I was looking at getting some Ping irons, and I was poking around the Ping website. I saw where the Massengale Golf Academy at Augusta Pines was going to have their new nFlight fitting system. That is Ping’s new system that uses a Flightscope launch monitor and some specialized software to do club fitting. That’s 5 minutes from my house, so I called over there, and it wasn’t totally installed yet, but they’d give me a call in a week. They were in the process of constructing a new building on the end of the driving range that will have Ping nFlight and lots of video cameras and V1 pro teaching software.
A week later, they are all set up, so I make an appointment and go.
I warm up for about 10 minutes before I go in for the fitting, and I’m introduced to Cole Smith of the Massengale Golf Academy. We go into a large room with a big garage door that opens up onto the range. There’s a big screen on the wall, a computer on the desk, and the Flightscope launch monitor sensor on the ground behind a mat. We go through the usual questions, height, wrist to floor, usual shot shape, how far do you hit a 7 iron. The system makes a recommendation and Cole builds a i15 head with a AWT stiff shaft, 3 degrees up, standard size grip. I hit a few with that set up, about 148 carry, and the trajectory is a little low.
I have Project X 6.0 in my Mizuno’s, so he puts in the same shaft. A little better, about 150 carry, a little higher trajectory, but still too low overall.
Cole wants to try a lightweight steel shaft, so he installs a Nippon 95g steel shaft in stiff. Better trajectory, more spin, carry is up to 152.
Cole wants to try the G15 head, and asks if I have any problem with the head size and shape. I told him that I wouldn’t care, as long as I hit it well. The first few shots were major hook-ville. I was catching the heel first and turning it over. We switched to green code (2.25* up) and it straightened out. Really good trajectory and carry was up to 160! The launch was higher, the spin was a higher, and it stayed in the air longer and went farther. Smash factor was also up, as I was hitting it better.
We tried a few other combinations, but nothing produced the results of this combination.
We then move to wedges. I hit a Tour W wedge, 50* with the Nippon shaft and we get some numbers from that.
Then I hit a few shots with my hybrid. It’s a Nickent 5DX 18.5*, and I normally hit it about 200 yards. That day, nFlight said I was carrying it 198 yards.
Then Cole starts up a gap analysis that you see here. From those 3 clubs, it will look at how far you will hit the other clubs. You can switch out clubs, let’s say a 4 hybrid instead of a 4 iron, or if it recommends 50*, 54*, and 58* (like it did for me), you can see what 52* and 58* will give you gap wise. (Gaps too big.) The gaps were really good from 58* up to 6 iron, then they get a little narrow through the 4 iron. It predicts that I hit my 3 wood about 220, and that is spot on.
I ask to look at driver, because I’m having trouble hitting it. It’s a Ping G15, 10.5*, and I’ve got an Aldila VS Proto 70g shaft in it. I hit a few balls, and I the system recommends that I go lighter, and suggests a Diamana Blueboard 63g shaft. Cole makes one up with the same G15 head, and the numbers pick up again.
So one of the bits of information that I got out of this fitting is that heavy stiff shafts with big grips aren’t for me anymore. I need some help to get the clubhead through the hitting area, and lighter shafts and standard size grips are the way for me to go now.
So I bite the bullet, order the G15 irons, 4-W, green code, Nippon 95g stiff, Lamkin N-DUR grips in standard size. Price is $105 each. The Tour W wedges in 50/10*, 54/14*, and 58/8*, green code, with the Nippon 95g shaft stiff, Lamkin N-DUR standard size grips are $138 each. With tax, title and license, it’s a little over $1200.
Next week, I get a call, and my irons are in, but somehow the 50* did not get ordered, so it will be the next week. No big deal.
I find a Diamana Blueboard shaft on fleabay and put it in my G15 driver. I also had a bunch of credit at my home course pro shop, so I order a G15 3 wood (15.5*) with the Blueboard in it. It should be here shortly.
The price of the fitting is $75 unless you order something, then it’s included.
This whole process takes a lot of guesswork out of fitting. You see the effect of changes made on ball flight, spin, and distance.
It was so impressive, I talked MarkCPA into doing a fitting with it.
I was somewhat skeptical about getting fitted for Ping equipment when Snowdale first told me about this. First, I’m coming off a very unfavorable fitting experience from Mizuno in the fall of 2009. The fitting was conducted entirely indoors in a simulator, so I never saw actual ball flight. I was relying solely on computer software for everything. The end result was a disaster. Too stiff, too boardy, and way too heavy was the end verdict when I actually got out on the course. The numbers the fitting session got me were as bogus as the last Enron balance sheet. It was an $800 mistake before I salvaged some of my costs by selling the clubs on Ebay. I still play some old Mizuno equipment and like it, but find myself something of a skeptic about any computerized fitting process now after the results I got. Secondly, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to clubs; thin top lines, minimal offsets, and open faces are what I like. I do have some limited experience with Ping having had a set of S59 irons and some Tour wedges back in 2007, but I never got over looking down at the offset in the long irons. So, they didn’t stay in the bag too long.
