Long hitters on the PGA Tour come in all shapes and sizes, from the oversized behemoth that is now Bryson Dechambeau to the slighter-in-size Rory McIlroy, the traditional long-and-lean Dustin Johnson, and today’s subject, a player who lives (in size) right between Rory and DJ: Cameron Champ.
Of the four players mentioned, the two who live in the prestigious 185+ zip code are Bryson and Cam Champ. Similar speed but on totally different planets with respect to 1) how they get there and 2) the set makeup to complement it.
If you go back to the look into Bryson’s bag, you see a setup that is manipulated to control spin and launch at any cost, even going as far as being one to two clubs strong from a loft perspective. Also, keep in mind that he has the odd factor of having all of his irons at 37.5 inches, so the math is very Bryson worthy.
In the case of Cameron Champ, it’s a totally different animal altogether. What we will find is a player who is looking for launch and spin, plays with modern/traditional lofts, and from a look above, you are looking at a pure speed profile. He’s strong, yes, but between Cameron and Bryson, it’s the difference between Bruce Lee and Hulk Hogan.
Ping tour tech Kenton “K.O” Oates assisted in this deep dive. This is what he had to say on Cam’s bag.
JW: Let’s start with spin and launch. How much of a challenge is it to find Cam a set up that allows control but at the same time doesn’t limit him speed-wise?
KO: Cameron has effortless power. He routinely tests around 190 mph of ball speed and he has much more in the tank if needed. We got to his current setup under the premise that control would equal distance at his speeds. If we could create more center contact and provide optimum spin (2600-3000), then Cameron was going to find more fairways and hit straighter shots, thus resulting in all the distance he would need. Cameron’s ball speed started to challenge our models for launch and spin the more we worked with him. In general, as launch goes down, spin must increase to keep the ball in the air to maximize distance. With Cam, he can launch it lower with less spin than most because his ball speed is so high. The ball stays in the air because it’s going so fast!
JW: If you look at Bryson’s set up versus Cameron’s, as a fitter, what can you tell us about how each player gets to his particular optimization?
KO: I think the biggest difference between Bryson and Cameron are the launch conditions they are trying to create. Bryson is hitting his ball to the stratosphere compared to Cameron. Bryson is a smart guy and he understands that the higher he hits it the more distance he can get. Although Cameron can hit up on it and create numbers that look better on Trackman, he has always been more comfortable hitting a lower launching bullet. My guess is Bryson is hitting up on his driver currently and using much less loft than the almost 10 degrees of actual loft Cameron is playing while swinging down 1-2 degrees.
Bryson studies the science, and the science says to maximize distance, you need to create higher launch with low spin. He accomplishes this with his AOA. No doubt Bryson’s AoA is on the up. This allows him to reduce the loft of his driver which creates faster ball speeds and less spin. The cool thing is that Cam does it the exact opposite. Cam’s AoA is down 1 or 2 degrees. When Cam came to us as a junior, he was down like 6-8! He could hardly spin it under 3,000. Foley has done a great job of getting him closer to neutral, thus increasing his distance by launching it higher with less spin. At one point while working with him, he had his AoA in the plus and he was hitting bombs. He increased his distance but, his accuracy decreased. He has settled at 1-2 down to maximize both his distance and accuracy.
JW: Cam swapped out of G400 Max with Fujikura Tour Spec last season into a profile that lives at the other end of the spectrum. What was that process like?
KO: Cameron got into his current set up at Liberty National two years ago during the FedEx Cup. As stated above, Cameron was looking for consistency over distance during this process. His main goals were to eliminate left, increase center contact and control spin. The last item is sometimes confusing with Cameron. You would think controlling spin with someone at the speed would always be decreasing, but it was the opposite with Cameron. To add the consistency and reduce left we shorted and stiffened the tip of the shaft profile, both these caused his spin at this normal loft to be well under 2,300, which at Cameron’s lower launch, feels out of control. Once we adjusted the driver into the flat+ and got him roughly 10 degrees, of loft it was instantly a home run. Spin stabilized at 2,600 and the visual of seeing more loft really gave Cameron confidence to go ahead and cover his driver.
JW: When it comes to his irons, he switched out of iBlade into Blueprint. What caused the switch?
KO: The Blueprint was always a model that I think we thought Cameron would like. Initial testing Cameron loved the look, feel and capture, but with gamer shafts, he was not getting the right window, and since we were in the middle of the season Cameron went back to iBlades. During the initial testing, we learned a lot as we tried a softer shaft that allowed him to get the height he wanted but ended up being too loose feeling causing great dispersion. Second time we went to work we had a great—no pun intended—blueprint for what Cameron was looking for. Went from DG X100 to DG X700 to give Cameron some added control and also added out Cushin insert, which goes into the shaft and adds about 10 grams of total weight.
