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Should better Players dare take a look at "Game Improvement" Irons?


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Im using Apex '21 as my point of discussion for obvious reasons but it could go for any OEM's that have irons in this category. Im curious to everyones thoughts/experience on this one. Take company bias out of it and focus more on the idea of it. Im a gear head and struggle with my EGO when it comes to this. 

I’ve been asking myself this question since joining #teamcallaway. Should a sub-5-handicap player dare look at the Apex ’21?

It’s an honest question actually, Callaway offers a full line of player’s irons via the Apex MB, TCB, Apex Pro, and X-Forged CB so why on earth would I ever consider trying a forged “game improvement” iron?

I’ll frame this by laying out where my head went when looking into Apex ’21 for my own game.
 

  1. I’m fully capable of hitting any of the player’s offerings consistently out of the middle.
  2. I like the workability of a less offset, smaller profile iron.
  3. The Apex ’21 has a stronger loft package than what I normally play by about 2 to 3 degrees per iron. This was my biggest concern FYI.
  4. I’ll hit them too far, get heaters, etc.
  5. They aren’t a “Tour” iron.
  6. If I weaken the lofts to something closer to my set, it’ll mess up the whole thing

The list could actually expand quite a bit if I pressed but there is a flip side to that coin that I’m not identifying. That is honesty. Yes, I hit my irons solid but when I look at my stats my GIR and proximity to the hole are nowhere near where they should be to actually see the scores I want. I can hit good shots quite often but I’m definitely leaving meat on the bone with the current setup….and I’m a gearhead and love the Tour stuff.🤷🏻‍♂️ So there’s that 😂

The strengths of my game have always been Driving, Chipping, and Putting. At no point in my time playing would I ever consider myself a great iron player, I’d say mildly serviceable is a more fair assessment. So why am I fighting it? 

A good idea could be to just work on my swing which is 100% a valid point but I’m more curious about immediate gains when I’m not hitting it well. I was chatting with a Champions Tour pal of mine and he gave me a little nugget. He only uses smaller profile irons when he knows he can take advantage of them. An interesting way to look at it for sure. What I took from this was he prefers to make things easy in any scenario. He also said that “good” game improvement irons will give you all the workability you would ever need if you know what you’re doing. That’s why when Phil put Epic Forged irons in the bag during the 2020 Masters he was still able to hit the shots he needed all while playing with a profile that would be designated for a higher handicapper. 

It’s also with noting that Apex’ 21 isn’t SUPER game improvement, I think the stronger loft setup throws people off. I’ve played well with profiles that had a bigger thumbprint and faired really well. I’m going into this trying to find NEW opportunities in my bag. The woods are cooked, the wedges dialed and the putter is on point. It’s the 4-iron to 7-iron area that vexes me. Usually, I like to combo things up with CB long irons and MB short irons but I’m also tired of that. I want to play with one uniform set again and see what that gets me. 

So here is what I’m doing now, I just ordered up a set of Apex ’21 irons, exactly to the spec of my current mixed set of X-Forged CB and Apex MB. The only twist is the loft package is a bit stronger (new specs below) but what I’m losing in the loft I’m getting in the launch and descent angle. What I’m gaining here (in theory) is ball speed and forgiveness on mis-hits which I so desperately need. My frequent miss is a center thin shot that loses its steam during the last 25% of its travels. That shot has cost me more grief than any other and I’m now calling in the heavy artillery to make it go away. 

There was however one question/concern I had that kept me from pressing the button on this whole thing, the lofts. It’s no secret that the loft package in these styles of irons needs to be on the stronger side to avoid players hitting uncontrollable shots. Some people call it “loft jacking” which always gave me a chuckle. No, OEMs are not making the lofts stronger to pull the wool over your eyes and trick you into thinking you’re Sam Burns. It’s a necessity for the lofts to be stronger to work in harmony with the low CG’s and multi-material design of the irons. Take Bryson for example, his PW is 41 degrees. Is that why he hits it so far? NO. It’s simple math in that case. If his PW was on the more traditional side he would hit it straight up in the air with too much spin. The same rule (sort of) applies here. 

