2014 Hot List: Game-Improvement Irons\u000ASerious changes are evident across the board\u000ASTREET PRICE: $1,100 (set of eight, steel)\u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 27 degrees, PW: 45 degrees\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: The head is a two-piece forged construction that features a Carpenter 455 face plate, an undercut cavity and a 1020 carbon-steel body that produces a large unsupported face area for enhanced ball speed.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A L: \u0022For a mid-width sole, these cut through the turf very effectively.\u0022\u000A\u000AM: \u0022Not a one-trick iron: You can manufacture a lot of shots with these.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: When you dare to put the Apex name on an iron, you better bring your A-game. Callaway does this with touches like tungsten plugs in the sole of the long irons that produce a low center of gravity (CG) and a lightweight steel shaft. This is an iron with plenty of game-improvement for those who need it.\u000A\u000A NOT: A 5-degree gap in the short irons is too much.\u000A\u000A INFO: callawaygolf.com\u000ASTREET PRICE: $800 \u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 26, PW: 44\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: A large undercut channel allows the face and sole to be thinner than the previous X Hot, boosting ball speed. A \u0022stabilizing arch\u0022 moves the hot spot on the face lower, in line with the impact location on most iron shots.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A L: \u0022The turf interaction is like a tractor plowing through a field.\u0022\u000A\u000AM: \u0022The short irons launch the ball so high you won\u0027t need spin to stop it.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: This is more than a mere follow-up to the X Hot. This is a fresh approach to iron design for Callaway where the game-improvement features are hidden in a more pleasing shape. Subtle improvements, such as 2 to 4 degrees more bounce for better turf interaction, weren\u0027t lost on our panelists.\u000A\u000A NOT: If you purchase the 54-degree sand wedge, it makes getting the 59-degree lob wedge almost a must.\u000A\u000A INFO: callawaygolf.com\u000ASTREET PRICE: $900 \u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 28, PW: 45\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: A deep undercut cavity on the 4-iron through 7-iron increases face forgiveness. The reinforced topline and frame around the perimeter of the cavity, selectively thickened and shaped based on Mizuno\u0027s use of modal analysis, are designed to control vibrations and enhance feel.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A L: \u0022The gray finish hides the size of the head nicely.\u0022\u000A\u000AM: \u0022Not the longest club, but the consistency, even on mis-hits, is worth giving up a few yards.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: Leave it to Mizuno to produce an iron for mid-handicappers that offers the sensation of a scratch-players club at impact. The research the company does in the area of sound and feel is a bonus that golfers of all ability levels can appreciate.\u000A\u000A NOT: Mizuno\u0027s irons are usually classic works of art, making the jack-o\u0027-lantern look on this one an adjustment for some.\u000A\u000A INFO: mizunousa.com/golf\u000ASTREET PRICE: $1,100\u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 30, PW: 46\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: There are three types of irons in one set: hybrid-like long irons, hollow middle irons and short irons with a middle cavity. A trailing-edge bevel allows for a wider sole that produces a lower CG without sacrificing turf interaction.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS: \u000A\u000A L: \u0022This iron has a comfortable feel that lets you know where you hit it on the face. That\u0027s useful feedback.\u0022\u000A\u000AM: \u0022The trajectory is practically identical on every hit. That\u0027s the mark of a good club.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: When we say \u0022advancing the category,\u0022 this is what we mean. This set is smartly devised to provide golfers with the right amount of help with each individual iron. Few clubs receive a gold medal two years in a row. This one is well-earned.\u000A\u000A NOT: The hybrid-like irons don\u0027t offer all the assistance (or distance) one receives from a traditional hybrid.\u000A\u000A INFO: mizunousa.com/golf\u000ASTREET PRICE: $1,100 \u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 28, PW: 45\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: A 1020 carbon-steel body is married to a face made from a strong SAE 8655 steel, allowing for the top and bottom of the face to be made thin. A new X3X 27 groove pattern provides more volume than the previous X3X.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A L: \u0022The topline and toe flow together nicely.\u0022\u000A\u000AM: \u0022The feel is absolutely amazing, which surprised me for a club that produces so much distance.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: Little things matter. Such as a CG position to assist shots hit on the toe (which happens more frequently as handicaps go up). Or a sole design where you can\u0027t see any of it at address (previously an issue with some Nike irons). This attention to detail makes these clubs worth a serious look.\u000A\u000A NOT: The difference in loft between the 3- and 5-irons is just 5 degrees. We\u0027re not kidding.\u000A\u000A INFO: nikegolf.com\u000ASTREET PRICE: $700\u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 29, PW: 45\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: The 17-4 stainless-steel clubhead features progressive sole widths that help optimize the CG location for better distance-gapping between irons. The custom tuning port has been positioned directly in line with the impact area to save weight and increase the MOI.