Titleist Drivers, 10 Years On

You can find my golf equipment at the intersection of “Golf Purist” and “Cheap Bastard”. For example, I had played blades from the age of 16 until a couple of years ago when I saw enough tour pros playing Titleist AP2 irons and realized that I was out on a limb. And in over 30 years of playing golf, my AP2s are only my 4th set of irons, so I’m not one to go grasping at the latest marketing ploy. And I’ve probably only had 4 drivers in that time as well.

Drivers are where the heat is for golf club manufacturers, and every one of them claims to have cracked the maximum distance nut. But at $500 a pop for the latest technology, I was happy to sit on the sidelines and try to swing my current driver (Titleist 910D3, 9.5 degrees with stock Diamara stiff shaft) better. The wise words of Mr. Dowdle, my high school woodshop teacher, constantly run through my head… “a good craftsman never blames his tools”. That didn’t stop me from watching countless club comparison videos (check out Rick Shiels and Michael Newton), but they never seem to see more than a couple of yards difference between the latest clubs. Not enough to get out the credit card.

I’m a member at PGATour Superstore (unlimited ball bashing for a year for $99 with Foresite launch monitors – can’t be beat), and recently received an invitation to do a Titleist driver fitting. This was a great chance to see for myself how the results of new technology and fitting expertise compare to my stock 910D3. After getting a baseline reading on my existing driver using Trackman, we played around with different shafts, weighting, loft, and lie configurations, and I have to say I was impressed with the results. We settled on a Titleist TS3 at 9.5 degrees, set to D-2 setting with a Hzrdus Smoke Yellow 60 stiff shaft. Below is the Trackman data comparison (numbers are averages of 6-8 shots per club):

Club Swing Speed Ball Speed Launch Angle Spin Rate Landing Angle Carry Distance Total Distance
910D3 105.4 151.6 13.8 3692 46.1 241.9 255.2
TS3 105.2 150.4 13.5 2640 38.9 251.1 272.6

As you can see, there really wasn’t much difference between the two clubs in the swing speed, ball speed, or launch angle. But there was a clear separation in terms of spin rate and landing angle. The first thing the fitter noticed about my current driver was that the landing angle was too high, caused by a high spin rate. He explained that the number that fitters really try to optimize is landing angle, and the ideal is 37 degrees. We spent most of our time trying to get down to that number by reducing spin rate. You can really see the impact on the trajectory chart (yellow is the 910D3, and blue is the TS3):

Driver trajectory

As my fellow talkingtoafade.com staffers can attest, my drives tend to be all over the place, so even averages of my shots can be a little wonky at times. Here’s the “spray chart” from one of my recent sessions…

IMG_20191223_202028

You can’t live like that! (Editors Note: As someone who has played countless rounds with AC, this is actually a pretty tight dispersion compared with the four-way miss that sometimes leaks out.) Anyway, comparing just my best shot with each driver, I was happy to see the same results: roughly the same ball speed of about 155 mph, but difference in total distance of 284.8 vs. 266.6 yards. 

Decision Time

So is picking up 17-18 yards worth the cost of a new driver? Well, for reasons I don’t understand (and wasn’t about to question), the quote I was given for my new driver was $290. I was fully expecting to see the full retail price of $400 and be on the fence about it. For $290, it was an easy decision, even for a cheap bastard like me. 

As for the fitting experience, I have to give kudos to the Titleist fitter I worked with. We went through about 10 different configurations, and he patiently whittled down the choices to get to the best combination of distance and dispersion. And he e-mailed me all the Trackman data to review afterwards. I don’t know if I’ll be one of those guys who trades up each year to eke out another yard or two from the tee, but I probably won’t wait another 10 years if there’s 17 yards to be gained!

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