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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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Opinion & Analysis

The death of the 3-iron and what it means for your bag setup

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The 3-iron is almost extinct. It sounds like an odd statement, but it’s very true. Don’t believe me? Go try and buy one in a set. They are not easily found.

As we evaluate this topic, I’ll refrain from specs from “players” clubs as these are not the irons normally purchased. Yeah, it might skew the data, but even the players capable of playing the long irons are opting out of the 3 iron. And let’s be honest, should any of us be playing a blade 3-iron?

Mizuno only offers 4-PW in the JPX line now. Titleist only offers a 3-iron in T100s, while the rest are void of 3-irons. TaylorMade provides 4-PW in the P790, P790Ti, and P770. Callaway has done the same, only offering a 3-iron in the “players line” of clubs, while the rest is again void of the-iron. Cobra golf has also followed suit.

So are 3-irons just too hard to hit? Is that why no one is buying them, thus causing the OEMs to stop making them? The only ones left to buy are the “players” 3 irons, and those aren’t even reasonable unless you’re a professional.

What if I told you we were being deceived? What if I told you the 3-iron is still very much alive in all the iron sets available but under the guise of a different number?

Let’s hop into the “wayback machine” and take a quick look at the history of iron lofts.

The year is 1970, and the vast majority of irons available are blades. You know, the razor-sharp leading edges that are ready to break your wrist with a deep divot.

The image above is an actual snippet from a catalog from the ’70s. At this point, the 1-iron was virtually extinct, and in 1975, Lee Trevino was immortalized by his joke about how God couldn’t hit a 1-iron, which typically fell in the 18-degree range at the time. 2-irons were standard issue in the set, and the lowest loft you might find is 20 degrees.

Then the ’80s came, and things started to progress. As you might expect, lofts started to decrease. It wasn’t because of flight windows, or launch numbers, because they didn’t have that kind of technology readily available to measure those attributes. It was simply a quest for distance.

Then in the ’90s, you’d pretty much see all iron sets with 21-degree 3-irons, down to 48-degree PW’s, and 21 degrees being the norm for the lowest lofted 3-iron. 2-irons at this time were typically 18 degrees and available by request only.

Then came the 2000’s, an era we all should be familiar with. This is where things started to get interesting. Not only because lofts continued to be strengthened, but because the hybrid became a new option to replace the long irons. Adams Golf made a killing as it perfected this golf club, creating the Idea line that was in the bags of most of the senior tour players and many of the PGA Tour players. These were a fan favorite at retail too. The hybrid was an easy long iron to hit and quickly started to replace 3-irons in golf bags across the country and even on tour.

By this time the pitching wedge lofts started to get pushed to 46 degrees, which was a big jump, to be honest. In the 1970s, MacGregor was making pitching wedges with 49 degrees of loft. So, for the 90’s to be around 48 degrees, it wasn’t too much of a shock. But in the 2000s, we now saw PW’s drop to 46 degrees; a half club stronger. This is where the downfall began, in my opinion.

The first decade of the 21st century needed the gap wedge, also known as the approach wedge or utility wedge or just plain old “wedge.” Now, keep in mind, this club wasn’t anything new. The gap wedge existed ever since the beginning because at 50-52 degrees it was simply a pitching wedge from the ’70s. But it became a necessary element for the bag since the lofts of every iron were starting to move farther and farther away from the sand wedge.

Now in 2020, the average loft of the PW is 43.5 degrees, and the average 4-iron loft is 20.6 degrees. Turns out, the 4-iron from 2020 is .3 degrees stronger than the average 2-iron (20.9 degrees) from 1970. We have come full circle! Instead of maintaining those classic numbers, of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW, the new sets are labeled 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, P, G.

I wonder how many golfers out there carry a 4-iron thinking it’s a club they can hit? Probably too many! Obviously, the 3-iron is dead at this point, since it would actually carry the loft of the elusive 1-iron Trevino claimed was unhittable!

