2003: Business - Buzz precedes Titleist 983 driver launch

By John Steinbreder

Titleist’s new 983 driver won’t reach golf stores for two months, but it’s already creating a buzz on the PGA Tour and among consumers.

“We’re getting a lot of calls about it already,” said Kerry Kabase, sales director for Edwin Watts Golf Shops. “It looks really good, it clearly performs well, and when it comes out, I think we are going to sell a lot.”

John Clouse, divisional hard lines manager for the Golf Galaxy chain, goes one step further.

“Given the interest and feedback we’ve gotten, I think it will be the hit of the spring,” he said.

The Titleist 983 is a design evolution from the 975 family and includes two models, the “E” and “K.” According to Chris McGinley, Titleist’s vice president of marketing for golf clubs worldwide, the E is a lower-spin product with a deep-faced, 350 cc titanium head. The K, which Ernie Els has used to win three of the first four tournaments he has played this year, has a 365 cc head and provides more moderate spin.

“The 983E is a smaller driver that will launch lower,” said McGinley. “It’s for the high-speed or high-spin golfer who is looking for a little flatter ball flight. The 983K, on the other hand, will launch a little higher. It is designed to go up easily and (maintain its trajectory once it flattens out). And due to its size and forgiveness, it will have more reach and depth as far as a target audience of consumers is concerned than any Titleist driver we have ever produced.”

McGinley says that both models’ center of gravity has been lowered relative to the face height to control the level of spin. He adds that the club face is more forgiving because of a two-piece construction in which a thin beta titanium face insert plate is supported by a thinner titanium frame.

“This material, and the plasma welding construction (which is also being used in the new Cobra drivers), combine to provide higher ball speed and the maximum allowable COR (coefficient of restitution),” said McGinley.

The drivers, which will carry a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $500, are among the first efforts of Scott Burnett, who joined Acushnet Co., the parent of Titleist, as vice president of research and development last summer.

“I wish we had them now,” said Tim Whalen, co-owner of Fiddler’s Green Golf Center in Eugene, Ore. “If we did, we would be selling a bunch because consumers are really excited about the product.”

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