For someone who smiles and laughs as much as he does, Justin Thomas would be the first to tell you that he doesn't take himself too seriously. JT probably gets this trait from his Dad and swing coach, Mike Thomas, who also enjoys a zinger or a good joke on the range, putting green or during practice rounds.
So, it's fascinating to hear how serious the two are about his game, and his equipment.
This balance of fun and grinding has been working for team Thomas: Justin recorded 7 top-10 finishes in his 2015 rookie campaign and broke though with his first PGA TOUR win at the 2016 CIMB Classic. He has won at least one tournament every year since, highlighted by his performance in 2017, a season in which he won five times, won the TOUR's FedExCup race and captured his first major title at the PGA Championship. He now has 11 PGA TOUR victories on his resume, his latest win coming just weeks ago in Korea, at The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges.
And ever since Mike first put a golf ball on a tee for Justin, that ball has been a Titleist.
Justin's First Full Golf Ball Fitting
At the end of the 2018 season, Justin approached Fordie Pitts (Titleist Tour Consultant of Golf Ball Performance) and asked Fordie to help him plan a day of thorough golf ball testing. In short order, Fordie was on a plane and met Justin at The Bear's Club in Jupiter, Florida, where Fordie, Mike and Justin would put a number of Titleist Pro V1, Pro V1x and prototype models under the microscope. Visit our #ProvingIt pages for an inside glimpse at their evaluation.
This type of testing was something that Justin had never done before. Up until then he had taken a somewhat casual approach to choosing his golf ball. Team Titleist had a chance recently to sit down with Justin and he explained:
TEAM TITLEIST: What prompted the day of testing that Fordie took you through before the 2019 season?
JUSTIN THOMAS: Before Fordie came down to Jupiter, I hadn't really spent good quality time doing a ball testing. Every time a new ball comes out, Fordie will come up to me and he'll give me three or four balls. And I'll typically just go out and mess with them, try them out. But I wanted to address some parts in my game that could improve and so we looked at everything – the chipping and putting and irons and driver, every asset of the game. We just kind of went through one by one and and I was hitting different shots and trying to hit different trajectories and different spins and ball flights, everything we could think of.
TT: Where were you hoping to see improvement in your game?
JT: I was looking just to try to get a little bit more spin. With my longer irons, kind of 6- iron and up, sometimes my ball flight can get a little flat and shots won't hold the greens quite as well. And obviously more spin around the greens is good, too, just to have different shots and a little bit more versatility. So for me, I felt like if I could add a little bit more spin to my game, I could definitely benefit.
TT: Heading into your fitting with Fordie you were playing a Pro V1x model. What did you learn from your testing?
JT: Fordie had told me that he had a new Pro V1 prototype that launched a little higher and spun more than the 2017 Pro V1, so I think we were both curious to see how that model would perform for me. As it turned out, the ball was great. My distance control was great right away, which was most important, obviously. In switching, you need to be able to have the control to hit the ball the distance that you want with the spin that you want.
And I definitely saw a little bit more height in my irons, which is something I started looking at through that ball fitting process. The peak height of my long irons, they were kind of getting down into the high 70's (peak height in feet) and low 80's. They needed to be in the mid- to high-80's or even the 90's with those long irons for me to be able to hold the greens. And that's something that I was starting to see with the new Pro V1. And I definitely had a little bit more spin around the greens.
TT: When you're looking at peak height, is that something you want to be consistent throughout your set?
JT: Yeah, so that's something I learned with Fordie. I want to say everything from a 9-iron or 8-iron and above should all have around the same peak height, which was was kind of mind blowing to me. I never thought that that would be true. But going through the bag, pretty much everything should be around 100 feet for me. Obviously some of those drives when I try to hit them high and hard, I'm going to get 140, 150. But my stock iron shots should kind of fall in that 90 to 110 range. With the 4- and 5-iron, 6-iron, if it's not getting high enough, then I know I'm probably not going to be holding greens as well.
The Most Important Aspects of Golf Ball Performance
TT: You mentioned distance control and how that has to be really reliable. Is that the biggest consideration for you? Or are you looking at dispersion, or maybe trajectory, a window that you're hitting through?
