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Who knows how to fit better than the source?

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Last week I traveled to seemingly always weather-perfect Carlsbad, Calif., where I did a full club fitting at Titleist’s Oceanside facility.

It was the second time in as many months that I have visited the guys with the cursive logo, the last time being specifically for a Vokey wedge fitting. It also happened to be the second time that I have done a full club fitting.

The first time was with Nike in Spring 2012, or just a few months after swinging the driver and 3-wood for my first time ever. During that fitting, my goal was more about making contact with the ball instead of fine tuning gear for a grooved swing; and they didn’t have a lefty 3-wood at the fitting, so that stick was assumed into my bag without a full test run.

In the 12 months since then I have put in about 1,000 hours of practice and countless rounds. My consistency has improved from something resembling a blindfolded chimp to a precociously self-assured golfer looking to improve upon his 6 handicap, and it was time to get fit for some gear that can help me reach the next level.

Back in February when my Vokey TVD wedges arrived, I had never swung any sticks that were not branded with a swoosh, and was so happy with the Vokey’s performance that I decided to return to Carlsbad to switch out the remaining clubs. When I first went down there, I didn’t realize that it was possible to get fit by the same guys who fit their PGA Tour pros and was blown away by the experience, so decided that going to the source was the best way to make certain that I was getting the best fit for my game.

It was a beautiful April day in Oceanside and my club fitter was Sr. Fitting Analyst Rob Bunn. We had worked together on the wedges so he knew some of my tendencies, which was great as we could get right to work.  At the beginning of the experience you change into golf shoes, grab a water (or coffee for guys like me, being a Portland boy) and head out to the pristine range where a section of perfect grass is reserved for you.

They ask you to space your divots out instead of putting them all right next to each other, as they say the grass heals better when it’s individual divots rather than a large section missing.  This seems to be contrary to how most grass ranges want you to hit, but I’ll assume they know what they are talking about as they have done this for years and the sod all seems perfect:

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To start, I got a hard time from the boys as I hadn’t had time to clean my grooves before flying out from Oregon.  They joked with me about it — they knew I understood how important it is for spin to keep my grooves clean. But I had gone straight from course to airport and didn’t have a chance. Walking up to the facility, my last thought had been, “Please don’t look at how dirty those wedges are.”

I warmed up by hitting my gamer clubs, which were Nike Pro Combos with Project X PXI shafts (5 though 9 iron), 21- and 24-degree hybrids with Tour AD stiff shafts and a Mach Speed SQ 10.5 degree Driver with a Project X 6.0 stiff shaft. I’ve had a few Nike drivers, but for some reason that one seems to be the lesser of the evils when mixed with my swing.

I only had 13 clubs (also in the bag is a SeeMore putter, 46 degree Vokey that I use as my pitching wedge and a 50, 54 and 58 degree wedge) because I had taken the Nike 3 wood out a few months ago due to the fact that I hit the 3-hybrid just as far and more consistent. For some reason, I could never get the 3 wood to travel more than about 210 total yards, and it always felt to me like hitting golf balls with an oversized chop-stick. I’ve been testing out a number of different 3 woods, but figured I would wait until this trip to purchase one as I wanted to make sure it fit me. It didn’t make sense to buy a 3 wood a month or two before getting fit for clubs.

My fitting began with the 8 iron. Rob would hand me clubs, and I would hit some balls while he watched the flight and the Doppler radar launch monitor gathered the swing and ball data. Every time he handed me a new stick, I would swing it a few times and all sorts of different results would ring in. It was pretty astonishing. The same swing (or at least extremely similar swings) would produce five push fades or five hooks — or five fat and thin shots or five nice baby draws. It’s amazing how much the lie angle and shaft can make a difference.

We quickly decided that the AP2 712 was the right iron head, and almost as quickly that the KBS Tour stiff shafts stood out as a winner. That combo, along with a standard length and standard lie produced a nice shot nearly every time. When trying the 5 iron, the same results occurred and I was sold on the setup as was Rob. Due to the ball speed and trajectory, he decided that 1 degree strong would be the way to go with all of my irons, too.

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Because of the amount of spin my swing put on the ball, he decided that I should go with 4 through 9 irons and one hybrid instead of going my old set up. My 21- and 24-degree hybrids produced very similar shots, so it made sense to me to have one rescue and a 4-iron, as in theory the 4 iron would be easier to control. So the next step was finding the right hybrid.

I was having issues with all of my swings, in part because my gamer irons had been, for some reason, 3 to 4 degrees flatter than I needed. It’s an entirely different topic, but along with an overly flat swing I had ingrained a wrist flip through the impact zone. Now that I was trying out standard lie clubs and have been working on a steeper swing, my miss was to keep that wrist flip in the swing and hook some shots. Rob saw this and after struggling with the hybrids, he decided to switch it up and fit me for a driver. So, we took a detour and started hitting some 913 drivers.

The driver was my No. 1 priority, and main reason for wanting to go to Titleist to get professionally fit. I was happy to see that TPI Oceanside had plenty of Lefty options.

I’ve been struggling with that stick since first hitting one in mid-November 2011, and wanted to take the uncertainty of ill-fitting gear out of the equation. It’s far too easy to blame your sticks if you are uncertain of their characteristics, and blaming gear will never help you improve.

Instead, I NEEDED to find a driver that I KNEW fit me, so I could move on and focus solely on technique and trust it to move forward. My driving has been like Bill Paxton’s acting: almost always sub-par, but on random occasions showing up and surprising everyone. Not good enough and I have been focusing on tee shots in practice.

He first gave me a regular flex shaft, and I sliced a ball over the left fence that seemed way to high to hit over. Then pull-hooked one off the planet. It was pretty obvious I needed a bit less action between my hands and the club head, so we went to stiffer.

