PGA.com's T.J. Auclair recently took a trip to "Manchester Lane," in Acushnet, Mass., better known as the "Titleist Test Facility." While there, Auclair went through a club-fitting with PGA Professional Karen Gray, Titleist Supervisor of Player Research. Titleist Player Research Representatives Alex Stimpson and Bubba Kroeger were there to assist Gray. Following the club fitting, Auclair went through a golf-ball fitting with Gray and Titleist Golf Ball Fitting Manager Mike Gibson. This is the second installment of the three-part series on the complete fitting experience.
PGA.com's club fitting series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Club fitting Q&A | Photo Gallery
ACUSHNET, Mass. -- If you’ve ever been interested in club fitting, it’s an amazing process. Here’s how it typically works.
Before the fitting officially began, PGA Professional Karen Gray (Titleist Supervisor of Player Research and the person conducting the fitting) asked me to loosen up with my current set of clubs. With the help of player research representatives Gray had me call out which club I was about to hit.
YOUR CLUB FITTING
Have you been thinking about getting properly fit for golf clubs by a PGA Professional? There are numerous ways to do so. For the purposes of this story, we detailed the fitting system provided by Titleist. Other big companies have their own fitting facilities and PGA Professionals nationwide can fit players for a wide variety of clubs.
As I got set and addressed the ball, the three huddled in front of a laptop located a few yards behind where I was hitting. For the first few shots they didn’t say much. Then, they started asking questions like: What’s your typical miss? What’s your desired ball flight? How far do you typically hit this club?
Meanwhile, the player research representatives took turns taking various measurements and checking the lie angle of my current set as Gray continued to go over the numbers.
Once I was loose, Gray took me over to a table. On top of the table were foam organizers containing the head of every Titleist club available today -- irons, woods, wedges and hybrids.
Gray explained the purpose behind each one -- everything from game-improvement irons with maximum forgiveness to the pretty blades a lot of Tour players use. She described why the irons were weighted the way they are and how that could impact ball flight and overall performance depending on a person's playing ability.
To find the right club for me, Gray inquired about the type of game I play (around a 10 handicap) and asked what type of “look” I like in an iron. Based on that information, Gray decided she wanted to see me try out the Titleist AP2 iron first.
The AP2 irons are, “advanced performance, multi-material irons that offer playability, the traditional solid feel of a forged iron and contemporary yet classic looks for the skilled to highly skilled golfer. AP2 irons are technically advanced blades that provide increased forgiveness without sacrificing shot workability while combining traditional blade length and sole width with a more efficient multi-material weight distribution.”
A 6-iron is the club used for an iron fitting because, in most cases, it’s the closest club to the middle of your iron set. Using a 6-iron, and with about 5-6 different shaft combinations, Gray determined that due to the spin and launch I generated, she wanted to have me try the something other than the AP2.
As beautiful as the AP2 irons were, I couldn’t get over the thicker top line – the part of the clubhead you’re looking down on as you address the ball and prepare to hit the shot. It looked too big for my liking and we moved on to the CB Forged irons.
Talk about an instant adjustment. The CB Forged irons are traditional blades. They’ve got a solid feel, they’re smaller in size – clubhead-wise – than the AP2s and, to my delight, a much thinner top line. Unlike most traditional blades, however, the CB Forged irons are much more forgiving. There’s a small cavity on the clubs and with a slightly wider, filler sole, it’s easier to be aggressive through the ground.
I certainly don’t consider myself a highly skilled player. I’m just as likely to shoot 75 one day as I am to struggle breaking 100 the next. Needless to say, as pretty as the CB Forged irons looked, I was skeptical. After all, the whole point of a fitting is to determine what clubs will most help my game. The way I see it, I need all the help I can get!
Yes, I definitely liked the look of the CB Forged irons the most, but wondered aloud if that meant they were the best option for me. After all, they’re part of the “highly-skilled” iron sets Titleist offers and I don’t consider myself anywhere close to “highly-skilled.”
I quickly learned that’s why Gray is the expert and I’m not.
With various shaft and lie angle corrections, as well as taking a ½-inch off the standard shaft length due to my tendency to flip my wrists too soon, which caused the ball to dart left, I striped many of my best shots of the day.
The way I was hitting it, I didn’t want to put that 6-iron down… but, it was time to move on to the hybrid, 3-wood and driver portion of the fitting. In this fitting, we locked in the irons before moving on down to the hybrid, 3-wood, driver and then wedges.
Perhaps overcome with unwarranted confidence because of the way I was hitting the 6-iron, I was making a fool of myself with the hybrid -- topping it, hooking it, slicing it.
That’s where Mike Gibson, Titleist Golf Ball Fitting Manager and a former Teaching Professional at the Harmon Golf School, stepped in.
While Gibson and his colleagues deal with elite players all the time, they also have the remarkable patience and the demeanor to deal with players like me.
Gibson could tell I was getting a little frustrated. Rather than let me keep banging golf balls, he asked me to step back for a minute.
When I backed off the ball, Gibson went into full-on teacher mode and said, “Earlier you mentioned you took a bunch of lessons in the last couple of years from someone you were really comfortable and confident with. What would he work with you on? What was the one thought he tried to get across to you?”
It was almost as if verbalizing it made it therapeutic. Isn’t golf a stupid game that way?
Following some reassurance and soothing words, Gibson told me to address the ball and do precisely what I had just described to him.
Of course, Gray made a few tweaks with the loft and shaft, but we were back in business. Gray, fantastic as she is, was so dialed in to this fitting process that when it came to the 3-wood, we didn’t need to make any adjustments to the one she put together and handed me right out of the gate.
Now it was on to the big dog -- the driver.
Much like with the irons, Gray walked me over to the table behind the teeing area to show me the club heads we’d be trying out -- the 913D2 and 913D3 -- and the various lofts available for each.
The 913D2 is a 460cc driver built for those in need of speed and forgiveness. The 913D3 possesses the same launch conditions as the 913D2, but is slightly smaller with a 445cc head. I liked the slightly smaller clubhead, so Gray immediately moved on to the 913D3.
Both drivers come with SureFit Tour hosel technology. That means that your club can be independently adjusted to precisely fit your game with the help of a special wrench. You can adjust the lie of your club from a square position to either more open or closed.
One of the most amazing things you’ll learn about at a fitting is also the most obvious -- the importance of a properly fitted set. It will blow your mind.
Gray, examining the numbers with her team, made small tweaks to the driver -- shafts with a stiffer tip; adjusting the club head’s weight; experimenting with various lofts -- until we found a perfect match.
Throughout the entire process, Gray is inquisitive, always asking things like, “What, if anything, feels different about this club from the last one?” “Did you hear the sound that one made compared to the last one?”
The attention to detail by the staff at Manchester Lane makes you feel like a touring pro even if you may never be able to play like one.
The final portion of the fitting brought us to wedges. Earlier, we decided to eliminate the 3-iron from the bag and replaced it with a hybrid. With 4-iron through pitching wedge, a hybrid, 3-wood, driver and putter, that left room for three more wedges in the bag.
Gray again went over all the options, explaining the importance of bounce on a number of the displayed Vokey wedges, noting the visual differences on the soles of the clubs between those with higher and lower bounce.
We decided on the following degrees of loft for the remaining wedges: 52, 56 and 60.
The wedge fitting was probably the shortest of the entire process time-wise. We quickly found the right shaft, bounce and grind for the 52-degree wedge after hitting about 10 balls.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.