Technology: Golf Ball Fitting
The importance of golf ball fitting for your game and how one of the best — Titleist — does it.
Since being on this “fitting kick” for some time now, I have mostly spent time discussing the various components of the golf club. The grip, the weight, loft and lie considerations, etc. I even think about shafts, but I’ll save that for another day.
Today, I want to talk about Titleist Ball fitting. It basically translates to any golf ball fitting for that matter, such as Wilson, Srixon and Bridgestone, but we are using Titleist as a first-hand example. Several golf ball companies have simple smart phone apps now that also walk you through the process.
Golf ball fitting really is as simple as it sounds: Find which ball you should be using.
(And, hey, maybe I’ve been using the wrong ball. If so, I’m calling that excuse No. 14 as to why I’ve gone from a 2 to 9 handicap.)
So I received an email recently from 2nd Swing telling me that they will be having a ball fitting session in Minneapolis, where they are headquartered, and that I should sign up and pick a time. However, these sessions are offered to the public all the time throughout the United States and beyond by golf ball manufacturers. Just look at their websites.
It began with 2nd Swing’s professional fitters asking me just to start hitting balls to warm up before meeting with Titleist Golf Ball Fitter Jason Ng. He asked me questions about my game, handicap, how much I play, what kind of ball I currently use and what I was hoping to learn from this experience.
My response was, “just want to learn about the ball fitting experience and if I have been playing the correct type of ball or if I should be thinking about something different.” Once the preliminary interview was over, the discussion turned to the process of the ball fitting.
Titleist stresses the importance of the short game first. Not the driver and distance. I was impressed to learn that they would rather find me a golf ball that performs for me when I’m less than 100 yards from the hole, which is where close to 65 percent of the strokes we take come from, or something close to that figure.
Jason had set out a Titleist flag approximately 50 yards from my spot and asked me to hit the club I would normally take from that distance, without accounting for wind. I hit about 10 balls in and around the target. Next, Jason asked me to hit the same number of balls but with my 6-iron.
Finally, I pulled out the Big Dog — the driver — and hit the same number of balls. All during this time, we chatted about golf balls and playing golf and sharing stories. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and made for a fun session.
Once this was completed, Jason walked me over to the monitor, and we went over the results. They are shown in this video below:
That for most of the irons — whatever iron you have — you should have a spin rate about 1,000 times your iron number. So, for the 6-iron, I should be spinning the ball about 6,000 rpm.
I reconfirmed my belief that my driver rpm needs to be less than 2,500 rpm, with a 12- to 14-degree launch angle for me to achieve optimal carry and roll on my tee shots. And I was not getting enough spin on my wedges.
One tip Jason had for me: Keep the wedges clean at all times. Grooves and the clubface. Even grass secretes an oily substance that can diminish spin put on a golf ball when hit. Think about how much that rate goes down when you have dirt in the grooves.
Another thing that stuck with me was when I asked about moving to a different ball is if I would see increases in distance. Jason told me that almost all the golf balls out there all travel about the same distance, and that the differentiating factor was the spin rate on the ball.
USGA regulations limit the speed at which a ball can leave a clubface and most manufacturers have reached that limit. What makes the difference now is the type of core, cover and dimple design that the different companies use.
This is a deviation from other tests that have been done with different golf balls. And, yes, I do plan to conduct and attend other ball fitting sessions with other ball manufacturers.
But a quick glance at various websites and periodicals all list the Titleist Pro V1 series their top picks. And this is for all-around performance. Nice distance off the tee, solid iron control into the greens, the ability to spin the ball on closer approaches. It has one of the key things I look for with anything golf-related: the “feel” of the ball off the clubface, how it flies to the target, and how it sounds and feels when putting.
So what was the recommendation? That I should stay with the Titleist Pro V1. I was then escorted back to the registration table where Jason handed me a sleeve of Pro V1’s and thanked me for my time. My recommendation? I think a golfer should experience as much outside information and assistance available to them as possible. Also, it’s a free fitting. Why wouldn’t you want to take a half hour out of your day for the experience?
What are your thoughts on golf balls? Which ones do you play and why? Is it cost? Is it performance? Is it that you’ve been thoroughly brain-washed into thinking only one kind of ball is for you? I’m curious.
And here’s a video of how Bridgestone goes about its business with exceptional PGA and LPGA tour pros Matt Kuchar and Paula Creamer: