“In a quarter mile, turn right onto Manchester Lane.”
The familiar sound of my trusty decade-old Garmin filled the rental car as I eagerly scanned the oncoming streets ahead. Making the turn, I continued down a quiet, house-lined road that seemed like any other sleepy southern Massachusetts neighborhood. Am I in the right place, I wondered?
But as I continued further, old homes turned to an unencumbered canopy of dense trees, and the vibrant green shades of perfectly manicured grass appeared faintly through the foliage ahead. At first blush, it almost seemed like a mirage, however this was no illusion.
Welcome to Titleist’s Manchester Lane.
From Protractors to Trackman
If you’ve heard of Manchester Lane, you likely know its one of Titleist’s two national fitting centers (the other resides in Southern California), where many Titleist tour pros head to dial-in their clubs. However, this somewhat hidden gem also serves as the primary testing facility for all Titleist golf balls. Today’s Manchester Lane is absolutely incredible, but the story behind this place reveals so much more.
Upon my arrival, I met Karen, an expert club fitter who’s stout resume (that includes 2 US Women’s open appearances and 20+ years experience with Titleist) is only surpassed by her real-life knowledge of the craft. We began my Manchester Lane experience with a quick tour.
Karen began by explaining how the room we stood in – which now served as a welcome area, desk space, equipment storage, and a workshop for clubs – was the very quarters of the first ever golf simulator. It all began in the 1980’s, in this 50ft-by-50ft room, where engineers used the likes of blackout shades, protractors, and good old mathematics to calculate and measure the detailed metrics we all take for granted today.
This was a time when computers were yet to be mainstream, and the instantaneous feedback of Trackman and Pro Tracer technology was but a dream of the future. Just another reminder that Titliest has always been at the forefront of golf ball and equipment testing. Over the years, the dark room and protractor have been swapped for cutting edge technology, where Titleist’s trained professionals use Manchester Lane for golf ball testing and club fitting alike.
A quick walk around the remainder of the building revealed some cool stuff like the wall of fame – golf balls signed by many of the tour pros, athletes and celebrities (think guys like Adam Scott & Tom Brady) who have been fitted at Manchester Lane – and some robotic technology hard at work with ball testing. I sure would kill to have that robot’s swing!
The inside is cool, but the outdoor facility is amazing. Karen led me outside to the perfectly manicured grounds, where the Manchester Lane Superintendent and his assistants (yes, this place has a dedicated super!) were hard at work. The driving range is expansive, stretching 300+ yards from the main teeing ground (and 380 yards from a back tee built specifically for the long-drive guys), but the coolest attribute was the 100 yard long, 30 yard wide, perfectly flat putting green.
Time To Get Fit
After the tour, it was time for my very own Titleist club fitting at Manchester Lane. That’s one of the best things about this place – not only do they conduct club fittings for Tour pros, but you can set-up your very own fitting here with an appointment, too (more details below).
I was beyond excited to be properly fit for a full new set of clubs as it had been years since I did any sort of fitting – and admittedly, it wasn’t the most advance fitting at that. I met with Chris, a class A professional, member of the Titleist Player Research team, and the one who would be getting me dialed-in.
Chris led me to the main tee box where the fitting would take place. Ever done a fitting at a packed-out range where patches of grass are at a premium? Well, this is not that place. The fittings are private, which translates to being one of the few people on property. The grass is as lush and as pristine as any. And I should note, all fittings are always, always done outdoors. (Unconfirmed rumors have it that Tom Brady showed up in the middle of winter, and the heat lamps were brought out to pull off his fitting in the brutal cold!)
This is rule #1: never get fit hitting into a screen indoors. Technology has become a crucial part of club fitting, and should always be utilized, but the human component remains just as important. It’s imperative to take real-life ball flights into consideration when analyzing the numbers from Trackman, so outdoor fittings by a knowledgeable professional are an absolute must.
Manchester Lane also faces the prevailing wind, which is another desirable factor in a fitting. Hitting into the wind (instead of down / cross wind) should be the expectation, too.
On the teeing ground, a sea of different club heads and shafts awaited our arrival. In total, this facility boasts 1,600 different head and shaft combos, so trust they’ll find the perfect fit for you! And as you’d expect, there was a Trackman ready to spit out all the important metrics.
Manchester Lane “Tee-to-Green” Fitting
Let’s take an in depth look at what the Manchester Lane fitting experience is all about.
Be sure to bring your sticks to the fitting. Chris began by having me go through a normal warm-up routine with my current set of clubs. The purpose was two-fold: 1) to get loose and 2) to have a few baseline numbers on Trackman.
2) Iron Fitting
First-up were the irons. We started with a 7-iron, and although my current set has blade short irons, a desire for a little more forgiveness led us to test the Titleist AP2 irons.