I was still lacking in control and missing too far in both directions, so the next step was to invite Titleist Vice President of Tour Promotions Larry Bobka to check out my swing. Larry was able to identify a few things that I could do to improve consistency. I listened to his advice, which happened to be exactly what I was working on back in Portland, and started seeing great results once they put a 913 D3 head on a Speeder VC 7.2 Extra Stiff 44.5 inch shaft that was tipped 0.5 inches.

I knew I didn’t like regular or even stiff shafts, but this extra stiff felt awesome. Even though we went with a 44.5 inch shaft, my ball speed on the range was still between 155 and 160 mph, and Larry said with some form improvements I could see that increase by 5 to 6 mph. That would put me right around the PGA Tour average of 165 mph ball speed with the driver. I know I’ll never be the longest guy by any means, but if I can get my tee shots to PGA Tour average then I know I will be able to keep up with the crowd.

I hit a number of drives with this setup and was very happy with the results. It seemed like the perfect fit. Now the goal was to find a 3 wood and hybrid to fill the final two gaps in the bag.

The 3 wood wasn’t too tough now that we knew more about my swing via the driver fitting. Rob went with a couple of options before landing on the 913F D2 (15 degrees) with an extra stiff Diamana White Board Plus 82 shaft that was 0.5 inches under standard length. We tipped its shaft 0.5 inches as well, and it felt great.

I loved the control that I had with the extra stiff shaft, because it felt like the club head was staying with me no matter how hard or easy I wanted to swing. The numbers were good, too, as I was getting about 140 to 145 mph of ball speed.  It was hard to tell what distance things were flying because it was into a stiff wind, but the shot shape was nice and the ball speed was what they were looking for so all was well.

The final step was the hybrid. Now that I was more confident and my swing was under control, it was much easier to find the right fit. Just a few options in, we went with the 913H D3 (19 degrees) with a Diamana Blue Board Plus 82 extra stiff shaft at a standard length.  It was odd, but the standard length hybrid fit better, even though the driver and 3 wood were best fit at 0.5 inches shorter than standard.

I never would have guessed at most of these settings, but that is why I went to the source to figure out what I should be hitting.  When I last was fit for clubs more than a year ago I had been swinging woods and drivers for barely four months and had not come close to grooving a swing. In fact, during my original fitting in early 2012 my main goal was just to hit the ball — I wasn’t thinking about shot shape and control. I can imagine that it was very hard to fit me into anything, as my swing was so new.

A lot of time and practice has happened since that fitting and it is crucial for performance to stay on top of your gear. I am very excited about getting these new sticks and cannot wait to start practicing with them. There will definitely be an adjustment period as the lies, length, weights, etc. are different, but after a week or two of grinding on the course and range the changes will hopefully start to pay off.

The next post will be about the launch monitor specifics between my current clubs and the new Titleists that will arrive soon.  We shall get to the bottom of exactly how much periodically getting fit for sticks can positively change your game through some concrete data.

To wrap things up, here’s “What’s in the bag.”

Driver: Titleist 913 D3 (9.5 degrees)
Setting: D4
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 7.2 X (Tipped 0.5 inches, 0.5 inches under standard)

3 Wood: Titleist 913F D2 (15 degrees)
Setting: D4
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana White Board Plus 82X (Tipped 0.5 inches, 0.5 inches under standard)

Hybrid: Titleist 913H D3 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Blue Board plus 82X

Irons: Titleist AP2 (4-9, bent 1 degree strong)
Shafts: KBS Tour (S-Flex)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM4 (46-08 and 50-08), Vokey TVD M Grind (54 and 58)
Shafts: Dynamic Gold S200

Putter: SeeMore mFGP

Ball: Titleist Pro V1X

Editor’s Note: The cost of an individual fitting (metal woods, irons or wedges) at TPI Oceanside is $200. A full bag fitting is $500. All equipment is sold separately through authorized Titleist accounts.

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Dan decided in April 2010 to quit his job and, with zero previous experience in the game, dedicate 10,000 hours of practice to golf. Follow his journey as he discovers how practice translates into success. Learn more about Dan on his website, thedanplan.com Twitter: @thedanplan Facebook: facebook.com/thedanplangolf

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. David

    May 3, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Dan,
    Nice that you got to go to the source! What is missing now is a Scotty Cameron Putter!!!! If your going to get the best gear you need to go all the way 🙂

  2. Pingback: Who knows how to fit better than the source? – GolfWRX | Golf Grip Instruction

  3. Mike

    May 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Nice write up, Dan. I’m interested in your bag. Is it custom made? Also, all Titleist but no Scotty?

    • Dan Plan

      May 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      Hi Mike,
      It’s a custom Vokey bag but I believe that you can order one online. I really like my SeeMore putter so didn’t see a reason to switch over.

      Thanks!
      Dan

  4. Nick

    May 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Titleist is the bomb. Got fit by them a year ago and saw immediete improvement. The change in my driver trajectory put ten yards on my drive immedietly with probably 15 percent more fairways. Massive game changer for me. While I did not see (or frankly desire) distance gains with my irons, the “cone” of my misses narrowed considerably. This was seen literally the second and third rounds I played with my new set (I think the pressure of playing with a new set and the overwhelming desire to see immediate improvmeent dooms the first round out with new equipment).

  5. Rich

    May 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for the review on the fitting. I live in socal and was wondering about getting fitted at Titleist compared to a Golf Smith or Roger Dunn. I was wondering about the cost as well.

  6. Daniel

    May 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    I bet that was awesome getting all that info about your clubs and your swing, but most importantly being able to trust it since you were “at the source.”
    Can a reader ask how much that fitting experience costs?

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Kangaroos, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 3rd and 4th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 3rd hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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Podcasts

Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

Listen to the podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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19th Hole

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