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.

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Zak is the Editor of GolfWRX.com.

He's been a part of the company since 2012, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Since that time, GolfWRX has become the go-to destination on the web for golf equipment news, tour news, instruction and opinion.

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  1. Although these came out roughly in July 2014…I just got scored a new set off ebay for under $200…Few dealers are selling them for that price or less. Gonna give it a shot. 110g KBS Shaft, so it seems to have a good shaft in it. I got it in regular flex as stiff would be too much for me. But I’ll play them with confidence going into it, so I’ll make them work. The slightly smaller face and less offset, but yet forgiving, is what interested me in them.

  2. In my humble opinion, if you were to spotweld a treble hook to the toe of these XTD clubs, it would make a very nice muskie lure!

  3. Iron Technology? You mean a good quality chunk of steel molded into a club head and refined to exact standards of weight, loft, lie? Yep, that’s all an iron ever was and ever will be. How about we try to improve those quality control standards TM/ Adams.

    • Also, the distance marketing has gotten out of hand. Who wants a thin face and trampoline effect on an iron? The why you have 11 of them in the bag, for varying and precise distances. Thin face will only make the distance more inconsistent on mishits, especially for high handicappers. Hit one bad, just short of the green. Catch one flush, fly it over the green! Just more proof that Taylormade is wearing a clown’s nose and not interested in making golfers better.

    • Hit these and you’ll eat your words. Talk about a chunk of steel. Look no farther than the ping G20 and big bertha to name a few. Adams does it with technology where others just strengthen lofts and lengthen shafts.

    • I was told by an Adams rep that Big E is playing a forged version of these that cost Adams about $3,000 to make. Made a lot of sense to me..

  4. Just too ugly to contemplate playing. There are other thin faced, well performing, good feeling and forgiving GI irons to choose from instead. Callaway Apex for example. Unlike contracted pros who are there to promote new releases, and ironically Ernie is not playing the retail version (probably couldn’t come at those)but an iron that bears the same name but is not that similar, us amateurs can have a good performing GI iron AND a good looking bag.

  5. Just too ugly to contemplate playing. There are other thin faced, good feeling, forgiving GI irons out there that look great. Callaway apex for example. Unlike contracted pros who are there to promote new releases, (these are not that similar to the retail version BTW. Ernie probably couldn’t come at those) us amateurs can have performance and a good looking bag.

    • Yeah. 400 more and lofts that are much stronger. Has anyone honestly hit the xtd iron? I thought like you until I took a chance and now I wouldn’t change back!

  6. I swore I would never play Ping’s in 1982. I bought a brand new (fitted) set in 1984, last year before grooves became issue and still have them, 1/4″ over, blue dots, original KT shafts. I played them for 10 years and were the best irons I ever had by far.

  7. ugly overall, but a nice top look is all that matters to the player. that and results.
    remember when Corey Pavin used those horrendous Cleveland irons to win the US Open?

  8. Rumor has it these iron have the hottest face on the market. I will definitely be giving these a “shot” pun intended..

    • i love the smooth satin finish on these! I see on the website they are Black PVD, will these be be offered in Satin? or is it for tour only? Nice work Adams!


  9. I’m sick of these professionals playing “game improvement” irons. I’m also sick of amateurs playing these irons. How about this novel idea….get better and don’t count on a club to make you better.

    • How about using what you can to better your game. The more people that can do that the fewer courses will close because people just give up. The fewer courses that close the cheaper it is for you. Would hate to hear you complain about the cost of a round of golf.

      • I guess firefighters should also use the same gears they use to and the horses and wagons to go with it. Lol. Why not use old (as in technology) tires and learn how to drive.

  10. I don’t care what they look like or how they play. My irons are set for the year.

    My question is: how is the caddie going to keep them clean in the back cavity?

  11. Just seems odd to go from his previous clubs to these. Adams has some wonderful forged irons to choose from in the forged xtds, CMBs, CB3s and A12 pros that are middle ground. I love Adams and play cavity backs but the retail XTDs are not an attractive club.

