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.
Adams Idea Pro Gold
Adams is known as a game-improvement company par excellence, but it has now applied to players’ clubs its thoughtful approach to set makeup. The Pro Gold features six forged irons (5–PW) bearing a thin topline and sole, as well as a pair of Pro Gold Boxer hybrids with maraging steel faces. The set features constant offset—a design suggestion from Adams Tour staffers Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer—which gives players more control of the ball. The hybrids can feel a little thin, even when hit on the screws, but the irons produce a hot mid-trajectory flight. They feel almost like game-improvement irons—there’s a bit more offset and heft behind the clubface than on others we tested—and they also seem to have a slightly larger sweet spot. $899/steel, $1,099/graphite. Call 800-709-6142 or visit adamsgolf.com.
FootJoy FJ SuperLites
Every golfer should have a lightweight option on the shoe rack—they’re a must if you’re carrying your own bag at, say, Bethpage Black. The problem in the past was that shoemakers often stripped away valuable technology in an effort to reduce weight. Not so with FootJoy’s new SuperLites line, which features a soft, waterproof leather upper and, in order to improve traction, durable TPU inserts in the areas of the outsole that take the most wear and tear during the swing. Of course, airy comfort is the biggest plus: They weigh a mere twenty-six ounces, by far FootJoy’s lightest model. They’re available in a traditional saddle as well as in more contemporary styles (such as the one pictured).$90. Call 800-225-8500 or visit footjoy.com.
Yes! Golf PATH finder
Designed by Swedish PGA instructor Henri Reis, this simple yet versatile putting aid is a staple on European Tour practice greens. The premise is simple: Use the mirror to get your eyes over the target line, then make a clean stroke without clipping the magnetized pins. These pins can be adjusted to the path of the player’s stroke or to accommodate oversize putter heads. While practicing your stroke, you might not even notice the Path Finder subtly honing your alignment. $99. Call 800-845-4327 or visit yesgolf.com.
Fourteen Golf HI-660
Some better players simply never joined the hybrid revolution, finding the clubs’ bulbous shapes and high, spinning ball flights unappealing. For them, this ironlike hybrid from up-and-coming Japanese manufacturer Fourteen might be an interesting alternative to the old two- or three-iron. Designed with a thin clubface, a deep and low center of gravity and a high moment of inertia, the HI-660 inspires confidence. Yes, it has a thick topline and a beefy cavity, but it sets up cleanly behind the ball, without any visual distraction. Our testing revealed that ball flight is lower than expected for shots struck off the turf, but it is very controllable. The HI-660 is a nice option to use when facing the wind or as a tee club on long par threes or short and narrow par fours. $200/steel, $210/graphite. Call 949-852-8811 or visit fourteengolf.com