FIND THE PERFECTLY MATCHED SHAFT IN 3 SWINGS
After a decade fitting amateurs (and Luke Donald), Mizuno's technicians found that matching golfers to the right shaft can add 10-30 yards to every iron in the bag - as well as improving shot dispersion.
Mizuno's Swing DNA system makes it an easy process by selecting the best three iron shaft options from more than 50 possibilities - after just three of your better swings with the shaft optimiser. Using your unique Swing DNA (head speed, tempo, toe down, kick angle and release factor), Mizuno's software recommends the best three shafts to test and a customised combination of hybrids, irons and wedges.
What do we measure?
Clubhead Speed How fast the clubhead and shaft are moving during the swing.
Tempo How quickly the player transitions from the backswing to the downswing.
Shaft Toe Down A measure of the bowing of the shaft in a downward direction during the downswing.
Shaft Kick Angle The amount of shaft forward bending during the downswing motion.
Release Factor How and when the clubhead and shaft are releasing during the downswing motion.
“What's my Swing DNA?” asked Duncan Lennard, 7 hcp, freelance journalist who tested his local centre at Long Ashton GC
According to American magazine Golf Digest, four out of every five club golfers are using the wrong shafts. I confess I have no idea if my own clubs make me one of those four.
It's not that I don't buy into the merits of custom-fitting; it's more that, as a 5ft 11in golfer who plays twice a week, and hits it maybe slightly longer than most, I have classified myself as a bit of a Mr Average - unlikely to need anything special. While my handicap of 7 might put me above average, and have read many times of how club golfers use shafts that are too stiff for them. Taking all this into account, I have arrived at an entirely unscientific conclusion that the regular-flexed True Temper Dynamic Gold R300s in my dual-muscle Mizuno M52 irons are... well... probably about right for me.
Neither has the investment into custom-fit services made by golf's bigger companies over the past decade or so persuaded me. Forking out to drive hundreds of miles to a central fitting centre, only to spend a two-hour session staring at a series of inscrutable screens of launch monitor data, only to fork out again for a shiny new set of weapons... it's not exactly selling the concept to me.
According to Mizuno though, there is a quicker and more convenient alternative. So I accepted an invitation to find the closest of their 400 UK Fitting Centres and give the Mizuno Swing DNA system a whirl.
Besides a fitting cart armed with 40 heads, 55 shafts and more, each Centre is equipped with Mizuno's award-winning Shaft Optimiser and Swing DNA software - two clever pieces of technology which, Mizuno claim, will reveal your true swing signature.
“So even if you're not hitting the ball out of the middle, the Optimizer can quickly get a really good reading of how you swing the club.”
The system's genius is in recognising that the essence of your action reveals itself in the stresses you create in the shaft during your swing. Those forces are measured by the Shaft Optimiser - a specially-made 6-iron, complete with sensors along its shaft. Those sensors monitor five key shaft parameters as the club is swung, and send that data to a laptop computer, armed with software make recommendations for both shaft and clubhead.
Ultimately, say Mizuno, the system needs just three swings to give you accurate recommendations. They describe the process as getting to know your Swing DNA - handy for an action like mine that can at times resemble a double helix.
A simple search on Mizuno's website reveals there are no fewer than four Regional Fitting Centres within 15 miles. So I make my booking for the nearest - Long Ashton, just south of Bristol. I am greeted by a long time Mizuno fitter (and +2 hcp) who has made a special trip west from Mizuno HQ.
After some polite golfing chit chat, we establish my shaft length (a quarter-inch longer than standard) and I get to hit some balls with the Shaft Optimizer- taking me right to the heart of the fitting process.
The Optimiser needs a level of consistency - a baseline - on which to make its recommendations. According to Mizuno, just three solid swings can achieve this. The great thing here for amateurs is that it's shaft dynamics that are being measured - not the ball. "You'd be amazed how similar the shaft loads on your best and worst shots," says the fitter.
