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.

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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 Managing Editor of GolfWRX.com.

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

Zak also developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers who want to improve their skills and allows established golf professionals to communicate directly with readers.

He played college golf at the University of Richmond, where he took too many strokes. Good thing he also studied journalism and creative writing.

You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss all the cool gear and insider info that's part of his job.

63 COMMENTS

  1. 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!

  2. 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..

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

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