JW: Do you do anything special to the sole of his irons to complement his turf interaction?
KO: Blueprints go through the ground so good, we have not had to make any adjustments to Cameron’s or anyone else on tour playing that model.
JW: He (like a lot of players) has gone to a more lofted fairway metal to replace the 3-wood. Does a standard 3 wood just go too far and throws off his gapping?
KO: Spot on, traditional 3-woods were going so far, Cameron he just ended up never using them during competition. Last year at the 3M Open he came to us and had added up the number of 3-woods he hit for the year on courses, and I believe it was single digits. That’s when we started to work on his current fairway wood, which is basically 4-wood.
JW: Any fun Trackman stories?
KO: My favorite is still my first one at an event with Cameron. Cameron qualified for the U.S. Open as an amateur at Erin Hills, an event we decided to launch G400 metal woods. Cameron played a practice round with Rory earlier in which Justin Thomas was supposed to join but for some reason couldn’t make it. After he played nine, he was working with his coach Sean Foley and myself on G400 driver. Rory was a couple of stalls to Cameron’s right and mid-session Justin Thomas walks on the range and Rory goes, “Justin you have to see this,” and points to Cameron. Cameron’s next ball was 200 mph ball speed and on a frozen rope.
JW: What clubs in Cam’s bag are the most challenging to dial in? I would imagine with his low launch that the driver is quite the Rubik’s cube…
KO: To me, it is the club after the driver. 3-woods go forever, and he basically ended up playing around them, so we opted for a 5-wood made into a 4-wood. Also has a G410 2-iron Crossover that he can hit really low and about the same distance as his 4W (280+), and an i500 3 iron built like a traditional 2-iron in terms of length and loft, which has similar flight but little less steam. Cameron will spend his time early in the week with caddy Kurt deciding which one of those options will make the bag each week.
JW: What are his optimal launch numbers with the driver?
KO: Launch 6-8 degrees. Spin 2,600-2,800 RPM. 190-plus MPH ball speed.
JW: What miss is his set up protecting against?
KO: Driver definitely was built to be a straight-to-fall-right anti “left” club. Other than that, Cameron is such a neutral swinger, his stuff is built in much of the same way.
JW: Has he ever considered any other irons in the lineup? I210?
KO: Cameron plays an iBlade 4-iron on the simple fact he doesn’t love how small the Blueprint 4-iron is. From there, he has an i500 “4-iron” that plays in spec just like a three iron would (length, loft, etc). Cameron prefers less offset and has been comfortable with i500 long iron/driving iron options from the beginning, so he has never tested i210.
JW: A lot of Ping staffers are in the PLD custom putters. What can you tell us about what makes those putters so unique?
KO: Tony Serrano has done a great job over the last few years listening to players’ ideas and combining those ideas with holes in our putter line. Combine that with the highest level of production and materials, and you’re going to end up with some really sweet putters.
Cameron Champ WITB: Full Bag Specs
Driver: Ping G410 LST [email protected] (Flat + setting) w/ Project X Hzrdus Smoke Green 70G 6.5 TX @44.25 , Tip 1.5″, D4 SW w/ Hotmelt @ *5g Face, 5G Toe*
Irons: (4+) Ping I500 4 Iron (4) Ping I Blade (5-PW) Ping Blueprint w/ True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X7
Grips: Lamkin UTX
Putter: Ping PLD Anser 2 Matte Raw @35 inches, 20 lie, 2 loft, head weight at 340G w/ Ping PP58 Midsize grip
Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV
- Driver: 320-330
- 4-wood: 270-280
- 4i(i500): 245
- 4i (Iblade): 230-235
- 5: 220-225
- 6: 210-215
- 7: 190-195
- 8: 175-180
- 9: 165-170
- PW: 150-155
- 50: 130
- 55: 115
- 60: 85
Best irons in golf of 2021: Best blades
A new set of irons is the single biggest investment you can make into your set of golf clubs. At GolfWRX, to determine the 2021 best irons and their categories, we have compiled an expert panel of fitters to help you find out which of 2021 irons is best for your game.
In 2021, OEMs have continued to push the engineering envelope of iron design by utilizing new technology and manufacturing methods to create clubs that offer forgiveness, along with faster, more consistent club faces and launch windows. Not only that, but we are also seeing more segmentation of models from equipment manufacturers to help you determine your best set and/or set combination thanks to fitting.
