carl Pettersson. “He never changes his grips,” Burbick said. “You have to beg the guy. He’ll wait til they’re practically falling off to change them.”
Nike staff members have one thing in common, though: They all use launch monitors. Amateurs should do the same.