The quest for the perfect set of clubs
Thursday, December 17, 2009
GREENSBORO, Ga. – Charles McLendon runs the TaylorMade Performance Lab at Reynolds Plantation, where he fits golfers with clubs from all major manufacturers.
“Just about every golfer I know, from the best players to average players, can benefit from a good club-fitting session,” said McLendon, who attempted to make it as a touring pro and later returned to his first love – clubmaking.
“My first job, when I was in high school, I apprenticed under Bill Feather, a clubmaker in Conyers, Ga. Then I helped open the Golfsmith store in Atlanta. I’ve always been interested in fitting people with the right clubs.”
McLendon, 29, has many observations about modern golf clubs:
What is the hardest part about fitting someone for clubs?
Good communication. You have to have the ability to get information out of the client. Some golfers don’t open up very easily. Fitting can be a complicated thing, but communication is the key.
How physically gifted are humans in making a golf swing?
Humans are amazing. All the time, I see golfers making these amazing movements in their swings to compensate for the equipment they are using.
So most golfers are using clubs that don’t fit?
That’s right. Many players simply don’t have access to all the information (about equipment) that’s available. Today, we have the ability to fine-tune golf clubs for everyone. We can test and measure the performance of every golfer until we find exactly what equipment works best.
Do most golfers use shafts that are too stiff?
Macho is a disease to be treated carefully. Some men use shafts that are way too stiff, but the key is finding the right way to change their minds. Once again, we’re talking about communication here.
Do a lot of golfers have expectations about their clubs that are too high?
It’s still a golf club and not a magic wand. A good fitter has to help his clients be realistic. To help golfers get the most out of their golf clubs, I recommend realistic golf instruction.
Do you see golfers using too little loft on their drivers?
All the time. Most of the time, I have to educate the golfers. It goes back more than 10 years ago, when golf balls had a whole lot of spin and guys were hitting those (Callaway) Big Berthas with lofts of 8, 7 or 6 degrees. Now the balls are firmer and don’t have nearly as much spin, and those same golfers are hitting these little chest-high bullets, wondering what happened. What happened was that the golf ball changed dramatically.
So it was the modern golf ball that doomed the long iron and made the hybrid so popular?
Absolutely. Golfers didn’t just wake up one morning and find they couldn’t hit their long irons. It was the (low-spinning) golf ball that created the ineffectiveness of the long iron.
What do you see in the future?
With smaller grooves, I see softer golf balls with more spin. That potentially could ignite a comeback for the long iron. I see a more creative game, with players curving the ball like they used to. I think it’s going to bring shotmakers back into the game.
Do you hear a lot of people talking about grooves and wedges?
Every day. Many of my clients are buying multiple sets of wedges (because, for most amateurs, the large grooves can be used until 2024).
Are you a fan of adjustable drivers?
You bet. It has given us a way to quickly and effectively create a driver that is an anti-left club. Many golfers are looking for that, because they want to swing aggressively without the fear of hooking the ball. In general, I am using higher lofts and opening the face angle.
Opening the face angle how much?
Often I will crank it open 2 or 21⁄2 degrees. The ball’s not going left no matter how hard they want to rotate through (the shot) at impact.
With modern hybrids so popular, where does the modern iron set begin?
Most of them start with a 5-iron. Replacements (hybrids) are common for the 4-iron and 3-iron.
If golf balls get softer and spin more, will hybrids remain popular?
Not if golfers start hitting those high poofers.
What is your opinion of fairway woods?
I think it’s the weakest part of the golf marketplace. If the ball does start to spin again, the fairway wood probably will be revived and people will welcome it back. Most golfers need (golf ball) spin in order to get fairway woods up in the air. With today’s balls that don’t spin much, the 3-wood has been turned into a driver off the deck. A 17-degree 4-wood plays like the 3-wood used to play.
How does a golfer go about choosing the right golf ball?
As a fitter and teacher, I am amazed how much golfers base their golf-ball selection on the driver. What they really should pay attention to is 100 yards and in. The driver is not nearly as significant as the shorter clubs in the scoring zone.
Which club gets the least attention?
The putter. It is the most underestimated of all the products that can be fit. We fit people for putters all the time, and it’s a ‘wow’ product. Usually, after we make a putter that complements somebody’s stroke, they really start to appreciate the fitting process.
What is your favorite style of putter?
Mallet putters. For most golfers, a mallet putter will provide more stability and distance control.
Do most people use grips that are the right size for them?
No. Using a grip that’s the wrong size can create tension, and tension in the grip is a terrible thing. I’ve seen plenty of people end up with tendinitis and bursitis because of the way they grip the club.
You recommend larger grips for many golfers, but all of us have heard that big grips can create an inability to square the face. Is this true?
Many players are scared off from trying larger grips, which is a shame. It has not been my experience that big grips cause an open clubface. I think you would have to make gigantic grips for that to happen.