2008 Iron Buyer’s Guide

When it comes to buying a new set of irons, be sure to pick a set that?s made for your game and swing. The right set of irons will always perform better than a set that?s not properly fitted to your needs.

Better players know that the secret to scoring well comes from being a better iron player. Better iron shots mean shorter putts, and shorter putts lead to more pars and birdies. What irons you put in your bag are important to your golfing success, and although we say it every year, there's more to choose from this year than there was last year! Better yet, custom-fitting has proliferated, and we urge everyone to get fitted with the proper specifications before you plop down a few hundred dollars on a new set of sticks. It can make a huge difference in maximizing the performance and technological features of each club.

In this issue, you'll also see irons becoming more differentiated on both ends of the spectrum. Some are clearly for game improvement, others for better players who want shotmaking control, thus leaving the chasm between game improvement and players' clubs bigger than ever. It's also more crowded, with a host of new irons dubbed as "mixed sets," which feature game-improvement long irons, blade short irons and everything in between.

Understanding Our Charts Key Features: What distinguishes this iron from the rest. What We Like: We have our preferences, too. Basically, what impressed us in our review. Who It's For: The type of player these irons were made for. Clubhead: The material used for head construction. Clubface: Indicates the material used for the strike area. Design: Indicates the club's general shape. Generally, irons fall into two shape categories— blades or cavity-backs. Custom Options: Whether or not custom options are available. Clubs: Lists the clubs available in the line. Shafts: The stock graphite and steel shaft offerings from the manufacturer.

Adams IDEA a30S

Key Feature: The long irons are replaced with Boxer hybrids, the middle with specially designed hybrids and the short irons are traditional cavity-backs. What We Like: Each club has a high MOI and deep CG, which means straighter shots. Who It's For: Players who want game improvement from every club in the bag. Clubhead: Stainless Steel " Clubface: Maraging Steel " Design: Hybrid iron set Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 2-6 (Boxer hybrid), 6-8 (Hybrid), PW, SW, AW, LW " Shafts: Grafalloy ProLaunch Platinum graphite (S, R); True Temper Performance Lite steel (S, R) adamsgolf.com | $599 and up Bridgestone J36 Cavity Back

Key Feature: The smooth, forged feel of the new J36 CBs is complemented with a tapered sole design, trailing edge relief and a progressive cavity that maximizes performance. What We Like: The Rifle Project X steel shafts feel as if they were made for these irons. Also, if players want to mix in the new J36 Blades or J36 Pocket cavity irons, it's a cinch. Who It's For: Mid- to low-handicappers who want forgiveness with shotmaking options. Clubhead: Mild carbon steel " Clubface: Same Design: Forged cavity back " Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 3-PW " Shafts: Rifle Project X steel (X, S, R) bridgestonegolf.com | $799 Bridgestone J36 Pocket Cavity

Key Feature: The Pocket Cavity design cuts mass out from behind the clubface for a higher MOI and added forgiveness. What We Like: Designed to complement the J36 Blade/Cavity Back or to stand alone as a complete set, the J36 Pocket Cavity is a true work of art. Who It's For: Better players who want game-improvement irons that, well, look nothing like game-improvement irons. Clubhead: Mild carbon steel " Clubface: Same Design: Forged pocket cavity-back " Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 3-PW " Shafts: Rifle Project X steel (X, S, R) bridgestonegolf.com | $799 Callaway Big Bertha

Key Features: The hybrid-like long and mid irons have a wide sole and plenty of offset and forgiveness, while the shorter irons are considered to have a more traditional shape. What We Like: The "hybridy" irons are so easy to hit, you might wish they had gone with them for the whole set. Who It's For: High-handicappers who struggle to make solid contact with their long irons. Clubhead: Stainless Steel " Clubface: Same Design: Hybrid iron set " Custom Options: Yes Clubs: 3-PW, SW Shafts: Grafalloy ProLaunch Platinum graphite (S, R); True Temper Performance Lite steel (S, R) callawaygolf.com | $799 Callaway FT

Key Feature: An upgraded version of the original Fusion Irons, the FT Irons have a shape that better players will like. What We Like: These are pricey clubs, but if you're willing to pay, you'll see that these are the most advanced Callaway irons to date. Who It's For: Mid- to low-handicappers who want the premium performance that the original Fusion Irons were known for. Clubhead: Tunite Cradle, TPU Insert " Clubface: Titanium " Design: Multi-material cavity-back Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 2-LW " Shafts: Nippon 1110 Pro steel (S, R); Callaway Golf FT graphite (S, R) callawaygolf.com | $1,299 Cleveland CG Gold/Red

