NORTH PRAIRIE – When I was invited to go through a Titleist ball fitting by territory sales rep Ted Robbins, my first thought was, “Great. Now maybe I can get five more yards with my driver.”
Admit it, you’d have thought the same thing. But when I showed up for the fitting at The Broadlands, instinctively reached for the Big Boy in my golf bag and relayed that thought to Robbins, he said something that gave me pause.
“Yes, we want you to get a few more yards with the driver,” he said. “But would you rather have five more yards off the tee, or be more precise with your irons and have more birdie chances?”
He had me at hello. Who wouldn’t rather have a 15-footer than a chip from the fringe?
The purpose of the ball fitting, I quickly learned, was to get me into a ball that would maximize what I do with my irons, especially the scoring clubs. Titleist has four premium balls in its line: the Pro V1, Pro V1x, AVX and Pro V1 Left Dash. They are manufactured with different compositions and materials, so they produce different trajectories and spin rates.
After a few minutes on TrackMan, hitting range balls with my 54-degree wedge, Robbins and Chris Topley, an expert ball fitter who is based in Chicago, said my ball flight was lower than optimal and that my spin rate was exceedingly low – at about 2,800 rpms it was far under the desired 9,000 with that club.
“You need more spin,” Robbins said. “You’re basically hitting a knuckleball.”
I’d long considered spin a four-letter word. In my mind, more spin meant a ballooning ball flight or, if the ball started moving sideways, a hunt in the woods or a splash in the water.
Topley and Robbins explained that, yes, too much spin is a bad thing, but that most golfers need more of it in order to hit the ball higher, keep it in the air longer and get it to drop more steeply into the green.
Tour players crave spin. They want a high flight – 90 to 100 feet at apex is the PGA Tour average – and they want the ball to descend at 50-52 degrees, so that it hits and stops on firm greens, even with longer clubs. My ball was peaking at 55-60 feet and descending at 42-44 degrees.
It was a eureka moment. Just the other day, I’d hit what I thought was a perfect wedge shot into the first green at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha. It landed 10 feet short of the flagstick but bounced forward and rolled to the back fringe. I was playing a Callaway Chrome Soft ball. As it turns out, that’s a fine ball for some golfers, but not for me.
“Low-spin ball,” Robbins said. “You need a ball that spins more than that one.”
The fitting consisted of me hitting six to eight shots on TrackMan with each of the four Titleist ball models, with my gap wedge, 9-iron, 7-iron, 5-hybrid and driver. Then we went onto the course and Topley watched me hit some chips, pitches and bunker shots.
The AVX is the lowest-launching, lowest-spinning ball in the line and Topley eliminated it as a possibility for me after just a few shots. Next to go was Left Dash, a low-spin ball and the firmest ball of the four.
More testing revealed that the Pro V1x, which spins the most and flies the highest, was the best ball for me. My revolutions per minute jumped into the 5,800 range with the V1x, still under the desired 9,000 with a 9-iron but closer to good. And my shots were flying higher and descending more steeply.
If I’d been using a Pro V1x when I hit that shot into the first green at Strawberry Creek, the ball would have stopped quickly and I might have had a 5-footer instead of a downhill 20-footer from the back fringe.
The ball-fitting session was an eye-opener. I’d long been a golfer who played any ball I found in my bag that day. This year, I’ve teed up balls made by TaylorMade, Bridgestone, Callaway, Titleist, Volvik and maybe a couple others. I couldn’t even tell you the models.
As a 12-handicapper, I thought the type of ball I played didn’t matter because of my slow swing speed. If anything, I was prone to playing low-spin balls, thinking I’d hit them farther.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“For a lot of golfers, a golf ball is a golf ball,” Robbins said. “We think it’s a big deal for everybody.”
Titleist just started its ball-fitting program this year. Of course, they’d been testing their tour staff players for years, but now a tour-level ball fitting experience is available to weekend hackers like me.
You can bet that the next time I reach into my golf bag for a ball, I’ll be pulling out a Pro V1x or a high-spin ball from another manufacturer. My new motto: spin, baby, spin.