The other question I have, is, how will bending these irons a degree or two weak affect the turf interaction/flight, etc? 

This is where I had to go to the experts on the truck to get the answer and the answer was a resounding “nothing”. The reasoning behind that answer was due to the leading edge relief and what is basically a pretty low bounce sole, to begin with. 2 degrees up or down won’t do much except add/or subtract a touch of spin. Any more than a couple of degrees is where you will start to see some problems. Especially in the shorter clubs. The shafts play a big part in this as well, Tour Issue X100 is a tip-stiff, heavy profile. I think that the combo of the weaker lofts, low launching shaft, and forgiveness of the head may add up to something pretty cool.

To remedy this in my case I split the difference by blending the lofts to sit right in between Apex ’21 Std and my gamers. 

Here is the Apex ’21 set up im going to try:

Shafts: Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (soft stepped)
SwingWeight: D3
Grips: Golf Pride BCT 58R Logo Down

New loft, Gamer loft, stock Gamer Yardage
4-iron: 21.5, 23, 210
5-iron: 24.5, 26, 195
6-iron: 27.5, 29, 180
7-iron: 31.5, 33, 165
8-iron: 35.5, 37, 150
9-iron: 40, 41, 135
PW: 45, 46, 125

What am I expecting to happen? 

If I was to guess id say ill get about 1/2 club longer but most importantly what I’m hoping to see is my performance from 175+ improves. When looking at my stats it’s that yardage where my GIR numbers get really funky. It’s almost like looking at 2 different golfers. 

Where my concern lies is in the shorter clubs (8-PW) where my stats are pretty damn good, and it’s from 8-iron down to LW that I make most of my birdies and the par percentage is awesome. Keep in mind that those stats at 175+ could reflect a poor short game but that wouldn’t be telling an accurate story. It’s where I’m hitting it from 175+ that’s killing me. Trust me when I say that I’ve put myself in some serious pickles with a 6-iron on up. 

Best case this comes off and everything gets better, the worst case is I’m still garbage from 175+ with irons that should help. That’s more of a “maybe you aren’t as good as you think you are” scenario……ouch. The middle ground is a split in improvement in the 4-iron to 6-iron and a deficiency in the shorter clubs, but that’s what combo sets are for 😉

I’ll follow up after I’ve had a chance to bang these things around, please ask away if you have any questions. Would also like some Apex’21 players to chime in on what they have experienced. 

I’m going in.

JDUB

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Gear junky degenerate.

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At your level play any club that you like and is the best for your game. You don't see a lot of pros playing blades all that much any more. If they can go with a more effective club for them why not you?

Edited by Letthebigdogshunt
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As I recall, we had a low handicap player test the G710's a couple years ago and really liked them and they performed well for him. I believe his biggest issue was the size of the head and getting through thick rough efficiently. My recollection may be fuzzy, though.

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Driver:  :callaway-small:Epic Speed 9* (set -1) MMT 70X
3W: :callaway-small: RAZR Fit TourAD something or other
3H, 4H: :bridgestone-small: Tour B JGR 19*, 23* Recoil 780ES
4-AW:  :bridgestone-small: Tour B JGR HF2 Modus3 Tour 105
SW: :cleveland-small: Zipcore Black Satin 54*
LW: :cleveland-small: Zipcore Black Satin 58*
Putter: :odyssey-small: Stroke Lab Marxman
Bag: BigMax Dri Active Lite
Ball: :taylormade-small: TP5x Pix
Pushcart: BigMax iQ+

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I’ve seen scratch golfers playing a full bag of the Cleveland launchers. Golfer should play whoever makes them enjoy the game.

