How MLB All-Star Walker Buehler gained control with this iron tweak | Bag Spy

All-Star pitcher Walker Buehler at True Spec Golf in Scottsdale, Arizona

It’s not every day a two-time All-Star pitcher with a World Series ring walks into a True Spec Golf fitting studio (actually, professional athletes visit True Spec more than they’re willing to admit), but it happened last week when Walker Buehler came to True Spec’s Scottsdale location in search of a new iron set that better fit his golf swing.

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler (right) reviewing shot data with True Spec Golf’s master club fitter Blake Smith.

“Walker came here with an open mind ready to get fit for the perfect set of irons to match his game,” said Blake Smith, master club fitter at True Spec Golf. “His iron game was plenty long, and distance wasn’t what he needed or wanted for that matter. He wanted straighter iron shots that didn’t leak to the right, and we were able to deliver a set of irons that were just as long, if not a bit longer than his old irons, but with a much tighter dispersion and greater accuracy. That was the overall goal.”

Club fitting isn’t always a distance search.

Most golfers assume that club fitting is the secret sauce behind gaining more distance. Or if you already hit the ball a long way, then you don’t need to get fit for anything else. But as we’ve seen with players like Buehler and dozens of others who are able to generate massive clubhead speed, distance isn’t everything. Sometimes getting fit for accuracy and dispersion is what a player needs. In Buehler’s case, he wanted accuracy, which for True Spec meant choosing an iron setup that wasn’t necessarily longer or more forgiving, but one that curtailed his unwanted push/fade.

“With iron fitting, we’re really paying attention to ball flight on solidly struck shots and keeping a close eye on the mishits. Depending on what the player is seeking, we look at parameters such as ball speed, clubhead speed, efficiency, peak height, and curvature, and depending on what we see, we’ll try some irons with adjustments in things like shaft flex, weight, clubhead construction, loft and lie angles,” said Smith. “Sometimes the solution is even simpler—things like shaft length/flex and a simple clubhead construction change or adjustment to grip size can play a huge role in how accurate a player is with their irons. We look at everything.”

With length not being part of the equation for a player like Buehler, True Spec homed in on factors such as clubhead forgiveness and overall feel to help him get the most consistent results. “We want to make sure he’s hitting solid shots, and we can tell where on the face his misses are coming from. Our goal isn’t to improve his solid shots—we’re looking at making his missed shots as close in distance and direction as we can get to his better strikes,” said Smith. “Doing this means testing different clubhead designs to see what best suits a player’s swing.”

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Long hitters often don’t play the same set makeups that most of us adhere to. In Buehler’s case, his 6-iron swing produces 135 mph ball speed, meaning he can easily carry it 215 yards. “Because Walker can hit it a long way, we decided that he doesn’t really need a 5-iron in his set. We slotted a 4i driving iron in between his 3-wood and 6-iron to best space his distance gaps as evenly as possible.” Smith continued, “We always keep correct gapping in mind, and always make sure the player is carrying the distances needed to offer congruence throughout the bag.” The point is, there’s no wrong answer for how your set makeup should look. Some players might need more irons and fewer woods, while others might be the other way around. In Buehler’s case, his ideal set afforded him more room to carry a variety of wedges.

Walker Buehler testing new irons at True Spec Golf’s Scottsdale studio.

Case in point, long hitters like Buehler often carry three or more wedges to fill wide gaps they sometimes have with short shots. Additionally, longer hitters tend to hit the ball higher with short shots. That’s why, in Buehler’s case, his True Spec fitter opted for a set of wedges to lower his ball flight and reduce spin. “We fit Walker into three wedges (four if you count the PW) to keep his short game distances evenly spaced,” said Smith. “Although he doesn’t swing as hard with his wedges as he does with his longer clubs, he still hits them further than most. We chose a set of wedges with a very stable profile for a lower and more penetrating launch.”

Comparing Buehler’s gamer irons to a new set, he was able to achieve both a higher and straighter ballflight with near identical carry.

By now, you should understand that there’s no single approach to club fitting. Whether you’re an All-Star pitcher with long-drive-like speed or an average golfer with a modest swing speed, a master club fitter can help you find the perfect iron set. In Buehler’s case, his prescribed set of irons is straighter than his previous set by nearly two degrees at impact. His carry distance remained about the same, but due to hitting it slightly higher with more control (another reason for hitting it straighter), his total distance decreased by an average of three yards, which also means more stopping power.

“There’s always a trade-off when going through a fitting,” said Smith. “But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In Walker’s case, we willingly sacrificed three yards in favor of a much tighter shot dispersion. While we tested some irons that flew much further, distance isn’t what he’s seeking. He’s focused on scoring with his irons, and hitting straighter shots is almost always preferable to hitting longer shots, at least with the irons.” In Buehler’s case, his prescribed Srixon ZX7 Mk II irons were built with Oban Steel CT 125g shafts (ideal for faster swings), standard lofts, and upright lie angles (which helped mitigate that leaky fade.)

If you’re ready to take the next step and either find a new set of irons or improve the configuration of your existing iron set to better suit your game, even if it means finding a set that’s not necessarily longer but straighter, contact a club fitter near you today. And remember, don’t just assume the longer clubs you get to test are the ones best suited fit for your game. Sometimes hitting it straighter (not further) is the key to shooting lower scores.

Looking to work with your own club-fitting expert to dial in your equipment and play better golf? Book a fitting with the industry experts at True Spec Golf. With more than 30 locations, it’s easy to find a location near you.

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Ryan Noll Contributor