A couple weeks ago, we saw an inspiring performance at the PGA TOUR's RSM Classic, as longtime Titleist golf ball loyalist Charles Howell III returned to Winner's Circle for the first time since 2007. Charles was playing the New 2019 Pro V1 golf ball for the first time at the RSM as well as 13 Titleist golf clubs, including a new TS3 driver and two TS2 fairway metals.
With barely enough time to catch his breath, Charles was kind enough to sit down with Team Titleist to share his thoughts on what it means to win again, how the new 2019 Pro V1 has helped his game and what advice he'd like to share with amateur golfers. Enjoy our conversation with Charles in the Q&A below.
Q: In your post-round press conference at the RSM, you spoke a lot about proving that you could win vs. believing you could win. What does proving it mean to you?
Charles: A lot of times you're asked, "Do you think you can win?", or "Do you think you can achieve this?" Obviously, most people will say, "Sure I believe in myself. I have confidence." But at the same time, until you actually see a real result, there’s always that tiny bit of uncertainty. But now that I’ve gotten over that hump, I have a new reference. It’s like, “Okay, I proved this to myself, I can now do it." So if and when I find myself in that position again, hopefully I'll be even more comfortable than I was this time and I’ll be able to just play my game. I can let the results handle themselves and know that my game is good enough.
Q: When your birdie putt fell to win in the playoff, how long did it take before your thoughts drifted to Augusta?
Charles: About three seconds. The first couple seconds, I wasn't sure if the putt really went in or not, so I was just breathing a massive sigh of relief. But then, yes, I realized I'd be going to The Masters. Now I know it's expected of me, being from Augusta and what not, but it really is in every player's head. The Masters is just the golf tournament of the year.
Q: When you won at Sea Island you became the first PGA TOUR player to win with the New 2019 Pro V1 golf ball. What were you looking for when you transitioned from 2017 Pro V1x into 2019 Pro V1?
Charles: So I loved everything about the Pro V1x ball, off the driver and the fairway metals, and that's why I played it. I thought it was fantastic. Well, when the 2019 models came out, and I was working with the Titleist guys, Fordie (Fordie Pitts, Tour Consultant for Golf Ball Performance) said, "You know Charles, I actually think you ought to give this 19-V a try." So we did some testing and I kept every bit of ball speed with the 19-V that I had off of the X, but I gained a little bit of a softer feel around the greens, which is something I really like.
Q: Did you test on the course as well as on the range?
Absolutely. Fortunately, this time of year at home where I live in Orlando, we had some wind, so I was able to get on the golf course and practice with it and that's when you can really see what a golf ball is all about. When you're having to hit an off-speed iron shot, and it's got to be a certain distance, or you're trying to work the ball into a crosswind, that's when you really, really know what you've got, and, for me, the 2019 Pro V1 was a home run. It took a short amount of time to see that and it went straight in the bag.
Titleist Tour Consultant Fordie Pitts on Charles's move into the 2019 Pro V1: Charles tends to have a mid to low trajectory and he likes to see a fairly flat flight. He's not one of these high bombers, but he is long - his driver launch conditions are somewhere around mid-to-high 170's mph ball speed, 7-9.5 degree launch angle (with the occasional 10°) and a spin rate around mid-to-high 2000 rpm. Charles has played both Pro V1x and Pro V1 over the past couple seasons. After the OHL Classic at Mayakoba he made the switch to '19V for the RSM. The move was obviously a good one, as he hit every fairway and every green in Round 1 at Sea Island in some pretty tough conditions.
Q: At the RSM Classic, we saw a PGA TOUR record with 83% of the field teeing up a Pro V1 or Pro V1x golf ball. Why do you think so many players on TOUR trust their games to a Titleist golf ball?
