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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Cool Clubs

Cool Clubs

We recently paid a visit to Cool Clubs, one of the few manufacturer-agnostic fitting centers with locations nationwide, and one of only two that focuses entirely on club fitting. Our editor visited the new 2,800 square foot Cool Clubs studio located within the Mariners Point Golf Center in Foster City, California.

Founded in 2007, Cool Clubs may be a new name new to most, but founder Mark Timms brings with him 20 years in the club fitting industry. The company is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, with seven United States studios located across Arizona, California, Connecticut and Texas, and one in Tokyo, Japan.

Cool Clubs offers a number of different custom club fitting packages. The options include: 1) driver, 2) long game (fairway woods, hybrids, and longest iron), 3) iron, 4) putter, and 5) wedge. The majority of clients select a full fitting package, which is priced at $375, includes fittings of all clubs in the bag, and lasts 4.5 hours. Each component fitting is also available separately – they are generally priced at $100 and last one hour with the exception of the iron fitting, which is $150 and lasts 1.5 hours. If you’re visiting Cool Clubs’ facility in Scottsdale, prices are a bit higher as all component fittings last an additional 30 minutes and use Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls for the outdoor session at TPC Scottsdale. That sure beats the hacked-up range balls I’m used to hitting! If, upon the conclusion of your fitting, you decide to order either off-the-rack or custom-built clubs through Cool Clubs, the cost will be the same as from big box retailers. Unfortunately, as with other manufacturer-agnostic fittings, you don’t receive any credit for the cost of the fitting against the purchase price of the clubs.

Clients can set up a fitting by calling or emailing Cool Clubs headquarters or contacting a local Cool Clubs studio directly. There is no specific skill level or handicap required to sign up, so don’t be intimidated. Though most clients’ handicaps are in the teens, players at most any level (as long as they are regularly making contact with the ball) can derive value from a professional club fitting. Cool Clubs didn’t ask for any information at the time of booking the appointment. I only needed to show up with my set of clubs and be ready to swing.

The Cool Clubs Studio

The Cool Clubs center we visited, located in an unassuming building at the Mariners Point Golf Center in the San Francisco Bay Area, features all the latest fitting technology spread throughout two indoor fitting rooms, a putting studio and indoor artificial turf green, and a small repair shop. There are even a pair of comfortable leather chairs to relax and enjoy whatever tournament is playing on one of their flat-screen TVs (you’ll have to head next door for beer and food, however). In addition to their indoor space, Cool Clubs also has access to the outdoor range at Mariners Point.

Cool Clubs Fitting Studio
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One wall of their facility is filled with custom shafts, with enough variety to satisfy even the pickiest client. Likewise for club heads, where visitors will find all of the major manufacturers available. Cool Clubs also carries specific products (but not necessarily the entire manufacturer lineup) that they find to be strong performers, such as Fourteen wedges and Tour Edge woods and hybrids. If you have a particular favorite brand or club you want to test, however, it never hurts to confirm whether it is available when setting up your fitting.

The most prominent features in the dedicated fitting rooms are the projection screen displaying a graphic image of a hole, and the hitting mat in the middle of the room. Each room is equipped with a TrackMan launch monitor and equipment to measure club specifications. Along one wall is a desk with monitors and a computer from which the fitter controls the TrackMan and the proprietary Cool Clubs fitting software. The monitors display a variety of information throughout the session, including graphic representations of ball flight and shot data.

One of the nice advantages of the Mariners Point Cool Clubs facility is the ability to spend a portion of the session in a controlled indoor environment, and then move outdoors (with the TrackMan) to the grass range. Some locations, such as the headquarters in Scottsdale, allow clients to select whether they want the fitting to be indoors or outdoors in its entirety, and some permit clients to move between settings. Only two locations, Orange County and Tokyo, are held exclusively indoors. If you are interested in a wedge fitting, an outdoor fitting is recommended due to the importance of the interaction of the wedge with the turf. Putter fittings are all held indoors.

My fitting team for the day consisted of Justin, who has been working in fitting for 11 years with Mark Timms, as well as Kevin, a PGA Professional new to the Cool Clubs team. As I warmed up the team took measurements of my current clubs at a level of detail beyond any other fitting we have had to date, including the frequency, length, swing weight, and loft (as well as lie for irons and wedges) for each club. My current set consists entirely of stock clubs, and the team wasn’t surprised to see some discrepancies from what the specifications should be. Given that stock clubs are mass produced, tolerances aren’t as tight as those built at Cool Clubs, where clubs are hand-built as well as are both frequency matched and go through the SST PURE Shaft Alignment process. As they said…”custom is always better than stock”. But don’t think that custom clubs are necessarily beyond your reach – Cool Clubs works with customers to provide different club and shaft options that work within their budget.