    • He is playing a forged version of this club that is not being released to the public. They want him playing these to sell more to the public..

  12. I know it’s a bit of an “apples to oranges” comparison, but sort of reminds me of the old Triumph TR7/TR8. Ugly as heck to look at, but you couldn’t see how ugly it was sitting in the car…and it drove great. Ernie’s iron looks pretty good from above…not so much from the back. Wonder what the longer irons look like from above.

  13. Would be interested to see how they perform. Huge fan of Adam’s hybrid lineup but never played a set of their irons. Might just have to give them a shot if they hit the shelves.

  14. He’s not the first. Remember when Kenny Perry switched to Adams? He’s playing retail Redline irons now, which are similar game improvement clubs. Must be something in the water over at Adams. As someone said above, easier to hit is easier to hit for anyone.

    • Kenny Perry has played off-set clubs with GI designs for the past 10+ years at least.
      The key to this club is how does it look at address and how does it perform.
      As for cleaning the club, it is not any more difficult to keep the face and sole clean than any other. As for the back, I don’t see Ernie burying the club in the mud in anger which then would require one to have to clean the detail on the back of the club!

  15. All these purist comments are stupid. It’s how the club looks BEHIND the ball . At ADDRESS. Not that ego s&$( of how they look in the bag. Golfwrx = tour pro poseurs..

  16. Some of you people are so funny…. you would rather have a pretty bag and an ugly scorecard than who cares what it looks like and a low score. If Ernie sees value in playing them…. you should toas I doubt anyone ccommenting on here hits it more solid than Ernie does with his speed and launch conditons

    • ya…. and i’m sure he’s gonna love these shovels from the rough to….most people including tour pros like how they feel and perform on the range….and not in real conditions. I’mm gonna be following his proximity to the hole this season as he games these “money grab” irons….i’ll bet he bails on them soon

      • Perhaps you should instruct the tour pro’s on the way they should be evaluating their equipment – seems like you know the proper way??

  17. Wouldn’t be surprised to see this trend to more game improvement irons with other tour players. Easier to hit is easier to hit, even scratch golfers with muscle backs baffle me.

      • How horrific! I wouldn’t dig a hole with these clubs, can’t believe Els is going to attempt to use them! Say it’s not so Ernie, perhaps we could give Tiger Ernie’s set heaven knows he needs them…….and wait for the Tiger Cavalry to respond……………

        • I love how everyone on the forums here is a Tour pro suddenly! Lol, I’m close to scratch (4-5 handicap) and am happy to use cavity back irons (RBladez tours). The feel is good enough for me, I can work the ball when I want to. So I hope everyone that is commenting about how horrible they seem (especially from address) is playing forged MB’s. Personally I agree with Scott, If you compare the amount of players playing MB irons from ten years ago to the amount playing anything else, that number has been shrinking.

  18. Wow. First the XTD, now this. I’m a huge Adams fan. Seeing these has me already looking for a backup set of CMB’s to have when mine wear out. Duds IMO.

  19. I don’t care if the back of my irons look like a Yugo or a Kia grill. If they work, they work. I’ll play a guy with beautiful irons in his bag for money, any day. (Though I need to see his swing first)

  20. These look worse than the new Big Bertha Alpha. All these companies are just focused on gimmicks instead of just making good quality golf clubs. I think each one of these companies need to take a good look at what Titleist and Mizuno are doing and get back to just making good golf clubs because these are ridiculous.

  21. whew – I’m an advocate of liking your irons look in the bag – You can’t hit ‘em if you can’t look at ‘em. I can’t look at these.

    • I can’t believe all the fancy stuff on the backside makes any difference compared to a more generic looking cavity back. If you compare an old ping and these, your score would be the same. Just a fancy marketing ploy. I also think that slot on the bottom would get packed with dirt.