GOLF Magazine rates and reviews irons designed for low-handicap golfers.

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ClubTest 2008: Better-Players Irons GOLF Magazine asked a group of players with handicaps between 2 and 10 to rate and review some of the newest irons designed for accomplished players. See which was their favorite. Bridgestone J36 Cavity Back $799, steel We tested: 3-PW in Rifle Project X Flighted steel shaft. Shaft length/loft (6-iron): 37.25"/31° Company line: "Forged from 1020 mild carbon steel, for the ultimate in soft feel. The U-grooves provide spin and distance control. Progressive "muscle cavity" height— thinnest in 3-iron, thickest in PW— creates a descending weight concentration so the greatest amount of feel and control are in the short irons." Our Test Panel Says: PROS: Instantaneous feedback— shots struck on the sweet spot stimulate the senses; a beautiful iron for the precise player; capable performers from a variety of conditions; wonderful balance; better players will be magical with these; par savers for sure on chip shots; incredibly responsive clubs; good contact feels like the ball sinks into the club and stays on the face. CONS: Least-forgiving iron tested; severely punishes wobbly swings; shortest carry distance on center hits. "An exacting, accurate set geared for the pure ballstriker." — Barry Fasenmyer (4)
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Callaway X-20 Tour $699, steel; $799, graphite We tested: 3-PW in Royal Precision Rifle Project X Flighted steel shaft. Shaft length/loft (6-iron): 37.5"/30° Company line: "A narrower sole, beveled trailing edge, chamfered topline and high toe produce a more traditional look that appeals to the highly skilled player. The heel design reduces turf drag, while a longer hosel positions the CG for optimum trajectory control." Our Test Panel Says: PROS: A great club if all you want is straight; a steady performer from rough; sidespin is a nonissue; one-half club longer than most on solid hits, longer on misses; non-glare brushed finish isn't a distraction; larger face increases sweet spot; nicely weighted; you wish your wife were this forgiving; good for those transitioning from a larger, game-improvement club. CONS: Don't expect much shot shape; chips feel dull, almost numb, and come off too fast; not overly playable; look elsewhere if you want tons of excitement. "Very forgiving for a players' club." — Mark Haberstroh (4) Rate and Review this club
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Cleveland CG Red $699, steel We tested: 3-PW in True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shaft. Shaft length/loft (6-iron): 37.25"/30.5° Company line: "CG Red has a compact head for shotmaking and workability. Our "Gelback" technology is vibration-tuned for accomplished players who want a soft feel on well-struck shots but require more responsiveness on off-center hits. The micro-cavity stiffens the topline for optimal energy transfer, more distance and forgiveness." Voted Best for Forgiveness in 2008 ClubTest Our Test Panel Says: PROS: Dependable, confidence-inspiring package; overall forgiveness is its best trait; gets out of trouble and creates scoring opportunities; longer irons pleasingly easy to hit; adequate when trying to work the ball; super-friendly across the face; muted feel, not to be confused with dead feel; lots of room for misses; for players who want forgiveness and not-so-intense feel. CONS: Not overly nimble on chips; could use more precise feedback for delicate shots; red insert is a visual turnoff. "You can shape shots without the sting of poorly struck ones."— Hoai Hoang (9) Rate and Review this club
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Cobra Pro CB $849, steel We tested: 2-GW in Royal Precision Rifle Project X steel shaft. Shaft length/loft (6-iron): 37.5"/30° Company line: "A forged cavity-back iron with short hosel and lower center of gravity, to produce a high ball flight. Its thin topline, minimal offset and narrow sole provide workability with some forgiveness. A rounded sole camber improves turf interaction." Voted Best for Playability Voted Best for Feel Our Test Panel Says: PROS: How an iron should look; smooth impact feel; good forgiveness for a compact blade; very rewarding feedback; user friendly on downhill lies because the clubs get the ball up quickly; gap wedge fits perfectly in the set; exquisite playability; superb shotmaking versatility; if you think hitting shots on target time after time is boring then avoid these; lovely, soft feel on chips. CONS: Miss severely and these bite you; slight mis-hits can be a crapshoot from rough; for some, too much of a ballstriker's club past the 6-iron. "Very playable, predictable, accurate, with a touch of forgiveness." — Lee Neisler (3)
