2014 Hot List: Blade Irons

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2014 Hot List: Blade Irons

January 28, 2014

adams XTD forged

STREET PRICE: $1,100 (set of eight, steel)LOFTS: 30 degrees, PW: 46 degreesTECH TALK: A pair of the company's DHy driving hybrids serve as the 3- and 4-irons. The rest of the set uses five different materials, including tungsten in the toe to place the center of gravity (CG) in an optimal position in each club.PLAYER COMMENTS:"The word 'crisp' is a cliché, but I haven't had an iron feel like this in some time." . . . "You see the technology in the bag, but at address it has a no-nonsense look. That's the best of both worlds."HOT: The traditional look belies the technology in this set. A thin, high-strength face insert combines with slots that allow the face to flex, producing an iron with plenty of punch.NOT: The scratch player will want long irons instead of hybrids.INFO: adamsgolf.com

Callaway Apex Pro

STREET PRICE: $1,100LOFTS: 6-iron: 29, PW: 46TECH TALK: Forged from 1020 carbon steel, the face features a new groove design that produces more height on shots hit out of the rough. The stock shaft is the KBS Tour V-Spec, which is based on Phil Mickelson's preferences.PLAYER COMMENTS:"The look is clean, and the firm thump you get at impact feels good in your hands." . . . "Among the easiest long irons to hit. That's a big bonus."HOT: With tungsten weights in the soles of the 2- through 5-irons to help launch the ball and a higher CG in the short irons to help control trajectory, Callaway has produced posibly its best iron for better players since the X-Tour.NOT: The topline is a little thicker than some low-handicappers might like.INFO: callawaygolf.com

Mizuno MP-4

STREET PRICE: $1,000LOFTS: 6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH TALK: The "bulging muscle" is positioned lower in the long irons and extends higher as the clubs progress from long irons to short irons. This produces a lower sweet spot on the long irons and more shotmaking ability in the short irons.PLAYER COMMENTS:"I couldn't believe how forgiving this was for a pure blade. I could feel the club throughout the swing." . . . "This goes back to Mizuno's heyday. It's old-school looks with the benefits of modern engineering."HOT: This iron might serve as a reminder. The nearly endless array of custom options appeals to the most persnickety player.NOT: Two words: Butter. Knife.INFO: mizunousa.com

mizuno MP-54

STREET PRICE: $1,000LOFTS: 6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH TALK: Sixteen grams have been removed from the cavity area of the long and middle irons and repositioned to increase consistency on hits across a larger portion of the face. The milled pocket cavity in the long and middle irons assists launch.PLAYER COMMENTS:"These have a little more of a topline at address, which offers a bit of comfort." . . . "It's still a workable club. I didn't think I'd be able to keep my shots down when I wanted to, but I had no trouble doing that."HOT: For some, many of the clubs in this category are too much of a blade to be helpful. This club, however, offers more than enough assistance while maintaining a players look.NOT: The Mizuno purist is likely to look elsewhere.INFO: mizunousa.com

Mizuno MP-64

STREET PRICE: $1,000LOFTS: 6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH TALK: The muscle pad behind the face provides the feel of a muscle-back blade while also boosting ball flight in the long irons and keeping it down on the short irons.PLAYER COMMENTS:"These feel like surgical tools that you can tear the course apart with." . . . "I thought I would feel the mis-hits, but that didn't happen -- which was cool."HOT: Few companies do a better job of concealing the technology in a club than Mizuno, and the MP-64 is no exception. Details such as the company's use of modal analysis to dial in the sound and feel make this a club that should be on any low-handicapper's short list to try.NOT: With three different models appealing to the same player type, something's got to give.INFO: mizunousa.com

ping S55

STREET PRICE: $1,000LOFTS: 6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH TALK: A 17-4 stainless-steel head with a tungsten weight in the toe also has a stabilizing bar in the cavity to aid distance control. Ping's CFS steel shaft comes standard, offering a mid-high launch.PLAYER COMMENTS:"This is a better player's club that works for you instead of the other way around." . . . "I've never looked at Ping before. I might after hitting this."HOT: Ping's approach is part engineering and materials, part common sense. The S55 embodies that philosophy with a design that bolsters forgiveness while maintaining the shot-shaping qualities players such as Bubba Watson require.NOT: Even though the ball doesn't know a cast club from a forging, the former is a nonstarter for some better players.INFO: ping.com

TaylorMade Tour Preferred CB

STREET PRICE: $900LOFTS: 6-iron: 28.5, PW: 46TECH TALK: Slots in the sole of the 3- through 7-irons increase ball speed low on the face to deliver more consistent ball speed across the entire face.PLAYER COMMENTS:"This is an amazing club for the low-handicapper who doesn't have a ton of time to practice." . . . "This is proof slots work in irons too. The distance was there."HOT: Although the words "forgiving" and "blade" aren't often mentioned in the same sentence, TaylorMade has pulled off that impressive daily double. The blade length is a little longer than most, but it provides the same kind of comfort as a child's favorite blanket.NOT: The lofts on the middle irons are the strongest of all the irons on this list.INFO: taylormadegolf.com

