You’re even with your buddy heading to the 18th hole, and everything’s on the line. The Nassau, the presses, the carry-over skins, lunch, beverages … everything. Including pride.
You come to your second shot on the par 4, still 172 yards left, a shot over water into a stiff breeze from left to right. You look into your bag: Which one of you will be good to me? you think as you fumble through your clubs, muttering other words not fit to print.
Fear not. Fear not, that is, if you have your own personalized set of golf clubs. Clubs that are perfectly fitted to conform to your swing, perfectly fitted to put you in the comfort zone, perfectly fitted to conform to you.
Enter Club Champion, a specialist in this field. Now enter Randy Minchew, who’s tried the rest, but now says he’s found the best.
“This is the third time I’ve had a professional fitting from a company that specializes in this, so I had an expectation level,” says Minchew, founder and publisher of Missouri Golf Post. “But these guys surpassed that. The reason they did is that they’re brand agnostic-they don’t care what brand of club you buy. They’ll tell you what club on the market is best for you.
“The first experience I had was good, so my handicap went down. The second experience (both were with other outlets) was not as good, so my handicap went up. But now, my handicap’s gone down even more, I’m at a career low.”
His handicap was 12.4 before going Club Champion this spring, but it’s now at 7.6 — a drop of nearly five shots. Or, to look at it another way, Minchew, 58, shaved nearly 40 percent off his handicap.
Is he hitting it farther, straighter, or more consistently? Yes. “All of the above,” he says, “especially with my irons. I’ve been so much more consistent with my yardages, that’s the big thing, and also being able to shape a shot more consistently.
“For someone who’s a lower handicap player — and I’m not talking about myself here — you want to know the exact yardage for every club in your bag. You’re not really worried about hitting it straight, you can pretty well hit it straight or a hit a little draw or a little cut. You’re more worried about the yardage you hit it.”
Your golf swing will be analyzed by a certified Club Champion fitter using state-of-the-art TrackMan technology, which will track everything you can imagine about your golf swing — and a few things you can’t. There’s a lot more to it than just swing speed and ball flight. “There’s a lot of charting, there’s a lot of data,” Minchew says. “And they’re getting all of those numbers to give you the best possible combination.”
You should clear an afternoon on the calendar for your session, because this isn’t a 15- or 20-minute undertaking — you need to block off anywhere from an hour for a single-club fitting to four hours for a Full Bag Fitting. And you can certainly understand why, because Club Champion offers 15,000 different combinations of club head, shaft and grip configurations. Rest assured, they’re going to get it right.
Of course, if you’re a lousy golfer to begin with, you’ll probably still be lousy when you’re finished. But in all likelihood, you’ll be a better lousy. And besides getting the ideal clubs for you, you’ll probably receive a tip or two during your fitting session.
“The guys who are fitting you are also good instructors — they can figure out how much of it is the club’s fault and how much of it is you making a bad move,” Minchew says. “They pointed out a couple of things I was doing wrong right away, and that really helps the fitting process.
“This is for the enthusiastic golfer, anyone who’s serious about getting better. I know some guys who are 18 to 22 handicaps, but they want to be better, they want to get down to 13 or 15. This helps you do that.”
Generally speaking, there are four or five degrees of loft difference from iron to iron, and about 10 yards of distance. But often, you’ll have an unusual gap between some irons, particularly when you get into the longer irons. Club Champion will make sure each iron is the correct one.
“You might hit a stiff shaft in your 9-iron, but a regular shaft in your 4-iron,” Minchew says. “That’s why it takes a while to figure out what exactly’s best for you. The expectation is that you’re a going to be there for a while, they’re not just trying to move you through to buy the gear they want you to buy.
“A new set of irons these days is going to cost you $1,000 to $1,200, so you don’t want to do that very many times. And you don’t want to buy a new set of irons when you really don’t know what you’re getting. When you walk into a golf store, there will always be a brand they push — is that really the brand I need or is it just the brand they’re pushing? They’re going to push the one that makes them the most money and gives them the most profit margin.
“That’s not the case with these guys.”
Founded in 2010, Club Champion has 16 locations around the country, including one in St. Louis. Costs range from $350 for the Full Bag Fitting down to $80 for a wedge fitting. These costs will not be applied toward the purchase of clubs — you aren’t even required to buy your clubs from Club Champion, although their prices are comparable to other golf outlets. It’s strongly advised that you do, however, since they will build your clubs to the exact specifications that came from your fitting, and it’s unlikely that will happen anywhere else.
It’s certainly paid off for Minchew, who won his flight of the Club Championship at Old Hawthorne in Columbia this summer — the first individual trophy’s he’s ever won in 40 years of playing golf. Later in the summer, he won his flight in a Golf Channel Am Tour event in Kansas.
“You can’t get a better fitting that what I had; I am in the right set of clubs,” Minchew says. “When you know you have the right equipment, it’s one factor you take away so if you play bad, it’s on you.”
New golf clubs won’t turn you into Jason Day or Dustin Johnson, but it should help you gain an advantage in that Nassau against your buddies. Not to mention the presses, carry-over skins, lunch, beverages — and pride.
Hard to put a price on that, isn’t it? Who knows? You just might end up a Club Champion.