New Titleist AP1 Irons for golfers seeking maximum distance and maximum forgiveness PLAYER BENEFITS: Speed, launch and distance from the thin, fast face Even more speed and distance from strong lofts Enhanced launch from the high density tungsten, low CG design More ball speed off-center from the high density tungsten, high MOI design Precise flight through the set from the optimized CG progression Fast through the turf with less dig from the pre-worn leading edge Fast, lively feel True Temper XP90 steel shafts deliver proven XP technology in a lighter weight design with a bend profile to enhance launch DISTANCE An extreme 360° undercut cavity creates a large, thin unsupported face that increases both speed and launch for more distance. High density tungsten drives the center of gravity low allowing stronger lofts to create even more speed and more distance. FORGIVENESS The use of extreme high density tungsten moves weight to the perimeter increasing moment of inertia on off-center hits. 716 AP1 irons are the most forgiving among irons of similar size. Golf WRX (source) editor, Zak Kozuchowski, spoke with two members of Titleist’s top brass — Vice President of Marketing, Chris McGinley, and Vice President of R&D, Dan Stone — to discuss the changes made to the new irons. Why were the changes made, and what do they mean for game-improvement iron shoppers? You’ll learn that and more in the Q&A below. ZK: When we talked to top club fitters about AP1 irons of the past, they usually described them as “forgiving” or “very consistent,” but never “long.” Why did Titleist decide to focus on distance with the new AP1 irons? Chris McGinley: I think the answer to that question quite is simple. We did a lot of research before we developed this line, and part of that research was aimed at what you brought up earlier — positioning these irons properly, because we listened to what golfers said. There’s a lot of golfers out there that want maximum distance and maximum forgiveness, particularly those golfers looking to improve. Distance was an important variable. For a lot of golfers, it was the most important variable and we wanted to deliver on that. That’s really the simple reason behind AP1 being a more distance-focused product. We are in the distance game with this product. But I think it’s important to note that the way we went about it may be a little different. We didn’t want just raw distance; we wanted distance at a playable trajectory so that the player could have the right ball flight to stop the ball near the pin, and we believe our technology package delivers on that. We’re confident that we’re firmly in the distance game, and we’re delivering it in a very effective way. ZK: You talk about creating distance, but also creating a consistent, playable trajectory. What challenges did you face when you redesigned AP1 to achieve those goals? Dan Stone: Well, we felt we were really poised already to attack this problem … The materials we’re using allows us to be better suited to make a more playable trajectory from the stronger loft targets that we went after with this generation of product. It’s a lower CG, but with higher inertia values. We also thinned out the face and really created a full cavity. That’s the reason for the acoustical difference. The trajectory is really a function of where the CG is. Also, off-center, we maintain ball speed. The AP1 player doesn’t always hit it on the screws. A lot of the distance issues or the trajectory issues come from off-center hits, and that’s where our product really shines, both on center and off-center. We know we have the most playable trajectory in the marketplace in terms of giving players the distance that we wanted them to have, but also making it more consistent. ZK: If you look back through the years at the lofts of the AP1, you see that the 3 iron had a stock loft of 20 degrees and the PW had a stock loft of 45 degrees. Now the long irons are a degree stronger and the short irons, in some cases, are 2 degrees stronger. Can you explain specifically why you need to do that and what it does for golfers who are a fit for AP1? Dan Stone: I think originally we were conservative on our lofts. We did not want to give players trajectories that were unplayable. So we kind of started from scratch with this product … We went from about 28 grams to 43 or so grams of tungsten. We didn’t take this project lightly. To reposition the CG location, strengthen the loft, make sure the CG depth was appropriate — especially in the long irons — was essential to achieving the distance parameters we were after. From there, we don’t like to have 5-degree gaps as we go up to the wedges. A lot of our competitors, as you gap from 9 iron to pitching wedge, you’ll see 5-degree gaps. We just don’t believe that a 5-degree gap is something you want to have in your bag when you’re talking about a gap between two irons. We have’t found a way to achieve the appropriate distance gapping between shorts irons. The use of tungsten, lowering CG, having inertia, and the feedback has been very, very good. We knew that going into this. The feedback we were getting in the marketplace was not a surprise. All the testing has proved out that we were able to maintain the trajectory