Wow, not even sure where to start. Appt was for 9:45 AM but we had a nice nor-easter to deal with this morning. Couldn’t get in touch with Jacques because of the long weekend but checked my email at 6:30 AM and was pleased to see that he had sent an email at 6:15 AM offering to postpone if the drive looked unsafe. Checked outside and had about 6″ of wet snow on my car but all the news channels showed no snow along the CT shoreline so I decided I’d start southward and see how the highways were. Turned out not to be a problem at all. Total trip was about 90 miles each way and only took a longer than usual because of the weather.
Brought along my current bag and 5 other clubs (two other drivers and a 6,8,P from a backup iron set). Also brought a sheet with all my notes and questions to make sure I covered everything that I wanted to. Primary questions I wanted answered were:
– Get accurate readings of driver SS, launch angle, spin rates.
– Is current driver loft OK?
– Is current driver shaft OK?
– What driver shaft profile should I be looking for in general.
– Get some specific driver shaft recommendations.
– Get accurate reading of 5I or 6I SS and spin rate.
– Are current iron shafts OK (weight, flex, length, SW)?
– Are my iron lofts and lies OK?
– Try irons of different SW’s, check impact patterns.
– Any iron head design features I should be looking for that aren’t present in PC3 / 752tc?
– Specific iron shaft recommendations.
– Confirm playing length of driver, FW, hybrids, irons, wedges and putter. Measure and discuss.
– Discuss bag setup changes: I carried 19*, 22*, 25* hybrids last year. Lowest iron is a 5I at 27*. Am thinking of dropping 25* hybrid (can easily choke down an inch on 22* when necessary) in favor of another wedge. Measure distances and trajectories and discuss.
– Am also thinking of dropping my 15* 3W in favor of a 16* or 17* 4W. Measure 3W and 4W launch parameters and discuss.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Jacques had to leave almost immediately after our session in order to pick his kids up at school due to early dismissal. As a result, we had time to discuss and review all the results when we were done but he did NOT have time to print all the various monitor results, club specs, putter monitor, etc. for me to take home. He is going to print them and either fax or PDF them to me tomorrow. So everything here is from memory and I don’t have the exact figures regarding spin rates, launch angles, CPM of existing clubs, etc. I will update when I get the results.
The entire process took a little over 3 hours and consisted of the following:
– Personal interview (Jacques took notes; I did not fill out any forms)
– Measure specs of current clubs
– Iron fitting (hit about a dozen different 6 iron head and shaft combos)
– Hybrid fitting (three different heads/shafts)
– FW fitting (three different heads/shafts)
– Driver fitting (5-6 head /shaft combos)
– Putter fitting
– Iron lie board check
– Grip size check
– Sit-down review
– Follow up via email and snail-mail
Talked about 15 minutes about my game in general. Current handicap (5.2), biggest reason for hcap drop from 10 to 5 (short-game lessons last winter), game stats (GIR, putting averages, up & down %, etc), general ball-striking ability, strengths and weaknesses, best clubs I hit, worst clubs I hit, divot shapes, general ball flight tendencies, any adjustments in ball flight I’d like to see (higher, lower), etc.
Moved to the shop in back where we continued talking informally while Jacques measured specs of all my clubs (including the extras I’d brought along). Jacques noted that he wasn’t familiar with the FST shafts in my Wishon 752′s but was extremely impressed with the frequency tightness of the Pro Black Lites. Told him I’d reshafted them myself (my first reshaft job) and he asked if I used a frequency machine (chest swell). Told him I didn’t but had simply followed Tim Hewitt’s “basic clubbuilding for dummies” instructions that weren’t designed to take the place of a qualified clubbuilder but should get the weekend player somewhere in the ballpark. Apparently, his instructions yielded even better results than that. Jacques was VERY impressed with the shafts and said so several times.
Moved to the launch monitor area. Did some stretching, hit a few wedges and 8 irons into the net and then we got into the fitting proper.
Current clubs: Wishon 752tc / FST Pro Black Lites (~5.0 flex, firm). Backup set: Dynacraft PC3 / Harrison Professional (6.5 flex, very stiff)
Hit the Wishon 6 iron 3 or 4 times, reviewed results on launch monitor (VERY cool graphics display) and then we tried about 10 other head/shaft combos. Determined the following:
– Avg SS is 82-85 with 6I. Carry ~155y, total 160y.
