GolfWRX sent six members to the Titleist’s Oceanside Test Facility on October 19 to get fit for the company’s new 917 drivers. The catch? Each member had to be playing a Titleist 915 driver, setting up a battle of new versus old at the company’s world-renowned facility in Southern California.
Would Titleist’s newest drivers help our members hit longer, straighter drives? And how? That’s what we wanted to document and explain.
The six members we selected ranged in handicap from 3 to 12 and from 91 to 112 mph on average swing speed. Each of them underwent a one-hour driver fitting at Oceanside, working one-on-one with a Titleist Master Fitter. The fitters used Trackman 4 to record the results, and all shots were hit with Titleist Pro V1X golf balls.
- Each of the six members increased their driving distance with a 917 driver.
- On average, our members increased their carry distance by +5.9 yards.
- The average total distance increase was +8.1 yards.
- The biggest improvement was +15.2 yards (total distance).
- The smallest improvement was +1.8 yards (total distance).
What isn’t discernible from those results is exactly how Titleist’s Master Fitters helped our members achieve their distance gains, and they didn’t do it how you might think. Longer shafts? Lighter builds? Nope. Actually, the approach of Titleist’s Master Fitters was the opposite.
Three of our six members were fit for a shorter driver than what they were using, while two others walked away with a driver with a heavier swing weight. That’s because first and foremost, Titleist’s fitters were concerned with helping our members hit more fairways with their new drivers so they could score better, which made their distance gains all the more impressive.
So we wouldn’t influence their fitting choices, we didn’t tell our six members an all-important detail about the experience until after their last ball was hit at Oceanside. Titleist agreed to ship each of them the 917 driver they were fit for, free of charge (you can follow their progress with their new 917 drivers is this thread).
Learn more about each member’s fitting in the recaps below.
Ken Sakai: +6.9 yards carry, +15.2 yards total distance
New driver: 917D2 (9.5 degrees, A2 setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana M+ LE 50R (45 inches, D3 swing weight)
Sure Fit CG: Draw setting
Old driver: 915D2 (10.5 degrees, A2 setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana M+ 50R (45 inches, D1 swing weight)
Ken Sakai brought to Oceanside an already well-fit driver, a 915D2. After a brief warmup and a few swings with his big stick, it was clear that Sakai had no problems finding the sweet spot on his driver.
“That means the length of the club is good,” Titleist Master Fitter Glenn Mahler said.
Mahler also found the shaft model, weight and flex were well suited to Sakai’s swing. So Mahler would need to change something about the clubhead to increase Sakai’s distance. He also wanted to eliminate Sakai’s big miss, which was high and to the right. It wasn’t an easy task. Sakai’s downward angle of attack of -3.1 degrees was good for control, but made it difficult to create optimal launch conditions. Sakai is no slouch, playing to a 3.7 handicap index, but he called driving the worst part of his game.
Early on in the fitting, Mahler closed the face of a 917D2, Titleist’s largest and most forgiving new driver, to help eliminate the miss to the right. That wasn’t going to work for Sakai, who didn’t like the appearance of a closed face at address.
Titleist’s SureFit CG technology was added to the 917 drivers for such occasions. Each 917 driver comes with two weights, one of which is lopsided. If it’s inserted into the driver’s SureFit CG weight port with the heavy end closer to the heel, it creates more draw bias. If it’s inserted with the heavy end closer to the toe, it create more fade bias. A uniformly heavy, neutral weight can also be installed. Mahler set Sakai’s 917D2 to the draw setting, giving him the draw bias he needed without changing the look of the clubface at address.
Mahler also had another trick up his sleeve. He installed a heavier Sure Fit CG weight, adding more draw bias to the club and increasing the swing weight by two points. The big misses to the right started to occur less frequently.
The last order of business was choosing the correct loft. Sakai arrived with a 10.5-degree driver, but it was clear that a 9.5-degree 917D2 was a better fit. Even with the lower-lofted 917D2, Sakai was able to increase his average launch angle 1.4 degrees, while reducing average spin by more than 1000 rpm — an incredible change. His ball speed also increased by 1.3 mph, netting Sakai 6.9 yards of carry and 15.2 yards of total distance, the biggest increase in the test.
