It’s been a long winter – now the real stuff is about to begin
4, 5, 2, 4, 5, 3, 5, 4 – that’s not my account number, or an elaborate password I’m trying to remember.
It’s my final eight holes at Sandburn Hall in our most recent York Union betterball event, and it’s a level par gross score.
Why am I boring you with this? It’s because those eight holes brought another first in what has been a winter of them since I went through my Titleist custom fitting last October.
It brought a prize in a Union competition, something I’ve never managed before.
Now, a £30 voucher is a touch below the megabucks Phil Mickelson trousered for winning the WGC-Mexico Championship.
But in 15 years of trying, I’d never seen, or got close to, the money in a Union contest – until now.
It came about thanks to a display of iron hitting that leaves me counting down the days with relish to the start of the season next month.
I’ve waxed lyrical about these Titleist AP3 irons before, but they really do seem to suit my game superbly.
There’s a new weapon in the armoury as well – a 4-iron.
I met once again with expert fitter Joe Smith to iron out any creases in the bag with the season approaching fast on the horizon.
I’d expected there would be a gapping issue between my 5-iron and 23 degree hybrid, basically because I was hitting the latter so far.
Joe, with the help of Trackman, showed me my instinct was spot on.
There was a 29-yard difference between the two clubs and a 4-iron, when properly struck, should sit right in the middle of the two.
Now holding 15 clubs, I’ll have to alternate between the longer iron and either the 3-wood or a hybrid depending on the course and situation.
This doesn’t cause me any headaches, though. I’m delighted to have the extra option.
We also discussed the eternal area of concern in my bag – the driver. While all the other clubs have been singing at my every command, the big dog has proved somewhat harder to tame.
I’m still struggling to control a snap hook – to the point where I didn’t use the driver at all at Sandburn.
Over the years I’ve had more drivers than hot dinners. Historically, my solution has always been just to buy a new one but this custom fitting experience has forced me to confront the unpleasant reality that it’s the Indian rather than the arrow.
It has proved to me, once and for all, that this is a technique rather than a technology problem.
Joe had me hitting the ball a lot better on the day and dialled in those adjustments. When I left the fitting, I had a workable shot.
There can no longer be any doubt in the mind as to whether the club is right for my game.
The stiff shaft is fine for my swing speed and I’ve gone from a 9.5 to a 10.5 degree head.
That’s allowed me to loft down a little to straighten the face so it doesn’t appear to me like the face is leaning to the left.
The rest – getting the ball into the fairway – is going to be down to me, hard work and a couple of lessons to fix the fault. At the moment, the reality doesn’t quite match up to the theory.
My optimism, though, comes from the knowledge that I can shoot 37 round the back nine of my home course using just a 3-wood and a hybrid off most tees. Imagine, if – sorry when – I fix the driver, what I may be able to achieve.
I’ve also been working with Duncan McCarthy, at Ignite Sports, to try and set some goals for the season – think Justin Thomas and his ‘win the Tour Championship’ note and you’re getting the idea.
While reducing my handicap would be a clear measure of this test’s success, I’m conscious it can’t be the absolute, or only, aim.
Say I go into the new campaign saying ‘I want to play off single figures by the time this test is over’.
Well, that’s all well and good but how do I achieve that? How should I practise, what drills will make me better? What should my mindset be going into a competitive round?
The truth is I didn’t know. So Duncan and I have set some targets. Some of them are weighty and a little ephemeral – win a board competition, for example.
But others are absolutely precise. We’ve taken my statistics from the last three months of 2017 and resolved to improve all of them by at least five per cent.
That seems eminently achievable and, if I manage it across the board, then I am going to see my handicap come down. It can’t be avoided.
My low round last year was 78. My aim this time around will be 77. I managed three birdies in a round over the last 12 months. Over the next few months, I want to record at least four.
The first medal is on April 14. It’s barely more than a month away. In the next few weeks, I’ll put my new clubs – and mental attitude – to the test with a couple of warm up events.
That should give me a clear idea of where I stand, and what I need to do, to kick off the year in the best possible form.
It’s been a long winter, now the real stuff is about to begin.
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 this season to see how custom fitting has improved his game.
He is spending 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.
WITB: Here’s what I was fitted into
Driver: Titleist 917 D2, 10.5° (GDI G-Series 50 stiff shaft)
3-wood: Titleist 917 F2, 15° (GDI G-Series 60 stiff shaft)
Hybrids: Titleist 818 H1, 19°, 23° (Aldila Tour ATX85H – 2.8 – stiff shafts)
Irons: Titleist AP3 4-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