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GolfWRX Insider: The real story of Tiger’s Titleist 681T irons

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The speculation around these irons (and every Tiger Woods iron thereafter) has been just shy of comical. Anything from “Mizunos stamped with different OEM logos” to “Miura secretly forging them in a cave full of kryptonite and fairy dust.”

It’s all entertaining, but in the end, a good conspiracy theory is typically just that: a theory.

I thought it was a good time to set the record straight—beyond doing it on my podcast over a year ago—with the man who was in the middle of it: Larry Bobka, VP of Golf Club Promotion during that time.


JW: How did the process begin, and specifically what was Tiger looking for?

LB: I was just finishing up my project with Davis and was asked if I could lend a hand with Tiger. Terry McCabe, VP of R&D, had few prototypes going, so there had been some conversations with Tiger before me. I went down to Isleworth, met with Butch and Tiger, and we discussed his current set…what he liked, didn’t like, and what would make a Titleist set better.

JW: What inspirations did you take from older clubs and how much did the design of his Mizuno irons influence the design?

LB: Having worked with players at Wilson (mentored by Bob Mendralla), I felt confident that we could make him a great set of clubs. His Mizuno set was important from a standpoint of watching ball flight and turf interaction. They make really good irons. Tiger had sent me a set of old Hogan Apex 1973 irons, as well, that had a lot more camber in the sole. I added a bit more…one of the tweaks added to the 681 forgings.

JW: How many different prototypes were made until you landed on the 681?

LB: Terry had made Tiger a couple of 5-iron prototypes. I left Isleworth with a simple plan: make Tiger three identical sets and let him choose the best 2, 3, 4-iron, etc. down through the bag—old school club making I learned from Bob Mendrella

JW: Like his P7TW, the 681 had a phase 1 that he put into play. The 1998/1999 model was a touch different than the 681, can you explain those a bit?

LB: His original sets were made from old Titleist forgings made by Hoffman Products (McCabe Design pictured below) and some blank forgings from Endo. After he liked the irons, we tooled up the 681’s at Endo.

 

JW: How much bounce did he like in his irons?

LB: If you look at the stock 681’s, they have a fair amount of bounce. His long irons are weaker than standard loft, which gave him more bounce in the 2- 5-irons.

JW: What older Titleist blades closest resemble the Tiger Iron?

LB: Titleist Tour Model (Box Blade). That’s what inspired his 5-PW.

JW: What was testing like—with no launch data?

LB: Old school club making. As Toney Penna told me once: look, listen, and copy—look at ball flight, turf interaction, listen to what the player says and doesn’t say, copy what’s in your head. We did have the Titleist Launch Monitor later when he came to Oceanside just confirm ball flight.

JW: Once and for all, who forged the Tiger Titleist irons?

LB: We did in Carlsbad from Hoffman and Endo forgings. Miura made a limited edition (pictured below) for Titleist Japan, but he never used them.

JW: Did he ever consider cavity backs at all?

LB: No, he hit Davis’ cavity forgings (below) a couple of times on the range at events.

681T (retail) specs below. All with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts tipped 1/4 inch.

Topic closed. If Larry Bobka doesn’t know, nobody does.

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Johnny Wunder is the Director of Original Content, Instagram Manager and Host of “The Gear Dive” Podcast for GolfWRX.com. He was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. John is also a partner with The Traveling Picture Show Company having most recently produced JOSIE with Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. In 1997 Johnny had the rare opportunity of being a clubhouse attendant for the Anaheim Angels. He now resides in Toronto, On with his wife and two sons. @johnny_wunder on IG

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. stanley

    May 1, 2020 at 10:44 pm

    sometimes you wonder if tiger is going to spill all the beans after he retires or something. endo? miura? what is it?

  2. Steve

    Apr 22, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    So who made the production 681’s? Endo? I’ve got some Custom Grinds that I rather enjoy.

  3. Cory

    Apr 19, 2020 at 10:15 am

    Looking at the lofts he is playing, they are the same loft set up that guys on tour are still playing. Just will different numbers stamped on the heads.

  4. Randy Ball

    Apr 18, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Titleist put out some beauties in early 2000’s. They had Phil 731pm, 681,690,680’s. Not bad when your staff was Tiger, Phil, Duval, Love, Adam Scott, and Ernie Els.

  5. Paul

    Apr 18, 2020 at 8:39 am

    So it’s mock conspiracy theories and then admit to conspiracies? Got it.

  6. the dude

    Apr 17, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    uhhh…kinda breezed over those cavity back’s….like to see them!

    • The Lefty

      Apr 17, 2020 at 11:54 pm

      Ummm yeah. Can we get the next topic on those Davis cavity backs, never heard of nor seen those. Where they been my whole life? Titleist put out some sneaky good iron sets for Phil (Titleist PM731) and Tiger in early 2000’s. At one point they had Tiger, Phil, Ernie, Davis, Duval all gaming their irons and winning tournaments.

