Martin Hopley
By Martin Hopley

At the launch of the Titleist 917 driver and fairway I caught up with Steve Pelisek, President of Titleist Golf Clubs to find out the thinking behind the latest range.

Hi Steve. You have been talking about the 917 metals being ‘Complete Performance’. How would you define that?

We make clubs for dedicated golfers. Most of the golfers who play Titleist, I wouldn’t say they are all highly skilled, but most of them have what I would term a performance attitude and when we ask them ‘What do you want from a driver?’ they say that they want confidence. So where do you get confidence from? That is where what we call Complete Performance comes in.

It comes from distance as obviously you driver has got to be long. It has to be forgiving because you want more distance more often. And it has got to look right, it has got to sound right, it has got to feel right, it has got to be able to dial in trajectory – both left to right, right to left and up and down. The driver has got to be able to do all of that to really give the player confidence when they stand on the tee.

You mentioned sound there and I think that is something that a lot of people picked up on in the 915 Driver. Did you get a lot of feedback on that and look to adjust it in the 917?

Yes, sound is a really big deal. You know with sound and feel it is sometimes hard to differentiate the two. Frankly our designers will say that what you are feeling is really what you are hearing. It is a big deal to get the club sounding right and we take it really seriously because players are very particular about that.

So there is lot of acoustic science that goes in there and we have worked really hard to dial in the sound of the 917 metals. It actually plays a big part in the design process because you have to keep sound in mind throughout the design life cycle and we are really confident in it. We have done a lot of Tour seeding with the 917 and the feedback has been fantastic.

The standout feature on both of the metals is this SureFit CG moveable weight. We first saw driver adjustability in 2008, so why the weights and why now for Titleist?

Technology keeps getting better. We are big believers in adjustability and we are big believers in fitting because a lot of adjustability with a good fitter allows the player to get the most out of what they are buying. We are big fans of the SureFit hosel because it allows you to independently adjust loft and lie and now we have added the SureFit CG which allows the fitter and the player to adjust centre of gravity from toe to centre to heel which will affect ball flight significantly and will give the player a powerful tool to help their game.

Titleist 917 Driver

With the fade setting the weight is closer to the toe. Does the spin stay at the same level or are you still experiencing a little more spin with the fade?

Picture the shot. You like to hit a left to right flight and I like to hit a little power fade and generally that is a higher spinning shot than a straight ball. With SureFit CG it allows you to move the Centre of Gravity (CG) out towards the toe which tends to slow down face closure a little bit and that is going to allow that left to right tendency or a fade if you are a right handed player.

It will have a little more spin on it but we have actually edged the CG forward a little when you put the CG toward the toe so I am not going to say it is the same spin you would have with a straight shot, but it is just not as much of an increase in spin as you would get from hitting a regular power fade.

There are also a variety of weights ranging from 8g to 16g so is that something available to all players?

Yes absolutely. The fitters are going to have all the weights available when they fit players for the 917. The club has a standard overall weight, it is going to be approximately a 200g head and then you are going to have your shaft somewhere between 60g to 75g and then you have your grip.

Titleist 917 Driver

For most players we know that an additional 12g weight is going to work the best and we use that as the nominal standard weight. But if you want to change a shaft and adjust or to change a swing weight you can do that by changing the SureFit CG weight to anything between 8g and 16g. Leave it up to the fitter though because that is a real fine tune.

If you went from a 12g weight to an 8g weight, do you adjust the weight of the head to keep the overall weight the same or do you take the drop of 4g?

We would only use the 8g weight if for example there was a shaft that had a very low balance point so when we are custom building we can dial in swing weight. The fitter has the ability to do that and you can change the weight if you prefer that and it works for you.

The 917 has 100 to 200rpm less spin than the 915, so are you anticipating that people will generally be increasing loft as well?

It depends. The physics of the design of the 917 means it is a lower spinning driver than the 915, but the beauty of the combination of the SureFit hosel and SureFit CG means that you can use that however you want. You can use it to simply reduce spin and keep the same launch, which is terrific if that is what you need. But a good fitter may say I am going to increase your loft to get a higher launch and I will use the naturally lower spin to keep the overall spin the same with the new launch angle spin. So it gives you the option to pick the best combination to maximise how far you hit the ball.

Titleist 917 Driver

So is it the adjustability through the hosel or the adjustability from the weight at the back that is the major influence?

That is a hard question to answer! It really depends, I hate to keep giving that answer, but physics is physics. Swing speed is going to dictate ball speed and we can design the club to get the most ball speed from your swing speed. To get that there will be an optimal combination of launch and spin and with the 917 and a good fitter you have the opportunity to change total weight. You can move CG location without changing total weight, you can use the SureFit hosel to change face angle and you can use it to change loft.

All of those things can be used to dial in the pure launch conditions, the pure shot shape and to get the CG in the right spot for the way you like to hit it. That is why it is important that players take the time to work through all of this with a knowledgeable fitter because the difference is night and day between how well it will work for you or not.

On the 917 fairways the Active Recoil Channel is now a slot – can you take us through why you made that change?

Well it is just more efficient. The design of the Active Recoil Channel works, it gives a little, and in doing so gives a little more speed and a little less spin. With this second generation of the Active Recoil Channel the designers realised that given the size of a fairway and the materials available the best way to do it would be to have the slot go all the way through. You obviously can’t have a hole in your golf club so we have filled it with urethane, but it is something that works really well in a fairway sized golf club.

Titleist 917 Fairway

The fairways have also gone from being called F and Fd to F2 and F3. Is there any particular reason for that?

It makes sense as we are now a few generations into D2 and D3 and players are starting to realise that D2 head size is a little larger than the D3 and D2 is generally a little higher launch and a little higher spin whereas D3 is a little lower trajectory and a little lower spin. This seems to be well understood now so we decided to use 2 and 3 in the 917 fairways as well. They don’t entirely overlap, but they do for the most part and the F2 and F3 are going to line up well with Titleist 917 D2 and D3 drivers.

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