STREET PRICE: $600 (set of eight, steel)WEBSITE: adamsgolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 29 degrees, PW: 45 degreesTECH STORYThree boxy hybrids with a high moment of inertia are designed to be more forgiving in what normally would be the 3-, 4- and 5-irons. They combine with hollow-back middle irons and cavity-back short irons to complete the set. The center of gravity and MOI are aligned between the hybrids and the short irons for consistent yardage gaps throughout the set.PLAYER COMMENTS"This is a good stick. Impact feels solid and forgiving at the same time. And, man, did I hit that 3-hybrid really well. . . . You could definitely work the ball with it. . . . The boxy look on the hybrids makes them easy to square up, and the irons look sharp."HOTWhen we say "advancing the category," this is what we mean. Adams has been at the forefront of the hybrid movement, and this set is the latest example. The Grafalloy ProLaunch Red graphite shaft option is a plus.NOTThree hybrids in an iron set might still be a little much for some egos to stomach.
STREET PRICE: $700WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 30, PW: 45TECH STORYCallaway stays true to its core technologies of variable-face thickness (for increased ball speed), S2H2 hosel (in which hosel weight is removed and repositioned to the perimeter) and the 360-degree undercut channel (which stabilizes the clubhead and moves the CG low and toward the back of the clubhead).PLAYER COMMENTS"How can anyone look at that top line and not feel confident. . . . I have to admit, it doesn't do much for me at address, but the hits were really good. . . . The help on poor swings is tremendous."HOTCallaway has always made irons that are easy to hit, and this one ranks near the top. Plenty of distance, loads of forgiveness and a look that, if not exactly slim, inspires confidence. Lie-angle options that can be as much as 3 degrees flat or upright help with fitting.NOTThe Uniflex steel shaft -- which is supposed to be good for all players -- just doesn't get it done. You have to be more precise than that.
$700WEBSITE: pinggolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 30.5, PW: 46TECH STORYThe wide sole on this third-generation G-series iron is designed to provide a low, deep CG to help launch the ball and produce more stability at impact. A reshaped custom tuning port and a thin face save weight that gets moved to the lower toe area to increase MOI.PLAYER COMMENTS"It gets the ball up and keeps it there. There's just no doubt the ball flies higher with these. . . . The orange graphite shaft is a bit garish, but good hits go straight and mis-hits stay in play. . . . It's a little clunky at address."HOTPing irons are almost always workmanlike in appearance and workhorse-like once they're in the bag, and the G10 is no exception. There's nothing fancy here -- it's just good ol' engineering know-how that works. The TFC 129i graphite shaft is an upgrade from the previous stock offering.NOTIf you purchase the sand wedge, the 54-degree loft makes it imperative that you get a 58-degree lob wedge, too.
STREET PRICE: $700WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 28, PW: 45TECH STORYA deep-cavity design pushes the CG low and back, fostering additional carry despite strong lofts. The clubface features inverted-cone technology designed to increase ball speed on off-center hits. The shaft options (90-gram steel, 65-gram graphite) are also designed for extra distance.PLAYER COMMENTS"These clubs look great. Are you sure they belong in the game-improvement category? . . . The trajectory was identical on every hit. . . . It could be the prettiest club out here. And the graphite shafts are more consistent than most graphite iron shafts I've tried."HOTAlthough somewhat traditional in appearance at address, these irons have a hot, explosive feel that should appeal to a wide range of players, as will the moderate offset. It has the look of a better player's iron, but it's plenty playable for the 15-handicapper.NOTThe difference in loft between the 3-iron and 5-iron is just 5 degrees.
STREET PRICE: $1,100WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 30, PW: 45TECH STORYVisual improvements include a thinner top line, less offset and a higher toe. Inside, the high-density alloy cradle has been tweaked to move 80 percent of the clubhead's weight to the perimeter. A thermoplastic-urethane insert in the cavity is designed to decrease vibration, and a titanium face helps increase ball speed.PLAYER COMMENTS"It's right up there as the best one yet. More of a player's club than a game-improvement iron in my eyes. . . . You know you're going to hit the ball solid with these. This is confidence you can buy. . . . The vibration dampening was nice, but it detracted a bit from the feedback."HOTThe original made the Golf Digest Hot List three years running. This improved version is a worthy successor. Any time you can produce a face this hot that feels this soft, you've accomplished something.NOTThe original was one of the pricier irons in this category, and the new version has been bumped up a hundred bucks from that.
