Last week I spent an afternoon at Acushnet Canada’s head office in Newmarket, Ont. I was lucky enough to get a full walk-through of Titleist’s new 714 lineup of irons (set to hit retail November 8th) as well as FootJoy’s 2014 lineup of apparel, shoes and accessories. For now I’ll focus on the clubs. More on the clothes later.
Titleist as a brand has a specific product cycle. It’s every two years, and they alternate with woods and irons (i.e. 2013 saw new drivers, fairway woods and hybrids come to market). This strategy has paid off, as Titleist continues to see growth and strong sales numbers year-over-year. It helps build anticipation, and consumers – both general golf customers and brand loyalists (members of Team Titleist) – usually react very positively.
“We have a two-year product cycle, and we’re not changing our game plan,” said Ryan Penny, the assistant product manager for Titleist golf clubs in Canada. “It’s how we do business and people like it. We’ve got a lot of positive feedback.”
The new clubs in question – the 714 lineup of irons – began making an appearance on the PGA Tour mid-summer. Jason Dufner put the AP2s in his bag, and subsequently won the PGA Championship. Ditto Jordan Spieth. The recently-named Rookie of the Year – who is rumoured to become an official Titleist staff player shortly- also has the new 714 AP2s in his bag. He won the John Deere Classic in a playoff over Canadian David Hearn using the new Titleist twigs.
Titleist says that they are for “serious golfers.” But that doesn’t mean that they are for only low-handicap players. In fact, Penny said that handicaps should be thrown out the window. Instead, Titleist has built clubs with certain players’ goals in mind.
“The handicap is eliminated. It’s more about what you, as a player, are looking for in a golf club,” explained Penny.
And Titleist’s new lineup of irons has something for the full spectrum of players.
The big thing for Titleist in 2014 is flight, forgiveness and feel. The AP1s are built for players who are looking for improved forgiveness – thanks to a high MOI for increased ball speeds – and a longer flight. They feature a tuned vibration and more solid feel, coupled with progressive blade lengths and a new combination stain and mirror finish. It’s billed as the longest and most forgiving Titleist iron ever.
The tour-winning AP2’s main theme is consistent with the AP1. It’s built for players who are looking for a longer flight and consistent distance. Players who are looking for a little more workability but still wanting that solid feel in a tour-preferred profile will enjoy the AP2. It’s a “tour proven” iron, but that doesn’t mean it’s “tour only.”
714 MB & CB
When Titleist R&D starts speaking with Tour players about revamping its classic blade clubs, the biggest response they get back is “don’t screw it up.” The beautiful blades have had only slight improvements for 2014 including a smoother sole width progression and a straighter leading edge. The CB also is more compact with an increased camber. Both clubs have a smoother hosel blend which means there is less visual offset.