Sakai’s landing angle fell from 32.8 degrees to 28.6 degrees, below the optimal range of 32-45 degrees, but the lower flight will actually benefit Sakai, adding to the roll he enjoys on Southern California’s desert courses.
Samuel Youn (pitchinwedge): +2 yards carry, +8.5 yards total distance
New Driver: 917D2 (8.5 degrees, A1 setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ Limited Edition 60S (44.5 inches, D2 swing weight)
Sure Fit CG: Draw setting
Old Gamer: 915D2 (9.5 degrees, D1 setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ 62R (44.5 inches, D2 swing weight)
Like a lot of golfers who go for a fitting, Samuel Youn arrived to Titleist’s Oceanside Test facility without his best swing. Contrary to what many golfers believe about club fitting, however, that can be a good thing. Club fitters can actually learn just as much, and maybe even more, from a golfer’s bad shots than they can from their good shots.
According to Titleist Master Fitter Glenn Mahler, there are four key changes a fitter can make to improve dispersion: (1) shorten the shaft, (2) make the club or shaft heavier, (3) make the shaft stiffer and (4) reduce the loft of the clubhead. In his fitting with Youn, Mahler found the most improvement by stiffening the shaft and reducing the loft.
By changing from a 915D2 with 9.5 degrees of loft to a 917D2 with 8.5 degrees of loft, as well as a stiffer version of Mitsubishi Rayon’s Diamana S+ shaft, Youn was able to hit drives on a flatter trajectory. Doing so increased his carry distance 2 yards, and his total distance by 8.5 yards. He also reduced his launch angle 2.1 degrees and his spin rate 425 rpm, while increasing his ball speed 1.2 mph.
“[Glen] believed a lower flight with less spin would not only increase my total yardage, but also reduce how far my balls were going off-line,” Youn wrote in his forum post.
The second part was key to Mahler. The lower trajectory created a more optimal landing angle of 36 degrees, down from 42.1 degrees, while reducing the hang time of his drives. Since less time in the air means less curvature, it also means straighter drives.
Mahler also positioned the Sure Fit CG weight in the draw position on Youn’s 917D2 driver, and changed his hosel setting. He went from Titleist’s D1 Sure Fit Hosel setting, which reduces loft 0.75 degrees and slightly opens to club face, to the A1 setting, which maintains loft and a square club face. Both tweaks helped Youn tame his miss to the right.
In his forum post, Youn also commented favorable on the looks and feel of the 917D2 driver.
“Right away I was really surprised by how much I like[d] the color of the 917,” he said. “Looking at it indoors, it hadn’t really caught my eye, but outside, addressing a ball… whoa, I like[d] it.”
Marc Aquino (MB Dirtyy): +7.8 yards carry, +6.6 yards total distance
New Driver: 917D3 (9.5 degrees, B1 setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder Evo 661S Tour Spec (44.5 inches, D4 swing weight)
Sure Fit CG: Neutral setting
Old Gamer: 915D3 (8.5 degrees, B1 setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder Evo 661S Tour Spec (44.5 inches, D1 swing weight)
Marc Aquino got a deal on his Titleist 915D3 driver. He bought if off the GolfWRX Classifieds, paying $230 for the club. As it turned out, it was a near ideal driver for him. But after a few adjustments, the new 917D3 offered better performance.
Titleist Master Fitter Glenn Mahler watched Aquino stripe drive after drive on the range, looking like a far better player than his 8.9 index indicated. He let Aquino know that based on the way he swung the club, the maximum amount of carry he could expect was 252 yards… and he was already carrying drives 242.1 yards on average. Mahler got him to an average carry distance of 245.4 yards, and 270.8 yards of total distance (+7.8 yards carry, +6.6 yards total distance). He did it by adding 1 degree of loft to his driver, and offering Aquino a tip about impact.
