In evaluating performance for our recent Most Wanted Hybrid Test, we took the approach that Hybrids are Scoring Clubs. Most of you may not have realized it, but it’s a line we shamelessly stole from a previous Titleist hybrid release. Given a hybrid’s purpose as a long iron replacement, Titleist’s thinking on the subject resonated with me instantly. It’s the kind of thing that just made sense, and it has inarguably influenced how we’ve thought about the hybrid ever since.
So, with that in mind, it probably won’t come as any huge surprise when I tell you that we’re long-time fans of Titleist hybrids. In fact, it’s one of the few specific club-related topics where there is absolute agreement between myself and MGS founder, Adam Beach. As far back as I can remember, we’ve loved Titleist hybrids.
I still kick myself for selling my 585H.
The Ball… and Then Everything Else
I think most understand that Titleist is, first and foremost, a ball company, and because of that, the company’s success on the club-side of the business sometimes gets overlooked. For example, did you know that Titleist can lay claim to being the #1 Hybrid on the PGA Tour? And while it’s true that we’re not big on Tour validation around here, it’s perhaps telling that Titleist is winning the count in part because its hybrids have found their way into a number of non-Titleist staffer bags.
It’s one of the few #1 claims that almost nobody knows about, and so one could argue that Titleist’s approach to marketing its hybrids is perhaps more understated than it probably ought to be. That part is surprising because Titleist hybrids are really good, they’ve always been really good, and I have no doubt the 818 will only serve to strengthen my conviction in this particular matter.
Titleist is understated, me… not so much.
Timing is Everything
Before we dig into the details of the 818, there are a couple of things I think are worth mentioning with respect to the timing of the release.
Firstly, it’s not an insignificant detail that Titleist releases its hybrids alongside its irons. While most of the industry treats hybrids as metalwoods – often releasing them with drivers and fairway woods - Titleist is a strong believer in the idea that hybrids are long iron replacements (remember that hybrids are scoring clubs thing?), and so it makes sense that golfers would be fit for and purchase hybrids at the same time they are fit for and purchase new irons.
Secondly, Titleist waited a week between the announcement of its 718 series irons and its 818 series hybrids. For Titleist, hybrids are more than trickle-down afterthoughts. Seven days between announcements helps ensure the hybrids get the specific attention the company feels they deserve.
With that out of the way, let’s have a closer look.
The 818 H Lineup
With the 818 series, Titleist will again be offering two models.
As was the case last time around, the H1 is the larger of the two 818 H models. It’s built for all-around versatility and playability and is better suited to golfers who play their hybrids more like fairway woods. I suppose the term sweepers applies.
The new H1 has been subtly reshaped to offer a more pear-shaped appearance at address.
The 818 H2 is the more compact of the two offerings and features a more iron-like profile. It’s a shape Titleist believes will appeal to better players, including PGA Tour members. That thinking is validated by the fact that roughly 70% of the Titleist hybrids in play on Tour are of the H2 variety. Compared to the H1, the H2 is better suited to players with steeper angles of attack – your diggers of the golf world.
The H2 has also been reshaped, and more aggressively so than the H1. It’s smaller and now features a square toe design that has come to be the signature of many better player hybrids. Again, the intent is to create a more iron-like profile.
Even if we don’t always agree with the obsession, it’s hard to discuss the performance of any club without talking about distance. To that end, we need to mention that Titleist has boosted ball speeds by roughly ½ MPH on what was already among the fastest hybrids in golf.
The gains come from a redesigned Active Recoil Channel (borrowed from the 917 fairways) which deflects a bit more at impact. While that should be good for an extra 1-2 yards, shot-stopping power remains the focus of the performance story. So, as it added a bit more distance, Titleist felt it was important to put any spin that was lost back into hybrid.
To accomplish that, engineers pushed the center of gravity deeper, which in addition to boosting the club’s ability to hold greens, also increased forgiveness to the tune of 10% in both models.
Those prone to hyperbole might describe the result as both fast and forgiving.
