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GolfWRX Members Choice: The best players irons of 2018

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The bedrock of GolfWRX.com is the community of passionate and knowledgeable golfers in our forums, and we put endless trust in the opinions of our GolfWRX Members. No other group of golfers in the world tests golf clubs as frequently or as extensively, or is armed with as much in-depth information about the latest technology.

So we asked our GolfWRX Members, “What are the the best players irons on 2018?” (Blades excluded. The membership voted on those here). As part of the voting process, we allowed members to vote for up to three irons they felt most worthy of the title, based on their testing of the forged offerings from 17 different manufacturers.

GolfWRX members are both discerning and carry handicaps lower than the general golfing population, so OEMs ought to (and do) take note of their feedback.

With the votes tallied, it’s time to take a look at the top-five vote getters of the bunch. And many thanks to all who voted! (See the full thread here).

No. 5: Ping iBlade (8.26 percent of votes)

Ping’s new iBlades fit the broadest definition of blade irons; they have the narrow soles, thin top lines, short blade lengths, minimal offset, maximum workability, excellent feedback and soft feel blade players want. They aren’t forged like most blades or blade-like irons, though, instead opting for a multi-material, cast chassis that Ping uses to boost forgiveness and distance. Think of them as “intelligent blades;” they’re a much smarter choice for blade players who don’t compete for a living, and even some who do.

The iBlades offer more distance and more forgiveness than their predecessors, Ping’s S55 irons, as well as more refined look and feel that makes them more “blade-like” than they’ve ever been.

Related: Review: Ping iBlade irons

No. 4: Srixon Z 765 (8.41 percent)

Srixon’s no-frills approach to iron-making is refreshing in today’s golf equipment climate. The company forges its irons from 1020 carbon steel, and offers three distinct models than can please anyone from traditionalists (Z965) to forged cavity-back enthusiasts (Z765) to distance- or forgiveness-seeking crowds (Z565).

Low handicappers have a difficult decision to make between Srixon’s Z765 and Z965 irons. The Z965’s are musclebacks that are slightly more “workable,” as blade-lovers like to say. That’s another way of relaying that they’re smaller-sized irons that spin slightly more. Both irons, though, have similar profiles with little offset and thin top lines. Both also use Srixon’s Tour V.T. Soles, and utilize a new heat treatment to make the irons more durable. For blade players, the Z765 won’t look clunky or have too much offset. Low, single-digit handicappers could really go either way, or create a brag-worthy mixed set.

Related: Review Srixon Z765 irons

No. 3: Callaway X Forged (10.36 percent)

X Forged irons, like Callaway’s Apex Muscleback, are also single-piece forgings, the blade lengths are slightly longer, the overall head shapes are slightly larger, and they are cavity-back irons made for a bit more forgiveness.

Like the Apex MB irons, the soles of the X Forged irons are built for the turf interaction that’s desired by Tour players, and the head profiles are tour-inspired. The lofts are slightly stronger throughout the set than the Apex MB, but are still weaker than the game-improvement style irons in Callaway’s stable. That means better players will see the ball launch in the “desired window,” according to to the company.  The X Forged irons are “triple net forged,” according to Callaway, and they have progressive CGs with 20V grooves on the face.

Related: Callaway finally launches new Apex MB and X Forged irons

No. 2: Titleist 718 AP2 (16.22 percent)

With fast-face technologies and stronger lofts off the table (the 6-iron is 30 degrees), Titleist investigated new ways to improve the AP2 recipe. The result was a new main ingredient, a high-strength steel known as SUP10, which is used to make the forged bodies of the 3-6 irons. Titleist also used SUP10 to form the face inserts for the 3-6 irons. Because SUP10 is stronger and lighter than the 1025 carbon steel bodies and 17-4 stainless steel face inserts Titleist previously used to create the AP2, designers were able to move the CG of the new irons lower in the club heads for higher ball speeds and a higher launch angle.

Like the 718 CB, the 718 AP2 irons are also co-forged to concentrate high-density tungsten weights in the corners of the club heads to improve MOI and exactly center the CG of the irons.

Related: Titleist’s 718 irons offer endless possibilities

No. 1: Mizuno MP-18 SC (16.82 percent)

The MP-18 Split Cavity irons feature what Mizuno calls a half-cavity design. Mass has been taken of the upper portion of the irons, focusing CG (center of gravity) lower in the club head for an easier launch and more forgiveness.

