In some ways, it feels like I am expert on how to find the right size golf clubs. I am in that particular ‘sweet spot’ of ridiculously tall and always tinkering with my equipment. This means that I have tried more (far more!) combinations that the average golfer who isn’t sure about what he or she should be playing. I have found a few helpful things in terms of getting stuff that fits, makes golf a little easier and doesn’t break the bank.
- There is more to fitting than club length
- Each golfer is different
- Length and lie will probably change throughout the set
Does a Taller Golfer Need a Longer Club?
Firstly, an apology. In this article I will undoubtedly talk a fair bit about finding the right club for a taller golfer. This is simply because it is my personal experience as a 6 ft 6 (nearly 2m tall) golfer. However, exactly the same logic applies in reverse for the shorter golfer.
When I play with someone for the first time, they will usually make one of two comments, depending on what I have in the bag that day. They will either ask me if my clubs are custom fit for my size or, especially if I am playing with standard length clubs, they will say that it looks like I am using a child’s clubs. This is unsurprising because I am right out there on the edge of the golfing bell curve. Of course, there are taller golfers than me, but not that many that you will bump into every day.
I generally answer the second question with a smile and for the first, I tend to say that it depends. Generally speaking, a taller golfer will play longer clubs than a shorter golfer but this is a blanket statement that has many exceptions.
Looking at my own current set up, I have irons that are about an inch longer than most sets and slightly more upright in lie angle. The grips are also jumbo and the shafts are a fairly heavy and stiff steel. How did I come to be using exactly this set up?
Well, I wouldn’t say that this is perfect for me and that I can only play golf with this. It would be a lie. Over my golfing journey I have played with everything from nearly 2 inches over length to slightly under length (yes, really!) Despite what you might have read, it is perfectly possible to play golf as a taller golfer with standard or even shorter clubs.
Static Measurements for Club Fitting
There are a lot of schools of thought and just how you should go about getting the best fit for any given golfer. Some will say that it doesn’t matter at all (these tend to be golfers who are average height/build) and others will say that going to see a club fitter is the only true path to golfing enlightenment. I have changed my views on this over the years. In my opinion, if you are a fair way away from average, you probably do want to think about getting clubs that aren’t average either.
The easiest way to do this is by using static fitting. Before anyone jumps on me, I understand the limits of static fitting. For example, the fact that a golfer is shorter doesn’t mean he will do better with shorter clubs. He might prefer standing very tall and his particular swing mechanics might need something that isn’t under length at all.
However, I think that for the golfer who is starting out, who doesn’t know his game that well, or who just plays now and again, a static fitting is the best starting point. I say this as someone who has played some really good rounds of golf with things that shouldn’t fit me at all. However, I am not 21 anymore and the fact that I can hit a standard length club pretty well doesn’t mean that my back is going to appreciate it, especially over an entire round or two.
Static fitting is also easy to do, either online or when buying clubs. The salesman doesn’t have to be an expert club fitter. Using a tape measure and some of the information online makes this a straightforward process. So just what measurements do you need for a proper static fit?
Wrist to Floor: the Key Measurement
Height is an obvious starting point. In fact, there is almost always a fairly solid correlation between height and comfortable club length. One measurement that is even more important though is wrist to floor. This measures, as you can probably guess, the distance from the wrist crease to the floor. It is actually a little bit more useful than height because it takes into account the tall golfer who has very long arms (and so perhaps doesn’t really need over length clubs) and his alter ego, the short golfer with very short arms who might actually have a somewhat longer wrist to floor and play a longer length than his height would indicate.
As an example, my wrist to floor measurement is around 40 inches or 1 metre. This is roughly about ‘standard’ for might height but plenty of guys who are as tall as me also have massive wingspans and might actually be at 38 inches or less.
The other quick measurements would be the hand size to get an idea of grip. This is also a comfort thing and should never be a hard and fast rule. More and more golfers are actually playing bigger grips, especially after seeing Bryson Dechambeau and his Jumbo Max grips. Larger grips can provide control and comfort, especially for anyone suffering from problems like arthritis.
Using a Chart to Find Club Size
Once you have these basic measurements, what do you do next? Well, there are a multitude of sites that will translate these numbers into club specs. Many manufacturers have them built into their club buying process. For me, I really like the original version of this which is Ping’s colour system. Plugging in height and the wrist to floor measurement gives a club spec, using length and also a colour code.
This code has been modified slightly over the years, once fairly recently, but it is essentially the same as it always has been. You can find it here. If I put my own information in there, it tells me that I need Silver lie (currently 4 degrees upright) and 1. 5 inches over length. Now as a personal preferences and knowing my own game quite well, I would actually have a little less upright and slightly shorter but if I followed the recommendation given, I really wouldn’t be too bad at all.
The other big advantage of using Ping is that you can then look for specific colours in the second hand market. I have bought plenty of iron sets on eBay and elsewhere because I knew which specs to look for and Ping clubs are both plentiful on the used market and extremely durable.
Longer Woods and Driver?
a word of warning should appear here. I don’t think it is a good idea to apply the same length/lie throughout the set. For the example of the taller golfer, in my opinion that extra length is great on wedges and most of the irons. Standing comfortably over a 37 inch pitching wedge rather than crouched over the same club at 35.5 inches can be a complete game changer for many taller golfers. This is one of the reasons that I really like single length for those that aren’t of average build.
However, this extra length can be worse than useless on the other end of the scale. Adding the same inch and a half to a driver isn’t necessary for comfort but it will make the club much harder to hit. Even at my height, I am far more tempted to play something slightly under length in the driver in order to hit the centre of the face more often.
The same argument can be made for woods, hybrids and even longer irons. Perhaps that inch and a half might only need to be half and inch on the four iron, or whatever. This can make blending the whole set together a little bit tricky. If you add an inch and a half to the five iron and only half an inch to the four, you now have a five iron that is longer than the four, and probably feels a fair bit heavier in terms of swing weight too. This brings us back to the idea of single length which would eliminate this problem. A reasonably competent fitter in your local shop could also work this out for you.
The Right Size Golf Clubs for Everyone
Most of us (and I do include myself in there) don’t really need perfect. As much fun as it is (at least for me) to play around with various specs, it shouldn’t be a barrier to getting out on the course. Despite what some say, there is nothing wrong with playing standard length equipment. However, nowadays it really is quite easy to take five minutes with a tape measure and get clubs that will work with you rather than making life more difficult.
This is just as true for the ex-NBA player who golfs (and there are many) as well as the shorter man, woman or junior who needs equipment that is adapted to their particular morphology and physical attributes. It doesn’t cost anymore to get a basic fitting, so why not take advantage and find something to increase the pleasure you get out on the course?