Picking up where it left off at the U.S. Open, Titleist is trickling out more of its upcoming TS metalwoods lineup. This time around it’s the TS2 and TS3 fairway woods, and as was the case with the drivers, the company isn’t providing much in the way of actual information just yet.

Here’s what it is saying:

Building on the fast start for the new TS Drivers, our team continues the Tour seeding and validation process with the new TS2 and TS3 Fairway Metals at the Quicken Loans National. Performance validation for the new TS Drivers and Fairway Metals will ramp up over the coming weeks across the worldwide professional tours, so be sure to stay up to speed with our updates.

If you would like to stay up to speed, the Titleist website has a form for that. Feel free…

What is notable in the provided photos is that Active Recoil Channel, a signature bit of Titleist technology that disappeared from the TS Drivers, remains in the fairway wood. It’s also worth mentioning that the TS3 fairway appears to leverage a form of SureFit CG adjustability. Both models feature adjustable hosels. There’s no evidence, but we’re going to assume that, like previous Titleist fairway releases, one of the models will be deeper faced and more suitable for use off the tee than the other.

TSFW-sitewide

Of Titleist and TaylorMade

We’re early in the tease and release cycle here, so I’m willing to wait this out, but the Titleist approach to TS appears to mirror the TaylorMade strategy, and I’m not convinced that’s entirely a good thing.

Firstly, the TS approach appears to be similar to the M approach. TS2, like the M4, is hosel-only adjustable, while the TS3 (M3) brings the kitchen sink of Titleist technology  – and yes, we know Mizuno does this as well. This part of the strategy I like because it brings an obvious point of distinction for those who won’t be bothered to go through the fitting process to determine whether or not the movable parts offer any quantifiable benefit.

The part that could prove problematic is that, thus far anyway, the strategy is entirely tour-driven. Again – it’s early, so there’s still plenty of time for Titleist to start a conversation with the golfers it hopes will buy TS, but talking about the tour and yourselves to the exclusion of everything else is a recipe for stagnation, if not failure.

Recent history has taught us that when brands fail to relate to not just their core consumer, but to a larger piece of the marketplace, they struggle. That should be obvious enough, but what some golf brands – and to date, I’d include Titleist in that list – have thus far refused to accept is that the pyramid of influence has shifted, perhaps even imploded. It’s much more peer-driven than it used to be; the influence of tour and the club pro is waining. It’s great that your product works for the guys you pay to play it, but what does that matter for the rest of us?

TSlineup

Golfers are beginning to embrace to the idea that fitting matters more than tour counts and that paid influence rightfully doesn’t count for much at all.

Rather than dig into the details of slipping or stagnant market share or buckets of red ink, I’ll simply point out that while there is a correlation between tour use and retail success in the ball, putter, and wedge categories, that’s basically where it ends – and even in these categories, gaps are narrowing.

The #1 Driver on tour is not #1 at retail, and that’s the example that allows me to say the same is true in the fairway, hybrid, and iron categories – and it’s worth noting that drivers and irons are where the real money is made.

A Fresh Approach?

I’ll stop short of saying I’m excited about the launch of the TS line, but I’m certainly curious. Titleist needs to do things differently this time around – and I’m fairly certain it knows it. Whether or not it can execute this launch in a manner that excites consumers beyond the confines of #TeamTitleist is the challenge. That’s particularly difficult when your brand’s heritage is rooted in the professional game.

I will say there are signs of fresh thinking coming from Titleist and I certainly like what I’ve heard over the last several months. Will that manifest in a new strategy that reaches more golfers without compromising the Titleist identity?

We’ll find out in a couple of months.