Exclusive Podcast: Titleist 718 Irons


President of Titleist Golf, Steve Pelisek, joins us for episode #248 of the Golf Better Podcast to introduce the new Titleist 718 line of irons.

In part one of this episode, we discuss the new family of irons in the 718 line, what players are using on tour, the technology that is instituted into each club, how a large majority of players are integrating split iron bags, and how the new Titleist 718 line has an iron designed for players of all skill levels.

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Tom Brassell: Welcome to Golf Better, at Worldwide Golf Shops. Episode 248. Hello, everyone. Tom Brassell here. Thanks so much for joining us. If you’re a first-time listener, a longtime subscriber, or maybe you fit somewhere in between, it doesn’t matter. We’re just glad that you joined us today.

Exciting times at Titleist Golf. New launch of the 718 irons, 818 hybrids. Pre-sale starts September 1. Launch date is September 29th, and here to join us is the President of Titleist Golf Clubs. Mr. Steve Pelisek. Pelly, great to have you, man. Glad you could join us.

Steve Pelisek: Hey, Tom. Thanks for having me.

Tom Brassell: It’s exciting times, isn’t it?

Steve Pelisek: Yeah, it really is. We’re pretty regular around here, with our product launches. We like two-year life cycles, and we alternate years. One year, we’ll introduce driver and fairway woods. Then, the next year, we’ll introduce irons, and we introduce hybrids with our irons, ’cause we think, frankly, the best time to get fit for hybrids is when you’re looking at a new set of irons. We’re ramping up for the big launch of 718 irons and 818 hybrids here in about a month, so it’s really exciting.

Tom Brassell: Well, before we get started in those, for those listeners of ours that may not know the difference, could you just briefly touch on AP1, AP2, and AP3, and who those are kind of for?

Steve Pelisek: Yeah, yeah, well, AP1 and AP2, most of your listeners are probably familiar with. The Advanced Performance franchise has been around now, this will be the 10th anniversary of AP irons, and AP1 and AP2 have been phenomenal successes for us. AP2 is, frankly, the most played iron on the worldwide tours. It’s a real, we call it the gold standard of tour irons.

AP1, I hate to call it this, but it really, if you want to categorize it, it is more of a game improvement iron, if you will. It’s our longest, most forgiving iron. Now, this time, we’re introducing a third AP iron for the first time, the AP3, which actually fits between them, in most ways. We call it one plus two equals three. It’s got parts of AP one and parts of AP2. Because, really, there was a little void in our product line where folks wanted, we knew a lot of golfers wanted to look at a golf club that was more of a compact blade. Looks kind of like AP2, but is geared more for distance than AP1. It’s really a players’ iron that’s geared for distance, so three models now. The third model, AP3, being the new one.

Tom Brassell: Yeah. You and I talked earlier, before we got on the air, and the best way to categorize these are pretty much your tour type irons, and then your kind of game improvement irons, right? You want to go through that?

Steve Pelisek: Yeah. That’s the best way. Hey, we’re very conscious of making sure that all of our products are very clearly positioned, so folks can pick the best one for them. That’s why. Big proponents of getting fit, because a big part of the fitting process is, “Hey, which model of these is best for me?” When you add it up, heck, we’ve got six irons we’re introducing here, in a month. AP1, 2, and 3, and then the very traditional forgings, MB and CB, and then the TMB, which some of your listeners, I’m sure, are familiar with. Some may not be.

That is sort of the grandson of the 712-U, the utility iron that we developed. But looking at six irons might be a little confusing, so we basically break them into two groups, ’cause you really have tour irons and distance irons. In the tour iron category, you’ve got MB, CB, and AP2, and they’re forged. They’re forged irons.

They’re built for precision. They’re very traditional lofted. They look great. Thin-top lines. Emphasis on feel and precision. But, then, in the other camp, you’ve got irons that are built, quite frankly Tom, on a very different platform. They’re distance irons. They’re designed for distance. That’s AP1, AP3, and TMB. Whereas MB, CB, AP2, the tour irons, are forged, the distance irons are not. Whereas the tour irons are smaller blades, the distance irons are slightly larger blades. Tour irons are traditional lofts, the distance irons are stronger lofts. But the one thing about stronger lofts is we’re always extremely conscious of making sure that irons are, hey, you’re hitting irons to a flag. The ball has to stop where it lands.

