The most important stick in the bag

Custom fitting for irons and drivers has become commonplace now in the industry, but what about custom fitting for arguably the most important club in the bag, the putter? Andy Brown went to meet the team at Core Golf who offer a specialist putter custom fit service. 

Workshop

Duncan Finch takes Andy Brown though some of the custom fitting measures

The team at Core Golf, located in Oxfordshire, do things a little bit differently from most of the industry. The main room has some comfy settees, a coffee machine, television, a small workshop area and arguably one of the most impressive putting fitting set ups in the country. The company started six years ago as master distributor for Europe for Grip Master but has transformed into so much more; in 2015 they opened their current facility, the brainchild of Ian Hutchinson, the director of the company and Duncan Finch.

Finch’s previous role was as a club fitter for Wilson Staff where he became the youngest technical rep for the UK in 2009 and worked on the Tour truck for some major events. When he met Hutchinson they clicked, as both wanted to offer something a little bit different. “Instead of going down the road of selling to fix a problem, we wanted to analyse and use technology to understand that problem and then try and find a solution with their current clubs,” he says. “We didn’t want to just say ‘the only way you are going to fix it is by a new set of golf clubs’ which is great for selling but not good for the customer! How we are doing it seems to be working and we get people coming here just for a putter or iron fitting. We look at all aspects and sometimes just change a shaft or a head which saves them a few hundred pounds on new clubs. Every golf club that we custom fit we build ourselves here in
the workshop.”

While Core Golf has a launch monitor in a separate room and custom fit all clubs, it is the putter area which really stands out. As Finch says, for most golfers putting is the way they can improve their game the quickest and as such is a real opportunity for the pro – an opportunity that not enough are exploiting. “Most people who buy a set of irons or a driver won’t do so without going onto a launch monitor, that is now the norm. A golfer would be doing well to hit under 30 putts a round; it is a massive amount of the game. The better golfers could have 50 per cent of their shots as putts – more for a higher handicapper three putting,” he comments.

“If you are going to spend money on a driver, which aren’t cheap, it makes sense to spend on a putter. You don’t have to spend a lot of money as long as it is fitted to you. It is the most crucial club in the bag and having a custom fit session can make all the difference and, as a pro, it is another way to keep someone longer in the shop.”

Part of the custom fit process is teaching; making sure the golfer is in the right set up and is aligning the club correctly. The team make sure that the length of the putter and weight is right so they have control of the head – digital machines are used to measure swing weight and loft and lie. The main part of the custom fit is done on a machine called Quintic, an extremely high-end bit of kit.

The green can provide uphill, downhill and left to right putts

The green can provide uphill, downhill and left to right putts

“Quintic is a 350 frame per second camera that looks at the golf ball for around 13 inches as the ball rolls from impact. We also put some stickers on that have dots so we can callobrate to the camera this means we can really understand what is going on with the putter – we have one at the toe end, one on the shaft and three dots on the ball,” says Finch.

“The Qunitic can work out all the calculations from face angle, at the point from where you bring the club back to hit through and the degrees per second of the rotation of the stroke. This is crucial as where in the face someone is hitting it from gives us an understanding of whether they are using the right style putter for them. Qunitic gives us a lot more information than we would ever be able to get from just the eye and it’s great to get data from when someone is putting well and when they are putting badly as we can then help the customer to understand why this is the case.”

The business have six different putters brands but one of the most popular is Bettinardi and Finch comments that they like the fact that they are putter specialists. “They produce some fantastic and bespoke putters with three different faces which allow for different feels and plenty of different finishes when it comes to the aesthetics. It is an underrated brand – it is a high quality putter,” he comments.

Finch believes that just as golfers now expect to hit an iron or driver on a launch monitor before they buy the same will happen with putters – customers will want to see the numbers before a purchase. While most pros don’t have the space or money to have a similar option to Core Golf there are other alternatives – simply having a good quality putting matt in the shop can keep members in the shop longer and help the pro build rapport and make sales. For those not able to do this Finch has a message: get in touch. “We don’t see ourselves as competitors to golf ranges or pro shops and some pros sell a putter and then point the customer in our direction for a fitting which works well for the pro and for us,” he says. “If you can’t do it, don’t be upset, as the customer will be happy the pro has sent them to us. If we work together in this industry then we can help keep it alive and well and we want to work with the pros local to us.”

Fitting the Tour 

Steels has worked on the European Tour for almost 30 years

Steels has worked on the European Tour for almost 30 years

Paul Steels, KBS brand representative on the European Tour, gives us the lowdown on what the custom fitting process at an elite level. 

Can you tell us about your golfing background?

I started in the golf industry by setting up the UK, European Sales & Marketing Operation for Golf Pride Grips. I did this for around 23 years. I then worked for Aldila Graphite Golf shafts doing the same job. After that I became self-employed and worked as a consultant in the golf Industry, working with many top brands out on Tour. I have worked on the European Tour now for close to 30 years, helping promote the various companies that I have worked for and even my own brand of golf grips called G-Rip. I now spend most of my time on Tour working for KBS steel golf shafts, a young, but very fast growing company. The designer, Kim Braly, has many years of experience in making Golf shafts and seems to get it correct every time he brings something new out.

Could you break down your custom fitting process?

Players will talk about what issues they may have and ask what KBS can do to help. As the KBS range of Shafts covers pretty much everything that a player will need, we can narrow it down to one or two models in our range. We can then test these on the range and compare with what they are currently using and see if we can improve on what’s going on.

Foresight Sports’ Quad & GC2+HMT, Trackman and Flight Scope are used to see spin, ball speed, launch, angle direction, distance, smash factor etc. etc. Most of the time we can find something that works better than what they are using. We then go to one of the manufacturers trucks and get the set made up with the new shafts. I work with the Tech Reps from each manufacturer and make sure they are happy for me to work with one of their players. This way we can start the club building process. The manufacturers know their product and the players a lot better than me so it’s important they are on board with what we are offering their player. They can then fine tune the clubs to their player’s specs with regards to swing, weight, length, loft and lie etc. etc.

What’s it like working with Tour players?

It’s great to work with good players as they already know what they are looking for. In most cases, at their level, we are looking at small adjustments that can make a big difference. The main issue, for me, is that I am playing with their career and their ability to earn money. Therefore, it’s important that I give them the right advice even if it means they stick with what they had and I don’t get them to move into our product.

What advice would you give to golf pros when it comes to custom fitting?

It’s a must to have clubs fitted to the player. The shafts are the engine, so we need to get the shafts that are strong enough for the player’s club head speed. The launch of the ball must be to the players liking to maximize feel and distance. The grips are also important. The size is very important, as they need to fit the player’s hand. We all don’t wear a Medium-Large glove and likewise need different size grips. If a grip is too big it can cause a push or slice and if too small can cause a pull or a hook. The compound also needs to be comfortable so the player can get good feedback from each shot.

How much has custom fitting evolved over the last decade and what future changes will we see?

It’s changed big time with all the machines that we can use to help to show us exactly what’s going on with their golf swing and being able to show them the improvement that different products can make to their game. The one thing that has not changed is that there are two basic elements. For me, it’s all about ball flight and feel. I cannot know how it feels to the player. He has to tell me this. Ball flight is also individual. I know what I like, but that does not mean the players like it. We have to work together to get everything right.