“Although they’re a powerhouse in other sports, it seems like Wilson isn’t always on the tip of the average golfer’s tongue when it comes to naming the top manufacturers in the industry. Of course, if they continue to make irons the FG Tour V2, and the Ci11′s that may change. While some may turn up their nose at the weak lofts, and longer shafts, we came away more than a little impressed by this infinitely playable game-improvement club with a better player’s slant.”
Wilson Ci11 Irons
(Written By: GolfSpy T) In October of last year Wilson wanted to send us their new Ci11 irons for review. Instead, like a petulant 6-year old I was all like “no, no, no, no, no – I want that one (pointing at the FG Tour V2), gimme that one!”. True Story – well, sorta. Actually what really happened was that having already tested the original FG Tour, I suggested that the FG Tour V2 would be an outstanding way to reintroduce Wilson irons to our readers. Of course, once the FG Tour V2s tested out so fabulously there was absolutely no good reason I could dream up why we shouldn’t go back to Wilson and ask for the Ci11′s.
As you’ll see as you read through the results of our tests (and the subjective commentary that comes with it), Wilson and I are a little bit at odds over where the Ci11′s fit in the grand scheme of iron design. Does it really matter though? I think too many golfers are far too caught up in all this super-game improvement, game-improvement, better-players-iron nonsense. As a golfer you need to understand your game, your strengths and your weaknesses. While you’re at it, accept…hell…embrace the fact that what suites your eye is as important as anything else. Once you’ve done that, forget about all these neat little categories the industry has created (I think it’s a scam to ensure a higher “Hot List” medal count), and go find what works for you.
Woah…got sidetracked a bit there. Anyway…as I was saying, Wilson and I don’t agree on some things like what a “Player’s Look” is, who a “control player” is, and whether or not a 44° Pitching Wedge automatically makes it a game-improvement iron (seriously…a 44° PW?). But none of that really matters, because after putting the Ci11′s through our tests, I’m fairly certain that Wilson would agree with me when I tell you that the Ci11 is a damn fine iron in whatever category you happen to decide it belongs.
The Marketing Angle
As an alternative to reprinting a press-release, here are some quick bullet points from the Ci11 page of the Wilson website:
- Player’s Look: Power and accuracy delivered with an eye toward classic headsize and shape. The sleek black PVD finish reduces the visual size of the head and serves to reduce glare at address.
- Exoskleton Weighting: The re-engineered exoskeleton surrounding the rear cavity optimizes MOI and stability by pulling weight away from the face and then pulling it toward the heel and toe.
- Crisp Feel: A one-piece, soft response insert is ensconced in soft 431 stainless steel to deliver satisfying sound and crisp feel at impact, even on off-center hits.
- Face Technology: A thinner, harder face promotes the maximum CT allowed by the USGA for stronger ball flight and greater distance.
How We Tested
To find out more about how we test our irons: CLICK HERE
For more information on our “Radius Based Scoring System”: CLICK HERE
Our tests sets included 4-PW with TrueTemper TX Flighted shafts in both stiff and regular flex.
Short Iron Performance
A couple of things stood out when testing the Wilson Ci11 short irons. First, it’s hard to look past the 44° degree pitching wedge. We try not to get too wrapped up in club lofts here, but when you consider that the Wilson Ci11 irons are targeted at the mid-handicap golfer (what Wilson calls a “control player”), building them with lofts that are stronger than what we see on the majority of the game improvement clubs we test definitely raises some eyebrows. Of course when you consider the PW in the Di11 set is 42.5°, maybe it isn’t that bad.
Toss in a shaft that’s 1/2″ longer than the previously reviewed FG Tour V2 irons, and it’s not hard to figure out where the extra distance is coming from.
As a result of the loft/length magic, our testers found themselves having to hit to distances longer than they normally would in order to test with a pitching wedge in their hands. The standard short iron distance for the majority of our testers is 125 yards. With the Wilson Ci11s we had to bump that out to 135, and even then it took some delicate swings to keep the irons in check.
Looking at the actual data, we see that our testers missed the target by an average of 25.4 feet. When our least accurate tester is removed from the equation, accuracy improves to 22.24 feet on average. Compared to the other irons we’ve tested, the results are the very definition of middle-of-the-road performance.
As you can see from the chart, misses were relatively balanced, however; a single tester who frequently missed left skewed the axis in that direction.
When we look at how straight our testers were able to hit the Ci11 short irons, we find that our testers missed the center of the target line by an average of 17.38 feet. Once again when the least accurate tester is removed, the group average improves by just less than 3 feet to 14.63 feet.
With respect to distance (without regard for left/right dispersion), our testers missed the target distance by an average of 15.32 feet. When the tester least able to control his distance is removed from consideration, distance control improves to 13.94 feet on average.
Finally, when we look more closely for birdie opportunities we find that our group of testers as a whole managed only 5 shots (from 3 different testers) inside of 10 feet. Bumped out to 15 feet, the number of birdie opportunities nearly triples to 14.
