August 24, 2017
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Titleist's new layout of irons is modeled for the player with mixed sets in their bag. (Photos by Jonathan Wall/PGATOUR.COM)
With Titleist's Tour seeding and validation process in the books, the equipment manufacturer officially unveiled its 718 Series irons this week. For the second consecutive iron cycle, there will be a new model in the lineup: AP3.
Following the introduction of T-MB in 2015, AP3 will slot in between AP1 and AP2, and offers the best of both worlds, combining the distance and forgiveness of AP1 with the look and feel of AP2.
With six models in the line, Titleist believes it's easier than ever to build a mixed iron set with any number of combinations. Members of Titleist's Tour staff have already benefitted from the wide range of options, with more than 90 percent of staffers using a mixed setup.
"We've seen a huge shift with most of our guys on staff using mixed sets," said Josh Talge, VP of marketing, Titleist golf club. "It's very rare to see a player with 3-PW of the same model in the bag. It's interesting to see the change that has happened, and it's mostly due to players noticing there are benefits from using, say, more forgiving long irons that offer a higher launch, with scoring clubs that are designed to control and work the ball. We plan to bring that to life more in the consumer marketplace and show them that this is where things are going."
In addition to the inclusion of AP3, improvements and adjustments were made to the other five irons (AP1, AP2, CB, MB and T-MB) in the lineup. Here's a closer look at the changes for every 718 model.
Designed for the mid- and high-handicap player, the new AP1 offers the most distance and forgiveness in the lineup. As opposed to creating a traditional cavity-back set, Marni Ines, Titleist's director of product development for irons, and his team added a hollow cavity design to the 4- and 5-iron that features an unsupported 17-4 stainless face plate (2 millimeters thick) attached to a 17-4 stainless steel body. The unsupported face flexes more effectively at impact to boost ball speed and MOI.
The rest of the set (6-PW) has a progressive 360-degree undercut design in the cavity that expands the hitting area and protects ball speed on off-center strikes. To further boost forgiveness and stability, high-density tungsten (57.6 grams on average) was added to the toe of the 4-7 irons to lower the center of gravity for a higher launch angle.
According to Ines, 718 AP1 should produce 2.5 mph more ball speed and nearly 6 yards more carry distance compared to 716 AP1.
Improving turf interaction is a pre-worn leading edge that was added to the sole. The grind was inspired by the shaping of the MB and CB and is featured on the AP2, AP3 and T-MB. The height of the head was also reduced to give the club a lower profile look.
Titleist 718 AP1 (available September 29) retails for $1,000 (eight irons) with True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Red S300 steel or $1,200 with Mitsubishi Chemical Tensei Pro Red AMC graphite.
Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner and Bill Haas are just a few of the high-profile names who rely on AP2 — an iron that's turned into one of the most popular models on the PGA TOUR since its introduction in 2008. With a strong better player following, Titleist has placed a larger emphasis on improving feel, consistency and forgiveness and has refrained from altering the loft package.
"We understand players have an expectation when it comes to AP2," Ines said. "There are things they want to see improved, but for the most part, they want to know that much of what they like about the iron is remaining the same. We always take that into account when creating this product."
The biggest change between 718 AP2 and its predecessor is the addition of a new high-strength Japanese spring steel, called SUP10, that was used to make the forged body and face insert — 1.8 millimeters at the top and 2.1 millimeters at the bottom — of the 3-6 irons.
In the past, Titleist has used 1025 carbon steel (body) and 17-4 stainless steel (face) to create AP2, but moving to a lighter material made it easier for designers to push the center of gravity location lower in the head for higher ball speeds and a higher launch angle.
The 7-iron has a 3-millimeter 1025 stainless steel face insert, while the 8-iron through pitching wedge are forged from 1025 carbon steel for better feel and control.
Co-forged high-density tungsten is once again positioned in the heel and toe of the 3-7 irons to increase MOI for added forgiveness and stability. However, instead of using a stainless steel cap to encase the tungsten, a nickel-infused tungsten cap was added that pushes more weight to the perimeter. There's an average of 57.4 grams of tungsten in each head.
While it doesn't generate near the fanfare as a SUP10 face insert or nickel-infused cap, Titleist added a new pre-worn leading edge that was inspired by the MB/CB shaping and enhances turf interaction.
Titleist 718 AP2 (available September 29) retails for $1,300 (eight clubs) and comes with True Temper’s Dynamic Gold AMT Tour White steel.
Adam Scott was enamored. During a testing session early in the year on the West Coast, the former Masters champion happened upon a prototype version of AP3 and began to hit shots with the iron. It only took three swings before Scott was in front of Ines and Chris Tuten, Titleist's director of tour promotions, asking questions about the club.
"I don't care what you call this," Scott said. "I want one of these in a 3-iron or 4-iron because I can do things with this that I can't do with any other club."
Titleist believes the average golfer will feel the same way about the new AP3. The iron falls between AP1 and AP2 and offers a blend of game-improvement and better player characteristics — a package the company felt was missing from its lineup.
"We needed a product in this space," Talge said. "There was a gap in our lineup between AP1 and AP2 and we believe this iron more than fills that gap."