Charles: I think there's a few things. Number one is history, right? I mean, the Titleist brand has proven itself over a long period of time and that doesn't come easy and it definitely doesn't happen by accident. Then number two is, every single time you speak with a Titleist rep and they say a ball is going to do A, B, C, it does A, B, C. You see it in the fitting process, but also when you test the product on the golf course. Your trust goes way up because you know this is what it's supposed to do, and it does it.
Specifically talking about Pro V1 and Pro V1x, one thing that has always stood out to me is the distance control you get in the iron game. You really don't see any surprises, things that shouldn't happen. The consistency in terms how far this golf ball is going to go, it's just far superior to anything else.
Q: Do you think amateurs can also benefit from playing Pro V1 or Pro V1x?
Charles: The advantages we see on Tour definitely translate for the amateur player, too. Pro V1 and Pro V1x can maximize an amateur's distance, but they also provide better performance around the green. Nobody wants to play a golf ball where they feel like they have to sacrifice one or the other. For me, compared to any other ball out there, the Pro V1 still performs the best around the green. And that's where both pros and amateurs are going to see a difference in terms of score.
Q: What's one piece of advice or a drill that you could share with Team Titleist members?
Charles: The first thing I would say is to get fit for your equipment, including your golf ball. I think a lot of amateur golfers don't even realize that they can get fit for a golf ball. A lot of them just see balls on the shelf and say, "I guess I'll just pick this, because that's the one my friend told me to pick up."
The number one thing that people forget is that your equipment is supposed to help you. It's not supposed to be something that you fight. So the only way to ensure that is the fitting process. Getting fit for a golf ball, you know, it's the only piece of equipment that you use every single shot you play. It matters from the driver all the way down to the putter.
When I'm testing golf balls, I test it with every club in my bag. You can have player preferences. You may like to see a ball spin a little bit more. You may like a higher flight or a firmer or a softer feel, but all that comes out in the ball fitting process. A lot of times, even some guys I've helped, they thought they should play one ball and they actually ended up in another Titleist model that was fit for them and they liked much better.
And for a drill, I would actually hit a lot of balls where you consciously pause at the top of your backswing. So address the ball and make a normal swing until you get to the top. Come to a complete stop and hold it there for a second or two. Then come down smoothly from that still position and hit shots. This helps show you that there's enough speed created on the downswing to where the backswing and the transition don't have to be very violent.
Q: Do you remember the first Titleist golf ball you ever played?
Charles: It would have been junior golf, so it would have been when I was seven. This would have been like, 1987, '88, right in that range, so would it have been a Tour Balata or a Tour Prestige? I remember I won the National Championship with a Professional 90. I do remember that. I want to say, my goodness ... Yeah, it was either the Tour Balata or the Tour Prestige, I just can't remember which one it was.
Chase Howell (6) and his sister Ansley (8) at Titleist Ball Plant 3 in September.
Q: We understand that earlier this year your family visited Ball Plant 3, where Titleist makes its Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls.
Charles: Okay, so my son Chase is a golf maniac. My family flew up for the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston, and Titleist was nice enough to let them visit Ball Plant 3. My gosh did Chase have the time of his life. When I got home from the golf course that night, that's all I heard about for an hour. I heard that he saw the new ball before I did, that he saw how they were made, and I'd never seen how golf balls were made.
Then he also asked, would it be okay if he just bought Titleist, so that way he could make all the balls he wanted, and then he could keep all of them. Then maybe he could sell a few, so then we were discussing how much would it cost to buy Titleist. Yeah, so you've got a Titleist fan for life with him.
Q: What would Chase do if you were paired, final round Sunday with Justin Thomas?
Charles: Oh, man, trust me, he thinks Justin Thomas hung the moon. He knows JT's entire bag setup, he follows him on PGA Tour app, everything JT does... Yes. I don't even register on the scale, but if Justin Thomas is playing, it's the deal.
Thank you, Charles and congratulations on your return to winning form and for becoming the first player to win on the PGA Tour with the new 2019 Pro V1 golf ball. Wishing you continued success throughout the 2019 season!