2018 Hot List: Super Game-Improvement Irons

If any clubs should be outlawed, it’s these ultra-forgiving irons. They make the game easier for those needing it most.


Callaway

Big Bertha OS   

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★★
Look/sound/feel ★★★★★
Demand ★★★★★

Callaway Big Bertha OS   

Verdict Callaway’s belief that higher-handicappers need the most help with the low and middle irons is evident here. The Big Bertha OS features tungsten in the sole to lower the centre of gravity (CG), which promotes getting the ball airborne. The short irons don’t need the help launching the ball, which is why the CG gets progressively higher in those irons for increased control. The revamped cupface (in which the face wraps around the topline and sole to help it flex more) functions more efficiently in the low and middle irons.

Comments (M) These irons seem to have a little extra distance compared to others. (H) Probably the best-feeling irons of the bunch. Almost a players-iron feel at impact.


Cleveland

Launcher HB    

Performance ★★★★½
Innovation ★★★★★
Look/sound/feel ★★★★
Demand ★★★★½

Cleveland Launcher HB 

Verdict With a hybrid-like design from the long irons through the wedges, this easy-to-hit set is made for golfers needing help getting the ball in the air. The hollow design incorporates a wide sole, a sloping-recessed crown and backside and a high-strength steel face insert – all of which encourage higher flight and faster ball speed. The head shape is sleeker than previous hollow-body irons, so the look at address is more palatable. Even the short irons don’t look offensive, which is no small feat in a full hollow-body set.

Comments (M) A generous club with a lot of forgiveness. (H) A behemoth. Launcher is what it did. Just the gravity of the downswing launches the ball.


Cobra

F-MAX/One Length  

Performance ★★★★½
Innovation ★★★★★
Look/sound/feel ★★★★½
Demand ★★★★½

Cobra F-MAX/One Length  

        

Verdict The ability to launch the ball is imperative for slower swingers. But to launch the ball with any height and carry, you need speed. That’s why these irons use speed-enhancing ideas like lighter shafts and swingweights. The irons feature larger grips, have a low-profile design and adopt different constructions based on loft. The 4-iron through 7-iron use a thin-face construction made from 17-4 stainless steel. The short irons use a softer 431 stainless steel for feel and control. Also available is the F-Max One Length set in which all irons are the weight and length of a 7-iron.

Comments (M) Incredibly forgiving. You can feel all the weight underneath helping the ball. (H) These pack a lot of power.


Honma

Beres IS-06

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★½
Look/sound/feel ★★★★½
Demand ½

Honma Beres IS-06

Verdict Honma has a reputation for being a premium brand. Sometimes lost in that is its expertise in helping slower swingers. A new head design has a forged body with a zippy maraging-steel face that wraps around the sole to foster ball speed. In the 4 through 8-irons, three slits near the sole and face enhance spring on mis-hits. In the 9-iron through sand wedge, better control is achieved by using maraging steel that doesn’t wrap into the sole. A new 50-gram lightweight shaft is something the speed-challenged will appreciate.

Comments (M) The slots in the sole area make you feel like there’s something going on down there. (H) Huge distance and pop. Nearly hit the net at the back end of the range with a 7-iron.


TaylorMade

M CGB    

Performance ★★★★½
Innovation★★★★★
Look/sound/feel ★★★★½
Demand ★★★★★

TaylorMade M CGB    

Verdict TaylorMade has typically catered to skilled golfers, but the company looks to expand its audience with this iron. Ultra-thin faces throughout the set produce plenty of spring, and face slots widen the flexible area. Hit it low on the face? A sole slot assists shots struck there, too. Four tungsten weights in the rear heel and toe area lower the centre of gravity for higher launch and improved stability on off-centre strikes. Finally, no golfer wants a set of irons in the bag that scream “beginner”. The forgiveness features here aren’t
so obvious, so there’s no need to hide these on the first tee.

Comments (M) Terrific sound. Every shot felt like you flushed it. (H) Short irons are terrific – clean and crisp turf interaction.


