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I did this experiment because I am currently using blades after using game-improvement irons for a long time. And after a few rounds with the blades, I have found no real drop in performance.

Moment of inertia (MOI), a measure of an iron’s forgiveness, is as a selling tool for new irons, but I am not sure how much real improvement it is offering the golf community. My video goes a long way to show that maybe the way we’re thinking about fitting irons to our game is quite wrong. 

Both the irons I tested in the video had stiff shafts. The Mizuno MP-5 (blades irons) had True Temper’s Dynamic Gold S300, while the JPX-EZ (game-improvement irons) had True Temper’s XP 95 S300 shafts. Both irons were tested with stock lofts and lengths.

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Mark Crossfield has been coaching golf for more than 20 years, and has enjoyed shaping the digital golf world with fresh, original and educated videos. Basically, I am that guy from YouTube. You can connect with Mark on Periscope (4golfonline) and Snapchat (AskGolfGuru), as well through the social media accounts linked below.

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. L^E

    Apr 25, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    I’m a 10 handicap and play a set of blades and I often hear comments like “wow blades, why make the game harder?” or “you must be really good if you are playing these clubs” (which i’m not really good, I’m just average). Truth of the matter is, a crappy shot is a crappy shot. A GI club isn’t magically going to turn a chunk into a pure shot pin high. It IS true that your off center shots will most likely fly further with a GI club, but not by a significant amount. And for me, blades offer the “feel” when you hit that pure shot to know you hit it pure. Feedback in a club is an important part of improving your game. I’m not advocating that everyone should play blades, it’s a personal preference. But I think we need to realize that blades are not just for scratch golfers.

  2. Bryon

    Apr 22, 2016 at 8:38 am

    I would like to see a high handicapper do this experiment. Someone in the 20s range go through this with the data so we can see side by side if GI irons are better or not.

    I’m curious to see if GI irons truly benefit a higher handicapper or not.

  3. Hawk

    Apr 21, 2016 at 9:35 am

    As a high handicapper myself I hate GI irons and find them to be a marketing ploy to get more players into golf. One of the biggest reasons people leave the game is because it is so hard to hit the ball. GI irons make it easy, but it doesn’t make you better.

    I maintain this view because I see my game progressively improving year after year, while I see my buddy struggling to get better. We both started playing at the same time. he went the GI route, and can’t chip, pitch, and has no accuracy at all under 100 yards. On the other hand I am very accurate and very good and chipping and pitching when you consider we are both handicapped in the 20s. With every iron I am far more accurate and consistent than my buddy. I play MP-60s.

  4. Eric

    Apr 18, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Very surprised that there is not a larger gap in distance since the JPX 6 iron is 2 degrees stronger than the MP series. To be fair the MP5 does not behave like most blades and is much larger than any other blade offering from Mizuno. I feel that it is way more forgiving than any other MP I have seen outside of the H series. I agree with the earlier comment, I would like to see this test with an MP15 or even a MP4. Those are the last of the compact head, thin top line Mizunos. If not Mizuno test the Titleist MB or Callaway x-forged. It would be fun too for Mark to hit an 11th shot where he tries to “step on it”.

  5. Justin

    Apr 18, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    This is interesting and I have 2 different views. Being a scratch+ golfer (as I assume Mark is as well) there is no need for me to hit game improvement irons, as I strike the ball in the center of the face more often than most. However, I performed a similar test with taylormade mb irons vs the new PSI forged. I found the PSI’s traveled about 8 yards further on average (after 20+ shots with each) and had just about the same amount of feedback. The spin rates were also very similar, with the main difference being the ball speed and launch angle. Both clubs had X100 Tour Issue shafts and were identical in every way outside of the head obviously. The 8 iron of the blade I believe is 1 or 2 degrees weaker than the PSI, so it doesn’t shock me that it went a little further, but the big surprise was that it actually launched higher on average than the mb. So I think this discussion need to be separated into 2 categories: 1. Players cavity vs blades for low handicappers and 2. GI vs standard/players cavity for higher handicappers. Players cavity irons are the wave of the future as more pros are moving away from blades. The thing that has changed is the feedback we get from the cavity irons is better than ever, and feedback is one of the only reasons I played blades in the past.

