2014 Buyer’s Guide Irons

Be a shotmaker in 2014

BETTER IRON PLAY DOESN'T REQUIRE HUGE DIVOTS By Joseph Mayo

Okay, i know you've probably seen Tour players make huge divots after they make contact with the ball, right? So have I. And if you have Tour player-like swing speed, hitting down on the golf ball will certainly allow you to shape the ball to your advantage.

But what if you're not a Tour player and you have an average swing speed? I'll tell you right now, hitting down on the ball with the intent of making a big divot is going to hurt you more than help you. Without the necessary swing speed to impart extra backspin on the ball, you'll end up hitting the ball lower and shorter than you should. Instead, what I suggest for better iron play is to hit the ball on as shallow an angle as you can while still aligning the iron's sweet spot behind the ball at impact. This doesn't mean hanging back or trying to lift the ball up. No, if anything, you still need to hit down on the ball (it's on the ground, after all), but you just don't need to hit down as deeply as you might think. Instead, think of sweeping your iron shots and playing the ball at the low point of your swing arc. Once you let go of the fixation to hit down on the ball, you soon may find it a lot easier to hit solid iron shots. If you've been told hitting down on the ball steeply makes it go up, well, that's not true, either!

WHAT'S THE SECRET TO LOWER SCORES? Hitting more greens. Or, more specifically, hitting shots closer to the pin. The closer your approaches, the more likely you'll make more putts, and the lower your scores will drop. Huh? If only it were that simple!

Luckily, this year, we've seen yet again another heaping of new irons that try their best to help you hit the ball straighter, higher and farther from the rough and fairway. We've tried many of them and have been blown away by how much longer today's models are over those from only two to three years ago. That said, several models still remain for the iron purest, with forged blades widely available.

Check out the crop this year in three categories for easy decision-making come time to buy new irons. Low-Handicappers Callaway Golf X2 Hot Pro

Key Features: Combines the power and distance of a game-improvement iron with the shotmaking performance of a Tour-style model. A new, deep, central undercut boosts the spring-like effect off the large sweet spot of the A-Frame face for distance without losing trajectory. The thin topline and minimal offset deliver enhanced workability. Wow Factor: We love the traditional, yet forgiving look of these irons. For better players? Yes, but we won't tell. Specs: Available in 3-AW, with a Project X 95 steel shaft. callawaygolf.com | $900 Callaway Golf Apex Pro

Key Features: Made with forged one-piece construction for a responsive and soft feel, the face is razor-thin. And the long irons have tungsten sole inserts in a pocket for a higher launch, while the sole is wider than you'd expect for forgiveness. New grooves aim to launch the ball high out of the rough. Also comes in a non-Pro Apex model, for what Cally calls "forged distance." Wow Factor: The feel is noticeably nice and soft, partly because of polymer inserts that dampen impact. And we love that you can buy a 2-iron! Holy schnikes, these are pretty clubs! Specs: Available in 2-AW, with a KBS V-Spec steel or UST Mamiya Recoil graphite shaft. callawaygolf.com | $1,299/graphite, $1,099/steel Cleveland Golf 588 TT

Key Features: TT stands for Tour Trajectory. Constant blade height with progressively longer blade length throughout the set promotes more forgiveness in longer irons and more penetrating trajectory on shots struck with the short irons. A cavity undercut generates more ball speed and accuracy on mis-hits. Forgiveness is in the house! Wow Factor: Loads of forgiveness, power and...see above. Forged sure feels good. Specs: Available in 3-PW for righties and lefties, with a Traction 85 steel or an Actionite 55 graphite shaft. clevelandgolf.com | $799/graphite, $699/steel Fourteen Golf TC777

Key Features: Soft forged iron with a deep CG. Its wide sweet spot yields accuracy and distance control. A semi-gooseneck, slight offset and thick top blade help square each clubhead at address for visual confidence. Wow Factor: The nickel-chrome satin finish and the plain shaping remind us of classic forged irons throughout history. We're impressed that each shaft's length perfectly matches the club loft for any given iron in the set. Specs: Available in 4-AW, with a Nippon N.S. PRO 950GH HT steel shaft. fourteengolf.com | $1,400 Miura MB001

Key Features: Refinements to the sole's shape and size help the clubhead travel effortlessly through turf and help keep it square at impact. A cleanly shaped topline helps form the look better players prefer, as does an overall compactness. The clubhead has a slight offset to control trajectories. Wow Factor: It resembles the old Maxfli Australian blade–an awesome thing. But we're really impressed with the solid feel at impact, and the fact that the ball flies lively off the clubface. Specs: Available in 3-PW, with many shaft options. miuragolf.com | $235-$250/club, depending on shaft Mizuno MP-4

