Independent review. Long but worth the read.

June 22, 2018

I thought I knew it all….. - Cool Clubs Review

Following on from my initial fitting review a few months ago, many have asked me about Cool Clubs, in particular the value side of things in comparison to retail shop or pro fittings. Whilst this won’t be a comparison to the fittings I’ve done in the past, I do aim to explain and pretty much “justify” the prices charged. 

An early disclaimer; Jeff Wright from Cool Clubs invited me up to Sydney to complete their Ultimate Fitting ($800), which they provided free of charge. I did however pay for my own return flights, accomodation, rental car and other expenses totalling around $700. Other than not being charged for the fitting, I wasn’t paid or reimbursed.

I was excited about heading to Cool Clubs, in particular to try all the recently released equipment, but there was a bit of “yeah it’ll be good, but will it really be that different?” about me. The simple answer to that question is “WOW!”. More on that later.

Cool Clubs have recently opened up a two bay full fitting centre just north of Sydney, with their original centre up on the Gold Coast. We’re hearing rumblings that Melbourne is next on the cards, which will be huge! Contact Jeff or Jack for more info, or visit www.coolclubsoz.com.au

Upon arrival you’re overwhelmed with a well catalogued library of club heads, premium aftermarket shafts, and a wide range of tools, equipment and apparatus that’d rival a Formula 1 pit garage. My fitting was conducted by Jack Gilbert, who by the way is very good at what he does. Before even warming up, your entire current set is scrutinised via various tests and measurements; not too dissimilar to job interview. One thing you learn pretty quickly is that the real guys use numbers, not flex and brand names. All my clubs, from driver all the way thru wedge, were measure for length (in inches), lie (as a whole degree number, not just flat x* or upright x*), loft, flex (as a a CPM (cycles per minute) measurement), frequency (FM) and Swing Weight (normally a D# measurement). A lot of you would have read and heard of Project X or Rifle shafts, which use a number measurement (e.g PX5.0, 5.5, 6.0 6.5 etc) rather than a stiffness name; that’s what frequency matching (FM) is. The CPM measuring was quite interesting; each club is clamped into a pneumatic fixture and literally “flicked” at the head end of the club to measure how frequent the shaft cycles, or how stiff it is. To compensate for shaft length, a special FM scale system developed by Cool Clubs allows the fitter to understand the best FM to build each club for every individual player. It’s essentially a much more in depth measurement of stiffness. Whilst it might seem overly complicated, it’s extremely informative and interesting when done in person.

So after your clubs have been tested you essentially find out that the specs the manufacturers claim to have sold you are so different to what you’ve received it’s not funny. For example, despite being stock regular flex shafts directly from the factory, my 4i shaft was pretty much stiff, whereas my 5-8 irons were around reg flex, and my 9-AW were light regular! The lofts were also off by a fair margin, and not evenly gapped; for example my 6i was 2.5* stronger than my 7i, but my 7i was 5* stronger than my 8i. The lies were equally terrible. Even my driver shaft, a Tour Ad di 6x, was playing just under stiff flex! Golf’s hard enough without having the right equipment!

On to the fitting. Cool Clubs use only real Titleist Pro V1 Balls, coupled with the latest trackman on a full outdoors driving range, both from mats and outdoors on real grass, so the results are as real as they get. The great thing about the Cool Clubs set up is that when hitting off the mats, you have a 50”+ TV screen parallel to you displaying all the live Trackman data, so you can not only see all the essential information you hear and read about, but also visualise what you’re doing right and/or wrong, as directed by your fitter. After say 20 odd balls warming up with an iron, we got straight into it

Driver Fitting

Up until about a three weeks ago, the driver was by far the most consistent club in my bag; relatively long and straight. However, I’ve recently been fighting an evil slice. You start off with your own driver as the measuring stick and work from there. Despite my mediocre results, the data collected enabled us to pick and choose what combinations suit best. I must say that I was pretty set on my current driver due to my previous results, but was amazed by the improvements seen by selecting the right head and shaft combination. After a few swings, your club data collected at the very beginning is compared against the swing data you’ve just recorded, and Cool Clubs’ exclusive system then recommends a list of suitable heads and suitable shafts; this happens during each stage of the fitting, not just the driver phase. The great thing though is that my fitter, Jack, firstly asked me what I’d like to try, which eliminated any curiosity I may have had. We quickly found out that the club I really wanted to try (Callaway GBB Epic) was far from the most suitable for my swing. After messing around with a couple of different shaft and head combinations, the numbers started talking to us. Despite my relatively slow swing speed (Driver 100mph), we found that with a heavier head I was able to produce significantly more consistent, longer and straighter shots. Two very interesting observations were 1) my swing speed increased about 5% with the heavier head (I was expecting it to decrease); and 2) the best head by far for me was a Titleist, which I had always thought was more of a “player’s” brand, not mid-high handicapper’s. After finding what appeared to be the best head and shaft combo, Jack still proceeded to tweak around with various shafts to see if we could get any slightly better results. We’d be changing through various shafts, hitting a couple of shots with each, to confirm our findings and eliminate unsuitable options. The whole process is extremely thorough. Through the fitting, we were able to gain an increase in distance, but a huge improvement in feel and dispersion. Another interesting observation that was made that many of my shots were below centre, and the Titleist 917D2 provided the most forgiveness on such shots. Coupled with the Tour Ad MJ 6S, I started to produce some personal bests.

