Yours truly got to see how the other guys’ foursome lives at a golf club fitting session last week at the new Club Champion studio in Newport Beach.
You can check out the operation yourself Thursday evening, when Club Champion hosts a combination grand opening and benefit for the nonprofit Folds of Honor, which provides educational scholarships to families with a member who has fallen or been disabled while on active duty in the United States armed forces.
Based in Willowbrook, Illinois, which is a chip shot west of Chicago, and billed as “the nation’s No. 1 premium golf club fitter, builder and retailer of the best brands in golf,” Club Champion has been a Golf Digest Top 100 fitter for eight years running, and the National Golf Foundation trade organization on Jan. 16 included the company on its inaugural list of the Top 100 Businesses in Golf.
It puts a customer through swing tests that are analyzed by an expert and matched with metrics to come up with the best club or clubs for that duffer. The analysis phase is all done in store. Based on the data that experience produces, clubs for that particular golfer are built from scratch at Club Champion’s Windy City-area manufacturing plant. A tight turnaround is promised despite similar orders coming in from all over the country.
The way it worked for me was I was immediately greeted by Jordan King Thomas, who grew up golfing and surfing on Oahu, was enticed to work as a golf pro in the Miami area and who now finds himself fitting clubs to customers at Club Champion in Newport Beach while still teaching golf on the side. (And still surfing, too.)
Thomas offered me a choice of a water or sports drink while I slipped into my golf shoes and he took my clubs back to the testing area. I met him there to hit some balls with my own clubs into a golf simulator screen. Each shot was logged for speed, distance, spin, trajectory and launch/landing angle through a Trackman 3D ball flight measurement and analysis system.
Combining the numbers spit out by the computer with what Thomas was seeing with his own eyes of my swing and–get this–hearing with his own ears as the club made contact with the ball, he made an educated guess on what kind of grip, shaft and club head in Club Champion’s arsenal would improve my game.
He had a vast array of gear to choose from. Brands carried by Club Champion include Callaway, TaylorMade, PING, Titleist, PXG, Fujikura, Golf Pride and many more. That allows for more than 35,000 hittable head and shaft combinations.
Confessing that he can often find the best combination for a club on the first try, Thomas still had me hit about three different combinations each for a driver, 3-wood and hybrid wood so I could determine for myself which ones were best for me. And he would have allowed me to keep trying more if I was not satisfied.
(Which reminds me, personal and profuse apologies to the extremely patient Thomas for never quite figuring out how to hit Club Champion’s drivers, let alone my own.)
Attendees of Thursday evening’s grand opening/fundraiser get free, 30-minute demonstrations of Club Champion’s tour-level fitting technology to scientifically analyze their swings. That’s nothing to sneeze at; regular fittings range in cost from $80 (per wedge) to $350 (full bag) with various price points in between.
Perhaps I should have mentioned sooner that Club Champion’s services are for those who don’t mind spending top dollar to improve their games. For instance, had I bought the three clubs that were fit for me, it would have set me back around $1,700. Let me back up … had I had $1,700 …
But those clubs, which fit no one but you, can’t help but improve your game. Club Champion allows you to bring a club or clubs back for refinement until they do the job.
At least the grand opening includes raffles to win full bag club fittings and top brand golf products. You’ll feel good even if your number does not come up as it is the raffle ticket sales that benefit Folds of Honor. (Cash only donations, puh-leeze.)
A custom Callaway Rogue driver will be given away, and there will be gift bags and $25 gift certificates for the first 50 people through the door. Food and drinks (including beer and wine) will be served.
Anyone who books a club fitting during the event gets half off a full bag fitting and 33 percent off all other fittings starting Friday through April 14.
Club Champion is at 3601 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach. Thursday’s event runs from 5 to 9 p.m.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.