that we had, but achieve more distance and not have balls fall out of the air with the stronger lofts. ZK: You spoke about tungsten and you see several golf equipment manufacturers use tungsten in their players iron, but no where near as much as Titleist does. In the game improvement category, none of the leading manufacturers have tungsten in their game improvement irons except Titleist. Why is that? Dan Stone: I think in the game-improvement category, it’s probably price-related. Obviously, these other manufacturers aren’t seeing a significant performance vs. cost ratio that they’re willing to go ahead and pull the trigger on. I’ll also say we have intellectual property in areas of tungsten, in terms of inertia. Not to get into detail with patents, but we have intellectual property in the last five years plus that we feel is pretty strong and has locked some competitors out of the tungsten business in terms of using it in the way we’re using it. We also have manufacturing intellectual properties because of the co-forging process. We know how to put tungsten in irons and we have a lot of experience doing it. It’s not a trivial task. It requires more effort and cost in the manufacturing process to do it, but I would say over the last couples generations we’ve made some significant improvements and strides in making our manufacturing process more efficient as we’ve come out. We have no plans to go away from the use of tungsten. We believe in it, we know there’s a performance advantage. I think what you’re seeing in the AP1 is that it’s our best effort thus far, but the acoustic feedback the players get, and the trajectory and feel of the product … a lot of that comes from the use of tungsten. A solid shot feels really good. You can be a little bit more off-center with this club and it still feels solid and sounds good. We went thru a lot of effort to tune the face and I don’t know if you’re aware of the construction, but we got rid of the bar in back of the AP1. We went to a full-cavity concept and that took a little effort. Our initial prototypes, we made a few duds that didn’t sound good. We went with our FEA team and went back and tweaked face-thickness, tweaked the tungsten location until we got it just right. In this situation, each iron is a unique club. Each of them have to be looked at uniquely so that you dial in the appropriate performance. The feel is one of the ones where we can predict that in FEA, but we also have to take the product out and hit it. There were some adjustments after we got our first few sets in that had to go back in and modify to appropriately locate the tungsten and face thickness. Chris McGinley: I think that’s a key point. As Dan said, it’s our fifth generation iron where we’re using tungsten in a meaningful way. One of the things we’ve learned is that tungsten really helps feel … When you’re making a thinner-faced, distance-oriented iron, it was really key to us to make sure that AP1 had that great feel, and that use of tungsten really delivers there. Q: Can you explain the co-forging process, and how that’s different from the way tungsten is added to the AP1 irons? In the co-forging process (which is used on the 716 AP2 and 716 CB irons), the tungsten is put in at the date of the forging itself. So you’re applying tungsten in a cavity and putting steel over that cavity, welding it, and then it goes into a forging operation and it’s forged so that all the material is compressed. In the AP1 program, we use a welding process. The tungsten is mechanically welded because the AP1 is a cast product. So it’s mechanically welded in place, and we’ve become experts in that area because we’ve used the welding process for many years. There are tricks and in-house know-how to be able to appropriately weld that. Because obviously you don’t want to have rattles. You want the tungsten and the steel to work as one. We use a pure tungsten, 17-gram-per-CC tungsten, and we use that high-density tungsten to get the effect, get the inertia. Lower-density tungsten has also been used in the past, but we prefer to use a higher-grade tungsten because it improves our CG properties and inertia values. As a result though, that tungsten does not metallurgically bond directly to steel so we use an interface — a welding — to mechanically lock it in place. ZK: A lot is said about CG, and as you said the structure of the new AP1 freed up discretionary weight to be moved where it needed to go. Where exactly are you trying to place the discretionary mass to give the golfer the most performance benefit? Dan Stone: Our CG is placed in the AP1 in the middle of the scorelines. You have a hosel, you have a blade length, and you have the bulls eye. We found players with AP1 hit it, in terms of left-to-right, right-to-left, they hit very good shots when we positioned the CG in the middle of the scorelines. It seems obvious, but probably previous generations of irons were probably a little more heel-biased. We found through testing that we had more consistent trajectories by moving this a little bit more toward the toe. The tungsten is located in the low toe. Part of the reason for that is it counter-balances the hosel and positions the CG low and toward the perimeter of the golf club.