Fit to Play
The Perfect Swing Starts with Clubs That Fit
Playing golf with off-the-rack clubs is akin to chewing a steak with store-bought teeth. You can do it, but the experience is far from optimal. Fortunately, just as there are plenty of specialists to properly fit new choppers to your mouth, there are numerous places in Westchester to get measured for perfectly fit golf clubs.
There are three basic ways to go:
1: A golf retail store, where a salesperson will use several devices to make sure the sticks you buy match the peculiarities of your swing the way a tailor will match your 30-inch inseam to your 42-inch waist.
2: A pro shop at one of our many golf courses, where a PGA professional will lend his or her considerable expertise to the process.
3: A club-fitting service, where the technician will measure your golf swing, your anatomy, and maybe even your psyche. Technicians use radar, lasers, ultra-high-speed cameras, strobe lights—you name it, they can measure it, feed it into their computer, and come back with an analysis of what happens when you swing a club at a golf ball.
My first high-tech club fitting was with Rick DeMane, a third-generation golf technologist located in Greenwich, Connecticut. It was fascinating to hit the ball in his studio surrounded by mysterious gizmos, then peek at the instantaneous feedback that explained in excruciating computerized detail why my last swing looked like something spectators should wear helmets to watch. After I tried out several drivers, he modified a couple of promising ones to my specs and I then took them to the driving range. While the results weren’t Tigeresque, I came away with a club that pounds the ball a respectable distance and even hits the fairway (slightly) more often than not.
My next visit was to The Complete Golfer in White Plains. Owner John Ioris says that properly fitted clubs can make a difference for even the most hopeless duffer because, he maintains, clubs that are too long or short, don’t have enough loft, or have shafts without enough flex, make a bad swing almost inevitable. “The big culprit is side-spin,” he explains. “The more side-spin on your ball, the more off-line it goes.” Shots that are off-line end up in the rough (which cuts your distance) or bounce off trees, into ponds, or somewhere into New Jersey, which is worse. On a short 120-yard shot, if the lie on your irons is off just three degrees, that means the difference between having a tap-in or a 22-foot putt.
Ioris’s facility eerily resembles a technology-laden doctor’s office with a staff of 14 golf-club surgeons. The first thing they do is measure every club in your bag, building a database of everything from each club’s loft and lie angle to its shaft weight and flex. Then you hit representative clubs to get a complete picture of your swing and all its components. Measurements taken with ultra-high-speed digital cameras show ball speed, spin rate, launch angle, carry distance, total distance, and directional deviation. They also examine the amount of load you are placing on the shaft and how that changes during the swing. Finally, video technology shows the areas of the swing itself that need to be improved.
Both DeMane and Ioris work by appointment only and charge for fitting by the hour. DeMane charges $150 per hour, while Ioris offers a package that covers every club in your bag (as well as your golf ball) for $295. He’ll do individual evaluations on your woods for $150, irons for $100, or even your putter for $50. Both also will custom-build clubs to fit the idiosyncrasies of your swing.
At a golf retailer like The World of Golf in Bedford Hills or Golfsmith in Scarsdale, there’s no charge for club fitting as long as you’re seriously interested in buying new clubs. Both use hitting simulators that track club head speed, ball path, and all that good stuff while you hit into a huge screen in the store under the watchful eye of a salesperson.
The Fairview Golf Center in Elmsford doesn’t charge for fittings, either, and offers a radar-based launch monitor plus a driving range on which you can watch the ball actually—as opposed to virtually—sail away into the distance after you whack it.
Most players will benefit from that real feedback, even if they’ve undergone a digital swing inspection. “Proof is in the ball flight,” says GlenArbor Golf Club’s Head Professional Brian Crowell. “There is no substitute for seeing the ball in flight.” Don’t overlook the services offered by the PGA pro at your local course. At most clubs, you don’t have to be a member to take advantage of their expertise. Many local clubs have digital launch monitors and other technological marvels, too.
With all these alternatives, you
don’t have to hope your Uncle Edgar’s hand-me-down clubs are going to miraculously lower your handicap. As Crowell says, “Golf clubs are not a casual purchase. You’re spending a significant amount of money, so why wouldn’t you do it right?”
Nine Is Enough
Enjoy golf in half the time
One of the biggest knocks against the game of
golf and a legitimate one, too—is how much time it takes to play. A four-hour round is considered speedy, but all too many of us have slogged through five hours (or more)! When you add to that the time it takes to get to the course, warm up before the round, then have a libation or so afterwards while you tally your score, you’ve pretty much used up most of a perfectly good summer day.