We’re very conscious of even with some slightly stronger lofts, trajectory has to be maintained, and the ball has to stop on the green right near the flag where you hit it, so we’ve got tour irons, distance irons, two different platforms, and hopefully, that’s a way for folks to kind of start approaching this to tell, “Okay, which of these irons is going to be best for me?” That’s a great place to start.

Tom Brassell: Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk about the, I guess, the tour irons to start with. Or, maybe, you could tell us a little bit about who might be playing some of these, right now. It’s changing from as week to week.

Steve Pelisek: Yeah, it does.

Tom Brassell: But tell us about the back side or the behind the curtain, here with the tours?

Steve Pelisek: It’s a big part of who we are. We believe in that pedigree. We’re the number one iron on the PGA tour. Have been for many years, so there are a lot of players we could week out who play Titleist irons. Most of them play the best family ever for, as the tour group of irons, MB, CB, and AP2. AP2 and MB are quite close, frankly, in the numbers of guys who play each model, and then CB’s would be the third most popular, on tour. What’s funny about tour players and irons though, Tom, is maybe a little-known statistic. About 75% of the guys who play our irons on tour, and there are a lot of them, they play a mixed set.

It’s really only about one out of four guys actually play a model, all the way through. Very few play a traditional 3 to PW. In fact, I think there may be only one that I can think of. Rafa Cabrera-Bello plays a very traditional three through pitching wedge in the MB. Most guys play, three out of four, play a mix, and what we see, more and more often, is they’ll play a tour iron, say, five through, and then they’ll play one of these distance irons in the two or three or four. Those are pretty high profile. Folks tend to notice those.

I’m sure a lot of people notice Jordan. Jordan’s an AP2 guy, but he plays TMB long iron, two or three iron, depending on the golf course. Justin Thomas, sometimes, really traditional guys will play, they’ll mix the sets up with one of these distance irons, at the long end. Justin Thomas is an example. He plays MB’s, the new MB, but plays an AP3 three-iron most weeks, and he kind of carries. He goes every week with, he’s an interesting guy. If I could, for a second, he brings 15, 16, 17 clubs each week, and decides which 14 to carry. Alternates a lot between a five wood and that AP3 three-iron, which he hits about 255 yards. Then, he also brings a couple different 60s, on the short end of his set.

A 60 12 through the keg ride, in the SM6 line. Bob’s kind of highest bounce wedge. Then, he brings a low-bounce version of that that Aaron Dill made for him. He goes, in his practice rounds, whittles down from his favorite 15 or 16 down to the 14 he’s going to play with that week, and that’s pretty common, quite frankly. Most guys mix and match because they’re really just trying to fill gaps, distance gaps. Adam Scott carries two five irons, for example. They’re two different models. He’s not paying attention to the model so much as he’s paying attention to the fact that, “I like the way each one of these looks, and I know exactly how far each one of these is going.” Now, I don’t want to be his caddy, if I hand him the wrong five iron, but you get a lot of mixing and matching, and we encourage that.

That’s why we’re such big proponents of fitting. You really should take your time to get properly fit. The figure out how far you hit each of these irons, and make sure that all 14 of them do something unique, that you don’t have duplication in there, because hey man, you only get 14 of them and one golf ball. Make sure they all do something for you.

Tom Brassell: Yeah. With the tour irons, the new tour irons, the behind the curtain, a little bit, as far as the development of it, what would we see differently than what was in past tour irons?

Steve Pelisek: Well, each model is a little different, on its own, versus its predecessor. MB is a classic, soft, carbon steel forging. There’s not a ton of changes there, quite frankly. We continue to evolve the location of the center’s gravity, ’cause those continue to change, over time. You’ll like a nice progression of low CGs for high launches. We tweaked the top line on MB. We tweaked the blade length, and the offset. We had a set, a number of years back, you may recall, called the 680, which was very popular.

