Irons have changed a lot in the past few years. Now, you're just as likely to see iron-woods as you are traditional blades. What gives? Well, forgiveness, accuracy and distance for starters. Irons are easier to hit than ever.
To become a better golfer, you have to become a better iron player. And to become a better iron player, you have to play with the right set. And to have the right set, you need to be custom-fitted. You dig what we're saying?
Custom-fit irons perform better than those bought off the rack, and just about every company has some sort of custom-fitting option that you can take advantage of.
If they don't, you always can go to an independent fitter and have them do it for you. Either way, it's a wise move, since a custom-fit set can turn crooked shots into straight ones in a matter of minutes. But, before you hunker down and custom-fit your irons, you need to choose the right set.
In 2009, there's a wide range of offerings, from full hybrid sets to mixed hybrid/iron sets to cavity-backs and even forged blades (for you shotmakers out there). Speaking of which, if any of you are still hitting 3- or 4-irons, you're missing out.
Hybrids are clearly easier to hit, and this year, more touring pros will be putting them in play. Read on...
Adams Idea Tech a4 Key Feature: A forged-iron/hybrid set? You bet. The irons feature a quad-cavity design for feel and forgiveness. Also in the set are two Boxer hybrids. Nice! What We Like: Whew, these are some good-looking clubs. The four-way cambered sole makes these irons versatile; the hybrids are easy to hit. Who It's For: Players looking for the feel of forged irons mixed with some hybrids for added forgiveness. Specs: Comes with six irons and two hybrids equipped with Mitsubishi Javln FX shafts. adamsgolf.com | $799/999
Bridgestone J36 Series Key Feature: Three forged-iron options–blade, cavity-back and pocket-cavity–each of which can be mixed into one set as you see fit. What We Like: The tapered-sole design is ideal for better players who need to shape shots. The progressive offset of the cavity-back models makes longer irons more forgiving. Who It's For: Better players who want the benefits that come from having a mixed set of irons. Specs: 3-PW with Rifle Project X steel shafts. Custom options are available. bridgestonegolf.com | $799Callaway Big Bertha Key Feature: Golfers can choose now between either traditionally shaped long irons (3-5) or i-brid long irons. Both are equally considered game-improvement clubs, designed with huge sweet spots and plenty of offset to help golfers hit higher, farther and straighter shots. What We Like: Why not go with the wide-soled, mega-forgiving i-brid long irons? They're so easy to hit. Who It's For: Game-improvement seekers. Specs: 3-LW (3-5 i-brid) with Big Bertha steel or Big Bertha graphite shafts. callawaygolf.com | $599/$799 Callaway X-22 Key Feature: Precision Notch Weighting that positions weight more around the perimeter for a high MOI. Tru-Bore tech that dampens vibration. And most of all, VFT, S2H2 and 360-Degree Undercut Channel that helps move the CG farther back from a bigger hitting area. What We Like: The Tour-inspired shape masks some hard-core technology behind the clubface. Who It's For: Golfers looking for a lot of science in a traditionally shaped iron. Specs: 3-LW with X-22 graphite or steel shafts. Custom options available. callawaygolf.com | $699/$899 Callaway X-Forged Key Feature: A Progressive Dual Notch Weighting system that adds weight to shorter irons and removes it from longer irons to provide a "Flighted CG" that optimizes trajectory and distance control throughout the set. What We Like: We like the White Chrome finish, as well as the very versatile sole design. (Shhh. They're easy to hit, too.) Who It's For: Better players who want an extra dose of forgiveness in a set of very workable forged irons. Specs: 2-PW with Royal Precision Project X shafts. callawaygolf.com | $899 Cleveland golf CG Gold/Red Key Feature: A Gelback insert low and behind the clubface for enhanced feel. The Red is a firmer model with less offset, and the Gold is a softer, midsized model that has more offset. What We Like: Feel reigns supreme, and so does distance control with both sets. We couldn't help but notice a few Tour players opting to use the Golds. They're just too forgiving to overlook. Who It's For: Anyone, thanks to a cool 3-prong fitting system for both irons. Specs: Available in 3-PW, in either steel or graphite shafts. clevelandgolf.com | $699
