Game improvement irons
The perfect blend of forgiveness and playability in a nice-looking iron design
When you need just a little bit more help to get the ball on the green.
MIZUNO JPX900 FORGED £120 PER CLUB Golf.mizunoeurope.com
Availability: 4-GW Stock shafts: Project X LZ 5.5 (s) Project X LZ (g) 7i loft/length: 31° / 36.75”
TECH: A mid-sized forged iron that is said to end the trade-off between precision and distance. Boron makes the Forged 30% stronger, so it’s possible to create a pocket cavity with a multi-thickness face to allow it to perform like a distance iron, without losing feel.
WE SAY: It could be argued the Forged would be better classified as a players’ iron, but Mizuno insists that because of the addition of boron and a pocket cavity, it works for a wider audience. The 900’s slightly longer blade length improves MOI, but the top edge is very slender for the category. The 1025 steel head feels fantastic and the ball speed it produced was right on average across all three testers. Carry distance was a couple of yards short of the average, which highlights perfectly how such a design is more punishing on off-centre hits.
VERDICT: A cracking looking iron that sits beautifully between a GI and better player model. You’ll need to be a more consistent ball-striker to hit them as well as some of our other favourite game improvement models.
COBRA KING F7 £549 (S) £649 (G) www.cobragolf.co.uk
Availability: 4-PW, GW, SW (stock 4-PW, 5-SW, 5-GW) Stock shaft: True Temper King F7 (s) Fujikura Pro 63i (g) 7i loft/length: 30° / 37.25”
TECH: Hollow body long irons, half-hollow mid irons, cavity back short irons and blade wedges are teamed with two different steels and groove shapes to improve distance, feel and control.
WE SAY: Each iron is designed as an individual, rather than a set like much of the competition. As one of the lower-lofted 7-irons on test it’s no surprise the F7 turned in a strong performance. Head shape is always subjective, and the F7 is pretty rounded, which some golfers will love but none of our three testers quite ranked among their favourites. Like Cobra’s F7 driver we felt the irons were easy to generate speed with. They give a real sense of being user-friendly, where other models give the impression you need to be right on top of your game to get the best out of them.
VERDICT: There’s little not to like, especially when you consider the price. The fact Cobra has invested in CNC milling each groove at this end of the market demonstrates how seriously they take every last detail.
YONEX EZONE ELITE £399 (S) £559 (G) www.yonex.co.uk
Availability: 5-SW Stock shaft: FST 115 (s) Yonex M60 (g) 7i loft/length: 29° / 37.25”
TECH: A double undercut cavity means the sole is extremely thin behind the face to maximise flex at impact. Weight is removed from high in the blade by Yonex’s Octaforce tech and relocated to create a progressive weighting system.
WE SAY: The Elite’s 29° 7-iron is stronger than some 6-irons, which goes a long way to explaining its joint-longest average carry (188 yards) for our pro. There’s no hiding from the head size though – it’s pretty large – and because it has less offset than most, we reckon it might appeal to golfers who really don’t enjoy seeing the leading edge of an iron a long way behind the hosel at address. Thanks to its size the Elite is really forgiving.
VERDICT: Even if the Elite is a bit plain, it’s well worth a look, particularly if you consider the price. There might not be lots of visible tech, but across the board it’s solid and will do a good job for a club golfer.
BENROSS HTX COMPRESSOR TYPE R £420 (S) £490 (G) www.benrossgolf.com
Availability: 4-GW Stock shaft: KBS Tour 90 (s) Kuro Kage (g) 7-iron loft and length: 30° / 37”
TECH: A heat-treated cup face provides faster ball speeds from a larger area of the face, to maximise distance and forgiveness.
WE SAY: If picking your next set of irons was just about numbers – ball speed, distance, price – many golfers wouldn’t look past the Type R. Unfortunately, we buy with our eyes as much as we do on performance, and that’s where the Type R comes under scrutiny. Its head has an unusually low heel/high toe design, which gives a very different appearance. None of our testers really felt any love for it. At Simon’s slower swing speed the Type R recorded the joint fastest individual ball speed (109mph), while for our pro it was just behind his longest average carry.
VERDICT: The cup face is clearly doing a job, though remember the loft’s pretty strong, too. KBS shafts and Golf Pride grips are components you’ll find in other top brands.
PING G £92 (S) £102 (G) PER CLUB www.ping.com
Availability: 4-LW Stock shaft: Ping AWT 2.0 (s) CFS Graphite (g) plus four steel options at no extra cost 7i loft/length: 30.5° / 37”
TECH: COR-EYE tech behind the face encourages more of the face, top rail and sole to flex at impact to increase ball speeds. By connecting a “custom tuning port” to the sole rather than the face lowers and deepens the CG, increasing forgiveness.
WE SAY: These are just what tons of club golfers need. In our opinion the current Gs, which are now in their second year, are the best of the GI bunch, and they still stack up with the competition. Simon recorded his joint highest individual ball speed with them, while the other two testers recorded a ball speed 3mph quicker than the test average and two yards over the benchmark carry distance. They’re just as good now as when they were launched last year, though given Ping’s launch cycle, we could reasonably expect new Gs this summer.
VERDICT: Still a seriously good iron. Lots of game improvement irons talk of combining the look of a players’ iron in a game-improvement chassis, but don’t quite get it right. The G pulls it off superbly.
