Introducing – “The Ultimate INTERACTIVE Golf Club Review System!” (Alpha Version)
While most review sites and magazines seem content to award a never ending stream of gold, silver, and bronze medals, or simply claim that every club they test is as awesome as every other, that's not good enough for us. While it's next to impossible (and probably boring as hell) to keep one's opinions entirely out of the review process, we want you to know that our opinions are based largely on the data we collect during testing. Of course, we don't want you to take our word for it, we want to show you how we arrive at our winners. We want to show you all the data, but the data we think is important may not be important to you, so now for the very first time on any golf club review site you will actually get to pick and choose what data you want to see.
So as we began to write this review of what really are 8 of the nicest set of irons we've ever hit, we decided the time was right to launch what you might consider an early Alpha release of the 2nd generation of our Ultimate Review System.
Best Forged Cavity-Back Iron Review 2010 - (How We Tested)
For this iron faceoff we tested the leading forged cavitybacks in the industry. These type of irons are generally targeted to low and mid-handicap golfers, although they appeal to golfers of all ability levels, including some higher handicap golfers. We requested and received iron sets from Cobra, Fourteen Golf, MacGregor, Mizuno, Scratch, Titleist, TourEdge, and Wilson. Srixon turned down our request to include their Z-TX irons in our tests. Callaway did not respond to our request for a set of their X-Forged irons.
Using the 3Trak equipped simulators from aboutGolf at Tark's Indoor Golf in Saratoga Springs, NY we collected detailed ball flight data from a select number of golfers, and solicited subjective opinions from countless more who had the opportunity to hit each of the clubs over the last several months. Formal testing was done using the 7-iron only, however; golfers were encouraged to hit as many clubs in the set as they felt were necessary to draw conclusions and form their opinions.
Final rankings were based largely on the combination of accuracy numbers and the results of our user surveys. While iron distance may be a consideration among some golfers, it's not to us. That, coupled with the differences in shaft length and lofts between manufacturers makes it extremely difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions about distance. In the end, we decided distance should not be a factor in our scoring.
Unless there is an absolute tie, it's pretty much our policy to give only one award each for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Of course, we'd be lying if we said it was easy to draw a clear distinction between the irons in this test. It's our opinion that a solid case could be made for 6 of the 8 irons we tested. That said, 3 really stood out with us either for their outright performance, their popularity with our testers, and in the case of our winner, the undeniable combination of both.
1st Place - Mizuno MP-53
Mizuno MP-53 Irons
It's not exactly a secret that here at MyGolfSpy we're big fans of Mizuno irons, but even we were pleasantly surprised by the company's new MP-53 irons. While the MP-52 was a great iron in its own rite - an instant classic, which could explain why Mizuno continues to make them available as part of their Signature Series, the MP-53 offers a slight cosmetic upgrade, without sacrificing one iota of performance. Mizuno borrowed a page out of the Scratch playbook and added a bit of leading edge relief to the MP-53. They also tweaked the cavity design a bit, giving it cleaner lines, and an ever-so-slightly more of a modern look, while still maintaining the classic Mizuno look that many golfers love.
From a performance perspective, the data we collected suggests the MP-53 should be at the top of the list for those looking for a new set of forged cavityback irons. We collected tons of data during this review (and plan on collecting even more next time around), but the number we think matters most is accuracy. With an average dispersion of only 5.6 yards off the center line, the high launching, low spinning MP-53 was the 2nd most accurate iron we tested.
As you'll notice from the chart below and on our interactive data page, ball speed and distance numbers for the MP-53 are below average, however, this isn't a surprise given the shorter than average shaft of the MP-53.
The MP-53 finished 2nd with our testers for feel, it also received more than it share of first place votes. It wasn't our tester's overall favorite in the looks category, but it more than held its own. Although it finished behind our 2nd place club on the list of clubs our testers would most like to take home with them, its overall well above average subjective scores, coupled with rock solid accuracy numbers, have us plenty convinced that the Mizuno MP-53 is the best forged cavityback iron on the market today.
