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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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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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Driver: Callaway Great Big Bertha (8.5 degrees @9.5)
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