Fairway Wood Fitting

Despite in the past being one of my more consistent clubs, my 3w has been a duck hooking machine for a little while now. All three second shots on the par 5s at my home course require a 3w, and all three are dead if you hook it. Upon checking the club specs at the very beginning, we found that my 3w just was so far out of spec that it hardly resembled a hittable club; swing weight 5 points out, length out, flex out; everything just all over the place, and again it was stock from the factory. We went thru the process trying various heads, including the super high end “PXG” 3w, which was fun to try, lighter weight Callaway Fusion heads, the Titleist 917F2 etc, but ultimately found that I needed a club with a relatively shallow face (shorter from sole to crown for those playing at home). Again we went to a club that I had steered clear from in the past due to less positive experiences; the Ping G. Thru playing around with the shafts, we managed to turn a snap hook into a straight shot or even slight fade. The transformation was amazing! I was surprised however that the shaft that suited best didn’t match my driver shaft; this time we went with the Tour AD DJ 7S. We also found that reducing my shaft length by 0.5” helped tremendously.

Hybrid FittingI

’d been having more and more consistent results with my hybrid of recent times. My Hybrid is a little unusual; I carry a #2 17* hybrid, which is only 2* weaker than my 3w, but I use them in two very different scenarios. Although I hit my #2 hybrid very well, I do tend to find the flight a little too shallow, meaning it is hard to stop on greens. During the warm up swings with my current hybrid, we found the results to be the best of any current club that I’d hit so far; long and consistent with a nice baby draw. However, we decided straight off the bat that it was more beneficial for me to carry a #3 hybrid instead of #2 due to the flight of the ball. Almost instantly we found two stand out clubs, and again from brands that I’d decided not to game in the past; the Ping G and the Titleist 816 H1. After quite a few shots with both heads and a couple of different Tour Ad shafts again, we found the flight to be desirable, but the distance and feel was slightly off. It was at this point that I first noticed the massive difference the right shaft can make. Jack selected an Accra Tour shaft; well know to the more serious player, but definitely not a stock option. The results were amazing! The ball felt pure off the face, the flight was higher but hot and powerful off the face, and the distance was great. To put things into perspective, we had gone from my current gamer, which had 17* loft and was 42” long, to a 19* hybrid that was 40.5” long (1.5” under), had a significantly higher trajectory, tighter dispersion, but went the same distance, if not further. It was like an intelligent Pamela Anderson who was madly in love with me came into my life! The great thing about the Accra shaft as well is that it was one of the cheapest options available :) To double check the shaft, we then switched back to one of the other previous high end shafts that we had tested, and despite being the same head, the results were chalk and cheese. I honestly couldn’t believe how different the two shafts made! I settled on the Titleist 816 H1 19* with Accra Tour 80i shaft

Iron Fitting

I love my current irons. I’ve dropped 8 shots in about 3 months with my current irons; nothing beats my current irons….. or so I thought. A few months back I swallowed my pride and went back a flex in my irons, from stiff to reg. As mentioned above, I’d had great success since making the change. What I didn’t expect, was to find a club with weaker lofts, that’d go a half to full club further. Although I had returned back to reg flex in the previous few months, the iron fitting showed, just like my other clubs, that I greatly benefited from slightly heavier clubs. I had heard great things about the new Srixon Z565 irons, and the Ping G. Both tested well, but were pretty much on par with my current irons; no noticeable improvement. The improvement again occurred when we switched to a brand that traditionally didn’t target players of my calibre. Mizuno have more recently started to release a more mid-high handicapper “game improvement” line; quite different to their ultra traditional “butterknife” scratch marker blade range. The Mizuno JPX-900 Hot Metal irons produced what I thought were impossible results. As I said, I had seen great results with my original M2 Irons, hitting them further and straighter, but these Mizunos were amazing! Once again, the lofts were 1.5-3* weaker than my current clubs, but coupled with 0.25” longer KBS Tour stiff shafts, we were easily getting that extra distance. Probably the most surprising results of the entire fitting. Again we were able to play around with various shafts including the NS Pro Modus3 Tour 105 Stiff, NS Pro 1050GH etc, but found the KBS Tour shafts the most suitable. For added thoroughness, we also tested the irons out on real grass outdoors with Trackman, so you’re able to obtain almost the best possible results, other than being out on your local tracking. Very thorough.

Wedge Fitting

My wedge fitting was relatively quick. I hit my current wedges quite well, and per the initial club spec inspection, the wedge specs were pretty much close to ideal. Jack and I did discuss the bounce options, as he found my 60* wedge to have not enough bounce, however after discussion, we agreed that the lower bounce of that particular wedge suited the courses I play. One thing that is slightly different about the wedge fitting in comparison to the rest of the fitting is that the wedge shafts are not interchangeable due to engineering constraints whereby the shaft connector can’t be adapted to the wedge. This means that it’s not possible to try every shaft combination in every wedge.

