Three things I want to address before I kick this off.
- “Better, best” will not be addressed. It’s never about that these days only what works for me or you.
- I’m not adding TrackMan data to this for one simple reason: It doesn’t matter to me for a first impression. I can get lost in the data and ultimately it confuses my ability to just enjoy the sound feel and look of the driver. Obviously, the fitting was on TrackMan, but in the past, successful drivers for me started with the emotional part. Simply, do I like the thing? Can I look at it? Can I trust it? Can I hit shots with it? That’s it.
- When I say “spin this” and “spin that,” it’s always addressing a positive aspect.
On Tuesday of this week, I had the good fortune of visiting the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI in Oceanside, California) to do my TSi metal woods fitting. Won’t get too far into that, but essentially it’s golf heaven in every sense of the word. Like TaylorMade’s Kingdom or Callaway’s ECPC, TPI it’s a gearhead paradise.
Titleist Master Fitter Joey Saewitz (@thejoeysaewitz on IG) was my fitter and after hitting a few balls to warm up, we dug into my gamer driver that I adore.
Current Gamer Spec
TaylorMade SIM (9 degrees @ 8.5). Fujikura Ventus Black 6X (no tipping) 45 inches, D4, GolfPride BCT 58R
I have been constantly messing with my driver between new shafts, lofts, lie, etc. Since I’ve been playing a bit more this month, I’ve had the chance to work on my swing and the driver has been the last thing to come around. I’m working on decreasing dynamic loft through the bag and have not adjusted my driver to match. The point is, I’m hitting the driver solid but have lost a ton of height and spin to keep it in the air.
I’m saying this now because for key metrics I was at a deficiency because of the craftsman not his tools. The SIM I was fit into was/is excellent. So, as you read on, keep in mind that I knew that numbers-wise apples to apples my setup was vulnerable to getting beat out due to my tinkering.
My average numbers these days are are 105-108 mph swing speed, 155-160 mph ball speed, 14-degree launch, and 1,800-2,000 spin. At 43-years-old, when I’m hitting it solid I get a lot out of my driver. IF I’m swinging well, at my low spin, off days can be nauseating with the driver.
TSi3: If two of my favorite drivers 975D and R7 Superquad TP had a baby, the TSi3 would be it. Its flawless appearance-wise. The heel section gives it an onset look that the faders will love and the top line toe section is a bit rounded off to give it an open look without having to crank it open. Not the first time we have heard that but nonetheless, Titleist nailed it.
The face has a cool matte finish that I can’t get into yet, but it frames a white ball excellently.
TSi2: Like the TS2, it has that high-MOI shape, although I will say the top line and transitions are a bit softer on the eye. It’s a driver that looks like it just wants to go high and far. If I wanted to hit something as hard as I could that’s the shape I would look for.
Side note—the black shafts in the TSi3 are almost too cool to even look at—the closest thing to a Darth Vader golf club I have ever seen.
This is where they really figured it out. Titleist drivers in the past to my ear sounded good but not great. There was always an essence of ting that I couldn’t fall in love with. The TSi series fixed that in totality, like all the great drivers on the market in 2020 it has that hammerhead thud that I adore. When you crunch it, you literally hear crunch. At impact, however, it has a more compressiony (is that a word?) feel than its competitors. The comparison would be a one-piece forged feel vs a hollow body players iron. Both feel excellent but there is a difference. You can feel the ball squeeze into the face which I think most will notice and respond well to.
PERFORMANCE—Not going to compare it to my gamer as it’s not fair, I gear headed my gamer to the point of lunacy. I will only comment on what the TSi series did while testing.
TSi3: The biggest standout here was usable spin. I am not a high-spin player by any stretch, so if I can find a driver that gets me 2,100-2,200 consistently when I flush it, it’s a contender. For a player at my speed to sneak it out there with the big hitters, I have to launch it at 14 at 1,700 spin, and hope I’m aimed correctly. What I found with the TSi was I was getting that performance at 2,100-2,200, and if anything only giving up 2-3 yards all while doing it 5/10 times as opposed to 2/10.
What does all that jibberish add up to? Consistency and something I can play with. Is it longer than my gamer? I have no idea, but we will find out. What I know is I hit a bunch of really good shots with TSi3, and after I got going with it, it was point and shoot. Stable? Yes. Long? Yes. Forgiving? Yes. Playable? Yes.
TSi2: To be honest I only hit a few with the Tsi2 as its not my genre of music. What I can say is it feels apples to apples with the Tsi3, launches higher with a bit more spin, and goes really straight. No shocker there. The high MOI category has a bunch of contenders, and in my opinion, it’s a head weight game. Heavy is always better for stability.
The setup I landed on
I was fit into the (D4 SureFit setting 9 degrees @ 9.75, flat) however after testing a bit at home on course and range, I landed on the D1 setting, which I like. For whatever reason, I can play Tsi3 at 8.25 and still maintain height spin and it flew about five yards further.
