So a guy walks into a bar that also doubles as a club fitting center and says, “Give me a beer and a driver that I can hit straighter than mine.”
Although Miles of Golf in Ann Arbor now boasts Pat’s Tavern offering adult brews on its heated Upper Deck with golf simulators, it’s a line rarely heard there. About the driver, not the beer.
“Everyone wants distance; we can’t sell straight,” said Brent Norton, Vice-President of Golf Shop Operations and a highly regarded club fitting authority. “Consumers never walk in here and say they need to hit it straighter. No, they want it to hit it longer.”
Include me in this bunch. Every few years, I make my way to Miles of Golf and its vaunted Cluboratory with its state of the art technology and expert fitters—like Norton—in search of an optimum launch angle and more distance off the tee.
Case in point was a few weeks ago when I made an appointment with Norton after hearing many favorable reports and anecdotes about the new Titleist TS drivers. This past season and last, I also witnessed increased yardage by several of my senior golf buddies after purchasing new Callaway, TaylorMade and Ping drivers. Dang, my four-year-old Titleist 915 D3 driver seemed to be lagging.
Norton said it was a fair and common observation. “We had a meeting with Titleist at the PGA Merchandise Show last January and we candidly shared our feedback that compared to its major competitors, its driver wasn’t up to snuff.” Instead of being defensive, Norton says Titleist listened to their concerns while reassuring them that help was on its way.
“They told us, ‘Don’t worry. What’s coming will compete with anything in the marketplace.’”
In September, Titleist introduced its new TS drivers and Miles of Golf promptly began using them with its first wave of Titleist players and customers.
“Simply put, this driver has done everything they (Titleist reps) said it would do,” said Norton who has led the Cluboratory staff for more than 12 years. “Speed wise, it’s as fast as anything out there and the launch condition is really, really good.” To sharpen the point, he said in over 50 driver fittings so far, the TS driver has outperformed the customer’s current driver. Every time.
Again, include me in the bunch. Under the keen eye of Norton and the all-knowing Trackman, I hit dozens of balls testing both Titleist models with various shafts and lofts. The TS2 is aimed at providing maximum forgiveness across its face while the TS3 offers an adjustable sweet spot for speed-tuned performance.
We tried both models but the TS3 proved the best for me after Norton made a few slight yet important adjustments in shaft, length and loft. The biggest benefit gained was the increase in the launch angle. My old driver delivered a launch angle of 9.2 but with the new one it shot up to 13.2. As a result, I picked up over 20 yards in carry, a significant improvement. I also increased my ball speed by three mph.
“Speed and the launch angle of a driver are huge factors in gaining distance,” said Norton. “And especially in Michigan when courses are often wet in the spring and fall, how far one carries a drive in the air is a major advantage.” He was also kind (good parenting, I imagine) to mention that seniors like me invariably lose ball speed and swing flexibility but that today’s equipment can mitigate against the dreaded effects of aging.
Though I knew the answer, I asked Norton what’s been the ingredients of Miles of Golf’s success—founded in 1996 by President Chris Mile and VP Doug Davis—when so many retail competitors are now offering club fitting and Trackman, benefits largely pioneered in Michigan by Miles.
“It’s being honest with our customers. If a player doesn’t need something to improve their game, we don’t sell it to them,” said Norton. “Our job is to find 14 clubs that work for players and help them enjoy the game more and be the best they can be. It’s much more than just selling equipment.”
With that as a mission statement of sorts, it’s not surprising that word of mouth and a large group of loyal customers sustain the heart of Miles of Golf’s marketing message and appeal.
Meanwhile, and thanks to Pat’s Tavern, it never hurts to marvel at picking up 20 yards off the tee while enjoying a tasty beverage. Cheers all around!