STREET PRICE: $700 (set of eight, graphite)WEBSITE: adamsgolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 28, PW: 44TECH STORYThis integrated set of irons is designed with easy-to-hit features. It includes three hybrids with a boxy shape (for the 3-, 4- and 5-irons), iron-like hybrids (for the 6-, 7- and 8-irons) and an undercut, cavity-back 9-iron and pitching wedge.PLAYER COMMENTS"They look a little chunky at address, but they're light, and the impact is smooth. I hit the 3-hybrid better than any 3-iron I've hit in my life. . . . You can't miss with these clubs. They are ridiculously easy to hit."HOTAdams deserves credit for taking the hybrid set to another level by increasing the number of wood-like and iron-like hybrids and leaving just two irons in the set. Options for more hybrids are available for those in need. These are the Volvo of irons: They're boxy, but they're good.NOTBest for slow swingers. Players with high swing speeds tend to balloon the loftier hybrids.
CALLAWAY BIG BERTHA
STREET PRICE: $800WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 29, PW: 45TECH STORYWide-sole, hybrid-like irons replace the 3-, 4- and 5-irons before making the transition to conventional irons that have been redesigned with more offset and a constant-width sole throughout the set.PLAYER COMMENTS"I love the look of the short and middle irons, but the hybrids are a little too avant-garde for me. . . . Once you get over their unusual look, they really perform. I mean, these went far. . . . If you can't get the ball airborne with these, you might as well go fishing."HOTCall this one Extreme Makeover, Golf Edition. The predictable and longtime stalwart of Callaway's iron line has been revamped to include iron-like hybrids (with very wide soles) in its long irons and more contemporary graphics. Despite these changes, the company hasn't increased the price.NOTThis change to Ms. Bertha is a big leap of faith, but has the company gone too far?
STREET PRICE: $700WEBSITE: clevelandgolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 30, PW: 45TECH STORYBecause of the inverted crown and hollow construction, the iron features a center of gravity that is six times farther back than in conventional irons and a sole width that gets progressively thinner throughout the set. Bulge and roll was added to the 3- and 4-irons to make them more playable.PLAYER COMMENTS"These are terrific irons. Anywhere on the face is a sweet spot. They're extremely reassuring at address. . . . I like how they taper the hybrid look so it's not as drastic in the short irons. . . . The height was fantastic, but the 6-iron flew as high as the 9-iron."HOTAn all-hybrid set isn't for everyone, but for those secure enough in their manhood to realize that function, not form, collects the cash in the grillroom, this one almost eliminates operator error.NOTDo you really need a sole that wide on the short irons?
STREET PRICE: $800WEBSITE: cobragolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 28.5, PW: 44TECH STORYAn expanded three-piece polymer top line allows weight to be moved to the sole of the club to create a lower CG and a higher moment of inertia. The urethane sole insert and cavity plate are designed to reduce vibration.PLAYER COMMENTS"It's got a clean look for a club with so much going on technology-wise. . . . The black top line frames the ball well. . . . I got nice distance with these. The ball flight was about ideal, too."HOTOne of our favorites from last year received some nifty improvements. Chief among them is the sole chamfer, which adds playability and helps keep the weight low and back. A progressive low-profile shape helps keep the head from looking bulky, and the Nippon NS Pro 900 is a solid choice for a stock steel shaft.NOTWe would prefer to see a hybrid as part of the standard set offering.
CALLAWAY FT I-BRID
STREET PRICE: $1,300WEBSITE: callawaygolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 28, PW: 44TECH STORYFusion technology allows a lightweight polymer to be used so that weight can be moved to the perimeter of the club and to tunite weighting ports in the sole. The result is a high MOI and a desirable CG location. The irons feature increased offset to help get the ball airborne.PLAYER COMMENTS"They feel fabulous at impact: the nicest, softest feel of all the clubs in this category. . . . They are very correcting on mis-hits. This is going to overtake everybody. Callaway has exceeded itself this year. . . . You know where the ball is going without even looking."HOTFor years Callaway eschewed hybrids completely. Now the company is all in with a hybrid-iron set designed for the super chopper that can be played by almost anyone. It's a substantial upgrade from last year's Fusion Wide Sole.NOTYou have to win a lot of nassaus to cover the cost of these clubs.
