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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

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The IZZO SWAMI 3000 is an entry level golf GPS device that provides foolproof access to the most basic distances…but ONLY basic distances (to the front, center and back of the green). If you like bells and whistles, look elsewhere, but if an uncomplicated approach is more to your liking, the SWAMI 3000 is a nice simple unit in a lightweight and compact form factor.

The satellite antenna on the device seemed to be on the weaker side – we had frequent problems acquiring satellites at the beginning of a round (at courses where we didn’t experience this problem with other devices), and the SWAMI 3000 was also slower to lock on to distances during play. In addition, we found that distance readings on the device fell outside of the 3-4 yard standard margin of error (when compared to marked sprinkler heads) more often than on other devices, but it was unclear if this was a mapping or antenna issue.

The IZZO SWAMI 3000 is best suited as a nice introduction to golf GPS devices for beginners and those who aren’t as comfortable with technology, but as prices for premium devices drop below the $200 point, these most basic devices become harder to recommend.

Course Availability
Ease of Use
Course Detail


  • The lightest device in our tests; also one of the smallest
  • Easy to read distances
  • One of least expensive devices tested


  • Only provides distances to front, center and back of green; no additional targets
  • Distance readings more variable than competition
  • Not compatible with Macs

Retail price: $99.99
Three year total cost: $139.98
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the IZZO SWAMI 4000. Check price now

85 / B

The Good: The SWAMI 3000 is the first device from IZZO to include courses pre-loaded on the device, so you can take it straight to the golf course.
The Bad: The map updater software (and device drivers), which you will want to use on occasion to ensure you have the latest course data, doesn’t work on Macs.


  • Required steps. With courses pre-loaded on the SWAMI 3000, you can hit the course as soon as the battery is charged (normally within 3-4 hours; the device will power off when fully charged ). To make sure you have the latest course maps you’ll want to use the SWAMI 300 Map Updater software on occasion (available for an additional fee). This involves:
    • installing “map updater” software on a PC (note that the IZZO SWAMI 3000 is not compatible with Macs – c’mon!);
    • plugging the SWAMI into your PC using the USB cord;
    • launching the Map Updater software;
    • paying for your subscription (the Map Updater software automatically sends you to a web page where you enter your credit card information);
    • going back to the Map Updater and clicking “Update Maps”
    • waiting about 4-5 minutes while the SWAMI updates. That’s it!

    As mentioned above, the IZZO website tells you that the SWAMI Map Updater software is not supported on the Mac operating systems. Our experience running on a PC was smooth as silk (as detailed above), but when we got crazy and tried to use it on a Mac running Windows XP through VMware, it failed miserably, and SWAMI tech support wasn’t able to help us get it to sync. Sorry Mac users!

  • Time required for setup. The entire process took about 6-7 minutes on a PC. The instructions on the SWAMI web site are pretty complete, and include screen shots of what you should see on your computer at different stages in the process.

What’s in the Box: The IZZO SWAMI 3000 is packaged with:

  • Quick Start Guide
  • Wall Charger
  • USB Cable
  • Belt Clip

Recommended Downloads (to get latest course maps):

98 / A+


Critical Golf Test: The IZZO SWAMI 3000 finished near the top of the pack in our golf course coverage tests. As the SWAMI 3000 provides only distances to the front, center and back of the green, this is what we expect.

Manufacturer’s Claims: IZZO claims to have 19,500 courses available worldwide, putting it at the bottom of GPS devices tested.

88 / B+

The Good: Very light and easy to keep in a pocket during play. Text indicating distances is large and easy-to-read. With only basic functionality, it’s straightforward to use.
The Bad: Didn’t lock in to distances as quickly as other devices. We also had a few issues acquiring satellites to start a round.


  • Buttons. The IZZO SWAMI has four buttons: up/down (to cycle through different holes or courses), FCB and power. FCB stands for front/center/back of the green, and toggles between readings for each of those points. We are glad they took our advice from our IZZO SWAMI 1500 review and replaced the previous generation “ENT” button with a simple power symbol.
  • Screen. The device has a basic black and white screen. Large numbers make distances easy to read.
  • Form Factor. The IZZO SWAMI 3000 is one of the lightest GPS devices on the market. It’s one of the smallest as well, and you can easily leave the device in your pocket during play (there is a belt clip included as well, but that isn’t for us – BlackBerrys and SWAMIs alike).
  • Starting a Round. At the start of the round the SWAMI 3000 will display a countdown from 99 as it acquires satellites. The nearest course will then be displayed. If the incorrect course is displayed or you want to select another, you can move between other courses (you must be at a location where there are multiple courses – it won’t search other courses that are simply nearby) by pressing the power button again and then the arrow buttons. Interestingly, on several occasions the screen simply went blank after counting from 99 all the way down to 0 (apparently as a result of not acquiring satellites), and in other situations the course was located but distances were not displayed. This was solved by powering on/off and going through the countdown process several times (not fun).

For details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS ease of use across all devices tested.

70 / C-


The Good: The SWAMI encourages a laser-like focus on the green. For some players this is a boon: no distractions to provide a wealth of information as you stand above your ball evaluating your next shot. If you spend all of your time in fairways, and play courses you know extremely well, then distances to the front, middle and back of greens may be all you need.

The Bad: We like to play new courses on a reasonably frequent basis, and we don’t spend all of our time on the fairway, so it would be useful for us to have additional target information. And though the box says “SWAMI knows all” – it really only knows distances to the front, middle and back of the green.


  • Views. The SWAMI 3000 single view provides the course name (or a portion thereof…the name will get clipped at about 12 characters), hole number, battery level, and units. There is really just one view that players will see during a round – the only thing that ever changes is whether the displayed distance is to the front, center or back of the green, which is effected by pressing the “FCB” button. Curiously, the distances don’t rotate front-center-back, but rather front-back-center. Curious both because the button is labeled “FCB”, not “FBC”, and also because it seems counterintuitive to us to go in that order.
  • Hole Information. No information is provided with respect to par or hole handicap.
  • Custom Mapping. The IZZO SWAMI 3000 does not have the ability to add targets to an existing course or map a new course. Existing front, center and back points cannot be modified.