JT: When you hit the shot and you look up, it definitley needs to be in a certain window, at least for me. So that's the first thing I look at. And then after that you need to be able to control your distance. You can't compete out here unless you can control your distance and leave the ball in the right place on the greens. That's how you're going to hit the ball close to the hole and make a lot of birdies. And that's something that I've always done really well in my game. So anytime I switch irons, switch balls, anything, I need to be able to control my distance.
TT: Is there a go-to shot that you need to rely on and did you look at that during testing?
JT: One shot that I hit a lot off the tee, I tee it really low with the driver and I kind of hit like a little squeeze fade out there. So for me, I need to be able to see that ball just fade a little bit. I've never hit – and I'm not just saying this – but I've never hit a Titleist ball that does anything weird. It's not like I hit a low cut with one ball and then I hit it a low cut with a different kind of Titleist ball and it draws or it falls out of the sky, you know what I mean? So they all perform very well. It's more how long the ball stays in the air. If it has a little bit of spin to it, if it maybe doesn't have as much spin to it.
TT: We saw from the videos that you spent time on the practice grounds as well as out on the golf course. Was it important to do both?
JT: I think for me going out and playing is actually the biggest part of testing. And in competition, sometimes it takes a couple of events to be like, okay, this is a good change. You can go hit balls all you want on the range or go chip as long as you want, but you need to get out on the golf course because you'll have holes that go different directions. You're going to have different wind directions. You have to hit different clubs, you need to play different shots – hitting it high and low, left to right, right to left. You need to go out on the golf course and test it.
If you think about it, when you're on the range and you see how a ball is flying out there, and suppose you have a 20 mile an hour wind off the right. After about probably four or five balls, you're not going to let that ball turn left anymore. You're going to do something. It's just anybody's human nature and the mind is going to react to that. Whereas, when you're on the golf course and you're hitting a different shot every time, you're not going to have that luxury of being able to get into a rhythm. So you're going to really see how the ball performs each and every time.
The Results of Justin's Golf Ball Testing
TT: Fordie told us that both Pro V1 and Pro V1x performed well for you. After your testing, you tried Pro V1 for several events, but ultimately you made a switch to Pro V1x. What went into that decision?
JT: Yeah, I think a lot of it for me, which I learned through that process was it needs to feel right around the greens. I need to be able to chip with it and I need to like the sound it makes, the feel it produces. And I need to like the feel when I putt, as well.
The Pro V1 was a great ball. I drove it probably the best I've driven it since I've been on tour. That little bit more spin was big for my driver. And kind of narrowing that window that I was hitting it in.
But the Pro V1 felt soft to me. And with a softer ball, I felt like maybe I need to putt it harder. It's weird but it's just kind of how the mind works. My speed wasn't very consistent with putting. And that was something I struggled with. And looking back at it, it was like, 'okay, this ball is great, but because of the sound around the greens and putting it's not right for me'. I like that click when I chip and putt, just the way you can hear it a little bit. So Pro V1x turned out to be the better all-around choice for my game.
Advice for Amateurs on Golf Ball Testing
TT: So now that you've gone through a full golf ball testing, what advice can you pass along to amateur players who are trying to find the right ball for their games?
JT: I think ball fitting is just as important as club fitting. What I always tell people is the ball is the only club in your bag that you have to hit on every single shot. You can't get away from that. If I were to guess, most amateurs use something that doesn't spin enough. They're not going to hit as many greens as we do and they're going to need to chip a lot more. So I think a ball that they can maneuver a little bit more or have the ability to hit more shots around the greens would be a big help.
TT: You recently attended a tour of our Ball Plant 3 facility. Did that change the way you think about your golf ball?
JT: I had all the faith in the world already, but after going to the ball plant earlier this year and watching the process, I think I somehow gained even more respect for the ball. It's not like I would hit a shot and be like, 'there's something wrong with this ball'. But if somehow that thought would ever creep into my head, it definitely won't now because the process to make the Pro V1 and Pro V1x is out of this world. So much time and effort and just little details go into making just one single golf ball, let alone every single golf ball they make.
There's so many little things that the ball has to do well, that you need it to perform to play well one round or even one hole, let alone four days. Yeah, I'm glad I get to use my Titleist ball every week.
Congratulations on your 11th win, Justin, and thanks very much for sharing your golf ball insights!