I warmed up with my 6-iron on the mat as my fitter entered a bit more detail into my Cool Clubs system profile: basics including my handicap, the number of rounds I play per year, and measurement of the distance from my knuckle to floor. Once I was warmed up, we moved to start the session off with the driver fitting, which they prefer to do while clients are still fresh.

As alluded to before, Cool Clubs uses a TrackMan to capture ball flight and swing data, the benefit of which is that it neither requires any distracting “holes” in the mat like those utilized by infrared systems nor any cameras that flash at the time of the stroke. My target was a vertical red laser line projected on top of the graphic display of a hole the screen. Unfortunately, the laser is lined up a few feet to the right of the center line on the screen graphic due to the room setup, which was a bit distracting initially.

Cool Clubs Fitting Room
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The Big Dog
Because my driver was a recent purchase, my fitting was focused on getting the most out of that club, rather than looking across a variety of brands for a new purchase. To compare apples to apples, during both my driver and iron fitting sessions, we used the same brand and model golf balls I normally play, the only difference being the addition of reflective dots on the covers to allow the TrackMan to better capture flight information. The Cool Clubs team can thereafter provide a ball recommendation in addition to the club fitting.

Having taken a number of swings with my adjustable-head driver, Justin and Kevin set out to first optimize (er, “fix”) the lie and loft that I had set on my own (the ball paths with my adjustments are shown by the white line in the graphic at right, below). This change in setting changed the face angle at impact and resulted in quick improvement to both accuracy and trajectory. So much for trying to determine the correct setting on my own…

Cool Clubs Driver Fitting

Club heads are just one piece of the puzzle, and finding the right shaft for your woods or irons can make a difference by further optimizing launch angle and spin rates. After taking another half dozen swings to capture launch and ball flight information with these changes, the team selected two custom shafts that they determined were appropriate for my swing speed and tempo and would enable us to achieve the goals of bringing my spin rate lower (to near or just below 3000rpm) and increasing my launch angle (to just over 11 degrees). These specific target numbers don’t necessarily apply to everyone – the Cool Clubs team uses the Trackman to determine the optimal spin and launch angles for each player.

We started by comparing my stock Diamana Kai’li 65 S shaft to the Graphite Design Tour AD DI-6. I took approximately 10 swings with each (with Kevin removing mis-hits from the data captured by the TrackMan software), and then moved to a Fujikura Motore Speeder 6.2. At this point they modified the driver setting to provide a bit more of fade-bias and recommended a slight change in ball position…ahh I’ve heard THAT before! One point to make here is that unless it is abundantly clear one shaft is a better match for your swing, you’ll want to evaluate each shaft with the same club and position changes. With each shaft my launch data moved toward our target goals in spin and launch, with distance changing little between shafts after the initial lie and loft adjustment.

Their overall driver analysis showed that my recent purchase was a very good fit (phew!), and the adjusted setting would provide overall improvement. Beyond this adjustment, their next recommendation was to move to the Fujikura shaft, but at $400 list this is something that may have to wait for an end of the year bonus (remind me to discuss that with the Critical Golf payroll department). Those who are budget conscious can be reassured that Cool Clubs works with customers to find not just the optimal shaft/head combination without consideration to cost, but also what other options are, including stock or less expensive custom shafts …much like a series of “good”, “better”, “best” performance options.

On to the Irons

We started my iron fitting with impact tape on the face of my 6-iron. I took a few swings on the lie board, and the lie tape indicated that my club was striking the board toward the toe, and that my lie should be moved up 1 degree. Kevin headed to their Mitchell digital irons machine in the corner of the room and quickly modified my 6-iron. A few more swings on the lie board confirmed that the new specs were working well, and the team then modified the lie for the other irons based off of the modified 6-iron lie angle. Prospective customers take note: one of the benefits of a Cool Clubs fitting is that even if you don’t purchase a new set, club adjustments such as lie and loft are included in the cost and can be made on the spot. So at the very least, your existing clubs can be modified to fit you better the very same day.

We then removed the lie board and I took swings off the mat with the modified 6-iron to capture ball launch and swing data. Based on my indication that I like the feel and feedback of my current steel-shafted irons (Rifle), we stayed with steel instead of trying any graphite shafts. Kevin’s observations of my swing speed, tempo and level of play gave him the information he needed to recommend the shaft most likely to fit my game – a steel KBS Tour 5.5 shaft. He then pulled three club heads to test: the Titleist AP-2, Mizuno MP-58 and TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC, and I requested we add the TaylorMade Burner 2.0 (hey, I can’t help it if those Burner 2.0 ads lure me in…). Some clients ask for their fitting to focus on one manufacturer, and Cool Clubs can certainly oblige. But with a slogan of “Play Better Golf”, their team’s goal is to get you into the optimal club head/shaft combination for your game, regardless the combination of manufacturers. Indeed, most Cool Clubs customers wind up being fit to at least three different manufacturers across a full set.