65 / D


This section is easy. “Not applicable.” The SWAMI 3000 won’t auto-advance between holes, so don’t forget to do so manually after each hole. With no other target information provided, if you don’t remember to advance and then overlook the hole number when focusing on the distance, you may find yourself pulling out the wrong club. Don’t expect the SWAMI to keep track of your score, shot distances, or provide the ability to map targets.

For details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of feature sets across golf GPS devices.

88 / B+


We were pleased that our IZZO SWAMI 3000 fared much better than the original SWAMI 1500 in distance readings. We found that distances were generally within our expected range of 3-4 yards from on-course markings (and comparison to other devices). We did find that discrepancies of 5-6 yards off of actuals were more common with the SWAMI 3000 than with other devices. Whether this is a mapping or a GPS issue is difficult to say (testing was always done under clear skies in open areas).

80 / B-


Retail Price: IZZO continues their aggressive pricing, introducing the SWAMI 3000 at a mere $99.99, making it one of lowest priced devices in our tests. This matches the price of the original SWAMI 1500, though it now also includes courses pre-loaded at no additional cost.

Fees for Access to Course Database: You wouldn’t know it from the box or main page of the website (you have to click through a couple of pages to find out), but IZZO charges a yearly fee of $19.99 to access course updates, or $39.99 for the lifetime of the product.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Coming in at only $139.98 over 3 years (we assume you want to have the latest course maps, correct?) even with the purchase of map updates, the IZZO SWAMI 3000 three year cost of ownership is still one of the lowest of devices tested. One side note – if you need a course that isn’t in their database, IZZO may charge a fee to provide a new course map (and it may take up to 3-4 weeks).

Value: We are fans of the idea of a simple device at a reasonable cost. Those who are pinching their pennies will want take a look at this device – there are few competitors that are competing at such an aggressive price point. But for just a bit more money ($10-40 over 3 years), you can buy a device that provides significantly more information about the course, such as additional pre-mapped target points (bunkers, water hazards, etc.) or the ability to map points by yourself. Those on a budget, or who aren’t very comfortable with technology, may find the IZZO SWAMI 3000 right up their alley, but we think that most players will be better served by paying a bit more for additional functionality – Bushnell’s Neo+ being the most obvious competitor in both form factor and cost.

Nike Performance Carry

From the lineage of the Nike SasQuatch Tour carry bag comes the Nike Performance Carry (2012), the largest of Nike’s carry bags. At an extremely heavy 7.0 pounds (the only heavier bag we have tested was the OGIO Nexos), you would expect a full set of features. And indeed, the bag does have a 14-way, full-length divider system and 10 pockets (8 zippered).

It’s a sharp looking bag, and has some nice features (including a great rain hood), but it’s probably unfairly matched up against other carry bags in our review. The Performance Carry, like the SasQuatch Tour Carry Bag before it, is probably best suited on a push or riding cart, and seems to be designed more as hybrid between a carry and cart bag.

At a MSRP of a whopping $240, it’s one of the highest priced bags in our tests, and as such, it’s tough to recommend as a carry bag against the others in the Nike line, such as the Vapor X Carry, or the much less expensive Xtreme Sport IV Carry. It can, however, be found for much less than MSRP via Amazon and elsewhere.

Club Storage
Carrying Impressions
Rain Hood

Retail price: $240.00 (though can be found for much less – see Amazon link below) price: Check price now

85 / B

Club Storage

Like everything nice and tidy? The Nike Performance Carry, with its 14 full-length dividers, is the way to go. Not many carry bags offer this level of separation – unfortunately, there’s a weight trade-off for those that do, and the Performance Carry is one of the heaviest bags that we have tested. We are divided (pun intended) on the benefits of having the separation in clubs. We don’t find there to be a great deal of differences between having 14 dividers or 5 dividers when you’re pulling out or replacing clubs, though you can argue that with 14 dividers it’s marginally simpler to keep track of where each club is and pull it immediately.

90 / A-


The legs easily extend from the Nike Performance Carry when the bag is set down, and the legs swing out far enough to create a very stable base. There is a foot located outside of the base of the bag – when the bag is set down at an angle, the foot activates the extension of the legs. The foot doesn’t protrude below or past the back of the bag, so it didn’t create many issues when used on a riding or push cart, but we slightly prefer bags that incorporate the “foot” within the bag itself, which minimizes an risk of catching on carts and the like.

The legs have rubber tips on them the same size as the legs, so there isn’t any additional area to increase the stability or prevent sinking into wet ground. The legs hold securely next to the bag throughout use. When legs are not in use, such as when the bag is on a cart or packed in a travel bag, you can secure the legs snugly using elastic loops near the bottom of the bag.

85 / B-

Carrying Impressions

Yes, you may cry foul about us comparing the Nike Performance to others in this category, but it is marketed as a carry bag, so carry it we will! While the bag rates as one of the heaviest carry bags we have ever tested, we did take solace in how comfortable the bag back padding and shoulder straps are.

  • Weight. The Nike Performance Carry Bag weighs in at a portly 7.0 pounds. Time to grab a push cart!).
  • Straps. Nike’s new strap system features a “revolving double-strap system.” In non-marketing-speak, there is a revolving buckle that attaches the left shoulder strap to the point where the other 3 straps meet, supplemented by additional padding. This system allows the weight to be evenly distributed and the straps to be adjusted to fit comfortably. We are fans of the straps, which were quite comfortable. We couldn’t quite pinpoint why we thought they were more comfortable – it could be the amount of padding in each strap, which replaced the “Air” technology, combined with the ergonomic fit on the shoulders from the unique slight “S” shape of the straps (which can also be found on the Nike Vapor X). Given the weight of the bag, this is nice plus.
  • Padding. The bag features three sizable pads for the lower back, which provide more than enough cushion to provide protection from the bag and clubs. Given the weight of the Nike Performance Carry you may work up a sweat toting it around the course, so you’ll appreciate that both back pads are ventilated and there is space between them. It doesn’t mean your back is going to be cool throughout a hot round, but there will be some benefit.

88 / B+


The Nike Performance Carry Bag has a whopping 10 total pockets, 8 of which are zippered. Talk about organization!