Short Iron Performance Score 89.70
Middle Iron Performance
Curiously, as a group our testers were only very slightly less accurate at middle-iron distances than they were with short irons.
Looking at the numbers themselves we find that our testers missed the hole by an average of 26.2 feet. When the least accurate tester is removed, accuracy improves to 23.44 feet (only 1.2 feet more accurate than our testers were at short iron distances). At the longer distance, however; a number that would be average by short-iron standards amounts to the most accurate middle iron we’ve tested under the new system…and by more than 2.5 feet.
In case you’re wondering, the previous #1 was the previously reviewed Wilson FG Tour V2 iron. I’m starting to sense a pattern here.
Looking at left/right dispersion, we see that our testers missed the center line by an average of 16.41 feet. When we erase our least accurate tester, the number improves (as it always does) to 14.13 feet). Once again dispersion was very well balanced, though perhaps favoring the right side slightly.
Looking at distance control, we again find numbers that are very similar to the results our testers achieved with the short irons. As a group our testers missed the target distance by an average of 16.65 feet. Distance control improves to 13.91 feet when our poorest performer is removed.
Looking at the all-important birdie opportunities, we see that our testers managed to place 12 shots (from 4 testers) inside of 15 feet. If we expand the range out to 20 feet, the total number of birdie puts increases to 17, however; our senior testers still fails to account for any of those opportunities.
Middle Iron Performance Score: 91.58
Long Iron Performance
It’s not unusual for the Long Iron score to not only be the lowest individual score for the 3 irons, but more often than not, it accounts for the lowest group score as well. In the case of the Wilson Ci11′s, the individual scores (which take into account changes is accuracy expectations based on distance) for 4 of our 5 testers were actually higher than they were for the short irons. This translates to an overall group score that was also higher than the equivalent short iron score.
What I see on my charts appears to be among the tightest dispersion patterns we’ve ever had with a long iron. The numbers say our testers missed the flag by an average of 36.84 feet. When we adjust the average (boot the least accurate tester), the average improves to 32.46 feet.
Overall, the Wilson Ci11′s bested the previous best long iron test by better than 4 feet.
These numbers are more impressive still when you consider that the lower lofts on the Wilson Ci11s forced us to test at above average distance.
Looking at proximity to the center line we find that our testers missed the center line by an average of 23.15 feet (18.04 adjusted).
Distance control was also excellent as our testers missed the target distance by 23.83 feet, or 21.23 feet with the tester most unable to hit the proper distance removed.
Looking at birdie chances (inside 20 feet) we find 13 shots, with each tester represented at least once. If we’re feeling charitable and bump the distance out to 25 feet, the number of one-putt opportunities increases to 15.
Long Iron Performance Score: 89.99
It’s reasonable to assume that the Wilson Ci11′s may have benefited from one of our testers (Tim) once again being unavailable for testing due to injury. We hear he’s on the mend, and hope to have him back soon…otherwise we’ll replace him. On the flip-side, the Ci11s actually were probably hurt a bit by our testers having to hit to greater distances than they normally would. The strong lofts meant guys were hitting to 135 instead of 125, 160 instead of 150, and upwards of 210 instead of 190.
When all factors are considered, we’re confident in saying that if the strong lofts don’t bother you, the Wilson Ci11 is absolutely another standout performer from Wilson.
My recommendation should you decide to purchase a set of Wilson Ci11s, unless you’re a very short hitter, either order the gap wedge with your set, or be sure to pick up something in the 48°-50° range somewhere else.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 90.31
The Interactive Data
The charts below show the individual and group averages (black dotted line) for each shot our golfers took during our test of the Wilson Ci11 Irons. You can click on each of 3 tabs (Wilson Ci11 – Short Irons, Wilson Ci11 – Mid Irons, Wilson Ci11 – Long Irons) you can see where each shot came to rest on our virtual driving range, and the raw data (averages) for each of our testers. Hovering over any point will give you all the details of that particular shot. You can use the filters on the right-hand side to show and hide individual golfer based on handicap and proximity to the pin. At your whimsy you can drag the Distance from Hole slider around to show you how many shots fell within the area you specify.
With the Ci11′s Wilson has become the latest company to offer a black PVD finished iron. The upside of PVD is that it looks sharp on the rack, which no doubt helps with sales. The downside is that over time the PVD wears, and the irons don’t look nearly as good as they once did. We expect any sole finish is going to wear (the ground will do that to you), but given what happens to irons when they clank around in the bag, I have my concerns about the future prospects for the PVD finish on the topline, as well as on the back cavity.
While the size and shape of the head hits the mark for what Wilson call a “Control Player”, the topline (which Wilson describes as thin), has moderate (average) width. Again, with respect to where the Ci11 fits in the market, I find the offset on the long irons to be just about ideal, but when you get into the shorter irons, my thinking is the target player would likely benefit from a bit less. The extra offset is my best as guess as to why our testers struggled a bit with the short irons.
