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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: I fell in love at Sweetens Cove | Finding your golf “community”

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In this episode of On Spec, Ryan can’t say enough great things about his first trip to Sweetens Cove for the first Oil Hardened Classic—an event dedicated to persimmon and blade irons. He also talks about a new group of golf buddies in the era of social media.

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

It started with a crazy idea…

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It’s been nearly six years since Bob Parsons decided he wanted to get into the golf club business, and it was five years ago that Ryan Moore was presented with an iron that looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie.

Since then, the name PXG has been growing in stature as quickly as this industry has seen in a long time. In my time with Tour Ops Director Matt Rollins, I discovered once again that there was a point for all of these department heads, where the ability to work in a vacuum with no boundaries peaked enough curiosity to leave great jobs and take a winger on a man’s idea that at inception may have sounded a bit crazy.

Now let’s be clear, Bob Parsons knows golf clubs. Like many on this site, he’s a gear junkie—yes, with unlimited resources to find exactly what he wants. However, being a gear junkie myself, I always wondered what it would look like if I had the resources to go as far down the rabbit hole as I wanted to without risking the roof over my head AND without the mandate of a company to limit my search. This is important to understand because as you may have seen in the last video, the people Mr. Parsons chooses to work with seem to have this unrelenting curiosity as well.

The tour operations started this way: Ryan Moore was the perfect guy to attract early on. He’s a searcher, he has the resume to gain trust, and he’s extremely measured. Ryan doesn’t do anything on a whim, although it may appear so. He considers everything down to the last point before he says yes. I can say this in confidence knowing his story and interacting with him a few times. I have interacted with a good portion of the early PXG staff and to a person they have all said the same thing: “It seemed a bit crazy at the time, but I was curious: I hit the clubs and I wanted in.”

The current staff like the front office is a good mix of all personalities and as a whole they represent the perfect mix to get the PXG message out into the world. Players like Horschel, Perez, Ko, Hahn, Lee, ZJ, Moore, HOF icon Gary Player, and most recently aspiring LPGA player, long drive champion and influencer Troy Mullins.

Now, I won’t get into all of the club junkie tidbits I get from Matt here: ya just gotta watch the video. It was a fun interview and my biggest takeaway personally is that despite all of the opinions and polarizing discussions around PXG, these guys really care about what they are doing and where they want to go.

As you will see in Episode 6 of The Disruptors, Matt Rollins at first had a kind of “yeah right” reaction to the whole thing—then you start to get around Bob, and Mike and Brad and you begin to understand just how serious these guys are about taking PXG to places we have never seen. Are they one of the Big 4? No. They never will be—it’s not designed that way. Are they a company that has the nimbleness, brains, and swagger to continue to shake things up? Oh, yeah. And that’s exactly how Bob likes it.

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Opinion & Analysis

PGA Tour players on the rise and on the decline heading into 2020

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At the end of each season, I compile data on every PGA Tour player and then analyze which players are on the rise and the decline for the upcoming season. There are a number of variables that are historically quality indicators of a golfer’s future performance such as age, club speed, adjusted scoring average, etc. I tend to focus on what I call The Cornerstones of the Game, however, and these Cornerstones include:

  • Driving effectiveness
  • Red zone play (approach shots from 175-225 yards)
  • Short game shots (from 10-20 yards)
  • Putting (5-15 feet)
  • Ball speed

All that is needed to execute the Cornerstones of the Game is for the player to be in the top half on the PGA Tour in each metric. That’s the beauty of the concept; a player does not need to be dominant in each metric. He can simply be average at each metric and it increases his likelihood of not only having a great season but recording a PGA Tour victory. I can then use the Cornerstones concept to more accurately project players on the rise for the following season.

This past season, there were 10 players that reached The 5 Cornerstones of the Game and they made an average of $4.7 million on the season. Given their success, I focused my analysis more on players that narrowly missed The 5 Cornerstones and their metrics to determine what players will be “on the rise.”

Players on the rise

*The following rankings are based out of 194 players

Joaquin Niemann

The young Chilean golfer reached every one of The 5 Cornerstones of the Game, but he made the least amount of FedEx points of any of the golfers that executed all of the Cornerstones.

This was due to Niemann’s early struggles with the putter. However, his putting improved significantly as the season went by.

The dotted black line in the chart represents Niemann’s trendline and that shows a strong upward trend in his putting performance.

Niemann ranked 107th in adjusted par-5 scoring average, and given his quality of ballstriking and distance off the tee, that should greatly improve. The projections are for him to win soon. If he can continue to improve his putting, particularly from 3-5 feet (he ranked 160th last season) he could be a multiple winner this upcoming season.

Sung Kang

Kang recorded his first victory at the Byron Nelson Championship but flew under the radar for most of the season. He also executed The 5 Cornerstones of the Game.

Back in 2017, Kang almost executed The 5 Cornerstones, but I was lukewarm to putting him on the list of Players on the Rise as the one cornerstone he failed to reach was red zone play, and that’s too important of a metric to miss out on.

