It was a windy Southern California day at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course's "back of the range" practice facility near their headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif.
As I got ready to begin my Cobra full-bag tour truck fitting experience, Cobra's fitter Brandon Dickinson turned to me as I got loose with my existing driver.
“We want to make sure it’s a fair fight,” Dickinson quipped.
Over two and a half hours, 150 golf balls struck, and 20 different club configurations tried, the fitting turned into a Cobra knockout. But, even with recently adding new irons and a driver to my bag, it wasn't close.
The difference between Cobra's fitting truck experience and a typical "try and buy" fitting you can find at a PGA Superstore, for example, felt apparent as soon as you walked next to the truck. Multiple racks of shafts are laid out, far beyond what's listed for an online order, with a table of clubhead options available. Dickinson's seven years of experience provides the magic touch to the right buttons to tweak to maximize the fitting of the player in front of him. Every change felt like another step in the right direction until he discovered the true alchemy for the best setup of each club.
The trackman provided Dickinson the data he needed to adjust, removing the fact there was a strong gust coming in from the sea just two miles away, providing a right to left wind and normalizing to 60 degrees Fahrenheit weather at sea level.
This extensive setup captured the best data available. However, going about fitting oneself to save on the cost felt like trying to inspect a home instead of hiring a professional before buying a place.
An amateur can see what issues lie on the surface, but it takes a professional to diagnose and properly fix the problem and get the most out of the clubs.
Of course, the biggest investment for any player is in their driver. Dickinson made eight tweaks to sift through to the perfect setup for me, going a step at a time from my current driver to Cobra's LTX LS, with a new loft, shaft, and lie angle.
Once I took my first swing with the eighth version, Dickinson called out, "Bingo!" The numbers backed up the assertion, as his final version averaged 17 yards of additional carry and 24 total yards, with average ball speed jumping five percent from 160 mph to 168 mph, compared to the driver in my bag.
After six swings with his final version, he wanted to double-check my swings with my current one. “We’re at the point right now where the data seems broken to me,” Dickinson said. “You’re carrying it further than the total with your current driver.”
Given that I fit myself for my current driver, I wasn’t surprised. The additional sample confirmed the original distances, and I already felt sold on the fitting process. I then started to ponder how much lousy advice I may have given friends with less experience in the game on club choices over the years, but there was no time to reflect as we went on to the next club, trying out a three wood.
We went through a similar tweaking process with the LTD x LS three wood. It got tipped a degree and brought down to 13 degrees from the 14.25 degree one in my bag, trying four different setups before going with a final version.
Then, as we looked to replace my hybrid, the value of having a professional fitting me kept paying off.
Dickinson asked when on the course I'd use a hybrid. Only on a second shot on a par five or teeing off with it, but I get a somewhat similar distance off the tee with a stinger four iron. So we bypassed trying any of Cobra's hybrids and instead tried the Tec X four iron. It averaged nine more yards of carry and 11 more total yards than my current four, providing coverage on the course at a distance I don't see often.
Removing my hybrid opened up an opportunity for an additional club in the bag. Dickinson took my current pitching wedge in and measured it to 41 degrees, calculating I should switch from a 52, 56, and 60-degree setup to 49, 53, 56, and 60-degree wedges.
After trying a 49 degree with an iron shaft, he switched to the dynamic gold S400. When we got down to the 60, my first swing was a one-handed finish chunk shot that barely got to 50 yards.
“I’ve got a wedge for that,” Dickinson explained, “as funny as that sounds.”
He came back with a higher bounce and increased the camber of the club, a term I had never heard before. As he had all day, Dickinson thoughtfully explained that by increasing the distance from the leading edge to the trailing edge, the clubhead would have less tendency to dig and be less likely to hit the ball higher on the face. This adjustment increases the consistency of the distance and spin of the shot for my miss.
We then tried the 60 out on the chipping area next to the truck, utilizing different lies and angles into the flags to see how the 60 reacted. I commented on how well the wedge spun, and Dickinson noted they were five years old.
He then let me in the truck as we said farewell. I noticed on the truck's interior are autographs of those who've been fitted before on a whiteboard. Everyone provided a positive testimonial of Dickinson's approach, from three-time NBA champion Klay Thompson to Golf Channel personality Blair O'Neal to musical artist Skillet.
It may be the best testament to his service and the experience that I never would've known the notable names he's worked fit before. Just above the doorframe, he has the phrase "Fit Like a Champion Today" printed out.
No wonder Dickinson wanted to make sure it was a fair fight at the start of the fitting.
Given the multiple-year investment a set of clubs are, a $300 price point for a two-hour fitting feels more than reasonable. If a player bought a complete set of new clubs from Cobra, that's just shy of 10 percent of the online price.
I've certainly learned the painful lesson of stopping going it alone, and hopefully, this experience helps highlight the value of getting fit by a professional van. I'm incredibly excited to see the difference and improvement in my game with these tour-van-fitted clubs.
If you want to experience a Tour fitting the way I did and can get to San Diego, I highly recommend booking a two-hour fitting on Cobra's website
. But even if that isn't possible, you can attend a Cobra demo day, visit one of their authorized retailers
, or go to an independent fitter like Tour Spec or Club Champion.