I have a fitter who plays p790 and is a 2-4 cap and was talking to a demo rep whose son is sub 5 and plays GI

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Driver: PXG 0811 X+ Proto w/UST Helium 5F4

Wood: TaylorMade M5 5W w/Accra TZ5 +1/2”, TaylorMade Sim 3W w/Aldila rogue white

Hybrid: PXG Gen2 22* w/AD hybrid

Irons: PXG Gen3 0311T w/Nippon modus 120

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 50*, Tiger grind 56/60

Putter: Scotty Caemeron Super Rat1

Ball: Titleist Prov1

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I love this post Johnny! So much good info there.  I don’t see any reason not to play a more helpful iron.  And the 21 Apex is a beautiful looking iron as well, so its got that going for it 😀

You touched on two things I have preached on here, but often gets rejected by the old guard loft police.  The reason lofts are stronger on modern clubs and the fact that minimal bending of lofts either direction. Will not effect the bounce/turd in any meaningful way.  I actually asked that question to a OEM engineer about 3 years ago.  His answer was “yes it will change it, but I promise you no amateur thst isn’t playing at an elite level will ever notice the difference.   Pretty much what you said. 
 

Please keep us posted on how these APEX work out for you. 

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:titelist-small: TSi1 Aldila Ascent 40G shaft

:titelist-small: TSi2 18 FW with GD AD IZ 6 Shaft

:titelist-small: TSi1 20 and 23 degree hybrids Aldila Ascent Shafts R

:titelist-small: T300 5-P Tensei  R flex shaft 1/4 long 

:titelist-small: SM8 48F/54/58 D Grinds 

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9 hours ago, MaxEntropy said:

As I recall, we had a low handicap player test the G710's a couple years ago and really liked them and they performed well for him. I believe his biggest issue was the size of the head and getting through thick rough efficiently. My recollection may be fuzzy, though.

Not sure if I was the lowest? But at the time I was an 8 and the size was a little hard to get passed and being a little longer with them sealed the deal. With that being said they performed great and I actually really enjoyed the set wedges. 
 

Preference preference right? Look forward to seeing your thoughts 

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Check out my reviews:

:ping-small:  G710 Irons Official Review

:Fuji: MC Shaft & :EVNROLL: V Series Putter Official Review

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26 minutes ago, Lacassem said:

Not sure if I was the lowest? But at the time I was an 8 and the size was a little hard to get passed and being a little longer with them sealed the deal. With that being said they performed great and I actually really enjoyed the set wedges. 
 

Preference preference right? Look forward to seeing your thoughts 

@JoshAndersonGolf was a +1 I recall when he tested them.  He credited them with helping him get to a +2 which we all know at that level is really hard to drop another stroke.  What he liked about them the best was he got some needed height on his long iron —like the 4.   
 

I’m pretty sure he put them into play at the Illinois Open or at least a high level tournament in the state almost right off the bat. 
 

So if a + index can play then, it kinda makes us all think what they hell are we doing playing anything but GI clubs 😀


 

 

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:titelist-small: TSi1 Aldila Ascent 40G shaft

:titelist-small: TSi2 18 FW with GD AD IZ 6 Shaft

:titelist-small: TSi1 20 and 23 degree hybrids Aldila Ascent Shafts R

:titelist-small: T300 5-P Tensei  R flex shaft 1/4 long 

:titelist-small: SM8 48F/54/58 D Grinds 

:ping-small: Tyne 4 

:titelist-small: ProV1X Play number 12

 

 

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Good read and thanks for posting. I will be curious to see how they work out for you and the progress you are able to make. 
The only point I would make which is in line with what you are getting to, is isn't golf hard enough already? I mean we all want to improve and play better and shoot the lowest scores possible. If getting a set of game improvement or combo set assists that then great. A lot of clubs don't suite our eye, which I am guilty of, but find funny because other then when setting up it isn't like we see the club head at impact, its a blur so it begs the question should it matter what it looks like? Of course things like offset play a part in ball flight and I can understand that, but as a whole if a club or clubs will help your game it really shouldn't matter how they look or what category they are considered to be in. 

Again thanks for posting and looking forward to following along!

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 ⛳🛄 as of April 15, 2022

SuperSpeed 2020 from 100-112 and climbing!

