The new Titleist 917 metalwoods family of drivers and fairway woods is replete with technology enhancements, but all those features really serve one purpose: To make it more likely that a player will find a club that matches up with his tendencies and enhances his capabilities. In other words, optimizing the perfect fit one player at a time.
The key feature that pushes the Titleist 917 drivers and fairways to a new level of optimizing individual performance is a weight cylinder that can be oriented in the sole to alter the center of gravity and affect trajectory, direction and how a player squares the face at impact. Dubbed “SureFit CG,” this unique take on movable weight technology came directly from the experience of Titleist’s research and development team with its extensive tour staff.
“We discovered that about 30 percent of our tour players were customizing the center of gravity location by using a light flat weight and using hot melt,” said Stephanie Luttrell, director of Titleist metalwood development, who equated the more precise level of weight movement of the SureFit CG system vs. hotmelt with the same level of precision in the company’s 16-way adjustable hosel vs. simply bending the hosel by hand.
“If 30 percent of the world’s best players are needing help in terms of manipulating the center of gravity to get their face to square up appropriately for them, then there’s a huge potential for the golfing public,” Luttrell said.
The weight system, which features both a neutral weight and a draw-fade weight that is heavier on one end, is uniquely positioned at an angle in the sole to promote better spin consistency for the draw and fade positions, encouraging a little more spin in the draw setting, while minimizing spin in the fade setting. It’s all part of a measured approach to the idea of adjustable weight so that the system doesn’t negatively affect the clubhead’s moment of inertia, or off-center hit stability.
“We didn’t want to find ourselves using up discretionary mass in an area where it really doesn’t benefit or impact the vast majority of golfers,” Luttrell said.
The Titleist 917 metalwoods’ adjustable center of gravity system also may have an effect that goes beyond the physics of repositioning mass, and one that may be even more beneficial, Luttrell said. “When you can take one side of the golf course out of play, then it frees you up to swing more confidently and more aggressively towards the golf ball,” she said. “When we’ve seen players do that, they gain more clubhead speed and ball speed, and it’s difficult to give players more clubhead speed.
“You can give a person more consistent impact when you find their right cg location... It is a trajectory tool for right to left, but when you properly fit it, it absolutely is about distance.”
The 917 drivers, the 917D2 and 917D3, feature several upgrades from the 915 drivers. Most notable are refinements to the channel at the front part of the sole to improve flexibility in the lower half of the face and also reduce spin. The channel has been selectively thinned in the heel and toe section compared to the 915’s constant thickness.
Also enhanced is the 917 drivers’ face insert. The variable thickness face features eight distinct areas around the center section. Each section is designed with a constant thickness that varies from section to section and is consistently thinner in the top and bottom of the face than they were on the 915 drivers.
The 917D2 is a 460-cubic centimeter model with a deeper center of gravity, a higher MOI and a higher flight than the 440-cc, lower spinning 917D3 (about 250 rpm less, according to Luttrell). The 917D2 is full pear shape, while the 917D3 is a tour-inspired more compact pear shape.
The Titleist 917 fairways feature a more dramatic tweak to the sole channel seen on the 915 fairways. In order to increase face flexibility, the channel is open into the head and is filled with an elastomer insert that features a concave depression to provide more give at impact and thus more ball speed potential. “This allows the channel to deflect in the way it would if the insert wasn’t there,” Luttrell said.
The fairways also incorporate a variable face thickness design to improve off-center hit ball speed.
The 917F2 features a larger profile for more forgiveness, while the 917F3 is a more compact design with a deeper face and less spin.
The Titleist 917 metalwoods, which debuted on the professional tours this summer with wins by Greg Chalmers at the Barracuda Championships and Jimmy Walker at the PGA Championship, will be available in stores October 21, although Titleist has scheduled a national fitting day for September 17. The 917D2 is offered in 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees, while the 917D3 will come in 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 degrees. The retail price will be $500. The 917F2 fairway wood is offered in 13.5-, 15-, 16.5-, 18- and 21-degree lofts, while the 917F3 is offered at 13.5 and 15 degrees. The retail price is $320.
