SHERIDAN — “What did you shoot?” is a commonly heard question after a round of golf. “What did you get on the hole?” a buddy might ask his playing partner as the two walk off the green.
Scores are how one calculates handicap. From the top down, scores matter. They’re how the PGA Tour determines how to divvy up a tournament’s purse and how a group of buddies decides who owes everyone a round at the clubhouse bar afterward.
One adjustment that can help a golfer’s score dramatically is getting properly fitted for clubs, and two golf courses in Sheridan have club professionals that will do that.
Club fitting holds a small sliver of space in the timeline of golf. In a sport that has existed since the 15th century, fitting has only been around for the last couple decades.
Getting fitted for clubs comes down to three parameters: lie angle; the flexibility of the clubs’ shafts and the length of the shafts.
Brian James, the club pro at Kendrick Municipal Golf Course, has fitted golfers for nearly two decades and received Club Fitter of the Year from PING Golf Company in 2002 when he lived in Ennis, Montana.
James doesn’t see as many golfers asking for fittings in Sheridan but still fits about 10 each year. Todd Bleidner, the club pro at The Powder Horn, also fits players for clubs. Both recognize the importance of an accurate fitting, and both have similar processes when it comes to fitting.
“It’s a lot like test driving a car,” Bleidner said. “We are going to try this one, and we are going to try another one and see what the results are. It’s a lot of trial and error.”
Both club pros will take a golfer out to the driving range and have him or her hit balls and watch ball flight. Most fittings start with golfers hitting their six iron as it falls in the middle of the driver and pitching wedge.
James attaches tape with lines on the bottom of the club and has the player hit off a plastic board. The mark made by the club will give a pretty good idea of the lie angle. James has a number of different clubs prepared, so after a player hits a few shots with a few different clubs, James will look at the board and have a pretty good idea of which club to use.
James uses that and his wealth of knowledge in the game to find the right fit.
“I’m a 30-year golf pro who has given 6,000 lessons, so I have the ability to watch a player and know what their fit is after their first swing,” James said. “We just dial it in for the next half hour.”
Bleidner will encourage players to test out full demo sets of clubs for an entire round of golf. While he can determine a fit from just a driving range session, Bleidner believes actually playing a round with clubs he believes are the right fit will prove helpful, as well.
Nolan Billings elected to get fitted for clubs last summer at Kendrick and has been quite elated with the improvements in his score.
“I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner,” Billings said. “… I’m definitely pleased with what I did.”
Billings picked up the game as a child and played competitively in junior high and high school. He shot around 110; however, after couple rounds with fitted clubs, Billings now shoots rounds in the mid 80s.
While Bleidner believes getting fitted for clubs is a good idea and a good investment for a golfer who is spending upward of $1,000 on a set of irons, he admits it won’t cure all shortcomings.
“You can’t fix everything just by fitting. There are other factors in there,” Bleidner said. “It will help. It would never be a bad thing to be fit.”