These fitting options are important because irons are the key to better scoring and by building the perfect set, you create a cohesive group of clubs in your bag to help you reduce dispersion and hit it closer to your target.
That being said, ultimately the best way to find your personal iron set is to work with a professional fitter using a launch monitor. The difficult part is a lot of people don’t have easy access to fitters, launch monitors, and club builders—so at GolfWRX, we have done a lot of the work for you.
We are in the era of not just maximizing distance but also minimizing the penalty of common misses for each player—this applies to irons just as much as it does with any other club in the bag. This is why, now more than ever, custom fitting is essential to help you see results on every swing you make.
The methodology is simple: We want to give you the tools and information to go out and find what works best for you by offering recommendations for your individual iron set wants and needs with insight and feedback from the people who work every single day to help golfers get peak performance out of their equipment.
Best irons of 2021: How we did it
Before starting the process of building our best iron survey, we reached out to our trusted fitters to discuss how they sort through the endless number of iron options available to golfers. The consensus was clear—the best fitters in the world see all the options available in the marketplace, analyze their performance traits, and pull from that internal database of knowledge and experience like a supercomputer when they are working with a golfer.
It’s essentially a huge decision tree derived from experience and boiled down to a starting point of options—and it has nothing to do with a handicap!
Modern iron sets are designed into player categories that overlap the outdated “what’s your handicap?” model, and at GolfWRX we believe it was important to go beyond handicap and ask specific questions about the most crucial performance elements fitters are looking at to help golfers find the best set of irons for them. From overall performance to shotmaking, to helping players achieve better trajectories and speed, we strived to ask the right questions.
These are the best iron categories we have developed to help you the reader determine what rankings are most important for your swing and game.
Best irons of 2021: The categories
Best irons of 2021: Meet the fitters
Nick Sherburne: Founder, Club Champion
Clare Cornelius: Fitter, Cool Clubs
Eric Johnson: Fitter, True Spec Golf
Shaun Fagan: Fitter, True Spec Golf
Kirk Oguri: PGA Professional/ Club Specialist, Pete’s Golf
Sue O’Connor: Fitter, Cool Clubs
Scott Felix: Owner, Felix Club Works
Mark Knapp: Club Fitter, Carls Golfland
Ryan Johnson: Club Fitter, Carls Golfland
Eric Hensler: Manager & Fitter, Miles of Golf
Brad Coffield: Fitter Carls Golfland
Nick Waterworth: Fitter, Haggin Oaks Golf Super Shop
Adam White: Co-Founder & Director of Club Fitting, Measured Golf
Scott Anderson: VP of Sales, Fitter, True Spec Golf
Matthew Sim: Director of Operations, Modern Golf
Ian Fraser: CEO & Founder, Tour Experience Golf
Mike Martysiewicz: Director of Club Fitting & Building, Tour Experience Golf
Shawn Zawodni: Fitter, Miles of Golf
Ben Giunta: Owner, The Tour Van
2021 Best irons: Blades
This is by far the most straightforward category because it is defined by a single style of club—the blade AKA the muscleback or MB for short. Although modern variations offer a lot more playability than they did decades ago, blades are still defined by their workability, compact shaping, and lower ball flight. If you are looking for the ultimate test or just prefer something in the more traditional vein, these are for you.
Srixon Z Forged
Their story: The Z-Forged irons from Srixon are forged from a single billet of soft 1020 carbon steel, and are designed to offer players an exceptional amount of feel throughout all shots. The irons also contain the patented Tour V.T Sole which is designed to provide more consistent ball striking while keeping the versatility to execute every type of shot.
From the fitters
- I know this is will sound like an oxymoron based on the category, but thanks to the profile and sole design, the Z-Forged is quite a forgiving blade option.
- This is my favorite blade iron because of the VT sole—it’s a game-changer for steeper players who take a divot but still performs great for those that don’t.
- With blades all being very familiar, it often comes down to look and turf interaction, and the Z-forged arguably offers the best turf interaction of the group with the beveled leading edge.
Callaway Apex MB
Their story: The Callaway Apex MB is forged from 1025 carbon steel with a classic shape that is similar to other blade irons from Callaway’s past, but this time with a slightly narrower sole and less offset. Another improvement is the 20V grooves ensure optimal spin control in and out of the rough.
The centrally located weight screw in the back of the head allows Callaway builders to maintain the precise center of gravity locations when adding or removing weight from the irons—it’s not a new idea, but it’s one that is key to allowing the irons to be dialed into spec for each golfer.