Driver: Titleist TSi3 (9 degrees @8.25, D1 SureFit, 44.5 inches, D4 swing weight)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X (tipped 1)
Overall, the TSi Series drivers will be VERY popular but not for the reasons you would think. It’s playable, you can hit shots with it, that’s the mark of a GREAT golf club. It’s not all ball speeds and carry anymore in my opinion. This is a driver I can go out and play well with, that’s huge for a hack like me. In my experience, I can’t say that about a lot of drivers I’ve tried to make work in the last four to five years. That’s just me. Lots of great drivers every year but I’m a hard case and finding one that’s just right is a challenge.
Ultimately, for me, the best driver on the market is SIM hands down because it performs in the hitting bay and even better on the course—my hunch is Titleist has something that will do the same.
It’s a beautiful driver that I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know.
Rory McIlroy spotted testing Graphite Design Tour AD XC shaft at BMW
Rory McIlroy looks to be continuing his season of equipment adjustments this week at the BMW Championship.
McIlroy has been in a Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70 X with a SIM2 for most of the year, but this week, we were tipped off by forum member j13 that McIlroy is testing a Graphite Design Tour AD XC shaft in his driver.
A source at Graphite Design confirmed McIlroy is in the Tour AD XC 7 TX shaft as he looks for lower spin off the driver while still being able to draw the ball consistently.
The low/mid-launch, low spin shaft features a soft handle section with a stiff mid-section and tip and weighs 76.5 grams.
Gold medal gear: An inside look at Xander Schauffele’s Olympic WITB
It was less than 30 days ago that Xander Schauffele stood atop the podium at Kasumigaseki Country Club’s East Course in Tokyo, gold medal around his neck. Schauffele vanquished a field of 120 competitors from 42 nations by a stroke in the men’s golf competition.
It’s only once every four years that we get the chance to compile a gold medal-winning WITB in men’s golf, so we wanted to offer a more robust entry in the 2020 Olympic golf time capsule. To that end, we enlisted the help of Jacob Davidson, PGA Tour Manager for Callaway, to dig deep into the contents of Xander’s toolbox.
Callaway has seen staffers take two of the four major championships this season and the top spot in Tokyo. Investments in R&D and manufacturing — on the golf ball side in particular — are paying dividends in general, and as you will see in our conversation, for Schauffele in particular — perhaps most notably in the areas of his golf ball (Chrome Soft X LS) and irons (Apex TCB).
Our discussion with Davidson (edited for length and clarity), below.
GolfWRX: What type of player is Xander with respect to his equipment? Is he a tester and tinker, always searching? Is he more of a “set it and forget it” guy? Somewhere in-between?
JD: The thing about Xander is his team around him is very close. Obviously, his father is his swing coach, and his father is an industry guy who has been around the golf industry for a long time, even on the manufacturing side, so he has a deep, thorough understanding of golf equipment. He’s instilled a little bit of that in Xander, who is unique in that he is a deep thinker — he thinks through everything and is very calculated — but he can also go back into “player mode” and is very laid back, much more of an athlete, very even-keeled, very relaxed.
Xander lives in San Diego very close to our test center in Carlsbad. His dad is there as well as Austin Kaiser his caddie. So when we do work, it’s not just Xander showing up. With the whole team there, they’re very collaborative sessions.
He’s not a tinkerer once his bag is set, but with his team, we’re always looking for any small ways we can make him better. Year over year, if you look at his stats and some of the areas of his game where he’s gotten better — like his approach game, that’s an area we’ve worked hard with him on, looking at every club individually, making sure the spin windows, distance, and launch are right.
GolfWRX: With respect to spin, he recently made a ball change, right?
JD: At the Memorial Tournament, he switched into the Chrome Soft X LS. Really, the genesis of that switch was that Xander has been working hard on his fitness and he picked up some clubhead speed and that changed the delivery of the golf club, so we needed to move him into something that had a little less spin.
He had played a lower-spinning ball early in his career and had moved into a mid-spin ball, but we were able to move him into that golf ball, which he really likes because it gives him the ability to flight the ball lower, and he doesn’t feel like he’s lost greenside control. He’s excited about that, and the stats show it was a good fit for him.
GolfWRX: Was it one thing in particular that tipped him off to feeling like he needed to find a way to kill some spin?
JD: Well, he has a launch monitor and is very diligent, and he’ll even take his GCQuad out in practice rounds to ge actual data on course. Through that, we started seeing some spin numbers that were a little high, and that led us back to the test center to do a deep dive. We looked at some solutions, and the golf ball was a natural fit for him — it spun a couple of hundred RPMs less with the irons and just a touch less with the driver, so we didn’t have to tweak much in his bag setup.
GolfWRX: Cool. Well, with respect to that setup, let’s dig into his bag.
Driver: Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond (9 degrees, NS setting, 6GF, 6GB)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD BB 7 X (custom black, 45.5 inches, tipped 1 inch, D3)
JD: Xander plays the Epic Triple Diamond 9-degree head. He’s been in a Triple Diamond head for years now. Not doing anything crazy. He’s been in the shaft for a long time. He’s cruising at 120-121 mph clubhead speed, ball speed around 178-180. Launch is around 10 degrees. Spin is around 2,400 RPM. We moved him up a full degree from last year to optimize his driver — he was getting a little bit low on the launch and spinning it a little too much. We felt like if we could get the launch higher and keep the spin relatively flat it would give him more efficient numbers.
