Airborne Express: Friendly irons to help you hit it higher and longer
We all want to play like Woods, Mcllroy or Scott, right down to using their elegant muscleback blades. But let's face it, folks. Finding irons that match your game is the key to playable misses, lower scores and more fun. These five powerful game-improvement models are all built to produce higher, more forgiving and longer shots. Make time to demo the irons to see for yourself.
Price: $799, steel; $899, graphite
Introduced in 2009, TaylorMade's Burner represents the company's shift to thin-face distance irons. Now comes the SpeedBlade, with a faster, more flexible face that generates more consistent ball speeds and a smoother feel than the RocketBladez iron it replaces. That's heady stuff considering that its predecessor has been the industry's number-one-selling model throughout 2013. The 3-through 7-irons have a 1.5 mm face [the company's thinnest iron face ever] plus an updated slot in the sole [called a "Speed Pocket"] that's longer and wider in the heel and toe than in RocketBladez irons. Small holes in the front of the slot allow for additional face flex. The result is the highest COR of any TaylorMade irons to date. The "Speed Pocket" design produces higher-launching shots than typical irons, while the updated "Inverted Cone" face pattern and undercut channel further enlarge the sweet spot [by extending it lower and wider] for more consistent results, particularly on low, off-center hits.
MORE SPECS: A toe bar, first used in RocketBallz irons in 2011, stiffens the toe [typically, a weak area of the face] to help straighten out ball flight. SpeedBlade irons have a shallower profile than previous models to lower the center of gravity. Progressive offset [8-iron at left, 4-iron at right] makes squaring the clubface easier, too.
Price: $1,099, steel
The famed Apex [Callaway retained the name when it sold the Ben Hogan Co.] returns with this forged, multi-piece model. Designed as a "distance" iron, the Apex has a carbon steel body to soften feel while a thin, Carpenter 455 steel face insert [most recently in Diablo Forged irons] should increase ball speed and distance. The 3-5 irons have tungsten sole weights, which shift the effective hitting area lower on the face and make it easier to hit high-launching shots. New, wider grooves are designed to help average Joes produce more spin on shots from the rough for more consistent ball flight and carry distance.
MORE SPECS: A multi-material medallion fine-tunes sound and feel for a more pleasing impact sensation. Apex game-improvement irons have moderate offset and a fairly thin topline, similar to a better-player's iron at address.
Cobra Baffler XL
Price: $599, steel; $699, graphite
Inspired by the original Baffler [designed 40 years ago by Tom Crow], the new Baffler XL comes with 4-, 5-, and 6-hybrids and 7-iron through GW. The oversize hybrids have a progressive offset to promote easy contact and a slice-fighting shot shape. The low-profile irons have a low center of gravity to help you launch higher shots. A "360-degree" undercut cavity increases MOI for greater forgiveness on off-center hits, and contributes to added face flex for more ball speed and distance. The 8-piece set also comes without hybrids [$499, steel; $599, graphite].
MORE SPECS: A wide, railed sole and beveled leading edge improve playability from all types of lies and turf conditions.
Price: $699, steel; $799, graphite
What's the big "idea"? Here, it's to help mid-to high-handicappers consistently produce shots with higher launch and more overall distance. Part of that has to do with its set construction -- a trio of hybrids [3-5] with Carpenter 455 steel faces, a pair of transitional hybrids [6 and 7] that blend hybrids and irons, and cavity-back short irons [8-PW]. Adams also utilizes "Velocity Slots" for more trampoline effect at impact -- Idea irons are the industry's first set to have "slots" in each club. Each hybrid sports a channel in the crown and sole, which Adams says allows 67 percent more face flex than in hybrids without the technology. The Idea short irons have slots in the toe and sole to help ball speeds on toe hits so misses lose less distance.
MORE SPECS: A slot system that wraps around three-quarters of the head enlarges the sweet spot.
Yonex EZONE XP
Price: $720, steel; $840, graphite
The new EZONE XP [the "XP" stands for extra power] uses a counterbalance design with the goal of providing faster ball speeds and distance for the average player. To do this, Yonex increased the head weight by 4 grams and placed 20 grams of tungsten powder in the grip, which moves the balance point of the shaft closer to the butt end. The result is a heavier, more powerful clubhead that doesn't feel heavier. These strong-lofted clubs also feature a "dual-cavity" design for added forgiveness and an updated sole that reduces turf drag.
MORE SPECS: These sticks use counter-balancing to produce extra power.