The Details That Matter – Testing The Titleist 917 Driver

Titleist 917 fitting session (Photo: Scott MacLeod)
The "set-up" - Titleist 917D2, 8.5 (Photo: Scott MacLeod)
The “set-up” – Titleist 917D2, 8.5 (Photo: Scott MacLeod)

It’s almost time for consumers to get their hands on the new Titleist 917 drivers and fairways. The question for many, of course, is whether to make the jump and purchase the latest and greatest from the company after they become available at retail on October 21.

Only the golfer can ultimately make that decision. But a few details in the 917’s might make them a little more appealing.

The company is known for subtle but significant changes in products which normally have a two-year life cycle. The 917 clubs are no different. How compelling those changes are in the current model will be between you and your fitter.

The last word is very important. The rules of golf place limits on manufacturers. It shapes what they can create and sell so the adjustment of that product to the golfer themselves is the key to maximizing performance. Subtle variations can make all the difference in improved results. A few additions in the 917 designs, particularly the driver, make it easier than ever to match a club properly with a golfer.

If you want the basic facts on the new 917’s you can check our post here, but I will tell you why the new design variations become important for me personally. It might have some resonance with you.

Last month I visited the Titleist Canada National Fitting Centre at Eagle’s Nest Golf Club north of Toronto. There, for the first time, I was able to get my hands on the new 917 range of Titleist Drivers and Fairways.

As usual with any new equipment, they were accompanied by plenty of hype, with early adoption by many Titleist Tour staff, and a swarm of content from the company themselves.

Getting hands-on was the only way to see if these clubs, particularly the driver, would be worth the retail cost. I previously had a 915 model driver fit for me and I wanted to see if the 917 could beat it in any way.

The first variance from the 915 line was the most obvious, the colour. Visually, colour of a clubhead is not a concern for me; I feel I can adjust to anything, be it white, blue, black, or even red. A new “liquid slate” finish on the 917 is only a slight departure from the black finish of the 915 but it falls in line nicely with their 816 hybrids which bear a similar look.

Next came a difference that I had not considered – the sound. A new high-speed face insert works nicely in concert with a refined channel in the sole near the clubface to maximize ball speed, specifically on off-centre strikes. A side effect of the new configuration also contributes to a more “powerful” sound that I will leave up the my fellow golfers to judge. I liked it but your mileage may vary.

Like the previous three generations of Titleist drivers, a Sure-Fit hosel allows shafts to be switched out easily and 16 loft and lie options help dial in those factors in the 917. But where is the next major step over the 915 models? I was looking for it and I found it easily in the Sure-Fit CG, a cylindrical weight that allows the 917D2 and D3 models to be really, really tuned in to the golfer.

Sure-Fit CG gives the potential for a more refined placement of the horizontal centre of gravity in the clubhead.  That may seem like a small detail in a world where many golfers believe the brand and the shaft make the biggest difference between clubs but it’s not. It’s vital to your success off the tee. To mine as well.

I’ll not get into a complete and scientific explanation of the centre of gravity (CG) and it’s importance on ball flight but know this, aligning the CG of the clubhead with the impact position of the golf ball returns more powerful and predictable results. You can read about it more in this golf tip.

So this is where the individual golfer and the need to fit CG comes into play. Titleist finds that almost 30% of their tour players need to alter the CG location (usually through internal weighting with hot-melt glue) in their drivers to optimize performance. Sure-Fit CG provides an easier way to make that happen in a matter of seconds.

For myself, I am a player who consistently has a ball strike pattern slightly towards the toe-side of the clubhead.  As a result (you can find out why in the golf tip I linked) I do not maximize ball speed and I also get unwanted gear effect curvature, even on a “good swing”.

This means that in the 915 driver I am compromised slightly unless I manage to strike the ball closer to the centre of the face where the CG is located. It does not happen nearly enough.

So this is where the Sure-Fit CG adjustment in the 917 comes in.  The cylinder located in the back of the sole allows mass to be adjusted horizontally in the clubhead. When I hit the 917D2 with the cylinder in a more neutral position I would average about 168mph of ball speed and also curve the ball the ball right to left due to a slightly toe strike. This was a familiar pattern with the 915 as well.

The results with the Sure-Fit CG adjusted to match my strike location. (Photo: Scott MacLeod)
The results with the Sure-Fit CG adjusted to match my strike location. (Photo: Scott MacLeod)

When the Sure-Fit CG cylinder in the 917 is placed so the mass moves more toe-ward in the clubhead (and brings the CG with it) the same strike with the 917 results in an increase of ball speed by 3-4 MPH and a straighter ball flight. Feel is also enhanced as I am hitting the ball closer to the intersection of where the clubhead is fully balanced.

The result was instant and it is the adaptability of the 917 design that allows for it.

Will that mean an improvement to your game with the 917D2 or D3 models?  There are no guarantees but the increased flexibility of the design alone certainly improves the chances that you can find some gains within it.

I’d suggest you see a good fitter when you test the Titleist 917 drivers and see if you can squeeze out some extra performance. The features of the design certainly make it a great possibility for just about any golfer.