Now, it’s time to discuss how we got to this point. You’ll hear a lot of companies talk about “flight windows” or “launch angles” and how it was changed by engineering, lowering CG’s, and increasing speed through thin faces. Some will talk about how the ball has changed, and it just launches higher, and it requires the lofts to be strengthened, or it will just go too high!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is all a bunch of baloney, and here is why: They started making gap wedges as part of the set. If the launch was too high or the window was too different, why make a matching gap wedge with the same technology and have the loft of a pitching wedge from the 1990s? Wouldn’t that launch or window then be too high for that club too? And yet you still need to buy another gap wedge to fit the 52-degree range. If the average golfer bought a 2020 game improvement set today, they would find the set make up to be 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW (43.5 degrees), Gap #1 (48.6 degrees), Gap #2 (52 degrees). That means if you happen to carry a 56 and a 60 degree, you now have the same amount of label wedges (5) as you do irons (5)!

Five wedges in the bag! Does anyone think this is weird?

Furthermore, when was a higher launching iron shot a bad thing? Wouldn’t average golfers benefit from a steeper angle of descent so the golf ball stops quicker on the green?

I conducted a study where I tested a Titleist 716 MB 8-iron with 39 degrees of loft to a TaylorMade P790 9-iron with 40 degrees of loft. All the data was captured on the Foresight GC2 launch monitor. It wasn’t a perfect test since they didn’t have the same shaft or loft, but my findings were surprising none the less. They went the same distance, almost down to the decimal. The Titleist went 165.2 yards, and the TaylorMade went 165.1 yards. Launch was only .6 degrees different while peak height was less than four feet different. So, unless you are Tiger Woods, you are not noticing a difference out on the golf course.

Some of you might think, “so, the label on the bottom of the club changed, it’s all going the same distance. So, what’s the big deal?” To me, it’s the confusion it creates more than anything. By decreasing the lofts, you’re just making the numbered iron go farther, and you are creating even bigger problems by having large gaps with the sand wedge when all amateurs need those clubs. It’s also putting clubs into the hands of golfers when they have no business hitting, like the 4-iron with 20 degrees of loft. Titleist has already made a T400 5-iron with 20 degrees of loft, and that’s just silly.

There also is the argument that golfers love distance, and when they start playing and can hit a 7-iron relatively far, it helps grow the game. Growing the game isn’t a bad thing, but if they are new to the game, they shouldn’t have any preconceived notions of how far to hit a 7-iron, and that means loft at that point becomes irrelevant.

I will not refute that a 40-degree lofted game improvement iron will be slightly longer than an identical lofted players club, but I think you’d be surprised to see the actual difference is a maximum of about three yards longer. The technology works, but by no means is it so substantial that we need to change the label on the bottom of the golf club.

The bottom line is that loft is king, regardless of the technology involved, and I have seen, but one equipment company make a change backwards! This is TaylorMade with their P770 irons. In comparison the P790, they increased the loft by one degree in the short irons and up to two degrees in the long irons, to add height and spin to the irons to improve performance. Imagine that, more spin and height are an advantage! And that was backed by their testing and their data.

Now to even further nail down my point, it is worth noting that TaylorMade Golf offers the highest lofted Pitching Wedge in the industry at 49 degree, which are in the Tiger lofts of the P7TW irons. That same iron set has a 22.5-degree 3-iron. At 22.5 degrees, it is typically the lowest-lofted iron in the golf bag of the best iron player on the PGA Tour in 2019. Of course, he has the skill to play an iron with lower loft, but the point that history reveals to us is that the effective loft of playability for an iron is about 22 degrees and higher. Anything lower lofted than that is typically replaced with a hybrid. This is not just a trend for the amateur golfer either, and it is even happening on tour with the best players in the world.

We will probably never see the lofts rolled back, but the least we can do is update Lee Trevino’s quote, “if you ever find yourself in a thunderstorm, lift up your 4-iron, because not even God can hit a 4-iron.”

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The Gear Dive: Going scorched earth on Tiger documentary

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On this episode of TGD, Johnny goes in hard on the HBO documentary Tiger.

 

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: My favorite G425 driver? Reviewing Ping’s NEW G425 lineup!

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Ping’s new G425 line of clubs was just released this week and I have had them out on the range! Comparing the G425 LST driver to the Max and what one worked best for me. The rest of the lineup is just really easy to hit and very forgiving. Ping has crafted a great lineup of clubs that are easy to hit and will make the game more enjoyable for those who play them!

 

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