2nd Place - Cobra Pro CB
Cobra Pro CB Irons
Not long after we received our test set, Cobra announced that its replacement, the S3 Pro CB, would be available soon. That said, we don't feel like we're testing an obsolete iron here, by any stretch of the imagination. Advancements in the forged cavity back space come slowly (there is a reason why Miura only releases new irons every few years), and if the current capabilities of Pro CB are any indication of the future performance of the S3 Pros then Cobra fans have a lot to be excited about.
With an average shot dispersion of 5.57 yards off the center line, the Cobra Pro CB finished just inches below the average for the shots we tested, which is why despite its popularity with our testers, we simply couldn't put it in the top spot.. We certainly would have liked to see a bit tighter numbers from our testers, but when comparing the actual data, the Pro CB was just a hair over ½ of an inch further offline than our #3 most accurate club, so we're not talking about a huge gap here. For those interested in distance from their irons, the Cobra low-launch, mid-spin Pro CB registered the 2nd highest ball speeds, and finished 2nd in overall distance with our testers combining for 163.85 yards on average.
While I was initially hesitant to award 2nd place to a club that finished outside the top 3 for accuracy, our testers left us feeling like we didn't have a choice. The Pro CB was a runaway winner when we asked to pick what they thought was the best looking iron of test bunch. Likewise, the Pro CB finished near the top in feel, and was the top choice among our testers as the iron they'd most like to bring home with them.
There's no arguing that the Pro CB is a standout offering.
3rd Place - MacGregor VIP
MacGregor VIP Irons
To say that the once lauded MacGregor brand has taken a nose dive over the past several years might be an understatement. Many of our testers told us that while they had heard of MacGregor, they didn't actually think the company was still producing new clubs, let alone a quality forged cavityback capable of holding its own against the industry giants. Though some brandwashing may have prevented the MacGregors from scoring higher in our subjective surveys, we didn't find a single golfer who, once he tried the MacGregor VIP iron, would tell us he didn't like the VIP irons.
We look at a lot of numbers even beyond what we're publishing in this review, but as we've already said, no data point in our minds is more important than accuracy; and when it comes to accuracy, MacGregor's VIP irons finished first. It was the only club we tested that finished inside 4 yards of the center line on average. That's more than a yard and half better than the average miss, and bests everything but the MP-53 by more than 3 feet. It doesn't sound like much, but we all know that 3 feet can mean a world of difference once the putter is in your hands.
Though perhaps not a true performance indicator, we're duly impressed that MacGregor chose one of our personal favorites, the KBS Tour, as its stock offering on their VIP irons.
Although we can't find any fault whatsoever with the performance numbers, not all of our testers were enamored with the MacGregor Pro VIP. While every tester told us they liked them just fine, to a man, each found something he liked better. If only because something has to, the VIP finished near the bottom for looks and feel, so it shouldn't come as any real surprise that they didn't rank highly on the list of clubs our testers wanted to take home with them. To an extent we feel like our testers missed the boat on this one. We like what the data tells us, and we think the MacGregor Pro VIP is an easy choice for 3rd place.
Wilson FG Tour
Wilson FG Tour
I'll come clean right now with this bit of truth; I had ZERO expectations where the Wilson FG Tour was concerned. Here's the thing; in my mind, Wilson is a football company. They must make a damn good one too based on how long they have had the NFL stamp on it. Of course it's a far cry from football to golf.
This job, however, requires that you stop looking at labels, check your preconceived notions at the door, and just hit the damn club.
If you're one who believes iron testing begins and ends with accuracy, I won't argue with you too much. In that respect, the Wilson FG Tour offers the slightest of letdowns, finishing a tick behind the Cobra Pro CB, which if we're grouping things would put it in the 2nd flight. From a raw distance perspective (if you are about such things), the comparatively low-spinning, low-launching FG Tour is one of the longer clubs we tested, fishing 3rd overall; inches on average behind Cobra's Pro CB.
While performance was squarely in the average range (most clubs we test are), our testers came away with the opinion that Wilson FG Tour was anything but ordinary. It was rated in the top half of the pack for looks, but that's just the beginning. It finished #3 in feel (behind the MP-53, and Fourteen's TC-910), and tied for third with the Titleist AP2 as the club our testers would most like to bring home with them.