3-wood: Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond (15 degrees @14)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7 TX (43.25, tipped 1.5 inch, D3)
JD: He made the move recently…had been in the Mavrik Sub Zero. He found the Epic Speed to be a little easier to launch — it got up in the air a little quicker — but he also felt he could play a flighted shot better with it. Same shaft setup, so it was a really easy transition.
7-wood: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (20 degrees @18.8)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 9 X (41.5 inches, tipped 2 inches, D3)
JD: It’s a course-dependant club, as he has a driving iron as well. He likes the 7-wood when the rough is up a little bit thicker as it’s a little bit easier to get through the rough.
GolfWRX: What is it about this family of shafts for him?
JD: He loves those shafts and he’s always played them. He knows how they feel in competition. He’s a feel golfer with a lot of rhythm in his golf swing, and you find with guys like that, they know the feel and how a shaft reacts and they don’t want to change.
Irons: Callaway Apex TCB (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
JD: Xander was instrumental in helping us with the design of these irons. He was very involved in the process from start to finish. We got a lot of feedback from him. He had played the Apex Pros previously. Our R&D team went to him with some ideas with the goal of offering one of the most consistent irons that has ever been played, and with that, we came up with concept of having a removable weight on the back. There’s no plugs in the hosel, from a club building standpoint, it’s easy to replicate that build, there’s nothing that compensates. We can keep the CG in the center, right behind the clubface. From our end, it’s easy to replicate, but it’s also the most consistent and there’s nothing that has to be done to compensate. We worked hard with him on the offset and topline and the bounces and grinds. It’s a direct replacement for the iron he was playing, and it’s now our most popular iron on tour. He had the first prototype set. He was probably the first guy to hit them.
- Loft (4-PW): 22.5, 26.5, 30.75, 35, 38.5, 43, 47 degrees
- Lie (4-PW): 60.5, 61, 61.5, 62, 62.5, 63, 63.5 degrees
- 6-iron spin: 6,600 RPM
- Swing weight: D1.5 (4, 5) D2 (6-P)
- Length: Standard Callaway length
Wedges: Callaway Jaws MD5 (52-10S), Titleist Vokey Design SM6 (56-10 @57), Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (60-06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
JD: The MD5 blends nicely from the pitching to gap. It’s a familiar shape to him. He uses it on a lot of full shots or slightly off-speed shots. He loves the trajectory. It comes out a little lower and he feels he can control the spin a little more.
With the other wedges, it’s mostly a matter of the sole configuration, and we’re working hard to get him something.
Putter: Odyssey O-Works #7 CH Red
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion 2.0 Tour (10 grams)
JD: He works really hard with his putting coach, and they saw with the armlock some really, really consistent Quintic numbers. They saw his launch angles were very consistent from four feet to 40 feet. The numbers were off the charts, and that led him to working with the armlock.
Over at the Scottish Open, the greens were a little bit slower, so that was a little bit tougher. Speed control was tougher, and he felt when he had to hit it harder, he was better with the shorter putter, so he went back to that over the weekend at the Scottish.
But he’s a world-class putter, so it goes to show his whole team has full expectations of helping him reach No. 1 in the world. We’re always going to be working on helping him get better.
The armlock didn’t stick, but it’s been a great training aid. It helps him in his transition from his backstroke to his through-stroke, he tends to get a little bit of lag. The armlock has helped him eliminate some of that.
It may be temporarily shelved, but he’s still working with it as a training tool, and I think he might bring it back. I don’t think it was a one-and-done, because he’s intrigued by it and the numbers are so good.
Joe Toulon, Odyssey Tour Rep, told us this about Xander’s putter earlier this year, “The top line and back tracer lines really work with his eyes. The CH provides him a little bit of toe hang and it matches up nicely with his path and arc. He’s used face-balanced options in #7’s before and will typically only use something with little-to-no toe hang.”
- Loft/lie: 3.5/71.5 degrees (loft adjusted weekly)
- Alignment: Top and tracers in white
- Insert: White Hot
- Length: 34 3/8 inches to end of grip
- Swingweight: D7.5
- Weight: 516.5 gams
- Shaft: Black stepped shaft
WITB Time Machine: Jason Day’s 2015 BMW Championship winning WITB
Driver: TaylorMade M1 460 (10.5 degrees, adjusted to 9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon KuroKage S TiNi 70X (tipped 1 inch)
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade AeroBurner 3HL (16.5 degrees @ 14.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon KuroKage S TiNi 80X
Irons: TaylorMade RSi 2 (2, 17 degrees), TaylorMade RSi TP (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X7
Wedges: TaylorMade Tour Preferred EF (47 Tour Grind, 52 ATV and 58 ATV)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400
Putter: TaylorMade Ghost Spider IB putter
Ball: TaylorMade Tour Preferred X
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