• Better Player Irons
Even if your ball-striking isn’t good enough to use them, we can all drool
MIZUNO JPX900 TOUR golf.mizunoeurope.com Availability: 3-PW Stock shaft: Choose from 16 steel and graphite options 7i loft/length: 34° / 36.75”
TECH: A low toe height, compact face and narrow, tapered sole are perfect for crisp ball-striking and precise shot making. A Powerframe chassis reinforces the top edge for maximum power transfer.
WE SAY: What Mizuno don’t know about creating a brilliant players’ iron isn’t worth knowing. We love the classy, satin finish of the 900s and felt it bore some real benefits over traditional polished blades, as there are no reflections to distract the eye. Our test pro hit the 900s really well and produced some excellent numbers. A ball speed dropoff of just 1.1mph (between good and average strikes) was the lowest on test. It translated to just three yards of carry drop-off, which was also the joint lowest on test (with the Ping i200, Callaway Apex Pro and Ping iblade). That tells us the cavity back offers extra forgiveness that you won’t find in Mizuno’s MP irons.
VERDICT: Who wouldn’t want to play a set of these? They look and feel fantastic, and perform just as well. Plus, 16 premium shaft options all at no extra cost is a huge fitting benefit.
SRIXON Z 765 www.srixon.com Availability: 3-SW (stock set 4-PW) Stock shaft: Nippon NS Pro Modus3 Tour 120 (s) 7i loft/length: 32° / 37”
TECH: A muscle cavity which blends a players’ profile with the forgiveness of a cavity back. The 1020 carbon steel heads are heattreated to deliver the smoothest forged feel.
WE SAY: We’ve known for years that Srixon makes great balls, but it’s only over the last few that we’ve gained a real respect for their forged irons, too. They’re fantastic. Our pro said the Z765s were among his favourites and he’d happily slip them in his bag. With a 7-iron 2° stronger (loft) than many on test it’s no surprise the 765s carried shots to within 3 yards of the longest on test. Ball speed was over a 1mph faster than our average, too, and a tiny drop-off of four yards of carry and 251rpm of spin between shots suggest a very consistent across-theboard performance iron.
VERDICT: The Japanese pour over every detail and it’s this that makes these irons stand out. Laser face milling, a beautiful satin and polished finish, the sole detailing, a new heat treatment to improve feel and grooves that are just a tiny bit bigger... Brilliant.
COBRA KING FORGED TOUR www.cobragolf.com Availability: 4-PW (stock set 5-PW / 4-PW) Stock shaft: KBS Tour FLT 7i loft/length: 33° / 37.25”
TECH: Forged five times so the shape is extremely precise and grain structure tightened to increase feel. Tungsten weights in the toe and heel lowers and centres the CG for forgiveness.
WE SAY: Thanks to their work with guys like Rickie Fowler Cobra has taken huge steps forward with these irons. The whole set is made up of really desirable head shapes with sleek straight top and leading edges which appeal to decent golfers. It’s no surprise that off a strong loft (7-iron) the Tour posted a joint second longest carry and a ball speed a good 1.5mph quicker than the average. Off-centre hit performance comes from the tungsten toe and heel weighting which aids stability.
VERDICT: It feels to us like Cobra has matured a bit over the last couple of years. Some of the crazy colours, designs and ideas have been quietened down to produce products with much more mass-market appeal. For us the Tours are a seriously good set of irons.
WILSON STAFF FG TOUR V6 www.wilson.com Availability: 3-PW (4-PW) Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT 7i loft/length: 35° / 37.25”
TECH: 20g of tungsten weighting in the 3-7 iron lowers the CG and increases launch without increasing spin, says Wilson.
WE SAY: The V6 throws up a real conundrum, as its head size is one of the smallest on test. It’s natural to expect a smaller head to be less forgiving, but with one of the largest and deepest cavity backs in the category, and plenty of tungsten toe and heel weighting to boot, we wondered if the V6 could make up for its lack of size by turning in a strong performance. It does, as it certainly didn’t feel unforgiving, and with our test pro posting a ball speed 1.5mph over the average and carrying shots with a 7-iron 1.5 yards further than average (with a higher loft) it speaks volumes about the V6s.
VERDICT: If you look at the V6s in the cold light of day, they’re a really decent set of forged irons, with just enough tech to aid, not punish your enjoyment of the game.
PING IBLADE www.ping.com Availability: 3-PW Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold (plus four premium options) 7i loft/length: 34° / 37”
TECH: Ping’s most forgiving blade-style model to date. A 431 stainless steel head, with a thinner top rail, minimal offset, straight leading edge and high toe is designed to appeal to the discerning golfer.
WE SAY: Forged heads are the overwhelming choice of tour players when it comes to irons. You might think that puts the cast iblades at a disadvantage. But remember it’s designed for players like Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood, so it’s no surprise it performed admirably in our tests. Our data shows how the iblade was right on our pro’s test average when it came to ball speed and carry, and it recorded a tiny carry drop off of just three yards (joint lowest) between on and offcentre hits, which makes for some seriously accurate shot-making.
VERDICT: Ping openly admits the iblade will make up a tiny proportion of its iron sales, but that doesn’t mean the iblade isn’t good. It is. But the extra forgiveness from the wider-sole, bigger-cavity i200s will be much more satisfying for most of us.
