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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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Whats in the Bag

Jordan Spieth WITB 2021 (April)

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Jordan Spieth what’s in the bag accurate as of the Valero Texas Open.

Driver: Titleist TSi3 (10 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 X

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 7 X

Hybrid: Titleist 818 H2 (21 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 95 X Hybrid

Irons: Titleist T100 (4-9)
Shafts: True Temper Project X 6.5

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (46-10F, 52-08F, 56-10S), Vokey Proto (60-T)
Shafts: True Temper Project X 6.0 (6.5 in 46)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Aaron Dill (@vokeywedgerep)


Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T 009
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Flatso 1.0

Grips: SuperStroke S-Tech

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

 

 

 

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Equipment rewind: A deep dive into the Cleveland HiBore driver legacy

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I have always been fascinated by product development, specifically the development of unconventional products. Now in the world of golf clubs, one of the most unconventional designs ever introduced was the Cleveland HiBore driver, which during its lifespan, experienced tremendous success through a number of generations, including the HiBore XL, XLS, and finally, the Monster XLS, which, as you may remember, hid the acronym “MOI” on the sole, alluding to its massive level of forgiveness.

As a golfer, I played the original HiBore, along with the XL Tour for a period of time and was always curious about the story behind the “scooped out crown.” In a search for answers, I reached out to Cleveland-Srixon to get the lowdown on the HiBore and discuss where it sits in the pantheon of drivers.

Ryan Barath: Considering how engineers are continuing to do everything they can to increase MOI and push the center of gravity low and deep in driver heads, it feels like the original HiBore and the subsequent models were well ahead of their time from a design perspective. 

It makes logical sense the best way to save weight from the crown is to make the crown “disappear” compared to traditionally shaped drivers, am I correct in assuming that?

Cleveland design team: You nailed it.

At the time of the HiBore, there were really only two solutions to create a low and deep center of gravity:

    1. Make the crown lighter – by either replacing the crown with a lighter-weight material such as a graphite composite or magnesium or by thinning out the material on the crown. Thinner crowns were possible thanks to advances in casting technology and using etching techniques to remove material.
    2. Make the driver shallower – this change in geometry created a very forgiving low profile design, but the downside to this was that you ended up with a very small face that looked intimidating compared to the larger-faced drivers on the market.

The HiBore took a new approach and inverted the crown geometry so that all the crown weight was moved lower. By inverting the crown the HiBore design allowed for a very long and flat sole, therefore there was space in the head that was really low and deep to put the weight.

The HiBore was really the first driver to eliminate, or nearly eliminate the tapered skirt. Almost every modern driver in the market is inspired by the HiBore in that respect. It was a two-part solution where we lowered the weight of the crown and simultaneously created a low/deep location to put any extra mass.

The lower and deeper CG of the HiBore improved launch conditions significantly, but also made the driver much more consistent across the entire face. The deep CG increased MOI resulting in tighter dispersion since the sweet spot was in the center of the face. Misses both low and high performed exceptionally as opposed to having a small hot spot high on the face.

RB: In every conversation I have ever had with engineers, there is always this give-and-take mentality from a design perspective to get to the final iteration. Was there anything that was given up or sacrificed for overall performance with this design?

Cleveland design team: The hardest part about the HiBore design was the sound. Prior to the HiBore, internal ribbing in a hollow golf club head was nearly unheard of. To make the HiBore sound acceptable, we had to design a ribbing structure to control the sound and design an entirely new manufacturing process to produce those internal ribs. To this day, most drivers include some form of internal ribbing to control sound or improve ball speed and that ribbing technology can be traced back to the HiBore.

In terms of tradeoffs, the major one was the low spin nature of the driver made it more difficult for low spin players to use. If a golfer is already low spin, this club would be too low and drives would just fall out of the air. Low spin golfers tend to be low spin because they hit the ball high on the face. Since we lowered the sweet spot, a high face impact was further from the sweet spot so ball speed fell as compared to a higher CG driver. Fortunately for us, in that era most golfers were fighting too much spin or way too much spin, this wasn’t a real issue.

RB: Do you have any final words on the HiBore drivers and the legacy they have left behind?

Cleveland design team: We are very proud of the HiBore driver family and the success it had at the time, but we are also proud of its legacy.

In the same way that you can trace nearly every modern band back to the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, you can trace nearly every modern driver back to HiBore either through the internal structure that is prolific across modern drivers, or the long, flat sole that is a must-have in a high-performance driver.

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Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (04/03/21): Tiger Woods spec’d irons

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At GolfWRX, we love golf, plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals who all experience and express our enjoyment of 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, including equipment or, in this case, a sweet set of irons!

Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for Tiger Woods spec’d TaylorMade P7TW irons, or as they are also known: the GOAT irons.

To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: TaylorMade P7TW **TIGER SPECS* 3-PW

This is the most impressive current listing 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.

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