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Greatest forged combo iron sets of all time

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So, you’re a golfer who loves the idea of small workable irons. But on the other hand, you appreciate the extra forgiveness and green holding-power of something a little easier to hit in the longer clubs. It sounds like you could be the ideal candidate for a combo set.

Combo iron sets have been around for as long as golfers have tried to maximize the performance of their irons by mixing and matching clubs to fit distance and trajectory goals, even with different brands and models.

In the mid-2000s, things changed when OEMs saw an opportunity to engineer their own combo sets from scratch to help golfers build a coherent set from top to bottom and also have them blend seamlessly from club to club. Thanks to improved custom fitting and most golf equipment manufacturers designing series of irons intended to be mixed and matched through the fitting process, “off the rack” combo sets are almost extinct beyond sets offered with easier-to-hit hybrids.

With the top-to-bottom sets now almost extinct, there is no better time than now to look back on some of the greats.

Nike VR (Victory Red) Pro Combo

Nike was one of the very first manufacturers to introduce a mainstream-marketed combo set with the original Nike Pro Combo irons. They were so successful, they eventually launched a second-generation version as well as a larger more forgiving Pro Combo OS (Oversized) set for golfers that wanted a bit more help.

Nike Pro Combo OS

But the title of best Nike combo set has to go to the VR Pro series, which offered a blade, split cavity, and fully undercut forged iron all in one set. Nike even allowed golfers to mix and match throughout the set via custom order. The VR Pro blades are still one of the most loved Nike irons of all time but the Pro Combos gave everyone the opportunity to hit towering mid and long irons into greens, even if you happen to mis-hit one just a little bit.

Bridgestone J33

The entire J33 series from Bridgestone is perennially on my Mount Rushmore of underappreciated irons. The irons were as pure of a blade you will ever find with an old-school long hosel and high muscle. The CB’s were equally appealing with classic lines, but the standout was the Combo set that transitioned perfectly from club to club and offered multi-material technology in the longer irons—with a tungsten insert.

Finding a serviceable set of J33 combos these days is difficult since not many sets made it to North America (heck, even finding pictures was tough), and for those golfers who did have them, they used them until there were no grooves left. But if you do happen to find some, they are well worth the price of admission.

Titleist 735•CM

The Titleist 735•CM irons were Titleist’s very first designated combo set, available to right-handed golfers* (the 731PM irons were introduced 3 years before the 735•CM but were only ever made left-handed). On a secondary note, the 735’s were available in both right and left-handed.

They offered a compact shape that was classic “Titleist,” and what also made them very cool is they were offered in both chrome-plated forged carbon steel and forged stainless steel, to deliver a satin look. These came to be after the introduction of the 690• irons, and Titleist saw a noticeable amount of custom ordered mixed sets of the 690• MB and CB and decided that engineering a combo set from scratch could offer the best of both worlds for golfers.

As far as value goes in used combo sets, these are still very high on the list and can be found at very reasonable prices.

TaylorMade RAC Coin forged

In the early days of the TaylorMade Tour Preferred line, the Coin Forged RAC combo set was one of the most desirable sets of irons on the market. They often get confused with the limited edition forged full CB set released around the same time because the long irons looked remarkably similar but that where the similarities ended. (We talked about those irons here: Greatest TaylorMade Irons of all time)

The Coin Forged combos were a pure split set with 2-6 iron being cavity backs and the 7-9 irons being the same as the original RAC MB’s. The outlier club in the set was the 48-degree RAC pitching wedge that transitioned perfectly to the TaylorMade RAC chrome wedges if you decided to use those through the rest of the set too.

As far as combo sets go, this is probably one of the smallest looking sets from address you will ever find, but if you were looking for workability—this set was for you.

Adams Idea Pro

The original Idea Pro set from Adams revolutionized the entire category of combo sets for the better player when it launched in 2007. The Idea Pro hybrid was already the number one hybrid on the PGA Tour, and this was Adams’ first big step into targeting better players since before this they were still mostly known for being popular clubs on the Champions Tour and with the about 50-plus crowd.

The irons were forged and had a compact squared-off shape. What made them so unique is the set had the option of going all the way down into a lob wedge—something you almost never see from a club targeting better players. Although they never sold through very well, the wedges stood well on their own for both performance and look. On the high end of the set, the stock configuration came with 3 and 4-hybrids (5 and 2 hybrids available separately) with the very hot at the time Aldila VS Proto 80g hybrid shaft which also contributed to the appeal.