‘THANKS TO WORK WITH GUYS LIKE RICKIE FOWLER, COBRA HAS TAKEN A HUGE STEP FORWARD’
PING I200 www.ping.com Availability: 3-UW Stock shaft: Choose from seven premium steel and one graphite option 7i loft/length: 33° / 37”
TECH: The i200 replaces the “i” iron, and brings some notable updates to the table. The face is 30% thinner, which means more mass in the toe and heel to nudge MOI 7% higher.
WE SAY: Speak to any designer of better player irons and they’ll tell you how good golfers want forgiveness, but it can’t come at any cost. So their first priority is always to create a good looking head. Then they focus on forgiveness. That’s where the i200 comes into its own. Yes, some will accuse it of being a bit boxy (like our test pro), but it’s a look Ping have made their own. And the club’s ability to marry good looks with decent levels of playability makes it an outstanding choice for decentish club golfers. We loved the sleek hydropearl finish, it looks great in the bag. Our 11-handicap amateur now wants a set to replace his i’s.
VERDICT: Our pro’s numbers were bang on the test average for ball speed and carry, but a joint lowest carry drop-off (three yards) means it will make for some accurate shot making. A fantastic all-rounder.
YONEX N1-CB www.yonex.com/sports/golf Availability: 4-PW Stock shaft: Nippon 950 (s), Yonex NST310 (g) 7i loft/length: 32° / 36.75”
TECH: A graphite insert in the back ensures the looks of a muscleback, but the playability and forgiveness of a pocket cavity design. A 3d sole helps improve strike efficiency.
WE SAY: The N1-CB’S put in a serious shift during testing. The soles are wider, the toe’s a little higher and there’s a decent cavity back and pocket cavity to increase playability. The bigger appearance fostered confidence where some of the smaller models looked more intimidating and zapped it. We tested the CB in last year’s Top Gear and it performed really well; this year it recorded a ball speed and carry distance a fraction lower than our test average, which to us says that other brands have upped their game for 2017.
VERDICT: Yonex are keen to stress how the N1-CBS are designed and made in Japan to very exacting standards, which if you’re a fan of all things Japanese you’ll love. This is a lovely set which marries a degree of forgiveness with a really nice looking head, but at nearly US$1543 a set they face some stiff competition.
MIZUNO MP-25 golf.mizunoeurope.com Availability: 3-PW Stock shaft: Pick from 16 steel and graphite options 7i loft/length: 34° / 36.75”
TECH: Mizuno’s 1025 boron steel gives the extra strength required to create micro-slot pocket cavities in the 3-6 irons, which means increased face flex and ball speeds.
WE SAY: The MP-25S have been around for a couple of years now; it was Mizuno’s first boron-infused MP better player iron. Adding boron allows engineers to play tricks with face thickness and pocket cavities that couldn’t be done with forged irons before. We felt the 25 was a very good looking, stable and playable iron that combines a decent shape with a degree of forgiveness. Its loft is a couple of degrees weaker than some, so it was always going to need to bust a gut to compete in terms of distance. But in terms of ball speed drop-off between centre and off-centre hits, it’s a very solid, wellbalanced design.
VERDICT: If you must have the look of a better player iron, but aren’t the best ballstriker, they could be right up your street.
TAYLORMADE P770 www.taylormadegolf.com Availability: 3-AW (stock set 4-PW or seven irons) Stock shaft: KBS Tour FLT 7i loft/length: 33° / 36.75”
TECH: The 770 name refers to the 77m blade length and some serious reshaping work means the new design has a straighter top line, flatter sole radius and medium sole camber.
WE SAY: Brands hate pouring their heart and soul into new products only for their staffers to stick with an older model. Lots of Taylormade pros still played the Taylormade forged MB circa 2014 at the end of last season. The P770’s (and their P750 smaller brothers) are out to replace them and they’ve got a heck of a chance. They’re a superbly simple, unfussy design which are more forgiving than you’d expect. Our two amateurs loved their feel and feedback and being Taylormade it’s no surprise their ball speed was 5mph quicker and carry distance 7.3m further than test average for a 7-iron.
VERDICT: Wallet-busting, but beautiful. If you’re lucky enough to have both the money and the game for them, we applaud you.
CALLAWAY APEX PRO 16 www.callawaygolf.com Availability: 3-AW (stock set 3-PW) Stock shaft: Project X (s), UST Mamiya Recoil (g) 7i loft/length: 34° / 37”
TECH: Callaway’s premium forged iron has a classic look that’s been influenced by its tour staff. The heads are soft 1025 carbon steel to maximise feel, and progressive CGS (thanks to tungsten weighting) optimise playability through the set.
WE SAY: Somehow Callaway has managed to roll what looks like a reasonably forgiving cavity back design into a head that looks very much like a blade at address. It’s a cracker, and we applaud them for pulling it off. Chris Ryan really liked the soft-but-solid feel, saying it was one of the nicest feeling forged clubs he hit. His longest shots came from both slight toe and heel hits (9mm spread between them) which demonstrates a degree of playability that wasn’t present in every better player iron we hit.
VERDICT: A lovely looking iron that’s aimed at the very best, but with an extra degree of forgiveness. The sole and leading edge shaping is also a little more friendly than some previous Callaway players’ irons.
‘BORON ALLOWS ENGINEERS TO PLAY TRICKS THAT COULDN’T BE DONE WITH FORGED IRONS BEFORE’
SRIXON Z 765 COBRA KING FORGED TOUR PING IBLADE MIZUNO JPX900 TOUR WILSON STAFF FG TOUR V6