Titleist's 917 line quickly impressing PGA Tour pros

By Scott Kramer
Published on
Titleist's 917 line quickly impressing PGA Tour pros

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of PGA Magazine.

Well, that didn’t take long.

Jimmy Walker used one of Titleist’s new 917 drivers to win the PGA Championship in late July, just weeks after he acquired it and well before it came to market. Then, Justin Thomas recently used the 917D3 driver to defend his CIMB Classic title. Will the driver be a trendsetter both on tour and in the public?

PGA Magazine editors were the first U.S. media to play the new 917 metalwood line on course back in early August. The driver comes in two versions – the 460cc 917 D2 (Walker’s choice) and 440cc 917 D3 – each selling for $550. They debuted on store shelves in late October.

Each is adjustable. As in the past, a SureFit hosel helps golfers adjust independent loft and lie angles. Loft is adjustable in 3⁄4-degree increments, from the base lofts of 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees for the D2 and 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 degrees for the D3.

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This time around, though, golfers can also use the SureFit CG Weight system to fine-tune ball flight to a neutral, draw or fade setting. This is accomplished through two interchangeable weight tubes, either of which can insert into the soleplate and lock in. One is neutral, while the other can be flipped to a draw or fade orientation.

“We may not be first to adjustable CG, but we feel ours is different and better,” says Stephanie Luttrell, director of Titleist’s metalwood development.

“Center of gravity works distinctively different than our SureFit hosel system in controlling left-to-right ball flight. When you use the hosel system to adjust lie angle, it essentially affects your ball’s start direction. You flatten out your club, for instance, and the ball starts further right of the target line. Center of gravity allows us impact dynamic face closure and gear effect sidespin.

“So where lie angle affects launch direction, this SureFit CG Weight affects sidespin and shot curvature. They work in combination but differently. These weights help keep inertia high and maintain forgiveness. When you appropriately find the right CG for a player, you see the face closure square up more consistently and through that he gains consistent impact, club head speed and ball speed.”

The weight inserts enter the sole at a visually unique angle. “We wanted to moderate the spin between all three CG loca- tions,” says Luttrell.

“When you think about a fade ball flight, or you put the heavy end of the weight onto the toe side, a fade is generally a higher spin shot. By locking the SureFit CG weight toward the face in that position, we’re essentially producing a lower-spin fade. It’s knocking spin down on that fade.

“The opposite is true in the draw position. The location adds more spin stability. We’re giving more distance potential in all three positions by moderating that spin.”

One pair of CG weights comes with the club, but golfers can buy optional matching pairs of neutral and draw/fade weights at 8, 10, 12, 14 or 16 grams. Impact sound is very satisfying and powerful – not too loud or mute, and not overly metallic.

The D2 has a full pear-shaped profile that’s more forgiving than the D3, while the D3 sports a traditional, tour-inspired pear profile with a deeper face than the D2. Officials say each version produces about 100-to-200 less rpm of spin from their predecessors in 2015.

“Our belief is that this really is the ultimate driving machine, our version of BMW,” says Josh Talge, vice president of marketing for Titleist golf clubs. “Golfers always want distance, then forgiveness, and – to a lesser extent, yet still very important – sound and trajectory. The 917 had to have all of those.”

PGA Tour professionals are flocking to the 917: Roughly 75 percent who were playing Titleist drivers on tour had already upgraded in the 917’s first few weeks of availability.

Matching 917 fairway woods ($350 each) are also offered in two models – the forgiving, 179cc 917 F2 with fuller pear profile that comes in lofts of 13.5, 15, 16.5, 18 and 21 degrees (also adjustable in 3⁄4-degree increments) and the more-workable, 169cc 917 F3 that has a classic pear shape and is available only in lofts of 13.5 and 15 degrees.

The fairway woods also employ the SureFit CG Weight system to help shape shots, although the weights insert at a different sole location and angle than in the driver. For the fairway woods, weights come in 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 grams. And they’re not interchangeable with the driver weights.

All of the new drivers and fairway woods are finished in a glossy dark gray finish that looks great set up behind the ball. In our playing experience, they’re noticeably powerful clubs with explosive distance.

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Titleist has also debuted Cameron & Crown Putters by Scotty Cameron ($410 apiece) that are built to 33-inch lengths. “They’re for small men, women and juniors,” says Mike Bradley, director of marketing for Scotty Cameron Putters. “We adjusted the head weight relative to the length.”

The line includes four of the brand’s popular head shapes – the Select Newport 2, Select Newport M2 Mallet, GOLO 5 and Futura X5R. Each comes stocked with a smaller-diameter white Matador grip.

“We potentially see golfers converting from longer lengths,” says Bradley. “They may realize they’re not playing the best putter for their game. If a shaft is too long, then your eyes will be too far back and you'll pull the ball. Too short and your eyes are too far over the ball and you will push it. The performance will be identical as if it were a longer model, but the feel and performance will definitely be better than in a cut-down model.”

Adds Cameron: “We wanted to call special attention to the importance of weight and length, and create a unique offering for those players whose setup dictates a 33-inch putter. When we pioneered the adjustable sole weight system, it became possible to match the putter head weight relative to the length for a balanced stroke.

“Cameron & Crown models are purpose-built 33-inch designs, not manipulated 35-inch putters, with two 20-gram weights to ensure the swing weight and feel are consistent with their longer counterparts. We then developed a smaller Matador grip to match that performance and feel. These are crucial details when it comes to making a confident stroke.”