Titleist is undeniably one of the leaders in irons for better players. Since going to an all-forged irons lineup a couple years ago, the company introduced several blade, muscle-back, and cavity-forged irons that have devoted followers.
But the better-player irons market is relatively small, and the big money is in the bigger game-improvement irons. Titleist's latest attempt to muscle in on the Callaways and TaylorMades in the game-improvement iron category is with the Forged 775.CB iron, which hit golf shops this spring. I had the chance to try a set to see how these new irons stack up against other irons for higher handicappers.
Seeing Titleist irons in my golf bag gives me a warm feeling, even if it's the glow of nostalgia. After playing tiny forged blades while learning the game, my first cavity back irons were a great set of Titleist DCI Golds that I played for several years. Those cast stainless steel irons were plenty forgiving, but still had a crisp design that said "I'm a serious golfer." After the follow up to the DCI Black (less offset) and Gold irons, the DCI Oversize, Titleist ceded the high-handicapper iron market to sister brand Cobra.
I've played several different sets of irons since then, but I always keep an eye on Titleist to see if they might bring out a mid-handicapper iron that takes up where the DCI Golds left off - a design that has some forgiveness built in, but also enables a player of more modest skill to still do a little shot-making. So I was excited to see Titleist announce the Forged 775.CB irons earlier this year. They sounded like a good blend of technology and playability, and I was lucky enough to play almost 10 rounds with the 775.CBs. I was curious to see if the new sticks would live up to my memories of the DCI Gold irons.
Design and Technology
The 775.CB irons have different designs for the long irons and mid-to-short irons. While the 6-iron through the 50° gap wedge are one-piece forged cavity backs, the 3-, 4- and 5-irons are all oversized multi-material designs. The long irons have a forged stainless steel body that accounts for almost 80% of the clubhead weight for a high degree of perimeter weighting and forgiveness. A thin face insert is used along with a forged aluminum bar across the back of the face. This bar - which is anodized a deep red and really stands out - is meant to dampen vibration and reinforce the thin face insert.
The long irons in the 775.CB set also have a heaping helping of offset. The 3-iron has more than double the offset of the 695MB irons, or much more than you'd ever expect to see on a Titleist iron (more on that below). The amount of offset is in line with what other game-improvement irons sport, but it looks more pronounced because of the square-toe, high-heel design that Titleist uses in all its irons. The designers at Titleist are clearly skilled craftsmen, but even they seem to have trouble making a club that has both offset and a sleek design (a pretty common problem in iron design).
The 3- and 4-iron shafts are also longer than standard (half an inch in the 3-iron, a quarter-inch in the 4-iron) to increase clubhead speed and help get the ball airborne more easily. There's no arguing the physics of this design decision, as a longer shaft will equal more speed. But it can also decrease accuracy, which is a problem most people have with their long irons to begin with. It's good to see Titleist putting extra technology into long irons, but I wonder how many golfers who use the 775.CB irons will replace the longer irons with hybrids anyway.
The mid and short irons in 775.CB set are more compact than the long irons, and they feature progressively less offset as the loft increases. The lofts are fairly strong - the pitching wedge is 45°, and a 50° gap wedge is available — because the irons have a very low center of gravity and launch the ball quite high. Strengthening the lofts keeps the ball flight in line with what golfers expect from each numbered club.
Esthetically, the 775.CB irons are unlike anything else in Titleist's lineup. The red color of the aluminum bar used in the long irons is carried over to the mid and short irons as a thin red line of paint through the center of the cavity. The cavity of each iron also has a area that has small metallic swirls that look like milling marks. This gives the irons a busy look that won't appeal to a blade user, but is in line with the "visible technology" design cues used on most other game-improvement irons.
I liked the looks of the 775.CB, especially how the short irons set up at address. The irons look good in the bag and the forged stainless steel holds up well to regular use, though the red finish on the aluminum bar of the long irons was prone to scratching.
The standard shaft for the 775.CB irons is the Nippon NS Pro 100, which is a mid-weight steel shaft. I tested the irons with True Temper Dynamic Gold R300 steel shafts, and Titleist's 3970 lightweight graphite shafts are also an option - along with other popular custom shafts like the Project X, various Rifle models and the True Temper Dynamic Gold SL. The standard grips are Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord models with the Titleist logo faced toward the underside of the club, just like the big boys on tour do it.
