(Written by Tony Covey - @GolfSpyT) With just a touch more bravado than you’d expect to find around the average equipment announcement, TaylorMade let it be known that they have once against changed the golf equipment landscape forever. The new irons are #freakishlylonger. At least that's their story.
In the global webcast that had been hyped (or over-hyped depending on your perspective) for weeks, TaylorMade CEO Mark King stated quite simply, "If you don't have this, you don't have this". The this is the Speed Pocket found on the new RocketBladez iron. According to King, the Speed Pocket is a “once-in-a-lifetime innovation in the iron category”, adding that “If your iron doesn’t have a Speed Pocket, your iron is out-dated”.
Ouch… Time to toss my slotless Miuras, I guess.
TaylorMade isn’t known for subtlety.
Now, I’m reasonably certain some of you have already stopped reading and have moved on to your favorite online golf shop to place your pre-order.
If it’s TaylorMade, it’s awesome right?
I’m also 10 steps past positive that there are some of you, who, if you haven’t already moved down to the comments section to express your complete and total disdain for TaylorMade, its products, and its marketing, will no doubt do just that once you’re done reading this.
If it’s TaylorMade, it’s garbage right?
Now that we’re all in agreement, let’s see if we can’t find some middle ground here, and maybe take a moment to sort through what TaylorMade’s RocketBladez irons are actually all about.
“Shut up! TaylorMade rules! You’re such a hater!” – Angry MyGolfSpy reader who thinks I’ve got it in for TaylorMade
“TaylorMade irons are crap! You’re a whore for TaylorMade! How much are they paying you to lie?" – Equally angry MyGolfSpy reader who’s convinced I’m on TaylorMade’s payroll
“Hey, I need a cover and a couple of bumpers for my boat, which one should I buy?” – Random Google victim who just found the wrong Taylor Made.
Seriously guys, chill…let’s work this through.
Man, it ain’t easy being me on a day like this.
TaylorMade RocketBladez & RocketBladez Tour Specs
The 30 Second Technology Breakdown
Basically the story of the RocketBladez goes a little something like this: TaylorMade engineers took a cast iron – noticeably smaller than last year’s RocketBallz, I might add, cut a slot in the bottom of it, and filled that slot with molten 3M goo.
That goo (technically a specially formulated polyurethane) helps to dampen vibrations without limiting the pockets ability to flex. That flex is where the added ball speed comes from, and as we all know by now, more ball speed equals more distance. It's the Speed Pocket that makes the new irons #freakishlylonger.
As a nice little side benefit that those of you who play RocketBallz woods or hybrids will appreciate; the goo helps keep gunk out of your cavity. It’s all very technical.
At this point you’re probably thinking one of two things.
- This is awesome. I must have goo in my irons
- Here we go again…You’re not fooling me. All TaylorMade did is jack up the lofts, lengthened the shafts, and now they’re pretending the distance claims came from some sort of magic. They’re a regular bunch of Harry Potters over there.
You might be right…both of you.
A Brief History of Obnoxious Iron Distance
Absolutely, looking at the specs of the new RocketBladez irons, the lofts are strong, and the shafts are long. If you look only at the length and the loft, then yes…the RocketBladez 7-iron looks a hell of a lot like my 6 –iron. But TaylorMade is hardly alone. The same is also true of almost everybody else who makes game-improvement irons.
Put your wagging finger away, and tilt your head groundward (but not so far as to look down your nose).
It’s also happens to be absolutely true that jacking up lofts, lengthening shafts, and tweaking design properties such that said jacked-up 7 iron behaves like a real 7-iron actually does create more distance.
Golfers hit the ball farther, find their clubs easier to hit, and gain more confidence simply by hitting an iron (regardless of anything else) with a higher number on the sole. Love it, hate it, be completely indifferent…the reality is, it works. It’s probably time we all get over it.
There is a ripple. One-piece castings have limitations.
There are practical limits to how much you can do with loft, and there comes a time where shaft length reaches the point of being unmanageable. My personal opinion is the RocketBladez (and others like them) are right up against those limits, and believe it or not, there's a small chance TaylorMade might actually agree with me.
So when you can’t do anymore with what you’ve got (Spec for spec the new RocketBladez are almost the same as last year’s RocketBallz), what do you do? You innovate.
You make faces thinner, you improve your technology (in TaylorMade’s case that means an update to the inverted cone or ICT), and apparently, you put a goo-filled slot on the bottom of the 4-7 irons. If it works…why not?