The MP-18 SC irons are only fractionally longer from heel-to-toe than the MP-18 muscleback irons. They’re also 0.5 millimeters taller and have soles that are 1.5 millimeters wider. With identical specs (aside from swing weight in the longer irons) and offset, these irons are designed to blend seamlessly into a combination set with the MP-18 muscleback irons regardless of where golfers decide to split their set.

Related: Mizuno brings the MP family closer together

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. shane

    Aug 18, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    PXG fad is finished now. Anybody with PXGs in their bag is a loser!!!

  2. stephenf

    Aug 4, 2018 at 3:25 am

    Okay, but can you see that this is really not the best way to get an idea of what the best irons are? It’s a little like figuring out what the best hamburger is by looking at where the biggest sales are. So McDonald’s, then. Or if you limit it only to non-fast-food, maybe Red Robin or something. But the odds of finding the _actual_ best burger that way aren’t good. It just means it’s the one with the widest distribution and the one the most people know about.

    Quite obviously, several really excellent irons are not even on this list. Wilson, for instance, has put out some great irons for the past 10 years or so.

  3. Dave

    Aug 2, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    wilson c300 forged should be on this list. in fact i think they will be better than almost anything to come out for years to come…..trust me i have had a almost every set available to me to try. the difference is in the distance if you need any help at all and the forgiveness is out right amazing. thin shots tend to go near correct distance, but the toed shots are almost identical to pured shots. i found out by on course testing. i couldnt believe it then i saw their promo material for the c300 forged and saw that the toe area of these actually get the most help from the power holes…..the only reason i moved on was simply i hit them too far…much to far…i am looking forward to having them again with a heavier shaft. i miss the 5-7 iron for sure. i currently game the v6 forged. nice irons as well. i was hoping to do a mix set but the distance on the v6 is almost under standard which i like but id have to play like 5-7 forged and 7-pw v6 to get the gaps i need. it would bug me to no end to have 2 7 irons 🙂

  4. Miuralovechild

    Jul 14, 2018 at 1:48 am

    My Miura CB 1008’s would run circles around those mizunos! I love mizuno btw. Always have but after I hit a miura in 07, things changed.

  5. patrick floyd

    Jul 12, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    So we asked our GolfWRX Members, “What are the the best players irons on 2018?” (Blades excluded. The membership voted on those here).

  6. ben jones

    Jul 12, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Still loving my Adams CB1 irons which look a lot like the Mizzys.

  7. joey

    Jul 12, 2018 at 1:02 am

    My circa 1980 RAM Tour Grind TW276 forged 2-PW irons are better than all the supposedly game improvement current models… because I keep impact in the sweet spot. All these “best” irons are just cosmetic designs to scam the gullible golfers with more money than brains or talent.

    • @LivenearPar_Golf

      Jul 27, 2018 at 9:18 am

      Doubtful with zero grooves left….unless you’ve left them in the garage all these years. Can you even hold a green anymore?

  8. 2putttom

    Jul 11, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    lol…wow really…this is shocking. I voted three times

  9. Carmen Sandiego

    Jul 11, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Shame that Mizuno doesn’t sell those irons in LH….

  10. Al Czervik

    Jul 11, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Like running for student body president in middle school, this is nothing more then a popularity contest. Yawn… Mizuno’s most popular Yay!

    I tell you what… Dollar for dollar, I’ve tried 4 of the irons on this list and my Honma Tour World irons blow them all away. You’re welcome.

    • The dude

      Jul 11, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      Aaaand…how do you think they (Mizuno) won the popularity contest??

  11. Milton Taylor

    Jul 11, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Not one set of pure blades?

  12. Doug Roberts

    Jul 11, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    If you visit a top private club…You will see bag after bag full of PXG irons.

    • Milton Taylor

      Jul 11, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      I’m at a private club and I don’t see it. No disrespect

      • greg taylor

        Jul 11, 2018 at 12:44 pm

        I agree but you have to go to a TOP private club. As you go to the top privates you will see a lot of PXG for sure. But you will see a lot of 150k + cars as well.

    • G

      Jul 11, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      I work at a top private club with approximately 900 + members, A ton of PXG and Miura. A lot of guys shouldn’t even be hitting the Miuras, but money is spent here!

    • Rich

      Jul 12, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      Because they cost too much so they are still in the display bags?

    • Funkaholic

      Jul 20, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Because it is all about show, more money that skill. Look at the JDM market, over the top prices, flashy designs and endless customization because it is more about a statement of wealth than functional club design. PXG is overrated give me a pure set of well forged irons any day.

