By definition, blades are not for everyone. But for those golfers skilled enough to play them, technology has sweetened the sense of total control. Players’ irons range from cleverly configured combo sets (with or without hybrids) to killer muscle backs, favored by gunslingers like Phil Mickelson. All are forged from varying grades of carbon steel that produce soft shots and a more consistent ball flight than their predecessors did—provided, of course, that the strike is pure.
Callaway Tour Authentic X-Prototype
Callaway is famous for its user-friendly products, but with Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els on board, a muscle back with a sleek topline, minimal offset and short blade length was in order. The X-Muscle Back design and progressive center of gravity (CG) provide consistent trajectory and distance control and reward center-face contact with a soaring, workable flight. $1,875. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.
MacGregor MT Pro-M
MacGregor’s return to form coincided with that of Greg Norman, who used a slightly modified version of this set during his run at Birkdale. The irons feature milled faces and square grooves in an effort to deliver a consistent spin rate and launch angle. Our testing showed they yield a straight, high ball flight with more than adequate distance, and the muted feel and sound are just what you’d hope for from a blade. $799. Call 800-841-4358 or visit macgregorgolf.com.
Don’t let the sliver of offset and lack of a butter-knife topline fool you into thinking the AP2 is a game-improvement iron. These are thin-faced forgings for skilled golfers—Adam Scott and a slew of others play them on Tour. Two cavities, upper and lower, push weight to the perimeter, and an aluminum plate in the upper section helps fine-tune feel. Indeed, the AP2 provides nice feedback: Well-struck shots sound right, and mis-hits emit a higher-pitched tone. $1,136/steel, $1,336/graphite. Call 800-225-8500 or visit titleist.com.
TaylorMade TP MB Smoke
Like the Tour Preferred MB irons before it, this low-launching model features TaylorMade’s patented vibration-dampening RAC pockets, a Tour-configured sole and a milled clubface and grooves. In fact, the smoky finish is the only new feature, but it makes a big difference, markedly reducing glare and softening shots while also adding durability. $1,199. Call 866-530-8624 or visit taylormadegolf.com.
King Cobra 2008 Pro MB
The long hosel, thin topline, narrow sole and rounded camber of this iron all improve ball control. Weight is positioned behind the face’s hitting area to increase feel and workability, and the higher CG yields a mid-launch trajectory. The thin profile makes the carbon steel clubhead seem smaller than others do at address, though it’s comparably sized. The Pro MB’s ball flight is as lively and consistent as that of any iron we tested. $1,049. Call 800-917-3300 or visit cobragolf.com.
The three models in Bridgestone’s new J36 line—cavity back, pocket cavity and blade—are designed to be seamlessly mixed and matched into any set makeup the player desires. The smallish clubheads sport thin toplines and progressive offset to ease the shot-shaping process, especially with the long irons. That makes for a confidence-building look at address: After all, many better players believe that the ball is easier to hit when it looks larger. A tapered sole design and beveled trailing edge make dicey lies easier to negotiate. The J36 irons produce a pleasingly crisp feel at impact, and distance is competitive with all others we tested. Best of all, you get the feeling you can play well with them right out of the box—no matter what set makeup you choose. $899. Call 800-358-6319 or visit bridgestonegolf.com.