ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA (June 27, 2011) -- From the sun's rays and crashing waves to the singing birds and beautiful seascapes, it looks and sounds and feels like an island vacation.
Better yet, it's an island fitting. And those happen to be Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls soaring alongside the seagulls.
"It's pretty nice when you walk out to your office and the ocean is right there," says Craig Allan, an authorized Titleist fitter and Manager of The Sea Island Golf Learning Center on St. Simons Island, Ga., one of five Titleist Regional Fitting Centers within the Titleist Fitting Network.
Most days from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Allan is on the Sea Island range fitting golfers for their optimal equipment setups, his brain working just as diligently as the Trackman launch monitor sitting on the turf below him.
Just about 15 feet away, you'll find Curtis Leggett, an authorized Titleist fitter who has been at Sea Island for 25 years, doing the same thing.
"We're highly-skilled fitters, that's what we do full-time. We stand out there and we fit all day," says Allan, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and moved to Alabama in 1995 to play college golf. He has lived in America ever since, working as a fitter at Sea Island for the last eight years.
For Allan and Leggett, the main goal is always the same: Determine the equipment setup that will help the golfer achieve total confidence on every shot.
"When you take an advanced fitter, the technology of the Trackman, and the extensive Titleist shaft matrix like we have, you can't have anything but a great experience and a thorough fitting," Allan says.
It's a meticulous process that requires both a technological and human touch.
For example: While Allan possesses a keen understanding of the characteristics of each shaft in the Titleist matrix, he says "certain shafts do certain things for certain golfers. Every single fitting is another lesson about what a shaft can or can't do."
And so the education is nonstop, with Allan and Leggett each conducting up to seven fittings per day in the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean and St. Simons Sound.(At 5 p.m., Allan packs up the fitting equipment, then heads to his office to call in the orders from the day.)
"It is great to know all the specs of all the clubs and shafts, but real-life experiences will give me the best possible chance to help every player," he says."You can't take the fitting manual out there with you."
In the following Q&A, Allan talks more about the club fitting experience at Sea Island and reflects on his beginnings in the game:
TEAM TITLEIST: How did you get started in golf?
CRAIG ALLAN: I started following my dad around the golf course when I was about 4 years old. In South Africa we did not have golf carts, so I used to walk a hole or two and then wait under the trees in shade until they circled back around to me. I would take one club and a ball and just hit it around in the rough. I did not get my own set until I was 7 or 8 years old.
TT: What was it that first interested you in teaching and fitting? Did you have a mentor?
I used to hang around the golf shop at my home course (Modderfontein Golf Club in Johannesburg) and drive the head pro, Mike DeVilliers, crazy with all my questions. He and my dad taught me to play and he was always patient with me as I really did ask a lot of questions. (He received his initial Club Fitting Training in Johannesburg at the age of 17.)
TT: How would you describe your philosophy as a club fitter?
CA: I would say that I am a fairly conservative in my fitting philosophy, but at the same time I am not afraid to try something a little different if I feel like it can make the player better. At the end of the day, it should be the goal of the fitter to give the player the best possible opportunity to succeed with their clubs.
TT: I've booked a fitting with you for the first time. What's my day going to be like?
After arriving at The Learning Center, you will be directed to the range to warm up. At your scheduled time, I will meet you in the fitting area and we will briefly discuss your game, including strengths, weaknesses and goals for the fitting.
The fitting will take approximately two hours, during which we will analyze your clubs on Trackman and fit you into new clubs or tweak your current equipment, making sure you walk away with the optimal setup for your game.
TT: Can you take us through a recent or memorable fitting that you've done, where the golfer may have had that "Aha!" moment?
CA: I recently fitted a young man who had been struggling with his game for a while. Even though he was taking lessons, it did not seem to be helping like he thought it should. He was fairly tall and after watching him hit balls for a little while, it occurred to me that the reason he could not stay in his posture through impact was that his clubs were too upright and long. This may seem like a simple fix to me or any other experienced fitter, but to the player it was a huge deal as had been told that he needed much longer and more upright clubs than everyone else as he was taller than average. In doing so, he completely lost his game. Worse than that, he was blaming himself.
TT: How do you stay on top of your game?
Unfortunately, I don't get to play much with a very busy work schedule and two small children. But I like to hit balls for a few minutes at the end of a busy day. We have the most beautiful range in the world.
A closer look at The Sea Island Learning Center:
• Two full-time authorized Titleist club fitters (Craig Allan, Curtis Leggett).
• Two Trackman launch monitors; V1 swing analysis software.
• Approximately 4,500 square feet with full-service workshop, fitness room, putting studio and three video analysis rooms.
• Practice facilities include 300 yards of tee area on the primary tee with multiple target greens framed by bunkers.
• Extensive short game area with three chipping greens and three putting greens.
• Award-winning teaching staff, including 2010 PGA Teacher of the Year and Titleist Advisory Member Todd Anderson.
• Expert training in five core competencies: Long Game, Short Game, Golf Fitness, Club Fitting and Mental Game.
• Home to two championship courses: Seaside (host of PGA Tour's McGladrey Classic) and Plantation.• Training ground for several current PGA Tour players, including Titleist Brand Ambassador Zach Johnson.
• Phone: (912) 638-5119
• Website: http://www.seaislandglc.comTo learn more about the Titleist Fitting Network and to find an authorized Titleist fitter in your area, please click here.