After just a handful of swings, the Optimiser is beginning to identify a pattern in my action. A digital readout on the device consistently reveals five figures - 86, 5, 4, 2 and 7. The fitter is on hand to interpret.
"The 86 is clubhead speed, in miles per hour," he says, showing me a computer screen that also records the data for Mizuno's staff tour players. "That is putting you between Luke Donald, at 92, and LPGA star Stacy Lewis who, at 83mph, represents a fairly average figure for the male club golfer. "This figure can't give you a shaft flex on its own - but generally the faster the swing, the stiffer the shaft."
The second figure, a five, relates to my swing tempo. "Essentially this is a measure of the speed of changeover from backswing to downswing, out of nine," the fitter explains, "one being very slow, like a David Toms, and nine being fast, like a Nick Price. This affects how and when you 'load' the shaft, and has implications for your best shaft profile. But you are right in the middle there."
My third figure of four - again out of nine - is a measure of what Mizuno term 'toe down'. "The forces on the shaft created by the downswing cause the shaft to bow," adds the fitter. "You could think of it like casting a fishing rod, and its far end dipping down. This bowing flattens the lie of the club and is the reason it is generally recommended to have the toe a little off the ground at set-up. "Again, your figure is in the middle."
The fourth figure refers to what Mizuno call the Kick Angle. "During the downswing, shaft flex sees the head lag behind the grip," the fitter expands. "Then, approaching impact, that flex kicks the head through and the shaft bends forwards, towards the target. Kick Angle is a measurement of this. "In your case, two means there is not a lot of kick going on. We can now look towards a shaft that will kick a little bit more, to give you a bit more energy at impact."
The fifth and final figure is called Release Factor. "Some golfers, like Ben Hogan or Sergio Garcia, release the club very late," says the fitter. "They would be towards two or three on this scale. Often, this late release sees big divots taken. Others release the club early; they are more 'pickers', taking the ball cleanly. "Your figure of seven shows you are more in this camp. You would benefit from a softer-tipped shaft, again to give more energy to your strike, whereas the very late releaser needs a firmer tip."
It does not take long for Mizuno's Shaft Optimiser software to recommend me three shafts- ranked in order of suitablility. "It's showing us that you would benefit from a shaft that is lighter and stiffer than the R300 you currently use," the fitter reports.
Dynalite Gold XP S300, KVS stiff 120 and NS Pro 1150 are all medium-weight stiff shafts that will assist your action where you need it, and tighten up your dispersion. What the computer can't do is factor in personal feel or preference, so that's why it gives you three options to test out."
The Fitting Cart is armed with all possible Swing DNA recommendations, with heads and shafts connectable though a beautifully neat and precise interchangeable ferule. With typical Mizuno precision, eight grams have been taken out of the iron heads' hosels to accommodate the mechanism's eight-gram screw.
Finally, I am ready to hit the suggested club - a MP59 head in the Dynalite shaft. The club feels great - considerably more wieldy and responsive - but what is perhaps more surprising is the instant extra confidence with which I swing it.
“The fitting process has taught me much about the way I swing the club; knowing I have a tool in my hands that complements that action has instantly encouraged me to swing with assurance.”
The fitter rounds off the session by explaining the Swing DNA system's recommendations for my full iron set-up. Three and 4-irons are out, with their more forgiving Direct Long Iron Fli-Hi replacements at 21° and 24° coming in. Three MPR-12 wedges, at 52°, 56° and 60°, give me the right loft gaps and spin rate thanks to their Quad Cut Grooves. The line-up - and the fitting - is complete.
This has certainly been a different type of fitting. The clubs and shafts I currently use are scarcely mentioned, and there is no direct comparison made between the performance of the old and the new. But I like this. This system could in fact reveal that your existing clubs are perfect, and that helps erase any element of the hard sell from the session.
“I also like the fact that I could be fitted at my local golf course. With the session conducted in a familiar, friendly environment, I am able to relax and enjoy a process that feels feel much more targeted to my level; this was a world away from the tour-pro-in-a-science-lab experience I half-expected.”
