Demo Days -- Be Fit Like a Pro

By Rob Canady, Images Courtesy of Cleveland Golf


With golf manufacturing companies seemingly coming out with the club ‘du jour’ these days, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with everything that’s available out there.  Fortunately, now there’s a way to keep pace -- and if you haven’t been to a golf Demo Day recently, then you’re doing yourself a grave disservice…and missing out on tons of fun, too.


You can’t go through many weekends without receiving an email about one (if you’re on the right lists), or seeing signs plastered all over local driving ranges, announcing the impending grand event.  They’re definitely becoming a very big deal for both the manufacturers and golfers alike. 


Demo days come in a few different varieties.  The most common type is where a company such as Cleveland Golf, Ping, or Callaway will set aside anywhere from three to six hours at a driving range or a public or private golf club.  On hand will be the local sales rep for the company, and in some cases, a “Tech Van,” which is in essence, a traveling golf club factory.


Tech Van Demo Days are a great way to try out all of a company’s club offerings that might be of interest to you.  For example, Cleveland Golf has six such vans traveling the country from February to November each year.  These rolling ‘toy stores’ set up shop for a day, allowing golfers to be custom fit to clubs that match their specifications and playing abilities.  Not long ago, this kind of treatment was strictly reserved for the guys who we watch play on TV every weekend.


Michael Sowerby, a technical representative for Cleveland Tech Vans, says that every day golfers should anticipate the same once-over the money players receive. “A person coming to a demo day can expect to be treated just like the players on the PGA Tour.  Our intention is to fit them to the best equipment on the market, and then assemble that product to their specs on-site while they wait.”


Club-fitting on the retail level used to consist of a salesman taking a couple measurements and then telling you what length of club you needed.  Technology has not only changed the type of clubs we buy now, but also how we choose them.  Sowerby said that assessing someone’s individual specs is the part that’s changed the most since he joined the Tech Van program in 2000.


“We have also added technology to our fitting system with the use of the Vector launch monitor,” he added. You’ve probably seen these launch monitors -- not to be confused with golf simulators.  A launch monitor provides all of the information a golfer and the club-fitter needs to determine which club and shaft will perform the best with that player’s swing.  


Results from just one swing will reveal the speed of the club head, the angle of the club head at impact with the ball, the speed at which the ball leaves the club head, the amount of spin imparted on the ball (which will indicate how far the ball carries in the air) and whether the ball sliced, hooked, or hopefully went straight.


Well, with all the new drivers out this year and the corresponding hype surrounding them, I didn’t want to be left out on the fun, or more importantly -- find myself thirty yards behind everyone else in the fairway.  So I took the opportunity to be treated like a Tour pro and get fitted for a Cleveland driver. 


Cleveland’s hottest product this year is the Hi Bore driver, so that was the perfect place to start. 


The Hi Bore has a distinctive look with a big 460cc club face and a scooped out crown.  Sowerby explains the unique design and benefits, “The Hi Bore will improve the driving of any golfer’s game.  Its design positions the COG [center of gravity] perfectly behind the center of the clubface.  This allows the fastest ball speed and optimal ball flight to occur at the same impact point.”


The launch monitor fitting is very simple.  All a player needs to do is just hit balls, and the launch monitor, computer, and rep do all the work.  I tried the Hi Bore with three different shafts.  This is probably the single biggest benefit of attending a Demo Day -- you get to try the same driver with different shaft combinations, unlike just walking into a store and seeing the driver available in one or two shafts at the most.


First up for me was the Hi Bore head with a Fujikura shaft, which is the standard stock shaft. Results with this head/shaft combination were very good.  My 5-shot average showed a carry of 245 yards and four of the five shots landed in what would have been the fairway.  I didn’t think I could improve on this grouping, but wanted to see how it compared to a couple other options. 


Next was the popular NV shaft by Aldila.  Shots with this blending were not quite as far and had a bit lower trajectory -- probably because of my swing speed average of 101, not necessarily the shaft.


UST’s popular new V2 shaft is getting a lot of rave reviews this year, so I decided to see how it performed with this new driver head.  I struck gold with the V2/Hi Bore combo.  My 5-shot average with the V2 showed a nice 14-degree launch angle and a carry average of 251 yards, and again, most importantly, with all five balls grouped together in the imaginary fairway.


I decided on the Hi Bore with a 10.5 loft and the 65g Stiff V2 shaft.  My order was written up and given to Sowerby in the van, and in less than thirty minutes I had a driver built for me on the spot.  I got to choose which grip and grip size I wanted, and whether I wanted writing on the shaft to face up or down.  Try specifying that to an 18-year-old sales guy at the local big box golf store and see his reaction.


While most of the attention at demo days is focused on the almighty driver (and who am I to argue after results like the above), companies generally have their full array of clubs available to hit to your heart’s content or until your hands plead NO MORE!!! NO MORE!!! 


Trying out various clubs in an outside environment is especially helpful if, for example, you’re in the market for a new wedge.  Have you ever tried hitting a wedge in an indoor hitting bay with a 10-foot ceiling off fake carpet?  Yeah, we face that type of shot all the time in our rounds of golf don’t we?  But at a demo day, you can hit three-quarter, full, half, punch, or just plain chip shots with wedges to see how they actually perform.


So if you still haven’t found that perfect club to add to your bag this year, don’t fret.  Help is just a Demo Day away. All of the major manufacturers list upcoming events on their websites, or check with your favorite course or range to find out about upcoming dates and times.


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