Key Feature: The Gelback insert is located low and behind the clubface for enhanced feel. What We Like: Having two clubheads to choose from is a bonus, and so are its three custom-fit options. Who It's For: Depends! If you want a mid-sized iron with moderate offset, try the CG Gold. Better players will love the CG Red irons. Clubhead: Stainless Steel, Gelback Insert Clubface: Stainless Steel " Design: Multi-material cavity-back " Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 2-SW " Shafts: Tour Temper Action Lite steel (S, R); CG Gold graphite (S, R, A); Custom shafts available clevelandgolf.com Red Gold | $699 Mix&Match

Aside from the use of multiple materials, there really hasn't been many major technical enhancements to irons in years. Thus, manufacturers have been taking a fresh approach to the lineup you select for your bag, which is why mix-and-match sets are starting to blossom. Many companies are getting rid of the long irons and offering hybrids as adequate iron replacements. Other companies, such as Bridgestone, aren't abandoning the eight-iron configuration, but are presenting more choices within that arrangement. The company's new J36 irons are offered in three clubhead types—cavity-back, pocket cavity and blade—that can be mixed in any way you can dream up. The clubs not only all look alike from the address view, but they share common subtleties, as well, such as cosmetics, and progressive top line and sole thickness. "It's a very smooth transition from one club to the next," says Danny Le, Bridgestone Golf's marketing manager. "We designed them to be three sets blended together. The concept here is forgiving long irons, stable mid-irons and controlling short irons. We built the set around that concept. When you transition from the pocket to the cavity to the blade, it's all the same graphics. So in your bag or at address, the head shapes all look like one another." Performance and feel also blend seamlessly together—no matter how you divide these types of iron sets. You'll also find the clubhead size progression to be gentle and the offset to typically get less as you get more toward the blades. Several other companies like Titleist, PING and Mizuno also manufacture iron sets that are designed to be mixed, making it that much easier to find the ideal blend. —Scott Kramer

Cleveland HiBORE

Key Feature: Every club in the HiBORE set features an Inverted Crown Design and Full Hollow Construction, resulting in an iron with a deep and low CG. They're mega-forgiving. What We Like: The progressive sole width and bulge and roll design on the longer clubs make this set surprisingly versatile. Who It's For: Mid- to high-handicappers looking for some extreme forgiveness. Clubhead: Stainless Steel " Clubface: Same Design: Hollow-body " Custom Options: Yes Clubs: 3-PW " Shafts: HiBORE steel (S, R, A); HiBORE Silver by Graphite Design graphite (S, R, A); Custom shafts available clevelandgolf.com | $599 Cobra S9

Key Feature: Multi-material design featuring three-piece polymer topline and urethane sole insert. Optimized weighting provides low CG and high MOI for extreme forgiveness. What We Like: Cobra designers pushing the envelope with innovative urethane insert, polymer topline and low profile/wide sole design. Who It's For: Players who want a high-tech iron that looks good and is easy to hit. Clubhead: Stainless steel, Polymer, Urethane Clubface: Stainless steel " Design: Multi-material cavity-back " Custom Options: Yes _â" Clubs: 3-LW " Shafts: Nippon Pro 900 XH steel (90g), Cobra/Graphite Design YS graphite (55g) cobragolf.com | $960 graphite F2 F2 Series Plus Irons

Key Feature: The company's Face-Forward design, which eliminates shanked shots by putting the face in front of the hosel. What We Like: These irons are creative, and at address they don't look all that different than a standard set of irons (especially as they get longer). They're also effective at preventing twisting and turning in the rough. Who It's For: Those who want to never hear the s-word (shank) again. Clubhead: Stainless steel " Clubface: Same Design: Cast cavity-back " Custom Options: N/A " Clubs: 4-PW " Shafts: F2 proprietary graphite (S, R) f2golf.com | $599 Hippo Hex2

Key Feature: This hybrid set uses a two-piece construction (carbon and steel) in the middle irons, a progressive sole design and specially designed shafts from Mitsubishi Rayon. What We Like: The price is always tough to beat when talking about HiPPO clubs. Who It's For: Ideally, these irons are more suited for the mid- to high-handicapper, but that doesn't mean a better player won't benefit from the enhanced sweet spot and tremendous feel. Clubhead: Stainless steel, carbon " Clubface: Stainless steel " Design: Progressive cavity-back " Custom Options: N/A " Clubs: 4-SW Shafts: Mitsubishi Rayon CP4 Graphite hippo-golf.com | $349 Infiniti 658

