I knew it was a silly question the moment it left my mouth. “So you like your new irons?” I queried PGA Tour player Matt McQuillan as I eyed his Titleist 712 CB Forged models during a round of golf together last weekend.
“They’re pretty good,” he said with a big smile in what was clearly intended to be an understatement with us both knowing that the very same week he put them in play for the 1st time he tied for 3rd at the John Deere Classic and cashed his biggest cheque of his career so far – $261,000.
McQuillan is not alone in his admiration of the new 712 iron models from Fairhaven, Mass.- based Titleist. When they were introduced to PGA Tour pros at the AT&T National at the end of June many of them put them into play immediately – a strong response from a group who are not always fond of change in mid-season.
I learned first-hand what prompted such a response when I had the chance to get my own hands-on experience with the line-up in an early preview at Titleist’s Manchester Lane testing facility in Massachusetts at the start of August.
A few weeks earlier, like many other golf equipment enthusiasts , I had been intrigued by preview photos of the 712 CB Forged, Mb Forged, AP1, and AP2 irons posted to the Titleist Tour Blog but this was my chance to assess the products on more than aesthetics alone. I’d read more than few comments from people who felt there were not a lot of differences in the new irons but I was soon to find out that the value of those assessments was minimal, at best.
This is the third generation of AP (advanced performance) designs from Titleist. It was quickly become one of their best-selling iron franchises of all time. The 710 models are stilling riding a wave with year two sales still not falling from year one, reverse of the normal trend and proof of the lines’ popularity. That said, Titleist Vice-President of Golf Club Marketing, Chris McGinley, says the goal with the 712 irons was to improve performance, looks, and feel over the 710 product.
Based on my testing, I think they more than managed to accomplish that.
The AP1 and AP2 are the strongest models for Titleist as far as consumer sales are concerned so some might consider making too many changes to those products fairly risky. The subtle yet significant improvements they pulled off manage to keep the familiar look while bringing the irons to the next level in performance and playability.
I started my own testing of the 712 irons with the AP1. In fact, I was smitten enough with the new refined look of the AP1 to risk my first shots of the day with a 4 iron. It turned out alright.
While the AP1 710 was forgiving, the look was not all that appealing to me with a wider sole, top-line, and significant offset. The look of the 712 version caught my eye immediately. With a beveled topline it appears thinner and a varied blending of the hosel maintains the original offset while making it seem like there is less. I would not be surprised to see more low handicap players working AP1 irons into their bags, especially in the long irons.
Titleist has also worked hard with the design of the AP1 to increase the Moment of Inertia, improving stability and stretching the effective hitting area further across the clubface. I sampled this for myself with a series of shots with the aforementioned AP1 (712) 4 iron. Even on hits towards the heel and toe the distance the golf balls flew was remarkably similar. As expected it was also easy to launch the AP1 irons high in the air, helped by more discretionary tungsten weighting in the sole of the club.
The last notable changes is the AP1 712’s are in the aesthetics of the clubhead, specifically in the blade length. The blade length progressively gets shorter for a more traditional look in the short irons. The long irons start at 84 mm in length and move to 82 mm by the time you reach the wedge.
All AP1 irons now feature a new Dynamic Golf XP shaft from True Temper with a slightly lower launch profile than the previously used Nippon shafts. The graphite option consists of new lighter weight shafts from Graphite Design that run as low as 52 grams in the Ladies flex.
The AP2 710 irons are an exceptionally strong seller for the Titleist brand so my expectation was that the model would receive very few tweaks in the update process; I guess I was wrong that one. The company managed to keep the general shape of the club yet heavily revamp the construction and refine the appearance in a way that should make it appeal to even more golfers.
Selecting a 9 iron from the set of AP2 712’s on hand I was immediately struck by the look that was more reminiscent of a traditional blade – even some of the Titleist Tour Models of the past. A slightly more square toe appearance has been added based on tour player feedback and just as was done with the AP1, a more beveled topline makes it appear thinner than it actually is. At the same time the sole width has been reduced in the short irons, not only altering the look but improving the turf interaction.
Under the hood the AP2 has been altered to become a 4-piece head design versus the 2 pieces it used to incorporate. A 1025 forged carbon steel face/hosel is now accented by a lightweight stainless steel cradle on the back that holds two very dense tungsten pieces. The 710 version had a single tungsten piece of lower density added to the face/hosel. The result is more extreme perimeter weighting without appearing that way. This creates a smaller shot dispersion area, specially on miss-hits across the clubface. Toe shots with the 9 iron proved this as the loss of distance was not nearly as noticeable as it had been with the 710.
When it comes to the most minimal changes in the 712 iron line, that comes in the MB Forged and CB Forged models – their most popular with the tour level golfers.
The strength of these forged irons are their traditional looks which have been updated with a Satin Finish preferred by the pros for it’s non-glare qualities. This is one of things McQuillan mentioned to me as we discussed his new clubs.
They maintain their original head shape, with constant blade length and minimal progressive offset. The MB (Muscle Back) soles have a slight tweak that proved it’s worth in hitting a few balls from deep rough during a test session at the Rhode Island Country Club was the course was primed to host the U.S. Women’s Amateur the next week. An alteration to provide more relief in the trailing edge and towards the heel allowed the blade to work it’s way through the deep grass in an efficient manner. It is a subtle difference but one better ball strikers will enjoy the benefits of.
Overall it is impressive update of an already solid product line for Titleist – with the new AP1 and AP2 irons having the most advances.
Undoubtedly, based on what I saw and felt during hands-on testing, their popularity with consumers will continue in a big way.
Expect the new 712 irons to be available this coming November.
In coming days we will add a couple more previews to the 2012 Titleist line including the new Bob Vokey SM4 wedges, the Scotty Cameron California line of putters, and expanded Titleist product lines to suit moderate speed golfers.