STREET PRICE: $1,000WEBSITE: cobragolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 28, PW: 43TECH STORYMultiple materials abound in the UFi. There's a polymer top line, a metal-matrix face insert (a nine-material alloy that is 65-percent lighter than stainless steel), a back-cavity-plate urethane insert and tungsten weights in the heel and toe of the wide sole.PLAYER COMMENTS"They had a good super game-improvement club, but this is better. And for a forgiving club it's not loaded with offset, which is nice. . . . Impact is cushioned without feeling mushy. . . . A really great shape. It looks as good as anything I've seen."HOTThe company claims these are its "most technologically advanced irons to date." It's hard to dispute that. The use of multiple materials is impressive and achieves a club that is easy to launch the ball. Those who believe the Cobra S9 does not offer enough help should take a hard look at this club.NOTA 43-degree pitching wedge is pushing the boundaries of decency.
STREET PRICE: $1,000WEBSITE: mizunousa.comLOFTS6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH STORYA pair of wood-like hybrids are followed by three hollow-back hybrid irons that, like the short irons, are forged. Tungsten weights are located low and back in the hollow-back irons to provide consistency. The short irons are made of carbon steel for a soft feel.PLAYER COMMENTS"If you don't like this set then you are not smarter than a fifth-grader! . . . These went only so far, but I could make an adjustment to that. . . . The bells and whistles make the club work and are within the range of good taste."HOTA great design by a company known more for its better-player irons. It seems just right to have this pair of true hybrids followed by three hollow-back irons. The custom-fitting options that include loft choices make finding the right yardage gap between the 4-hybrid and 5-iron easier. It's a good set for the guy who needs help but insists on playing forged.NOTThe sole on the short irons might be a touch thin for this category.
NIKE SQ SUMO2 HYBRID / IRON SET
WEBSITE: nikegolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH STORYNike has been at the forefront of the MOI movement, and this iron set continues that trend. Four hybrids incorporate the company's "powerbow" design that shifts weight to the perimeter for more forgiveness. The cryogenic-steel face is designed to increase ball speed. The polymer insert is to promote better feel.PLAYER COMMENTS"The hybrids going so far up in the set is a little much, but there's no doubt they get the ball in the air. . . . Of all the hybrid-iron sets, these gave the best results. The ball really pops off the clubface."HOTWe applaud Nike for designing the standard set in its super game-improvement line with four hybrids and for beginning at the 4-hybrid and going through the gap wedge. The Mitsubishi Diamana graphite shaft should appeal to many players.NOTWe really dig the quartet of hybrids, but some players will shy away because of that.
TAYLORMADE R7 CGB MAX
STREET PRICE: $1,300WEBSITE: taylormadegolf.comLOFTS6-iron: 26, PW: 44TECH STORYA lightweight shaft and a thin, high-strength steel face are designed to produce a faster swing speed for distance. The tungsten weights increase MOI for stability at impact.PLAYER COMMENTS"These are about as pretty as you're going to get in this group. They don't look like you have to have a high-handicap to use them. . . . The carry was long and straight. . . . The super game-improvement aspects are nicely disguised. . . . Hitting balls with some clubs is like work. This is just plain fun."HOTTechnology is TaylorMade's strength, and the company features plenty in this iron. Besides its standard inverted-cone and a lighter shaft, a hollow top line is a nice achievement. The purpose is to allow weight to be moved deep to launch the ball high despite the strong lofts. How hot are these? Think of driving a Ferrari . . . . downhill.NOTIf you're going to employ a lighter shaft, why not a lighter grip, too?
TOUR EDGE BAZOOKA GEOMAX
STREET PRICE: $550WEBSITE: touredge.comLOFTS6-iron: 29, PW: 46TECH STORYA pair of 15-gram tungsten weight screws in the heel and toe are designed to increase the MOI. An elastomer coating in the undercut cavity provides vibration damping. Hybrids can be substituted for any iron in the set.PLAYER COMMENTS"The address is not overpowering for such a big, honkin' club. . . . Everything about it is just fine. They were forgiving, and most shots went straight. . . . Call this a Volkswagen on a stick. The fat top line is too much for me. . . . I found it interesting that I almost couldn't overswing with these. The only downside is that it felt a little heavy in the hands."HOTWho cares if the irons look like shovels? These clubs work as hard as a ditch digger. This is Tour Edge at its roots: helping the average golfer play better golf at a price that won't cause spousal conflict. In fact, if there's a better bargain in the hybrid-iron-set category, we'd like to see it.NOTA 2-hybrid is available. Why bother?