    An interesting side study to this would be if there was a way to test players hitting crucial shots in their club championship or other tourney to see how often they can hit the center of the club face under pressure. That brings me to my final thought: confidence. You should hit an iron you feel looks good and sets up well at address. Never choose an iron based on the so called benefits alone. If a thin top line makes you feel better over the ball, you should probably play the mbs over the PSI forged. The few shots that matter greatly during a round (getting out of trouble, forced carry, green with water/sand) are influenced most by how a player feels in the situation. You’ll hit a good shot if you feel you’ve got the right club in your hand. Beyond that, what’s in between your ears is still more important than what’s in your bag.

    • Matto

      Apr 19, 2016 at 5:53 am

      Last I heard, Mark’s a 9. I could be wrong.

      • ParHunter

        Apr 21, 2016 at 5:09 pm

        You must be joking! Check out his GameGolf profile. That calculates a GG handicap (which tends to be close to your real one) of +0.6. Bis average score is 73.7

  6. Daddy Divots

    Apr 18, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    I switched from a players iron to a GI (Speedblade) after about a year of having kids. I had no time to practice and my ball striking suffered. When i made the switch my 1 round per week became a lot more enjoyable and the scores came down significantly.

    I have been as low as a 5 index (pre-kids) and climbed over 12 once the practice sessions were no longer an option. GI irons helped me quickly get back to a solid single digit.

    You can fawn over the blade, it’s beauty or whatever all you want, but the average person or the 12 handicap is going to see improvement with GI irons.

    God bless technology!

    • Hawk

      Apr 21, 2016 at 9:24 am

      I beg to differ. I play MP-60s and my buddy plays RocketBladez. My shots are far more accurate and far more consistent than he has every been. We both started playing at the same time, and both our handicaps are in the 20s.

      there are shots he can’t make and won’t make because he isn’t comfortable with it, or doesn’t know how to do it. For me, there is nothing I can’t hit or do. Call that confidence vs club, but the theory that GI irons will benefit is a total falicy. It is a gimmick to get people to play the game by offering an easier to hit club. Is it easier to hit? Absolutely, but it doesn’t make you a better player. If you want to get better and be a better player, I maintain, even as a high handicapper, stay away from GI irons.

      • BHS

        Apr 22, 2016 at 2:38 pm

        I have to disagree with you Hawk…I did the same thing as Daddy Divots…combo blade set(McGregor V-foil yr 2002 when they were good) to the X-Hot pros by Callaway. I had the same thing happen to me since I didn’t play as much, from 6-7 times every month to 3-4 times with 2 months off. My handicap was going up to 9-10 range from 4-5. Most of the issues was not hitting enough greens from 170-210 range. Since I made the change…dropped back down again. One of my playing buddies is about the same handicap as you and he plays they same no mater what clubs are in his hands, his clubs.. to mine to a friends extra set of blades.
        I do think that this problem helps someone in the 5-12ish handicap range more then someone in your range.

        Honest Question, if you both you and your friend started at the same time and you can hit shots he can’t… and as you said..”On the other hand I am very accurate and very good and chipping and pitching when you consider we are both handicapped in the 20s”
        Have you considered that if you used GI clubs you would be in the teens?

  7. Lowell

    Apr 18, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Nice video and is pretty spot on. A player does not intentionally aim for the toe no matter how high a handicap. A high handicapper is inconsistent in where they hit the golf ball on the face so even if they had a game improvement iron, it would not improve their outcome.

  8. Tony Wright

    Apr 17, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Mark interesting test thank you. Is there any chance you could duplicate the test by hitting the EZ club with the same shaft you use in your MP5 clubs – Dynamic Gold S300? The XP 95 shaft is about 35 grams lighter than the Dynamic Gold shaft, and the XP 95 shaft flex profile throughout the shaft is a lot softer than the Dynamic Gold shaft flex profile. Would that make a difference, who knows unless you do it with the same shaft. All the best.

