To say the buzz about the AP1 and AP2 irons from Titleist is loud is an understatement of quite some size. I cannot recall a product release in the last couple of years that generated the amount of interest, comments, feedback and questions from Sand Trap readers and forum members as these groundbreaking, technology-infused irons from the traditionally traditional Titleist.
Between our announcement of the 2008 lineup, Erik's field test and his AP2 review, we've received well hundreds of comments and questions. Add this to the amount of discussion and buzz in our forum and it's really quite remarkable the excitement these irons have generated.
We're going to focus on the AP1 irons for this review, which Titleist says is for the "skilled and aspiring" golfer. What is an "aspiring golfer"? While I would say all golfers are aspiring to some degree, I think the AP1 are designed for those of us who are in the double-digit handicap range. We show flashes of our golfing potential, but still have an evolving golf swing that could use a little forgiveness while still providing feedback to help us improve. Thus, perhaps we "aspire" a wee bit more than the guy who plays once a month.
Read on to find out this aspiring golfer thinks about these "sure-don't-look-like-Titleists" irons.
Design and Technology
Developing an iron that maintains the coveted "Titleist feel" yet is forgiving enough for us double-digit handicap golfers is a tall order. That Titleist claims to have done so is nothing short of remarkable. The dual cavity and multi-material design are a radical departure from anything Titleist has made in the past and have been designed with one key bit of player feedback at the forefront: feel.
The Advanced Performance (AP)1 irons are cast from 431 stainless steel and feature a tungsten nickel box that is laser welded to the body and is located in the back and sole of the iron. It covers the lower cavity and is designed to keep weight lower while giving players both good feel and added forgiveness. This lower center of gravity gives players a higher launch angle with more ball speed and what Titleist calls "consistent spin performance across the hitting area." The upper cavity sits above the elastomer cushion and is adorned with a metallic cavity plate. Weight is pushed to the perimeter to give you increased forgiveness.
The cavities are separated by what Titleist calls a "central cross member and elastomer cushion" which provide rigidity behind the impact area of the thin clubface as well as lessons vibration to give you increased feel. Again, it's all about providing feel.
The wider sole offers playability from various lies without "excess bounce or dig," meaning you are still going to get decent shots even if you happen to hit the ball a bit fat. That's helpful for those of us who don't always make the best swing.
Confessional time. The first time I saw pictures of the AP1 irons, I thought the folks at Titleist had gone crazy. They looked… well… ugly. I equated Titleist with making beautiful looking clubs and these were shockingly different. "Big" and "clunky" were two adjectives that came to mind.
After unboxing my set of AP1, I was reminded never to judge a club's true appearance based on pictures found on the Internet. In person, the AP1 look quite nice. They are still a bit "busy" for me graphically and might end up being an acquired taste for some, but you don't see the graphics or cavity-back elastomer insert at address, so for the most part, I've forgotten about the "business." In real life, the AP1 don't look big or clunky at all.
While I think it's somewhat important how the club "frames" the ball, the angst I hear and read about topline thickness is a bit overrated, in my opinion. Does the AP1 have a thicker topline than most Titleist irons? Sure, compared to the ZM and ZB. But I would venture to guess that they are the same size - or thinner - than the toplines of comparable clubs on the market. If you can discern that small difference, then you have much better eyesight than I. The AP1 sets up nice and clean behind the ball and gave me confidence and in the end, that was good enough for me.
Titleist says the "AP1 irons offer a contemporary, confidence inspiring appearance in the playing position and a semi-underslung hosel junction." Simply put, they are a nice, traditional looking iron with some serious technology hidden inside. Rounding out the looks department are dual hosel lengths with shorter ones in the long irons to keep the weight low to help out with launch and a consistent blade length with enhanced progressive offset.
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: the AP1 irons are not some magic club that will correct your slice, lower your handicap overnight, and cause you to be the envy of your playing partners (well, maybe the last one). These are still Titleist irons and even though they have some serious technology to make them more forgiving, they will smack you around if you do not make a decent pass at the ball.
I finished last year at a 17.4 index after going through some swing changes and becoming a dad for the first time, so I didn't play nearly as much golf as I've played in other years and my practice time was next to zero. I would like to move to a "player's" cavity-back iron from my current set that is more on the game improvement, zero-feedback spectrum that while might be a bit out of my league at the present, will help me develop as a golfer. With the time commitments of fatherhood, that could be a bit tough.
With all of that in mind, I was a bit worried that the AP1 wouldn't be able to help me out too much based on how they looked. I still want to advance as a golfer, so I need a little feedback and a lot of forgiveness if I'm to both enjoy golf and improve. That worry quickly went away after the first few shots at the range and on the course. After getting the assorted hooks and slices out of the way, I found the AP1 to blend a nice amount of forgiveness while also providing some feedback.
