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Filling the "Gap" in Your Game
Living in Minnesota during the winter months and being a golfer can be frustrating and annoying. Sure, sure…you have golf domes, simulators, even outdoor ranges where you hit off mats into the wide open (hello, Golf Zone), but we know that it’s not the same. So what is a person to do? The MN Golf Show just completed its run. Those that attended and visited the 2nd Swing hitting areas had the opportunity to hit the new toys. I’m positive that many of my fellow golfers have been working out and stretching to prepare for the upcoming season, right? Uh, drinking beer on the couch and watching Sunday golf does not count. What else should you be doing to be ready for 2013?
I posed that question to the staff at the Minnetonka 2nd Swing store. Their response? “Have you had a Gap Analysis done?” My teeth don’t have gaps. I already own a gap wedge. Do I need a special one? Did they want to know the frequency of my visits to a certain clothing store? And how did that relate to my golf game?
What is a Gap Analysis?
Ever had a set of irons where the average distance between two irons was significant? You had to swing really hard to make up the distance or choke way down with the longer club. This required lots of practice and knowing your own limitations. Growing up, the rule of thumb for a set of irons was as each club got longer the loft of the club would decrease and the difference in yardage was 10 yards per club. At one time I was told that typically the 7 iron is meant to carry 150 yards, which meant the 8 irons would carry 140 yards, 9 iron 130 yards and so on in each direction. But the practical application of that proved to be wrong. Sometimes I hit my 7 iron longer. Many golfers hit their long irons the same distance, which is part of the reason for the growth of hybrids. The 10-yard difference in irons was not necessarily wrong, just different for each player.
A Gap Analysis, or “gapping” as it is called, is a feature provided by the PING nFlight launcher monitors created by installed in the hitting nets at 2nd Swing. By hitting balls with your own equipment, the computer program is able to calculate your average distance with each iron and the difference in carry and roll yardage between each iron. That distance is your “gap” between irons.
The 2nd Swing clubfitter (Aaron worked with me) asks you a series of questions: height, length of wrist to floor, hand size, longest finger (remember, this is PING and this is how they roll when clubfitting), plus your average distance with a 7 iron and driver. Partly, this is to set up the computer program, but also to assess your knowledge of your equipment. Here’s the most important part: Be honest! It is like going to the doctor’s office: the more honest you are and the more information you can provide, the better your diagnosis. If you tell the clubfitter that you hit a 7 iron 165 yards and then hit five balls and they only go 150, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Check the ego at the door. Or it may be a case where you need new irons to get back to that 165-yard 7 iron. Either way, the clubfitter will be able to tell.
First, I hit a couple of 7 irons, making sure that I hit them just right — not too thin, not too chunky. Then I did the same thing with my 3 hybrid (18 degree), and finally a couple of swings with, ironically, the gap wedge. Keep in mind, you are looking for your AVERAGE carry distance and roll. This is one more reason to remember to always swing no more than 65-70 percent of your full power for more consistent distance and accuracy. Once that was completed I had the rest of my club lofts input. From this information a gapping analysis was completed and printed for me to review.
You can see that I have a serious gap from my 4 iron to my 19-degree and 18-degree hybrids. Part of that is because my original 3 hybrid is an older TaylorMade; the 18 degree hybrid is a newer TaylorMade RBZ, which comes with a longer shaft. What I found very interesting is that the calculated distances are very close to my actual distances. But you can see I have a serious yardage gap. Here was the interesting lesson learned: It does not matter what the loft of the club is or how long it is or who makes the club. You are looking for the club that will more evenly cover the gap distance. So you don’t need to have all TaylorMade or all PING in your bag (although the manufacturer would prefer that…and you can always custom order to the specs you need).
Filling the Gap
Knowing the gap, the next step was to find the right combination of loft, shaft flex and shaft length that best allows me to fill the gap. Aaron worked with me as we tried different brands with varying lofts and lengths. We ultimately found a Titleist 913 24-degree hybrid, but installed a shaft that normally works for a 21-degree hybrid (about a half-inch longer). This got me to an average distance of 208 to 212 yards. Now my gap from my 4 iron is only 13 yards and order has been restored to my golf bag.
A Gap Analysis fitting typically costs $100 and can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. But, as is the longstanding policy with 2nd Swing, if you make a purchase that day because of the fitting, the fitting is free. You also will receive a full printout and analysis to take home and a copy of your results is e-mailed to you as well.
I found the Gap Analysis very revealing. I had no idea my longer hybrids were bunched in distance so closely together. While playing, I probably didn’t even realize I was choking down or swinging harder to cover the yardage gaps. On the shorter irons, it may be a case of needing to adjust the lofts by a degree or so to better and more consistently cover the yardage gaps. Is this type of fitting necessary for everyone? No. A Gap Analysis is better for the golfer who plays and has played for many years. They play in serious leagues or weekend events where the difference in a couple of strokes is shop credit or crying in your cold beer on the patio (I’ve done both, more the latter). But knowing your yardages always can give you an added advantage. Part of the printout you receive is a small form on which to write down your yardages and have them laminated. Now you have a handy guide ready to go when you play.