– Consistently picked up ~2-3 MPH with 90g shafts (not ALL players benefit from lighter iron shafts but I did). Just about any shaft in 90g range would be better for me than the 122g Pro Black Lites or 135g Harrison Professionals.
– Best iron heads for me are just about any moderately forgiving, cavity-backed forged iron that I like the look of (I liked that he didn’t push any one thing at me). Had best results with Mizuno MX-23 (absolutely pured these shot after shot) and Wishon 770CFE (played 1/2 club longer than the 752′s on similar shafts). Others to look at are Wishon 550C and SE 600XC.
– 5.0 shaft flex yielded best results (even though he thought I hit the 6.5 flex Harrisons surprisingly well)
– Specific shaft recommendations: TX-90 (not the TX-90 Tour), Nippon 950, any good 90g graphite shaft (i.e.: Vista Pro 90), any Accuflex in 90g range.
– Generated a large amount of ball spin which is why I generally don’t have a problem stopping lower spin balls on most greens.
Current hybrids are 19*, 22*, 25* ZT Maximizers on TX-90. Hit the 22* 3-4 times and then tried a Sonartec MD-23* and Wishon 321LI, also on 90g steel shafts and graphite. 90g steel is fine (no improvement was noted with graphite shafts in the hybrids) but both the Sonartec and Wishon yielded straighter ball-flights than my ZT Maximizers. Jacques stressed that it wasn’t the shafts as the TX-90 shafts in my ZT’s were a good choice for me. We discussed bag setup and he agreed that dropping the 25* hybrid was probably a good idea.
Current FW: 15* Wishon 515 GRT 3W
Although the monitor showed that I hit the Wishon 3W off the deck pretty well with an acceptable trajectory the monitor confirmed that my idea to swap the 3W for a 4W is a good one. Hardly any lost distance with a better ball flight, more accuracy and, subjectively, more confidence. Two great 4W’s that I hit were the Sonartec SS-07 16* (recommended shaft: Accra T60, M4 flex) and Mizuno F-50 16.5* with stock Exsar stiff shaft. The Cally 4W I tried sucked dog snot. Note to self: Figure out how to get kcee to trade me for his 17* Innovex 4W.
Current driver is an SMT Spectrum 10* / Harrison Striper Tour 601 stiff. Also brought along an Alpha v2 400 / Fuji Speeder 569 stiff and a SMT 455DB 12* / Icon V3 reg (borrowed from my wife’s bag; I hit it almost as far as my Spectrum but almost always push it out to the right).
Hit my driver and a variety of others picked out by Jacques and determined the following:
– Avg SS with driver was 100-102 (forgot the carry and roll numbers).
– 250 CPM on the Harrison shaft was a good match.
– Hit one shot with a $1,000 shaft just for laughs (forget which one it was). Actually gained about 3 MPH (5-8 yards) but didn’t sign up to buy one, LOL.
– My launch angle was surprising high (17-18* range with a couple over 19*). With that much of an upward angle of attack my current driver loft of 10-10.5* is fine. Explains why several 12* driver experiments didn’t work out well for me. Also had a very VERY high amount of ball spin. Note for future lessons: If anything, I should try to reduce spin with driver by trying to hit ball higher on club face. Note: This explains why premium high-spin balls have never worked very well for me and why playing lower-spin balls is actually beneficial for me. Some low-spin OEM heads we tried are Cally FT-3, Cleveland Comp (not a Launcher) and Mizuno MX-500. A TM R7 would also work but I should stay away from Cally BB, Cleveland Launcher and other high-spin, high-launch drivers. Per Jacques, if I want to stay with SMT, I should ask Mike which SMT driver has lowest spin rate. Also, my 44.5″ driver length is fine; I control it well enough that there’s no reason to cut it down any further.
My Harrison Striper Tour 601 at 251 CPM is a decent fit but Jacques suggested I try an Accuflex Evolution R flex several times. The Fuji Speeder 569 that is currently in the Alpha is the softest tipped Speeder of them all which is bad for me because I already have plenty of launch angle and spin. That explains why I never hit that expensive shaft well at all. Surprisingly (to me at least) he suggested that a very cost-effective possibility was a Grafalloy Blue R untipped or even tipped 1/2″.
