Sunday, 22 February 2015

Golf Monthly/Titleist Demo Day

I was fortunate to be selected by Golf Monthly magazine, via a competition on their forum (http://forums.golf-monthly.co.uk/) to go to Silvermere Golf Centre in Cobham, Surrey on Thursday (19th) to test the latest Titleist range. This included the latest drivers, irons, Vokey wedges, and the latest Scotty Cameron putters as well as the brand new ProV1 and ProV1x golf ball. Not a bad prize for a free to enter competition.

Titleist are very excited by their product range for the new season and are planning around 350 demonstrations around the UK to allow as many golfers as possible to try them and see for themselves how well the perform. Let me say right here, if you get the opportunity, this is one test day you really should go along to. All the dates and venues are in the link:
(http://media.titleist.com/images/titleist/files/UK/Trial%20Titleist%20Schedules%202015.pdf

I have always has a perception (wrongly as it turned out) that Titleist products were only for the better player and that only those around the single figure bracket would maximise the potential of these clubs. That may have been true a few years back but the latest range has something for everyone and it really does have a broad appeal across the handicap range.

Golf Monthly have already produced a behind the scenes report on the day, and they can do it far more justice than I can so I'll let you peruse it here (http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/galleries/events-galleries/behind-the-scenes-trial-titleist-day-66599)

We were split into two groups and I started the day learning all about the ProV1 and ProV1x ball, the history of the brand a little. From there, we had a brief one to one discussion with a fitter to ascertain the best ball for out own game. The difference between the Titleist philosophy and those of other brands is that Titleist work from green to tee, rather than basing a fitting on swing speed or compression. In simplistic terms, it starts with wedge play and how much spin a player generates, goes back to mid-iron shots and looks at accuracy and preferred ball flight, and then back to the tee and driver spin and distance requirements. For more information, have a look at the online selection tool on the website at (www.titleist.co.uk/ballfitting)

From there we took some courtesy balls in our preferred model out to the putting green to try the new Scotty Cameron putter range. I was interested in the counter balanced range as these seem to be everywhere at the moment and I wanted to see how a top end version compared to those from other manufacturers I'd already looked at. (http://www.titleist.co.uk/dual-balance/) The Newport 2 was everything I hoped. A classic shape and a buttery smooth feel off the face. I found it easy to swing and the extra weight didn't impact the strike or the stroke in any way. To be honest, the entire range, including the Go Lo mallet range, similar to my current Odyssey Protype #9, were equally as good.

The only downside is the price. They are expensive but you are paying for top quality putters, and naturally that comes at a cost. Are they worth it? Now there's a question. I would say if your fundamentals are poor then it won't make any difference if you use one of these or a bargain bucket flat stick. However if you are a competent putter looking to upgrade, while they won't eradicate the dreaded three putt, there will be a range to suit your own putting style. They have a very good feel off the face and are wonderfully balanced. When you consider how many times you have a putter in your hand per round, then perhaps the cost doesn't seem so extravagant. It's such a personal part of the game it isn't for me to say but I would urge you to at least consider these and definitely give these a go (ideally on grass and not an indoor putting mat).

Following the ball and putter testing, it was over to the range to try the clubs. Now as many regular followers will know, I was custom fitted for my clubs, originally at Pachesham Golf Centre in Leatherhead, Surrey. At that time I got a full set of Ping G25's including woods and irons but I never really felt happy aesthetically with the irons, especially when chipping, and found looking down on a meaty top line off putting. In the end I changed to a set of I25 irons, fitted at Downshire Golf Centre by the golf professional I have lessons with (Rhys ap Iolo). To be honest, I've been quite happy with my bag set up and my swing is now a lot more consistent although I was interested to test my Ping against the Titleist offering.

The bay was fitted with a launch monitor and although we were using range balls, it still gave enough viable data between the two makes to show how each performed. I was interested in the irons in particular and gravitated to the smaller headed offering the 714 AP2. They have a cavity back to give a degree of forgiveness and are designed to give higher flying longer irons and a more shallow flight in the shorter ones to give a set giving good carry distance and better distance control

The AP2 iron, very stylish
I started with a DG R300 shaft and to be fair, despite hitting these solidly and enjoying the feel off the centre of the club, there wasn't any significant difference between the performance of these and my own I25's. The fitter tried a DG S300 shaft as my swing speed suggested I needed the extra firmness but I struggled a little. It's perhaps a club that would suit a solid ball striker. Although I hit it pretty well, the off centre strikes were punished perhaps a little more than my current I25's.

