This past November, when he triumphed at the RSM Classic, simply seeing his name at the top of the leaderboard was reward enough for Charles Howell III. It had been 11 years since the longtime Titleist golf ball loyalist had last entered the winner's circle, and as he told Team Titleist shortly after raising the trophy at Sea Island, the performance validated years of hard work and perseverance.
After a few days of holding that trophy, however, the achievement began to sink in and Howell realized that he'd have to start making some new travel arrangements. He's enjoying the first of these changes to his schedule this week in Maui, where the PGA TOUR is ringing in 2019 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Howell, who is competing in this event for the first time since 2008 is one of 34 players in the elite field at Kapalua that is made up exclusively of winners from the the 2017-2018 season.
As we reported in Part I of our conversation in November, Howell trusted 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. We're happy to announce that CH3 is now officially a Titleist Brand Ambassador, and so we'd like to continue that conversation and dive a little deeper into the golf clubs that Charles will be relying on this year. Enjoy Part II of our conversation with Charles Howell III in the Q&A below.
Q: You've played a Titleist golf ball for some time now, but recently you've also begun playing a full complement of Titleist golf clubs. Has it been a smooth transition?
Charles: It's been easy to transition. Because of my experience playing the golf ball, my trust with Titleist is really, really high. The same confidence I've had over the years working with Fordie on the golf ball side has definitely carried over with Titleist clubs. Working with J.J. (Titleist Tour Rep J.J. VanWezenbeeck) and Aaron (Vokey Tour Rep Aaron Dill), I've seen that same reliability, you know? They tell me this club head or this grind is going to do A, B, C and it does A, B, C.
Q: Most recently, you put a new TS driver and two new TS fairway metals in the bag. How did that fitting process go?
Charles: Going into this part of my career, and given the way that the game is changing, I really felt that the driver, and the fairway woods were going to be the most important part of my equipment. I need something that I can hit far, but I also need something that I can hit straight. You know, I'm never going to hit the ball as far as the longest guys on Tour, but I need to maximize what I have - distance and accuracy.
Going through my testing, I know I wore JJ out. I think we went through eight to ten different driver heads. Where I ended up, right before I went to Asia, to the CIMB, was with a TS3 that I loved, and a TS2 that I loved. I could have, quite honestly, flipped a coin and played either one of them.
As it happened, there was a moment with the TS3 when we flipped the SureFit CG towards a slightly draw-biased setting, with a little more weight in the heel. It immediately knocked spin off and I was able to draw it just a touch. That second right there, I was like, "Holy cow, this is incredible. I'm going to use this driver now going forward."
I've played the TS3 in four tournaments so far and the one thing I've noticed is my driving has been much more stable. My ball speed has increased, for sure, but the overall dispersion of every drive I've hit, I'd say has been much tighter. Like I said, for me, that's extremely important.
Titleist Tour Rep J.J. VanWezenbeeck on Charles's setup: Charles tends to have a lower launch window, so anything that improved launch and decreased spin off the driver was a benefit. He tested great with TS2, and loved the high launch - low spin it created, but he is also a player who likes to curve the ball a little off the tee. Working with TS3 and moving CG weight to the heel, and moving to a SureFit setting of C2, we saw improved ball speed, a consistent controlled draw flight, and great spin / launch ratios.
Q: You're carrying two TS2 fairway metals. Tell us what the 21° TS2 does for your long game.
Charles: That club, kind of a 5-wood I guess you'd say, will honestly stay in my bag almost every event. We seem to play so many Par-3's now that are between 240 and 250, and then there are a lot of Par-5's, with fairly small greens. This club fills a distance gap, but it also lets me get the ball up in the air to stop it. The days of 2- and 3-irons I think are rapidly ending, and the 5-woods are definitely coming into play.
J.J. VanWezenbeeck : The fairways and irons were fairly plug-and-play for Charles. We discussed gapping at the top end of his bag and suggested the TS2 21° fairway as a good option for a high launching club that fit a yardage gap, allowing him to attack par 5's. Also on the top of the irons, we suggest T-MB as an option to help launch angle and ball speed and a better gap from 4-iron to fairway metals.
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WHAT'S IN CHARLES' BAG:
Golf Ball: New 2019 Pro V1
Driver: TS3 (10.5°)
Fairway: TS2 (15°, 21°)
Irons: 718 T-MB (4), 718 AP2 (5-7), 718 CB (8-PW)
Wedges: Vokey Design SM7 gap (52.08 F-grind), sand (56.08 M-grind) and lob (60.08 M-grind)
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Q: How did decide upon your set of mixed 718 AP2 and CB irons?
Charles: I've always played a cavity-back iron. I want as much help as I can get. Now, the challenge is, I don't like a ton of offset. So the AP2 gives me the forgiveness I need in the 5, 6, 7 while also looking good to my eye. And then as I move down the set, the CB is still a cavity back on the 8, 9 and pitching wedge, it still has forgiveness down there. But it gives me even less offset, which I prefer in the scoring clubs.
Q: What do you look for in your wedge setup?
Charles: My SM7's are pretty standard, but one thing I've learned from working with Aaron Dill is to start moving the bounce around a little bit from week to week. This year at The British Open was a big example of that, where that turf was so firm, and I'm quite sure Aaron got worn out that week from players asking for less bounce. Now, go to the flip side of it, and you get these golf courses now with these manicured runoff areas, and you get that grain into you. Guys are running back to Aaron as well, looking for wedges with more bounce. I really am taking course conditions into account more than I used to.
Aaron Dill, Vokey Tour Rep on Charles wedges: Charles and I have been working together on and off since 2009. Charles has been nothing but a gentleman during this stretch and extremely easy to work with. Looking at his specs, Charles has been very consistent, not needing to venture outside the box. He has usually gravitated to mid-width wedge soles. They seem to best fit his style of play. Charles is extremely bright and knows what works best for him, but in his wedge game he seems to be less analytical and very feel oriented. He relies on his touch to make sure that flight, spin, sound, and feel are meeting his expectations.
Q: Do you have any advice regarding clubs that you could share with Team Titleist members?
Charles: As I mentioned with the golf ball, the first thing I would say concerning clubs is to get fit for your equipment. It's very difficult, if not impossible to buy something straight off the rack and to play well with it. I think people underestimate how much tour players go through the fitting process, and then continually go through it. As I make golf swing changes, and as my swing hopefully evolves and improves, some of my equipment will need to change as well with that.
You know, the goal of this whole process isn't for you to fight your equipment. It's actually to make the game easier, and so if there's time taken through the fitting process, etc., you can actually build a set of golf clubs and get to a point where you're like, "Holy cow, I actually really like every club in my bag."
Thank you, Charles and congratulations on your return to winning form. Good luck this week at Kapalua and throughout the 2019 season!