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The Real Reason Pros Play Blades


Hamachi Style
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So... pretty much every 'justification or explanation' of the benefits of blade style irons I've seen/heard/read seems to refer back to the same old boiler plate: Workability.

 

No doubt workability is part of the equation, but I'm not convinced it's the whole story, or even the main reason.

In my personal experience with different styles of irons, the main difference I've noticed is this. Bigger, game improvement or super game improvement style irons do have a longer maximum distance. But to achieve that maximum distance, it must be hit properly (square, flush..) The 'forgiveness' people talk about is the distance on mishits. But those two numbers are always going to be different, depending on the nature and severity of the mishit. And I'd say that even minor mishits clearly do not go the maximum distance of those flush hits. This is a known fact for those of us who play game improvement irons.

 

This is true with all clubs of course, but during my testing of blades (I'm not good enough to game them, yet, but I have some old Nike VR's and Mizunos that are fun to practice with) blades have a more reliable total distance. In other words, when you catch one nice and square, it's not going to take off like a rocket.

 

 

So everyone says the reason pros play blades is workability, but I think it might be more distance control. When you factor in front to back as well as side to side in dispersion and accuracy assessments, it does seem like blades are more accurate. Otherwise, pros would play game improvement irons. Sure there would be a little bit of pride at stake, but if they were really better, and once someone was clearly using them to get a competitive advantage, the field would soon follow.

 

Thoughts?

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I think there's a few reasons.

1. I think you are on to something. That's something that makes sense to your thoughts on the smaller clubhead. The sweet spot is larger on a larger clubhead, but that can just increase misses. Pros aren't missing the sweet spot as often as a 18, or even 5 handicap. In a smaller clubhead the sweet spot is larger RELATIVE to the size of the club head.

2. Even blades today are not true forgings the way we think about a blade when we see dad or grandpa's MacGregor or Spalding set in the back of the garage. These new clubs are all multi peice, hollow body, polymer filled, etc. Pick your innovation. They are incredibly easy to hit compared to what we think of as traditional.

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Arguably the biggest reason to play blades (and why so many pros play them) is because the mass properties better encourage a more piercing ball flight. Those guys typically don't need any help getting enough launch and already spin the ball plenty. There is a reason that the "game improvement" club on tour is a compact CB or a "Tech CB" with minimal Tungsten in the heal and toe. Last thing most of those guys need is tons on mass low in the head

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48 minutes ago, Tsmithjr9 said:

I think there's a few reasons.

1. I think you are on to something. That's something that makes sense to your thoughts on the smaller clubhead. The sweet spot is larger on a larger clubhead, but that can just increase misses. Pros aren't missing the sweet spot as often as a 18, or even 5 handicap. In a smaller clubhead the sweet spot is larger RELATIVE to the size of the club head.

2. Even blades today are not true forgings the way we think about a blade when we see dad or grandpa's MacGregor or Spalding set in the back of the garage. These new clubs are all multi peice, hollow body, polymer filled, etc. Pick your innovation. They are incredibly easy to hit compared to what we think of as traditional.

Take Dead Aim
 

There are still a bunch of solid one piece forgings being made.

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23 hours ago, Tsmithjr9 said:


1. I think you are on to something. That's something that makes sense to your thoughts on the smaller clubhead. The sweet spot is larger on a larger clubhead, but that can just increase misses. Pros aren't missing the sweet spot as often as a 18, or even 5 handicap. In a smaller clubhead the sweet spot is larger RELATIVE to the size of the club head.

That's a good point. I also think it's just the tech factors of game improvement irons.. the thin, springy faces. They do launch farther but only when you get maximum springiness. If the face is not so thin and easily movable, you take that variable out of the equation.

 

Just my two cents..

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Pro’s definitely don’t need that hot rocket that happens when you flush a players distance iron. But with their ball striking, would they be surprised by that distance, or would it just be a stock yardage for them? And there are plenty of pro’s that don’t play blades. Look at Titleist, who plays muscle-backs? Just Adam Scott. Who plays Ap2’s? Jordan Speith. Everyone else is in cb’s or something close, but I believe Kevin Na was quoted as saying he would never game blades, because even pro’s benefit from technology advancing club design. I think it’s mid-low handicap mortals like us that suffer from players distance “jumpers” that make us consider blades in order to be able to trust a close to max effort swing not going 20 yards farther than we expected.


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1 hour ago, Micah T said:

And there are plenty of pro’s that don’t play blades.

True, and I think the reason for that is a better balance of workability, forgiveness, and distance.  Viktor plays the i210 and Harris the Blueprints.  Absolutely no doubt either can competently play either iron but they see some slight advantage a particular design has with their specific game.  @DPattGolf's comment about more piercing ball flight I cannot confirm but it makes sense. 

