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:
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.
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)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 7.2 X (Tipped 0.5 inches, 0.5 inches under standard)
3 Wood: Titleist 913F D2 (15 degrees)
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.