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Talking New Level Golf with founder Eric Burch

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“If you want to make a small fortune, start with a big fortune”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard many times before, not just with the golf industry but in other industries that are, let’s call them — leisure or sports-focused. It’s an uphill climb to enter any market, but golf might be on another level. There are the big players that are worth BILLIONS, and spend millions of dollars in research and development, along with equal amounts marketing, to make sure that every golfer is aware of their new club technologies. They also have well-oiled systems of distribution.

But in this new world of brand-agnostic fitting centers, boutique brands, social media, and the ability to reach your target demographic like never before there are a LOT of new companies creating high performance, high quality, well-engineered products. But when it comes to forged irons for golfers of all abilities, industry veteran Eric Burch’s New Level Golf stands on its own.

If you don’t know Eric Burch, and you’ve gone through a custom fitting recently, then you are at least partially aware of some of the breakthroughs he’s helped create in the golf industry, including the Club Conex system. His newest endeavor New Level Golf was only started in 2017, but in that short time, it has made some very big strides including distribution in over 150 brand agnostic club fitting facilities and now some professional golfers signed to the roster (including PGA Tour winner Ken Duke).

So how do you go from designing club fitting components to designing forged irons and starting a company that has products on the Golf Digest Hot List? I got the chance to talk to Eric about New Level Golf, his background and how after his years in the golf industry he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

RB: Based on your history in the golf industry you seem to be a real problem solver with a “Be your own boss” mentality, is that how you would describe your self?

EB: I’ve been in business for myself since my early 20s. Other than a few short stints for other golf companies, I have primarily been my own boss involved with golf. I would consider myself a problem solver. Not necessarily by design, but mainly due to starting companies that have always been undercapitalized which forces your hand to learn a variety of tasks to help the business move forward.
Although I’ve received notoriety as a club fitter/retailer, Club Conex, and now New Level. I’ve been fortunate to have won the professional Clubmaker’s Top Shop Award (2004), Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitters (2016),  & have products I’ve designed be on the Golf Digest Hot List (2019).

RB: What was the first product & club head you ever designed, and how does the workflow go now with New Level?

EB: The first golf products were, of course, the Club Conex prototypes and those were generated from hand-rendered sketches. I still believe, given what I did with Club Conex and the universal system I designed, I hardly get the credit I deserve. I bought a milling machine without really knowing how to use it and over the course of 6-7 months taught myself how to use it and started creating prototypes. Those prototypes eventually became the Uni-Fit system.

The first clubs I ever designed were putters dating back to the mid 2000s, but in terms of New Level, I know what I am trying to accomplish in design as well as fitting into player categories that comes from my years working at my own shop and fitting golfers from professionals to higher handicaps. Since product is made overseas, the engineers I work with at our factory have done a very good job of helping bring my concepts and designs to fruition. I really enjoy doing the designs and creating something that will one day be in someone’s golf bag.  The only current issue with the success we’re seeing now is if the company continues to push forward we will at some point be forced to bring on an industrial design engineer to further help with product development, but that would be in 2021 as most of our products for next year are in development, or have already been developed.

RB: On that note, how long from having an initial concept to that first set of irons or at least a prototype head in hand?

EB: This is heavily dependant on the complexity of the design. The 4995 HB took almost 9 months to get it where we wanted, whereas the 902 took just about four months. Typically we can get a first article sample of a playable sample in less than 60 days.

RB: When you consider the logistics and tooling involved, that’s quite an impressive turnaround time. From a design perspective, what do you think is the most misunderstood part of creating an iron head and the manufacturing process that you face?

EB: This is a hot topic with me since most people just don’t understand the depth of the manufacturing process. A lot of people think of the term open model (a factory’s in house design produced to create a starting point for some companies), they think we are just stamping our name on a head that is already been refined and finished by someone else which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like with many aspects of club designs some of the tooling we use are openly available, but for example the raw forged blank head is on average 407 grams on a 6 iron that needs to be designed into a profile that weighs just 262 grams. So as you can imagine a club head overweight by more that 35 percent, it’s far from being a finished product. We call all the shots when it comes to every pertinent parameter and specifications of our design. The only thing incorporated into using this process and something we can’t change is the offset of the club. All other facets of the design are facilitated by my directive and incorporated into the final design.