To this day, there are still three or four guys, Webb Simpson being one of them, who like the look of 680. It had a little longer blade length, and a little bit of offset, so hey, we migrated MB a little toward that, to try to, because the feedback was so positive on that iron. Small changes, evolutionary, to MB. CB’s quite different, the new CB from its predecessor.

We actually put a little tungsten in there. You can’t see it, but we like using tungsten, in this case, really, in a very traditionally sized, forged, cavity-backed iron. We put some tungsten in there to lower the CG, again, to help get trajectories up. AP2 is quite different from its predecessor. We thinned the face out, on AP2, especially down low, to try and get a little bit of liveliness, frankly, in the face. It’s a little faster. Again, we don’t mess with AP2’s lofts. It’s quite traditional, in its progression, because, again, there are so many good players playing AP2.

They know what they want, and really, our tour team says, “Hey, AP2 is really good. Don’t mess with the loft progressions. Don’t change the chassis size. Don’t change the top line. But if you want to add a little more forgiveness to that same chassis, hey, we’re all in.” Which is interesting. Everybody will take a little forgiveness, as long as it’s in a package that still looks and sounds and feels the way they expect. The changes to AP2 are more in that realm. The CGs are higher, I’m sorry, the moments of inertia are higher.

Here’s a little tidbit. The forgiveness, or if you want to call it moment of inertia, in the new AP2, is actually higher than the third generation of AP1. It’s a very forgiving golf club, especially given its size, so that’s why it’s so popular among so many tour guys. It’s got this nice, compact chassis, and thin top line, but it’s really a very forgiving golf club, and it’s forged, so it feels great. AP2 is really a technological wonder. Quite frankly, there’s so much technology packed into that blade, but that’s the challenge. Make it more forgiving, make it better, but don’t change what the real good players like about it, which is its size, and its feel, and its overall look.

Tom Brassell: The message I’m getting here is that if even the greatest players in the world are mixing clubs, and aren’t playing a complete full set, for the most part, shouldn’t you, as well, make sure that you’re custom fit, to make sure you’ve got the right clubs, in your bag?

Steve Pelisek: Oh, 100%, and it’s not hard. It’s really not. With launch monitor technology, it’s readily available. I would encourage people, when I listen, Tom, to our tour fitters, and we’ve got some very, very good ones, what they basically say they’re after, when they’re working with a good player, is they’re trying to fill gaps at a somewhat constant window. If you’re looking up, and the ball is flying relatively through the same window, with each club, that’s the window the player likes to see, so okay, I’m going to find seven or eight or nine clubs, between hybrids and irons, that all fly through that window, but go different distances. That’s really what you’re trying to do.

… Everybody starts with a driver, and finishes with a putter. Then, you’ve got some specialty wedges that allow you to hit different shots, based on your technique. Driver diggers, spider sweeper kind of thing. But in between, you’re basically filling distance gaps. Our guys like to do that, looking at the ball in the same trajectory window. You can do that, and it takes an hour, hour and 15 minutes.

You’re going to play this set of irons for, probably, four or five years. Take an hour and figure out how far you hit each one, and don’t be afraid to mix and match. Another little tidbit is 70% of the irons we make, seven out of 10 sets, they’re made to order. We’re a custom house. We love mixing and matching, and we’ll take good care of your set, and make them meticulously, so that they perform exactly as they tested out, when you were getting fit, so have a ball, and take the set comp that’s really going to allow you to hit all the shots you’re going to encounter, on the golf course.

Tom Brassell: Steve Pelisek, thanks so much. It’s great, having you with us. We’ll do it again soon. Thanks.

Steve Pelisek: Thank you, Tom.

Tom Brassell: Yeah, all new from Titleist. 718 irons, 818 hybrids, and Steve Pelisek, President of Titleist Clubs. Thanks so much for joining us to discuss the tour irons, the tour part of that. We’ll have more with Steve on another episode, when we talk about the distance clubs. Well, many, many thanks to Titleist Golf and Steve Pelisek for joining us, and to you, our listeners. We’ll do it again next time we have another episode of Golf Better at WorldwideGolfShops.com. So long, everyone.