Time for change at Titleist

This month Titleist is launching the 716 series of AP1, AP2, CB and MB irons. Simultaneously the 816 hybrid club series is also being launched. Matthew Johnson, Titleist brand director, discussed the details with Glyn Pritchard.

With the launch of the 816 series, Titleist is aligning its hybrid clubs with irons, instead of fairway metals and drivers for the first time. The rationale for this is better gapping says Johnson. “At the slow swing speeds of average golfers the difference in distance between long irons may only be a few yards. So grouping hybrids and irons allows for better gapping at the top-end of a set. It means that customers can invest in a mixed set with perhaps up to a six-iron and then hybrid clubs giving them better distance and forgiveness.”

Titleist-816H-HybridsBoth the new 716 AP1 and AP2 irons make use of tungsten to move weight to the periphery of the clubhead. There are over 42 grams of tungsten in the AP1 clubhead. “That amounts to about 17 percent of the total mass of the club and is about 50 percent more tungsten than used in the previous 714 series”, Johnson confirms. “It gives a high moment of inertia producing a very forgiving club.” The AP1 also has no support bar for the face. “That’s allowed us to create a 360 degree undercut cavity design with a large, thin face using stronger steel. It’s lowered the centre of gravity for improved launch which allows us to strengthen the loft for more speed and distance.”

While the AP1 is aimed at the improver market, the AP2 is designed for better players. “It has, what I would describe as a dual cavity construction, with tungsten again in the heel and toe. We use a co-forging process to place tungsten in the extremities to lower the CG and increase the MOI. It looks and feels great.” Just over 56 grams of tungsten are used in the AP2 clubhead which is 22 percent of the total mass and 25 percent more than used in the 714 AP2 series, which it replaces.

Tungsten is 2.5 times heavier than the steel Titleist use. Its extensive use and the engineering required for clubhead construction necessarily adds to the cost of the 716 series but Titleist have been able to keep the retail cost of the clubs virtually the same as the 714 series. Johnson states, “We have a two year replacement cycle for our irons and we will not bring a product to market that doesn’t show a significant improvement on what is replaced. Of course we balance cost of materials against the need to be competitive, but we don’t build to a price point and we will not compromise. The brief to our designers is to produce the best club possible and we’re comfortable with being at the premium end of the market, because we know that’s what our customers want.”

While the company is pleased to be considered a premium brand, its clubs are not just for better players, Johnson insists. “We have four families of irons in our range and that means we can provide clubs from the 716 AP1 to suit improvers through to our MB muscle back blades which are real shot makers clubs for players that like to work the ball. We produce the best clubs for players at all levels, not just the best clubs for the best players.”

To complement the 716 series, Titleist has introduced the 816 hybrids in two models; H1 launches higher to land soft, while the design of the H2 is more compact for greater control and distance. “We’ve introduced the 816 series now to allow golfers a better opportunity to achieve proper gapping in their long game and thus helping them to shoot lower scores.”

Johnson says that the standard eight iron set is becoming less common. “We now sell mainly sets of seven irons and we will sell mixed sets with any combination that best suits the individual golfer. Customers want that flexibility and we want to offer them that choice.”

A major factor in growth of mix and matched sets is custom fitting. “I think customers really benefit from custom fitting and 60 percent of the clubs we supply are fitted. For the UK market we assemble all our clubs at our St Ives production facility in Cambridgeshire, ensuring full quality control.”

The company has also had great success with trial sets as Johnson explains. “There are some players who are uncomfortable with club fitting and find going through the process with a pro a bit intimidating. So we have introduced trial clubs and it’s proved to be very popular. Most of our on-course retailers will take two sets of clubs for an average profile club golfer, but some take three or four sets with different specs to improve their offering. This allows prospective customers to take a set, or an individual club to the range or onto the course, where they can get a feel for them on their own. One pro at a club in north Wales told me it’s the best promotional tool for clubs he’s ever been involved with.”

Although Titleist will supply retailers with trial sets and fitting carts, Johnson still sees a place for ‘off-the-shelf’ club sets. “We sell plenty of pre-made club sets and I think they provide important merchandising for our retailers. Being able to see a rack of clubs in the pro shop is more impressive than a fitting cart. It provides a talking point and stimulates interest.  Our standard set of clubs is our most popular custom spec, and so can deliver that custom set although it has been taken off the rack.”

The club market remains tough and seems to be getting tougher, with new entrants competing for market share. How then can an established brand such as Titleist maintain its edge? “Since the brand was established over 80 years ago it has always been about a commitment to create the best products possible and that passion continues whether that be in golf balls or golf clubs.”

Titleist CB and MB irons improved

In addition to the launch of the new 716 AP1 and AP2 series irons and 816 hybrids, Titleist has made improvements to its CB (cavity back) and MB (muscle back) irons. “We’ve added tungsten weighting to the CB irons for the first time”, says Johnson. In fact there is now over 55 grams of tungsten weighting lowering the centre of gravity for a high MoI. “The improved CB clubs are more forgiving making them perform more like the old AP2 models. We think this increased forgiveness will encourage more of our retailers to stock the CB irons.”

Titleist-716-AP1-AP2-CB-MBThe ‘refreshed’ MB clubs are forged from 1025 carbon steel, with a sharper toe and thinner top edge. “The new profile is inspired by our old 680 series. It looks and feels like a shot makers club with input on the design from our tour players including Adam Scott and Webb Simpson.”

Finally Titleist’s T-MB utility irons have also been launched with the addition of a five-iron option in this line. The muscle back frame with a thin, fast, unsupported face increases speed and launch for more distance. “The new T-MB’s construction uses an average of 80 grams of tungsten in the clubhead, the most of any Titleist iron, providing a high launch and forgiveness. The high density tungsten weighting inside the body is used to drive the centre of gravity low, allowing for stronger lofts. The result is high launch, low spin and high speed for increased carry distance.”

Pricing

Titleist 716 AP1, steel £93 per iron; graphite £107 per iron

Titleist 716 AP2 steel £117 per iron; graphite: £133 per iron

Titleist 716 CB and MB irons both models have an RRP of steel £117 per iron and graphite £133 per iron

Titleist 716 T-MB utility irons have RRPs of steel £169 and graphite £189

Titleist 816H hybrids, RRP £205