We changed to the AP1. This is a slightly larger headed club but it didn't look to bulky behind the ball. It's designed to be a little more forgiving and would appeal to a large number of golfers. It is a very solid looking club and the ball feels as if it flies off the face with meaning. Again we started with the DG shaft but the spin numbers in particular weren't fantastic. There wasn't anything to show an improvement on my own. However with a tweak, the fitter put in an XP95 shaft and suddenly it felt like a different club. Spin numbers changed and the ball fizzed off the face. Dispersion narrowed and I was getting an extra 5 yards over the I25 and 4mph in terms of swing speed (average).

AP1 - a bigger club but when you put the right shaft in, it performs. It really performs
I was pleasantly surprised. I thought the AP1 would be like the G25's I had and yes they are a big headed club and the top line is relatively thick, but when I looked at an 8 iron, a club I would use for chipping, it didn't look chunky. I could definitely use it around the green without any negativity about the looks.

From there it was time to try the 915 driver range. I am very happy with my G25 and I've worked hard to improve my driving and keep the ball in play more often. I hit a few with my Ping to get some base numbers. I started with the D3 range which has a compact 445cc head in 10.5 degrees of loft . This looks a very traditional and old school looking driver and oozes class. The pear headed driver is set up to produce a lower trajectory compared to the D2.

Driver set up chart
The 915 range is like a lot of modern drivers and offers a range of set up options but despite a few tweaks in the settings and several shafts, I struggled to hit this with any degree of regularity. The spin numbers were too high for optimum performance and while the good ones were very good I was punished with bad shots and the high spin exaggerated my errors.

We swapped to the D2 also 10.5 degrees. This is a larger head at 460cc and is designed to be higher launching than the D3. I felt more comfy with the bigger head, much more like my G25 but again on standard A1 fitting and with a standard shaft I was still getting too much spin. The fitter got to work and tweaked it to a B3 (closed) position and put in an Aldia Rogue Black S70 shaft in. What a difference! I was bombing it straighter and in a much tighter area. Even the bad shots would have been in the light rough and not in a different time zone. Comparing like for like, I was getting an extra 7 yards on my G25 when looking at the best strikes and 2-3 yards on those not quite out of the sweet spot. Spin numbers were reduced immensely and the ball stayed in the air longer and so went further. Simple.

D2 Driver - with the right set up and shaft it's a mighty beast
It was a fantastic event and once we had finished hitting balls, it was back to the sanctuary of the club house and a debrief. I would like to convey my thanks to both Golf Monthly and especially Titleist for the opportunity. We came away with a goodie bag including a dozen of the new ProV1 balls, a tour cap, alignment sticks and other bits and pieces. A lovely touch by Titleist and very gratefully received by everyone. As I've said, it has shattered the illusion I've had for years about the performance of this brand and their target market. The day was filmed and Golf Monthly have put up a report on their website with some comments from those testing, including some from yours truly, so you can see exactly what others thought of the clubs and how they performed. I don't think I was alone in having my point of view shifted for good (http://www.golf-monthly.co.uk/news/notice-board/golf-monthly-readers-experience-exclusive-trial-titleist-launch-66577)

So what did I learn. From a Scotty Cameron point of view, not much. I knew they were a fantastic make and the range coming out in April (in the UK) only add to the brand. They are definitely worth a look and if you can get past the price tag they are worth a go. I'm afraid though my Odyssey Protype #9 is too similar and so I won't be making the switch.

I thought the AP2 was a lovely looking iron. Small headed, with a small cavity it looks beautiful and feels great. Sadly they weren't for me. However the AP1 was a real revelation and a make I'd not considered. My error. This has a wide spread appeal and if you head towards one of the demo days in the UK Titleist are arranging (and you should) then I would start with this model and go from there. You won't be disappointed.

I didn't expect to even consider making a driver change but you can't ignore the statistics and the D2 is without doubt the best driver I've trialled (and there have been many) in a long time. I have a difficult decision to ponder on now and whether I can justify the cost to get one in my bag. It definitely is a step up from my G25 and longer and straighter. It also looks fantastic. I'm tempted to go back to another demo day somewhere locally and try it again with the same shaft and set up and see what happens but it's definitely on my radar (just don't tell the wife!)

As I said in the very beginning, (and in the Golf Monthly video) I always saw Titleist as a better player brand and one that I couldn't play successfully at my level. This quite simply isn't the case. Go and try. It's as simple as that.

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