  9. Square Grooves

    Apr 17, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    So a scratch golfer finds little difference between a blade and a shovel on Trackman. Shocking. Have a 14 handicapper do the same comparison, and watch the blade numbers go sideways.

    • jcorbran

      Apr 17, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      14? average golfer shoots 100, that’s a 28ish. You didn’t hit anything thin or fat, test those clubs while chunking them all, see what works better.

  10. KC

    Apr 17, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I recently demo’d the new Titleist 716 irons and the best performer for me was the CB hands down. AP1 were a little bit longer, as you’d expect with the stronger lofts, but those CB’s were going as far as the AP2 and T-MB irons (despite their lofts being a tad stronger) yet felt way more pure. On mis-hits I noticed exactly the same impact to the shot with all the irons, so it really is a no-brainer for me that the CB was what I’d bag from that line. If you can consistently strike the ball then why not play an attractive club like a CB or MB?

    • golfraven

      Apr 20, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      I agree here with you. The only clubs I would consider now are the CBs, even if the AP2 might be the better fit. Maybe even a combo of MBS and CBs but I guess this is just being funky.

  11. JustTrying2BAwesome

    Apr 17, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I’m surprised a hot faced iron isn’t flying a lot farther than a solid faced blade. Seems to for me in the long irons, but what do I know. Thanks for the review Mark.

  12. Tom Duckworth

    Apr 17, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Very nice Mark. For a number of years I believed I should leave my old blades in the basement because no one can hit them but the pros. I never went full on GI irons I would buy the cavity back cut slot type of iron that I just didn’t really like the feel of. After breaking out my old Wilson Staff blades and hitting many buckets side by side with the cavity back irons like you I could not find any real meaningful difference.
    I hit my irons well but by no means am I a scratch golfer.
    I have to miss hit pretty baddly to really see a difference and a bad strike with any iron is a bad strike.
    I do feel like if mfgs. can convince us that all these different irons will make a difference they will sell more irons. It just make sense if you have six different irons to sell that a golfer will find something in your line they like or think will help them. I’m sure there are golfers that walk in the store and just look at GI irons because that’s what they think they can hit and never look at anything else they might enjoy more. Just think if Titleist made one kind of iron and said “This is the perfect iron” even if it was they would never sell as many. I’m not saying everyone should play blades I play Wilson FG Tour V2s because I like their feel and I know how far it will go when I hit it well but they are never HOT. Blades are not as hard to hit as some would have us believe. I must say I’m glad to see you playing the MP-5s I was a little bummed when you were playing the GI irons.

  13. George

    Apr 17, 2016 at 3:55 am

    I recently went from MacGregor player cavities to MP-59. I tried more game improving irons like XR, XR Pro, but unfortunately I can’t even look at those large heads with the thick top line. Sorry, but look of the head at address is important for me. The MacGregors just spoiled me in that category.

  14. RG

    Apr 17, 2016 at 2:44 am

    Thank you for being the voice of reason Mark. If you hit it out the middle it doesnt matter what you play and “forgiveness” is mostly a marketing tool. Now Guru tell them all about shaft flex! #the truth is out there

  15. Rich

    Apr 16, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Mark, love your work. Anyone who gives me the drive to go back to blades is alright with me. Would like to see this test done with a 15 marker or something like that. Would be keen to see if there was a similar lack of difference. Cheers

  16. Other Paul

    Apr 16, 2016 at 11:16 pm

    I switched to titlesit 712 mbs. They are amazing. My game rose up to playing them very quickly. Got over the 4i fear as well. Good video Mark. Welcome to WRX.

