Equipment review continued: today's newest and hottest irons
The next stage of my ongoing equipment review for the high-handicap player brings me to irons, which have undergone considerable changes-even more drastic than the ball or driver-over the last 2 to 3 years. While cavity-back irons used to be the norm for the higher-handicap player, today we see combo sets (irons that transition from cavity-back long irons into blade-like short irons), CGB ("center of gravity back“) technology, and even (excuse me while I become ill) hybrid wedges. I was able to test a broad spectrum of irons, and I learned a great deal from the research.
I hit the Nike Slingshot OSS (which actually won Golf Digest’s Editor’s Choice Award for the “Super Game Improvement” category), and was impressed with the forgiveness, particularly on thin shots. Also, they launch the ball in the air more than some of the clubs that skilled players generally prefer. A common complaint among my playing partners (all with handicaps under 4) who took swings with the clubs was that they make it nearly impossible to work the ball. I’m not going to hold it against Nike too much, as this problem is irrelevant to most of us.
The next clubs I tinkered with, the Ping i5 irons, are made for the mid-handicapper (like myself), and are becoming more and more common around golf courses nationwide. These clubs have a very good look (far better than Ping’s old irons that looked like a wooden block attached to a twig) and are reasonably forgiving. Another added benefit of these clubs was that when they were hit solidly they produced a penetrating ball flight that did not balloon in the Kiawah Island wind.
I am somewhat of a golf purist in that I love the look of a “traditional iron", so the most fun I had was testing the irons that are intended for the low-handicapper (Although it seems that more and more hacks are putting these in their bags for one reason or another). The Ben Hogan F.T.X.,the Mizuno MP 32, and the Taylor Made RAC Forged TP cannot be matched when it comes to appearance, and the feel alone makes all of them worth buying. All three produce a similar ball flight and launch angle on a well-struck shot, and all three have the purest sound available upon contact. At setup, all three models have the appearance of a blade but are much more forgiving. Overall findings:
Overall, iron technology has improved quite a bit, and there are more options than ever available to suit the needs of every player. Much like the drivers, however, don’t get coaxed into believing that you are going to find a new golf game overnight after buying one of these sets. Every iron tested lost a great deal of distance (roughly 35% per club) when catching at least one inch of the ground before the ball. Also, when hit off the hozel, all three produced nearly identical ball flights- dead cold shanks that went straight right, made a hideous sound, and sent vibrations throughout my body.
The most important thing to know about your game when selecting a new set of irons is whether you should get clubs that are designed for low, middle, or high handicap players, and the most important thing to realize about irons is that all of them are capable of producing a shank if placed in the right hands. Face it, you might be better off keeping that old set of irons and saving your money for a weekend golf trip or a round at that expensive course you’ve always wanted to play; in the end, either of these options will probably bring you more enjoyment, while a new set of clubs is likely to bring with it disappointment.
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