I have embarked on an important mission. I’m an 11-handicapper – or 10.6 as I’ll futilely tell anyone who will listen. I’ve dabbled with custom fitting.
I’ve stood in a shop and pretended that changing the odd shaft in front of a net constituted a customised club.
Never, though, have I been through the whole works – driver, irons, wedges, putter. Even the ball.
Given I’ve got to the brink of single figures essentially picking up clubs off a shelf, what could a real fitting – a proper investigation and the tools to suit – do for my game?
Would it propel me into the promised land of nine and under? Well, we’re going to find out.
Over the course of the next few months, I’ll put custom fitting to the test.
From the fitting, to gaming the clubs in a tournament situation, I’ll measure my stats and performance for every round once the 2018 season gets under way.
So I arrived at Titleist’s National Fitting Centre, at St Ives in Cambridge, in an inquisitive mood.
And, to begin with, all was well.
My driver has been a weak point in my game all year. I spent three months squirreling stats before departing for St Ives and the results were bleak.
I’ve averaged a paltry 206 yards off the tee and found only 38 per cent of fairways. If I’m serious about improving, that’s going to have to change.
My fitter, Daniel, had me purring with golfing anticipation within minutes. I’ve a tendency to hit the ball out of the top of the club off the tee. Modern drivers are lovely and forgiving but you’ll still lose a stack of distance if you’re roofing it all the time.
An altering of the weights in the 917 driver, though, and moving into a GDI G-Series 50 shaft, suddenly had me striking the ball out of the centre of the club face.
This was a very exciting development – and science was at its heart. I didn’t have to change my swing at all.
When Daniel’s adjustments to a 917 F2 fairway wood, a club I’ve never been able to hit with any consistency, saw me powering darts 215 yards straight down the range, I thought I might actually cry with joy.
I’m now in stiff shafts. My swing speed is right on the border line and I’ve tended to err on the side of caution with regulars – fearing I’d have to have to hit the ball hard with a stiff to cope with the firmer flex.
The G-Series, though, seemed to really suit me and when the hybrids – 818 at 19° and 23° – followed the same arc as all the others, I actually wanted to grab the clubs and run out of the door to the nearest tee.
— James Savage (@JamesSavageNCG) October 5, 2017
The irons brought me back down to earth. Sometimes, though, you just don’t bring your best stuff and I did not hit the ball well.
Titleist, to their credit, didn’t want to take any chances and requested I went for a second look at the irons.
This was a novelty for me. I’ve had fittings before where I’ve similarly struggled and walked away with a new set but with a mind full of nagging doubts.
So I reassembled at Pannal, in Harrogate, where Joe – before a stream of punters rolled through to the practice ground on one of the company’s Titleist Thursdays – put me through my paces once again.
This time, I was hitting it just as I would on the course and the numbers that a custom fitting can reveal are staggering.
I went through a range of different shaft options before we settled on the 718 AP3s with the AMT Black R300 shaft.
I like to think I hit my current irons quite well, although GIR of 22 per cent might say otherwise.
But facts don’t lie. Compared with my current set, I gained an extra 3mph of ball speed and 400rpm of spin.
My landing angle increased from 43.4 to 46.9 – basically meaning the ball was easier to stop. Peak height was up an impressive 11 feet and, most interestingly, my average dispersion more than halved – from 10.1ft right of target to 4.3ft.
I gained nearly five yards of carry and 2.4 yards of total yardage. Pretty impressive, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Putter-wise, I’ve used a Scotty Cameron Futura 7M all season and am very comfortable with it.
But Joe gave me an extra 0.5° of loft, noticing after a video review of my stroke that I have a tendency to slightly hit down on the ball.
I thought I liked to crouch over my putts but increasing the shaft length from 33” to 34” gave me a better posture and allowed me to strike the ball with a better roll. That meant better dispersion to the hole.
So with a trio of Vokey SM6 wedges – jet black, naturally – to complete the bag, I was ready to go.
I’m feeling incredibly optimistic. With no more doubts over whether this wood or those irons are right, I’ve got the facts and the numbers to prove they are, I can concentrate on hitting good shots and getting that handicap down.
There are no more excuses. Bring on the clubs, and 2018!
About the project
Club Golf editor Steve Carroll has been fitted into the ultimate Titleist set – from the brand new 718 irons to the Pro V1 ball.
Having compiled stats, including driving accuracy, greens in regulation, sand saves and scrambling, for three months before his fitting, Steve will take to the fairways next season to see how custom fitting has improved his game.
He will spend the winter getting used to his new clubs. He’ll then game them in competition – bidding to prove personalised fitting makes a real difference to club players.
Steve’s stats are being monitored using the Shot Scope performance tracking system. He will be posting regular updates over the winter as he builds toward the moment of truth next summer.
What Steve was fitted into
Driver: Titleist 917 D2, 9.5° (GDI G-Series 50 stiff shaft)
3-wood: Titleist 917 F2, 15° (GDI G-Series 60 stiff shaft)
Hybrids: Titleist 818 H1, 19°, 23° (GDI F-Series Hybrid 85 stiff shafts)
Irons: Titleist AP3 5-PW (AMT Black regular shafts)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM6 48°, 54°, 60° (Dynamic Gold shaft)
Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura 7M (0.5° extra loft, 34” shaft)
Ball: Titleist Pro V1