Key Features: Pure forging, in every sense. A muscle bulge–more prominent in scoring irons–extends high on the clubface and thickens the impact area of the mild carbon-steel clubheads. The thin topline and reduced offset help manipulate ballflight. Wow Factor: Absolutely gorgeous forged irons. They're what we dream a blade will look like. Long-iron shots get up with ease, and short-iron shots are pleasantly workable. Specs: Available in 3-PW, with a True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 steel shaft. mizunogolf.com | $1,000 Mizuno MP-54

Key Features: A milled "STEP" muscle in the 3- through 7-irons repositions weight to the cavity frame for mis-hit stability. It also creates a deep CG for launch forgiveness while enhancing feel. The short irons' muscle design helps feel and workability. Wow Factor: Sleek-looking irons that truly impress us with the perimeter grind that thins the topline and sole width appearance. We're confident that better players will love them. Specs: Available in 3-PW, with a True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 steel shaft. mizunogolf.com | $1,000 Nike VRS Covert Forged

Key Features: A proprietary variable-thickness clubface delivers fast ball speed and distance. A high-speed cavity back with a low and deep CG yields long and straight shots, particularly for shots toward the toe, where company officials believe most players make contact with the ball. High-frequency grooves maximize spin to help ease long iron shot dispersion from difficult lies. Wow Factor: We like the look of this iron. And, to be honest, Nike's more favorable irons the past few years have been those models for better players. So these are a nice option for low-handicappers in the market. Specs: Available in 4-AW, with a Nippon 950 GH steel shaft. nikegolf.com | $1,099 TaylorMade Tour Preferred

Key Features: Comprised of three models. The Tour Preferred MB is a compact muscleback blade forged of soft carbon steel and bearing a thin topline, minimal offset and slight camber. The Tour Preferred MC has a shallow muscle cavity to boost MOI, and the 3- through 7-irons have the proprietary Speed Pocket for more ball speed. The Tour Preferred CB is a full-fledged cavity back that maintains the shape of a player's iron and elegant look of a blade when soled behind the ball. The Speed Pocket in the 3- through 7-iron features "micro-slots" to promote faster ball speed across the face and higher launch, which promotes more distance. The Tour Preferred CB has compact short irons with minimal offset; the other clubheads are slightly larger with progressive offset for more stability and easier launch. Wow Factor: We love the hand-polished satin nickel-chrome finish–it's choice. And we're especially suckers for the MB model, which Dustin Johnson has been raving about on Tour this year. Or was he talking about Paulina? Both work. Specs: Available in 3-PW (CB set also has AW), with a stock KBS Tour steel shaft. taylormadegolf.com | $1,099/MB, $999/MC, $899/CB Titleist CB Forged

Key Features: Constant blade lengths with minimal progressive offset enhance workability. The clubheads are compact with precise CG locations and traditional lofts and have a shallow cavity back with an inner cavity muscle behind the impact area for solid feel. Wow Factor: We love the clean, simple lines, especially for better players. They look great at address, which can boost your visual confidence right out of the chute. (Don't tell, but we found them to be surprisingly forgiving.) Specs: Available in 3-PW, with a True Temper Dynamic Gold steel or graphite shaft. titleist.com | $165/club with graphite, $140/steel Titleist MB Forged

Key Features: Constant blade lengths with minimal progressive offset enhance workability. Compact with precise CG locations and traditional lofts, the clubheads have a classic muscleback with weighting behind the sweet spot. Wow Factor: We're going on a limb here and saying these are the best-looking forged blades on the market. Simple. Clean. Elegant. Like fine jewelry. By the way, they feel awesome, too. Specs: Available in 3-PW, with a True Temper Dynamic Gold steel or graphite shaft. titleist.com | $165/club with graphite, $140/steel Wilson Staff Staff FG Tour 100

Key Features: What better way to celebrate 100 years for Wilson? These forged irons are pure blades with the look and feel a century-young brand can deliver. With a compact profile and thin topline, this is the player's muscleback blade. Solid shots never felt or looked better. Wow Factor: They're beautiful, and we love the old-school feel. Then again, we think most golfers, even newbies, can get away with blade-style short irons, at the very least. These irons may not be for everyone, but we think everyone should take a look, at the very least. Or, better yet, check the staff bags out on Tour. You just may see a few sets inside the ropes this year. Specs: Available in 3-PW, with a True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shaft. wilsonstaff.com | $999 All-Around Acer XS Forged