The "players distance iron" has a 4-iron blade length that's 3 millimeters longer from heel to toe than 718 AP2 but is only slightly bigger in the mid and short irons than 718 AP2. In other words, players who currently play AP2 should feel right at home with the progressive design.
While AP3 and AP2 have a similar look, the irons go in opposite directions when you look under the hood. The long and mid-irons (3-7) have a unique hollow blade design (similar to T-MB) that's comprised of a cast 17-4 stainless steel body and unsupported "L-shaped" 455 stainless steel face (2.1 millimeters).
Because the body is hollow and the face wraps under the leading edge, the hitting area will flex more effectively at impact to produce more distance. During testing, a 718 AP3 4-iron averaged 6 yards more carry distance when compared to a 718 AP2 4-iron at moderate swing speeds. The carry distance number should be even higher for higher-swing-speed players.
The opportunity to get extra distance and forgiveness in a playable long-iron profile has seen a number of Titleist staffers add AP3 to the bag, including Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas and Jason Kokrak.
An average of 84 grams of tungsten was packed into the heel and toe of the 3-7 irons to optimize trajectory and enhance forgiveness. While forgiveness is a key part of the equation, Ines reiterated that offering "playable distance" was equally important during the design process.
"You can do lots of things to increase forgiveness," Ines said. "With a club like this, we made sure they were not only forgiving but had the launch angle to get shots to stop on the green."
The short irons feature a cast 17-4 stainless steel body and face insert, while the pitching wedge and gap wedge are a solid 17-4 stainless steel casting. Compared to the long and mid-irons, the scoring clubs have some distance characteristics but are designed to offer more feel and control.
Titleist 718 AP3 (available September 29) retails for $1,300 (eight clubs) and comes stock with True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Black steel.
Titleist's 718 CB remains a better player option for the single-digit handicapper, but over the last few years, the company's engineers have found ways to significantly boost forgiveness without moving away from the thin topline, compact profile and minimal offset that have become iron staples.
Forged from 1025 carbon steel, the long and mid irons (2-7) employ a 2.1-millimeter 17-4 steel face insert that allowed mass to be repositioned in the heel and toe of the head to bump up forgiveness. Tungsten was added to the corners of the clubhead with 716 CB to increase forgiveness and improve stability, but a stainless steel cap was used for the co-forging process.
That process has been altered this year with the help of a nickel-infused tungsten cap that encases the high-density tungsten weight in the heel and toe. The new cap places an even larger concentration of tungsten along the perimeter. On average, 70.9 grams of tungsten can now be found in the 2-7 irons.
Along with improving forgiveness, placing additional tungsten in each head gets the center of gravity position closer to the middle of the face, which helps with consistent distance on off-center strikes. Positioning the tungsten lower in the long and mid-iron heads also makes it possible to achieve faster ball speeds and a higher launch for more distance.
The 8-iron through pitching wedge in the set are forged from one piece of 1025 carbon steel and have a similar cavity-back design, without the tungsten in the heel and toe.
Titleist 718 CB (available September 29) retails for $1,300 (eight clubs) and comes standard with True Temper Project X LZ steel.
Titleist's 718 T-MB has become a popular long-iron alternative on the PGA TOUR — Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas and Jimmy Walker have at least one in the bag — due in large part to the higher launch and faster ball speeds that are offered in a better player blade profile.
With the second iteration, engineers concentrated on improving the face construction in an effort to squeeze even more distance out of the fast-face player iron.
The noticeable difference between 716 T-MB and 718 T-MB is the addition of a SUP10 L-face in the long and mid irons. The hot face wraps under the leading edge and enlarges the sweet spot while encouraging the head to flex more effectively at impact for improved ball speeds.
The 17-4 material that was used for the body of the long and mid irons enabled engineers to cram an average of 91.5 grams of tungsten into the heel and toe to optimize launch and spin rate.
With the 8-iron through pitching wedge, each head is cast from 17-4 and features a 17-4 stainless steel insert. Roughly 49 grams of high-density tungsten was added to the toe of the 8- and 9-irons.
All of the irons in the set have a pre-worn leading edge that was rounded to improve the way the club goes through the turf at impact.
Titleist 718 T-MB (available September 29) retails for $249 per club or $2,000 for eight clubs (2-PW, 50) with True Temper's Project X PXi steel.
The traditional 718 MB muscleback iron was used by Justin Thomas to win the PGA Championship, and features the fewest bells and whistles in the lineup. But forgiveness isn't the name of the game with MB; it's all about providing a level of workability and control that's unrivaled in the 718 lineup.
The one-piece, 1025-carbon-steel-forged iron was created with feedback from Thomas, Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson and others. As you'd expect with a iron that's designed for elite golfers, there was very little that needed to be altered with the profile and overall performance.
The 718 MB has a slightly different look than the 716 MB, but Talge said the changes were purely cosmetic and don't affect feel and performance.
"This iron has a classic shape that players expect," Talge said. "When we talk to the guys who play it, most don't want us to do much of anything. They like it the way it is and don't want significant changes."
With a thin topline and narrow sole that features a pre-worn leading edge for improved turf interaction, the 718 MB is an iron for the equipment purist who likes the look of a classic blade with minimal badging.
Titleist 718 MB (available September 29) retails for $1,300 (eight clubs) and comes standard with True Temper Project X steel.
PGA TOUR Superstore: Buy equipment here