  • The largest pocket, intended for clothing, runs along the right side of the bag, with 3 small pockets (including a waterproof velour-lined valuables pocket, which on many competing bags is found on the inside of the garment pocket) along the outside. On the inside of the garment pocket an elastic strap is attached to the bag, allowing players to hold items in place and prevent them from all piling up at the bottom of the pocket.
  • There is a medium-sized pocket on the right side of the spine, near the base (we used it primarily for gloves).
  • On the left side of the bag is a lined “cooler” pocket, the same size as the pocket on the right side at the base. On the outside of the cooler pocket is a half-mesh pocket to store water bottles (with holes at the base for liquid to drain).
  • On the spine of the bag, sitting in between pockets on the left and right, is a “quick access sleeve” with two openings where you can store extra golf balls.
  • To the right of the “quick access sleeve” is another zippered pocket, which provides space behind the sleeve, and a smaller zippered pocket that is just below the bottom opening to the sleeve (which we used for extra tees and ball markers).
  • Just to the right side of the inflexible carry handle is a row of openings for 4 tees, as well as a pen pocket.

The Performance Carry also includes an adjustable cord and sleeve on the right side of the bag for holding an umbrella, a round metal ring for attaching a towel or other accessories at the top edge of the bag, and a Velcro glove patch.

We have never been fans of the “quick access sleeve” on the spine of this family of bags. It looks absurd, and doesn’t speed anything up compared to just putting balls in a normal pocket. We would like to put in a request for a more standard small pocket located at the top of the access sleeve.

96 / A-

Rain Hood

We are pleased that Nike has kept essentially the same rain hood attachment design from their prior generation bags, as it is without a doubt one of our favorites. To attach the hood, simply snap the 4 buttons at the top edge of the bag, and then hook the elastic trap on the hood around a plastic notch between the legs of the bag. Zip the hood closed and you’re all set. Very straightforward and it secures well. There are also cutouts at the base of the hood to allow the hood to extend a couple of inches down from the top of the bag and still provide space for the metal ring (to attach accessories) and the points where the shoulder straps attach to the bag to move freely, while keeping the rain out of your bag. For those that aren’t just fair-weather players, this is absolutely one of the rain hoods you want to have.

95 / A


This bag is just plain good looking. Just enough swooshes (7, excluding zipper handles) and highlights of trim to make a statement without being over-the-top. The handle seems to stand out a bit (it is substantial, but maybe that is just the kind required to carry a bag of this weight).

The Nike Performance Carry Bag comes in 4 different color combinations:

  • Black with silver highlights
  • Black with yellow highlights and silver trim (our favorite),
  • Black and silver body, with red trim, and
  • Dark blue with royal blue highlights and silver trim.

88 / B+


The main “innovation” with the Nike Performance Carry bag is the new S-curved shoulder straps, mentioned above. They are a great addition to the bag and we hope to see them on more bags in the future.

Not new to Nike, but new to the carry bag category, is the golf ball “access sleeve” (which we don’t care for, as mentioned above). Nike continues with other past innovations including the Velcro glove patch, which is increasingly available on carry bags.

81 / B-


At a category-high $240 in our current test group (ouch!), the Nike Performance Carry Bag is beyond all others. Though it offers good looks, clear organization of clubs, lots of storage options, and comfortable shoulder straps, at this price it’s tough not to recommend prospective buyers take a look at the other Nike carry bag options, or manufacturers that offer good quality at a significantly lower price point.

Cleveland Golf Fitting Studio

Tucked away in the little Hamlet of Huntington Beach just off the 405, in an unassuming office complex surrounded by Konica Minolta and Boeing buildings, lies Cleveland Golf headquarters, the site of our latest visit in our continuing series on golf club fitting and performance centers.

Arranging a fitting session at the Cleveland Fitting Studio can be done online or by calling the Fitting Studio directly. And whether you select a fitting for woods (driver, fairway and hybrid), irons, wedges, or a putter the cost is the same. Zero. That’s right. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Apparently something in life is free! That’s not reason alone to drop everything that you’re doing and head on over, but it’s one on the list.

The Fitting Studio has its own entrance and dedicated space on the side of the Cleveland/Srixon/Never Compromise building, where I was met by Ruben, the Club Fitting Specialist at the Fitting Studio, for my afternoon fitting. After finding out that Ruben has a background of 20 years of teaching and fitting, including eight years at the Fitting Studio, I knew I would be in good hands.

Cleveland Fitting Studio

Click for more images

The Fitting Studio looks much like a small retail shop, with two desks for the fitting team, a hitting bay surrounded on three sides by netting, a putting area, a television tuned to the day’s televised golf tournament, all the latest clubs and a rack of Cleveland golf attire. The session is held entirely indoors (the nearby driving range is restricted to use by Cleveland professionals), which has its positives and negatives, and our focus for the session was on irons, wedges and putters.

As I warmed up for the afternoon, I spoke with Ruben about the basics of my game and he took a look at my current clubs. Based on my swing and level of play, history playing forged clubs, and the configuration of my current set, he recommended we focus the iron fitting on the Srixon Z-TXS, the only forged iron in the Cleveland/Srixon family, and the Cleveland CG16.

After I was warmed up, we started with a Srixon Z-TXS 7-iron that Ruben paired with a stock S300 Dynamic Gold Shaft. The 7-iron is the club of choice for fitting at Cleveland, as opposed to the 6-iron we have used at every other fitting (not good or bad, just…different). As I worked out the kinks (I blame those on the early morning flight to Southern California), Ruben added more information into their software system, including basics such as my height (thankfully not my weight), the general pattern of my misses, and the expected carry distance with my 7-iron. Ruben reviewed my grip size and, on the basis of how close my left hand fingers were to my palm when holding the club, recommended a standard grip.

After some initial swings with the X-TXS, Ruben applied face tape to capture information on ball impact location, as well as lie tape on the bottom of the club to provide insight into whether he would need to modify the club lie and/or length. I managed to keep things interesting for him by mis-hitting shots both off the heel and the toe. Based on the initial information, he adjusted the club up one degree, and after a few more shots, he took the adjustment up another degree. With the lie tape indicating that even more adjustment might be necessary, we went ahead and captured some data from the launch monitor (which uses high-speed photography to capture club head and ball flight information) for shots with the Z-TXS at 2 degrees up. Comparing this information to the data from my current set of forged Mizunos, along with my feedback of how I liked the look of the club as well as how I loaded it, Ruben decided the best course was to revert to a standard lie (62 degrees for the 7-iron). This is a great example of where having an extremely knowledgeable fitter like Ruben can make a difference, because after several swings with a standard lie, the launch monitor confirmed that I was able to achieve better launch angle, side spin and more consistent results compared to the slightly more upright lie angle that the lie tape had indicated (and that some fitters would use without questioning). Go figure!