Current putter: TaylorMade Rossa Fontana Sport-7 (center-shafted mallet), cut to 32.75″, backweighted ~60g-90g (I honestly forget which) and a Ping Fingerlock grip.
The SAM Putting lab is SO cool. A little device clips onto your putter shaft and is wired to a small box that clips onto your belt. You stand so the clip-on thingy faces the main unit, put balls on a mark and then hit sets of 5 putts to a target about 10-12 feet away. The device measures your putter face angle at address, your swing path, face angle at impact, face angle rotation during the stroke (open to square to closed), impact point on the putter face (both heel-toe and vertically) and then displays all the results graphically. The great news is that my putting stroke is WAY good:
– Face angle at address was near-perfect.
– Face angle at impact was near-perfect.
– Swing path was ever so slightly from outside-in. Although not nearly enough to be problematic, a slight inside-out path would be preferable.
– Impact distribution on the putter face was good but not perfect. 4 of the 5 were pretty tight (by decent amateur standards) but one was about 1/4″ off-center. That could easily translate to 5′ short on a longer putt.
Added an additional 90g backweight, hit 5 more putts and, presto!, my swing path corrected itself to nearly dead straight!!!! Jacques suggested that the 90g addition was actually probably too much considering I already had 60-90g in there but that I ought to increase my backweighting to a total of 110-120g (once I remember what I put in it in the first place). Confirmed that a center-shafted putter is perfect for my stroke. Generally, players should use a center-shafted putter if most misses are left and use a heel-shafted putter if most misses are right. That makes sense given the way that putter offset should work to assist with squaring the putter face. Jacques thought I had a putter that was really right for me so of all the other putters there the only other one he had me try was a center-shafted Heavy Putter. Very nice feel through impact and the high MOI should virtually eliminate the distance loss from the occasional slightly off-center hit. Finished by measuring my putter loft at 4* which was perfect for my stroke.
Current wedges: Cleveland 588 RTG 53*, 57*.
Hit a few shots. Jacques measured my wrist to floor and said that although I should play my irons at standard it would be a good idea to play my wedges a little longer than standard, probably same as PW (seems my arms are a bit short for my height). Stay away from Pelz wedges and others that are deliberately shorter.
Iron lie board:
Wishons were 1-2* upright, PC3′s were spot on (I’d already had them adjusted). As expected, Wishons hits were a little heel-biased.
Checked grip size. Men’s standard or one extra wrap was fine for me.
Started winding down by discussing my bag setup. My 2005 bag usually contained:
1W – 10*
3W – 15*
2H – 19*
3H – 22*
4H – 25*
5I – 27*
6I – 31*
7I – 35*
8I – 39*
9I – 43*
PW – 47*
GW – 53*
SW – 57*
After dropping the 3W and 4H and adding a 4W and a 51-52* GW, my 2006 bag will (eventually) be:
1W – 10*-10.5*
4W – 16.5*-17*
2H – 19*
3H – 22*-23*
5I – 27*
6I – 31*
7I – 35*
8I – 39*
9I – 43*
PW – 47*
GW – 51*-52*
SW – 56*
LW – 58*-60*
Packed my stuff up while Jacques fielded a phone call from a woman looking to purchase a gift certificate for her husband. She didn’t understand why it would take 3 hours so Jacques handed me the phone and had me explain it to her, LOL! We then sat down for another 10 minutes to recap while I took some notes. Closed up the shop and we left together but not before Jacques said that if I wanted to come in again for a follow-up there’d be no additional charge!!!
I can’t tell how how happy I was with the entire experience, how much I learned and what a great time I had. Jacques was an absolute pleasure to work with. He is that rare combination of someone who absolutely knows what they’re doing but doesn’t put themselves on a pedestal. He said he was at my disposal if I’d like to have him build something but I want to stress that AT NO TIME did he ever try to sell me anything; I was very impressed with that. I also liked that he carries and gave equal recommendations to OEM and component clubs. Was also impressed by how he treated ME personally. Didn’t roll his eyes when I mentioned I was starting to tinker with clubbuilding purely as a hobby. On the contrary he was actually quite encouraging. That was pretty cool and made a nice impression.
Guys, I would recommend this experience to anyone that is even a little serious about their game and their equipment. It was as much FUN as it was educational.