As a general rule of thumb, golf ball spin rate with your irons should be roughly 1000x the iron number. So for a 7-iron, you want the spin rate to be around 7,000 rpm. I always assumed that my spin rate was high given my ball flight is a high fade. That would be the norm for such a ball flight, but as we quickly found out, that wasn’t the case!
My spin rate for my current 7-iron setup was registering closer to 5,000 rpm, primarily resulting from shafts that weren’t the best for me.
So we tested a few different shafts, focusing on spin rate, ball flight, and the overall feel. It’s important to optimize numbers while ensuring player feel is on point, too. I was impressed by how interactive the experience turned out to be. Chris continued to share numbers, explaining what they meant, how the equipment changes we were making should enhance them, and asking for feedback on feel.
Once we honed in on the best shaft, I then tested the same setup in the 5-iron to ensure everything clicked in a longer iron, too.
Interestingly, we decided to go with a +1/2” long shaft vs. the +1” long shaft in my current set. I’m 6’5” tall, but we discovered the extra long shaft was creating some bad habits, allowing me to get a bit lazy with my swing rather than staying down and through shots. Shortening it up a bit, my initial shots were thin, but after half a dozen or so balls – and really focusing on compressing the ball – I was flushing shots repeatedly with super crisp contact.
3) Driver + Woods
Next up was the always fun driver fitting. I was super excited to try the Titleist TS2, but before we started ripping Titleist’s newest driver technology, I hit ten or so drives with my current setup. Chris analyzed the Trackman numbers, but also paid close attention to ball flight on both misses and well struck shots.
He immediately noticed that the ball flight seemed a little flat, falling from the sky quicker than expected. It wasn’t overly obvious, but I too had felt like this was a struggle for me. Not surprisingly to him, my launch angle and spin rate were too low, resulting in lost carry distance. The low spinning head combined with an extra-stiff, super low spin shaft I currently had in the bag was simply not the right combo for me. Rather than the 1,600 rpm rate I was seeing, we needed driver spin to be closer to 2,500 – 3,000 rpm.
I then switched over to the Titleist TS2 and sampled a few different shafts.
After hitting 3 or 4, we landed on a setup that had me launching it higher and achieving a spin rate right around 2,600 rpm. Boom. The result was an additional 9 yards of carry, and a much tighter shot pattern with the TS2. Ahh, the benefits of a club fitting!
After the driver, we went through a similar exercise with the 3-wood and hybrid, honing in on setups that worked just as well off the ground as they did on a tee.
Last but not least, we moved onto wedges. These are without a doubt the most overlooked clubs in the bag in terms of being fit and understanding the specs and purpose of each.
I worked through a medley of different lofts and bounces on the range, mostly hitting half-and-three-quarter shots – which are my most common swings on the course. Once we honed in on a set I was comfortable with, we took them over to the short game area to see what they were made of in a variety of situations. After all, even the best players miss 5 or 6 greens per round, so wedges are super important for scrambling.
In addition to the 100-yard-long perfectly flat green I mentioned earlier, Manchester Lane also boasts a pretty slick short game area. It’s got a nice sized, very sloped green with three bunkers, thick rough, and a fairway that allows you to go back and hit shots up-to 100 yards. I spent a long time here, ensuring the setups of each were to my liking.
Interestingly, Chris had put a 60-degree wedge in my hand with 12-degrees bounce, which I initially thought was too much. I generally reserve this club for shots off tight lies where I need to get the ball to sit quickly. So we tested a tight fairway lie to a pin tucked over a bunker (with a downslope to boot). I opened the club face wide, hitting a big flop and voila – the ball lofted high into the air, landing softly and rolling to 6 feet beyond the hole.
What I learned was despite having 12-degrees of bounce (vs. my current 6-degrees), the grind of this wedge was designed to be versatile, acting like a low-bounce wedge when opened up on firm turf, and a higher-bounce wedge when kept more square – perfect for shots from the rough or fluffy-sand bunkers. Again, if not for the fitting, I would have instinctively grabbed the low-bounce lob wedge, not knowing the benefits of this specific Titleist wedge grind. These are the little things that matter in our constant pursuit of shooting lower scores!
The End Result
The entire Manchester Lane experience was nothing short of amazing, and I couldn’t be more happy with my decision to be fit for new Titleist clubs. I learned a ton about my own game, and in turn the equipment needed to ensure I get the most out of my skill set.
That is by far the biggest takeaway – spending time with a professional club fitter to understand your own numbers is imperative to maximize your own game. I absolutely recommend you too get fit – it’s importance cannot be overstated!
I’m pumped to get my new clubs in play soon, and to report back on how the changes have impacted my ball striking. Look for a “What’s in the bag” post in the coming month or so, where I’ll dive into the equipment (and specs) I ultimately chose.
Want to be custom fit at Manchester Lane?
Remember, the Manchester Lane experience is open to the public, so if you’re in the south-Boston area and want to enjoy a tour quality fitting experience, follow the link below for pricing, options, and to set up an appointment. Or, find a Titleist club fitter near you for a similar experience.