Key Feature: The 658 has minimal offset that will appeal to better players and a 4-way cambered sole that aids supreme shotmaking versatility. What We Like: The shallow cavity-back design gives better players a chance to work the ball without compromising the needed forgiveness found in a traditional cavity-back platform. Who It's For: Mid- to low-handicappers who want a classic, clean look from a cavity-back design. Clubhead: Stainless steel " Clubface: Same Design: Cast cavity-back " Size: Midsized Clubs: 3-LW (available LH) " Shafts: Custom shafts are available upon request infinitigolf.com | $399 Miura MC-102

Key Feature: The new MC-102 is the first Miura iron with a hint of game improvement. The progressive offset and expanded sweet spot lend a feel and playability that's tough to beat. What We Like: How can we not mention Miura's coveted forging process? The quality control and level of craftsmanship is amazing. Who It's For: We still think these are for better players who want some added "give" in the long irons, but that won't stop the rest of us. Clubhead: Mild carbon steel " Clubface: Same Design: Progressive forged cavity-back Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 2-PW " Shafts: Custom order miuragolf.com | Price Varies ShaftSchool

While custom-fit shafts are critical to drivers and woods, they're just as important to irons. But unfortunately, most golfers don't think in terms of getting their iron shafts reworked. Truth be told, iron shafts require just as much attention as any other shafts in the bag and luckily, 2008 has a few great new options if you're looking for an upgrade.

Aldila VS Proto Seems like yesterday the VS Proto shaft made its way into golf bags all over the place, now it's only a matter of time until the iron shafts follow suit. Using the same Micro-Laminate tech found in the driver/woods shafts, these shafts are for the player who wants exceptional stability and a mid-to-low ballflight, all from a graphite shaft. www.aldila.com

Fujikura Rombax 115 Rombax iron shafts are built with the same advanced material technology as their extremely high-performance wood shafts of the same name. Rombax iron shafts provide outstanding consistency and stability at a weight that's slightly lighter than many steel shafts, but heavy enough to maintain a solid feel. www.fujikuragolf.com

Grafalloy ProLaunch The ProLaunch series features a stable of graphite iron shafts that are designed to help all golfers hit the ball higher and with optimal launch characteristics. According to Grafalloy, the ProLaunch is the most torsionally stable composite iron shaft ever produced. It's the same type of tech already used in the popular driver/woods ProLaunch shafts. www.grafalloy.com

Nippon N.S. Pro 750GH The carbon filaments in the grip end are used to add strength to what's already Nippon's lightest metal iron shaft. At less than 80 grams, this is the shaft for those who want more speed in a steel product. www.nipponshaft.com

Royal Precision Project X For players who want the ultimate in trajectory control and stability, the Project X is an excellent choice. The tapered design delivers maximum energy to the ball, without promoting a ballooning trajectory. For players who want a lighter and higher launch option, don't miss the project X XL. www.royalprecision.com

True Temper Dynamic Gold High Launch The mega-popular Dynamic Gold shaft line has expanded, this time with a shaft designed to look and feel a lot like the original Dynamic Gold, but with a boost in trajectory. Slightly lighter, this is a solid option for golfers who want a higher trajectory without having to switch to a higher spinning golf ball. www.truetemper.com

UST Proforce V2 Already popular on the pro tours, the Proforce V2 graphite line has extended into irons. What makes this shaft unique is the Constant Weight feature, enabling each shaft to retain the exact weight—despite using longer shafts in long irons and shorter shafts in short irons. Engineered for stability, feel and excellent control, these shafts should be a hit in '08. www.ustgolfshafts.com

Macgregor MT Pro C

Key Feature: Its computer numeric controlled (CNC) cavity-back. Not only does it make this blade more forgiving, it makes it handsome too. What We Like: MacGregor's recent commitment to good "sticks." In an era of high MOI, the company isn't afraid to design clubs for the game's better players. Who It's For: Better players who like the look and workability of a blade iron with the added forgiveness of a cavity-back. Clubhead: 1025 Carbon steel " Clubface: Same Design: Forged cavity-back blades " Custom Options: Yes _â" Clubs: 3-PW " Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold; Nippon NS Pro 1150GH macgregorgolf.com | $799 Mizuno MP-57

