The 714 range of irons from Titleist are the latest in a long generation of successful products designed for "serious" golfers. We spoke to Steve Pelisek, General Manager of Titleist Golf Clubs, to find out how the range has fared and why existing customers are at the heart of the companies two year product life-cycle.
Steve, you recently launched the Titleist 714 irons, so how have they been received?
Well, to be short and sweet, it has been the most successful iron launch in the company's history. In the first 3 months after launch we exceeded our expectations by about 50%, making the 714 launch has been about twice the size of the 710 launch, which was two generations ago. So it is not like we are trying to grow as fast as possible, we are just very happy with the steady increase in the consumer approval of what we are doing.
We track consumer interest and trends very regularly and very closely and we know that there are about 50% more golfers considering purchasing Titleist clubs than there were a couple of generations ago which is a really positive trend and something we are proud of and really excited about.
What has been the spread between AP1 and AP2 both now and in previous models?
Well, that is interesting and it depends where you are in the world. In the United States the AP1 iron is our best selling iron, just barely above the AP2, and that has been a steady climb. You would think that the AP1 would have a broader market than AP2, but AP2 was the kind of iron we were known for in the past, so it got off to a faster start in prior generations, but the AP1 has steadily climbed and just in the past generation, the 712, it exceeded the AP2 in sales.
In the UK the AP2 iron is still our best selling iron and I understand that. I think generally in the UK the golfers are a little more serious and our irons are fairly expensive, so the golfers interested in our clubs are serious players. Maybe that translates into better players, which means the AP2 is still our best selling iron in the UK. The AP1 is growing though and probably at some point we expect it to pass it.
Serious players is something you promote and we have talked about before. Does it mean better players or just players who are serious about their game? Do you think that this something the UK hasn't adopted as quickly?
I think it is just what we have been known for in the past. We define a serious golfer as an attitude not an index. So it is up to us if we are going to do that, knowing that “serious” may have the perception of being for the better player, we have to make sure the product line performs for all serious golfers.
One of the things we are most proud of now is the breadth of performance in the range now is really good now so whether you are a plus two, twelve or twenty-two handicapper we are really confident that we make a very good performing golf club for you.
You mention the range and it is a very broad range from woods, irons, wedges, putters and balls. Where do you think you sit in the market overall from a commercial point of view?
Honestly we don’t really track it. What we track is the number of players who come back to us. Our number one customer is our existing customer and we believe that before you go and try to find a new golfer you should take care of the golfer you have got, which in many ways dictates what we develop. We don’t have massive swings in the style of our golf clubs – they tend to evolve. We listen to the players who play our clubs and we try to build that into each generation while maintaining the things that they like.
A good example is the iron line. The basic chassis size of the AP1 and the AP2 has not changed across the last couple of generations and that is for a good reason. The folks who buy the AP1's and AP2’s said this is the chassis size that I like, but if you can build in a little more forgiveness, in the case of the AP1, or if you can clean up the sole in the case of the AP2, then I am going to like it even more, but please don’t mess with the chassis size.
So in terms of market share we don’t really track it. Our number one concern is making sure that loyal Titleist supporters are happy with the next generation of products.
We’ve seen a number of irons in the market that seem to be designed for out and out distance. What is your view on that?
I think some of it is silly. Remember you are hitting all iron shots to a green, unless you are scrambling out from out of a bush. It is a precision shot with aim to land near the flag and to stop near the flag.
There are so many things that dictate the make up of the clubs you have in your bag. It is not about pure distance as much as it is about distance control. I think you have to be really careful with the loft progressions and I would advise everyone to take a look at the lofts of the short irons of sets to ensure they have a range of distances covered.
Titleist has two year product life-cycles, but there are some brands up to five drivers in a year. What is your view on that and is it good for the market generally?
If life-cycles get too short then consumers get confused. These are big investments for a lot of golfers and we believe we have an obligation to ensure that every generation significantly out performs its predecessor and then it takes about two years to thoroughly engineer, develop, produce, get the feedback, get ready and really make a better product.
If consumers get used to that multiple product launches in a year that might put pressure on your product life-cycles?
I have to wait and see on that. We know what it takes to make a better product and most of our customers and retail partners have said that they love this two year product life-cycle because they know that they are getting a much better product so we feel that we are doing it the right way.