The new Titleist 718 irons collection might be the widest-ranging offering in company history, but all six new irons are linked by an overriding goal: a singular focus on improving consistency—of impacts across the face, of iron distance gaps neatly fitting within the set and of feel from one club to the next.
Already debuted on the PGA Tour this summer, the six new models include five updates of the 716 collection from two years ago (MB, CB, AP1, AP2, T-MB) and a new model (AP3) set to compete in the emerging category of distance technology irons housed in a better players preferred shape, a category that might be called players performance. As a whole, the range covers and sometimes mixes classic forged blades (MB), forged cavity backs (CB), forged-body irons with face inserts (AP2) and hollow irons with thin face inserts (T-MB, AP3, AP1).
Even to a certain extent with its most classic forged MB blade and CB cavity back irons, the design philosophy all starts with an effort to position the center of gravity (CG) location more in line with the center of the face and an attention to improving moment of inertia (MOI), or stability on off-center impacts, through the use of multiple materials (especially significant amounts of high-density tungsten), new face technologies and new constructions.
“It’s about trying to put technologies where they make the most sense and give the most benefit,” said Marni Ines, director of product development for irons at Titleist. “So when you’re creating distance from a face technology, it’s easy to make the center of the face go really far. But those points half inch out on the toe and the heel, if you can bring those up to match that, it becomes even more difficult. So to not have MOI as a focus or as a priority is a deficiency. So we do not sacrifice there.”
Ines specifically points to a typical test run by Titleist engineers that maps the distance on impacts across a rectangle that includes points a half-inch high, low, left and right of center.
“Where it’s appropriate, we’re trying to have this combination of a low CG and high MOI to put the CG where at impact you get the most consistent numbers across that grid,” Ines said.
The fleet of new 718 irons go about satisfying that requirement in unique ways, sometimes even within the same set. Here’s a rundown of the six new entries to the Titleist family:
The three flagship irons, AP1, AP2 and the new boundary-breaking (for Titleist) AP3, constitute the most technologically diverse of all the new 718 irons. Each set offers a mix of constructions, sometimes even three different club designs within the same set.
Titleist’s largest and most true game-improvement entry, the AP1 features hollow irons in the 4- and 5-iron based in part on the learnings from Titleist’s high-end C16 concept irons, introduced in the spring of 2016. The remainder of the set feature 360-degree undercut cavity, wider-soled thin face designs, progressively constructed so the short irons and long irons specific shotmaking needs are met. Throughout the long and middle irons (4-7), high density tungsten weight is used in the toe sections to provide the highest forgiveness of any of the 718 irons. An average of nearly 58 grams of tungsten is used in each iron, and the thin face insert is just two millimeters thick.
“The long irons now have a hollow construction because the face has a lot of speed,” Ines said. “When you’ve got a face with a lot of speed, if you don’t have a hollow construction, in our opinion, the feel tends to get to a place that’s not preferred.
“We could have easily designed a long iron cavity back with the same face thickness, maybe even gotten properties slightly better that what we have here but the feel and sound was not Titleist.”
The forged design played by most PGA Tour players on the Titleist staff combines several metals and methods to improve long and middle iron distance and short iron control. On the 3- though 6-iron, a high strength SUP 10 steel body is forged to the same steel face insert that’s just 2.1 millimeters thick and as thin as 1.8 millimeters in the upper cavity. That’s something that could only be done with the high-strength SUP 10 steel, Ines said.
The set then switches to a 1025 carbon steel body and face insert on the 7-iron, while the 8-iron through wedge feature a forged 1025 carbon steel face and body construction.
Key to the design again is the use of two different densities of tungsten in the heel and toe (an average total of 57 grams) to provide stability on the long and middle irons (3-7).
“The new AP2 has the MOI of our AP1 of a couple generations ago,” Ines said. “That’s us focusing on trying to keep the consistency across the face.”
The most technically ambitious of the new AP irons, the AP3 brings a high-speed, multi-faceted approach to that category of irons that by shape appeals to better players and by performance entices nearly all serious golfers regardless of handicap.