On a comparative basis, ball speeds and launch angles should be nearly the same for both the H1 and the H2, however, as you would expect from what should probably be considered the pro model, the H2 should produce a flatter trajectory with a bit less spin.
None of that should suggest that this is absolutely a one or the other story. It’s not the least bit uncommon for golfers who carry multiple hybrids to be fit into the H1 for their longest hybrid(s), and the H2 for their shortest.
One, the other, or both. Your fitter can help with that.
I should also mention that with the 818 Series, Titleist has re-established loft parity across both models. In the 816 series, lofts in the H2 were a half-degree stronger across the board. That led to some golfers making buying decisions based on loft and not necessarily on performance. By leveling the lofts, Titleist hopes to ensure that performance, not loft, is at the forefront of the buying decision.
The Fitting Toolbox
As with the irons – and basically everything else in its lineup – Titleist strongly recommends that you get properly fit for your 818 hybrids. And when it comes to fitting, the company believes it has the best suite of fitting tools in the hybrid market.
The first tool in Titleist’s toolbox is its SureFit hosel adapter. SureFit dates back to the 910 driver and has been part of several generations of Titleist hybrids. While we maintain it’s not the most intuitive adjustability system of the market, the fact that it allows for independent loft and lie adjustment is particularly impactful in a hybrid where it’s expected that the club is going to hit the turf.
Other than the standard loft/face angle stuff, what differentiates the Titleist offering from the majority of its competition boils down to turf interaction. I don’t mean to suggest that independent lie and loft doesn’t matter in a driver - it does - but as you move to a fairway, and then into a hybrid, the ability to fit the golfer for the proper loft without worrying that you’re compromising turf interaction and ultimately impact efficiency becomes an even bigger deal; one that shouldn’t be overlooked. With SureFit you can tune one and then the other to ensure you’re getting both ideal ball flight and proper turf interaction.
From a fitting perspective, it’s another example of Titleist treating hybrids like irons.
The 818 also offers Titleist’s SureFit CG adjustability. As it does with the 917 Driver and Fairway, SureFit CG adjustability allows for the CG to be re-positioned to create a neutral, draw, or fade bias.
One of the most common complaints about hybrids is that some golfers hit them left of left. Moving mass to the toe-side can help eliminate that particular miss while making the head heel-heavy can help mitigate an overly aggressive fade (slice). While it’s true that this type of adjustability isn’t unique in the market (Adams Red was the first of note, and TaylorMade has subsequently slid the technology into its M1 franchise) our testing has provided plenty of evidence to suggest it can have a significant influence on the playability of hybrids.
As for the Titleist-specific real-world implications, according to Stephanie Luttrell, Titleist’s VP of Metalwood Development, SureFit CG is a fine-tuning mechanism. Robot testing suggests a correction of +/-4 yards. While that may not sound like much, Luttrell notes that moving the CG can help take the big miss out of play while also providing a more consistent shot shape.
The final tool in the 818 hybrid fitting toolbox is a stock and no-upcharge shaft lineup which I believe is without question the strongest in the industry.
As you look at the list below, remember that every one of these offerings is the real-deal; 100% the same as the aftermarket version. There’s no made-for, nobody is quite sure what it is, co-branded stuff here. With Titleist, you know exactly what it is you’re buying, and that’s exactly how it should be.
If that list isn’t substantial enough for you, Fujikura Atmos Red and Black options, as well as the Project X Even Flow Black, will be available at no upcharge.
Does it Get Any Better?
With six discrete lofts (5 in the H1, 4 in the H2) spread across two well-differentiated models, a comprehensive adjustability system that includes independent lie/loft adjustments, movable CG, and an unrivaled selection of real-deal stock shafts, understated or not, we think Titleist has the most complete hybrid offering on the market today.
Couple all of the above with Titleist’s conviction that hybrids are scoring club and that fitting matters, we fully expect the 818 series will prove to be the latest in a growing line of outstanding Titleist hybrids.
Specs, Pricing, and Availability
Retail price for Titleist 818 Hybrids is $279.99 each. Fittings begin 9/1, with clubs arriving in stores on 9/29.
For more information, visit Titleist.com.