Key Feature: The Cortech face has three thicknesses for higher ball speed, uniform face deflection and distance control. What We Like: Its three different head designs. (Wood shape for 3- and 4-irons, Forged 5-7 Hollow Technology hybrid irons and Forged 1025 E Pure Select carbon steel 8-LW.) Who It's For: Mid- to high-handicappers. Clubhead: Carbon steel, Stainless steel Clubface: Stainless steel " Design: Hybrid woods, cavity-back irons " Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 3-LW " Shafts: Dynalite Gold Superlite steel (S, R); Exsar IS2 Men's graphite (S, R, A); Exsar IS2 Women's (L) mizunousa.com | $899 and up Mizuno MX-950

Key Feature: Cut Muscle design with a cavity-back shape. (This enhances the club's sweet spot with optimal perimeter weighting.) What We Like: How Mizuno incorporated fine craftsmanship into a cavity-back club, making it the ideal iron set for forgiveness and control. Who It's For: Better players who want the feel of a forged blade with the added playability of a cavity-back. Clubhead: Carbon steel " Clubface: Same Design: Cut Muscle cavity-back " Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 3-PW " Shafts: Dynamic Gold steel (S, R); Exsar Tour Spec graphite (X, S, R); Rifle Project X steel (X, S, R) mizunousa.com | $849

Nickent 4DX CB

Key Feature: A large perimeter weighted clubhead with 20 grams of weight redistributed into one tungsten-polymer fused XW Insert that absorbs vibration at impact. What We Like: How Nickent keeps pushing the envelope to produce innovative products that make the game fun for all types of golfers. Who It's For: Consistent players who want a game-improvement iron. Clubhead: Stainless Steel, tungsten-polymer Clubface: Stainless Steel " Design: Cavity Back Hybrid" Custom Fitting: Yes " Clubs: 4-PW with two hybrids _â" Shafts: True Temper steel, UST SR3 graphite nickentgolf.com | $599 Nickent 4DX Hybrid

Key Feature: Hollow clubhead with a titanium face, stainless steel body, carbon composite backing and tungsten/polymer inserts. More efficient loft spacing and longer carry distances result in an extremely versatile iron. What We Like: Nickent engineers found a way to maximize iron carry distance without making a funky-looking clubhead. Who It's For: Any player who wants a high-tech iron that provides a lot of distance and feel. Clubhead: Stainless steel " Clubface: Titanium " Design: Cavity-back hybrid Custom Fitting: Yes " Clubs: 3-PW " Shafts: True Temper steel, UST SRT graphite. nickentgolf.com | $799 Nike SQ SUMO

Key Feature: The PowerBow provides extreme perimeter weighting, lowering the CG and raising the MOI and COR. What We Like: The lightweight Cyro Steel Face Insert that enlarges the clubface's sweet spot, and the vibration dampening TPU insert that makes mis-hits feel like winners. Who It's For: Mid- to high-handicappers who carry a hybrid and like wide-soled irons. Clubhead: Stainless steel, TPU " Clubface: Cryo steel " Design: Cast cavity-back " Custom Options: Yes _â" Clubs: 4-AW " Shafts: True Temper Speed Step SL steel (S, R, A); iDiamana graphite by Mitsubishi Rayon (S, R, A) nikegolf.com | $699 and up Nike Slingshot 4D Irons

Key Feature: The latest Slingshot iteration is the sleekest. This time it's got a beveled sole, thinner topline and more compact shape. Game improvement has never looked better. What We Like: Nike's attention to detail. They treat the Slingshot irons like individual clubs, not as a set. They're the best Slingshots to date. Who It's For: Mid-handicappers, but don't be surprised to see Tour players try _â__ðem in '08. Clubhead: Stainless steel " Clubface: Same Design: Slingback cavity-back " Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 2-SW " Shafts: True Temper Speed Step SL steel (S, R, A); UST Slingshot 4D graphite (S, R, A) nikegolf.com | $599 Ping G10

Key Feature: A Custom Tuning Port adds to the stability of the club on off-center hits. Also, an elastomer CTP insert improves the club's sound. What We Like: Extremely low toe weighting that increases its MOI. Another cool feature is its wide sole, which makes for less digging. Who It's For: Mid- to high-handicappers looking for a "game-improvement" club from the company who invented the genre. Clubhead: Stainless steel " Clubface: Stainless steel " Design: Cast cavity back " Custom Options: Yes " Clubs: 2-UW, SW LW " Shafts: PING AWT steel shaft (X, S, R, A); PING TFC 129i graphite (S, R, A)

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