If it weren’t for Adams and the original Idea Pro set, who knows how much longer it would have taken for combo sets with hybrids to take off with golfers in the single-digit handicap category, but by taking that risk, it changed the game for a lot of golfers.

 

Are there any famed combo sets you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. joro

    Aug 7, 2020 at 10:46 am

    I have a set of Burners in Left Handed hanging out in the Garage. They were the same set described. O/S 3,4,5,6 Std 7,8,9 and forged 48,52,56,60. They are great clubs and used them with Aldilla Gold Stiff shafts. Virtually the same set that Rich Been won the PGA with and hard to find in Leftie. I don’t play anymore so I am going to have get rid of them.

  2. Allen Rawlins

    Jul 24, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    How about the Ram FX Pro Set? Had them for three years!!! Simply awesome!!!

  3. Ben coffman

    Jul 21, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    735CMs! Scored my best rounds ever with those irons. Still use them when hitting into the net at home. Wish my current gamers (APREX 19 Pros) were as durable, 1 season in and they look worse than the 735s after hundreds of rounds.

  4. A.Y.

    Jul 18, 2020 at 11:07 am

    No love for Maxfli A10s?

    • Foxy

      Sep 26, 2020 at 3:28 pm

      Still play Maxfli 10 Tour Limited, great set

  5. Matthew Gavin

    Jul 16, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Currently play MP54 MP4 S18 combo.

    Hogan PTX Pro , Icon combo would be next in the radar.

  6. Steve W

    Jul 13, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    you left out the Nike Vapor Pro combo irons. I agree that the VR Pro combo irons were great but in my opinion, the Vapor Pro Combo set is the best set of irons Nike produced. They tick all the boxes and are still one of if not the best crossover sets suited to both mid and low handicappers. The forged feel, along with forgiveness especially in the longer irons are incredible. Combine that with the fact that they are one of the best looking irons available even today and I have to say you dropped the ball leaving the. Off the list.

  7. JP

    Jul 8, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Yes the Wilson Staff Progressives were sweet

  8. chip75

    Jul 6, 2020 at 11:11 am

    The TaylorMade RAC combos technically weren’t a forged set, or rather not completely forged set. The wedge was a bog-standard off the rack RAC. The full blade set had a forged wedge. You sometimes see some clown on eBay listing them (the cast 48°) as rare, when they made tens of thousands of the things.

  9. Jason Geraci

    Jul 6, 2020 at 11:07 am

    Apparently, we need a history lesson. The reason that the Nike VR Pro Combo is on this list IS BECAUSE of the Ben Hogan Apex/Apex Plus/Apex Edge, that came before them. Tom Stites got the idea for the Pro Combo from his short stint at Ben Hogan. He applied for the head of R&D at Ben Hogan, which he didn’t get and then parlayed that into his job at Nike. This isn’t just an oversight, it’s ignoring that Tom Stites’ was just copying Ben Hogan. To be fair to Stites, he copied BH because he didn’t know how to properly design golf clubs, which is what happens when you hire someone to design golf clubs that has an agricultural engineering degree. Plus, the original Nike Pro Combo from the early 2000s (which was
    Stites’ first attempt to copy the Ben Hogan Apex line) feels and performs better than the VR Pro Combo.

    It’s getting more difficult to read articles about “all-time greats” written by someone who wasn’t even born before Ronald Reagan was President.

    • Ryan Barath

      Jul 7, 2020 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for checking out the list. The Hogan FTX was a great set and were originally on my list, along with a number of clubs mentioned by others here in the comments including the Cobra S3 Combos, Wilson Fi5 ( very similar to the Progressives mentioned by a few ) and MacGregor 1025, but cuts had to be made. Although Stites had his name on them the man behind the masters at Hogan and then Nike was Mike Taylor – hence the similar shaping, especially the pronounced higher heel (crotch transition from the hosel).
      I appreciate the mentioning of my age but it has nothing to do with my knowledge of equipment, and if you were to listen to my Podcast this week – “OnSpec” found on GolfWRX Radio and here on the site I actually went down a pretty fun rabbit hole about the FTX and remembering Carlos Franco won his last PGA Tour event using them.
      Cheers

  10. Imafitter

    Jul 6, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I am so sick of these “Best of” lists! If it works best for you, then it is the best for you.