The solution for many is a nine-hole round. At under two hours, you can squeeze in a quick nine after work—or even before office hours if you tee off before seven and don’t dawdle. You also tend to be more focused on your game when you only play nine and you won’t be as physically tired afterward. While you can always play a regulation 18-hole course and quit after the first nine, Westchester has several tracks specifically designed for nine-hole rounds.
975 Anderson Hill Rd, Rye Brook
(914) 323-4478. Semi-private
2,974 yards, par-35
Greens fees: Mon-Thur $45, Fri-Sun $60; Carts: included, walking not allowed.
The best and most accessible 9-hole course is Rye Brook’s Doral Arrowwood, a semi-private course that both offers membership privileges and preferred tee times to those who want them and accepts play at other times on a daily fee basis. Robert Von Hagge, designer of the Blue Monster at the Doral in Miami, laid out what’s known as the Little Blue Monster in Westchester with liberal use of mounds and bunkers that cast ever-changing dramatic shadows across the fairways and greens. The moguls lining the fairways can help or hurt, depending on the bounce of your ball as it strikes them and, even if you hit the center of most fairways, you’ll only occasionally have a level lie. Water comes into play on seven of the nine picturesque holes, and exciting elevation changes challenge on several. Greens are generous but severely undulating. They play at resort course speeds, though, so worse than three putts aren’t common.
But the Doral Arrowwood is no pitch-and-putt. The 211-yard, par-3 second hole, for example, is almost all carry over water to a long, narrow green. The two par-5s on the course present contrasting challenges of their own. At first glance, the third hole looks like a pushover at only 440 yards. Trees, bunkers, and out-of-bounds make the tee shot claustrophobic, though, and water seriously threatens every single shot even if you lay up for your approach. The other par-5, the 493-yard fifth hole, feels entirely different, with a wide-open vista for your uphill tee shot. The real defense on this hole, though, is the green, which slopes away from the fairway, making long go-for-broke approaches dangerous to contemplate.
“This place is really popular from four in the afternoon till dark,” says Doral Golf Manager Joe Pica.
There’s a full practice facility, too, including a 12-bay driving range, a dedicated bunker, and a practice green. Golf instruction is available through an exclusive relationship with the Mitchell Spearman Golf Academy. The club also provides well-appointed locker rooms, a pro shop, and Mulligan’s, an excellent outdoor bar and grill overlooking the ninth green.
Pehquenakonck Country Club
100 Bloomer Rd, North Salem
(914) 669-6776. Semi-private
2,197 yards, par 34
Greens fees: Weekdays $15;
Weekends $20; Carts: $15
“The PQ,” as it’s more commonly known, is a fun nine-holer at which golf is a family affair, although there are plenty of serious players struggling to break par on any given day. Unaccompanied juniors over 12 are welcome, too, making it a great place (and one of the few) where they can learn the game. Kids 7 to 12 can play with an adult. “Nine holes is perfect for a father or mother with the kids because you can keep their attention that long,” says Jim Randi, assistant manager and sometimes short-order cook at the snack bar.
The club holds frequent tourn-aments and events like the Kansas Shoot Out, in which 20 entrants pay $20 apiece to play as a group that eliminates the highest- scoring player on each hole until there’s only one left standing. Events like that put the fun back into the game.
The course, which was built in 1923, has plenty of elevation changes and two sets of tees, so you can actually play it twice without repeating a shot (more or less). According to Randi, the fourth hole generates the most conversation and its share of bad language. “People call it Mount Kilimanjaro,” he says, “and a lot worse names than that.” The hole is a 115-yard tester that only a mountain goat on steroids could love.
Other Nine-Hole Options
There are two private nine-hole courses in Westchester. Members at Sleepy Hollow Country Club enjoy an executive course that plays 1,979 yards, par-31, while Pleasantville Country Club’s 2,173-yard, par-32 course, designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1926, has narrow tree-lined fairways and the master’s trademark: well-bunkered greens that are both firm and fast. Players must avoid water on four holes.
County Parks pass holders who tee off before 9 am can play the back nine at Dunwoodie, Maple Moor, Mohansic, Saxon Woods, and Sprain Lake for $22 on weekends and $19 on weekdays. Twilight golf rates, which go into effect at varying times during the year, are $19 at these courses and $25 for Hudson Hills after 5 pm.
Dave Donelson lives, writes, and dreams of having a perfect golf swing in West Harrison