I began my work career as an assistant pro also working to pass the requirements for membership in the PGA of America. Because the salary of an assistant professional is next to nothing, I needed something to supplement my income. I was always good with my hands and with tools, so I decided to teach myself how to repair /reshaft / regrip golf clubs. Within a year I had a nice little club repair business going in which I did pick up and delivery service for 10 golf courses in the (San Francisco North Bay Area).
I had a real thirst to know everything possible about club heads, shafts, and everything associated with why some golfers hit a club well and others do not. So I began to call the golf equipment and shaft making companies to ask questions. After about the tenth time I was blown off with no answers I got very angry. So angry I slammed the phone down and literally shouted at the wall, “If none of these jerks are going to help me learn, then I am going to learn all of this stuff on my own, and when I do, I am darn sure going to share whatever I learn with anyone who is interested.”
That began a 40 year career in golf club design and development, doing all my own research and testing and investigation into the scientific explanations for club performance and Club fitting technology. Over 350 different clubhead designs, ten books and several hundred articles later, I am confident that I do know almost all the answers about golf club scientific performance and Club fitting technology. And I have shared anything and everything I have learned with anyone who wants to know.
MATT WARD: What’s the biggest fabrication told by equipment companies to golfers?
TOM WISHON: Golfers can be custom fit for their golf clubs when they buy their clubs at any of the big box golf retail stores or pro shops. This is a complete insult to what professional club fitting is, and can do for a golfer. Professional club fitting is taking the time to analyze the golfer’s swing characteristics, take measurements of the golfer, discover the golfer’s primary ball striking tendencies and goals, and then to determine what each of the 12 key club fitting specifications need to be to fit the golfer, on every one of the 13 tee to green clubs in the golfer’s bag. There is also the 6 key fitting specs for the putter for the 14th club to be custom fit – carried out by an individual who has studied club fitting technology and practiced professional club fitting for 2 years or more. And then to make the clubs so they accurately possess each of those 12 key club fitting specifications for every one of the 14 clubs in the bag. Professional custom fitting is to a golf club what a tailor is to a suit.
MW: What’s the biggest misconception golfers have when the subject of equipment come up for discussion?
TW: Related to the first question – they can get the best golf clubs for their game by shopping in a big box or online golf store, or that they have to be able to break 80 before custom fitting can help them play better golf. Explanations are within my answer to the previous question as to why.
MW: There’s been a major uptick in recent years dealing with getting one’s body in better condition in order to swing the club more effectively. What’s your take on this development?
TW: Very worthwhile for extending a golfer’s ability to maintain club head speed and better swing characteristics as they age. But to embark on a proper physical training regimen to do this is very hard work in terms of the commitment and discipline to do it right, and to stay with it continually to have it be effective. My son is a certified, licensed personal trainer with a degree in Exercise Physiology and Training. He heads up the training facility at our local golf club in addition to his primary career to offer proper training programs to the golfers to sustain and improve their body to either gain improvement or prevent deterioration of current skills due to the effects of age. The club markets this service to the members frequently. Yet no more than 15 members have taken advantage of this out of a membership of over 400.
MW: There’s been a recent focus on putter enhancements of one type or the other. If you can advise players on making their selection what would be the key checklist of items to consider?
TW: There’s no question being correctly fit for the 6 key Club fitting specification elements for the putter could bring about a significant score improvement – but only if done by a club fitter who really knows and has experience in professional putter fitting. The problem is, not many can do this because putter fitting takes a substantial amount of time with a result of being able to sell only one club – versus fitting for the tee to green clubs where more money can be made for the time spent in the fitting analysis. The 6 key putter fitting elements to be properly fit for are — length, lie angle, loft angle, putter weighting, grip size/shape and putter head design
Within this, one that has been garnering rave reviews from golfers who have done it, is putting a heavy counterweight in to the grip end of the shaft. For golfers using a conventional putter who suffer from distance control, push/pull and off center hit issues with the putter, having a substantial increase in weight in the hands during the stroke can calm down the stroke motion and improve the golfer’s fine motor control – which is such an important part of consistent putting. This weight fitting involves putting a 60g, 80g or 100g counter weight in the very end of the shaft – with the 80 and 100g counterweights working better for more golfers than the 60g weight.
MW: Are there any other recent equipment innovations that bear watching for golfers when contemplating club purchases for the ’16 season?
TW: Thanks to the success of Bryson deChambeau in winning the US Amateur and NCAA Championships in 2015 playing with his own custom made single length set of irons, the door is certainly open a crack for a few more companies to consider designing a single length set of irons, as well as for golfers to take a look and consider this very different approach to iron set design.
The potential benefits of single length irons are because every possible element that has an effect on swing feel is perfectly duplicated in a single length set, it can be possible for the golfer to achieve a higher level of shot consistency and swing repeatability. This is not the case with conventional incremental length irons where the only thing that is matched is swingweight. Being able to achieve a higher percentage of on center hits with the lower loft irons in the single length set. This comes about because the length of the low loft irons in a single length set is shorter than they are in a conventional set.
MW: With a new golf season set to begin how important is it for golfers to check on the quality of grips used and how often grips be changed?
TW: Absolutely no question — having fresh grips with their maximum feel and tackiness for each golfer’s preferred model of grip is very important to consistent ball striking. Some grips last longer than others. Some golfers play and hit balls more than others. So there are differences in whether each golfer’s grips are in need of replacement each year. some are still supple/tacky enough after 2 years. Many are not. Nine times out of ten when a golfer gets new grips, one of his first comments is to the effect of “why didn’t I do that sooner.”
If the golfer doesn’t have the budget to go to the club maker each year to have new grips installed, then learn to install your own grips. Countless videos showing how can be found on You Tube. Buying the equipment to install grips is not expensive and any number of companies will sell every possible type of grip to all golfers.
MW: You could change one thing in golf what would it be?
TW: Several things come to mid. But one thing only? That millions more golfers would realize that the very, very best golf clubs are ones that are accurately custom fit and custom built by a custom Club maker/club fitter with the passion for learning the technology and at least two years of experience behind him or her. And that the best clubs for their game cannot come from any of the traditional big box stores, on line stores or golf course pro shops – unless these places are staffed by a well trained and experienced independent custom club fitter. Absolutely no question this is true.
MW: Best advice you ever received?
TW: When it comes to golf clubs — not everything that can be counted counts — and not everything that counts can be counted.
MW: Golf will be once again in the Summer Olympics this year. Many within the broader golf community have hailed the connection. What’s your take on golf once again being a part of the Games. Will such an involvement translate itself into more countries and players playing?
TW: I think it’s pretty much a non issue with regard to the effect on the growth and well being of the game. Those countries already into the game will continue to have people playing because the countries into the game are of higher socio-economic level where enough people exist with money to get into the game. Those countries in which golf is not much of an activity will continue to be that way because they are typically poorer with fewer people with the money and time to play.
MW: The USGA and R&A are the two bodies that determine the various equipment rules and regulations. If you had to give them a letter grade for their efforts what would it be and why?
TW: A grade of C for the R&A — D for the USGA. But the grades are not for their efforts. They are for their results and conclusions and actions. I give the USGA a D because the vast majority of their rule changes in the past 17 years have not been needed, have not done what they envisioned, cost too much money, and were made heavily on the basis of emotion, not science and statistics, and have been capricious and arbitrary in their origin. I give the R&A a C because at times over the past 17 years, they did attempt to resist the USGA’s edict to make a plea for taking a longer more investigative look at the matter at hand. But in the end the R&A caved into the wishes of the USGA, hence the reason for the C and not higher.