From the fitters
- With its compact profile and subtly square toe, the Apex MB is the best-looking blade on the market in my opinion. It’s also very easy to work the ball in any direction you want.
- The central weight screw for adjusting swing weight has been great this year for quality control and to fine-tune during fittings. Although not everyone is sensitive to swing weight, this feature allows us, and secondly the builders, to get things just right.
Their story: Mizuno calls the MP-20 “the ultimate tour blade” thanks to its melding of modern manufacturing techniques with classic styling. The MP20s provide flow throughout the set from top to bottom leading to greater control over ball flight. This flow also increases forgiveness (please remember it’s still a blade) and launch in the longer irons, with an increased ability to flight the ball in the scoring clubs.
To help create the classic Mizuno feel, the irons are also complemented with a copper underlay beneath the final chrome plating.
From the fitters:
- The MP-20 is the quintessential Mizuno blade while also being quite a bit easier to hit—a relative term I know.
- Not only is the iron great on its own, but Mizuno has a fantastic fitting cart full of shaft options.
Titleist 620 MB
Their story: The 620 MB offers ideal turf interaction throughout the set thanks to more camber and a tweaked leading edge. In addition to the sole tweaks, the blade length is progressive from the longest iron to the shortest and the transition is so smooth that unless you set clubs next to each other, it’s quite difficult to notice. The final design element is the face height progression which transitions from more shallow to tall in the pitching wedge to offer the greatest control over ball flight.
From the fitters:
- As long as the player has the skill set to play a blade, the 620 MB is consistent and the misses are not too bad.
- This is a “traditional blade” in every sense, and sticks with slightly more traditional lofts. The other great thing Titleist did with the lofts of the MB is match them exactly to the 620 CB so you can easily build combo sets—because even at this point Adam Scott isn’t using a blade 3-iron.
Their story: Making something seem simple is often the most challenging. What makes the TaylorMade P7MB great is in the nuance and very fine details that the designers made upgrades to compared to the previous models. The P7MB keeps the same workability as the previous generation P730 but with some extra forgiveness built into the longer clubs by the way of a slightly longer blade length. The irons are also manufactured using a multi-step forging process which includes a 2,000-ton forging press to push the quality tolerance of every 1025 carbon steel forging to its peak.
From the fitters:
- A lot of the players I have worked with have given great feedback on the look and feel of these irons. I also love that the whole P-Series irons can be easily custom-built as combo sets—P7MB’s mixed with a couple of P7MC longer irons is a real “gamer” set.
- This is without a doubt the nicest looking and best-performing blade TaylorMade has ever produced.
Matthew Wolff WITB 2021 (April)
Driver: TaylorMade M1 460 (10.5 degrees @ 9 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD HD 7 X
3-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Titanium (15 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD XC 8 X
Irons: TaylorMade P7MC (3-PW)
Shafts: Project X 6.5
Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (50-09SB, 56-12SB, 60-09LB)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Proto (33 inches, lie at 70, 3.5 loft, D4)
Grip: TaylorMade Red/Black
Ball: TaylorMade TP5 ’21 Pix
Grips: Golf Pride ZGrip Cord (+3 double-sided tape)
Tony Finau WITB 2021 (April)
Driver: Ping G425 LST (9 degrees @7, Big -)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX (45.25 inches, tipped 1.5 inch)
3-wood: Ping G400 Stretch (13 degrees @14), D5+ swing weight
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 80 TX (42 inches)
Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3), Ping Blueprint (4-PW)
Shafts: Graphite Design Tour AD DI Hybrid 105 X (3), Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour 120 X
Wedges: Ping Glide Forged (50-10, 56-10), Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (60-10S)
Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour 125 X (50, 56), Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 125 Wedge
Putter: Piretti Elite Custom
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
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Matthew Wolff WITB 2021 (April)
Driver: TaylorMade M1 460 (10.5 degrees @ 9 degrees) Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD HD 7 X 3-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Titanium...
Tony Finau WITB 2021 (April)
Driver: Ping G425 LST (9 degrees @7, Big -) Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX (45.25 inches, tipped 1.5 inch)...
Collin Morikawa WITB 2021 (April)
Driver: TaylorMade SIM (8 degrees @8.5) Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX 3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Titanium (15 degrees @13.5) Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana...
Madelene Sagström WITB 2021 (April)
Driver: Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond LS (10.5 degrees) Shaft: Fujikura Evolution II 665 Tour Spec S 3-wood: Callaway Epic Speed (15...
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