Kang struggled in the 2018 season, but his red zone play greatly improved. In the meantime, his driving greatly suffered. He continued to struggle with his driving early in the 2019 season but made great strides right around the Byron Nelson and ended the season ranked 80th in driving effectiveness. Meanwhile, his red zone play has continued to be strong, and he’s a sound short game performer from 10-20 yards and putter from 5-15 feet.

While I am a little more on the fence with Kang, given his putrid performance from the yellow zone and generally inconsistent play, his putting suffered from ranking 181st on putts from 25-plus feet. That is more likely to move towards the mean and greatly improve his putts gained next season. He’s also 32 years old, which is a prime age for Tour players hit their peak performance of their career.

Sepp Straka

Straka had a good rookie campaign striking the ball and was a competent putter. The only Cornerstone that Straka failed to execute was short game shots from 10-20 yards. However, we can see that as the season went by Straka’s short game improved

That’s also recognizing that short game around the green has a weaker correlation to success on Tour than most of the other Cornerstones like driving, red zone play and putting from 5-15 feet.

Straka should improve greatly on par-5’s (104th last season). He made a lot of birdies last year (25th in adjusted birdie rate), but made a ton of bogeys (155th). These numbers project well at tournaments that are birdie fests like Palm Springs or courses that are relatively easy on shots around the green such as Harbour Town.

Sam Ryder

Ryder only missed The 5 Cornerstones with a poor performance from 10-20 yards. He’s an excellent putter and iron-play performer, and that is usually the parts of the game that the eventual winners perform best from.

Wyndham Clark

 

One of the new metrics I’ve created is called “power-to-putting.” This is a combination of the player’s putts gained ranking and their adjusted driving distance ranking. Earlier this year I wrote an article here about where exactly distance helps with a golfer’s game. In essence, the longer off the tee a golfer is the more likely they will have shorter length birdie putts on average. That’s why long hitters like Bubba Watson can make a lot of money despite putting poorly and why shorter hitters like Brian Gay have to putt well in order to be successful.

The “honey pot” is for a golfer that hits it long and putts well. This means they will sink a ton of birdie putts because they are having easier putts to make and they have the requisite putting skill to make them.

Clark finished first in power-to-putting (Rory McIlroy finished second). On top of that, he was an excellent performer from 10-20 yards which is usually the last step in a long ball hitter becoming an elite performer. Clark’s iron play was very poor and that downgrades his chances of winning on Tour. But, with his length, putting, and short game, he can very well get four days of decent approach shot play and win handily.

Players on the decline

Charley Hoffman

Hoffman ranked 64th in FedEx points but was 139th in adjusted scoring average. Most of Hoffman’s metrics were not very good, but he was a superb performer from the yellow and red zone. The other concerning part of Hoffman is his age: He is at the point of his career that player performance tends to drop-off the most. He only made two of his last seven cuts this past season with the best finish of T51 at The Open Championship.

J.B. Holmes

Holmes finished 166th in adjusted scoring average and was greatly helped by having a favorable schedule as he ranked 21st in purse size per event. The best thing Holmes has going for him is his distance off the tee. He also had a good season around the green that helps long hitters like Holmes when they hit foul balls off the tee.

After that, Holmes did not do much of anything well. He was 179th in adjusted missed fairway–other percentage (aka hitting foul balls off the tee) and his putting was horrendous and doesn’t appear to be bouncing back anytime soon.

Patton Kizzire

Kizzire only made two of his last 11 cuts last season, and it’s easy to see why with his ballstriking struggles. It also doesn’t help that he was poor from 10-20 yards. He’s one of the elite putters on Tour, but elite putting only helps a player so much in the big leagues.

Phil Mickelson

The biggest positive for Mickelson is his newfound power that he exhibited last year. He will also play a favorable schedule as he ranked 16th in purse size per event and has lifetime exempt status on Tour.

For fantasy golf owners, I would be averse to picking Mickelson in the short term. The question with Lefty is if his newfound distance caused him issues with his iron play, short game and putting, or if that is just a temporary slump that once he works thru those issues with his newfound speed, he may be winning tournaments again. But at his age, history is not in his favor.

Francesco Molinari

Molinari turns 37-years-old in November. There’s still plenty of years for good golf, but Molnari’s lack of power and routine struggles with the putter means that he needs to have impeccable driving and iron play in order to be competitive in big tournaments and the majors. Last season he was an average driver of the ball and he was below average from the red zone.

The positive for Molinari is that he has typically been an impeccable ballstriker, so the issues in 2019 may have been a one-time slump. And while he putted poorly, he putted well from 5-15 feet. He ranked 184th on putts from 15-25 feet and 157th on putts from 25-plus feet, and those are more likely to progress towards the mean over time and help his overall putting.

But, Molinari has never been a great putter, and at his age, it will be very difficult to keep up with his impeccable ballstriking to get back to the winner’s circle.

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