Key Features: Forged and milled, the XS Forged irons are a shotmaker's iron for advanced shotmaking and maneuverability. Thanks to a CNC-milling process, these forged clubs have a cavity that's usually found in cast clubheads, meaning although they're better-playing clubs, they're still long and forgiving. Wow Factor: These are silky-smooth and nicely balanced. What a great price, too. Specs: Available in 3-PW, with stock options of more than 40 shafts and 100 grips to choose from. hirekogolf.com | $49/each Callaway Golf Apex

Key Features: A forged, game-improvement iron with distance-enhancing features. A thin, high-strength, forged-steel face insert helps achieve distance. The 3- through 5-irons feature a tungsten sole insert, translating to a low CG and high launch angle. Wow Factor: We're sentimentally fond of the classic look. The long irons are distance machines that create nice, high flight. Thanks for bringing the Apex back! Specs: Available in 3-SW, with a True Temper XP95 steel or UST Mamiya Recoil graphite shaft. callawaygolf.com | $1,299/graphite, $1,099/steel Callaway Golf X2 Hot

Key Features: A new, deep, central undercut boosts the spring-like effect off the large sweet spot of the A-Frame face for distance. A wide groove produces more spin, increasing carry distance. Wow Factor: They're long and land softly, just the way we love. Specs: Available in 3-LW and two steel shaft options, a Lightweight Speed Step 85 steel or an Aldila Tour Blue graphite. callawaygolf.com | $900-$1,000/graphite, $800-$900/steel Cleveland Golf 588 MT

Key Features: MT stands for Mid Trajectory. With a constant blade length throughout the set, the blade height gets taller in the shorter irons. Full Hollow Construction and internal weighting promote a low, deep CG to enhance distance and forgiveness. A progressive set profile improves playability; a vibration dampener in the back softens impact. Wow Factor: All-around, our favorite irons from Cleveland...ever. Specs: Available in 3-PW for righties, lefties and women, with a Traction 85 steel or Actionite 55 graphite shaft. clevelandgolf.com | $799/graphite, $699/steel Cobra Golf BiOCELL

Key Features: The long and mid-irons have heavy tungsten in the heel and toe, which lends forgiveness. Tungsten in the short irons is centered behind the clubface for added distance and control. It's the largest unsupported face of any Cobra iron, so the clubface flexes at impact for plenty of distance. Wow Factor: They're designed to be long and forgiving. Mission accomplished! Specs: Available in 3-LW, with a Cobra BiOCELL graphite or True Temper Dynalite 85 steel shaft. cobragolf.com | $135/graphite-shafted club, $875/steel-shafted set Mizuno JPX-EZ Forged

Key Features: For mid- to high handicaps, this has a hot face plus a pocket cavity in the 4- through 7-irons to help generate high, long and straight shots. In the 8-iron through gap wedge, a deep pocket cavity boosts accuracy and control. Proprietary "Harmonic Impact Technology" in the cavity frame enhances feel. Wow Factor: We're blown away by how easy it is to get the ball airborne and flying right on target. Distance is deceptively aggressive, as well. Specs: Available in 4-GW, with a True Temper XP steel or Fujikura Orochi graphite shaft. mizunogolf.com | $$1,100/graphite, $800/steel Nike VR Forged Pro Combo

Key Features: Its long irons have a polymer-filled pocket cavity that strives to yield a high trajectory with forgiveness and enhanced feel. Short irons have a forged split cavity that delivers a penetrating flight. Wow Factor: We achieved nice distance and control with these. The look is a little vanilla, but who cares when the ball is going where you want? Specs: Available in 3-PW, with a True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shaft. nikegolf.com | $1,000/steel Orlimar Tour3

Key Features: Each clubhead has a forged face and cast cavity for a pure feel with playability and forgiveness. Long irons feature an undercut cavity that boosts MOI and lowers CG; mid-irons have a mid-muscle back for workability; short irons are blades. Wow Factor: We're pleasantly surprised by how nice these irons look and perform. And they're a really good value, as well. Specs: Available in 3-PW, with a True Temper Dynamic Gold shaft. orlimar.com | $699 Taylormade SpeedBlade

Key Features: A game-improvement iron that combines a Speed Pocket that's wider and longer than last year's RocketBladez, a low CG, proprietary Inverted Cone

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