But Titleist is dipping its toe into this pool as its R&D team has been pushing management to give it some addition room to work with on the club side of the business. In turn management is throwing the ball back in R&D’s court by saying let’s see what you can do. The result is Titleist Concept Clubs have been unveiled. In speaking with Titleist officials, the company’s engineers have expressed a strong belief that it can do more with club performance and yet stay well within the equipment rules governing the game. In large part equipment is often engineered with the best players in the world in mind. Yet only a relative few are fortunate enough to be considered in this category and frankly, they never pay for their equipment. But they validate the product and process to those that ultimately fund the golf economy.
The new Titleist Concept Clubs initiative provides an avenue to showcase highly innovative technologies, ultra-premium materials, advanced construction methods and cosmetic treatments that result from this rigorous, ongoing R&D process, the company said. Concept Clubs can also provide golfers a glimpse into the future, as Concept product technology may (or may not) transition into next generation in-line Titleist products. By their nature, Concept Clubs are super premium and released in extremely limited quantity (in the U.S. only). So while it isn’t necessarily intended to be a growth platform in terms of revenue possibilities, it could quite easily become a testing/proving ground for something that may be in a future Titleist product. Meanwhile, don’t be surprised if this topic enjoys a considerable amount of buzz. For example, the Titleist Concept C16 Driver is carrying a minimum advertised price of $999. Factor in the taxman and its well over a grand. Titleist said it will only produce 1,500 drivers.
The equipment business and especially the retail sector have been challenged with respect to price expansion throughout the years. The limited quantities will undoubtedly go fast, in part since the volume isn’t that significant relative to the overall market. Golf still possesses some early adopters, the kind that have to be the first to have something and Titleist also enjoys a strong following of “serious” players. In the instance of Titleist Concept Clubs, fitting is a necessity, but not mandatory. The company isn’t looking to create a new category in the equipment space, according to Titleist officials. In fact, its R&D department is said to be extremely optimistic that it can increase the distance recreational players hit the ball. Titleist also has 1,000 sets of C16 irons that it will be selling. The minimum advertised price is $2,699 (set of 8, steel), $2,999 (set of 8, graphite), which will immediately eliminate many from considering it. According to VP of Golf Club Marketing, Josh Talge, the C16 irons can play one club longer than Titleist’s AP1s with the same loft. The C16 line will never see the light of day at retail. But it will generate word of mouth by those who elect to give them a try. “Titleist is about performance,” said VP of Golf Club Marketing, Josh Talge. “Titleist is also about innovation.”
It doesn’t require much imagination to see that Titleist is making a big push in 2016. The product launches continue as the company is looking to change the way golfers think about hybrids. The company announced its new Titleist 816H hybrids.
“Golfers have long thought of hybrids as ‘rescue clubs’ and not ‘scoring clubs,’ but we intend to change that perception. More golfers than ever are replacing long irons with hybrids and carrying multiple hybrids in their bags because of their performance benefits. Our new 816H models are technically advanced scoring clubs that have better shot stopping ability and can improve yardage gaps at the long end of the set,” said Chris McGinley, Vice President, Titleist Golf Club Marketing. “Instead of thinking about getting out of trouble or just getting the ball close to the green, golfers can now think about hitting the green and stopping the ball closer to the pin more often.
“Our best club fitters on tour and in the market look at hybrids as a direct extension of the iron set, and fit golfers for hybrids and irons at the same time. For this reason, we’ve made the decision to put Titleist hybrids and irons on the same launch cycle.”
Available in golf shops worldwide beginning Oct. 23, 816H hybrids are available in two models, loft choices every 2º and a new 1º SureFit Tour hosel for independent adjustment of loft and lie. The 816H1 model has a larger profile that offers confidence at address, with slightly increased face progression that performs well from the rough, Titleist said. The 816H2 hybrids feature a more compact shape with a slight offset promises an iron-like shot control for players who engage the turf more aggressively.
