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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Equipment: Taylor Made Custom fitting the SelectFit way
By J.G.
GPA Equipment Editor

It is no longer enough to just have a run-of-the-mill fitting cart with a selection of a couple dozen clubs to try. Top equipment manufacturers are turning to new methods and offering interchangeable components so golfers can really know exactly what equipment will be best for their swings.

TaylorMade's entry into this expanded custom fitting arena, the SelectFit cart, debuted in December and is in 1,000 locations worldwide.

"It's an interchangeable head-shaft system," said Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade's manager of custom fitting technologies. "It allows you to try different shafts, different lofts of heads, different flexes, different weights and different lengths to find the best combination. With that, along with the removable weight in some of our (driver) heads, it gives you the opportunity to dial it in to what should be right for you."

The SelectFit cart has hundreds of combinations.
The SelectFit cart, which folds up to a size that can be wheeled through a doorway or unfolded for fitting use and display, offers many choices of heads and shafts for both drivers and irons. With the irons, fitters can adjust lie angle and weight as well as try different head and shaft combinations.

"The thousands of combinations you get from the SelectFit kind of overshadows the good old-fashioned metal wood cart. On the iron side, with the SelectFit, we have 248 combinations just with putting 18 heads and 17 shafts in there," Bazzel said. "It's quite a leap from the fitting cart."

The shafts currently in the SelectFit cart include TaylorMade shafts as well as UST V2, Aldila VS Proto, Aldila NV, Aldila NV Pink ("popular with not just the ladies but some guys being fashionable," Bazzel says) and Grafalloy Proforce for metal woods.

For irons, TaylorMade shafts and Dynamic Gold, Flighted Rifle and Project X are available. Golfers can also select from six grip options to find the right feel and size.

Proprietary tool makes changing shafts easy.
TaylorMade's Research and Development team has used a version of the SelectFit for more than five years. The interchangeable heads and shafts have made it easier for staff to test various combinations, but the company didn't roll out a public version until about six months ago.

But, Bazzel says, there were plenty of challenges to make sure the system met TaylorMade's standards.

With all these factors taken into account, SelectFit clubs perform just like manufactured clubs. A cap in a sleeve fits over the end of the shaft, and the sleeve is positioned into a threaded hosel on the clubhead. The sleeve only fits one way, and the cap is twisted over it with a torque wrench to make the entire club sturdy enough for use on the course or the driving range.

Retailers and clubfitters who purchase the cart also receive a comprehensive fitting manual and have opportunties to participate in training seminars.

TaylorMade's MATT System
Data gathered from more than 500,000 swings and analyzed by the TaylorMade MATT (Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade) motion capture system help the SelectFit system work, and guide TaylorMade's other equipment development. The MATT system is one more way TaylorMade can work with a player to get a comprehensive picture of his or her swing and find the perfect equipment match.

MATT is a motion capture system that gathers information on the swing from multiple angles. Originally developed for pros, it's now available for public use -- but it's not cheap.

"We are taking what we have here for the staff pros and bringing it to the market," said Bazzel, noting that the systems are available in eight U.S. locations and seven more worldwide. "It's really a top-of- the-line technology experience for somebody to go through. The fitting process is a couple hours long and in most cases costs $350 to go through."

MATT uses motion capture technology, which originated in the movies and is also used in video games. Motion Reality Incorporated worked with TaylorMade to apply the technology to golf.

"The system allows you to get all the information -- the body movements, the club motion and how it's bending throughout the swing. Along with a launch monitor tied to it, you have the ball information," Bazzel said. "So you're measuring the full story. We're able to see things and apply things that you can't see with your eye and marry up the right products to fit the player's swing."

Many TaylorMade staff pros use the system for game improvement as well as club fitting. With the MATT system, players can see their swing from any angle -- "you could look from underneath the ground if you wanted to," Bazzel said -- as well as overlay swings and analyze the swing in three dimensions. It also stores swing information so players can go back and compare past swings with current results.

"Long ago we knew that for each player there's a different club or specific characteristics of the club that just perform better for them," Bazzel said. "(But) it's a really complicated animal, it's hard to understand. You can't see it all with your eyes. That technology, motion capture, really allows you to measure it."


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