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Advanced thinking, advanced performance - Titleist irons range

It’s been more than two years since Titleist last launched a new set of irons – an eternity in today’s equipment industry. But the R&D team have been biding their time with some slick technological twists. Dominic Pedler gets to grips with the latest evolution of the elaborate AP series, along with the other new irons.

Titleist launches are invariably intriguing affairs for the way they challenge our preconceptions about the very basics of golf equipment design. And, with the latest generation of AP irons, the R&D team are out to refute the great equipment myth that the more forgiving you make a golf club in terms of its performance on offcentre strikes, the less ‘workable’ it must inevitably be for shaping shots.

“We believe fundamentally that you can have greater forgiveness without losing workability,” explains Steve Pelisek, General Manager for the company’s club division, when unveiling the 712 series of AP1 and AP2 designed to let golfers have their cake and eat it.

In dispelling this great design dilemma Titleist makes the subtle distinction between, on the one hand, the ability of the clubhead to remain stable at impact and, on the other, its responsiveness to any subtle manipulation by the golfer prior to making contact with the ball.

“It is a misconception that you cannot enjoy both these benefits at the same time. But golfers have become resigned to believing they must choose one or the other because most clubs are designed in ways that reinforce that myth,” adds Pelisek. He’s referring in particular to the trends towards irons with ever larger head sizes and longer blade lengths which improve impact stability but, at the same time, reduce the golfers ability to work the face angle. [See below, MOI Revisited, for a short technical summary].

Increased forgiveness with no loss in workability – that’s the promise from Titleist as it introduces its latest AP Series of multi-material dual-cavity performance irons.Intent on creating a club with the best of worlds, Titleist challenged themselves to make this third generation of APs more forgiving than their predecessors – yet in a stylishly compact package that still allows the shot shapers amongst us to rotate the face on demand.

For those not familiar with the Advanced Performance franchise, these are Titleist’s most technically sophisticated irons featuring multi-material, dual cavity designs offered in AP1: the larger, most forgiving model in cast stainless steel; and AP2: a sleeker (yet still ‘game improvement’) forging particularly popular on tour. They first hit the headlines in 2008 when Adam Scott shot his infamous 61 to take the Qatar Masters with the first model of AP2, while as I write this, rising star Michael Hoey has just played the new 712 edition of the same club to victory in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.

At first glance the new AP models looks surprisingly similar to the 710 edition we first saw in 2009. But in terms of the essential aesthetics, that’s rather the point. The basic dual cavity ‘chassis’ is almost unchanged, with the slightly shorter long-iron blades and newly polished topline of the AP1, and the squarer toe and narrower short-iron solewidths of the AP2 (as especially requested by tour players) being the main discernible changes.

Delve further and you can spot other improvements, with the AP1 now offering progressively shorter blade lengths through the set rather than the noticeable ‘step’ down to the shorter short irons, starting at the 8- iron, as previously. But the most important changes are ‘under the hood’ – most notably the use of pure tungsten as the chosen sole and toe weighting material, supported in the AP1 by a new steel cradle.

As well as being considerably more expensive than the tungsten-nickel alloy of the 710 series, it is also far denser with relatively small amounts delivering the required improvement in heel and toe weighting in both models – but without making the club any bigger – or, crucially, the blade any longer. It is this that emerges as the key to Pelisek’s performance claim.

The 712 AP range was only unveiled after robot and tour player testing had confirmed the performance improvements as measured both by tighter dispersion and faster ball speeds on deliberately off centre strikes.

Meanwhile, as we found in our own tests last month, both models retain the superb feel helped by the soft elastomer and aluminium plate in the cavity that both dampen unwanted vibration and magnify the ‘goodfeeling’ frequencies that the R&D guys now strive scientifically to identify and isolate.

While the take-up rate among tour pros has been impressive (almost half the staffers switched to the new AP2 within the first two weeks), perhaps most interesting is the potential of the 712 AP1 given how Titleist is clearly out to widen their appeal within the amateur market. A point confirmed both by this painstaking focus on forgiveness and the choice of True Temper DynaLite Gold XP as the standard steel shaft – a highly manageable mid-weight model whose Regular flex is some 10g lighter than the traditional weight Dynamic Gold of the AP2.

There seems to be a trend among discerning higher handicappers to appreciate that they can get all the necessary performance they need without having to resort to excessively chunky-soled, hybrid-style irons – a point borne out by Mizuno’s recent ditching of their entire MX range in favour of the superior yet more compact JPX. Titleist never went oversize in the first place but, certainly with the 712 AP1, should reinforce their position in this growing market.

