Irish Open: JOE gets on board the TaylorMade Tour Truck
When the guys at TaylorMade Adidas Golf gave JOE a call and invited us to have a poke around their state of the art golf club fitting truck, how could we say no?
The European Tour has rolled into town for the week, and along with it, all the bells, whistles and background operators that make the Irish Open tick. JOE arrived at Carton House on the morning of the Pro Am, and after 10 minutes dribbling on the cars parked in the "Reserved for Darren Clarke/Rory McIlroy/Graeme McDowell" spaces, we made our way up to the TaylorMade Adidas Golf Tour Truck.
Daryl Evans, TMAG's European Tour Rep and club fitter ninja welcomed us aboard, and explained just why the tour trucks go every where with the players.
"Tuesday is usually our busiest day; we rock in at about 8am and finish sometime after 6. The first thing we do is sort out the 'soft goods' - the players come on to the truck and check out their pigeons holes which are already labeled for them. In those pigeon holes there's usually 4 dozen of their chosen golf balls, 4 hats and 6 gloves. That's the easy bit. The main part of my job is out on the driving range."
"My job is to work with the players out on the range, and guide them as to what equipment is the best equipment for them to use - particular to that tournament and that week. One week, you could be at a high altitude course, which means the golf ball will travel differently through the air, and the following you could be on a links golf course in Scotland, where the air is colder and you're at sea level. So you have to make adjustments to the equipment to make sure you get the best results from THAT equipment for THAT week."
So if a pro is out on the range with Daryl and there's something they want to change, how quickly can the guys on the TaylorMade Tour Truck turn around a new club?
"Well, if I'm on the range with a player and I tell him 'right, this is the spec you need', I can get back to the truck and have that player striking the newly spec'd and built club in 30 minutes. It takes another 15/20 minutes work on the range to check all the little tweaks and changes that we can do to make sure it's all dialed in. So within 50 minutes, we can have a fully customised club in the bag of one of our touring professionals."
That's all well and good for a pro - they hit the ball consistently and it's easy to spot where the clubs are at fault. But what about JOE? We hack around and let's be honest, golf lessons would probably make more difference than subtle equipment changes. Is it worth while getting fitted? Wouldn't we be better off just buy our clubs off the shelf?
"I would never encourage anybody to buy a product off the shelf. I'm a size 9 shoe, but I'll always try a new set of trainers on when I go shopping, because every manufacturer fits their product differently. Golf clubs are exactly the same - you have to make sure you have the right equipment fitted for you, regardless of your ability. Out on tour we see high levels of consistency, and the tiniest adjustments make the biggest difference - but it's not to say those adjustments wont make a huge difference to the amateur golfer."
Putting it all together
With that, an order came in from 4-time European Tour winner and former Irish Open champion David Howell, so Daryl's crew got to work, and walked JOE through the process of building a custom club for a pro.
Firstly, the pro and rep agree on the appropriate spec of the club , everything from head, lie, loft, shaft etc., and formalise it on an order form.
Then it's time to pick out the right head from the plethora of options. There are easily 50 drawers on the truck, all filled with every club head variation imaginable.
Any club fitter will tell you, club head choice is about preference, but shaft choice is science. Depending on the speed/angle/plane of your swing, the composition of the shaft can be customised to ensure the right stiffness, torque and weight are fitted to the individual player. This ensures the club head is delivered square so the ball can be launched at the correct angle and spin rate to maximise distance and control of the shots.
With shaft in hand (you're welcome, pun fans), the lads went about preparing the tip (seriously, where's the thesaurus?) for fitting into the club head. The shaft is cut to length, and sanded to fit.
The craftsmanship of the building process is really tested when it comes to fitting the pieces together. It's only in applying the adhesive and fitting the club head that the subtle tweaks to lie and loft can be made - attention to detail at this stage really pays dividends on the course.
The last stage then, is all about feel. The only touch point a golfer has between his body and the physical act of ball striking is through the grip, and everyone has their preference. 3 wraps of grip tape a and a thin Golf Pride grip, or just 1 wrap and a thick and tacky Lambkin grip, every touring TaylorMade Adidas Golf touring professional has their own drawer full of their favourite. JOE was lucky enough to have compare the grip choices of Paul Laurie, Sergio Garcia and Darren 'The Prince' Clarke.
And there you have it. 15 minutes later David Howell was pounding balls down the range in Carton House, 100% confident that his TaylorMade R1 will do as it's told.
If you want to get fitted for your own set, it's not that much more expensive. 40/50 quid will get you a full bag check in most pro shops, or you can head up to Darren Clarke's Golf School and get fitted by the TaylorMade Adidas Golf experts.
Here's hoping that this weekend, Prince Darren can add the Irish Open title to the British one he picked up a while back...