The more time I spend looking at and hitting these irons, the more I grow to love them. While FG Tour has just a hint of modern flair to them (though not over the top), it definitely has what you might call "classic lines". To say I was blown away by the feel would be an understatement. While you'd never convince me the MP-53s aren't the best feeling of the lot, I'm hard pressed to discern between the Fourteen TC-910 and the Wilson FG Tour for the 2nd place spot on my list, which is damn impressive, and why, if not for the MP-53s, the Wilson FG Tour would be the ones I'd put in my bag.
Fourteen TC-910 Irons
The TC-910 are the 3rd product from Japanese company Fourteen Golf we've been able to test. As we've said each time, the Fourteen Golf brand is a relative unknown in this country, so it's been a real privilege for me and our testers just to swing these clubs as often as we have. While the driver wasn't among our favorites, the only fault we could find with the wedges was the price tag. Now we're taking a look at the TC-910 irons, and from our perspective, with respect to Fourteen Golf, it just keeps getting better.
With an average dispersion of 6.45 yards off the centerline, the Fourteen TC-910 produced the best results of the bottom 3 clubs in that category, which amounts to miss of just under 1 additonal yard when compared to the average for all clubs tested. So while it's not horrible, it's not great either, which is the only reason why the Fourteen TC-910 finished out of the money. That said, the other numbers we gathered suggest that in the right hands, the Fourteen TC-910 could be an absolute superstar. With a spin rate of only 5,128 RPMs, the TC-910 was the lowest spinning club we tested by better than 500 RPMs on average. When considered along with the lowest launch angle (tied with Cobra), and the fastest ball speeds (by almost 2 MPH), and it shouldn't come as any real surprise that the TC-910 was the longest iron we tested by more than 2 yards. Even if distance isn't on your priority list, it will no doubt raise your eyebrows.
As far as looks are concerned, the Fourteen TC-910 may have gotten stuck in the middle a bit. Those who love clean, traditional lines came away favoring the Cobra Pro CB, TourEdge CNC Forged, and the Mizuno MP-53. Those who more of a modern flair rated the Wilson FG Tour and Titleist AP2 iron ahead of it. In the end the perfectly good looking TC-910 ranked 6th on our list of 8 clubs for looks. Of course, with all that said, I'd be lying if I said this one wasn't growing on me. On looks alone it's quickly becoming one of my personal favorites.
In the feel category, the TC-910 pulled what I think might be the upset of the century. Though I personally had it rated 2nd, our testers rated the 910 1st overall for feel, ahead of the Mizuno MP-53. Wow! While not ranked number 1 on anybody's list, Fourteen's forged cavitybacks did receive several 2nd and 3rd place votes for the club our testers would most like to bag.
As an interesting side note, though we don't actually score on "easiest long iron", we give all of our testers the opportunity to hit any club in the set, and strongly encourage them to swing the four and five irons. Those who did almost unanimously told us that the Fourteen TC-910 was easier to hit than the other clubs. It was also the favorite among our higher handicap testers.
Titleist Ap2 Irons
If there is a club most nearly all of our testers wanted to love, it's the Titleist AP2. It's a well-known, well respected iron. Many of our testers had already hit it, a couple of them actually own it. We had some concern that the popularity of the club might influence our subjective polling, while that doesn't seem to be the case, the AP2 did prove to be a sneaky popular iron.
Let's get the ugly out of the way right out of the gate. In our accuracy tests, the Titleist AP2 finished 2nd to last, just behind Fourteen's TC-910, and ahead of the TourEdge CNC Forged. For those who might be willing to accept an accuracy trade-off for distance, the AP2s couldn't come close to matching Fourteen for distance, finishing just 1oths above average. The Ap2s also finished close to average for launch angle, spin rate, and ball speed, which for our money makes for a good, thought not a standout performer.