Cleveland CG7/CG7 Tour Key Feature: The main feature is the Dynamic MCT, which positions the CG in the middle of every iron. Other awesome stuff includes microcavities and 360-degree Gelback insert. What We Like: The coolest-looking irons we've seen from Cleveland... ever. We were actually afraid to get them dirty. Who It's For: If you play golf, there's a set for you. Better players will ogle over the classic lines and shape of the CG7 Tour models. Specs: Comes in 3-PW, in either steel or graphite shafts. clevelandgolf.com | $529-699 Cleveland HiBORE XLi Key Feature: A set of hybrid irons than change shape, meaning the short "hybrids" look more like irons. Each has a ridiculously high MOI for supreme forgiveness and distance. What We Like: We have yet to find a set of irons that make getting the ball airborne any easier. The ball gets up in a hurry and makes each shot long and straight. Who It's For: Anyone who wants to get the ball airborne faster and higher. Specs: Available in 3-SW with either steel or graphite shafts. clevelandgolf.com | $529-629 Cobra S9 Key Feature: A three-piece polymer topline and urethane sole provide a low CG and high MOI for extreme forgiveness. The wide sole makes any lie look a lot easier and more playable. What We Like: The polymer topline makes perfect sense to us. Getting rid of the metal up there greatly lowers the CG, making each iron easier to hit. Who It's For: Players who want a high-tech iron than looks slick and is a breeze to hit solid. Specs: 3-LW with either Nippon steel or Cobra/Graphite Design YS shafts. cobragolf.com | $960Cobra Transition-S Key Feature: As the name implies, this set makes the transition from iron to hybrid look easy, thanks to three distinct club shapes in the set: wide-sole irons, hybrid irons and utility metals. What We Like: The Transition-S is a good set that performs very well, but it's the Aldila VS Proto-HL shafts that make these clubs really cook. Who It's For: Slow to moderate swingers looking for added forgiveness and distance throughout the set. Specs: 3-SW with Aldila's VS Proto-HL (High Launch) graphite shafts. cobragolf.com | $699 Nike Victory Red Key Feature: Golfers can choose between a full-cavity, split-cavity or a blade designed with heavy input from Tiger Woods himself. What We Like: All three models look fabulous, but we dig the forged split-cavity the most. The milled grooves and versatile sole design make these both playable and forgiving. Who It's For: Better players will like the forged, split-cavity and blade models. For the rest of us, the full-cavity is right. Specs: 3-LW Full Cavity, 2-PW Split Cavity and TW Blade. nikegolf.com | $900 Miura MC-102 Key Feature: The first Miura iron with a dash of game-improvement. The progressive offset and enhanced sweet spot make this set of forged irons look great, feel great and perform even better. Miura's craftsmanship is tough to beat, folks. What We Like: Forged forgiveness from one of the best clubmakers in the world. What's not to like? Who It's For: Better players who want premium performance from a cavity-back design. Specs: Custom order. miuragolf.com | Price Varies Mizuno MP-52 Key Feature: Dubbed the "most playable MP iron ever," these sticks employ a Dual Muscle back combined with a pocket-cavity design. This means, you have the trajectory control of a blade, mixed with the forgiveness of a pocket-cavity. What We Like: Practically everything. Go buy some; you'll understand. Who It's For: MP purists can now sigh in relief knowing they can own a forged iron with some extra forgiveness. Specs: 3-PW in Dynamic Gold or Project X steel shafts. mizunousa.com | $900 Mizuno MX-200 Key Feature: Each iron has Y-Tune tech, which expands the sweet spot toward the toe where most amateurs miss. A CNC-milled pocket cavity lowers the CG for even more forgiveness. What We Like: Forged forgiveness is cool with us. Talk about a perfect blend of feel and playability! Who It's For: Players who want the best of both worlds (forgiveness and control). For those wanting extreme forgiveness, don't miss the mixed MX-100 set. Specs: Available in 3-SW in either steel or graphite shafts. mizunousa.com | $699-899 Nickent 3DX RC Key Feature: Two tungsten- polymer inserts and a graphite backing help reduce vibration and make the 3DX extremely forgiving. What We Like: The progressive- sole hybrid irons (not to mention the 3- and 4- "iron-woods"). It's that combo that makes the 3DX RCs easy to hit. Who It's For: High handicappers who have trouble getting the ball airborne. Golfers with slow