The perimeter weighting creates a design similar to some of the slot cavity irons on the market today, however, unlike many of those transitional sets, the cavity design of short irons is basically identical to the longer irons. This is what I’d expect to find in most game improvement irons, but a gradual transition away from the perimeter with mass moving behind the sweet spot would likely make the Ci11s more appealing to a slightly better player.
The cavity badge is very well done, and fits in perfectly with the rest of the design. The PVD accents on the back cavity give the iron a bit of flare, even if I actually prefer the matte black finish which covers the outside edge of the back cavity. Truth be told, the matte finish is my favorite part of the aesthetics and I wish there was more of it.
As you would expect, there is no PVD on the face. The matte gray creates a nice contrast to the PVD.
Finally, the stock Wilson grip has one of the more distinctive tread patterns (like a labyrinth), which adds to the uniqueness of the club.
MGS Looks Score: 83.85
Sound & Feel
Conversations with my testers failed to yield any real insight about the sound and feel of the Wilson Ci11s. Look, the FG TourV2s are exceptional in nearly every way. Comparatively speaking, the Ci11′s are just average. The feel is pretty good, but certainly isn’t what the V2′s offer. Big picture, nothing really stands out good or bad. Let’s just call it average, and move on.
MGS Feel Score: 83.85
Our testes were all over the proverbial map in their assessment of the Ci11′s ability to help one overcome bad swings. A couple of testers pointed out that like the previously reviewed PING G20 iron, the Ci11′s have almost a super-sweet spot. And when you hit it…distance increases by upwards of 15 yards. While that can be great, if you’re not expecting it, it can cause problems.
For me the biggest issue may have been the shaft itself. I play a stiffer heavier shaft, and noticed significant ballooning with the stock TX shaft. This of course is not a performance issue, but rather a fitting problem, however, it does suggest that while the Ci11′s provide an excellent option for the guy who needs help getting the ball in the air (a hallmark of the traditional game-improvement iron), for the guy who doesn’t, the extra spin they produce might be problem.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 81.70
Likelihood of Purchase
When the LOP scores came back low I was a bit puzzled. The numbers say the guys hit them pretty well, and even if the subjective numbers weren’t off the charts, they were, for the most part, within the average range. Digging through the comments, however; revealed the likely reason for the lower LOP scores. As it turns out, most of my testers basically commented that they actually like the Ci11 quite a bit, but… to nearly a man, they all like the FG Tour V2′s a bit more.
Fundamentally, I think it boils down to differences in how Wilson sees their clubs, and how our testers see them. While the FG Tour V2 reads like a serious players’ cavity back, our testers see them more as a transitional iron (similar to a Mizuno MP-53, or perhaps even a JPX-800 Pro). For better or worse, the V2′s are a tremendously easy to hit, great feeling iron. In my testers eyes, the Ci11 is very solidly in the game-improvement category, and while they like the Ci11, there don’t feel like they’re loosing much in the way of forgiveness by stepping up to the V2.
Point is…if our guys are going to purchase a Wilson iron, unanimously, they’re going to buy the FG Tour V2.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 75.25
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 80.49
From a performance perspective there’s very little to distinguish the Wilson Ci11 from the Wilson FG Tour V2. Now granted, I say that with the knowledge that even our higher handicap testers don’t play game-improvement irons, and generally don’t have the type of issues they’re designed to overcome. Of course, what that also means is that for better or worse, Wilson has two outstanding iron offerings that just happen to play, for our testers anyway, very similarly.
So, as a perspective buyer of Wilson irons, the question you need to ask yourself is “what kind of player am I”? To me, it’s really a question of what you might call the performance of asthetics. If a slightly bigger head gives you confidence, go with the Ci11′s. If you tend to hit the ball lower than you would like, go with the Ci11s. If you think you could benefit from additional offset (particularly in the short irons), then absolutely get the Ci11s. If you want extra distance (even if it comes from jacked up lofts and longer shafts) get the Ci11s. If you really like black PVD…well…you can see where this is going.
Of course, if you’re a relatively consistent player who doesn’t have trouble getting the ball in the air, doesn’t miss right often, and isn’t particularly intimated by a smaller head with a thinner topline, than the Wilson FG Tour V2 is probably the better choice for you – especially if you place a premium on feel.
What I can say with absolute certainty is that for the 3rd time in 3 tries, Wilson has provided us with an iron that’s easily among the very best in its category. As of this writing we’ve tested both the FG Tour V2 and Ci11′s under our latest revision of our ULTIMATE Review System for irons. Looking past all of the supporting data we collect, what matters most is how close our testers put the ball to the hole. Here’s what I can tell you about that:
- For Middle iron accuracy, Wilson now ranks #1 (Wilson Ci11) and #2 (FG Tour V2) *based on adjusted average distance.
- For Long Iron Accuracy, Wilson ranks #1 (Wilson Ci11)
It’s probably past time that we all start thinking about Wilson as one of the top iron manufacturers in the industry…seriously.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 89.32
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