Feel and Performance
Every iron in Titleist's current lineup is forged, though the 775.CB is forged from stainless steel instead of carbon steel like the rest of Titleist's irons (with the exception of the 735.CM irons, which are available in forged stainless and carbon steel flavors). The forged stainless steel used in the 775.CB irons is not as soft as the carbon steel generally used in forgings, but it is also more durable and resists rusting. The buttery soft feel of forged carbon steel isn't a selling point for the higher-handicap player who is likely to use the 775.CB, but I found the irons to feel solid and fairly soft. Not as soft as the 690.CB irons I have, but softer than investment cast stainless steel irons. And while the 775.CB irons don't punish miss-hits with the harsh sting that forged blades impart, they do give you plenty of feedback at impact so you can immediately tell if you've missed the center of the clubface.
Performance-wise, the 775.CB is definitely aimed at the 15-plus handicapper. The generous offset of the long irons does keep them from going right, but I had trouble keeping them from going left without adjusting my swing. When I set up to hit a cut, I got a high, straight ball flight from the long irons, though I lost a little distance. The mid and short irons didn't require as much correction, but they still wanted to go a little left for me. While I found the long irons a little short, the short irons were actually almost a club longer than what I'm used to from strong-lofted irons. Again, this says to me that the 775.CB irons were designed for someone who has trouble squaring the clubhead at impact and tends to slice the ball, so the weight is biased toward the heel to close the face through the impact zone.
The weight distribution in the short irons did help control the ball flight very nicely. The 775.CB short irons and wedges responded ably on knockdown shots and short-game shots around the greens. The soles are also relatively narrow for a game-improvement iron, which increased the versatility of the 775.CBs throughout the set. These clubs were equally at home hitting from a tight fairway lie or powering a ball out of deeper rough.
The Titleist Forged 775.CB irons are designed as a point-and-shoot iron, and they would make an excellent choice for a 15-plus handicapper who needs help hitting the ball longer and straighter. And for a high handicap golfer who wants to be able to say he uses Titleist irons just like so many PGA Tour players, the 775.CBs are the only way to go. I think the 775.CBs would be a good fit for golfers who play Callaway Big Berthas, Ping G5, or TaylorMade r7 XD irons. These are the best high-handicapper irons Titleist has offered since the DCI Oversize.
The leap from the 695CB and 735.CM irons to the 775.CB irons in Titleist's iron lineup is a big hop, however. The former are great for single-digit handicappers, and the latter will perform well for someone with a handicap in the teens. I'm playing to about a 10 these days, and I'm right in between the two types of Titleist irons. I think there's a market out there for a Titleist iron that fits in with "tour" versions of game-improvement irons like the Callaway X-18, Cleveland CG4, and TaylorMade rac LT. But golfers who fit into those products would probably be better off playing up to the 695CB or 735.CM irons if they wanted to make the switch to Titleist.
I'd be geeked if Titleist came out with a tweener set of forged irons that was somewhere between the 735.CM and the 775.CB. In fact, I'll start the rough design work. Let's call them the 755.CB irons (wink wink). Start with the 775.CB short irons and drop about 33 percent of the offset from each iron, then make the long irons single-material designs to match the look/feel of the short irons. Voilà! A set of irons for the 6-10 handicapper. Hmmm, not sure if it makes marketing sense to add a fifth set of irons to the lineup for such a small segment of the market… but I know I'd be waiting to demo a set at my golf shop.
Back on this plane of reality, the 775.CB irons didn't turn out to be the second coming of the DCI Gold irons that I'd hoped for. But high-handicap golfers can rejoice that Titleist has made a set of irons that will offer them both game-improvement performance and the allure of playing Titleist forged irons.
Titleist Forged 775.CB irons have a street price of $750 for eight clubs (4-iron through gap wedge) with NS 100 Pro steel shafts. The same 8-club set with Aldila 3970 graphite shafts will run you $879. If you want to add the 3-iron, it will cost you $100 for steel and $110 for graphite.