Driver:   :callaway-small: Mavrik Sub Zero - Set at 9.5* with Aldila Rogue Max 65 gram 

Wood:    :cobra-small: F7 3 wood 14.5* w/ weight back

               :ping-small: G410 Crossover - 2 and 4 iron

Irons:     :ping-small: i210 5-U w/ Nippon Modus 105 stiff (2018 Tester)

Wedge:  :ping-small: Glide 2.0 54* 58* w/ Nippon Modus 105 Stiff

Putter:   :odyssey-small: Stroke Lab 7 35* and oversized grip (2019 Tester)

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I think it’s hard to check your ego at the door, but I regularly see way too many mid handicappers playing blades and playing from the back tees. 

I am trying more forgiving player’s distance irons to replace my AP2s which I still love.  But I think I may need more forgiveness to get to mid single digits. I always have a few swings each round that I miss the sweet spot enough that I get in trouble. 

In contrast, I have played with scratch or +2 guys who have cavity back irons, nothing new in the last 4-5 years and their swings are pure and their short games are so good.  One scratch guy said he gave up on tour wedges  for his 56 / 60 since it requires too much precision and he likes wedges with more forgiveness.  He says if you are not playing / practicing a few times a week, it’s hard to be dialed in using some of these tour wedges like TM Tiger Woods wedges. 

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Haywood  5-PW iron Signature - Recoil 780 ES F4 Stiff - Bent 2 deg flat

:taylormade-small:  52 - 09 Tour Preferred EF  - KBS Tour Wedge 

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image.png.1cf0013c54bf0f68066ba2034c7799d0.png

 :Arccos: Official Tester - 2021

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I am looking forward to reading your experience with the new irons. The lower center of gravity should help that thin shot. I’m going to predict you’ll like them. 

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Ping G425 Max

Callaway Epic Max 5 wood

Cobra F9 Speedback 7/8 wood set at 23.5 degrees

Callaway Epic Max 11 wood

PXG 0311P Gen. 3  6-GW

PXG 0211 5-GW

PXG 0211 sand wedge bent to 53 degrees

Maltby M Series+ 54 degree

Ping Glide 3.0 Eye2 58 degree

Ping Glide 3.0 60 degree

Evnroll ER2

Ping Sigma 2 Anser

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Short answer to your question is absolutely.  I think far too much ego gets in our way of making the best decisions when it comes to clubs.  Just the name "game improvement", or even worse, "super game improvement" evokes thoughts of training wheels on bicycles.  Bagging postage stamps on sticks is the mark of Zorro when it comes to capability... or so it seems.  But, I think that is changing.

Aesthetics aside, I see workability (or lack thereof) as being the most significant factor in the club head type selection.  I'm guessing far more low handicap players shot shape than do mid and high handicap players and that a smaller percentage of GI club head designs afford the degree of workability desired.  But OEM's have seemingly split the atom when it comes to blurring club category vs. performance.  There are offerings now for which a good many are still debating what design category they best fit (ZX5's for example).  Last winter season while on the range with our playing pro (Pro/Am event), he grabbed my G410 6i for fun and was drawing and fading it at will.  I have never looked at my G410's in the same light ... that is to say I know they are capable of amazing things in the right hands 🤣.

It stands to reason that all golfers will benefit from more forgiving clubs.  To the extent they can get that benefit while still having the right balance of other traits, why wouldn't they... aesthetics and ego aside 😉.

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On 5/29/2021 at 1:08 PM, Letthebigdogshunt said:

At your level play any club that you like and is the best for your game. You don't see a lot of pros playing blades all that much any more. If they can go with a more effective club for them why not you?

Basically true, though many players use a mix of blades and forged cavity backs (not outright GI). Found this list and it's interesting which players, some of the best, still use all blades from 2020:

  • Adam Scott
  • Collin Morikawa
  • Justin Rose
  • Justin Thomas
  • Luke Donald
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Ricky Fowler
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Tiger Woods

This list can change but at the time of this article being written, these are the guys using blades.

  • Callaway Rogue 10.5° & 3W
  • Mizuno CLK 3H 19°, JPX900 Forged 4-GW, S18 56.10, S18 60.06
  • Evnroll ER5B Fit@TrueSpec ER2
  • Maxfli Tour Snell MTB-Black
  • Ping Pioneer - MGI Zip Navigator AT
  • Payntr X 002 LE, Adidas Codechaos, FJ DryJoys
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