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Pros play what works for what they want to achieve with flight window. The #1 iron on tour for years was the titleist AP2.

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3 hours ago, Micah T said:

Pro’s definitely don’t need that hot rocket that happens when you flush a players distance iron. But with their ball striking, would they be surprised by that distance, or would it just be a stock yardage for them? And there are plenty of pro’s that don’t play blades. Look at Titleist, who plays muscle-backs? Just Adam Scott. Who plays Ap2’s? Jordan Speith. Everyone else is in cb’s or something close, but I believe Kevin Na was quoted as saying he would never game blades, because even pro’s benefit from technology advancing club design. I think it’s mid-low handicap mortals like us that suffer from players distance “jumpers” that make us consider blades in order to be able to trust a close to max effort swing not going 20 yards farther than we expected.


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I’m sure the majority of Titleist tour staff use either AP2 or T100, but there are many using MB’s. This is just from the first few rows of their listed players. A few do have something like a T-MB or T-100 in one or two long iron spots. 
 

Scott - 680 MBs (older model)

JT - 620 MBs

Webb - 620 MBs

Wiesberger - Combo w/620 MBs

Byeong-Hun - 620 MBs

Homa- 620 MBs

Rafa - 620 MBs

Hoge - 620 CB/MB Combo

Hubbard - 620 MBs

Charley Hoffman - 714 MBs

Werenski- 620 MBs

This isn’t secret info, and most of it is easy to find. What you posted is either disingenuous or you didn’t bother to look.   

 

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I’m sure the majority of Titleist tour staff use either AP2 or T100, but there are many using MB’s. This is just from the first few rows of their listed players. A few do have something like a T-MB or T-100 in one or two long iron spots. 
 
Scott - 680 MBs (older model)
JT - 620 MBs
Webb - 620 MBs
Wiesberger - Combo w/620 MBs
Byeong-Hun - 620 MBs
Homa- 620 MBs
Rafa - 620 MBs
Hoge - 620 CB/MB Combo
Hubbard - 620 MBs
Charley Hoffman - 714 MBs
Werenski- 620 MBs
This isn’t secret info, and most of it is easy to find. What you posted is either disingenuous or you didn’t bother to look.   
 

I didn’t bother to look, and me missing JT is a huge omission, but the point is still the same. All pro’s do not play blades.


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Also lots of mixed bag arrangements.  Looking at the PING staff bags, some are a potpourri of different club designs - though pretty much follow the common recipe. 

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It's not even close to the majority of pros that play blades.  In fact counting combo sets the majority of the top ball strikers do not play blades.  And whoever wrote it is correct, the irons that they play are not GI's or Player's Distance irons but they do go for some help.

 

Why wouldn't they?  If your livelihood depending upon it wouldn't you like that 6 iron that you caught a groove down to finish on the front of the green rather than in the trap?

They play what they play including the lofts to hit certain windows and carry distances that fit their particularly gapping concerns.  We would do well to learn from their equipment choices, not that we should do the same thing but rather that we should pick what fits those same criterea for us.

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On 1/9/2021 at 1:37 PM, DPattGolf said:

Arguably the biggest reason to play blades (and why so many pros play them) is because the mass properties better encourage a more piercing ball flight. Those guys typically don't need any help getting enough launch and already spin the ball plenty. There is a reason that the "game improvement" club on tour is a compact CB or a "Tech CB" with minimal Tungsten in the heal and toe. Last thing most of those guys need is tons on mass low in the head

+1 on this. In my Titleist virtual ball fitting, he was getting frustrated trying to fit me and finally just said, "what irons do you play?" When I told him Ping i210s were my main gamers, he said, "OH! THAT HELPS SO MUCH. You're playing the wrong irons." Now, I am not going to put a lot of stock in the opinion of someone who's never actually seen my swing, but his rationale was pretty solid: Pings are "heavy" irons that do a great job getting the ball up and I should have been fit into something more like a Srixon or even a blade to get that 'piercing' flight. (I told him Mizunos were the fitters' runner-up suggestion and he said I would have been so much happier with them...)

Live and learn, I suppose. In any case, There are enough players who do play "players' cavity" irons and they're all guys that need some help getting the ball higher. Tiger, Rory, JT all have naturally high flights and don't need the help 🙂

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On 1/9/2021 at 12:57 PM, Hamachi Style said:

So... pretty much every 'justification or explanation' of the benefits of blade style irons I've seen/heard/read seems to refer back to the same old boiler plate: Workability.

 

No doubt workability is part of the equation, but I'm not convinced it's the whole story, or even the main reason.

