VISTA, Calif. – Golf club fitting has come a long, long way from the days of trial and error.
In the old days golfers might try a friend’s club. Or perhaps hit a beat-up demo club from a shop. Or maybe buy a club without even hitting it first.
The whole process was distinctly unscientific and unrewarding.
Enter launch monitors and sophisticated swing analyzers. Finally golfers were able to compare clubs with a measure of precision.
Today’s launch monitors are elaborate and complex. They are a major fitting tool for golfers of all levels and abilities.
So what is the next frontier?
At Fujikura Composites, a leading designer and manufacturer of graphite shafts, the future appears to be contained in a promising new club-measurement package call Enso.
Enso includes 10 cameras and is capable of capturing images at a rate of 2,000 frames per second.
Here is how Enso is different: Instead of focusing primarily on the player and ball flight, Enso adds a dimension by looking at the golf club itself. With hundreds of readings it can tell a fitter exactly how every part of the club is performing and reacting during the swing.
This may sound simple, but listen to Dr. Paul Wood of Ping. Wood, a mathematics expert, carries the title of research engineering manager. Inside Ping, he is nicknamed the innovation manager, in charge of what is called the innovation department. (That’s an indication of how far swing analysis has come, from finding answers “in the dirt” to the emergence of innovation departments.)
“We bought one last September, so we’ve had it six months,” Wood said. “We regard it as a research system, something to tell us exactly what’s going on during the entire swing.
“I mean what’s going on with the club itself – the head, the shaft, how it bends during the backswing and the downswing, particularly the downswing. We are very much in research mode with Enso. This is a multiyear project. It’s like taking data from Trackman (a leading launch monitor and swing analyzer) and adding a whole new dimension to it. There is a fantastic amount of information here. Until we can simplify the data, it’s pretty overwhelming.”
If Wood is correct, this is the future of golf for skilled players. Their bodies and swings will continue to be scrutinized through motion-capture technology, and their clubs will receive the same intensive examination.
The bottom line: Golfers no longer will be fitted with swing speed as the primary factor. The specs of their clubs will be the product of a total dynamic evaluation combining golfer and club analysis.
“At this time only Ping has purchased the Fujikura Enso system,” said Dave Schnider, president of Fujikura America. “There is a lot of interest from other manufacturers in our technology. They are waiting to see how it continues to progress.”
What exactly does this mean for ordinary golfers?
“We are at the start of better understanding swing characteristics from different players and how to better subscribe the proper shaft using Enso,” Schnider explained. “At this time the golfer can better understand the fitting process and shaft-fitting guidance by using our new iPhone/iPad app. The knowledge of the app was determined using our Enso system data and overall fitting expertise. This is just the beginning and we will continue to gain more knowledge over time to better educate our dealers and OEMs (manufacturers) on best fitting golfers with our shafts.”
Currently Enso is available at the Fujikura Fit On Studio, which is open to the public and available thru appointment (see Fujikuragolf.com).
Alex Dee is vice president of research and development at Fujikura, and he outlined the Enso project:
“Popular fitting systems today focus on ball flight. After all, an obvious barometer of a successful fit is achieving the right launch conditions to optimize distance, consistency and control.
“But what isn’t so obvious is how the ball’s launch conditions were achieved. From the top to impact, a swing takes place in less than half a second. Your eyes and even 2D high-speed video have apparent limitations, and therefore fitters have historically relied on a blend of intuition and old-fashioned trial and error to get the right combination of head and shaft.
“What has been missing is the ability to measure the dynamic performance of the club during the swing like a dynamometer measures the performance of an engine. Fujikura’s Enso fitting system was envisioned to address this void.”
During a fitting, the cameras track seven tiny reflective spheres attached to the club.
“Enso takes a biomechanical approach to the dynamic performance analysis of the club. First, it evaluates the motion of the handle. Then it examines the shaft’s bending and twisting response. Lastly, it analyzes the club head’s changes in position and orientation as a result of the shaft’s bending and twisting.
“It’s a comprehensive approach to performance analysis and fitting . . . I like to think the shaft is alive and breathing, responding to the swing input based on its structural stiffness and weight distribution.”
As Enso evaluation gradually becomes available to golfers through Fujikura’s network of club manufacturers, retailers and fitters, it appears the sport will turn another corner.
Get set for endless data on the shaft, clubhead, shaft/head interaction and grip.
Impact data is available in categories such as “handle orientations” and “handle angular velocity and contribution to head speed,” and there are various computations of “shaft deformation data and contributions to head orientation.”
Sure, it sounds like a science project, but it is a reflection of golf’s new direction.
”Enso is Fujikura’s proprietary fitting and research system,” Schnider said. “To our knowledge, no other shaft or golf company has a system capable of accurately measuring all aspects of a golf club while in motion to sub-millimeter accuracy.”