Cool Clubs Iron Fitting

We stepped through the irons using the same KBS shaft for each, taking around half a dozen swings with each club head and discarding any mis-hits as before. My launch angle and spin rates were already in their target range with my current clubs, so the focus during the testing was on feel and other areas of possible improvement. In my case, distances changed little among the four tested club heads, but the KBS shaft made a difference, improving the face angle of the club at impact and providing greater consistency and accuracy (see image at right and detailed iron fitting report, below). I preferred the feel of my current club heads to the other irons tested, even to the newer model of my current irons, and Kevin suggested keeping my current set, but simply replacing the shafts to gain performance.

To the (Artificial Turf) Green

From the hitting bays we moved into the putting studio, which features a whopping 8 cameras covering a variety of angles, including from above to see the stroke path, from above the cup to see the shaft angle and eye/shoulder position within the stance. In a putter fitting, the fitter will first measure your current putter specifications, and then capture information on standard putting results for long and short putts.

Mariners Point Putting Studio
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Kevin manned the computer alongside the studio, which allowed him to toggle camera views and then, using V1 Software, analyze my stance and stroke. We walked through a variety of key items (the putter fitting provided more lesson elements to it than the other fittings) for body position, including:

  1. eye position over ball
  2. where my hands fall relative to my shoulder
  3. spine angle
  4. and then the club position:

  5. clubface at address
  6. club path
  7. clubface at impact

Based in large part on the information above, the team will help find the ideal face balance, head style, and putter weight. I didn’t have a full putter fitting as a part of our session, but did have the chance to briefly walk through the different elements that Cool Clubs provides.

Analyzing the Results

Based on your fitting session, Cool Clubs provides a number of ways to help improve your game:

  • Adjusting irons (and woods as possible) to new lie/loft specifications.
  • Recommending an optimal set, including club heads and shafts.
  • Recommending other combinations to meet other constraints (and yes, there are $399 shafts that you can pair with that $399 driver head if you desire). The team can recommend custom shafts at different price points, as well as the best performing stock shaft.

The Cool Clubs goal is to help improve your game – through basic modifications to lie/loft of your current clubs, new shafts or club heads, or a new stock or custom set. Cool Clubs isn’t tied to a particular manufacturer, and can easily work with what your goals and budget are.

As takeaways from the session, Cool Clubs provided me with data for both the driver fitting and iron fitting:

  • Fitting Summary. An abbreviated listing of each club/shaft combination tested, along with a variety of data for club information (speed, attack angle, path, etc.), launch (ball speed, vertical angle, spin rate, etc.), and projected landing (carry, side, etc.) and total distance.
  • Fitting Summary Trajectory. A listing of each club/shaft combination with a graphic of the projected path of each ball flight, including landing and roll-out. The TrackMan also allows for assumed wind speed, temperature, and altitude.
  • Driver Fitting Dispersion. A listing of each club/shaft combination along with a graphic of the calculated final location of each shot.

Lastly, Cool Clubs also provides a full report (note this is just a mockup of what a full client report would look like) with original club specs, new specs and pricing.

Overall Impressions

Cool Clubs is a great way to get a manufacturer-agnostic fitting in an environment that employs all of the latest fitting technology, with both indoor and/or outdoor locations. The team at Cool Clubs keeps the fitting accessible to players of all skill levels. With the support of their Scottsdale headquarters, Cool Clubs has the ability to build a customer a set and deliver it within 2 business days of receiving the club specs (assuming all components are in stock).

If you are in an area with a Cool Clubs center, or are passing near one of their locations (yet another reason to visit Scottsdale for a long weekend of golf!), we fully recommend a visit. Cool Clubs has a wide variety of clubs and shafts available for testing, experts that are focused solely on club fitting, the latest technology, and a price that is in line with other fitting centers. You’ll be able to find the right set for your swing, be it off-the-rack or one that is custom-built. So stop on in. Hey, their whole goal is to help you “Play Better Golf.”

Contact information:
Cool Clubs
Scottsdale, AZ, with additional locations in Arizona, California, Texas and Japan
http://www.coolclubs.com
United States: 888-284-9292
Japan: +81-3-3443-5337