Mike Woody has no doubt about the secrets of club fitting success. He’s been carefully thinking about them—and more importantly, consistently putting them into practice—for over a decade.
At his home-based fitting shop in a St. Louis suburb, the 2007-2008 Golf Clubmakers Association Illinois Clubmaker of the Year and graduate of the Golfsmith Master Craftsman School applies a back-to-basics fitting method that gets real results. It’s rooted in a wealth of professional experience, both his and that of the colleagues whose brains he's picked over the years.
“Information is kind of hard to get sometimes unless you start networking and talking to people,” he says. “I learned a lot from talking to other guys. The questions I would always ask were 'What worked for you as a business model?' and 'What processes worked for you?'”
What has emerged is a commitment to making his clients happy, a conviction that skilled fitting is the real difference-maker and a belief in the power of well-defined guiding concepts.
“I sell service,” Woody says. “If you provide good customer service, you’ll be successful in this business. It’s an individual, one-on-one thing. Clients get my undivided attention during the fitting session.”
Woody emphasizes that customer satisfaction is impossible without expert fitting—and the equipment it requires. “Learning how to make clubs can be secured pretty quickly,” he says, “but what separates guys in this business from everybody else—and you have to have separation to be successful, I think—is learning how to fit. Get the schools, the training, the credentials. You have to learn how to fit, and you have to do it well.”
“Investing in clubmaking, in the equipment you need there,” Woody continues, “is not too tough to do. It’s not that expensive. But you can't become a high-level club fitter without a quality launch monitor. I tried to do it without good fitting equipment. But when the results aren’t what the customer expected, and you’re promising a level of performance, and you can’t acquire accurate data to validate your claims, people aren’t happy.”
Most importantly, Woody is convinced, a professional club fitter should have a very clear idea of what they're going for and how to get there. “If you’re going to fit,” he advises, “you have to find your philosophy of fitting, you have to define a process to follow that philosophy, and you follow that process religiously through session after session after session.”
His own sessions start with setting the client's expectations, encouraging them to get over any preoccupations with distance and instead get back to the basic objectives of the game. “I ask them,” he says, “'If I can make you hit more fairways, hit more greens and putt less, do you think your score will go down?' My fitting process revolves around those three premises.”
Focused on improving efficiency, accuracy and feel, that process must stay up to date, Woody says, with the latest thinking in the golf business. “You have to be sharp,” he says, “you have to stay in touch with what’s going on.” As for him, Woody has been thinking lately about industry trends like counterbalancing (“If you’re putting without a counterweight in your putter, you’re missing out on an opportunity”), moment of inertia matching (“I think it has merit over swingweighting”) and interchangeable shaft systems (“They have to be able to replicate the end product”).
In the end, Woody believes that providing and guaranteeing high-quality craftsmanship definitely has its rewards and should be valued. “Some guys give away their fitting fee if a customer buys clubs,” he says. “I don’t do that. I’m a professional, and there’s a value to that. Guys who do what we do are way too prone to undervalue their services.”
The bigger payoff, though, isn't financial. “There are not a lot of businesses you can get into,” he says, “where people are glad to see you and happy to spend money with you because it improves their pleasure time. The thing that I've enjoyed the most is happy customers.”