If so, expect AP1 to overtake AP2 as the company’s most successful model even if the latter steals their thunder on tour. Guide: Titleist AP1 irons £93 per club/steel, and £107 per club/graphite.

AP2 £114 per club/steel and £130 per club/graphite.

MOI Revisited - A techie take on forgiveness and workability

According to Titleist’s experts, the key to appreciating how you can have both forgiveness and workability at the same time within a single clubhead design is to understand the two different measures of Moment Of Inertia.

When talking about the forgiveness of a club, MOI relates to the stability of the face at impact in the heel-to-toe plane. The higher this type of MOI, the more resistant the clubface is to twisting on off-centre hits which, in turn, are punished less in terms of losing distance and accuracy.

In contrast, ‘workability’ can be explained with reference to its own separate measure of MOI reflecting the rotation of the clubhead around the axis of the shaft (i.e. how easily can you open and close the toe?). This measure is very dependent on the position of the centre of gravity which, especially in an iron, will largely reflect the physical length of the blade.

Here, the higher the MOI the less the clubhead rotates through impact which is not necessarily beneficial. Even less skilled golfers need to be able to square the face, while better players require a certain ease of rotation to manipulate the face open or closed for shot-shaping.

Hence Titleist’s emphasis on these two different measures of MOI when designing the blade lengths and weighting of the new AP irons.

Technically minded readers will know there is actually a third measure of MOI in golf club parlance which refers to the ease with which the club as a whole can be swung according to the distribution of weight along its length. This will depend on the relative weight of the head, shaft and grip, with many manufacturers experimenting with different combinations to seek that extra edge of ‘swingability’.

Titleist 712 CB and MB irons: subtle tweaks for the better ball striker

For all the high technology stories of the AP series let’s not forget the simpler, more classic constructions of these pure forgings of 1025 carbon steel that are targeted to the highly skilled end of the player spectrum. With very little offset and a thin topline these models account for barely 10% of Titleist’s sales and yet the MB musclebacks are the company’s most popular irons on tour (Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Ross Fisher, Robert Karlsson, etc) – despite the inroads made by AP2.

The most obvious change for the 712 edition is a smooth fashionable anti-glare satin finish that replaces the traditional chrome in both models.

Meanwhile, a side-by-side comparison with the previous generations reveals that both the new MB and CB models feature a redesigned back in a style known as the “dog bone”, named after the slightly larger surfaces in the heel and toe while narrowing behind the impact area for a more solid feel. More subtly still, the trailing edge of the MB has been relieved very slightly in the heel area – as specifically requested by Fowler himself to improve the turf interaction. The new CB (as played to the $10 million FedEx jackpot by Bill Haas) retains its more forgiving, playable recessed cavity that offers a higher launch than the MB from the lower centre of gravity.

Guide: Titleist 712 CB and MB £110 per club (steel)/£125 (graphite).

Spreading the Titleist net: The Moderate Swing Speed initiative

Keen to portray themselves as a brand for serious golfers of all levels, Titleist have come up with a strategy to ensure their clubs are user friendly over a wider range of player. This goes well beyond just also offering the AP1 irons in a standard graphite option (the Tour AD by Graphite Design) alongside the mid-weight steel. Most interesting is the Moderate Swing Speed initiative that offers line extensions to existing ranges involving specific shafts and loft options ideal for golfers with ball speeds of less than 130 mph (or up to about 85 mph in terms of driver swing speed).

“For most players with these lower speeds, a typical driver loft of 10.5 degrees does not provide the optimal launch conditions for maximum distance,” explains General Manager, Steve Pelisek, unveiling the 12-degree version of the Titleist 910D2 driver and a matching Fairway wood and Hybrid in 21- and 27-degree lofts, respectively. Complementing the lofts are especially designed Mitsubishi Bassara W series lightweight graphite shafts of between 45-53g, and manufactured with an Elastic Titanium Nickel wire component that helps the shaft recover efficiently at these lower speeds to improve stability. “While the shafts help with improving clubhead speed, it’s the more optimal spin rate and launch angle from the higher lofts that combine for significantly greater carry distance for these slower swinging golfers,” says Pelisek, as we discuss the launch monitor results of an 11- handicapper suggesting a 4-yard distance increase from the newly spec’d 910 driver.

The effect is also to restore the distance gaps between clubs at the longer end of the set, which, for many slower swing players, can be limited to just a few yards between nominally different clubs with conventional shafts and lofts. “A 27-degree hybrid can be a more valuable club to these golfers than a conventional 5-iron. There’s simply no point in carrying clubs that do the same thing,” concludes Pelisek highlighting, once again, the importance of proper club fitting.


Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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