Both models feature an Active Recoil Channel ? a long, deep channel, positioned along the sole of the clubhead, close to the leading edge ? that promises more distance by actively flexing at impact to launch the ball with lower spin and higher speed. The Active Recoil Channel (ARC) allows the entire clubface to deflect at impact for high speed. According to Titleist, ARC is particularly effective on hybrids, which are most often hit off the ground with the ball impacting low on the face. Shots hit lower on the face generally produce more spin, which is counteracted by ARC.
“The Active Recoil Channel has revolutionized distance for us across our entire metals line and really pushes us ahead of the pack in the hybrid category,” said Dan Stone, Vice President, Titleist Golf Club R&D. “But distance is still only one part of the equation. Golfers, now more than ever, are relying on their hybrids to hit precise golf shots and help them create more scoring opportunities. Our R&D philosophy of ‘distance and forgiveness’ ensures that we take the entire shot into consideration, not only how far it goes. 816 provides golfers with complete, consistent performance ? the distance to consistently reach the green, the trajectory to stop the ball on the green closer to the hole, and the forgiveness that delivers similar results even when the strike is off center. We haven’t made any sacrifices.”
The 816H hybrid line offers loft choices every two degrees from 19º to 27º. “For most golfers, long irons become more difficult to hit and produce shorter distances than desired. 816 hybrids extend those distances and really allow us to bridge that gap between the longest iron and the fairway wood,” said Stephanie Luttrell, Director, Titleist metalwood development. “Following extensive research and player testing, it’s our recommendation that the majority of players use 4-degree loft gaps to create appropriate distance gaps. That’s why we offer 2-degree loft increments, which gives us three pairs of hybrids (19º and 23º, 21º and 25º and 23º and 27º) spaced in 4-degree increments. And for the player who truly loves hybrids and prefers them over fairways woods, there is the option to carry three hybrids (19º, 23º and 27º).”
The 816H hybrids feature a new SureFit Tour hosel configuration that adjusts loft and lie independently in 1º increments (as compared to .75º increments on 915). The 1º increments mirror the adjustments typically made to irons, while allowing more fitting flexibility for players to try the same lofts at different shaft lengths. The adjustable SureFit Flatweight (available 6, 9, 11, 13 and 16 gram weights) provides further flexibility when fitting different loft and length options.
“In the past, golfers looking to replace a long iron only had one hybrid loft option. With 816, the number of choices has grown significantly,” Luttrell said. “For example, when replacing a 4 iron with an 816 hybrid, golfers can test both the 23º and 25º models, providing two different lofts at different lengths. Using the SureFit Tour hosel, both lofts can also be adjusted to 24º, providing the same loft option at different lengths. In addition, using interchangeable shafts and weights, the longer length shaft in the 23º can be tested in the 25º, while the shorter length shaft in the 25º can be tested in the 23º. A skilled fitter will employ all of these options to quickly dial in a golfer’s setup.”
During independent player testing, golfers on average experienced longer carry distance (3 to 5 yards), similar to higher (1.5 mph) ball speeds and lower spin (300-500 rpm) compared to three key competitor’s hybrid products (Callaway XR, Ping G30 and TaylorMade AeroBurner), Titleist said.
The 816 hybrids also have a new contrasting, color scheme with a gray crown and a black PVD face and sole. “We wanted to differentiate 816 hybrids as its own category,” Luttrell said, “and this cosmetic change has been positively accepted both with amateurs and our tour staff.”
The new 816H hybrids will be available in golf shops worldwide beginning Oct. 23 with minimum advertised price of $249.
More than 40 players across the worldwide professional tours have switched to new 816H hybrids, Titleist said, since the start of the tour seeding and validation process, including Jordan Spieth, who put a new 816H2 21º model in play at the World Golf Championships event at Firestone. Other players that have already switched to 816H models include Robert Streb, Victor Dubuisson, Zac Blair and Brendon De Jonge. Titleist shared some feedback from some of its TOUR staff on the new 816 Hybrids:
Jordan Spieth: “The new 816, with the silver head and black face, is a really cool looking hybrid. It’s really clean, really crisp. When I strike it, it shoots off the face nicely. It goes a little higher than my 915 hybrid, and a little bit further. If you’re going to hit it a little higher and further, ultimately that’s enough to make a golfer really pleased. When you mishit a hybrid, you need it to stay on line, still get up in the air and to still go far enough ? and that’s what 816 does.”
