When well-known golfers make a move to a new equipment sponsor, prototype clubs often follow.
Take, for example, the recent signings of Rickie Fowler by Cobra-Puma Golf and Rory McIlroy by Nike Golf. In his first year with Cobra, the company made Fowler a set of prototype muscleback irons that he played during the 2012 season. A learning process between Fowler and the engineering team ensued, which saw the company create a set of AMP Cell Pro irons for 2013 that went into the company’s catalogue, as well as in Fowler’s bag.
Last year, McIlroy spent the majority of the season tinkering with prototype versions of the company’s VR_S Covert Tour driver. Those efforts between McIlroy and the Nike team are evident in the design of Nike’s new Covert 2.0 driver, which McIlroy has been using since last fall.
This week at the Northern Trust Open, recent Adams Golf signing Ernie Els was spotted with a set of Adams XTD Tour irons, which will be a surprise to many golf equipment enthusiasts. The XTD’s are best categorized as game-improvement irons, and different in just about every way from the Callaway Razr X Muscleback irons Els used as a member of Callaway’s Tour Staff.
Unlike the Callaway musclebacks, one-piece irons that are forged from 1020 carbon steel, the XTD irons are a much larger two-piece design with 450 stainless steel faces and 17-4 stainless steel cast bodies. The bodies and faces are connected with Adams’ “Cross Cavity,” which moves the center of gravity of the clubs more rearward for added forgiveness. The design also includes a “Pressure Piston,” a structure that is mechanically lodged between the faces and cross cavities to improve the sound and feel of the irons.
Above: Adams’ XTD irons (left) and Els’ prototype version, which have a custom satin nickel chrome-plated finish. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Els’ prototype irons are slightly different, but still have all the technology offered in the retail XTD irons. They’re about 10 percent smaller, with less offset, particularly in the long irons, and are milled from 17-4 stainless steel. But just as in the off-the-rack XTD irons, the faces are brazed to the iron bodies. That allows for the thin faces that make way for the company’s Cut-Thru slot on the irons’ soles, which gives the irons the higher launch and added ball speed Els wanted.
Mike Fox, director of global product marketing for Adams, said listening to the feedback from players like Els is part of the decision-making process that helps the company create new models. Right now, only the four-time major champion can get a set of XTD Tour irons. But history has shown that an Els-inspired Adams iron could be in the works and in the hands of average Joe’s sooner rather than later.