JC Golf: What a Ball Fitting Is, and Why You Need One


Bridgestone Golf will be conducting ball fittings for the first time this year at Golf Fest, March 14th & 15th at Oaks North Golf Course in Rancho Bernardo.

For those unfamiliar with what a ball fitting is and how it can benefit your game, we provide the following interview with Johnny McFarland of Bridgestone, who will be conducting the fittings at Golf Fest.

The reason for a fitting is simply to determine the best ball for your game to maximize distance and precision. People tend to underestimate the impact of the ball in this equation, McFarland says.

The fitting is done on a launch monitor that measures club head speed, ball speed and spin and then derives the best ball to optimize those conditions.

McFarland says the fitting begins with the player hitting a new ball with the brand he or she is currently playing. After five or six swings, the players switches to a comparable Bridgestone ball.

McFarland says that in 75 percent of cases, the Bridgestone ball – one of the eight the company produces – outperformers the players’ current brand.

“In the other cases, the ball is working and we’re happy to tell them that,” he says. “We’d love to have you as a customer, but we can’t improve much on what your ball is doing.”

Since Bridgestone switched from being Precept nine years ago, it has become the No. 2 ball in golf, behind only Titleist.

In that time, McFarland says the company has conducted more than 250,000 live ball fittings.

“We tested everyone from a 15 year old to an 80-year-old woman,” McFarland says, “and across all handicaps.”

That mountain of data is what the company uses today to help match players to their ideal ball, which is rarely Titleist, McFarland says.

“Titleist makes a great ball,” McFarland says, “but it’s not for the average duck. You have to have a swing speed of 104 mph or higher to compress the Pro-V1, and that’s not the average player.

“Yet 50 percent of players play a tour-grade ball.”

While Bridgestone has products to serve the pro player, it’s just as adept at helping the player with the 94 m.p.h. .swing speed, which is the average amateur, McFarland says.

What follows is a Q & A with McFarland about the benefits of ball fitting and what your game might be losing by playing a misfit ball.

Q. Let’s cut to what everyone wants to know: How much of a distance difference can a ball fitting make?

A. It can be as little as four to nine yards, but I’ve often seen it be 10 or more. It’s quite eye-opening when you get on the machine and do a comparison.

But when you’re swinging your own driver and wearing your own golf shoes, there’s no gimmicks. And you can’t deny the data. The results are often dramatic.

Q. How much do people underestimate the impact of the ball when trying to improve their games?

A. People still put a lot of time, money and effort into buying a driver when putting a little more money into the right golf ball is likely to give you more improvement. That’s just the way it is.

But I think people are starting to see the error of their ways.  And I also think they’re getting better at telling the difference in ball performance.

You can put all of our balls on an Iron Byron and they’ll end up about the same distance, but how they’ve gotten there will be totally different. Some will be high or low, or have a little more side spin, and that’s exactly what they’re designed to do.

People are coming around but it’s still very much a one-person-at-a-time education for us.

Q. What’s Bridgestone’s latest product advancement?

A. The newest thing is the B series, which has a rubber core, but in the formulation they inadvertently added water to the mixture and it changed how it reacts. The outer edges are 30 percent firmer and the center is 30 percent softer.

That takes some spin off the ball, which we all know makes it go further.

They’ve just started carrying these in the pro shop, but the pros on Tour already have them. They using will test a ball for two months before adding it to their bag, but they using these within a week. That’s how good it is.

We’re looking forward to a great year.

Q. How long does a ball fitting take? 

A. We can do it in about 10 minutes if it’s a busy day, but we’re happy to spend more time with people if they really want learn.

Q. What’s one of the most valuable things a player can learn?

A. We can tell you what your max drive is, meaning what’s possible for you to achieve with your swing speed.

For instance, I swing it at 92 m.p.h., so I’m never going to drive it 300 yards. We can determine what your max is and then fit you to a ball to help get you there.

That said, hardly anyone achieves their max. (Tour pro) Matt Kuchar’s max is 301 yards and he hits it 299, which is unbelievable.

We’re not so much interested in how far you hit it now but far you could hit and then helping you get as close as we can.

And we’ve done that for a lot of people now. That’s why our retention rate is so high.

Each person who participates in a ball fitting with get a free Bridgestone two-ball pack. For more information about Golf Fest, or to register, go to http://www.jcgolf.com.

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