swing speeds who need a club with a graphite shaft. Specs: Available in 5-SW, with graphite or steel shaft options. nickentgolf.com | $500 Nickent ARC Blade Key Feature: The eponymous Accelerated Rebound Core (ARC) that positions elastomer behind the club's strike zone, making it one of the only patented hidden perimeter-weighting systems in a forged blade. What We Like: Three small windows behind the club that offer a sneak peek at its high-rebound elastomer. Makes for a great sound and feel. Who It's For: Let's put it this way: They were designed for Tour pros. Specs: Available in 3-SW with True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shafts. nickentgolf.com | $800 Ping Rapture V2 Key Feature: Designed using multimetal technology, the Rapture V2 irons feature dense tungsten sole weights that move the center of gravity low and away from the clubface. What We Like: Always known for game-improvement designs, PING comes up with yet another innovative iron design that makes it easier for golfers to get the ball off the ground. Who It's For: Players who need the ultimate game-improvement irons. Specs: 3-LW; PING proprietary graphite shafts or custom steel options available ping.com | $1,100 Ping Rapture V2 Key Feature: Designed using multimetal technology, the Rapture V2 irons feature dense tungsten sole weights that move the center of gravity low and away from the clubface. What We Like: Always known for game-improvement designs, PING comes up with yet another innovative iron design that makes it easier for golfers to get the ball off the ground. Who It's For: Players who need the ultimate game-improvement irons. Specs: 3-LW; PING proprietary graphite shafts or custom steel options available ping.com | $1,100
Ping G10 Key Feature: A tungsten weight placed in the back of the club's toe that creates a higher MOI and increases the blade-style club's forgiveness. What We Like: A thermoplastic urethane insert in its tuning pocket helps dampen vibration. Its small stainless-steel head is engineered to function as a forgiving players' club. Who It's For: Golfers searching for a Tour-inspired design and an ideal blend of feel, forgiveness and distance control. Specs: Comes in 2-PW with a number of shaft options available. pinggolf.com | $700
Scratch EZ-1 Key Feature: Forged in Japan out of soft steel, the EZ-1 irons are one of a few midsized, cavity-back options available. Extra weight low and behind the ball promotes a higher ballflight. What We Like: Whoa. These irons are gorgeous. They perform exceptionally compared to several of the best forged irons we've tried. The three grind options are a clever way to cater to virtually any type of player. Who It's For: Golfers who want a set of irons made with some serious TLC. Specs: 3-PW with custom steel shafts scratchgolf.com | $1,199Srixon i-701 Key Feature: A pocket-cavity structure that lowers and deepens the CG, making it easier to get the ball airborne for a higher, longer ballflight. What We Like: The two-piece design that has a slightly softer face than body for a very soft and buttery feel. Who It's For: Virtually any type of player. High handicappers will dig having the option to play forged irons that are considered game- improvement sticks. (Better players will like __ðem, too.) Specs: 2-PW with True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shafts. srixon.com | $799 Taylormade Burner 09 Key Feature: The long, mid- and short irons were each designed separately to create a consistent distance gap. Progressive COR, MOI and shaft lengths (the 4-iron is about an inch longer than standard) make the Burner 09 forgiving, long and consistent. What We Like: Tests show that the 4-iron goes 15 yards past the competition. Long, light shafts and a superthin clubface for high COR are a big plus. Who It's For: Golfers of all handicaps. Specs: 4-AW w/ steel or graphite shafts; 3-iron, LW and SW also available. taylormadegolf.com | $840-1,080 Taylormade Tour Preferred Key Feature: The undercut cavity, a sole designed specifically for shotmaking purposes and an Inverted Cone behind the face are just a few of the many features in each TP iron. What We Like: The emphasis with these irons is on shotmaking and trajectory control, but with an undercut cavity. It's hard to ignore how forgiving they are. Who It's For: Better players willing to play a forgiving cavity-back that offers incredible shotmaking capabilities. Specs: Available in 2-SW in steel shafts; custom options are available. taylormadegolf.com | $900 Titleist AP2