Why Does Titanium Outperform Steel?

Monstrous distance is the first thing a golfer will think about when they hear of titanium being used in a golf club. It may not come as any surprise that today’s golfers are hitting the ball farther than before the pre-titanium revolution.  However, that is not exactly why titanium was used in the first place.  Let’s see how titanium evolved into the use of irons like our newest edition – Acer XK Ti-Ceptional.

Titanium was first used way back in golf clubheads in 1990 when Mizuno created the first titanium driver called the Ti-110. Titanium had been well known for it high strength, yet lighter weight compared to steel but the extremely expensive price tag made this a very limited product to consumers. Driver heads produced from titanium didn’t become popularized until 1995. That is the year when Callaway debuted their Great Big Bertha and TaylorMade followed up with the Titanium Bubble.

These enormous sized heads (at least at that time) were among the first heads to crack the 250cc barrier in volume.  Metals woods produced previously were manufactured primarily with 17-4 stainless steel which had its limitations.  First, the larger the head the heavier it would be and the walls were as thin as they could be made.  You see for the most part all drivers are a fixed weight.  If the walls were made any thinner to reduce weight then the head would break or cave in.  Manufacturers became obsessed in finding suitable lighter weight materials in which to produce their equipment.

Long before we heard the terms or even understood the concept of coefficient or restitution, spring-like or rebound effect, titanium was used to make clubs with superior perimeter weighting.  Simply put, the further the weight could be spread from the center of gravity of the head, there would be less twisting upon impact for straighter and more solid shots.

Titanium drivers quickly became popular and big all of the sudden was the rage in golf clubs and spread to all categories of clubs.  In late 1996, Tommy Armour came out with an iron made from 100% titanium called the Ti-100 and it was big. But a big headed titanium iron didn’t make sense, as the taller face height would shift the center of gravity too high and would make it difficult for even the best players in the world to hit the ball off the ground with any success.

At that same time in Japan, Maruman was introducing the idea of titanium faced irons.  The use of a secondary lighter material surrounded by a dense stainless steel frame allowed for extra weight to be used to elsewhere to provide better perimeter weighting.  Do you see a theme yet?

However, one byproduct was that extra weight could be used to lower the center of gravity.  To maintain or normalize the initial trajectory, the lofts soon were reduced.  This is what allows titanium face irons to hit the ball further yet still produce the proper trajectory. Titanium faced irons don’t hit the ball further because of the flexing of the face like on large headed drivers, especially the higher lofted the iron became and more oblique the ball collides with the face.  The distance comes as a direct relationship to the reduction of loft.

The new Acer XK Ti-Ceptional irons are another excellent example of how titanium is put to best use. We saved 25g of weight by utilizing a titanium face and for clubhead designers that is huge.  And for consumers, this means an even huger advantage of hitting straighter, oh and yes, longer shots too.

So if your playing partner says anything about you using your Acer Ti-Ceptional 8-iron where you used to use your 7-iron just smile and say it must be that titanium face flexing.  But know in the back of your mind you have the added confidence that you have the advantage of superior perimeter weighting.  After all, an iron is designed with accuracy and predictable distances in mind.

Acer XK Ti-Ceptional Iron Assembled Price $35.95

Acer XK Ti-Ceptional Component Clubhead Price $19.95


10 Comments on Why Ti? Explaining the Importance of Titanium Face Irons

  1. Re. your history: I believe Wilson Whale was the first all-Ti. driver and Ray Cook came out with the first all-Ti. irons.

  2. Will says:

    You advertise and promote via email these titanium iron heads but do not have any in stock. What sense is that?

  3. Cool article, Jeff. And the science is right, too. So is the history, but you left out a few interesting historical points that I’d like to add.

    (1) Shortly after the Armour Ti100 hit the market (and subsequently flopped) — maybe 1997 or ’98 — Tom Wishon predicted that titanium in irons would be for the face only, so weight could be moved to the periphery. Exactly what you describe as happening now.

    (2) You correctly pointed out the difference in titanium driver heads, both price and acceptance, between 1990 and 1995. But the reason for the change is really interesting. It is politics, the difference between the Republican administration in 1990 and the Democrats in 1995 — as well as the ripple effect from the Soviet collapse in 1989. That period saw a considerable shrinkage of our defense establishment. Much of the high-tech defense contracting was done in SoCal, the LA and San Diego areas. When the defense cutbacks occurred, that threw out of work a lot of engineers well versed in the use of super-high-tech materials: specifically titanium and carbon fiber composites. It also greatly reduced the demand (and thus the price) for such materials. Golf companies that did not already have a presence in SoCal found they needed one to pick up the suddenly surplus experts. And that is a big part of how titanium and “graphite” ramped up so suddenly in the golf club industry during that time.

  4. Jeff Summitt says:

    Will:

    We have been getting these a little at a time and filling back orders as they were placed. We should have stock of these shortly.

  5. Broder Schwensen says:

    Hello, Jeff,
    any chance to see the XK Ti in a lefthanded version?
    Would be a sure buy to me (maybe to Phil, too).
    Best regards
    Broder

  6. Jeff Summitt says:

    Broder:

    I doubt it at this time as the higher cost will have a limited market. We have done LH titanium faced irons before with only lukewarm sales and makes it hard to pull the plug on creating tooling.

  7. Broder Schwensen says:

    Really , really sad, Jeff, – pls, reconsider.
    The XK Ti would make a perfect match to my XK Ti Driver (12°) and my XK Hybrids (19°/22°25°), allowing you to leave out the 5-Iron in a lefthanded version in favour for a 50°gap-wedge. That kind of a LH-set (D1, H3-H5, I6-PW-GW-SW) would be an outstanding offer and surely be a seller! Like probably many other leftys I would be willing to pay an extra amount of 20-25% compared to a RH-version – and smiling.
    Pls, think about it.
    Best regards – and thanks for your quickly given earlier response.
    Broder

  8. Kyle says:

    I purchase lots of lefty club heads but I don’t have interest in the titanium faced irons. I have the caiman irons play them often and would expect similar results. I think that if the caiman irons in lefty are slow sellers then I bet the xk-ti would be harder(price). I thank you(hireko) for producing a fairly strong umbrella of club types for the lefties. In in the future ti faces may become the standard but until that day I and my game can wait.

  9. Richard says:

    “Titanium faced irons don’t hit the ball further because of the flexing of the face like on large headed drivers”

    Depends on the face design – some do!

  10. Jeff Summitt says:

    I am not saying that the titanium face may not have some component of added distance, but it is minor compared to the other parameters it allows.

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