  11. Distance Compression Dude

    Jul 5, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    This list is laughable.

    • Bill

      Jul 6, 2020 at 10:27 am

      Seriously. Did you know they didn’t forge irons nor did players play combo sets at all prior to 1995? This list proves it.

  12. Tim Murphy

    Jul 5, 2020 at 10:03 am

    Hogan FTX

    • Gary Penzil

      Jul 6, 2020 at 10:48 am

      FTX, they feel awesome and didn’t get much fanfare. Some of the nicest blades 8-PW ever made.

    • Richard J Johnson

      Jul 7, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      +1. Just picked up a set for $10 on c/l. Apex 4 shafts, pure Hogan feel.

  13. Kevinkeilen

    Jul 5, 2020 at 8:37 am

    Ram FX combo from the 80s or 90s. I’m still playing FX forged blades to this day. Can’t find another set like them.

  14. Delbert

    Jul 5, 2020 at 7:27 am

    First generation Nike VR Pro CBs. Ram Laser FX Forged. Adams CB1 (8420) which has a great gap wedge. Adams was great! Too bad they are not around.

  15. Johan

    Jul 5, 2020 at 5:38 am

    My favorite combo set is Wishon 575mmc. Great blend from cb to mb and I then go to Wishon hm wedges and Wishon DIH 2iron to complete the irons…

  16. K

    Jul 4, 2020 at 11:21 pm

    Picked up a set of the Nike TW Pro blades 3-PW in AMAZING shape for a STEAL from my local Edwan Watts. LOVE those clubs!! And wouldnt you know a few months later they had a lone Nike VR Pro pocket cavity 2 iron that was literally brand new sitting there for $20. All in all a great set 2-PW for less than $300.

  17. John Michael Fawley

    Jul 4, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Say what you will about Nike clubs, but those Pro Combos were good clubs.

  18. Stephen DelGiudice

    Jul 4, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Ben Hogan edge set from the 80’s. Best club I ever used.

  19. The Truth

    Jul 4, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Cleveland 588 CB MB combo.

    • Wayne

      Jul 16, 2020 at 10:47 pm

      You are correct love my 588 combos still playing them!

  20. Tony Rich

    Jul 4, 2020 at 3:51 pm

    Titleist ZB Blended Set, forged by Endo. Super soft and players club.
    My buddy got them new back in the day, I knew I was in trouble.

  21. Ron

    Jul 4, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Mizuno Grad MP

  22. V

    Jul 4, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    I really like combination sets as their setups have helped my game. Seems like I get a bit higher flight on the 6 – up, which I can use. I also like the iron profiles. Currently, I have MacGregor MT Pro CMs gunmetals and Titleist 735 CMs.

    Good call on the Wilson Progressives as that was a unique set when it came out. The Ram Fx Pro Set should also make the list. Nice blending through the set. Back then, you could also create a set with the Cleveland 588 series. Never hit the recent Cobra gunmetal set (similar profile to the MacGregors) but thought they would have stuck around longer than they did.

  23. Gregory Turley

    Jul 4, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    Had a set of Nike Pro Combo and liked them a lot. The long iron sadly is becoming a thing of the past

  24. Scott Underhill

    Jul 4, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    Wilson Staff Progressive, circa 1993. 3-7 CB,8-SW MB

    • Brian Marchi

      Jul 4, 2020 at 6:42 pm

      Still have mine. Very workable forged iron and just a beautiful feeling when hit pure.

    • Scott Gress

      Jul 5, 2020 at 4:04 am

      Exactly – Wilson Staff Progressive – loved em and used them for years – ahead of their time – shot my all time low round with those

  25. Kasper Frank

    Jul 4, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    McGregor 1025 CM

    • Osnola Kinnard

      Jul 22, 2020 at 9:27 am

      I cam here to post this. I have a set of them with Rifle 6.0 shafts and they are pure golf nirvana.