In my personal experience with different styles of irons, the main difference I've noticed is this. Bigger, game improvement or super game improvement style irons do have a longer maximum distance. But to achieve that maximum distance, it must be hit properly (square, flush..) The 'forgiveness' people talk about is the distance on mishits. But those two numbers are always going to be different, depending on the nature and severity of the mishit. And I'd say that even minor mishits clearly do not go the maximum distance of those flush hits. This is a known fact for those of us who play game improvement irons.

 

This is true with all clubs of course, but during my testing of blades (I'm not good enough to game them, yet, but I have some old Nike VR's and Mizunos that are fun to practice with) blades have a more reliable total distance. In other words, when you catch one nice and square, it's not going to take off like a rocket.

 

 

So everyone says the reason pros play blades is workability, but I think it might be more distance control. When you factor in front to back as well as side to side in dispersion and accuracy assessments, it does seem like blades are more accurate. Otherwise, pros would play game improvement irons. Sure there would be a little bit of pride at stake, but if they were really better, and once someone was clearly using them to get a competitive advantage, the field would soon follow.

 

Thoughts?

My opinion would boil down to two different reason. 

1.  With a bladed iron you have total control over the ball.  Meaning, you have control over the fade, draw, high, low and to a certain extent distance.  Overall, they provide your better ball strikers the reliability and consistency that MOST CB irons do not. 

2. If you have the ball striking ability, Blades provide you with consistency.  Much as the same in statement one, the main point to this category is reliability and consistency.  With almost all CB's the probability to hit fliers or "hot shots" exists a far greater clip than it does with any form of a blade. (The hollow back iron's don't count for blade imo)

While I can get on with a set of blades, I'm not the ball striker to be able to sport them full time.  Frankly, I don't practice enough to constitute going that route.  Your swing really needs to be dialed in so that you perform at your best when swinging those butter knives and frankly I'm not on enough to justify it.  However, I will say that there are a number of players irons out there (forged and cast alike) that will give you almost the same abilities to work the ball and get almost what you would out of a blade.  

Golf's hard... I guess I'd say I'm not a fan of making it harder!

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Play well all!  

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On 1/10/2021 at 6:35 PM, Hamachi Style said:

All good points, but I'm not trying to draw distinction between very similar clubs, ie 'pure' blades vs 'modern blades vs 'tour' cavity backs.

 

More a blade style vs game improvement style.

One point that does strike me in that discussion is that a LOT of pro's carry a GI or SUPER GI in their long iron.  Typically like a 3 iron or even a 4.  I believe Ricky F went with a 3 iron that was a GI and I believe Phil went with a 3 and a 4 in some cases I think I read.  So while the bulk of their sets are true players irons (some blades some just a forged players cb) they even see the benefit of the help you can get in those things.  If not, for the distance alone. 

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5 hours ago, BNewton51 said:

One point that does strike me in that discussion is that a LOT of pro's carry a GI or SUPER GI in their long iron.  Typically like a 3 iron or even a 4.  I believe Ricky F went with a 3 iron that was a GI and I believe Phil went with a 3 and a 4 in some cases I think I read.  So while the bulk of their sets are true players irons (some blades some just a forged players cb) they even see the benefit of the help you can get in those things.  If not, for the distance alone. 

Yes, almost like a mini hybrid, or a crossover as Ping calls it.

 

I feel like this goes back to my original hypothesis however, that they are not afraid to play whatever works. All those game improvement technologies in the beefier three irons outweigh having more distance control. Just as people want the longest driver, not the driver that's going to have the most distance control. But once you get into the mid and short irons (scoring), distance control becomes increasingly important. Maybe 'The Real Reason Pros Play Blades' wasn't the most accurate title.. something more like 'The Real Reason Skilled Golfers With a Consistent Swing Play More Stable/ Less Springy Irons' (Not the catchiest thread title 🙃). But the crux of my argument is that distance control is the number one reason. Other reasons like turf interaction, workability, form factor are probably not far behind.

 

Again, just one man's opinion. But interesting discussion!

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I think the real reason Pros play blades is because they can.😁

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DJ had a 7w in the bag this past week. Pros play what fits their needs. 
 

Last year at the event he had a high lofted hybrid because the 19* hybrid went to far.

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I think sa big piece as to why some pros play true blades/muscle backs...

Most of these guys grew up (teen years) in the early 90s through early 2000s. What was around during that time? Either chunky CBs like 845s or Mizuno/Titleist butter knives. These guys matured their game with small footprint irons that featured thin top lines. Aside from a few exceptions, most of these guys need a thin top line, a thinner sole and workability because that's what they're accustomed to in their day. I think you see more blended sets these days than ever before because they're shrinking the size of some of these more forgiving cavity backs but you'll see the majority of guys with a muscle back 7/8i-PW. 

What's crazy is how different this is on the LPGA tour where the most popular iron is...a cavity back...Ping i210. 

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