This is where the results get interesting, at least I think so. For all the familiarity, and despite my fears of brandwashing, the AP2 is an iron that more or less flew under our radar during testing. While testers raved about the Cobra CB's looks and the feel of the Fourteen TC-910, the AP2 very quietly found its way on to nearly every golfers list for every category we survey. Thought it finished outside the top 3 for feel, it finished T2 for looks as our testers seemed to appreciate its position as players iron, with a bit of a modern, yet sophisticated design. Most impressively, the Titleist AP2 was the only iron to appear among each and every golfer's surveyed top 3 irons they'd most like to bring home with them.
Scratch EZ-1 Irons
Scratch's EZ-1 was the first iron we received for this review. Our friends, and testers who got an advance preview really liked the iron, but as new clubs trickled in, it seems as if everyone found something they liked better than Scratch's most forgiving iron.
During the testing period several of our testers pointed out that the grips on the irons were misaligned, causing the iron to set up open when using the indicator lines on the grip as your guide. For what it's worth (and we think not much), the grips were similarly misaligned on every club in the set, so at least they were consistent. At the end of the day, it probably didn't affect performance one way or another (we all know how to modify our hand position accordingly), but considering the irons retail for over $1000 a set, we're more than a little put off. The bottom line is that if I installed a set of grips like that, I would have been told me to do it over (and rightly so). There's no excuse when an entire set comes from an OEM like that, and our testers probably took that into account during our subjective surveys.
Here's the bottom line on the performance of Scratch's EZ-1 irons; #3 in average accuracy. Based on that alone, you could argue they deserve to be ranked higher. A look inside some of the other numbers doesn't paint quite as pretty a picture. The EZ-1s are, on average, the 2nd shortest club we tested. That in and of itself isn't that big of a deal, but the EZ-1 also produced the slowest ball speeds, and although we haven't started including it in our reviews (yet), the 2nd lowest smash factor of the clubs we tested. Spin numbers were the 2nd highest, while the launch angle was very close to the statistical average.
Like the MacGregor VIP, the Scratch EZ-1 come stock with KBS Tour shafts.
We've already mentioned the grips, and perhaps that played a role in the fact that the Scratch EZ-1 was the only club to not register on a single golfers top 3 list for looks, feel, or the general desire to take home. Though testers told us they liked the no frills look of the clubs, in every case there were at least 3 other irons they liked better.
The accuracy numbers speak for themselves. This is an iron that clearly belongs in the discussion, and we'd expect much better survey results when we test the other irons in the Scratch lineup. The bottom line, however; despite being among the irons our staff was most looking forward to testing, it's clear the EZ-1 was a bit of a flop with our testers.
TourEdge Exotics CNC Forged
TourEdge Exotics CNC Forged Irons
Realistically, TourEdge's CNC Forged probably didn't belong in this particular test. Although they are forged, and they are cavitybacks, they are much more of a true players iron than anything else we tested for this review. Everything about them, from their very small head, to the incredibly thin topline screams low single-digit handicap. They are truly in a class by themselves.
Guys looking for forgiveness (especially on the worst of swings) may want to look elsewhere. Stronger players, however, should most definitely take a look at this compelling offering from one of the industry's smaller, more innovative companies.
It's true. The Exotics CNC forged finished last in accuracy, although it wasn't that far behind both the EZ-1 and the AP2. The CNC forged is clearly not the iron for hackers. It's also not the iron for those demanding more distance (it finished tied for 2nd shortest). Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the total length of the CNC forged is visibly shorter than everything else we tested, which, in part, accounts for the relatively small distance numbers, despite the above average ball speed.
What's truly noteworthy about the CNC Forged is that it produced both the highest average launch (18.4°) and highest average spin (6965 RPM) of any of the clubs we tested. Whether high spin, high launch is right for you completely depends on your swing, and your game, but the numbers do suggest this club is a bit different than the others.
I've already mentioned that small head and thin topline. This is a club that most definitely has that players looks to it; significantly more-so than the other clubs in this test. Of course, the results say it's a look that clearly appeals to our testers. The Exotics CNC Forged finished tied 2nd for looks. It has to be noted that the TourEdge finished last for feel, a result with which we won't disagree. Though they didn't crack the top 3 among the irons our testers most wanted to take home with them, they received some 2nd and 3rd place votes. They're also 3rd on my personal list of favorites.