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Equipment

American Express, Abu Dhabi Golf Championship Tour Truck Report: BK to Srixon? MCA has a ton of new shafts, Rickie goes graphite

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TaylorMade

Most of the big action for Team TaylorMade is taking place in Abu Dhabi with Rory and Tommy in the field. After extensive weeks of testing, this is what they have in the bag this week

Tommy Fleetwood WITB

Driver: TaylorMade SIM2 (10.5 degrees @8.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana DF 70 TX (tipped 1 inch, 44.75 inches)

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Rocket 3 (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana DF 70 TX (42.5 inches)

5-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 (19 degrees @18.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana DF 80 TX (41.25 inches)

Irons: TaylorMade P7TF (4-PW) 
Shafts: Project X Rifle 6.5

Wedges: Callaway MD5 Jaws Raw (52-10S, [email protected], 60-08T)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue  S400

Putter: Odyssey White Hot Pro 3
Grip: SuperStroke Mid Slim 2.0

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord (D, 3W, 5W, 7W, and wedges), Iomic Sticky @12:30 (irons)

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x ’21 Proto

Rory McIlroy WITB

Driver: TaylorMade SIM2 (10.5 degrees @8.5)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X (45.5 inches, 59.25 lie, D4)

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 (15 degrees @13.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 80 TX (43.25 inches, 58 lie, D4)

5-wood: TaylorMade SIM2 (19 degrees @ 18.25)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 90 TX

Irons: TaylorMade P7MB (4-PW)
Shaft: Project X Rifle 7.0 (6.5 in PW)

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (52-09SB, 56-12SB, 60-08LB)
Shaft: Project X Rifle 6.5

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Copper (34.25 inches, 2.5 loft, 70 lie)

Ball: 2021 TaylorMade TP5x (#22)

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord (58R 1+1, logo down)

Matthew Wolff WITB

Driver: TaylorMade SIM2 Max (10.5 degrees @9)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD TP 7 TX

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

Grips: Golf Pride ZGrip Cord (+3 double-sided tape)

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Proto (33 inches, lie at 70, 3.5 loft, D4)
Grip: TaylorMade Red/Black

Ball: TaylorMade TP5 ’21 PIX

Other TM news 

Doc Redman put the new Aldila Ascent Red 70 TX in his SIM2 (60 TX pictured below).

Sepp Straka put the new MCA Kaili White 60 TX in his SIM2.

Titleist

The Fujikura Ventus Red trend continues with Russell Henley moving from his KBS TD to Ventus Red 7 X in a TSi4.

Tyler Duncan was testing a custom K Grind lob wedge. He was inspired by Kevin Na’s win and looking at Aaron Dill’s pics on IG. Can you blame him?

Justin Thomas (Abu Dhabi) moved out of Ventus Red 6 TX (tipped 1 inch) in his TSi3 (9 degrees) into a Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 6 X. According to my source, JT was looking for a specific feel with the driver and also one that dialed in the launch windows on a little cutter he has been working on. We will keep you updated if it sticks or if any of the info changes.

Callaway

Akshay Bhatia put the new Apex Utility Prototype in play with a KBS Tour Hybrid Prototype 105 X shaft. Shay also put the new Epic Max LS driver (9 degrees @8.5) with a Project X HZRDUS Smoke Green “Hulk” 75G 6.5 TX.

Kevin Na tested Callaway’s Epic Max LS (9 degrees) with a Graphite Design Tour AD GP 6 X. No need to panic, that original Epic gamer ain’t goin’ anywhere till it keels over and dies.

Phil Mickelson was spotted testing a Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X shaft in a Mavrik Sub Zero. Not confirmed if it will indeed go in play.

Ping

Scott Stallings (non-staff) put a Ping G425 LST (10.5 degrees @11) driver in play with an MCA Kaili White 60 TX (tipped 1 inch @45.25).

Abraham Ancer (non-staff) also converted to the Ping G425 LST (9 degrees @7.75) with an MCA Tensei AV Raw Blue 65 TX (tipped 1 inch @45).

Cameron Champ lost his clubs en route to Palm Desert and the Ping Tour squad had to build a brand new set of sticks from scratch, top to bottom. Thankfully the gamers showed up and Cam was left with a fresh new backup set.

Srixon

Rumor has it that former world No. 1 Brooks Koepka has inked a deal with Cleveland/Srixon to play its Z-Star XV ball, ZX7 irons and Cleveland Zip Core Wedges. Koepka showed up to Palm Desert with a new set of irons with Tour Issue X100 shafts, a Srixon utility, and his trusty Nike Vapor Pro 3-iron and TaylorMade M5 driver with an MCA Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX shaft. We will continue to update to confirm or deny the rumors. Awesome news for Srixon and BK if true.