The AP3 features three separate constructions within the same set, led by a hollow-yet-blade-like construction in the 3- through 7-iron. An L-shaped face insert (just 2.1 millimeters thick) is made of high strength 455 steel, and it wraps around the sole to provide better face flexing than a traditional face insert. It’s supported by a 17-4 stainless steel body. There’s also an average of 84 grams of high-density tungsten in the heel and toe to boost MOI. The 8- and 9-iron in the set feature a sheet of 17-4 steel for the face insert, while the wedges are solid cast, single-piece 17-4. The set is designed progressively both in terms of size and center of gravity location, and the changing constructions facilitate this movement through the set.
“This is where we make a shift to progressive design, where the blade length starts long in the longest irons because you want MOI and that size helps you get those properties,” Ines said. “Then you transition back to a more compact shorter iron because nobody has ever told me they want bigger short irons.”
Ines values the L-Face for its effect on low-face impacts. “We're trying to make those points low on the face more consistent. It’s allowing the lower part of the face to move more,” he said. “It’s allowing the lower part of the face to move more to improve that grid of impact locations.”
Originally conceived as a hollow-construction, fast-faced driving iron, the T-MB was offered on custom order as a full set in its 716 version. Now, it’s a full set stock offering right from the get-go (although it's already gotten some fame as the long-iron replace Jordan Spieth used to hit his approach shot from the driving range on his way to winning the Open Championship in July at Royal Birkdale). Again, the set changes from long and middle irons to short irons. The higher-speed long irons feature the high-strength SUP 10 steel in an L-Face construction, surrounded by a 17-4 steel body.
“Irons are played off the ground which is why we’re focusing on the performance on that lower part of the face,” Ines said. “With the upper part of the face, if you start thinning out the topline, it changes the feel. And it may give you some benefit but in an area that nobody hits it.”
Once again, high-density tungsten plays a huge role with a mammoth 91.5 grams on average filling the heel and toe. The short irons feature a 17-4 face insert, but only use tungsten in the 8- and 9-iron. The hollow construction isn’t just about forgiveness, Ines said.
“The hollow construction is a solution to the feel of a hot face,” he said. “If you’ve hit hot face cavity backs, they have a very distinct sound. For us, we don’t want to sacrifice feel. We use the hollow construction to do that. Because we have the amount of high-density tungsten we do, it allows us to get the performance where we want it.”
The traditional looking forged cavity backs also employ some subtle face insert technology. A 17-4 face insert around a forged 1025 carbon steel body provides weight savings that allow for average of 71 grams of tungsten to be distributed to the heel and toe to optimize forgiveness and stability.
“In this case we’ve moved the CG toe-ward, which allows us to move the CG closer toward center to help us even out the ballspeeds across the face,” Ines said. “That makes the performance across the face more consistent.”
The short irons (8-iron through pitching wedge) are a classic one-piece forging. The more distinct pre-worn leading edge prevents digging and is seen to varying degrees throughout the full array of 718 irons.
The traditional one-piece forged muscleback blade already has made its way to tour and been used by Justin Thomas in his win at the PGA Championship. While very limited changes were made from the 716 MB, a straighter line muscle further refines the weighting to more precisely locate the center of gravity to enhance the shotmaking skills of elite players. As in the past, the head is forged from a single billet of 1025 carbon steel.
The company will offer a broad array of shafts for the 718 irons, although the stock entries for the AP irons will be specially developed versions of True Temper’s AMT shaft (for “ascending mass technology” where shaft weights are lightest in the longer irons and heavier in the shortest irons). That includes the lightweight AMT Red for AP1 (95-107 grams), AMT Tour White for AP2 (115-130 grams) and AMT Black for AP3 (95-116 grams). The T-MB will be standard with Project X Pxi, while the CB is matched with Project X LZ and the MB is set with Project X.
The AP1 is offered 4-iron through gap wedge ($1,000 for set of eight). The AP2 and AP3 are available 3-iron through gap wedge ($1,300 for a set of eight). The MB and CB are available 3-iron through pitching wedge ($1,300 for a set of eight). The T-MB comes in a 2-iron through pitching wedge at $250 per club or $2,000 for a set of eight.
Fittings for all the 718 irons begin September 1, with all products slated to be in stores September 29.