‘AT SIMON’S SLOWER SWING SPEED THE TYPE R RECORDED THE JOINT FASTEST BALL SPEED’
CALLAWAY APEX CF 16 £879 (S) £1,099 (G) www.callawaygolf.com
Availability: 3-SW inc AW (stock set 4-PW) Stock shaft: True Temper XP 95 (s) UST Mamiya Recoil (g) 7i loft/length: 31° / 37”
TECH: Callaway has taken the cup face that’s so popular in its woods and applied it to a forged iron. Each head is quadruple forged from soft 1025 carbon steel for soft feel.
WE SAY: The Apex is now in its second year, yet all three testers still loved them. The heads are a bit smaller and sleeker than some of the irons here, but they are just adorable. So adorable, we reckon they’re one of the nicest irons available in this category for years, so if you want a set now is the time to get them, as there’s every chance they’ll disappear at the end of 2017. Despite not having the strongest loft the Apex produced the longest carry (197 yards with a 7-iron) and joint fastest single ball speed (with the M1) for our test pro, which is impressive from soft, forged heads.
VERDICT: If how irons look is important to you, but your game demands good forgiveness, you must look at the Apex. They are a beautiful set and prove GI tech doesn’t have to mean irons look like shovels.
TAYLORMADE M1 £849 (S) £1,049 (G) www.taylormadegolf.com
Availability: 3-PW, AW, SW Stock shaft: True Temper XP 95 (s) Mitsubishi Kuro Kage (g) 7i loft/length: 30.5° / 36.75”
TECH: Face Slots and Speed Pockets increase flex at the perimeter to improve ball speed consistency and drop-off. Geocoustic engineering uses a stiff cavity badge to attach the face to the body to control unwanted vibrations and deliver great sound and feel.
WE SAY: Many golfers will want to know how the new M1s compare to the M2s. Well, if you test them on a launch monitor you’re likely to go M2. Why? They are 2° stronger in loft (half a club difference) which for our test pro equated to 5mph of ball speed and 12 yards of carry. But that absolutely doesn’t mean the M1 is a slouch. All three testers recorded either their fastest individual shot or average ball speed with the M1 (of the GI irons here) and Simon carried them further (165 yards) than any other game improvement iron.
VERDICT: Iron designers will tell you that combining good forgiveness in a more compact head is a real challenge. So while the M1 is more compact than the M2, it wasn’t quite as long. But it didn’t stop gear ed Simon really wanting a set.
WILSON STAFF C200 £525 (S) £609 (G) www.wilson.com
Availability: 4-PW Stock shaft: KBS Tour 90 (s) Aldila Rogue Pro (g) 7i loft/length: 32° / 37.50”
TECH: Designed for the “crossover” player seeking a midsize head shape with moderate offset, but those who also want maximum distance and the best feel in its class. Power Holes maximise face flex and ball speed, yet maintain excellent sound and feel.
WE SAY: Wilson’s Flxface tech is certainly clever. We’d love to say it ramped up ball speeds and carry distance, but that wasn’t quite the case. Yes, the C200s are powerful, but our stats show, particularly at higher swing speeds, the C200 impart a lot of spin, which means energy is spent going up rather than forwards, which ultimately robbed them of distance. The “Power Holes” don’t distract attention at address.
VERDICT: The C200 did absolutely fine, without being exceptional. If you’re attracted to the tech, have a good look at Wilson’s D300, too. Their stronger lofts meant a decent increase in ball speed and carry over the 200s.
SRIXON Z 565 £770 www.srixon.co.uk
Availability: 4-PW (stock set 4-PW) Stock shaft: Nippon NS Pro 980 (s) Miyazaki Kaula 8 (g) 7i loft/length: 31° / 37”
TECH: SUP10 spring steel faces combine with soft 1020 carbon steel bodies for a smooth but energetic feel. A Tour VT sole improves turf interaction so less energy is lost at impact and dispersion is improved.
WE SAY: With a 7-iron loft a couple of degrees weaker than the strongest, it’s no surprise the 565s struggled to keep up in terms of raw power for our amateurs. However, in the hands of our pro it performed very well. With more shots hit closer to the centre of the face it posted a right-ontest average carry and above average ball speed. A great package of face tech and forgiveness which should be on your short list if you’re looking at forged irons in 2017.
VERDICT: Srixon makes some very solid forged irons right now, and if your game demands the extra feel and control they offer, the 565s are one of a handful that legitimately can be called “forgiving”.
MD GOLF SUPERSTRONG STR £299 (S) £399 (G) www.mdgolf.co.uk
Availability: 4-PW Stock shaft: Precision Rifle (s) Mitsubishi Rayn JAVLN (g) 7i loft/length: 30° / 37”
TECH: A wide sole, undercut cavity back and thick top edge ensure maximum playability when shots are hit off-centre.
WE SAY: We’ve got to hand it to MD Golf, the Superstrongs have got some serious shelf appeal. They might not boast any of the springy face or speed pocket tech like some, but they were more than capable of keeping up when it came to ball speed and carry. By posting a just above-average ball speed and carry distance across all three testers, and considering the sub£300 price point, we’d say the STR’S are a decent value option. The head has a decent sized cavity back, a reasonably wide and forgiving sole and yet the top edge doesn’t swell to obese levels, either. It all stacks up to a solid iron.
VERDICT: MD are not as widely available as they once were and they’re not quite as keen to offer custom fitting on their 2017 line up, either. But that doesn’t take away from the STR being a decent proposition for club golfers, especially those shopping on a budget.
‘A GREAT PACKAGE OF FACE TECH AND FORGIVENESS, WHICH SHOULD BE ON ANY FORGED SHORTLIST’
MIZUNO JPX900 FORGED YONEX EZONE ELITE COBRA KING F7 PING G