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Mizuno MP-57 $849, steel We tested: 3-PW in True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shaft. Shaft length/loft (6-iron): 37.25"/31° Company line: "Our first MP iron with a full cavity, resulting in significantly larger sweet-spot area than any previous MP. It produces a slightly higher ball flight in long irons, a mid-trajectory in scoring irons and the feel and shotmaking ability that MP iron players crave." Our Test Panel Says: PROS: Nimble versatility from a variety of lies; beautiful forged "click" combines with crisp, fluid, soft feel; more forgiving than other MP irons; consistent performers; best for precise ballstrikers who want a trajectory boost; terrific-looking clubs; score very high for accuracy and workability; ideal weight and balance; responsive to shotmaking input; mid- to short irons are pure precision. CONS: Off-center hits feel weak; noticeable loss of distance on mis-hits; these demand the swing of a better player; some find the short irons too big. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a more accurate iron." — Mike Nastasi (9) Rate and Review this club
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Ping i10 $699, steel; $899, graphite We tested: 4-9, PW, UW, SW in Ping AWT steel shaft. Shaft length/loft (6-iron): 37.25"/30.5° Company line: "The rib structure of the 'custom tuning port' stabilizes the face and improves feel and shot consistency. Weight savings from the cavity and face structure is positioned on the low toe to provide a high moment-of-inertia for its blade length." Our Test Panel Says: PROS: Very good shot correction from the fairway and tee; no-frills classic Ping look; higher ball flight than most; a single white scoring line frames the ball well; club helps on thin shots; steady, stable clubhead going through the rough; allows you to miss a little and get away with it; good sticks to have on days that you're not swinging your best. CONS: Lacks crisp feel on chips; dull finish looks unattractive next to others tested; not for you if you prefer "forged" feel; high flight could be affected in windy conditions. "Playable enough for single-digit types but also suited for mid-handicappers." — Joe Nagel (4) Rate and Review this club
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TaylorMade r7 TP $799, steel We tested: 4-PW in True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shaft. Shaft length/loft (6-iron): 37.25"/31° Company line: "Minimal offset and a flatter lie angle give those with tour-caliber hand action total control over direction and flight. The shallow cavity creates a higher CG, making it easier to work shots left, right, high and low." Voted Best for Distance Our Test Panel Says: PROS: Those who struggle with distance will love these; repeatable trajectory patterns; nice balance between correction and playability; larger, muscular heads provide a good deal of help in rough; center shots feel flush, off-center shots have no real sting; fun irons, you can forget about everything except the target; head mass is easy to feel; can hit it high or low with ease. CONS: Not pure finesse clubs, chips seem to come off too hot; satisfying performers but they don't "wow" you; crystal-clear feedback is sacrificed for pleasant feel. "These will add distance to your iron game." — Jon Dobberstein (7)
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Titleist AP2 $999, steel; $1,199, graphite We tested: 4-PW in Precision Project X steel shaft. Shaft length/loft (6-iron): 37.5"/31° Company line: "These are forged from 1025 mild carbon steel. The multi-material, dual-cavity design features a dense tungsten-nickel alloy in the back and sole. This allows us to optimize launch conditions for a larger range of swing speeds." Our Test Panel Says: PROS: More forgiving than a blade with the same shot options; sole design muscles through questionable lies; super-soft feel at impact, especially in the scoring clubs; no problem shaping shots; shots from uphill or downhill lies fly predictably; AP2 has an eye-appealing look; allows the creative shotmaker to do his thing. CONS: You sacrifice distance from rough; miss it out on the toe and it won't cover it up; somewhat muted feel for forged clubs; less-than-full shots require a learning curve. "A players' club for those who lack practice time." — Doug Lair (8) Rate and Review this club
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Winner: Irons — Better Player Cobra Pro CB $ 849, steel The cavity-back design has plenty of weight behind the hitting area, for sweet feel and precise maneuverability. If you fit the player profile, these are fantastic, memorable sticks. They're a real treat to swing. In fact, several panelists say they feel like marksmen. Good news, too, that off-center hits won't bruise the hands or the ego. Like any tour-caliber iron, the Pro CB has a compact, pleasing shape for all to behold. "I hit lasers from good lies, making tight pin positions accessible."— Joe Nagel (4) • ClubTest Home Page • ClubTest Index Page • Fairway Woods • Hybrids • Irons: Max Game-Improvement • Irons: Game-Improvement