In a game built on variables — the wind, the temperature and something as simple as how you feel on any given day — there can be some absolutes in golf.
That’s what Club Champion, a high-end club fitting studio in south Charlotte is intent on providing.
One of 20 such studios across the country, Club Champion offers a high-end, customized club fitting experience. It can be as simple as finding a new driver or as thorough as a full-bag evaluation that includes a session in a putting lab to make sure you have the proper putter.
“We are confident we can put you in the right equipment. There is no guessing,” said Bruce Raffe, a veteran of more than 30 years in the golf equipment business and one of two fitting experts at the Charlotte store.
“I never say this might be right for you. I know this is right for you.”
Since opening in February, the Charlotte store — located on Sharon Road across the street from SouthPark Mall — has been almost fully booked. Customers from Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee and Ohio have made the trip to Charlotte for a fitting session.
It is not inexpensive — a full-bag evaluation costs $350, driver fittings are $150 and wedge fittings are $80 — but it is designed for a discerning clientele.
“We don’t consider ourselves a retail store. There are no shirts and no shoes for sale,” Raffe said.
“We specifically target the guy who wants a professional fit and professional style equipment and who wants to get an experience like he’s never had before.”
Walking into Club Champion is like walking into a toy store for golfers. The Charlotte location has two fitting bays and a putting lab. There is an area where the fitters meet with each person individually, spending about 15 minutes getting to know the golfer and their expectations.
On the walls are expansive displays of shafts of almost every variety and club heads from every major manufacturer along with many lesser known, boutique equipment companies such as PXG and Miura.
“We are brand agnostic,” Raffe said.
It’s possible to create 35,000 club/shaft combinations on site. Each swing with each club gets an instant computer evaluation broken down into extreme detail beyond the standard launch angle and spin rate.
“In a normal driver fitting, we will usually try 10 to 12 shafts and maybe four or five heads,” Raffe said. “We view the shaft as the more important aspect. Where a player suffers is in investing in a watered down shaft. We have all tour edition shafts and it truly makes a difference.”
Raffe estimates players can add 15-20 yards with a properly fit driver and 6-8 more yards with correctly fit irons.
Low handicap players, Raffe said, are looking for a tighter shot dispersion. Higher handicap players look for more distance and accuracy.
When players are fit at Club Champion, the company will then build each club to the precise specifications. Whether it’s Titleist, Callaway or another company, the fitter sends a player’s specs to the Chicago manufacturing site. Within 10 days, the new clubs are in a player’s hands.
Golfers pay a premium to get their clubs made through Club Champion. Raffe said a set that retails for $1,200 can cost up to $2,000 through Club Champion, but he says the value comes from not purchasing a mass produced club.
“We cross every ‘T’ and dot every ‘I,’ ” Raffe said. “We guarantee the performance. There is no tolerance in the clubs. Every one is as tight as can be.”