CLEVELAND CG GOLD
STREET PRICE: $600WEBSITE: clevelandgolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 30, PW: 45TECH STORYMicrocavities in the clubhead's top line allow 10 grams to be moved low and deep for added stability. The company's "gelback" material in the cavity is designed to dampen vibration. Royal Precision's flighted technology in the shafts provides a specific kickpoint for each shaft for a higher ball flight in the long irons and a more penetrating flight in the short irons.PLAYER COMMENTS"Makes a bad shot feel good and a good shot feel better. . . . The cheesy-gum stuff really works. This is a shock absorber that makes a difference. . . . More distance than most."HOTCleveland irons have been known as a solid value, but the company's technological prowess has been overshadowed. This club might change that. Plenty of tech has been crammed into a conventional-looking clubhead. The color-coded hosel markings to help in fitting are a nice touch.NOTPurists might have an issue with the blocky-looking short irons.
STREET PRICE: $500WEBSITE: cobragolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 29, PW: 45TECH STORYUse of urethane for the insert allowed engineers to move 10 to 20 grams (depending on the iron) to the heel and toe, producing a 6-percent boost in MOI versus the original FP. The sole has been narrowed and redesigned for greater versatility, and the CG has been lowered and pushed back to improve forgiveness.PLAYER COMMENTS"To paraphrase Goldilocks, it's not too big, not too small; it's just right. . . . Good forgiveness and feel for a simple-looking club. . . . I didn't care for the offset, but boy could you thread some needles with this club."HOTAlready a solid iron, the new FP has a sleek look and goodies such as a full cavity-back plate and a urethane membrane that produces feel akin to a hot knife going through butter. The Nippon NS 1030H shaft (at 103 grams) is a nice choice for stock-steel offering.NOTThe narrow sole might make things tougher for the chopper.
STREET PRICE: $750WEBSITE: mizunousa.comLOFTS6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH STORYA grain-flow forging process and 1025E carbon steel help produce a soft feel. A pocket in the rear cavity allows for the repositioning of 30 grams of weight in long irons and 20 grams in middle irons. The pocket is replaced by a solid bar in the short irons for better feel. Modified U-grooves are designed to control spin.PLAYER COMMENTS"A pretty club that sits perfectly at address and feels sweet. What else would you expect from Mizuno? . . . This has a nice, controlled ball flight that would serve the low- to mid-handicapper well. . . . I didn't want to put this one down. Everything about it made me feel like I could hit a good shot."HOTThis is Mizuno's fastest-selling iron ever, and it's easy to see why. The X-back cavity pad is an engineering first for a forged club and reinforces the face area, allowing this iron to exude effortless power and control.NOTIt's not the most forgiving club on our list. Slower swingers should beware.
NIKE SLINGSHOT 4D
STREET PRICE: $600WEBSITE: nikegolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH STORYThe slingback is positioned progressively throughout the set to achieve the proper ball flight for each club. The variable sole width narrows from long irons to short irons to improve turf interaction.PLAYER COMMENTS"Nike has really cleaned this one up. The sound is better, too. It's more pure and less clinky. . . . It doesn't allow me to work the ball much, but it's very solid. . . . A forgiving club, but the protruding piece in back is too much of a reminder that I'm a hacker. . . . The coloring in the back cavity is snazzy and contemporary."HOTNike might be better known in irons for the blades Mr. Woods plays, but it's in the manufacturing of clubs to help average players that the company really shines. This latest version of the Slingshot does nothing to detract from that heritage.NOTThis iron might appeal to a bigger audience, but it lacks the wider sole and deeper cavity that made the original one of our favorites.
TAYLORMADE BURNER XD
STREET PRICE: $900WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 26, PW: 44TECH STORYThe use of titanium allows for a thin face (2.5 millimeters) with high elasticity that is designed to improve ball speed. Weight has also been repositioned to enhance the MOI for better off-center hits. A sound-managing cavity badge is intended to reduce vibration.PLAYER COMMENTS"I love these clubs. I can even hit the 3-iron. I can't miss with them. . . . I think a broad spectrum of golfers would enjoy playing with these, but I was expecting a little more off the mis-hits. . . . I can tell the lofts are strong just by looking at the ball flight."HOTOK, you might need full flaps to stop these strong-lofted irons on the greens, but get over it. They're named Burner for a reason. Despite the strong lofts, the ball still flies high enough. It's a nice alternative for those who need a little more club than the r7.NOTThe top line is a little chunky for this category, and the ball feels a tad hard coming off the face.