Wilson

D300

Performance ΗΗΗΗ½
Innovation ΗΗΗΗ
Look/sound/feel ΗΗΗΗ½
Demand ΗΗΗ½

Wilson D300

Verdict Continuing an idea first seen on its C200 irons, the oversize D300 uses a series of “power holes” around the perimeter of the topline, toe and sole to create a more flexible face. The holes reduce the contact area between the body and the face to just 26 percent. In other words, nearly three-quarters of that area is occupied by the holes. The result is a face that deflects more (about 16 percent more than the D200). Another benefit of the holes: they remove a significant amount of weight. The saved mass was moved to the heel and toe areas to enhance stability.

Comments (M) Easy to launch with a big, juicy sweet spot. (M) Very powerful at impact with a traditional feel.


XXIO

xxio x

Performance ★★★★★
Innovation ★★★★½
Look/sound/feel ★★★★★
Demand ★★½

XXIO xxio x

Verdict The XXIO club brand isn’t well known in Australia, but perhaps it should be. The X iron (the company’s 10th-generation iron) generates swing and ball speed through two primary sources: a lightweight, high-balance-point graphite shaft and a face made out of titanium. The weight savings from the titanium face allowed the club’s designers to use 21 grams in the form of tungsten-nickel weights to get more mass down low and back to help you get the ball airborne. It’s not quite a club with training wheels, but it’s close.

Comments (M) If you’re in the market for a club that launches it high, this is the one for you. (H) Appealing at first glance. A confidence-building club.


Tour Edge

Hot Launch 3 Triple Combo  

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look/sound/feel ★★★½
Demand ★★

Tour Edge Hot Launch 3 Triple Combo  

Verdict Tour Edge applies common-sense thinking in addressing golfers’ issues. By breaking the iron set into a combination of two hybrids, two hollow-body irons and three cavity-back irons, help is provided where it’s needed most – in the longer clubs – and control is available in the scoring clubs. The hybrids have a maraging-steel face to generate distance, and the hollow-body middle irons have substantial weight low to assist getting those shots airborne. The 8-iron through pitching wedge are traditional cavity-backs. Plus, the price is the epitome of the word bargain.

Comments (M) No trouble finding the middle of the face. Lots of help here. (H) The bubble-back look offers plenty of power.


Wilson

D350 Hybrid Irons

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look/sound/feel ★★★★
Demand ★★

Wilson D350 Hybrid Irons

Verdict We applaud companies that offer hybrids as standard. But what if you could have as many as four or as few as none? The D350 offers this flexibility. The standard eight-club set starts at the 4-iron, but substitutions can be made. Options include a 3, 4, 5 and 6-hybrid from 19 to 28 degrees – at a cost of $US100 for every two additional hybrids added. The set has a newer version of the face-sole technology found in the company’s D200 irons. The lower part of the face, leading edge and front of the sole are thinned to similar thicknesses to create more ball speed.

Comments (M) They hide the help well: It has a game-improvement-iron look at address. (H) Fat shots got plenty of air time.


Yonex

Ezone GT  

Performance ★★★★
Innovation ★★★★
Look/sound/feel ★★★★½
Demand

Yonex Ezone GT  

   

Verdict Normally the shaft wouldn’t be the talking point for an iron, but when you have golf’s first use of a material, it’s worth touting. This iron has a shaft that is reinforced by Namd – a material that dramatically improves the adhesion of the graphite fibres and resin, resulting in a high-strength and lightweight shaft. The explanation of how it does that should be reserved for an advanced chemistry class, but all you need to know is that the result is increased shaft flex for potentially higher ball speed.

Comments (M) Seemed to have more spin than some others. The ball stuck when it landed. (H) A good example of how you don’t need a bulky look to work in this category.


Old Versus New: Irons

Longer, higher-flying and softer-landing  

We compared the latest 7-irons against five-to-six-year-old 7-irons provided by Global Golf, the leading used-club retailer in the world. The new 7-irons showed consistent improvements, and some of them were considerably longer on mis-hits than their previous generations. In some isolated cases, we saw 20-yard improvements in carry distance for off-centre strikes. However, for the most part, the gains were more measured: about three yards for an on-centre hit on average, and high, low and heel hits improved by as much as five yards each.

If you think the difference is just driven by stronger lofts that fly lower and won’t hold greens, guess again. Even with stronger lofts, shots flew an average of two yards higher with about a degree steeper landing angle (meaning they would roll less after landing). Just what you would want a better iron to do. – M.S.