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Feature Story: The Fine Art of Custom-Fit Clubs

By Kiel Christianson, Equipment Editor and Senior Writer

Would you buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first? A car without test-driving it? A horse without checking its teeth? If so, have I got a car, a horse, and some shoes for you!

If not, why would you ever even consider ponying up serious dough for a set of clubs that you've never swung? Even if you've given a few practice balls a whack into a net in the back of a store, you're probably woefully misjudging the fit of the club to your swing.

More and more golfers are discovering that nothing substitutes for custom-fit clubs. More importantly, more and more golfers are realizing that custom-fitting doesn't cost much (or anything at all), and custom-fit clubs don't cost any more than their off-the-rack counterparts.

By now, you've doubtlessly seen commercials for custom-fitting by some of the "biggies" like Ping and Slazenger. What you may not know is that there are some smaller club manufacturers who deal exclusively in custom-fit equipment. One such company, which is well known out west but just beginning to build a name in Michigan is Dimension Z Golf.

Don Ingermann, former president of the Ben Hogan Company, began Dimension Z in Colorado in 1995. His years of experience and research in the golf business have shown him that, "The greatest handicap most golfers have is the ill fit/poor quality equipment they are forced to play with." Dimension Z was founded with the intention of remedying this sad state of affairs, one golfer at a time.

Dimension Z is played on the PGA Tour by Tommy Armour III, and on the hoity-toity circuit by Clint Eastwood, among others. Mark Jednak of The Michigan Golf Academy, and exclusive Dimension Z clubfitter here in Michigan, stresses the importance of custom-fit clubs. When he fits someone for clubs, he spends the first half of the time interviewing the player about everything from health history to learning-style preferences and grip strength (using a gauge called a Dynomometer). After all, if you have arthritic hands or are especially sensitive to tactile feedback, one type of shaft will be more suitable than others.

Mark, who specializes in the short game at his academy, believes Dimension Z's quality cannot be rivaled. "Dimension Z sends 80% of the shafts it receives back to the manufacturer, due to inconsistencies in their frequency, weight, or balance," says Mark. "Every set is made by hand, precisely according to the individuals specs, taken during the fitting."

And once your specs are on file, you never need to be refitted, claims Mark. Dimension Z will even "tune up" your clubs at the end of each season, checking lie angle and loft to make sure you haven't bent anything hitting out of the underbrush. Best of all, you can buy just one club, or two, or an entire set at any time, at about $100 per iron. That's not any more than a top-tier set of irons that don't fit your swing.

With five brands of shafts, seven grips, and both forged and cast irons, along with an entire line of woods and wedges, Dimension Z can fit anyone - even a hacker of a golf writer like me. Within 20 minutes, Mark had a 6-iron in my hand that made me look (and more importantly feel) like a scratch player. And don't even get me started about the new Black Widow driver!

If you can meet Mark within one hour of Detroit, call and set up a fitting session. It costs nothing, because, as Mark stresses, "These clubs sell themselves." (See contact information below.) "I can almost guarantee that custom-fitting will knock four strokes off your game."

But lest you think that Dimension Z is the only option for club-fitting, remember that the nearest club-fitter may only be as far away as your local pro-shop or golf store. Scot Baran, proprietor of Swingin' Round Again Golf Shop in Etobicoke, Ontario (and former college teammate of Fred Couples), preaches the gospel of custom fitting to all of his customers.

"The goal of club-fitting is to create a symbiotic relationship between golfer and club," says Scot. "A well-fitted club eliminates variables, compensating for some of the player's weaknesses." Scot takes club-fitting into the realm of science: "Fitting occurs from the point of impact backwards. Just like a doctor can't cure you before knowing what ails you, a club-fitter has to see you hit balls." Scot is a bit suspicious of the Dimension Z database approach, though: "As you improve (or worsen), fitting should evolve as you evolve in the game." This means that one fitting session isn't enough - your specs should be updated regularly.

So if you're preparing to invest a reasonable amount of money in new clubs, consider custom-fitting as an affordable way to eliminate one variable from your game: those nagging doubts that your equipment isn't the best possible fit for your swing and body type. Then when you shank one, you'll at least know it wasn't your club's fault.

Custom Fitting Sources

Dimension Z Golf
Mark Jednak,
The Michigan Golf Academy,
Phone: 313-278-2345
Web: www.dimensionz.com

Swingin' Round Again Golf Shop
Scot Baran, Proprietor
635 The Queensway
Ontario M8Y 1K6
Phone: (416) 259-7227

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Equipment Editor and Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.

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