2002: Business - Titleist adds to 975 family

The Titleist driver family tripled in size with the introduction of two new clubs, the 975J-VS and the 975L-FE. Both have been used in PGA Tour victories this year, and with the 975J, which came to market in 2001, they give the Fairhaven, Mass., equipment maker a varied line that retailers say they like.

“I haven’t hit them yet, but I’ve seen the new drivers, and they look really good,” says Rob Kempf, merchandise manager for the Golf Galaxy retail chain. “The FE has a larger head, and it appears to be something Titleist will use to go after the more average golfer. In a way, the company is playing off the success of its DCI 822 OS irons with that model. But at the same time, it is not forgetting its roots with the serious player.”

Scott Solem, owner of three Sun Golf stores in the Jacksonville, Fla., area, has hit the new 975s and says he likes them both.

“The FE looks and feels great,” Solem said. “But the VS is also a really solid driver, more for the better player, I think. I would be hard pressed to say which one I’d play myself because I hit both well.

“What I can tell you is that these clubs give Titleist some options. And they give retailers some options in terms of fitting people and finding the right driver for them. Which, of course, is very good for us.”

The 975J-VS, which Phil Mickelson put in his bag early this season, has the same clubhead size (312cc) as the original 975J and is the most played Titleist driver on the Tour. It provides a combination of high ball speed and launch angle with reduced spin and is designed for the stronger or quicker tempo player who prefers a straight-to-drawing ball flight.

The 975L-FE is being used by Sergio Garcia and Brad Faxon and has a 350cc head that is 12 percent larger than the other models in that line. But it features the same 975 look and profile and is intended more for players who prefer a straight-to-fading ball flight.

All three 975 drivers come in a variety of lofts and have a number of different stock shaft options. The new models will begin shipping May 24 and carry a suggested retail price of $500, which some might find high at a time when competitive pressures have pushed driver prices across the board to low levels.

“But I don’t think that will be a problem for these drivers,” Kempf said. “Typically, Titleist is not as affected by market prices as other manufacturers. It is an aspirational brand, so it demands a little bit higher price. And consumers are willing to pay for it because the name is Titleist.”

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