I did some reading about nFlight and was surprised to find out that Ping only has two nFlight fitting centers in the entire county. To be within walking distance of one and not utilizing it no matter what my opinion on Ping equipment is could be viewed as sacrilegious by fellow equipment junkies, so I dutifully show up for my appointment with Cole Smith of Massengale Golf Academy. I’m going into the fitting with an erratic and at times very disappointing game from what I am capable of doing. Inconsistency right through the bag has been the name of the game thus far this season. Plus, I had just played 126 holes in five days in Texas including 18 the morning of the fitting. Two rounds of this 126 hole stretch literally made me ill they were so bad marked by horrible driving and even worse putting. Now is a good time to try a new, possibly even radical change like this just to try to shake things up and get back on track with the peak golf season right in front of me.
I hit a few shots with my 7 iron as Cole attended to a few matters on the computer just to get loose again. Cole checks out my current bag and asks a few questions about my game, the type of courses and conditions I usually play in, the current state of my game, and what I’d like to accomplish with this fitting. I then hit my current 7 iron with the computer charting what I do to get a baseline for comparison purposes. Cole sees enough from that to know where to start with the Ping products. He puts an i15 head on my current shaft of choice, DGS-300 along with some impact tape on the sole of iron. I’ve always played standard lie with my irons, but nFlight is suggesting that we go to a flatter lie (purple), and there is less draw in the shots. We begin tweaking from there by trying other shafts like the KBS Tour, ZZ-65, and AWT. After each shaft change, Cole takes me to the computer showing me the numbers and discussing what changes are taking place and what they mean. The sweet deal here though is that for the first time in the multiple fitting processes I’ve gone through previously to nFlight, I’m seeing the ball in actual flight allowing my own eyes to confirm the changes the fitting system is recording and then subsequent recommendations. Cole and I are constantly talking after each shot about what I just felt and saw. Some 25 or so balls later, nFlight confirms what my own eyes are seeing – material improvement right across the board with the ZZ-65 shaft. We head out of the bay and hit more balls off grass at the driving range and add a little emphasis on what my divots look like, again something that can’t happen indoors and off of mats.
We begin the same process over back in the bay, but this time we are focusing on the driver. I hit a few balls out into the range with my current setup. With the baseline established, nFlight makes some recommendations. I need a higher launch angle and an adjustment in my spin rate to improve my carry distance and trajectory. We start with an i15 head at 11* on one of the stock retail shafts for that head, the Ping TFC 700. The verbal interaction with Cole is still going strong as I hit balls and I relay to him what I feel and see to complement nFlight’s quantitative data. I relay to Cole my intentions of making a shaft change in my current driver based upon the success I’m having with the VS Proto in my current fairway wood. With my current setup, the flight is low enough that I need some extra spin to keep the ball in the air. Cole installs a VS Proto 65 in the i15 head and the results are undeniable. My carry distance jumps 12 yards from the baseline due to a higher launch angle and a slight increase in spin. We check nFlight for a few other recommendations, but the data nFlight is relaying along with my own eyes and ears leave no doubt. Each shot gets with a constant glowing set of adjectives flowing from me and Cole with the i15 – VS Proto setup.
It’s at this moment in the fitting session that I become really very comfortable and confident in the process. Whatever ice was still flowing though my veins from the previous unsuccessful fitting process are now totally gone. Plus, just to add fuel to the fire, something I knew about my own game had just been quanatatively confirmed by an independent source. nFlight had just proven to me I know my own game pretty dang good and can tweak a few things on my own as my eyes and hands tell me something is leaking.
Now I’m excited. I’m the six year old in the grocery store checkout line screaming for a candy bar. I’m bombarding Cole now with questions as the old junkie in me starts coming out. What about the offset issue in the long irons? What other heads are here? What about this shaft? Should I look for a softer tip? Cole is attentive and answers all and has me hit a few more balls with a long iron to address the offset issue for me. He’s got a 4 iron head from the S57 line. He snaps it on the nFlight’s shaft selection for me, the ZZ-65. While I like what I see at address, my own eyes and nFlight confirms that I’m hitting the ball lower, losing distance, and just not as consistent.
It’s time to ask myself an important question – do I want to be a better golfer and shoot lower scores? Shouldn’t work like this have that goal as the end result? I’m not near the junkie I used to be when it comes to equipment. The never ending rotation of clubs has slowed considerably for me. I’ve reached a point to where new equipment for me just means that – something different in the bag, but no material change in my scores. Now, equipment changes need to help me to lower scores. Nearly an hour and 40 minutes have passed and more balls than I’d care to go shag have been hit. My clothes are soaked with sweat from the hat to my socks from Texas heat, but I’m excited about the process nFlight and Cole provided me and what I’ve just learned about both my current bag setup and the future one sure to come as a direct result of this fitting session.
Epilogue – SnowDale
I’ve had my irons for a couple of weeks now. They are much easier to hit, and the solid hits are wonderful feeling. My usual miss, the over-the-top, steep, toe hit is a little better, but not much will help a bad swing. I’m finding that I’m hitting small fades these days, so I’m going to check with Cole on the lie board to make sure that they are not a little flat for me. I’ve found that I really like the wedges, especially around the green. I like the 58/8 wedge out of the bunker when I need something high and short. I just open it up, and the ball comes out very consistently. I’ve found that I’m leaving shorter putts and scoring better. I find that I’m about 5 yards shorter than what nFlight said I was going to hit everything, but that’s 5 yards farther than before.