I chose this method of manufacturing for New Level because it allows a far more flexible range of experimentation before a final design is consummated and brought to market. As a new company starting out it would have been near impossible to use a process similar to other OEMs that create a final tool for each and every design solely based on scale. We had several designs that were not used because they didn’t make the cut when it comes to performance and if we had gone the other route we would have had hundreds of thousands of dollars in tooling alone from products that never saw the light of day.

This process is called the “near net” process, and I find it to be much more in tune with today’s industry. I will take it one step further by saying regardless how good one may be at hand grinding and polishing, a human will never be as consistent and effective as a CNC machine. This entire process allows us to keep our costs reasonable and offer a…uniquely designed, full one-piece forged club for a fair price. There are a lot of other companies using this process you’d just never suspect it.

RB: As a club builder and fitter myself, I have encountered my fair share of misconceptions from golfers, what do YOU feel is the number one thing golfer misunderstand from a design perspective of their clubs?

EB: I can only speak from my experiences, but most golfers are scared of the word “forged” as it has been far too long associated with blades and hard to hit designs. I believe the average weekend warrior still views forged as a design methodology as opposed to a manufacturing process. That is a major objective for New Level to prove that forged clubs can be forgiving, can produce great ball speed, & can be used by your average mid handicap player. Our 1126, for example, is longer from heel to toe, has a shallow profile, and deep undercut – lots of forgiveness for any level of player. From a fitting perspective, I’d say that over 80 percent of players are using shafts that are too heavy, and too stiff for them.

RB:  We’ve talked a lot about the product, and now I need to know – How many retail outlets currently carry your irons and wedges. And lastly, what advantage do you believe New Level irons and wedges have over the competition?

EB: New Level products can be found at roughly 150 locations worldwide and growing almost weekly. If I had my way, we’d never sell another club off the website since I truly believe getting fit by a professional is the best way to get the right set, but saying that as the brand is growing and during the infancy stages, I am trying to get as much product in the field of play as possible to spread brand awareness. We get positive feedback on a daily basis. We have an extensive questionnaire on our site to help those that are not close to one of our retailers, and we also have a lot of people that see our clubs, like what they see and order to their known specs.

As far as our advantages go, I believe it’s pretty simple — being small allows us to pay more attention to each and every client and ensure they are getting the attention that they deserve. The mentality is always to be big enough to make money, yet no matter how we grow, act small and care about every single customer. Currently, we have the care part down very well. My belief is with any business I’ve ever been involved with is that if you do the right thing and stay focused eventually the money will take care of itself. It’s funny because I experience many of the same challenges with New Level as I did with Club Conex early on. Although I am mixed in with a ton of larger players in the golf industry, with New Level I am starting to see our awareness with golfers grow. I hope that this growth continues and we still maintain a great rapport with our customer base.

If you are interested in New Level products check out their website, or call and check with your local club fitter for availability.

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Forum Thread of the Day: “New irons from Mizuno”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day showcases new irons that are on the way from Mizuno. Reportedly two years away from being released, but that hasn’t stopped our members from discussing and speculating on the new irons from the Japanese manufacturers.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • halfsumo: “I told myself no new irons until the new MP line comes out. Chris Voshall on TXG’s youtube said something along the lines that the new irons are “not what you’d typically expect from Mizuno”….”
  • deep18: “The one on the left in the bottom pic kinda looks like a 919 Tour.”
  • BlackM00Nlight: “Bottom picture, iron on the right appears to have a beveled leading edge, CB design, and chrome finish.”

Entire Thread: “New irons from Mizuno”

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Callaway ERC Soft Yellow now part of “Play Yellow” campaign to benefit Children’s Miracle Hospital

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Callaway Golf has today announced its ERC Soft Yellow golf ball is part of a new program: Play Yellow.

The Play Yellow campaign is an initiative from Callaway where the company will donate $4 for every dozen ball pack sold of their ERC Soft Yellow golf balls in support of Children’s Miracle Hospital Network (from today until the end of May).

The campaign runs from April 19 to May 31, and speaking on the initiative Callaway President & CEO, Chip Brewer stated

“Callaway Golf is honored to support the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals — an outstanding organization — through this Play Yellow initiative. We’re inspired by the golf industry’s broad effort to rally around this important cause and campaign.”

As a recap, the ERC golf ball from Callaway features their Hybrid cover which is designed to create a combination of faster ball speeds for longer distance, softer feel, and higher spin for excellent control around the green. The ball contains a Graphene-infused Dual SoftFast Core which through a larger inner core seeks to maximize compression energy while minimizing driver-spin for high launch and greater distance. The balls also include Triple Track lines for improved alignment.

 

 

 

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