The Titleist 716 AP1 iron is the next evolution of the AP1 model last tweaked in 2013, but this time the changes are more significant.
It is all to do with the weighting, the design of the sole and the cavity back which work together to create what Titleist say is their longest and most forgiving iron.
What you will see straight away is a long deep 360° undercut cavity in the back of the 716 AP1 head. This in itself is not new as various manufacturers have been doing this over the last couple of decades. It helps to move the Centre of Gravity (CG) low and back to increase the launch and the forgiveness.
This is a big change to the previous 714 AP1 iron that had a supporting bar across the back of the cavity, which is now gone. This saves 14g of weight and leaves an unsupported face that is strong enough on its own, but can also flex a little to improve ball speeds.
The head is cast from 17-4 Stainless Steel to provide this strength and it is also treated to ensure that it is malleable enough to bend if you want to adjust the lie.
This is the biggest cavity I have seen on a Titleist iron, but I think it looks pretty good and even in the 4-iron you can't see the back of the cavity at address, which is great so it still looks nice and clean.
The other major change is something you can't see because Titleist has increased the amount of high density tungsten that they have put in the sole of the club by 50% over the previous model.
Having held the cutaway version of the head and the tungsten section, which is not really blue, I can vouch for the fact that this small piece of material is extremely heavy for its size.
Like before it is in the toe area of the head and moves the CG lower and more towards the toe of the club. This is good because dropping the CG puts it more behind the impact point on the head meaning that you get more ball speed and accuracy.
The tungsten toe weights are only in the 3 to 7 irons and not in the 8 iron to wedges. This is because the extra loft and greater head mass means the impact point is higher up the face and also less forgiveness is required.
Normally this bothers me when materials are in one part of the set and not another. I understand the reasons though and in this case it does not seem to affect the sound, feel or flow of the set, so Titleist has done a good job here.
The feel right through the set was very good for what is a cast, oversized set of cavity back irons. The 42 grams of tungsten in the head is hardly noticeable when you swing and helps increase the stability of the club through impact.
Even the wedge felt very good, although calling a 43° club a wedge is starting to push it a little and leaves a big gap that will need to be filled carefully with gap wedges. As you went up the set, the generously sized 4-iron did sound a little hollow though.
The lofts on all the 716 AP1 irons are 1° stronger than the 714s, which therefore makes them 2° stronger than the 712s.
It all seems like a bit of an arms race and whilst it is all to do with keeping the trajectory height the same from faces that go faster, it does not seem compatible with traditional wedge numbering.
On Trackman outdoors with Pro V1s, I was hitting the AP1 7-iron only a yard behind the AP2 716 6-iron and it was landing more steeply, so was therefore more likely to stop.
It did make me wonder why I would consider the AP2 at all, but the same gains applied with the AP1 wedges and I would have had a huge gap to fill at the bottom of the set before my first specialist wedges at 50 degrees if I took the AP1, but all that distance is tempting.
This is the choice here between the 716 AP1 and AP2. Do you need the extra distance and forgiveness of AP1 or do you want the better sound and feel of the forged AP2, which are reasonably forgiving too?
Fellow single figure players will probably still head for AP2, but I spent most of the Titleist launch day asking myself why and I am not sure I gave myself a decent enough answer.
When the AP2's get to the 4-iron it looks tiny by comparison to AP1 and the extra distance, forgiveness and steeper landing angle maybe provide the crossover point to blend in an AP1 long iron. On Trackman I was showing an extra 5 yards on the AP1 4-iron over the AP2 so if you need a little extra to cover a gap at the top of your bag then this is a worthy option.
If you are mid single figures upwards then the Titleist 716 AP1 irons are very playable and provided you fix the gap at the bottom of the set with one of the two of the set gap wedges, then you may find yourself in the larger AP1 iron wondering why on earth you did not do this years before.