  7. Odnamra

    Apr 17, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    LMAO so it was ENDO….mic drop.

    All yall mfs who have built up the MIURA mystique been lyin to everybody…

    I bet Miura-san is very grateful to all of you.

    • dat

      Apr 17, 2020 at 9:22 pm

      Preach!

    • Paulo

      Apr 18, 2020 at 4:08 am

      I’m pretty sure it’s been known / suspected for a while tigers irons were endo forgings. Miura does some other guys but tiger was always endo. What makes the debate pointless though is 99.9999999% of golfers couldn’t tell the difference between an iron forged by Miura v the same iron shape cast by some back yard club maker. I really think people just don’t grasp the level of feel the worlds best have. We are not the worlds best

  8. Rascal

    Apr 17, 2020 at 12:03 pm

    First story in a long time I clicked on something above “lol”!

  9. Dyson Bochambeau

    Apr 17, 2020 at 10:30 am

    The P790TI 7 iron has the same loft as tigers 5 iron

  10. Gunter Eisenberg

    Apr 17, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Please have this permanently pinned on the front page of golfwrx.com to end the speculation for now and for the future.

  11. Brandon

    Apr 17, 2020 at 9:41 am

    Is Hoffman still in business?

    • Charlie

      Apr 17, 2020 at 2:43 pm

      He closed his doors in early 2000’s. Made some great irons over the years though. Scratch were the last guys to do something similar in USA.

  12. MBA-J

    Apr 17, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Grand opening, grand closing. Great job getting down to the bottom of this. Top marks.

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GolfWRX Classifieds (08/05/20): Titleist TS4, Byron putter, Nike tour driver

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member Golfr19 – Titleist TS4 almost new

Low Spin bomber… It’s shafted with a HZRDUS T1100 Prototype/Handcrafted 6.5 75g shaft and a genuine Titleist SureFit adapter. If you play in a lot of wind, this might really help!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Titleist TS4

Member ngjg21 – Byron Morgan DH89

Although he might not be a household name Byron Morgan has been producing great putters for a long time, and here is your chance to pick one up for a great price.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Byron DH89

Member joe2282 – Nike VR Tour driver head

One of the great classic fixed hosel Nike drivers, the VR Tour. This head is in great shape and ready for your mid-2000’s “retro” bag!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Nike VR Tour head

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

 

 

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All-new Titleist Tour Speed golf ball builds on EXP•01 lineage

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When you are the maker of the number 1 ball in golf, it could be easy to become complacent, but the engineers at Titleist aren’t known for resting on their laurels. Instead, they are constantly looking for ways to innovate and provide performance benefits to golfers across categories, and today Titleist introduces the all-new Titleist Tour Speed golf ball.

Titleist Tour Speed golf ball: The details

Although the Tour Speed is new, many golfers might be familiar with the prototype ball that lead to the Tour Speed becoming a full-blown release—the EXP•01. It was through that extensive testing process, conducted on a scale that Titleist had never done before, that the team—including designers and engineers—had the opportunity to get valuable feedback from golfers of all skill levels. It was that direct feedback, along with controlled player testing, conducted at Titleist’s Manchester Lane R&D facility that lead to the final product.

“Every new Titleist golf ball must exceed our stringent machine and player testing targets in order to advance from the R&D phase,”  -Scott Cooper, Titleist Golf Ball R&D’s lead implementation engineer for Tour Speed.

Although the EXP•01 was released only 10 months ago, the Tour Speed has been years on the making as Titleist worked on producing a new proprietary thermoplastic urethane cover to produce the fastest ball in its market segment.

Not only is the cover material different, but the process to create the new ball involved a 4,300 square foot expansion of the Titleist Ball Plant 2, which demonstrates a huge commitment to the new Retractable Pin injection molding process and a belief in the product.

“Our golf ball scientists and engineers have gone to extraordinary lengths in the development of Tour Speed – testing numerous core formulations and aerodynamic patterns, while formulating and analyzing hundreds of TPU cover blends – to deliver on that promise. We have made every investment necessary in these new technologies, including a significant expansion of our manufacturing facility and process.” – Michael Mahoney, Vice President, Titleist Golf Ball Marketing.

Let’s talk about that performance

The Titleist Tour Speed is a three-piece thermoplastic urethane (TPU) covered ball designed to deliver distance and greater green stopping power. Titleist still believes that a cast urethane cover like those found on the Pro-V1 series offers the absolute best short game control and performance, but TPU allows them to combine enhanced distance with precise scoring control. The TPU formula used in the cover is proprietary and was formulated from scratch by Titleist’s internal team of R&D chemists to enhance distance while still maintaining feel.

The last piece of the cover puzzle is the new 346 quadrilateral dipyramid dimple design that provides a lower, more penetrating flight, so the ball is less affected by the wind.

Underneath the TPU cover sits a what Titleist calls its fastest ionomer casing layer ever, designed to create maximum speed leading to more distance.

