Is it time to build your clubs around your swing?

Kevin Markham has played golf for more than 40 years but never had clubs custom-fitted, for the same reasons as most golfers — too expensive, something for the pros. But after a trip to ForeGolf and a dream three-wood, he wishes he had got the personal touch much sooner.

ALADDIN’S CAVE: Custom fitting at ForeGolf. A 60 to 75-minute fitting costs €100.

New Year, new you. How are those resolutions coming along? If you’re a golfer then you might have made a few promises to yourself for the year ahead. Play more. Play less. Join a club. Travel further afield. Work on your swing. Take lessons. Buy a new putter. Cut your handicap by a shot or two. Win the Captain’s Prize.

How many of you decided this is the year to be custom-fit for new clubs?

Let’s hear the excuses.

It’s too expensive, I’m not a good enough golfer, I’m too embarrassed with my swing, I’d need to take lessons first, I don’t understand the process. Yes, all excuses that have been heard before… and excuses that shouldn’t, in any way, prevent you from going to an expert who will work with what you’ve got and customise clubs around the swing you use, day in, day out.

The above excuses highlight the great misconceptions about custom-fitting. And when I say ‘custom-fitting’ I mean it in the true sense of the word. This is not about going to a store and hitting a few balls into a net while a salesman tells you that these are definitely the clubs for you.

Nor is it about going to your home club when a manufacturer associated with your Pro has a demonstration day and your custom-fitting is limited to exactly one brand of club.

No, I’m talking about an experience that is focused on you and you alone, when an expert will analyse your swing in depth and identify the best club head, the best shaft, the right weights and even the best grip to help you with your game.

“Too many golfers think the problem is with them,” says Derek Murray, of ForeGolf, which is based in Killeen Castle Golf Club, Co Meath. “The problem may actually be with the clubs.”

Derek set up ForeGolf over 20 years ago and he has been custom-fitting golfers ever since. He has worked with professionals and amateurs from all over the world. In the reception area, next to the studio, a globe of the world blossoms with pins representing the countries where golfers have come from. There are too many to count. This guy knows his stuff and he has an approach to the task that focuses entirely on you. It’s not about shifting brands he has lying around out back, or selling you the most expensive product available or meeting sales targets… it is about finding the combination of golf club components that maximises the ergonomics and rhythm of your swing and what you enjoy hitting.

When you step into ForeGolf’s large driving range studio you are surrounded by every club head, shaft and grip imaginable. From these, Derek (or David) will create a golf club designed around your swing and abilities.

If you are wondering how Derek can ‘create’ clubs on the spot, let me explain.

ForeGolf is one of only four companies in the world which is ‘licensed for component’. It’s an odd phrase but what it means is that he gets sent each and every golf club component (shafts, clubheads, weights, grips) individually by the manufacturers and he combines these different elements to make the optimum club for you. There is no such thing as an off-the-shelf golf club here.

I have played golf for over 40 years and been a single handicapper for 15 years. I had never been custom-fitted before arriving at ForeGolf, and the process fascinated me.

It started with ‘blueprinting’. Derek measured/weighed the clubs I was using before I started hitting my seven-iron. He noted the figures on the Trackman 4, which analyses and measures your swing/ball-striking in minute detail, but he spent more time watching my swing and my hands, assessing for himself how I hit the ball.

After a while he went over to the racks of club heads, picked out a few and then did the same with the shafts. Right there he started assembling them. He told me that by watching my swing he could ignore 70% of the club heads on the racks. He handed me a seven-iron he had just created as he started making another. I hit more shots as he asked me how it felt. It is never easy to describe how something feels different but I could certainly sense a shift in the clubhead weight.

He handed me another club, then another and another and with each one I was drawing the ball less and less.

But it wasn’t just the shape of the shot, it was also the balance and weight of the club, and the feel of the shot. Not only was Derek giving me clubs with different heads and different shafts, it was also about how the weights were distributed in those club heads and shafts.

After five or six attempts I was using my same swing to hit the ball straighter and farther. The Trackman’s readings made that clear too. I’ve never understood ball speed, dynamic loft, smash factor etc, and, to be honest, amateur golfers really shouldn’t get fixated by such things, but the figures coming up on the board as I worked through the different clubs showed that I was improving in every category.

I’m not sure how else to describe it but the ForeGolf process and Derek’s questions and observations made me feel empowered. It felt like my potential was being unlocked.

I have skirted around the custom-fitting issue for 20 years because I’ve always regarded it as something for the Pros, something expensive, something to be done after lessons. I was completely wrong and, to be honest, I’m pretty hacked off I didn’t do this long ago. I won’t pretend I could have got to a one or two handicap but I suspect I’d be a better golfer than I am today and one who isn’t sliding in the wrong direction.

I hit almost 200 balls in an hour and one of the clubs I will soon be playing with is a three-wood, a club that has not graced my bag for a long time. I may take it to bed, to dinner, in the car, on long walks… I’ve never hit a club like it. It’s a Callaway Fusion. Derek told me it’s the best club Callaway have made since the Big Bertha. I’ll not disagree. When you hit shot after shot dead straight and 240-plus yards you tend to agree with anything! He knew exactly what he was giving me. It was a keys-to-the-kingdom moment.

I’m sure there are those who will talk about honeymoon periods and that ‘driving range’ experience where you just bang ball after ball but I can honestly say that I haven’t hit a three wood for 25 years. And I was nailing this club every shot. It was no fluke.

There was one burning question I had for Derek: do most golfers arrive at ForeGolf with the intention of buying a specific brand of club? Yes, he replied.

And how many of these leave with something else? About 70%. So, no matter what your preconceived notions are of the ideal club/brand for you, the chances are there is something far better.

Derek estimates that within ForeGolf there are millions of possible club combinations, made up of club heads (lie and loft), shaft (length, weight, flex and type), position of weights within the club head and shaft, and even grips.

After the blueprinting process identifies the best combination of club components for you (from driver through to putter if you so choose), ForeGolf make your clubs from scratch… by hand. Each club gets handled approximately 30 times during the process as it is fine-tuned to your individual specifications. The workshop is right in front of you when you first enter so you can even watch how clubs are made.

A 60- to 75-minute fitting costs €100. There’s no obligation to buy clubs after that but should you choose to do so then you’re looking at paying in the region of 10% more than the equivalent clubs you’d buy off the shelf.

The process is a huge amount of fun and the positives are enormous. What better way to kick-start your golfing year than warming to a brand new set of clubs built around you?


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