I continued to swing with the Z-TXS irons, which were able to greatly reduce my side spin and correspondingly reduced my average offline distance by nearly 7 yards (the sample size is on the small size, as the best few shots with each club were selected to use for comparison). The shot data showed increased distance as well, but this is where it’s wise to know your current specs before arrival – my current 7-iron has a 35 degree loft, as compared to the Z-TXS’s 34 degrees of loft.

Ruben was correct in focusing our time on the Z-TX series to start, because when we switched over to the CG16s (still with the same S300 shaft), there was an immediate jump in side spin rates. Although I gained a few yards with the CG16s, it came at the expense of accuracy, with the CG16 trailing both the Z-TXs and my current set. We had found the right model, and though I have never played Srixon clubs in the past, I was pleased with both the feel and, more importantly, the results. This was a good example of the benefits of following the lead of the fitter and avoiding focusing on brands or model you think will be right for you. At our local retail store, I bet I would have focused more time on Cleveland irons than Srixon. Ahh the power of a name and in-store marketing!

Wedge Deceit and Intrigue

Moving on to wedges, I was looking forward to hearing Ruben’s analysis on whether my current Cleveland 52 and 58 degree wedges were the right models and lofts for me. He pulled them out of my bag and remarked that the 6 degree difference between my 52 and 58 degree pitching wedges were a good start to ensure that there are no gaps in club distances. That’s where the fun ended and our story moves to a tale of deceit and intrigue…dark corners and mysterious dealings in back rooms and alleys of China (or at least to a golf retail store in Palo Alto, California).

As soon as Ruben lifted my 52 degree CG10 wedge to take a look, he virtually immediately said “this isn’t our club.” Um, excuse me? “This isn’t our club. The shaft feels different, and the grip is slightly smaller. The logos on the club head are a bit smaller too.” Ugh. Though I knew where this was going, I simply couldn’t believe it. I’m the guy who is so worried about counterfeit clubs that I won’t purchase clubs through companies I don’t know well – either online from companies I don’t know, through eBay or Craigslist, or from the unmarked van parked just outside the golf course parking lot. I had purchased this wedge right off the rack, as new, from my local store!

Ruben went on to show me the subtle differences. And no, for those cracking jokes at my expense (go ahead…), the logo did not say “Cloveland” or “Cleaveland.” Ruben seemed somewhat impressed by the well-imitated hosel and the correct swing weight of the club. It was the fractionally smaller logo on the grip, the slightly different font for the loft number, and paint color used for the grip logo (correct for some previous Cleveland wedges, but not used with the CG10). The shaft was thinner and lighter (noticeable to Ruben as soon as he picked it up, but certainly not to me), with the club overall weighing a few grams less than it should have. I’ve had this club some time, had the loft adjusted by a local pro, used by friends, had other fitting centers take a look, and one fitter even measure its specifications. I’d love to say that I took solace in the fact that nobody else had recognized it as a fake, but it didn’t improve my disposition. The best guess from Ruben was that the club was “returned” to the store (for credit, no doubt!), put back on the rack with the rest of the CG10s, and then purchased by your truly from a stack of similar-looking wedges.

I still trust my local store and will continue to purchase products from them. I certainly don’t think they knowingly purchase (or accept as returns) counterfeit clubs, and I’m sure processes are in place to make sure they don’t stock counterfeit clubs. How a company gets to the level where they can train a retail employee to recognize a counterfeit when someone tries to return it as new…well, that’s one I can’t answer.

If there was any upside, it was that I had the opportunity to test a counterfeit against the real thing (with the fake CG10 was going up against a new CG15). The counterfeit produced much more backspin and was far less consistent than the CG15, and though the total distance averages were approximately the same, the CG15 had a launch angle and peak height closer to our targets. Thank goodness. At least I can have one more excuse for my lousy short game (that I will now leave in the past). The good news, at least for consumers today, is that manufacturers have stepped up their fight against counterfeit clubs, and Cleveland wedges now include both serial numbers etched into the hosel and stickers with holograms. You can be sure I will look for both on future purchases!

Putt for Dough

I shook off the counterfeit wedge news as we shifted our attention to putters. To start off, we used Mitchell fitting equipment to determine the appropriate putter length and lie.

After I took a few putts with my current Scotty Cameron Newport, Ruben attached the SAM PuttLab, a putter analysis and training system, to track a variety of data for my putting stroke. I took a few swings and then viewed the results (Science&Motion’s system provides a wide variety of information to help break down your putting stoke), which certainly weren’t pretty– the swing path back and forth was not smooth, and the location of impact of ball on the face of the putter wasn’t consistent. Ruben measured my current putter at 4 degrees of loft (to which I was compounding by adding additional loft during my stroke) and 340 grams.

Based on this information Ruben recommended a putter that is more face-balanced. Never Compromise (another brand within the Cleveland family) only makes one face-balanced putter, and Ruben pulled their latest, a 350g mallet Gambler Flush putter from the rack. I’ve never used a mallet style and have been hesitant to try different putter head shapes, but the Flush quickly felt comfortable, and the result was a much more consistent swing path as well as more accurate clustering of impact spots the face of the club. The new style would take some getting used to, but I couldn’t deny the results.

All the Information

The takeaways from the session included data captured during each portion of our fitting:
Shot data sheets. Includes flight data with averages for irons and wedges (and a few drivers I briefly tested)
– Cleveland / Srixon Fitting Form, which provides the specs on recommended irons, wedges and ball (Z-Star) for use in ordering (all stock). Some additional driver swing information is also included here.
– Never Compromise putter stroke summary. This data, provided by Science&Motion, provides extremely detailed information, including face angle at address/impact, side/top view of the putter path, impact spot, and angle of club face at impact. This is a level of data where you need a fitter to help assess the results…just what IS my club head rotation supposed to look like anyways?

Unfortunately, even if your session at the Cleveland Fitting Studio has convinced you of the need for new clubs immediately (and I saw the need for some changes in my bag), you won’t be able to purchase from the Fitting Studio on the spot. The Fitting Studio doesn’t sell clubs directly, but rather provides customers the information to take to their local pro back home to order, or they can point you to the Roger Dunn down the street.

