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Sean Jensen details his quest to find golf clubs that best fit his frame and his game

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Guide to buying New CLubs

1. Determine which clubs you’re looking to replace. If any club is more than two years old, you should consider an upgrade, given the advances in technology.

2. Set a budget. ‘‘New’’ doesn’t necessarily have to be new. If you don’t have much to spend, you still can get a fitting at 2nd Swing and purchase a used set.

3. Find a respectable fitter. Major stores such as GolfTEC, Golf Galaxy and Golfsmith are generally safe. But plenty of independent places have excellent reputations. For instance, Golf Digest listed four from Illinois in its list of America’s top 100 ( Patrick Sexton is a fitter at Cog Hill, which made the Golf Digest list, and he had one word of warning: ‘‘An outdoor fitting is imperative.’’

4. Be open-minded. Just because you’re a huge Phil Mickelson fan doesn’t mean Callaway has the best club for you. Focus on your
normal swing and let the professional fitter do his job.

5. Check your clubs annually. Sometimes, particularly with forged clubs, the loft or lie can change.

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Updated: May 9, 2012 9:49AM

Last September, at a course in Northbrook, I happened to be paired with a local golf pro who — like me — was trying to squeeze in an early-evening round.

My game had come around after some early-season issues, but he said something that startled me after three holes.

‘‘You know, those clubs don’t fit you,’’ he said.

Naturally, I was taken aback because I’d had my set of Cleveland clubs for five years. But he astutely pointed out that the shafts were too short for my 6-2 frame — he thought I was bending over too much — and that, based on my ball flight, the lie angle of the clubheads wasn’t ideal.

Professional fitters weren’t surprised.

‘‘There could be the best driver on the planet, but if you’re not fit correctly, it’s not going to perform to its potential, especially in this day and age,’’ said Marty Jertson, the senior design engineer at PING.

Added Tom Fisher of Taylor Made: ‘‘You wouldn’t buy a top-of-the-line suit and not get fit.’’

Well, I did.

I’m left-handed, and I purchased my set of Clevelands because I hit the 7-iron solidly at an indoor range. More important, they were on sale.

I hit the clubs great, particularly the longer irons, yet I was consistency-challenged with my shorter-range clubs.

‘‘There is always a club in their bag that [a person] loves,’’ said Fisher, the manager of global business development at the Taylor Made Performance Labs. ‘‘But there also are clubs they don’t like.’’

My first concern was the price. On top of purchasing clubs, I assumed there would be a fee for a professional fitting. But as I did some research, I learned there were a range of options — from some that take 30 minutes and are free to one in Scottsdale, Ariz., that takes 3½ hours and costs $695.

At Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, the fitters charge $25 but will waive that fee if you purchase clubs within 30 days. The fitters are available 364 days a year — they only are closed on Christmas Day — and they’re flexible on times, as long as you make an appointment, Patrick Sexton said.

PING popularized custom clubs for the masses, and it remains one of the leaders and innovators. The company has more than 2,000 free fitting events at private and public courses throughout the country, and its clubs can be delivered to you in three to four days.

GolfTEC, a company that sells all major brands, has nine fitting centers in the greater Chicago area.

I started my latest quest by stopping at Golfsmith and Golf Galaxy retail stores and trying as many different brands as I could. Being left-handed, I had a limited selection. But after trying 10 sets over the course of several weeks, I picked three finalists: the Callaway RAZR X, the PING G20 and the Taylor Made RocketBallz.

Then I arranged a fitting. I certainly didn’t want to sign up for an uber-expensive fitting, and I was impressed by a special from Golf Galaxy. For a 2½-hour fitting for every club in my bag, it was charging $99.

I even got a 15-minute lesson from that store’s pro, to boot.

So what did I pick?

Ultimately, I was influenced by what seems to be the hottest club in golf this year: the Taylor Made RocketBallz 3-wood. Taylor Made said it’s typical that a golfer would gain 17 yards.

How about 25?

Naturally, I also gave the irons a chance. I consistently hit those better, too, although I noticed marked improvements with the Callaway and PING models I also was considering.

Because the season barely has started, I can’t say for certain how much my new clubs will improve my game. But the fitting ensured one thing: If there’s a problem, it’s user error.

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