In 2016, Titleist debuted its first Concept line of golf clubs. Officially, the Concept platform provided an avenue for the typically reserved Titleist to explore cutting edge – perhaps even radical – designs and materials without the cost constraints placed on clubs intended for the mass market. Unofficially, PXG tapped into a market few in the industry new existed and its emergence in the previously untapped ultra-premium space, was eating into the bottom lines of mass market competitors who lacked a commensurate offering. Given that Titleist was largely regarded as the most premium of the mainstream, it’s reasonable to assume its sales took the biggest hit.
With that, Titleist produced a small quantity (1500 drivers and 1000 sets of irons) of Concept product as a litmus test to see whether this approach had any merit. Understandably, there was measurable uncertainty as to how the C16 driver and irons would be received given that PXG’s short-term success didn’t provide much of a sample set.
Niche products don’t always follow general market trends, and frankly, sales forecasts are entirely unpredictable because products target only a small segment of the population whose buying habits are often quirky and can change without obvious explanation.
Limited quantities and elevated prices ($375/iron and $1000 for the driver) didn’t dissuade potential buyers. Most Concept product was spoken for before the general golfing population even knew it existed. Long story short, Titleist’s first small batch release fared better than even the most optimistic of internal expectations and served as validation that a conceptual line of equipment was viable (and profitable), even if ongoing research, development, and release cadence would be less predictable than mainstream offerings.
For 2019 (and beyond), Titleist is introducing CNCPT by Titleist as a formal brand-within-a-brand designation for equipment which it describes as … an idea, a promise. “It’s our answer to ‘What if?’, ” says Kelley Moser Jr., Brand Manager, CNCPT Clubs. The space following the What If proposition is an open-ended invitation to explore materials and processes which are typically cost prohibitive and thus more often used in pursuits where higher grade materials and production costs (aerospace) are an absolute necessity.
CNCPT CP-01 and CP-02
More expensive materials don’t guarantee better performance, but with the CP-01 and CP-02 (I was secretly hoping for a C3PO gold-plated version) Titleist believes it has created “the finest irons a golfer has ever played.” Finest is a subjective term, therefore, hard to dispute, but considering the standard criteria for irons (distance, forgiveness, looks, sound/feel, consistency) my hunch is the CP-01 and CP-02 work to limit the trade-offs inherent in most iron designs. The CP-01 is positioned as a supremely fast players-distance iron, whereas the CP-02 is a best-of-both-worlds classic muscle-back shape with game-improvement forgiveness – and yes, it’s also fast.
A trend in MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted iron testing is that the best-performing irons aren’t typically the longest. Distance sells, but it doesn’t always correlate with lower scores. Often, maximum distance comes at the expense of distance control (front-back dispersion) and stopping power (the ability to land a ball on a green and keep it there). Titleist claims that by using a Super Metal L Face, which it bills as the thinnest unsupported, constant-thickness face in golf, it can produce ball speeds previously unseen from an iron. For now, Titleist isn’t, however, saying what exact flavor of alloy Super Metal is. It’s a stance similar to that which PXG has taken with COR2, the material which replaced TPE in its GEN2 irons. The idea is to keep the finer details under wraps for as long as possible to prevent copycats. This is, however, the golf equipment industry, so it stands to reason that if Super Metal works as advertised, it won’t be long before it goes to work for Titleist’s competitors.
What we do know is that CNCPT series irons will set you back $500/head. Titleist says the Super Metal material is expensive and buyers are required to purchase it in bulk. Even if we assume for a moment that the CP-01 and CP-02 are legitimately faster than anything else out there, we must acknowledge that engineering an iron to go farther isn’t necessarily groundbreaking work. Manufacturers have been strengthening lofts for the better part of the last decade in order to achieve more distance. Can CNCPT deliver on the distance promise without compromising the elements of the launch, spin, and descent angle equation required of a truly playable iron?
If it can’t then what’s the point?
To that end, to prevent increased distance from becoming a liability for CNCPT, Titleist is using what it describes as extraordinary amounts of high-density tungsten to push MOI (forgiveness) to perhaps uncharted territory. Specifically, the CP-01 averages over 100 grams of high-density tungsten and the CP-02 uses slightly more at 110 grams. Whatever else you choose to believe about CNCPT from a performance perspective, understand that we’re talking about a legitimately massive amount of Tungsten. That allows Titleist to place significantly more than the typical amount of mass low and deep in the clubhead, which should help produce launch conditions significantly higher than CNCPT’s otherwise jacked lofts would suggest. From that, you just might get the stopping power that’s an integral component of Titleist’s mainstream iron offerings.
The MyGolfSpy staff had a chance to demo the new irons at the PGA Show Demo day, and while we didn’t have the launch monitor running to verify what we saw (or what we think we saw), sufficed to say low bullets weren’t an issue.
On paper, the CNCPT irons are positioned to sit in rarified air in terms of price ($500/head), performance, and availability. That said, other than a dedicated CNCPT concierge which can be reached at [email protected] or 1.833.99.CNCPT, we don’t yet know how many of each model Titleist is producing or the specific distribution model. As that information becomes available, we will update accordingly.
Given the price point and the audience, big box distribution isn’t going to happen. One would rationally expect this to be a 100% custom fit offering. In fact, Titleist has gone so far as to say that if any of its PGA Tour staff wants to play CNCPT, they’re going to have to buy them. I suspect that’s more of a braggadocious talking point than anything else as there’s unlikely to be much Tour demand for an iron set that one highly ranked tour player not on Titleist’s staff reportedly carried 250 after Butch Harmon put a CNCPT 7-iron in his hands.
There was a time when $4000 for a set of irons was a ridiculous proposition and no doubt, there will be comments lamenting the price point as everything wrong with the golf equipment industry. There’s nothing inherently misguided about expensive items, but it’s fair to wonder what impact releases such as CNCPT have on the mainstream golf industry. There’s an argument the net result is upward pricing pressure on mass-market equipment, but innovation has to come from somewhere and if engineering quests like CNCPT help to drive new thinking while discovering new technologies, it’s all good, right?
For more information on the 2018 CNCPT line, visit Titleist.com.