A Few Points of Curiosity
In the "Tech Talk" section of the official press release, TaylorMade chose to compare the new RocketBallz not against there most recent game-improvement irons (last year's RocketBallz), but rather the previous season's Burner 2.0 (not a current product on the TaylorMade website). According to TaylorMade, the new iron boasts a thinner face that adds up to 10 COR points over the Burner 2.0, and a center of gravity that's's 2.5mm lower than those same Burners.
Why compare new technology to an obsolete iron (even allowing for the assertion that all irons are now obsolete)?
It almost certainly boils down to the numbers. 10 COR points looks better than 4, or, 7, or 9...whatever the actual differences is between the RocketBladez and the RocketBallz. Legally they're covered, but drawing comparisons to a club you haven't sold in a while is perhaps a little misleading.
It's also interesting that the Speed Pocket is only present on the 4-7 irons. Presumably, all other things being equal, the absence of a slot in the short irons would create an unnatural distance gap between the goo-filled clubs, and non goo-filled clubs. Since length and loft follow a consistent progression, my assumption is that TaylorMade designers tweaked the COG on the short irons, but I'm far from certain.
Finally, TaylorMade added an interesting design feature. The hosel features a notch, which makes it easier to bend the iron (loft and lie). This would suggest that the RocketBladez are cast from a fairly rigid steel (don't sweat it, they're not the least bit harsh).
Any golf club designer will tell you that grams are precious, and every single one counts. So perhaps there's a bit of fat trimming (also worth noting is that the RocketBladez hosel is shorter than most), that allowed engineers to place a little bit of weight elsewhere.
Technobabble and marketing-speak aside, leave it to TaylorMade to stick the word blade (or I suppose, more accurately “bladez”) in the cavity of what is without question a game-improvement iron [shaking my head vigorously].
It’s a game-improvement iron. No, it says bladez right there. It’s a blade(z).
Channeling my inner Adam Sandler; Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?
The likelihood is that it’s exactly the same wizards who came up with RocketBallz just over a year ago, and let’s be perfectly honest, that probably couldn’t have gone any better.
That rustling sound you hear is TaylorMade rolling around in its big pile of money. So RocketBladez it is. Let’s move on.
Let’s move past the marketing. Let’s find out what’s real.
In a move that could very well have signaled the beginning of the apocalypse, TaylorMade sent me a set of the new RocketBallz irons ahead of today’s embargo. How the universe hasn’t imploded on us all is beyond me, but as long as we’re all still here, we might as well talk about them.
Garden Tools vs. Golf Clubs
Anytime we post a pic, or write a review of a GI or SGI club, an elitist chorus chimes in with notes of “shovels, shovels”. Yeah, they’re bigger than your musclebacks, and your player’s cavity backs too. They’re supposed to be. It’s a damn game improvement iron. If this is a problem for you, come back the beginning of February and we can talk about Tour version. Until then, zip it…no zip…zip it. Shhh.
Although you could make a solid argument that I should be, I’m not a guy who plays GI clubs. I don’t love the thick toplines, larger heads, offset, or deep cavities. Even with my own personal baggage, I don’t have too much of an issue with what’s going on visually.
While the marketing might make you feel dirty, the irons themselves are relatively clean (especially by GI standards). Nothing in the iron is over-the-top. I almost like them...
My biggest gripe is with the 4-iron. Like a 60-year old woman in a low cut shirt, there’s just a bit more popping out than I can stomach. But hey, for the right guy, that can actually be a confidence booster. For the rest of us, there are hybrids.
The set progress quickly enough (by that I mean by the time you get to the 6 iron, the extra bulk is hidden at address), and when the wedges (PW, AW) are in my hands, I’ve basically forgotten that they’re GI clubs.
The sole grind throughout is clearly inspired by the ATV wedge. Your actual playability as a result may vary, but I figured it was worth throwing it out there.
I’m a colorful guy, so I’d be more on-board with last year’s green than the new mustardy yellow accents, but hey, no big whoop. Finally, and just barely worth mentioning, the shaft bands give us the first introduction to the RocketFuel name. No doubt that’s a hint of one or more things to come.
More surprising still…they don’t feel that bad. A little different, slightly muted perhaps, but the days of clunky castings are over. We’ve come a long way, baby.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road (Or the Poly-goo meets the turf)
Initially I spent some time hitting the RocketBladez on the range. The weather was iffy, so I left the FlightScope at home, but two things struck me.
- The RocketBladez is stupid easy to hit…and hit straight
- Unless you’re unearthing gophers (which I did a few times) there appears to be almost zero penalty for missing the center of the clubface.
Now would probably be a good time to point out that while TaylorMade has made some mention of distance (Freakishly Longer! #freakishlylonger - it wouldn’t be TaylorMade if they didn’t), the real buzz word around the release of the RocketBladez is consistency. Sadly, consistency won’t ever sell like distance, however; so the marketing guys included a healthy dose of both. Did I mention they're freakishly longer?