Availability and price

The Titleist Tour Speed will be available in the U.S. at Titleist accounts beginning Friday, August 7, and they will be priced at $39.99 a dozen.

 

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The Callaway ball plant: A legacy rooted in innovation

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A little over two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Callaway golf ball plant in Chicopee, Massachusetts (GolfWRX behind the scenes at the Callaway ball plant). It gave me the chance to take a deep dive into the history of not just the physical structure that is the plant but a look into the people and the machines that work to produce Callaway’s tour line of golf balls.

The one thing that stood out during that visit beyond the massive scale of the operation was the people and the pride they have in producing something in the United States for golfers to enjoy.

Chicopee & Spalding Manufacturing History

The ball plant and surrounding area where it is located is rich in manufacturing history dating back to the American revolutionary war, and the facade of the historical red brick building in Chicopee has remained mostly unchanged since it was the original Spalding manufacturing plant dating all the way back to the late 1800s. It was during this time in history when the plant produced baseballs, gloves, footballs, basketballs, tennis rackets, persimmon woods, irons—and of course golf balls, starting in 1896.

A lot of innovations relating to various sports have occurred inside of these walls and the funny thing is, Callaway’s marketing slogan for Chrome Soft— “The ball that changed the ball” could apply to a multitude of sports including:

  • Baseball – since Spalding developed the first Major League ball to become the official baseball of the National League in 1876.
  • Football – with Spalding creating the first American football with a material and workmanship guarantee in 1887.
  • Basketball – since Dr. James Naismith (Canadian—just wanted to get that in there—Go Raptors!) had the Spalding company develop the official basketball in 1894.

It is now 2020, and in the same building where all of these sporting innovations have taken place, an innovation of a new kind is underway because the ball plant has undergone multiple renovations and upgrades since 2018. Callaway has invested over $50 million in capital upgrades in order to increase quality control—and the ability to manufacture the newest Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X balls to the highest level.

Investment in innovation

Although the plant has always operated to the highest possible level of quality control when it comes to balls, Callaway has admitted that, before 2018, there were some small holes in the production process that prevented them from reaching their potential as far as production standards go. The biggest consistency issues revolved around polymer compound mixing and the centeredness of the cores in dual-core golf balls. These weren’t wide-sweeping issues but they were enough of a problem, Callaway knew they needed to be addressed as quickly as possible, especially if they wanted to continue to innovate in the competitive golf ball market.

In an effort to not just be equal to the competition but to surpass them, the initial investment was in state-of-the-art machines that could take and process 3D X-Ray to measure ball construction and the core centeredness of every single ball. It is during this automated process, that if any ball shows an issue, then it is removed from the final stages of production and will never find its way into a golfer’s bag.

The biggest investment though came in the form of an all-new synthetic polymer mixer allowing Callaway engineers and plant staff to monitor parts of the process with a level of precision that they never could before. Now, if it wasn’t obvious by the pictures, this is not the type of machine that you can just pick up at a local “golf ball plant supply store”— these types of mixers are multiple stories high and offer the same type of precision you would find in the medical industry.

When it comes to the unassuming red brick building, it’s what’s inside that counts. And speaking of “inside,” Callaway engineers are now able to precisely control all of the compounds that go into producing golf ball cores. With the state-of-the-art mixer now in place on the factory floor, from the very start of production through to the final packaging, every Callaway ball is manufactured to the highest level of quality available in the industry.

The state of the art mixer now in place on the factory floor means that from the very start of production through to the final packaging, every Callaway ball is manufactured to the highest level of quality available in the industry.

Technology on the inside and outside

The other part of the plant that continues to see large investments is the Truvis and Triple Track printing area. As we touched on in the original piece, what was perceived by many to at first be a bit of a gimmick, including some of Callaway’s own employees, has proven to be an absolute slam dunk. The pentagon pattern provides a tangible benefit by creating an optical illusion that makes the ball look bigger and also gives visual feedback for short game shots and putting. If you haven’t tried chipping around a green with a Truvis ball, I highly suggest it—you can actually see how much difference in spin you create hitting various shots.

What started as a toe-dip with one machine has turned into an area of the plant with more than a dozen, with Callaway also producing Truvis balls with custom colors and logos.

What followed Truvis was the development of Callaway Triple Track, which is three high-resolution parallel lines printed onto the golf ball to help with alignment. It would not have been possible to print this alignment tool without the machines that were developed to precisely print the Truvis patterns. Triple Track has been so popular and effective for golfers that this year, Callaway even introduced the alignment tool onto a number of their Stroke Lab putter models.

Odyssey Stroke Lab 2-Ball with Triple Track

If history is any indication, this investment will continue to push golf ball innovation for Callaway, as well as continue to build on the strong legacy of proud American manufacturing in Chicopee, Massachusetts. To take an inside look inside of the newly renovated plant, as well as get a deeper understanding of the history and the people behind Callaway golf balls, check out their mini-documentary below.

The Ball that Changed a Town

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