Wrapping it up

With the exception of my bad news about my “Cleveland” wedge, the afternoon at the Cleveland Fitting Studio was thoroughly enjoyable. The environment combined a seasoned fitter who was extremely easy to work with in a well-polished studio that included all the latest equipment. Having a strong fitter allowed me to be comfortable with his knowledge of how equipment attributes and swing type interrelate and ultimately what drove his selection of the best equipment for my game.

In addition to the level of quality of the experience, the Cleveland Fitting Studio is the only fitter that provides this level of staff and technology at no cost. Our recommendation is that if you live in, or are planning to visit, Orange County, give them a shout as soon as you can and reserve yourself a time slot. Who knows how much longer they’ll be free?

Contact information (tell ’em you saw them on Critical Golf):
Cleveland Golf Fitting Studio
5610 Skylab Road
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Please contact the Fitting Studio for appointments at:

Fitting date: February 2011


We sent one of our editors to GolfTEC as part of our continuing series on club fitting centers. The visit was our first to a manufacturer-agnostic facility. GolfTEC is one of only two companies that offer manufacturer-agnostic fitting services nationwide, though with over 140 Centers available in North America, it is the largest by far. Our editor provides his description of the experience below.

Easy Access

With no stand-alone GolfTEC Centers available on the West Coast, I signed up for a Personal Club Fitting at a GolfTEC Center conveniently located within the local Golfsmith retail store. One of the significant benefits of a GolfTEC fitting is their partnership with Golfsmith. Given Golfsmith’s large number of stores available throughout the United States, if you live in or around a major city there is a reasonable chance that there is a GolfTEC location near you.

Those familiar with the GolfTEC name will most likely recognize the company as a provider of golf lessons. And it is indeed a powerhouse in the lesson business, teaching over 20% of all U.S. lessons annually, an absolutely stunning number. My visit, however, was for their Personal Club Fitting, one of the other services that they have available for players.

Simple Is as Simple Does

Signing up for a fitting is as easy as calling your local GolfTEC Center or filling out an online form so a representative can contact you to set up an appointment. Prior to your fitting you will receive a GolfTEC ID that allows you to log into their Player Performance Center website and book the initial as well as any additional fittings (or lessons) online. There is no threshold handicap in order to attend a fitting, but beginners will most likely be steered toward lessons as well (if they are not taking them already). It’s true, there’s only a certain amount that custom clubs can correct!

As with club fittings from equipment manufacturers, prices at GolfTEC can vary by location. For reference, the rates at the center we visited in the San Francisco Bay Area were $99 for each Component Fitting. These 60-minute fittings include either: 1) irons and hybrids, 2) driver, fairway woods and hybrids, or 3) putter only. Alternatively, for $315 you can sign up for a 2-hour full bag fitting. Unlike manufacturer fittings, you won’t receive a credit from your fitting fee towards the purchase of clubs, but you will receive pricing for your custom clubs at the same price as an off-the-rack set from a big box retailer. In my case, if I had chosen to purchase clubs after my fitting, I would have been introduced to a Golfsmith representative in the store to assist with the purchase.

No information was required prior to arrival – I just needed to show up with my current clubs (not required, but always recommended for a fitting) and be ready to swing.

The GolfTEC Center

The GolfTEC room for my session, one of two at the Golfsmith store I visited, was located at the back of the store, with the GolfTEC reception desk overlooking the practice putting green in the center of the store. Within the room were the desk and computer that my “Personal Coach” (as those who perform the fittings at GolfTEC are called) controlled during the session. The room was equipped with three cameras, one on either side of the hitting mat and a third looking down the line of the intended ball path. A Vector Pro Launch System was on a turf mat in the middle of the room, with a computer monitor sitting on the floor next to the mat, providing easy viewing for me from the hitting mat during the session. In a departure from our other fitting experiences, but as might be expected in an environment focused on lessons, there were a number of training aids in the room – an impact bag, golf power fan, SKLZ weighted clubs, Medicus hinged clubsand so forth.

There are obvious pluses and minuses for indoor fittings. The technology used by GolfTEC for indoor fittings, which includes flight data captured by the Vector Pro combined with club data from a GolfTEK Swing Analyzer (similar to the more common P3ProSwing System) allow the Personal Coach to obtain accurate information, though we leave it to others to debate the relative accuracy of high-speed photography and infrared cameras versus radar-based systems (such as the TrackMan and FlightScope). In any event, working indoors will obviously not provide the same ball flight information that is captured on an outdoor range, where the ball can be tracked through its entire flight by radar-based systems. In addition, there isn’t any impact from wind or humidity indoors (a plus or a minus depending what side of the fence you are on), and mats will provide different launch characteristics versus natural grass – resulting in approximately 5 yards or so in carry distances.

As I warmed up with some practice swings on the mat, Bryan, my Personal Coach for the session (who has a background of over 6,000 lessons and 200 clubfittings), walked through a brief interview process to capture details that would be fed into the software to make club recommendations, including:
– Shot history: my typical shot trajectory, club contact and direction, along with desired trajectory and direction.
– User information and preferences: if I wanted a fitting for my current swing or one that focuses on future swing changes, if I feel tired at the end of the round, any injuries that limit my swing, if I have a budget, and any brand preference.
We then walked through four other objective factors. The fitting software provided a recommendation for each, based on body and swing information:
– Grip size, based upon hand length and longest finger length
– Club length, based upon distance from wrist to floor
– Club flex, based upon clubhead speeds of my 6-iron and driver, and swing tempo.
– Club lie angle, based upon wrist-to-floor distance and height.

While the system provides recommendations for grip size, club length and club flex, the Personal Coach can make modifications as they see fit based on their evaluation of the swing. This information, along with the swing and club data provided by Accusport (makers of the Vector Pro) and Golftek is then utilized by the Swing Labs fitting engine (a SkyGolf company, the makers of SkyCaddie golf GPS devices) to make club recommendations. In addition, the Swing Labs Advanced Fitting Module gives the Personal Coach the ability to customize the length and lie angle for iron fittings and the shaft offerings for both drivers and irons.

