Design Trends For '07
Long known as the golf bag’s unsung heroes, irons have come full circle. No longer are there just a few options between forged blades and cast cavity-backs. Instead, there are numerous new models that feature varying degrees of exciting new technologies designed to help virtually all kinds of golfers. Some irons have mixed-material compositions that combine steel, titanium and composites for enhanced forgiveness, trajectory and distance. Other irons feature new shapes and geometries that are already causing a stir. Whereas drivers have undergone dramatic improvements in recent years, irons have advanced more subtly. That’s partly because of their limited geometry—how much technology can be crafted into an inch-thick clubhead, anyway?—and partly because they’re already pretty good the way they are. But that’s not to say companies haven’t made concerted efforts to improve iron performance, nor that you shouldn’t consider buying a new set. No doubt, the latest iron designs will be an improvement over their counterparts from even a year ago.
“The prominent way to design irons now is through CAD (computer-aided) design,” says David Walker, Senior Product Manager of Golf Clubs at Bridgestone Golf. “We’re able to control the sound and feel more than ever and can pretty much tell how the iron will sound at impact, before we have an actual club. Another CAD benefit is the precise redistribution of weight: We now know our absolute limits on face thickness, so we can better redistribute the weight. We can design an iron’s clubface to be an exact thickness, whereas before we just made the heads with a general thickness.”
Essentially, the designers are freeing up weight from the front and putting it in the back, just as they did with metalwoods. “As you thin up a clubface, you increase the iron’s COR (spring effect at impact) and the ball speed,” says Benoit Vincent, Chief Technical Officer at TaylorMade Golf. “The face has to be very flat, which is difficult to accomplish. The grooves need to work hand-in-hand with the face, too. Essentially, it’s driver technology that’s been extended into irons. Some of the playability that’s been discovered in hybrids—that easy-to-play trajectory with significant distance gains—seems to be the trend with irons, too. Manufacturers are finding ways to do that effectively. It’s difficult in irons because you don’t have a lot of area to extend the center of gravity back, where in some of the new drivers, you have four to five inches to move it back.”