As for the feedback department, the AP1 do not provide much if you just missed the sweet spot as you are rewarded about the same for shots that were hit flush versus hit very close. Where the feedback started to turn up more was shots that were struck closer to the heel, toe, and low on the clubface (thin).
The feedback was muted nicely and you didn't get the stinging hands when you mishit a ball - more of a reminder that you didn't make your best swing insetad of a harsh rebuke. When you do catch one flush, I felt the impact to be quite soft. Distance wise, my mishits would still get good distance and the flush shots were absolute rockets. The ball seems to jump off the club face.
One word of caution - I found I've had to relearn all of my carry distances with using the AP1 and that is something you should keep in mind. They are a stronger lofted iron (though still weaker compared to many competitors), and the combination of the slightly stronger lofts and the True Temper Dynamic Gold High Launch shafts seemed to produce a bit more carry distance than my current irons. Around half a club, but obviously your mileage (or yardage, in this case) may vary.
I'm not complaining about the extra distance gained by any means, I've just had to learn to tone my swing down a notch or two for certain distances and that is a good thing as with the AP1, you don't have to swing very hard to get rewarded with not only a well struck ball but also very nice distance as well.
I found it a bit easier to hit a draw versus a fade with the AP1. Not that a fade can't be coaxed out of these, it just seemed that a draw was slightly easier to pull off. Having said that, you can work the ball either way a little, which for those of us still learning to do so was nice to be able to pull off without being penalized too harshly when making a less-than-perfect swing. I had plenty of practice with punch shots from the trees and had some fun with the amount of curvature I could put on the ball. Hopefully that's a shot I won't have to experience much of the rest of this year.
It took me a few rounds before I could get accustomed to the high ball flight. The True Temper Dynamic Gold High Launch shafts put the ball up in the air fairly quickly, but shots still penetrated nicely. Even shots dead into the wind had the same ball flight with no ballooning and less loss of distance than I'd have anticipated.
One final note about the performance is that the the grooves on the Titleist AP1s conform to the proposed revised specifications. What that means for you is you may encounter and have to learn to deal with fliers again. It took me a few rounds but I think I'm becoming more aware of how to deal with it.
I have to say that the AP1 provided a nice blend of forgiveness and feedback. You will still get rewarded with a decent shot if you don't hit the ball quite perfectly every time but you are also provided with decent feedback that will help you make better ball striker. Oh, you can still punished if you make a bad swing but the AP1 provided me with a good amount of feedback to help me get better while offering forgiveness on days when your swing is a little off.
The AP1 come standard with True Temper Dynamic Gold High Launch steel shafts or Titleist VS Proto-T 75 graphite shafts as well as Golf Pride Tour Velvet grips are available for righties and lefties in a 4-PW set which you can find for a retail price of $699. Also available is a 50° "W" wedge and a 3-iron, for those of you who can still hit one.
Don't worry though if the stock options aren't up your alley (or your swing and tastes fit into something better) as with the Titleist FittingWorks you have a myriad of options.
Shaft options include steel (Dynamic Gold, Dynamic Gold with Sensicore, Dynalite Gold, Dynalite Gold SL, Dynalite Gold SL with Sensicore, Tri-Spec, Nippon NS Pro, Precision Rifle, Project X, and Project X Flighted to name a few) and graphite (Aldila VS Proto-T in additional weights and Graphite Design YS-IRON+w/GAT).
If you not a fan of the Golf Pride Tour Velvets, you have a host of other options from Golf Pride, Lamkin, and Winn.
Getting fitted for the correct length and lie angle is important. Righties can customize the
length from +2 inches to -1 inch (lefties from +1" to ½"). Lofts can be adjusted +/-
1°, and righties can adjust the lie angle from +4° to -2° (+/- 2° for lefties).
Iron Loft Lie Offset Bounce Length ---- ---- --- ------ ------ ------ 3 20° 60° 0.245" 1° 39.00" 4 23° 61° 0.220" 1° 38.50" 5 26° 62° 0.195" 2° 38.00" 6 29° 62.5° 0.170" 2° 37.50" 7 33° 63° 0.145" 3° 37.00" 8 37° 63.5° 0.125" 4° 36.50" 9 41° 64° 0.110" 5° 36.00" P 45° 64° 0.105" 6° 35.75" W 50° 64° 0.100" 7° 35.50"
The AP1 irons are a radical and bold departure from any iron set that Titleist has come out with in the past. Just looking at a picture of them, you would have to second guess as to what exactly they were thinking as the looked quite "game improvement - no feedback".
Pictures however do not justify how nice these irons look and once you hit a few shots and experience the nice blend of forgiveness and feedback, you'll probably forget your first impression of that picture you saw. I know I did.