God, it is all very exciting, isn’t it?
It’s new and fresh. Every time I see them, my heart flutters just a little.
Yes, it’s fair to say that my new Titleist clubs and I are firmly in our honeymoon period.
That’s right, clubs. What did you think I was talking about?
Christmas came early for me – on December 21, to be precise – when the box bearing that familiar script arrived at National Club Golfer towers and I finally got to unwrap the 14 new clubs I will use this year.
Just in case the purpose of this important exercise has passed you by, let me recap.
I’m putting custom fitting to the test. Back in October, I travelled to Titleist’s National Fitting Centre, at St Ives, and went through a complete examination of my game.
I then completed a second iron fitting at Pannal.
With the help of the experts, we looked at everything – from driver and irons to putter and ball – in a bid to put together my ideal bag.
Now, with the clubs in my possession, I’ll spend the next three months getting used to them and practising before gaming them in tournaments from April.
I’ll measure my stats and performance for every competitive round I play and, at the end, we’ll compare them with figures I took during the final three months of the last campaign.
The aim is to reveal improvement and show that custom fitting really is a must for anyone serious about their golf.
I play off 11 – 10.6 to be pedantic – and I’ve had the ambition of getting into single figures from the moment I first learned how to connect club and ball with reasonable regularity.
But while handicap is an important measure of success in this project, it shouldn’t be seen as the ultimate barometer.
I’ll also be looking at driving accuracy, greens in regulation, sand saves, putts per GIR, one putt percentages, scrambling – all of which are just as important as the number that sits after my name on a competition leaderboard.
With any luck, one improvement will follow the other but it’s an overall increase in consistency I’m really looking for.
New @TitleistEurope full set is in play! First shot with the 917 Driver at @SandburnGolf. The hard work starts now – lots of practice to get up to speed for the new season #ProjectCarroll #howlowcanigo pic.twitter.com/FXl4uHNZKN
— Steve Carroll (@SteveCarrollNCG) December 23, 2017
At the time of writing, I’ve played five full rounds with them and enjoyed – if that’s the right word – four range sessions.
Any unfamiliarity is now gone. The clubs feel as comfortable in my hands as the previous set I toted around for a year.
There’s nothing scientific about these initial evaluations – there’s little point in measuring performance while we’re playing on temporary greens and soaking wet courses.
But, even so, feel is as much a part of the process for lots of us so: What are my new clubs like?
Let’s start with the irons. I was fitted into 718 AP3 and, to be honest, pretty much predicted I would be beforehand.
I don’t like an offset iron, as I’ve a big tendency to hook the ball, so I’ve struggled to keep AP1s on target. AP2 was much more my sort of thing but, if I wasn’t right on my game strike-wise, I didn’t find them the most forgiving.
AP3 are supposed to be right in the middle and, from my limited experience so far, they perform that job admirably.
They sit really nicely behind the ball and that’s important for me. I liked my previous set of irons but I always felt the face was pointing more left than I wanted.
This may be more about my poor technique but I ended up shaft-leaning quite heavily in a bid to ‘square the face’ and, as well as significantly de-lofting, it was hard to get a good strike.
I don’t have this issue with the AP3. They just feel right. They also launch higher than I’m used to and that’s not a bad thing given I find it hard to hold greens during the summer.
Distance-wise, I’d say they were a touch further than my previous irons with a well-struck shot but it’s difficult to be comprehensive about that until I can get the Shot Scope out and look at measurable data.
Titleist are always talking about the importance of fresh wedges and, while understanding the science behind it, I’d always wondered if it was something of a marketing ploy.
The SM5 Vokeys were the longest serving clubs in my bag – having gone through three seasons of dutiful battle.
So new grooves, and the improved technology of the SM6, have been little short of a revelation.
I’ve been nipping the ball off tight and very wet lies with a lot of confidence and getting quite a lot of spin.
I’ve rarely generated any backspin in the past – if anything I get quite a lot of follow through – so to see shots drop, stop and move backwards has been very exciting.
I’ve always hit a hybrid well so moving from regular into stiff shafts in the two 818 H1s (19 and 23 degree) had worried me before the clubs arrived.
I’m not the biggest hitter by any means so on long par 4s and 5s I utterly rely on my hybrids to get me greenside. If they were to fail, my handicap would start to rise.
This is where custom fitting comes into its own. There is NO WAY if I went to buy these clubs in a shop I would have chosen stiff shafts. None.
Yet I had data and advice from a fitting to look back on, which overrode my natural scepticism, and I’m delighted with not only how well I am hitting them but how much further they seem to be going.
This may well produce a gapping issue down the line but, presently, I’m very happy with how they are performing.
The 3-wood, a club I have never traditionally carried, is proving to be a very good asset off the tee.
In three months of compiling numbers at the back end of last season, I hit my driver an average of 206 yards.
I hit the 917F2, with six degrees more loft, further than that – and I hit more fairways too. I don’t need to say anything else, do I?
If I’ve one area of current concern in my new bag of golfing tricks, it is the driver.
As you’ll gather from the above, I’m neither the most confident nor the most skilled with the big stick in my hand.
This might be mental, as much as anything, but I feel like I’m going to hook my 917 D2 at the moment.
It was custom fit for me with a 12g draw weight in it and I’m striking it at the moment with a rather large curve.
When I went for my fitting, I was hitting the ball that day with a cut. That’s not my predominant shot but you can only work with what you’ve got on that particular day and obviously that was what the fitter saw.
The good news is that because the driver has such a lot of adjustability, I can easily open the face so it sits more squarely behind the ball.
However, I’m loath to start tinkering so early in the process: one, it kind of negates the point of being fitted and, two, it may be nothing a good lesson won’t fix.
Plus, I would much rather have this process overseen by an expert.
I’m going to leave it for the time being but I am minded to seek that second opinion before the start of the season to iron out any inconsistencies and put my mind at rest. Watch this space.
As far as the putter is concerned, familiarity has bred anything but contempt. I previously used the Scotty Cameron Futura 7M and was a very satisfied customer.
I’ve stuck with that formula but have noticed the difference from the extra inch in the shaft (I’ve gone from 33″ to 34″) and the half degree of added loft that is designed to negate the slightly downward strike I’m prone to put on a putt.
So what can I tell you?
I’m hugely excited about the initial results from my new clubs and can’t wait to get out on the course over the next couple of months to really bed them in before the real fun begins in April.
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, 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° (Aldila Tour ATX85H – 2.8 – 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