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Pro Shop: Iron Evolution

The glamour clubs these days may be drivers, with their oversize clubheads, exotic materials and souped-up distances. But we still hit far more shots with irons, and club makers haven't stopped innovating on this front, either.

Some of the new wrinkles are dramatic. Adams and Wilson, for example, deliver mixed sets, in which the difficult-to-hit long irons are replaced by visually striking, easier-to-hit hybrid clubs. Many golfers have substituted fairway woods for their long irons anyway; purchasing a set with the woods (or woodlike clubs) already included makes economic sense.

But most of the latest developments in irons are more subtle, such as changes to the leading edge in the new Ping irons that help the clubheads cut through the turf with less resistance, and refinements to the back of the new Callaway irons that make them a bit more forgiving. And TaylorMade's new irons utilize a high-tech vibration-dampening system. These tweaks may lack wow factor, but they continue to push the envelope of game improvement. Some day our clubs may swing themselves.

TAYLORMADE RAC OS
The successful wedge line that TaylorMade brought out last year featured what it called RAC technology, for relative amplitude coefficient. This is fancy talk for the two uniquely designed pockets on the back of each clubhead that disperse vibration in such a way that the feel at impact is both soft and consistent from club to club. The company now extends that technology into a full line of irons, the TaylorMade RAC OS ($680 steel shafts; $860 graphite), that not only produce great feel but are also designed to be extremely forgiving. With oversize heads (the "OS" in the name), the irons have a plastic cartridge behind the blade to displace about twenty-one grams of weight to the perimeter, which helps decrease clubhead twisting on off-center hits. The thick top line (much thicker than on the wedges) and generous offset inspire confidence over the ball. Available in right- and left-hand from two-iron through sand wedge. Call 800-888-2582 or visit taylormadegolf.com.

CALLAWAY STEELHEAD X-16
Callaway has improved on its classic-looking Steelhead X-14 irons with the new Steelhead X-16 Series ($880 steel shafts; $1,120 graphite) for performance-driven players who don't want to give up forgiveness. The X-16s feature a notch cut out on the lower rim of the back cavity. This allows designers to push more mass out to the heel and toe of the clubhead, marginally reducing the penalty of off-center hits. Other tweaks include a shorter blade length and slightly thicker top line, but the strong basic features of the X-14 remain, most notably the undercut channel beneath the flange around the entire perimeter of the clubhead. Callaway is simultaneously introducing the X-16 Pro Series (not pictured) for better players who want less offset, a thinner top line, lower trajectories and more workability. Both series have a smoky gray finish and are available in one-iron through a multitude of wedges. Golfers can choose from two graphite shafts and one steel in the standard X-16 Series (right- and left-hand) and one steel and one graphite in the Pro Series (right-hand only). Call 800-228-2767 or visit callawaygolf.com.

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