  17. :-ppp

    Apr 16, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    What a totally clueless comment from somebody who knows nothing

  18. Eee

    Apr 16, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Crossfield says: “We should all just have one ball, one shaft, one head type. And call it a day. Because it’s the Indian and the arrow. All the time. If you know how to strike the ball, you’ll figure it out. I hate all these shaft choices. “

  19. Jordan Speeth

    Apr 16, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I’ve experienced the same and, as a result, have gone back to a much more blade-y iron (Srixon Z745). If anything, they make me more aware of the fact that I want to/need to strike the ball with the center of the club face and, as a result, I do. The feel, performance, spin control, etc. though, are much better with the Z745 than the GI club in the range. I do have a Z545 4 iron with a stiff Graphite shaft and I think that club carries the ball significantly further than the steel shafted Z745 that would be part of my normal set. It REALLY takes off like a rocket…the Cavity/slot back Z545, that is. Anyway, I find myself agreeing with Mark and the type of player who would supposedly benefit greatly from a GI club, i.e.. 60+ years old, cancer patient (loss of strength/swing speed), losing eyesight/hand-eye coordination but all those factors considered, I’m still a better player with the blades. I was a Ping guy for two decades too. I sometimes play with a vintage set of Haig Ultra blades too, a REAL blade, and I can say that, though they’re still great, contemporary blades are not your grandfather’s clubs. They ARE easier to hit than 50s thru 70s butterknives.

  20. Roger Daltry

    Apr 16, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Play VR Pro blades after Titleist 690.mb’s, best golf of my life after many years of “player cavities.” Connection = feedback = improvement = results. It’s a smarter cycle. Few are aware!

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On Spec

On Spec Special Edition: Houston Open winner Lanto Griffin talks equipment

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In this special edition of On Spec, Ryan has the chance to interview recent PGA Tour winner Lanto Griffin. Lanto talks about what it’s like to stand over an event winning putt, finding the right wedges, and how testing gear sometimes happens right out of another player’s bag.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The “70% Rule” is still the winning formula on the PGA Tour

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In June of 2010, a year before the Tour launched Strokes Gained Putting analysis, I published an article on my blog (www.NiblicksOfTruth.blogspot.com): “PGA Tour Winner’s – 70% Rule.”

I had been studying the winners of each tour event for years and realized that they all had specific success in three simple stats–and that the three stats must add up to 70 percent

  1. Greens in Regulation – 70%
  2. Scrambling – 70%
  3. 1-Putts from 5 to 10 feet – 70%

Not every one of the three had to equal 70 percent, but the simple addition of the three needed to equal or exceed 70 percent.  For example, if GIR’s were 68 percent, then scrambling or putting needed to be 72 percent or higher to offset the GIR deficiency—simple and it worked!

I added an important caveat. The player could have no more than three ERRORS in a four-round event. These errors being

  1. Long game: A drive hit out of play requiring an advancement to return to normal play, or a drive or approach penalty.
  2. Short game: A short game shot that a.) missed the putting surface, and b.) took 4 or more total strokes to hole out.
  3. Putting: A 3-putt or worse from 40 feet or closer.

In his recent win in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Kevin Na broke the rule… by a bit.  He was all good on the 70 percent part of the rule

  1. GIR’s: 75 percent
  2. Scrambling: 72 percent
  3. 1-Putts 5-10 ft.: 73 percent

But not so good on the three-error limit

  1. Long game: Two driving errors and one approach penalty (three errors).
  2. Short game: A chip/pitch shot that missed the green and took FIVE strokes to hole out (one error).

No wonder it took a playoff to secure his win! But there was another stat that made the difference…

The stat that piqued my interest in Kevin’s win was connected to my 70 percent Rule.  It was his strokes gained: putting stat: +3.54, or ranked first.  He gained 3.5 strokes on the field in each of his four rounds or 14 strokes. I have never seen that, and it caused me to look closer. For perspective, I ran the putting performance of all of the event winners in the 2019 Tour season. Their average putting strokes gained was +1.17.

Below, I charted the one-putt percentages by distance range separately for Kevin Na, the 2019 winners, and the tour 2019 average. I have long believed that the 6–10 foot range separates the good putters on Tour from the rest as it is the most frequently faced of the “short putt” ranges and the Tour averages 50 percent makes. At the same time, the 11-20 foot ranges separate the winners each week as these tend to represent birdie putts on Tour. Look at what Kevin did there.

All I can say again, I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. Well done Kevin!

For the rest of us, in the chart below I have plotted Kevin’s performance against the “average” golfer (15-19 handicap). To see exactly how your game stacks up, visit my website.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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