Cobra

Rickie Fowler made some significant changes to his bag coming into Palm Desert. The Cobra staffer put the REV33 MB’s back in the bag this time with a fresh set of Mitsubishi Chemical MMT 125 TX graphite shafts. Fowler, who has tested quite a few different shafts over the years, going from KBS C-Taper S+ to Tour Issue X100, loved the integrity of the MMT’s.

In testing, they tried a set that was soft stepped as well as the current set that is straight in. The overall takeaway was integrity on mis-hits and hitting a very specific flight window all while keeping spin the same. Fowler also had the new Cobra RadSpeed Driver in the bag with a Mitsubishi Tensei Orange 60 TX shaft.

Jason Dufner put the new Aldila Tour Concept 60 TX in his Rad Speed Driver (70 TX pictured below).

Free Agents

Scottie Scheffler finally swapped out his TaylorMade P730’s for a brand new set of P7TW’s (5-PW). Like his older set, they come fully loaded with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts. Scottie did keep his Srixon Utility 3-iron and Z785 4-iron in the bag, however.

Newly minted free agent Ryan Moore showed up to the Desert with a bag only a true gear junkie could love. The six-company bag featured a TaylorMade SIM Driver, TSi2 3-wood, Srixon hybrids, Mizuno MP-18 irons, and Cleveland Zip Core wedges.

Paul Casey put the Titleist TSi3 driver in the bag with a Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX shaft.

KBS seeded out a new Proto graphite shaft. The yet-to-be-named new edition to the TD line has a higher modulus material on the bottom third to increase stability and lower torque. The feedback with the original TD from players with fast speeds: it needed to be stiffer. This “newer version,” which will probably only come in the category 4 and 5, is very firm.

Patrick Reed went back to his Ping G400 LST driver—that’s all on that.

 

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Rickie Fowler spotted with graphite iron shafts (Mitsubishi MMT) at The American Express

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When it comes to equipment stories, The American Express this week at PGA West is the gift that keeps on giving. Our newest scoop is that Rickie Fowler is taking after another Cobra staffer (aka “the big golfer”) and has made the switch to graphite shafts in his irons.

From the photos captured from his practice round on Wednesday, it appears that Rickie is using Mitsubishi Chemical’s MMT shafts in his custom and yet to be released Cobra Rev33 irons.

This is not the first time Rickie has switched iron shafts in the last 12 months. He was a long-time user of KBS C-Taper before switching to True Temper S400s, and now it appears he is looking at graphite as his next frontier.

This is a developing story and we are working hard on getting all the details and specs of this equipment change but for more pictures of Rickie from The American Express, check out the gallery below.

 

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2021 FootJoy HyperFlex with BOA

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FootJoy is celebrating its 75th year as the number one shoe in golf, and to celebrate designers are continuing to push the boundaries of comfort, support, and technology with the release of the all-new 2021 HyperFlex with BOA.

The HyperFlex is two years in the making and features a number of new technologies to provide the stability golfers require with the out of the box comfort they demand.

“They look and feel so athletic. They are super comfortable the moment you put them on.”
– Rafa Cabrera Bello

HyperFlex with BOA technology

WRAPID Fit Technology: BOA is a staple footwear technology, but the designers at FootJoy wanted to take its capabilities further and make it more comfortable. The result is an asymmetrical configuration that ensures a snug comfortable fit but reduces unwanted pressure on the top of the foot. It enables the shoe to move with you, wrapping your foot for complete security, all while providing powerful support through the swing.

Stratofoam Cushioning: This is a proprietary foam blend that is used in the midsole to offer the perfect amount of walking comfort while still providing the right amount of support to reduce fatigue.

OptiFlex outsole –  The design winds through the length of the sole to naturally flex as you walk and still offer torsion control through your swing when needed.

“This new outsole technology is designed to mimic the natural flexure of the foot, so not only are you getting a great walking shoe, but a shoe that will maximize the ground force throughout every movement in the golf swing.”
-Chris Tobias, Vice President, FJ Footwear.

Waterproof Technical Mesh Upper – The Hyperflex is going technical to maximize comfort by pairing a breathable knit mesh-lined upper with a waterproof membrane to regulate foot temperature in any weather while also keeping your foot dry.

Price and availability

The new Hyperflex with BOA, along with the standard laced model will be available starting February 1, and will be priced at $179.99 with the Wrapid BOA system and $149 for the traditionally laced model.

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