Titleist AP2 714

STREET PRICE: $1,100LOFTS: 6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH TALK: The dual-cavity construction creates discretionary weight that has been moved to the perimeter. The lofts are 1 degree stronger than the AP2 712 in the 6-iron through gap wedge. A thinner sole with more weight high in the short irons helps produce a penetrating flight.PLAYER COMMENTS:"Something comes over you at address -- you just know you're going to hit a good shot." . . . "It has forgiveness that doesn't sacrifice control or finesse."HOT: When designing a blade iron with a cavity, the challenge is how much game improvement is appropriate. Titleist has achieved the proper balance with the latest iteration of the AP2, which looks better than any of its predecessors.NOT: Others have done more exploration in the area of grooves.INFO: titleist.com

Titleist CB 714

STREET PRICE: $1,000LOFTS: 6-iron: 31, PW: 47TECH TALK: The latest CB, forged from 1025 carbon steel, features a reduced face height in the short irons and a sole camber designed to accommodate various angles of attack into the ball.PLAYER COMMENTS:"These require no extra effort. They feel like they created the shot for you." . . . "The ball melts into the face. It feels that good at impact."HOT: Don't allow the no-frills look to fool you. These irons are a reliable performer with meaningful enhancements such as a pre-worn leading edge to reduce digging that better players will appreciate.NOT: Not as tour-pro cool as the MB and not as forgiving as the AP2. Could get a little bit lost as a result.INFO: titleist.com

titleist MB 714

STREET PRICE: $1,000LOFTS: 6-iron: 31, PW: 47TECH TALK: The CG location, offset and the lofts are the same as the MB 712, but improvements have been made in the leading edge (straighter) and an effort to make the head shape and hosel blends more consistent from club to club.PLAYER COMMENTS:"The purity of strike you get with these says a muscle-back still has a place." . . . "A lower trajectory but seemingly more responsive than the CB."HOT: Sure, it looks like you could shave with it and five-handicappers should probably stay away, but for anyone with serious game this club says you're a force to be reckoned with in the state amateur.NOT: With AP2 and CB in the line, why would anyone want to make the game more difficult?INFO: titleist.com

callaway X Forged

STREET PRICE: $1,000LOFTS: 6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH TALK: Callaway uses a forging process that produces tighter tolerances for more consistency from club to club. The X-shape variable thickness face helps reduce the dropoff in ball speed on mis-hits.PLAYER COMMENTS:"More forgiving than you would think. I hit a couple off the toe and they only went a few yards off line." . . . "You can control the trajectory on every shot."HOT: The craftsmanship is unquestioned, but improvements such as a lower CG in the long irons (to assist launch) and a slightly wider sole shape than the company's previous players irons are more meaningful.NOT: The company's website says an order of a 4-PW set takes one to two weeks, but 5-PW is one to three days. Hmmm.INFO: callawaygolf.com

cleveland 588 CB

STREET PRICE: $875 (set of seven, steel)LOFTS: 6-iron: 31, PW: 47TECH TALK: The forging process requires half the normal amount of hand polishing, leading to a better consistency from iron to iron. A laser-milling process produces added surface roughness for additional spin.PLAYER COMMENTS:"Enough forgiveness in a package that still says you're a better player." . . . "Felt like I came in steep on a couple and the sole design saved me."HOT: Cleveland has produced a visually appealing players iron that you don't need to be a Keegan Bradley wannabe to take advantage of. We applaud the standard set being 4-PW and not sticking a player with a 3-iron they may not need.NOT: Their commitment to fitting only gets a golf clap.INFO: clevelandgolf.com

cobra AMP Cell Pro

STREET PRICE: $800 (set of seven, steel)LOFTS: 6-iron: 30, PW: 46TECH TALK: The shape was driven by its tour staff. The dual-cavity long irons progress to single-cavity middle irons (7- and 8-irons) and muscle-back short irons.PLAYER COMMENTS:"The long irons hang in the air and then drop almost vertically -- that's pretty neat." . . . "The different designs help you in the clubs you need it most."HOT: You wouldn't expect Cobra to produce a club with a vintage vibe but the AMP Cell Pro does just that. Along with the sweet looks, the buttery feel of the carbon-steel clubhead will appeal to the shotmaker in you.NOT: Cobra has worked hard to create a youthful brand image. That may cause purists to be reluctant to take a look.INFO: cobragolf.com

Nike VR Pro Blades

STREET PRICE: $900LOFTS: 6-iron: 31, PW: 47TECH TALK: Forged from 1025 carbon steel, the face on each iron is milled to achieve a flat surface. The X3X grooves (with more that are deeper and closer together to enhance control) are pressed into the face to achieve a tight tolerance with little variability.PLAYER COMMENTS:A beautiful club. It feels like a forging from the 1970s but with the precision of a modern iron." . . . "I can feel the head throughout the entire swing. I like that."HOT: When your iron is used by the two most recent No. 1-ranked golfers in the world, you're doing something right. The attention to detail in the manufacturing process is not lost on the better player.NOT: Distance might suffer, as the lofts are weaker than most.INFO: nikegolf.com

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