It’s swing time in Phoenix

Golf clubs should fit your swing, I learned,

not the other way around

While a late season snowfall interrupts Alberta’s winterless winter, the golf season in Arizona is in full swing. And so am I, standing at the TPC Scottsdale driving range sending 100 balls into flight, or not.

I’m being fitted for a new set of clubs by the experts at Cool Clubs, and the temperature for reviving an out-of-season swing is a near-perfect 80F (26C). The famous grandstand bleachers at hole 16 are just over to my left, which is probably as close as I’ll ever get to the Waste Management Phoenix Open held here each February.

 Meeting Doctor Grip, a master club builder

But my lesson in buying clubs that fit my own golf swing really began a few days earlier in Northern California.  We were in the Bay Area picking up my husband’s new custom-fitted clubs, and I had a chance to chat with master club builder David Butler, one of the world’s top golf fitters, according to Golf Digest in 2011.

David Butler, a.k.a Doctor Grip
David Butler, a.k.a. Doctor Grip

Butler, also known as Doctor Grip, has been fitting and assembling custom golf clubs for tour, junior and amateur players for decades. He said recreational golfers, like the pros, should be playing with clubs that are designed to suit their own individual swing.

 I get it. Late last summer I bought a full set of  off-the-rack ladies clubs at a demo day and struggled through several games and lessons trying to learn how to hit them. I  was told by the rep my set was the standard short for a lady of my petite height, yet there I was trying to modify my swing to suit clubs that were too long and felt too heavy. My peak season game had fallen to pieces and like any winter city princess running out of time, I returned the clubs and booked a fitting at Cool Clubs in Phoenix.

While my husband was trying out his new clubs for his final tuning using the TrackMan launch monitor at the club fitting studio just south of San Francisco, Butler, 75, told me his passion for building custom clubs has outlasted his professional careers, which included 15 years as chief engineer for Chrysler before he retired to work in the aero-space industry and later at computer company.  

lead block and hammer used to adjust lie angle of club head
60-year-old lead block and hammer used to adjust lie angle of club head

 He may be a mechanical and electrical engineer, but I think building perfectly-fitted clubs is also an art, and his commitment and craftsmanship was evident as he showed me the 60-year-old lead block and leather hammer he used to use to adjust the lie angle of a club head. 

He explained the importance of customizing the shaft and angle of the club to the  golfer’s swing: “The shaft is the only thing alive,” he said, “it’s dynamic. It bends, and twists and torques.” It’s like the engine of the golf club.

Butler customizes clubs by choosing from a variety of models, designs and performance factors,  taking into consideration things like shaft and length, swing weight, grip size and kick point, to be sure the shaft kicks only when it reaches the ball for those extra yards.

Custom clubs improve length and straightness

Butler said customized golf clubs should improve an amateur golfer’s hitting length and straightness, and his clients can expect an increase of 10 yards with their new irons and up to 25 yards with their new driver. He pointed to the monitor as my husband swings his new seven iron.  The Doppler radar tracks the actual path of the ball in the air giving exact yardages (within one to two yards) and shot shape. Results on the big screen show his distance has improved from his earlier recorded 140 to an impressive 160 yards.

He had set up my husband in Mitsubishi Rayon graphite shafts for his woods and irons.  The club maker only uses Miura irons, which are handcrafted in Japan and not sold retail. A brochure in the shop told me Mr. Miura and his sons have been forging steel into fine-grained heads for five decades–about as long as Butler has been fitting clubs–and the brand invokes images of century-old samurai and their forged swords. 

Butler said Miura’s forging techniques rearrange the molecular structure of the mild steel in a pattern that is uniform throughout the club head. By eliminating void spots in the club face, the club gives better distance control, ball flight, spin and feel.

Pro Tracy Nichols gives swing tips

Before we left, my husband received a few swing tips courtesy of Tracy Nichols, a 29-year-old golf instructor from Montreal who’s playing on the Canadian pro tour this year. She works with Butler and his clients at their store and fitting studio in Half Moon Bay, CA.

Listening to her reconfirmed my decision to return those ill-fitted clubs and left me more excited about my own custom fitting a few days later in Phoenix. “When you get fitted, you find the right combination of head and shaft and grip.  The club should fit your swing, not the other way around.”

Here’s to playing better golf this year.

www.MiuraGolf.com worldwide headquarters in Vancouver, B.C.

 www.butler-golf.com  david@miuragolf.us

www.coolclubs.com Scottsdale, AZ

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