If you're able to control your distance, alter your trajectory and intentionally shape shots, then you fit the bill of a "better player." It's a badge of honor, and earning this coveted designation puts you in a position to benefit from the same type of irons found in the bags of the best players in the world. Less offset, thinner soles, higher CGs and slightly weaker lofts are typical characteristics of the pros' clubs. If those features appeal to you, or you're just an aspiring "stick," here are the latest "better player" offerings.
Callaway Apex Pro
Pirce: $1,099, steel; $1,299, graphite
A better-player extension of the new Apex line, the Pro model is aimed at players who want the workability and control associated with blades while also enjoying the benefits of some forgiveness. Forged from carbon steel for enhanced feel, the Apex Pro features 7-gram tungsten weights in the sole of the 3- to 5-irons for higher launch. New, wider-spaced grooves allow for more control and consistent spin from a variety of lies. Lastly, the KBS Tour-V steel shaft [mid launch, low torque] is based on feedback from Phil Mickelson.
Nike VR Forged Pro Combo
Price: $999, steel
The latest Pro Combos feature a "pocket cavity" in the 3-6 irons for a higher ball flight and added forgiveness. [The previous Pro Combo model had pocket cavities in the 3-5 irons.] The cavities are filled with polymer — Nike refers to it as "shotmaking gel" — to produce the sound and feel of a forged blade. The 7-PW have a "split cavity" for a more boring trajectory and precise accuracy on scoring shots. New "X3X 27" grooves — 36 percent larger than previous ones — provide more consistent spin rates, while the Dynamic Gold DG Pro shaft promotes higher-flying long irons and penetrating short irons.
Price: $999, steel
The Mizuno tradition of building premium, forged blades continues with its newest muscleback iron. Forged using Mizuno's grain flow process, the MP-4 provides Tour-level feel and control for accomplished players. The muscleback places more mass higher in the short irons for a more boring flight and lower in the long irons for higher-launching shots. The 8-PW have a more compact shape for a sleek appearance at address, while the reduced offset throughout enhances workability. The set also is available with MP-H4 long irons.
Wilson Staff FG Tour M3
Price: $799, steel; $899, graphite
Back in the day, Wilson Staff muscleback forgings were favored by some of the finest players in the world. The company's new forged cavity-back irons have face thicknesses that progress throughout the set — thinner in the long irons for more trampoline effect, thicker in the mid and short irons for added maneuverability.
Price: $999, steel; $1,199, graphite
Made from forged 1025 carbon steel, the CB 714 has center-of-gravity locations and blade lengths that are identical to the CB 712 to generate the same ball flight and feel. A new sole design with increased camber allows the head to cut through turf more easily, regardless of a player's attack angle. The added camber also makes it simpler to hit shots high or low. The new CB has a straighter leading edge, less visual offset, and a shallower face height in the 8-PW for a compact look.
Adams XTD Forged
Price: $1,099, steel
The XTD Forged, a hybrid-iron set for low handicappers, has a flexible, lively face in the 5-iron through PW thanks to a "Cut-Thru" slot in the sole. The thin, forged maraging steel face increases ball speed and generates a higher launch. Adams claims that it's the fastest face of any forged players' model because of the slot and full cavity behind the face. Additionally, foam between the face and cavity softens feel. At the "long" end of the set, two Super DHy driving irons (21° and 24°) replace the standard 3- and 4-irons.