Putter Fitting

I was really really looking forward to the putter fitting. The contraption used appears to have come straight out of a Sci-Fi movie, with scaffolding and cameras all over the place. I currently have three putters in my rotation, but brought along my most expensive and favourite putter to try. I found the putter fitting to be probably the most technical aspect of my fitting. There is more teaching in this part than any other part of the experience. With all the HD cameras tracking your stroke, you’re able to get every single angle of the player putting the ball. During the fitting, I thought I had putted quite well, in fact very well; I’d holed 90% of the 10ft or so putts and was very confident that I wouldn’t need a change. The fun part was yet to come. Thru the use of the HD ultra slow mo footage, Jack was easily able to determine that a) I had a significant flaw in my putting stroke and b) my very expensive putter wasn’t ideal for me. Although I had sunk almost all the putts, we found that I wasn’t aligning my putts correctly, I was hitting my putts out of the toe with an open face, and that I was rotating my body thru impact, making me cut across my ball, albeit only a handful of degrees, causing me to “slice” my putts. Crushing :( Although there didn’t appear to be as many putter options as the other clubs, the fact that, other than shaft length, each shaft is pretty much the same, probably made the selection seem smaller than it actually was. We tried Scotty Cameron, Bettinardi, Ping, Odyssey and PXG putters. The putter fitting itself felt a lot more personal than the other parts of the fitting; after trying various putters, Jack’s recommendation was that I needed a heavier putter, that was centre shafted with a square back and a white sight line. The whole thing felt so manual and hand picked that it was unbelievably “believable” and satisfying. Great thing was, one of my other two gamers was the exact type of putter I required, which was a relief :)

Other Aspects

Up to this stage I had been hitting balls continuously for 5 ½ hours; yes it is an extremely long and physical process. The Ultimate Fitting is usually conducted over 2 x 3-hour sessions over two days. Due to time constraints we had to fit it into one day. Jack normally spends a lot more time out on the short game area fitting the wedges, and out on the practice putting green trying various length and various break putts. There’s also a significant Q&A session in regards to what you’re looking for in particular clubs. This probably adds and additional 1-2 hours on top of what we had already done, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to complete it.

Another important aspect that needs to be noted is that Cool Clubs make a huge effort to make sure that the clubs you’re trying out and being fitted into represent the actual product you’d receive as much as possible. Although different connectors are added to clubs to make the shaft changing process as quick and easy as possible, special weight allowances and specific connectors are used to match the club weight as close as possible to the actual club you would purchase

We also went through a grip fitting, both with the woods, irons & putter. It’s essential that this is discussed as it not only affected the swing weight, but also can affect your own ability to play certain shots, in particular rotating your hands through impact. We found that my driver grip was slightly too big, maybe 1 or 2 papers over ideal, which was affecting my driver consistency.One thing that Cool Clubs emphasises is that they don’t push club purchase, although around 90% of players who are fitted do purchase clubs. During a fitting you’re paying for their time and expertise, so whether you purchase a club or not, you’re getting the same knowledge and advice throughout. Below I discuss the club purchasing costs and benefits.**All clubs purchased from Cool Clubs will be “Pured” and built to the highest possible tour standards**

As mentioned above, you are in no way obligated or pressured into purchasing clubs after your fitting. You also won’t get a discount on your fitting if you purchase clubs. You’re paying for Cool Clubs’ time, knowledge and technology. One thing that I noticed straight away was that the irons I was fitted into were about double the price I could purchase them from most golf retailers. When I asked why, I was provided with an answer that not only made sense, but honestly encouraged me even more to purchase the clubs directly off Cool Clubs. As we had found out during the initial club testing segment of my fitting, the specifications of my stock clubs were all over the place (Shaft length, shaft flex, swing weight, frequency etc…). Throughout the fitting process, we continuously return back to the same ideology that consistency is the answer to our prayers. Cool Clubs have exclusive relationships with both club and shaft manufacturers whereby they can specifically order the exact and correct component of each club, in order to assemble the perfect clubs determined to be most beneficial to your game. As shown in the review of each different stage of the various fittings conducted, the numbers produced can only be replicated if a consistent product is supplied. Having had Cool Clubs check the specifications of my stock clubs, I honestly do find it hard to believe that the exact specifications stated by manufacturers are supplied thru standard retail purchases. Will some clubs be within tolerances? Yes of course. But I’m now a believer that more often than not you’re walking out of a retail store with an out of spec club. This won’t destroy your game, but it certainly won’t help it as much as getting properly fitted can. 

Regardless whether you purchase via Cool Clubs or not, you’re sent through anvery thoroughly report of your entire fitting, including your Trackman data of your current clubs vs most suitable clubs, and a full breakdown of the exact specs you require.

My recommendation? If you’re even only half serious about golf, put $15 a week aside and go do an ultimate fitting. You will not regret it. It’s the ultimate understanding of your game.

Dan, Aussie Golf Advice

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