When your golf game goes south, sometimes you don’t want take responsibility for all those double bogeys. It’s not me, you rationalize. It’s my equipment.
And you might be right.
As technology has advanced, so has the business of custom fitting golf clubs. Tee to Green Practice Range and Golf Shop in Apex has stayed at the front of the curve when it comes to the fine points in a golf swing. In January, the business was recognized by Golf Digest as one of America’s 100 best club fitters.
“We were surprised,” says Rick Stitzer, who owns the facility with his brother, Rob, a teaching professional. “We didn’t know that was coming. All of a sudden we got an email from Golf Digest saying, congratulations. We’re really pleased to be recognized for that.”
Rick and Rob have been custom fitting golfers for 25 years, growing with the trends that evolve each season. For the past few years, they have offered analysis by the TrackMan Launch Monitor, a version of Doppler radar that tracks the ball from impact until it hits the ground. The resulting details reveal key data about flight peak, landing angle and other factors.
“I know exactly what I’m looking for in ball flight,” says Rick Stitzer. “With TrackMan, what I’ve found is that the ball is telling you what to do. The old adage of a certain mile-per-hour swing using a certain flex shaft sometimes isn’t the case anymore. You’re fitting to what the ball is telling you to do. That’s why it’s extremely important to see ball flight.”
If you want a set a clubs that is best suited to your particular abilities, you don’t necessarily have to stash your old sticks in the corner of the garage. About 30 percent of Tee to Green’s club fitting business comes from people who want to modify their current clubs. There are limitations, however. Rick Stitzer can make changes that customize the shaft and grip size, but those tweaks don’t take advantage of all that technology offers.
“By the time you do that, you’re halfway into the price of a new set anyway,” he says.
If you’re willing to go all in, there are more parameters to consider that can improve your game.
“With new clubs, it’s shaft flex, kick point of the shaft, grip size, lie and weight,” Stitzer says.
All of that is nice, but how much difference does it make where it really counts: on the scorecard?
“Night and day,” he says. “I’ve seen people who were not (custom) fit, where they needed extended golf clubs or a different lie, and they go from shooting in the 90s to the high 70s. That makes it fun. There’s a lot of different swing flaws that happen from a misfit club.”
The custom fitting process involves trial and error. Stitzer takes his golfers to the driving range and tries different clubs with them.
“If they have a fast tempo and fast swing, generally it’s going to be a little bit heavier shaft. If you give a light club to somebody who is fast, all they’re going to do is get faster.”
By contrast, someone who swings a too-heavy club will force a swing rather than create a fluid motion. The key is finding the happy medium. Sometimes golfers say that a good swing results in a certain sound at the point of impact. Stitzer says that’s a good barometer.
“You can hear timing. It’s a flush sound at contact when it’s right. What isn’t right is a sound more like a hockey slap. That’s usually due to the weight.”
Among the most valuable data he collects from TrackMan is what happens once a golfer’s shot reaches its peak. On a proper shot, the ball sustains the peak for a while, bringing more distance.
“If the ball is at its peak flight and it falls quickly to the ground, the spin rate is wrong or the shaft flex is wrong,” says Stitzer, glancing at his computer to view a remarkable collection of facts gathered by the tracking system.
If a ball climbs too quickly, there is too much spin on the ball, he says. The ball that falls quickly from its peak does not have enough. If he can customize your clubs to change your landing angle by 5 degrees — think of the arch of a rainbow — he can add 12 yards to your shots. The process is designed to create what he calls “ultimate distance.”
Another adjustment Stitzer makes frequently is club length. Making the swing with short clubs can cause sloppy shots.
“At the top of the back swing, that person will raise up because the spine angle doesn’t want to stay in that crouched position. Then his head will drop when he gets back to the ball, and his head will raise up through impact because his spine doesn’t want to stay in that angle either.”
A typical fitting costs $50 for golfers who are content to rely on Stitzer’s trained eye, and the session can last up to an hour. Using the TrackMan technology involves an additional fee.
Stitzer and his brother handle 30-50 fittings per month, and many of those clients purchase sets of clubs.
“We have pretty loyal customers,” Rick Stitzer says. “When they see what kind of passion we have for fitting, normally they say, ‘Let’s go ahead and do it.'”
Business is good at Tee to Green, located along Highway 64.
“The range feeds the shop and the shop feeds the range,” Stitzer says. “It’s a great combination.”
But it’s the hands-on part of the operation that gives him the most satisfaction.
“It’s nice to be recognized for a passion that Rob and I have for helping people play better through proper equipment fitting and lessons,” he says. “We can tell by the number of referrals we get that people are happy with their clubs. That means I did my job.”