Ian Poulter: “I love my hybrids. A lot of guys only use one hybrid, but I transitioned away from a 4 iron into a 4 hybrid a while ago. Based on my early testing I can tell that 816 hybrids are definitely scoring clubs. I get the extra benefit of the higher ball flight, whether it’s from the rough or even if it’s from the fairway. When it lands on the green, I get it to stop a lot quicker than if I was using a 4 iron. If it’s a tuck pin, I’ve still got the beauty of actually landing it tight to the pin and having it stop quickly. Versatility is there as well. I can use it from the fairway, I can use it from the rough. It nicks through the rough nicely. I get the help with the ball picking up nice and quick, and again it stops very quickly from the rough.”
You’ve probably been told on more than one occasion that Titleist are a serious golfers’ brand, that they only make equipment for the better players amongst us. After spending some time hitting their new 716 irons we’d urge you to reconsider.
You’ve probably come across the AP1 and AP2 names before – they were first introduced in 2008 and the AP2s have been a firm favourite with their Tour players ever since. Well now both models have been updated and amended and their ready for action in the hands of you the club golfer.
It’s not often Titleist makes sweeping claims and promises of more distance, ball speed and forgiveness, they’re usually much more restrained. But they are doing just that and billing the new AP1s as their longest, most forgiving irons ever.
That’s quite a statement considering their rich history, major wins and the amount of Tour players relying on their clubs to make a living. This is how they’ve done it.
Extreme Tungsten Weighting
Tungsten is a really expensive metal to work with, but it’s much denser than the typical steel that’s used in club heads. Lots more weight can be focused in a specific area of the clubhead to improve its MOI performance or position the centre of gravity location precisely. On average 43g of tungsten (50% more than 714) is used in each AP1 iron (except the short irons) creating a really forgiving, high MOI design that’s very easy to hit. Admittedly other manufacturers use tungsten, but Titleist claim they use much more than their competitors, who typically insert anything between 2 - 12g per head.
Undercut Cavity and Unsupported Face
If you’ve not heard about speed slots and compression channels before we can only assume you’ve been living in a cave on some far flung off-grid desert island for the last five years. Titleist’s spin is to strengthen the faces of the AP1s, which means Titleist technicians have been able to remove the bulk of weight that supports the chassis behind the club face. By removing this bulk it naturally allows the face to flex at impact which transfers more energy back to the ball, which ultimately means maximised distance from your current club speed. Clever stuff and there’s no external slots to look at either.
Familiar chassis with bevelled top edge
Titleist are really confident their head shapes are what golfers want. They constantly consult with both their tour staff and club golfers over what they do and don’t like about their products and, you’ve guessed it, head shape always tops their list of things not to change.
What Titleist have done on this incarnation is to bevel the top-edge beautifully, taking away the chunkiness of an all out game improvement design and meaning the AP1 now has a huge target audience.
Smaller head but better MOI
If you took the best game improvement iron you could find in 2015 and made the head smaller so it looked more appealing, but at the same time improved its MOI performance so its more forgiving how much would you want a set? Well Titleist claim that’s exactly what the AP1 does. Their blade length compared to traditional game improvement irons is shorter, so visually the head looks a little smaller but because they use so much tungsten the MOI performance is actually higher. Which hats off is really impressive.
Lightweight XP90 Shaft
Lightweight steel shafts have developed a strangle hold on the game improvement iron sector as they help golfers increase head speed without changing their swing. The XP90 is a leading lightweight shaft, but its worth remembering if you invest in a set of Titleist and want to max out your potential proper custom fitting is definitely the best way forward.
Credit to Titleist for not only having a manageable schedule, but for sticking to it as well. It's been just about two years since the 714 iron series was announced, and so, right on time, here's your first look at the upcoming 716 series irons.
From what we can see in these USGA photos, the 716 models features a slightly more aggressive aesthetic than past revisions of the AP series, but we're certain that Titleist fans are going to like what they see from the entire lineup.