According to TaylorMade CEO, Mark King, “The genius of the Speed Pocket is that not only does it deliver more speed for more distance, it delivers consistent speed, so shots fly a consistent distance”.
See…consistency...and yes, distance too.
While I would never trust my own eyes over a launch monitor, it sure as hell looked like those toe-knockers I was hitting stayed up in the air quite a bit longer than they should have.
After a range session, I wasn’t quite ready to sell my obsolete, slotless irons as scrap metal, but I was definitely intrigued.
On The Course
Because playing the same iron 2 rounds in a row is no fun, I took the top-secret RocketBladez out on the course. The scramble format gave me plenty of leeway to try ridiculous things, and when it comes to the ridiculous, the RocketBladez don’t disappoint.
I hit 7 iron where I’d normally hit 6, and then I did it again when the shot called for a 5-iron. I hit the ball long, I hit it mostly straight, and more than anything else, I hit the ball high; like those Goodyear bastards better watch their blimp, because my TP5 is about to make them drop like the Hindenburg high. Seriously…the RocketBladez launch the ball really high. My playing partners were laughing at my moon shots. Seriously. High.
The Launch Monitor Test
Finally, I wanted to see how the RocketBladez compared to a couple of other irons, so I hit all 3 on the launch monitor. Here are the results for 3 – 5 shot sequences.
All things being equal, which would you want in your bag?
Club 3 was ever-so-slightly the longest, but club 1 launched higher, climbed higher, and provided extremely consistent distance. Club 2… that one is clearly garbage, right?
Not to kill the suspense, but club 2, that’s my 7-iron. My gamer. It doesn’t have a slot or a pocket. It’s ¼” shorter, and 3.5° weaker than the RocketBladez 7-iron, which in case you haven’t figured it out yet, is Club 1. It's #feakishlyconsistent.
Club 3, that’s my 6-iron. It’s .5° weaker than the TaylorMade, but the shafts are the same length. On average it was about 2 yards longer, and my best shots were much longer than my best with the RocketBladez.
Sticking it to the Man
We have gained a reputation among some for trying to stick it to TaylorMade every chance we get, and I suppose you could argue that I tried to do just that. The complete truth is that I didn’t loosen up a bit before I hit the RocketBladez on the launch monitor. I simply grabbed the 7 and started swinging.
It’s also true that my irons were custom fit and custom built just for me. TaylorMade sent me an off-the-rack set, and I’m quite sure the shaft isn’t an ideal fit. Not even close. Truthfully, the RocketBladez never had a chance.
And yet here we are. Despite swinging cold, and straight off-the-rack, I averaged almost the same distance I did with a custom fit club I swung while fully warmed up. Sure, spec for spec, TaylorMade’s 7 equals my 6, but it’s the consistency I can’t get past. There are less than 3 yards between my best and my worst.
They RocketBladez irons are #freakishlyconsistent.
Compare that to my gamers…I’ll do the math for you, it’s 24 yards. A bad shot or two..maybe (actually, just slight misses). But if we look at the longest compared to the next longest, the gap is still over 5 yards. This tells me two things:
- As much as I love them (and no, I’m not replacing my gamers with the RocketBladez), my irons aren’t as forgiving as they could be (dammit…outperformed by shovels).
- Even if you discount distance increases as the ill-gotten benefits of more length and less loft, we’re still left with an iron that lives up to that consistency thing Mr. King talked about (dammit again).
Where Do We Go From Here
I’m not going to lie to you…not for a second. There’s not a chance in the world I’m putting the RocketBladez in my bag. I say that with full knowledge that the numbers say I probably should.
The problem is two-fold. I love my irons (unnaturally so), and I’m not very smart.
When the Tour version comes out, TaylorMade and I will talk, in the meantime, I’ll keep my mouth shut. If and when I go back to the Kingdom, it’s not going to be under threat of haircut…at least not over the RocketBladez iron. When they release the new...shh...I'm not supposed to tell you what it's called...driver, we'll see.
The RocketBladez...I think they're probably the real deal. Once again…dammit.
I will stop short of saying you should bag the RocketBladez. I never say you should bag anything, but based on what I’ve seen from TaylorMade and others, 2013 is going to be the year of the game-improvement iron, and could very well signal the beginning of a trend where elitist club snobs such as myself put away our blades and our tiny little cavity backs, and start looking at irons that offer the kind of help we’ve been too proud to ask for.
I’m kidding, of course. Almost none of us are that smart.