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS: \u000A\u000A L: \u0022The design is still a little bulky, but with that comes a forgiveness that\u0027s unmatched by any other iron.\u0022\u000A\u000AM: \u0022The long irons are so easy to hit you don\u0027t really need hybrids.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: The G25 is the epitome of Ping equipment, where the horsepower is mostly under the hood. It\u0027s an iron that produces reliable results for a wide variety of ability levels.\u000A\u000A NOT: This is the sixth-generation G-series iron. The same club might be more appealing under a fresh moniker.\u000A\u000A INFO: ping.com\u000ASTREET PRICE: $800 \u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 26.5, PW: 45\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: The thin, variable-thickness face (as thin as 1.5 millimeters) has slots in the 3- through 7-irons that are longer from heel to toe than last year\u0027s RocketBladez. There also are openings in the slot\u0027s internal front shelf (three on the 3- through 5-irons and two on the 6- and 7-irons).\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A L: \u0022The middle and long irons deliver a nice smack to where you can almost feel the slot working.\u0022\u000A\u000AM: \u0022I was stunned at how forgiving and workable these irons are. I thought you had to give up distance to get that.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: It takes some technological know-how to engineer a distance iron that delivers on the promise of extra yards without compromising feel or trajectory. This iron has it.\u000A\u000A NOT: The feel and forgiveness in the long irons fall short of the rest of the set.\u000A\u000A INFO: taylormadegolf.com\u000ASTREET PRICE: $800 \u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 29, PW: 44\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: The 3-, 4- and 5-irons have a deep undercut dual cavity (much larger than the AP1 712s) and tungsten weight in the toe area to counterbalance the hosel weight. The lofts are 1 degree stronger in the short irons (7-iron through PW), and the tungsten has been removed to help raise the CG for a more penetrating flight.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A L: \u0022The contact with the ground is smooth: Almost impossible to hit one fat.\u0022\u000A\u000AM: \u0022The generous but not obnoxious topline says, \u0027I\u0027m here to help.\u0027 \u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: The changes from its predecessor are subtle yet noticeable, particularly in the areas of forgiveness, flight (narrowing the sole in the short irons to raise the CG) and turf interaction. The aesthetics are pretty classy, too.\u000A\u000A NOT: The middle-iron blade length could use some trimming.\u000A\u000A INFO: titleist.com\u000ASTREET PRICE: $700 \u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 26.5, PW: 45\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: There are four pockets or \u0022cells\u0022 in the back cavity. The long irons use tungsten in the heel and toe pockets for better results on mis-hits. The 8-iron through pitching wedge use it in the center pockets for better feel and control.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A (L) \u0022The feel wasn\u0027t up there with some others, but the ball came off the club clean.\u0022\u000A\u000A (M) \u0022The forgiveness factor is off the charts.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: Although clubmakers have used tungsten weights to lower the CG and increase stability for years, Cobra\u0027s use of 20 grams of weight to affect ball flight is clever thinking. Thinning out the topline (compared to last year\u0027s AMP Cell) appeals to the eye as well.\u000A\u000A NOT: The name Bio Cell sounds like a science project. You could argue the back of this iron looks too much like one.\u000A\u000A INFO: cobragolf.com\u000ASTREET PRICE: $700 \u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 28, PW: 45\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: The variable-thickness face helps produce a high ball speed, and the \u0022triple-cut\u0022 sole design provides assistance from a wide variety of lies.\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A (L) \u0022There\u0027s little punishment for mis-hits, which is surprising given its better-player looks.\u0022 \u000A\u000A(M) \u0022The solid sound at impact--missing in some others in this group--was there.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: Mizuno has an ability to create game-improvement irons that make you feel like you\u0027re a better player than you are. That extends beyond mere looks. The pocket cavity in the 4- through 7-irons is designed to create a large sweet spot that every game-improvement consumer can use.\u000A\u000A NOT: Mizuno has so many offerings in its iron line that this one could easily get overlooked.\u000A\u000A INFO: mizunousa.com/golf\u000ASTREET PRICE: $700\u000A\u000A LOFTS: 6-iron: 27, PW: 44\u000A\u000A TECH TALK: A high-strength 450 stainless steel is used in the 4- through 7-irons to thin the face and improve ball speed (the 8-iron through wedges are 17-4 stainless steel).\u000A\u000A PLAYER COMMENTS:\u000A\u000A (L) \u0022Almost feels like a forged muscle-back. Plus, it compresses the daylights out of the ball.\u0022\u000A\u000A(M) \u0022The sound was a bit muffled, but I could shape shots, which you don\u0027t always find in a game-improvement iron.\u0022\u000A\u000A HOT: Technology, like weight in the toe to match the CG with the center of the face, is a plus. The option to add hybrids (for an additional cost) instead of long irons will help bogey golfers. But the biggest change is in looks. Often Nike goes over the top or stays too plain. This iron strikes the right balance.\u000A\u000A NOT: The shaft length of the 4-iron is 39¾ inches. That\u0027s 1½ inches longer than some others in the category.\u000A\u000A INFO: nikegolf.com\u000ASearch and compare prices, ratings, and more on these clubs.