Nor have I got streams of data on launch angles, spin rates and the rest. But again, that suits me. Those figures are merely the consequences of fitting the right shaft anyway, in the same way your car's top speed is little more than an inevitable spin-off of its engine's performance.
Instead, I am simply left to hit balls and witness the difference in performance for myself. And after just a couple of dozen balls I am beginning to see tangible benefits. My old flight - quick to rise and quick to fall - has been replaced by a more penetrating launch, with the ball hanging in the air for a beat longer. The ball is now landing comfortably past the 150-yard marker instead of nudging up shy of it. Impact feels more solid and sounds crisper. But even better for me, the pull-draw that plagues my game seems tamed; swings that would have been sending the ball 15 yards left are sending it only marginally off-line.
In just a handful of swings, the Swing DNA system has presented me with a club spec that offers tighter dispersion and considerably more distance. Of course the real test will be on the course, but given this evidence, it's going to be hard not to push ahead and get this new set made up.
Above all, the fitting has shown me how easy it is to move from the four-in-five to the one-in-five. If this is the future of custom fitting, I like it.
Swing DNA - What's the blueprint?
Just ten years ago the most complex shaft choice a serious golfer had to make was 'Stiff or regular?' Now the massive growth of custom fitting has thrown up so many options that the average player has more ways to get it wrong than ever.
Faced with this problem, Mizuno has developed a cutting edge technology that takes shaft fitting to a whole new level. In creating Swing DNA a unique system that identifies the unique blueprint in every swing - Mizuno has addressed the most critical element of the entire custom fitting process.
Specially-created software sifts through the mass of shaft options to select the optimal match, based on Swing DNA recorded by Mizuno's Shaft Optimiser. What was once a time-consuming and inaccurate process is now one that is immediate, consistent and widely available.
On traditional custom built sets shaft recommendations were based on the theory that fast swingers required stiff s, while everybody else was a regular. Twenty years on, the Mizuno range of custom iron shafts has evolved to more than 50 options, with only a few State of the Art Facilities able to take advantage.
Mizuno's new Shaft Optimiser changes everything. A real golf club with specially developed strain gauges and microprocessor, the Shaft Optimiser records an individuals Swing DNA from just 3 real shots. Combined with an exclusive Mizuno software the unique DNA is used to narrow down a baffling prospect of more than 50 shafts to the very best match - with 2 back up suggestions to test against.
Identifying the complete Swing DNA Blueprint is hugely important because two players with identical speeds can need completely different shafts to maximise their flight. Players who release the club early, for example, need a different bending profile to those who favour a late hit. Their swing speeds might be the same, they might even need the same flex, but fitting them for the same shaft could be disastrous
The Shaft Optimiser is unique in the amount of information it records. Clubhead speed and tempo might typically determine the ideal flex and weight of the shaft, but with so many variables to consider - weight, flex, kick point, tip softness - much more hard data is required to accurately determine a player's optimimum shaft. The Shaft Optimiser also measures shaft toe down, shaft kick angle and release factor readings in order to build up the players unique blueprint.
Theory vs. Reality
Mizuno's process incorporates an interchangeable shaft system so that the recommended shaft / head combination can be tested as confirmation.
Offering a choice of head weights - standard, lighter and graphite-weighted each test iron is designed to feel and play exactly like Mizuno's final production models. To ensure that the extra weight of the specially-made titanium adaptor didn't impact on the club's playing properties, 8 grams of mass was removed from the hosel of the test head. Any combination of shaft and head screwed together during the fitting process, will have the weight, feel and performance of a final production iron.
What's the right shaft? Is the most common question people have when they visit our National Fitting Centres. The development of lightweight steel like the Dynalite Gold XP and Tour promoted shafts like the Project X and KBS means we've a lot more tools to work with - but it leaves most people more confusedMark Duncombe, European Tour Technician