Monday, February 19, 2007

We see it in more and more players' bags on every pro tour. Peeking out are iron "sets" that are really two partial sets (such as cavity-back long and mid-irons from one model and muscleback short irons from another). This mixed-iron approach is now being incorporated into standard set make-ups from Nike, Kasco, Adams, MacGregor, and Wilson, shattering the long-held notion that every club in the set must look alike. Playability is in, and the latest in materials, technology, and designs allow these introductions to help golfers of all skill levels hit better long irons while experiencing a solid, consistent feel throughout the set. What took them so long?

Photographer: Bob GrierBob Grier

Tiger Woods just switched to Nike's blades. Unless you can hit a blade 2-iron 260 yards, you are better off with the company's Forged Pro Combo irons, played by David Duval, which boast full-cavity long irons, shallower-cavity mid-irons, and blade short irons and wedges. All clubs -- even the 2-iron -- look like blades at address, but the weighting helps get the ball up. The short irons have a higher center of gravity to help prevent ballooning. ($899 for eight clubs with steel shafts, $999 with graphite; 800-344-6453)

Adams's big Idea is actually three mini-sets in one. Designed for "easy-to-hit performance," the set includes 17° and 21° long-iron "i-Woods" (replacing the 3- and 4-irons), oversize hollow-back mid-irons (5- to 7-irons) with more weight low and back for forgiveness, and oversize cavity-back short irons (8-iron to pitching wedge) with wide soles to prevent digging. ($599.95 for eight clubs with either graphite shafts or steel with graphite-tip shafts; .800-622-0609)

Photographer: Bob GrierBob Grier

Kasco isn't bashful when describing its K2K irons E-specs (not pictured) as "the perfect set of the future." Each club looks like a part-wood/part-iron, with a thin face and low center of gravity that launch shots into the air. For even more pop at impact, try the Super Hyten metal alloy heads. They are futuristic, as the company claims -- with a price tag to match. ($2,399 for 5-iron to PW with graphite shafts and Super Hyten heads, $899 with stainless steel heads; 800-431-2560)

A set of Wilson's Fat Shaft III irons contains two hybrid "game improvement" clubs in place of the 3- and 4-irons. They are much easier to get into the air than their traditional counterparts, due to low, deep weighting. Adding to playability is the company's Fat Shaft (half-inch tip diameter), which stabilizes the clubhead at impact. The rest of the set offers perimeter weighting, oversize faces, low center of gravity, and progressive offset and sole width for forgiveness. ($499.99 for eight clubs with steel shafts only; 800-GO-WILSON)

Photographer: Bob GrierBob Grier

Proof that even mixed irons can look timeless: MacGregor Golf's Tourney VIP V-Foil 1025CM Mixed Set (not pictured) combines 1025C Cavity Back 3- through 6-irons with 1025M Muscleback in 7-iron through pitching wedge. ($899 for eight clubs with steel shafts; 800-841-4358).

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