Bryan showed me where to position the ball on a small embedded turf mat so shots would be captured by the Vector Pro. The spot where the ball is placed is surrounded by holes that allow infrared sensors to capture club data. I found the holes somewhat distracting at first, but gradually became used to it. Balls were hit into netting in front of a solid colored wall (there was no image of a golf hole painted or projected onto the wall), with a piece of fabric suspended from the top of the netting to act as the aiming line.

My Personal Coach then attached impact tape on the face and lie tape on the base of a 6-iron “control club” (in my case, a Titleist AP2), to determine how lie, loft and club length may need to be modified in order to achieve optimal results. After I hit a number of balls, Bryan determined that with my swing, we should compare clubs with +2 degrees up lie angle against the control club.

We then switched over to my current 6-iron, and Bryan turned on the launch monitor to capture ball flight and clubhead data. As I took each swing, the monitor displayed a video of my swing along with the “results” of the shot, and Bryan could toggle between this screen and another that displayed the variety of data that was being captured by the system, including club and ball speed, launch angle, back and side spin, and side club angle, along with data the software calculates, such as carry and estimated roll, distance offline, descent angle of the shot, maximum ball height and flight time.

Accusport VFit Software

Click image for views

After I generated a handful of consistent shots (I won’t divulge how long that took), the Swing Labs system was able to provide recommendations of the best clubs to suit my swing. Based on the initial information and my swing data, the software recommended over a dozen different clubs for consideration. The majority were Mizuno and Titleist clubs, likely a nod to an indicated preference for a Mizuno club based upon what I currently play.

From this list my Personal Coach selected three clubs on which to focus: the Mizuno MP-52 and MP-53, and the Titleist AP2. This is the point in the iron fitting where the Personal Coach has the largest impact on the process. They could likely select far more than three clubs that are comparable, but the software limits them to comparing a maximum of four clubs at once (including the control club). Bryan selected the three clubs based on my previous indicated preferences during the session and his subjective opinion on what would work best for me based on his fitting experience.

As with the earlier process to capture information for my current 6-iron, I hit balls with each of the three recommended irons, taking enough swings with each until there were 3 good swings from which the system would get information. Best to just forget about those topped shots…the software can’t find an optimal club for those conditions (hey, maybe there is a business idea in there somewhere?).

Though I did not have the opportunity to walk through this same process for the driver, fairway woods, or hybrids, it is the same process as for the irons. Due to the nature of wedges, for which systems have more difficulty capturing launch information, wedge fittings are done using only a lie board and impact tape, with focus on the bounce of the club and ensuring that players have the correct distance gaps between clubs.

For those interested in a putter fitting, most GolfTEC Centers have a Contour Golf Certified Fitter available who will follow the Contour Golf Tri-Fit fitting process. GolfTEC also has g-PUTT software at their disposal, which involves placing a sensor on the shaft of the putter to allow them to track the path of the stroke and determine if the face is open or closed. We did not, however, have the opportunity to take part in a putter fitting.

Analyzing the Results

In the end, the software determined that the best irons for my game are ….drum roll, please…the current 5 year old Mizuno MP-60 irons that I currently play! No kidding! And here I was, just looking for an excuse to buy new clubs. Aaargh!

The GolfTEC Coaches at the Center mentioned that they have seen the system recommend a player’s current clubs before, so they weren’t as surprised as I was.

Based on the results, however, I do wonder about a couple of items:
1. My captured preference for Mizuno (based on currently playing Mizuno clubs) in the interview process appears to have influenced the recommended list of clubs more than I would have expected. The fact that Swing Labs selected a number of Mizunos wasn’t unusual, but I was caught off guard by the fact that the only other brand that featured prominently in the recommendation process was Titleist. My personal opinion is that it is in the best interest of the player to avoid expressing any preference for a specific brand if possible. Then, if the system doesn’t wind up recommending a brand in which you are particularly interested, you can work with your Personal Coach to add that brand into the mix.
2. Given that the determination of the best performing clubs for a player’s swing is based on a set of three shots with each club (I leave it to the statisticians to tell us if that is a reasonable sample size), I wonder if it is possible that I was more comfortable with the look and feel with my current club, resulting in swings that created better results than those with the recommended clubs. If I spent more time with any of the other recommended clubs, would the results change? More costly fitting experiences that have provide longer session time, such as TaylorMade’s Kingdom and Titleist’s FittingWorks, do provide more time with each club, which in turn may provide for richer data.

GolfTEC provides all players with a hardcopy of their Session Report, which contains basic specifications on the clubs tested, including the player’s current club if it is brought to the session, and identifies the best performing club. It also shows an analysis of the best performing club versus the “optimum” performance of that club based on clubhead speed, and a breakdown of overall performance in a number of categories for the different clubs tested. Finally, the best performing set is outlined in full detail within a Personal Club Fitting report, which includes full specifications for the set. In my case, this included the shaft type, flex, grip type and size, and set makeup (4 through 9-iron, plus a pitching wedge, gap wedge and sand wedge, though degrees were not outlined in our summary).

After the Fitting

The online GolfTEC Player Performance Center is the source for all the information about your lesson or fitting. GolfTEC is the only fitting center we have visited that provides online access to the information following the appointment. This web-based dashboard was undoubtedly developed with lessons in mind, though it does also store fitting data in downloadable PDF form.

Additionally, though a lesson wasn’t a part of my fitting, Bryan loaded video of some swings into the Player Performance Center, along with some still images, drills, and some swing comment notes as examples of the features of the Player Performance Center. For those who choose to take lessons through GolfTEC, it’s a very straightforward system to easily access lesson information. Those who have used other advanced golf teaching software with their teaching pros, such as V1 Software may already be familiar with these capabilities.

GolfTEC Player Performance Center

Click image for views

For you UI-junkies out there, the Player Performance Center isn’t as visually appealing as others you may have seen, but it gets the job done. You can customize the dashboard through adding different “widgets” to the page. In addition to your personal information, you can also add selected content such as Featured Articles and Leaderboard, the GolfTEC Blog, and Local (golf) News. However, we have found the Leaderboard often misses key tournaments taking place, and other information such as “Wall of Fame” within Local News can be very out of date (the last post from our area was nearly a year and a half ago). The Center also provides the ability to view/post scores and some basic statistics, though we were unable to get the system to accept our information. The Center is trying to be a golf portal, and it may work for some, but we are happier going directly to golf-specific sites for news and leaderboard information (or building our own RSS feeds), and tracking our statistics via other means (such as through our Golfshot iPhone application). More advanced players and those who are tech-savvy are likely not the target audience for the additional features of the Center, but those who are new to the game may like it as a central repository for all of their golf-related content.

