It seems certain there won’t be any shortage of smokin’ deals on golf equipment in 2020. As such, many golfers are in “wait and see” mode, wondering just how deep the discounts might get. That said, for a company like Sub 70 and its 699 Pro irons, the purpose is to give golfers factory-direct pricing on every piece of equipment regardless of the day or context. (See: global pandemics)

The Skinny

The 699 Pro iron from Sub 70 sits squarely in the Players Distance category of irons. Compared to the standard 699 iron, the Pro version features a thinner topline, less offset and a black, Tour PVD finish. At a standard price of $89 per club, it’s tough to think of many other brands that offer better value in the category.

Sub 70 699 Pro Specifics

In 2019, the Sub 70 699 iron model finished sixth in the Players Distance category of Most Wanted testing. That might not sound like much, until you consider it finished ahead of Callaway, PING and Titleist. That’s an accolade worthy of some refrigerator space.

The marginally modified Sub 70 699 Pro is designed for the golfer who prefers a more classic head shape but can benefit from additional ball speed and forgiveness. Contemporary competitors include the TaylorMade P790, Titleist T200 and PING i500.

In the Players Distance category, terms like compact and minimal are still relative. Models in this segment of the market tend to have a smaller footprint, narrower toplines and less offset than typical game-improvement irons. In order to achieve certain performance characteristics, the clubs aren’t going to look exactly like a traditional muscle-back or smaller cavity-back iron.

Yes, the Sub 70 699 Pro has less offset from 4-PW than the slightly larger 699 model. Specifically, the 699 Pro 4-iron has 3.5 mm of offset whereas the 699 measures 5.7 mm in the 4-iron. The amount of offset decreases to 1.5 mm and 1.25 mm in the 9-iron, respectively.

For comparison, Mizuno’s MP 20 HMB has 3.6 mm of offset in the 4-iron. The salient point is that most irons in the burgeoning Players Distance category tend to be thinner and less bulky than the most forgiving irons. However, don’t expect them to resemble the butter knife in your place setting, either.

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Sub 70 699 Pro Design

Many DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) brands like Sub 70 don’t have a fully staffed R&D department. Conversely, major brands invest heavily in R&D to stay at the forefront of innovation and construction. So, it takes a bit of time for cutting-edge technology to filter down to third-party manufacturers that contract with smaller companies like Sub 70. Additionally, the more complex the design, the longer it takes for this technology trickle-down to materialize.

With that, the basic tech story of the Sub 70 699 Pro irons is reminiscent of PXG’s first-generation 0311 irons. This is true at least insofar as the 699 Pro features a TPE-injected hollow-core body. It also features a thin (1.7 mm) 455 carpenter steel face. To be clear, PXG’s face was .2 mm thinner and it used a more expensive material (HT-1770). As always, the degree to which differences in materials, design and technology impact performance will vary based on the individual. Distilling these differences into actionable information is the very basis of our Most Wanted testing platform.

Context and Everything Else

Right now, the only certainty is whatever world we left in January 2020 won’t be the same one we encounter in 2021. Between now and then, we fully expect near industry-wide price cuts on current product lines.

This pending liquidation will likely move a lot of inventory. However, any short-term price reduction might reset buyers’ expectations around what constitutes a fair market price. If the driver that was $500 two months ago becomes $299 or $349, it might be tough to return to pre-pandemic prices too quickly.

Another consideration is the entire retail ecosystem. Frankly, golf retail is set up to benefit the companies first, retailers second and then, possibly, the consumer. An overhaul is long overdue. Brick-and-mortar retail stores are expensive. Holding a bunch of inventory is expensive. Green-grass accounts fight to preserve whatever minuscule margins exist by the time it factors in all the costs of doing business.

The point is, a DTC structure is too limiting as a single distribution channel for large brands, though it offers some serious advantages over the typical big-box approach. For manufacturers with a major retail presence, any efforts toward DTC mean likely undercutting some portion of the retail relationship. Simply, the more Callaway sells directly from its website, the less it sells through PGA TOUR Superstore. And conflicts of interest generally aren’t good for sales figures.

Conversely, companies that used the DTC model as a foundation for distribution (see PXG) have apparently weathered this downturn much better than those without a robust DTC platform.

It’s no secret that value-conscious companies like Sub 70 need to win on price. In the short term, this might be more challenging because we’re going to see the deepest discounts in the last decade. Still, when prices become relatively equal, people care about service. Customers want to feel like the company isn’t some callous, faceless enterprise.

With that said, if there’s a defining characteristic of Sub 70, it’s that owner Jason Hiland is entirely committed to a different level of customer service.

Have a question? Give him a call. Literally, it’s his cell phone number on the website.

PRICING, AVAILABILITY and SPECS

If you’re going to order today, the 699 Pro is available in a black finish at $89 per club. The 699 Pro with a satin finish will be available by the end of May.

For more information or to place an order, visit Sub70.com.

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