The best part of TaylorMade’s RocketBladez irons isn’t the long distances that they fly, according to TaylorMade engineers. It’s the consistent distance that the irons fly on mishits.
TaylorMade has made long-flying irons in the past, one of their most popular being the two-year-old Burner 2.0 irons. But those and other “game-improvement” irons haven’t been popular with better players because they tend to cause problems with distance control. Irons such as the Burner 2.0s have what’s called a hotspot, a place above the center of the clubface that when struck with clean contact causes shots to fly longer-than-anticipated distances. This is bad because unlike drivers, skilled golfers aren’t trying to hit their irons as far as possible. They’re trying to hit them a controlled distance.
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Bret Wahl, TaylorMade’s vice president of R&D for irons, said that he and his team have spent the last five years designing irons with a higher coefficient of restitution, or COR. A high COR is achieved by making clubfaces thinner, increasing the spring-like effect and making the ball fly farther. But even though engineers were able to increase speed on shots hit on the center of the clubface, they struggled to add a similar amount of speed to mishits, especially shots hit on the stiff, lower portion of the face that is attached to the leading edge of the club.
The performance of the lower portion of the clubface is important for golfers because according to a TaylorMade study 72 percent of shots are struck below the center of the clubface. That means that almost three-quarters of all golf shots are not hit with optimal speed.
Last year, TaylorMade released its RocketBallz fairway woods and hybrids, the first of the company’s clubs to include its “Speed Pocket,” a slot on the bottom of the sole near the leading edge that increased COR. This added speed and forgiveness to the clubface, especially on shots struck below the center where the Speed Pocket functioned to make the lower portion of the clubface more flexible.
RocketBladez bring Speed Pocket technology to irons, and like the RocketBallz fairway woods and hybrids before them, the company is promising more speed and forgiveness. How much speed and forgiveness a golfer will get, however, depends on which model of RocketBladez irons they choose.
RocketBladez Tour Irons
TaylorMade’s two most popular irons on the PGA Tour are the company’s Forged MB and CB models, thick-faced irons that provide slow speeds on center strikes. But even though they lack the speed of distance irons on shots hit on the center of the face, the MBs and CBs are more consistent than other models on slight mishits and have no hotspots.
According to Gary Gallagher, market manager for metal woods for TaylorMade, there was no desire on Tour for substantially longer-flying irons. That’s why instead of giving RocketBladez Tour irons the “full steroid” treatment that designers gave the non-Tour RocketBladez, engineers held back, only adding “a quarter of a steroid” to their ingredient list.
The RocketBladez Tour irons were designed to mimic the aesthetics of the Forged CBs. They have thin soles, a small amount of offset and similar blade lengths and toplines. But the Speed Pocket in the sole increases the COR to 0.819, adding at least 1 mph of ball speed to center strikes and making the sweetspot of the RocketBladez Tour five times larger than the Forged CBs (note: TaylorMade defines the sweetspot as the area of the clubface where there is less than a 1 mph drop off in speed).
Like the RocketBallz fairway woods and hybrids, the Speed Pocket increases ball speed as well as launch angle, which gives Tour players two options with RocketBladez Tour irons. They can:
- Hit the RocketBladez Tour irons higher and a little further than their current irons (the current average off added distance according to Gallagher is 8 yards).
- Bend the lofts stronger, giving them an iron that flies as high as their current model but goes substantially further.
The RocketBladez Tour 3 iron through 7 iron are cast from 17-4 stainless steel, which adds the necessary stiffness for construction. To make the irons feel softer, the Speed Pocket is filled with a special polyurethane developed by 3M that still allows the pocket to flex and reduces vibrations. It also limits debris that could enter the pocket.
The Speed Pocket is not used in the 8 iron, 9 iron, pitching wedge and “attack wedge,” however, because Gallagher said the speed pocket becomes less active and thus less important as loft is added to the club. Since the short irons are slotless, they can be cast from a softer material, 431 stainless steel. The distance gap between the 7 iron and 8 iron is bridged gradually by varying the different variables of the irons — mainly loft, face thickness and the depth of the speed pocket throughout the set.
The RocketBladez (non-Tour) irons lose the wacky geometry of last year’s RBZ irons in favor of a more traditional game-improvement iron shape, resembling the Burner 2.0 irons at address. They have the same COR as the Tours, but they have thicker soles, thicker top lines, more offset and a longer blade profile to support a deeper center of gravity (CG) position. This makes makes them more longer and more forgiving than the Tours and 5 mph faster than the Burner 2.0s, which accounts for double-digit distance gains.
Like the Tours, the RocketBladez employ a slot in the 3 through 7 irons and no slot on the 8 iron, 9 iron, pitching wedge and A-wedge. They are also available in a 55-degree sand wedge and 60-degree lob wedge that use TaylorMade’s ATV sole grind. Take a look at the specs below for more information.