Overall Impressions

GolfTEC brings personalized fitting to the masses at a reasonable cost. It has advanced technology that captures club and ball flight information, a software system that has access to as much equipment data as any other company, and importantly, a wide number of clubs on hand to help with the testing process – likely more than any other fitter nationwide. Visitors to GolfTEC may come for just one of their offerings – testing or lessons – but many are likely best served by a combination.

One significant difference between GolfTEC and other fitting centers is the heavy reliance on Swing Labs to assist with initial club recommendation, for better or for worse. The GolfTEC Personal Coach will help tailor the process, but as fittings are just a small portion of a Coach’s responsibility (estimated to be less than 5% of their sessions, with lessons dominating the total), you may not find the same level of fitting experience that you will in other centers where fittings are their sole focus.

We view GolfTEC as a great option for those who would otherwise try to self-fit their clubs or receive very informal advice from salespeople at retail stores. If you’re trying to self-fit your clubs, you will be lucky to find a store that has launch monitors available in its hitting bays. And if you are really lucky, those launch monitors might even be functional. But even with this information available, it’s a significant challenge to sift through the broad range of available clubs or understand the optimal launch and lie angles, spin rates, and other factors that will provide the best performance.

In the end, as the recent Golf Magazine article on fitting can attest, most players wind up with clubs that don’t match their level of play. And given the cost of equipment, the relatively small investment in a fitting at GolfTEC is worth it to ensure that the clubs you buy are appropriate for your game.

Hot Stix Golf

Founded in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2000, Hot Stix is one of the few brand-agnostic fitting companies with locations available nationwide. The company independently tests all of their equipment, and shares their experiences across locations to ensure that visitors benefit from the collective knowledge of its fitting staff around the country. Their client list includes over 250 Tour players (including major winners) and 35,000 amateurs, and the company is the official Golf Magazine equipment research partner. Hot Stix also boasts a new 7,500 square foot facility in Arizona that includes a center to build custom sets of clubs for clients.

My appointment at Hot Stix Golf was on a crisp morning at my local range – lucky for me I live within a short drive of a Hot Stix performance center. One of ten in the country, my local Hot Stix center is located at the Stanford University natural grass range and is supported by a Hot Stix mobile trailer that contains a wide variety of club heads and shafts for players to test, as well as equipment to analyze player swings and club specifications.

Hot Stix offers a variety of different “Tour Fitting” programs, from individual fitting packages for putters, irons or woods ($75 to $200 each), to more full-featured Outdoor Fitting ($795) and Platinum Game Fitting ($4,995, and is comprised of a game fitting plus a new set of clubs and personalized golf bag) options at their private 10-acre club-fitting facility at Legend Golf Trail in Arizona. There are significant differences in facilities (including some that are entirely indoors, such as their new second Scottsdale location, and those like the one at Stanford that are supported by mobile trailers), so be sure to confirm that the facility offers the experience you are seeking. I selected the Iron Fitting Package, which takes approximately 60-90 minutes and covers irons, wedges, loft and lie adjustments, and shaft frequency analysis.

Getting Started

The Hot Stix location at the Stanford range welcomes visitors with a portable tent equipped with a desk, laptop and their launch monitor of choice, a TrackMan, with the previously mentioned support trailer just a few steps away. My fitter for the day, Steve, got me started right away. He provided an overview of the process, and my set of irons were whisked away to be measured. Hot Stix measured all irons for loft, lie and length, as well as swing weight for the 6 iron and wedges (if equipment is available, they will also check club frequency). Keep in mind that even if your set was correctly fit and built when purchased, specs can change over time through use, so its always good to double check your current set to know whether any adjustments are required. If so, Hot Stix is able to make some adjustments right on the spot.

Steve took knuckle to ground measurements to help set a base for what would be the length of clubs to begin the testing, and then dove into a discussion of my game while I warmed up on the range. This sets the tone for the experience – unlike some fittings, at Hot Stix the fitter is the key component from start to finish. Their process combines the expertise of the fitter with TrackMan launch data, including launch angles and spin rates, to achieve an optimal fit.

The local Hot Stix team has a developed a wealth of information available at their fingertips through their own experience and that of fitters at the other Hot Stix locations. Through focusing their efforts entirely on fitting (as opposed to giving lessons), the team has honed its knowledge of how clubs pair with players – what works well for players with a steeper attack angle, the combination of club head and shaft that is more suited to a player with a slower swing that used to be a scratch player, and so forth. There isn’t a computer generating club recommendations as there are at some fitting centers, but rather each selection is based on what the team has learned over time through their hands-on work.

Checking out the Options

Since they are brand agnostic, the clubs that you test aren’t limited to just one manufacturer. Indeed, those who come for a full fitting will find it unlikely that all 14 clubs for their recommended set would be the same brand. Being on the early side, my body took a bit of time to warm up and get loose enough so I felt comfortable, and the team then started up the TrackMan as I brought my shots (relatively) under control. A big advantage to this location is being able to both warm-up and have the session on a well manicured grass range – a rare treat in our area.

After Steve spent time watching my full swings, he selected clubs that he felt would be most appropriate to my swing and that have worked well for players of similar style and those who historically have played clubs similar to my current set (Mizuno). Irons selected weren’t just the latest version of my current irons to test, but others that would fit my eye (an indicated preference) and those he felt would suit my swing. My testing was focused on models from Mizuno, Titleist and Miura, with a handful of shots with each to assess my thoughts on look and feel, and so Steve could analyze whether I was achieving the correct ball flight characteristics. And though they may be sorely tempted to do so, Hot Stix fitters stay away from providing any sort of swing advice on the range (though they will provide some assistance on the putting green if things are out of whack…and hey, I’ll take all the tips I can get). Of the three iron models, the Mizuno MP-52 which Steve paired with a FST KBS Tour from the start (noting the KBS Tour has proven to be an exceptionally well-performing shaft in their sessions and he expected to match well with my tempo) provided the best flight. Distance between irons tested varied little, and his greatest focus was on finding the right launch angle and spin rates for my game.