“The idea was that the 9.5 [degrees of] loft would first increase my launch and spin, then when paired with hitting [shots] a little higher on the face, it would increase my launch and LOWER spin,” Aquino wrote in a forum post.
Mahler also added a heavier Sure Fit CG weight to Aquino’s 917D3, installing it in a neutral position. That increased his driver’s swing weight from D1 to D4. The change helped reduce Aquino’s tendency to miss to the left with his driver, his stated goal at the beginning of the fitting.
Aquino also commented favorably on the improved sound of the 917 drivers, which he said was reminiscent of the Titleist 910 driver he used to own.
“The best way I can explain it is the 915D3 has a high-pitched TINK, while the 917D3 has a high-pitched CRACK to it,” he said. “It’s like a 910 sound on steroids. It’s really subtle, but it’s enough to give it a faster feeling sound. I was hooked.”
Neil McKenna (LuckyLowbrow): +4.2 yards carry, +1.8 yards total distance
New Driver: 917D2 (9.5 degrees, C1 setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ Limited Edition 80TX (44.5 inches, D6 swing weight)
Sure Fit CG: Fade setting
Old Gamer: 915D4 (8.5 degrees, A1 setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana D+ 70TX (44.75 inches, D5 swing weight)
Titleist Master Fitter Dino Antenucci told Neil McKenna not to look at the shaft he installed in the 917 driver he was testing. Had McKenna done so, he would have been surprised at what he saw. The 8.5-index said he’s tested dozens of drivers the past five years, hoping to tame his hook. Following common knowledge, he tried stiffer and stiffer shafts to help alleviate the issue. With his 110+ mph swing speed, he tested some of the stiffest shafts the industry had to offer. None of them helped.
In his 21 years fitting golf clubs, Antenucci has learned a few secrets. One of them is that golfers who struggle from a hook often find relief with a softer-tip shaft. It can increase the lag and droop of the shaft at impact, contributing to a flatter dynamic lie angle and a more open club face — both of which will reduce a hook. For that reason, Antenucci switched McKenna from Mitsubishi Rayon’s Diamana D+ 70TX shaft to MRC’s Diamana S+ 80TX. Its softer tip section, along with its slightly heavier weight and shorter length (-0.25 inches), helped keep McKenna’s drives from diving left in the air.
The driver head Antenucci chose for McKenna was just as crucial. McKenna arrived with two Titleist drivers — a 915D2 and a 915D4 — and wasn’t sure which was best for him. As it turned out, he needed aspects of both driver designs to improve his tee game. Thanks to Titleist’s new Sure Fit CG system, he could have them.
McKenna enjoyed the high-launch, low-spin launch conditions and fade bias of his 915D4, but at times he struggled with its relative lack of forgiveness when compared to his 915D2. By placing the Sure Fit CG weight in the fade position on a 917D2, however, McKenna was able to maintain the fade bias he liked in the 915D4, while reaping the benefits of the 917D2’s added forgiveness.
According to Antenucci, the 917D2 can create significantly less spin than the 915D2, which was the case for McKenna. For that reason, he was able to go up in loft to 9.5 degrees (from 8.5 degrees in his 915D4 and 7.5 degrees in his 915D2). Despite the added loft, McKenna saw his ball speed jump 1.7 mph. The result was a higher, more consistent trajectory that had him hitting drives an average of 284.7 yards in the air, and achieving an average total distance of 308.9 yards. It was an improvement of 4.2 yards of carry and 1.8 yards of total distance.
Michael Kim (KPH808): +7.9 yards carry, +8.10 yards total
New Driver: 917D3 (8.5 degrees, B2 setting)
Shaft: True Temper HZRDUS Black 6.5-Flex 75-grams (44.5 inches, D5 swing weight)
Sure Fit CG: Fade setting
Old Gamer: 915D4 (8.5 degrees, A1 setting)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-BB 7X (44.75 inches, D6 swing weight)
When Michael Kim hits a bad shot on the course, it’s usually a ball that starts left and goes left. For that reason, he smartly found his way to Titleist’s 915D4 driver, which has a forward center of gravity (CG) position that helps him avoid the left rough. On his good shots, the 915D4 also helped Kim achieve the high-launching, low-spinning trajectory that led to his longest drives. The issue for Kim was he was not hitting enough good drives. He wanted to be more consistent so he could lower his 4.2 index.