As an independent fitter, Hot Stix relies on the manufacturers to allow them to fit and sell their equipment. Not all brands will be represented at each location, as the selection can be dependent on the different manufacturers initiatives in place, though all the majors certainly are. Hot Stix also pares down the manufacturers and models they carry based on what they find to be the best performing, along with those that are most commonly requested. There weren’t any clubs on my “must test” list that weren’t available in their mobile trailer, and the breadth of custom shafts were more than I would ever try to process on my own. If you are interested in a particular brand or model, however, it wouldn’t hurt to confirm what is available at the Hot Stix location prior to your visit.

Hot Stix Golf - Mobile Trailer at Stanford

Hot Stix Mobile Trailer

If you decide to walk through an entire bag, I would highly recommend dividing your time across appointments on multiple days. It isn’t an overly long process for each component fitting, but it is intense. Breaking it into multiple fittings may very well result in more crisp ball striking throughout the sessions, and you’ll be more focused for each component fitting.


Though I didn’t take part in a putter fitting, the Hot Stix location at Stanford offers both an outdoor putting green and a small putting area in their trailer that is equipped with 5 high-speed cameras to assist with the fitting process (to capture both ball movement and shaft lean/angles along with putting stroke). The team focuses on finding the right length while ensuring your eye is in the correct position relative to the ball, lie, the appropriate amount of toe hang, and the putter that provides the right feel. I spent time with Steve on the putting green, and he quickly make initial assessments on how well-suited my current putter is for my stroke, and made a slight adjustment to decrease the loft of my putter.

Hot Stix Golf - Stanford

Hot Stix Mobile Trailer Putting Area


Based on the fitting, Hot Six provides a comprehensive packet of information for both your current clubs and the set that they recommend for you.

The Hot Stix package includes:
1. Iron recommendation. Includes the length, lie, frequency and swing weight for a 6-iron. Also included is the recommended shaft and preferred grip model. Prices are also provided for the club head, shaft (if non-standard) and grip (again, if non-standard).
Hot Stix provides detailed specifications for the recommended set of irons, which include the loft, lie, length of each club, along with spacing of loft and lie between clubs. In my case, the recommended irons were the Mizuno MP-52s with a FST KBS Tour shaft.
2. Wedge recommendation. Steve recommended I keep my current 58 degree Cleveland wedge, and replace my gap wedge with a Cleveland CG15 Black Pearl, again pairing it with a FST KBS tour shaft. Detailed specifications are also listed, and detail the loft, lie, length and spacing of loft between clubs, along with the pricing for the clubs.
3. Driver recommendation. In my case, a 10.5 degree Adams 9064 LS, paired with a Mitsubishi Kai’Li 60 shaft (though an iron fitting, we took a moment to hit a few drivers as well). Length, frequency and swing weight are outlined along with the price.
4. Club Fitting Summary. Hot Stix provides a summary with high-level comments on the importance of the different factors that go into a club fitting: length, loft and lie, shaft flex, grip and swing weight. The majority of the player information included on this page is detailed on the prior Recommendation pages, although head speed and tempo for the 6-iron and driver are also included here, along with knuckle-to-ground measurements that assisted in determining appropriate club length.
5. Loft/Lie Comparison Chart. This includes current club specifications, as well as detail on the loft on your clubs when you arrived, the loft after any modifications Hot Stix makes to your clubs during the session, the loft gaps between clubs, the old and new lie, and the lie gaps between clubs. This is a nice bonus of the fitting – even if you don’t purchase a new set of irons, Hot Stix can still help make slight modifications to your current clubs during the session. In my case, lofts remained essentially unchanged, though they increased the lie for the nearly all irons by between 0.5 and 1.5 degrees (and as I learned for the first time (!), Mizuno lie angles are generally ~0.5 to 1.5 degrees less than other brands).
6. Club Frequency Chart. This chart covers the 6-iron and wedges, and includes length, swing weight, and frequency. The frequency analysis was not available for my fitting, thus no data was provided in this column in the Hot Stix summary packet.
7. Ball recommendation. Steve suggested the Titleist Pro V1, though he also included other ball options that I may wish to try, and then determine what I most like based on feel and spin around the green.
8. Fitting Summary. Lastly, Hot Stix provides a 2-page overview of the club recommendation pages.

Data junkies should know that while Hot Stix captures data on your shot results during your swings, it does not provide this information in the package. Hot Stix does retain all client information, so if you return for another fitting, they will already be able to provide recommendations to get you started in the right direction.

Where Do I Place My Order?

If you decide to purchase new clubs based on their recommendations, you can do so directly through Hot Stix. And unlike with other companies, even manufacturers, you will have a set that is built just for you, down to the frequency matching of the clubs, at a price that is based on what you would pay at a local retailer. So if you were thinking of taking the summary information elsewhere, you certainly could, but since there is no need to worry about paying a premium to Hot Stix for custom building the clubs for you, we see no reason why you wouldn’t just make the purchase through Hot Stix. All clubs are built at their headquarters in Scottsdale, and even for “standard” clubs, the company will check the lie, loft and length of each club you purchase to confirm that your clubs were built to the correct specifications.


Hot Stix offers an extremely thorough fitting process for players, and is one of only two fitting companies with multiple locations throughout the United States that have employees focused entirely on fittings (no time split between lessons or pressures for them to act as salespeople). The combination of a brand-agnostic process to find the best clubs for the player, the availability of a natural grass range (location-dependent), reasonable prices, and the latest technology can benefit players of any skill level. And if you choose order clubs, they are built to tour specifications, at prices competitive with your local retailer.

Contact Information:
Hot Stix Golf

Hot Stix continues to expand its locations and offerings, with fitting centers recently opening in La Quinta, California and at The Golf Academy in Los Angeles. In addition, they have added new 3D body analysis (from Innovative Sport Ventures SwingAMP) at their Scottsdale headquarters. The experience will depend on location, with mobile trailer locations providing all the basics, and the headquarter location having all the equipment and technology the company has at their disposal.

Hot Stix also offers “Performance Fitting” packages. This set of offerings is limited to club heads and shafts that are offered by a select group of manufacturers, and clubs that are purchased through these fittings are entirely fulfilled by the manufacturer. Beyond what is included in the Performance Fitting packages, the Tour Fitting package includes evaluation of your current clubs, access to all club heads and shafts carried by Hot Stix, and purchased clubs built directly by Hot Stix.