With Titleist’s 917D3 driver, Master Fitter Dino Antenucci was able to help Kim hit more good drives, but it didn’t start out that way. The first new driver he tested, a 917D3, had Titleist’s Sure Fit CG weight in the neutral position. With that setup, Kim had a tendency hit shots even farther left due to the driver’s more rearward CG position. The 917D2 driver was not considered, as its even more rearward CG position would accentuate a miss to the left.
“[Antenucci] adjusted this by putting the weight in the fade setting [of the 917D3 driver] to get the CG closer to the face to help me square it more since that’s how the CG is in the D4,” Kim wrote is a forum post.
Feeling more confident, Kim could now benefit from the increased forgiveness of the 917D3 head, and that showed up in the way of 2.1 mph more swing speed. Keeping the same loft (8.5 degrees), he was also able to increase his launch angle 1.3 degrees, while reducing his spin rate 232 rpm. That increased carry 5.2 yards and total distance +7.9 yards.
“The biggest thing for me was the forgiveness between the two, the 917D3 was more forgiving on mishits,” Kim said in a forum post.
As for shafts, Kim brought with him to the fitting a Graphite Design Tour AD-BB 7X shaft, which had been his gamer for years. Antenucci recommended that he try a True Temper HZRDUS Black 75-gram (6.5 flex), which he speculated could improve his consistency. If Kim were playing in a tournament the next day, he would have stuck with his Tour AD-BB, but he was clearly interested in seeing what the HZRDUS Black could do for him.
Antenucci made a few other tweaks to his new 917D3: the shaft was made 0.25 inches shorter and the Sure Fit Hosel setting was changed from B2 to A1, creating a flatter lie angle that would further alleviate Kim’s miss to the left.
Alan Peng (brushie): +6.6 yards carry, +8.7 yards total
New Driver: 917D3 (10.5 degrees, A1 setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder Pro 74S Tour Spec (44.5 inches, D4 swing weight)
Sure Fit CG: Neutral setting
Old Gamer: 915D4 (10.5 degrees, A1 setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 661S (45 inches, D4 swing weight)
Accurate launch monitor data is crucial for club fitters; it tells them where golfers are and where they need to go to improve their performance. But sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story, and that was the case with Alan Peng.
“If you look at his averages, they look pretty good,” Titleist Master Fitter Dino Antenucci said. “But that’s because of the variability.”
Peng was missing shots both left and right early on his his fitting, so Antenucci immediately started down the path of improving his consistency. The two tried a few different shafts, eventually choosing Fujikura’s Speeder Pro 74S Tour Spec, which was heavier and stiffer than the Fujikura Speeder 661S Peng was fit for two years earlier. The added stiffness and weight, along with 0.5-inch shorter length of the club, helped Peng find more consistency.
With his shots flying a little straighter, it was time to focus on the clubhead. Peng arrived with a 915D4, but Antenucci knew the 917D3 would bring him better performance. The loft (10.5 degrees) and hosel setting (A1) stayed the same, and the Sure Fit CG weight was kept in neutral. For that reason, the fitting offered a very direct comparison between Titleist’s 915D4 and the 917D3.
Peng saw slightly lower ball speeds (-1.5 mph) with the 917D3, which he attributed to the heavier shaft, but he was able to increase his launch angle by 2.7 degrees and reduce his spin by a whopping 562 rpm. With the new driver, he also added 6.6 yards of carry distance and 8.7 yards of total distance.
“Towards the end my swing was deteriorating from hitting so many balls,” Peng said. “I missed a couple with the winning combo and it stayed straight and I ended up with a lot more distance than I would have seen with my 915D4.”
Their testing, their words: The Ultimate Titleist 917 Driver Fitting Forum Thread.