Don't Buy Blade Irons Before You Read This
Using the Ask Terry button, in the right hand sidebar, Warren asks:
I've been experimenting with blades in my mixed bag, which currently has cavity back long irons and blades from 7 through the wedges.
I'm tempted to move to all blades for a variety of reasons - mainly the crisp, effortless shot when I do hit it right.
Looking at the 'used' market, I'm wondering about blade design and its evolution. It seems that older Arnold Palmer blades have mass concentrated near the center of the clubhead, while older Titleists have more toe weighting.
Current blades on the market seem to vary linearly from heel to toe. Can you talk to these variations ?
Is the industry moving towards the 'perfect blade' or is the selection ultimately just a union of club and swing - a 'whatever works best for you' sort of thing.
Thanks for the insight, if you have the time to respond.
There has been a considerable evolution of the designs of blades since the old Arnold Palmer's, and the result of that is that modern blades by Mizuno, Titleist and others are easier to hit than ever before.
I’d like to think I started that trend with the RL Blades I designed while President of Reid Lockhart.
That design was the first true blade that moved some of the mass toward the toe for superior performance on toe mis-hits, which are most common for amateur players.
In the current crop of blades on the market, some rather loosely use the definition, as they have moved a considerable amount of mass from behind the sweet spot, which completely defeats the purpose of playing a blade.
This line of posts, about blades, has continued to attract the most commentary of anything I’ve written this year, and shows that golfers are weary of the “you can’t play” diatribe fed to them by the manufacturers.
You CAN play, and better than even you might believe.
As for selecting one of the modern blades, I’d offer this guidance, but implore you to play a round or two with anything that you might consider buying. A few shots on the range will help you narrow it down, but on-the-course performance is what you are after.
So, here’s some guidance:
If you tend to leave the ball to the right, opt for a design with a little offset. If you tend to hook or draw the ball, stay away from offset for sure !
If you are a mid- to high-handicap, choose one of the blades with a little more perimeter mass distribution. That will help you as you improve your game.
If you are older (like me) and would like a few more yards (ditto), do not be afraid to play blades with graphite shafts, but I would not recommend “off the rack” models.
Graphite can be wonderful in blades, but such irons should be built by a qualified custom clubmaker/clubfitter so that you can get exact matching. This just won’t come from a major manufacturer, trust me.
Good luck in your search, and let us know what you end up choosing.
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[ comments ]
I'd add that it's not only a good idea to look at graphite, try some lighter steel. I'd played MP-60 with DG S300 and Black Gold 1/2" long, which not only was heavy steel, over length brought up the swingweight and made them feel like a lead pipe.
I'm testing Nippon NS Pro 1050 and 1150 in an MP-33 and MP-67 head (respectively) right now and I am hitting these like a dream. My standard ballflight is higher, they're easier to swing and load consistently, and I feel more in control. Too light and I lose head feel, but for me at least, 105 - 115g steel is way better than 125-130g steel. Kick point being lower helps as well. People talk all day about forgiving heads, but a "forgiving" shaft makes a world of difference. I'm amazed that DG R or S300 is the standard steel across most major OEMs now that I know a little better.
Of course, different strokes for different folks, but that's my experience.
Jerry Greupner says:
At 62 yrs. old, I too hanker for the blades to return to my bag. Last summer I think I did second best by finding a set of small cavity backs from Infinity Golf and put them on a medium weight stiff graphite. They are wonderful and work well with my Eidolon wedges
mike mcf says:
This presents a golf addict like me with a whole new problem. As a single digit handicapper for 25 years (I'm now 54) I switched from Hogan Apex blades over 20 years ago. I've been through more sets of cavityback irons than I care to admit and currently own a mixed set of Ping i-10/g-10 irons and a set of Callaway X20 tours. I love the look of blades and while I appreciate the feedback (and thus, swing adjustment) I find the concept of "worse" results on center strikes almost impossible to believe. I can't wait to try out some gorgeous blades and see for myself.
I'd like to know if there may be a middle ground that's truly the "best of both worlds"? Perhaps the slightly more forgiving Mizuno or Titleist irons (or top components) or possibly the "blade" offerings from Ping, Callaway or others? Also, any opinions on what effect the narrower sole and lower bounce on most blades might have?
Good comments, guys,
There is a world of difference in shafts, and if you get the right ones in a set of modern blades, you'll be surprised at the performance.
You can believe it, and I've seen it. Think of this comparison -- driving a nail. Which would be more efficient, a hammer or similar weight iron skillet? The weight is the same, but the hammer concentrates the weight directly behind the impact for efficiency. Golf clubs work the same way. The more mass you put directly behind the ball at impact, the more efficient transfer of energy you are going to have.
Over ten years ago, I designed the RL Blades to re-allocate just a little mass toward the toe, and it produced a fabulous playing blade (they don't make them anymore), but Mizuno, Titleist and many others now offer "modern blades" with a similar conservative distribution of mass. As you shop blades, look for the thickness of the clubhead right at the impact spot, and how much has been moved to the perimeter. What you want is a balance of the two that adds a little help while not compromising that center mass.
Narrower soles on irons is simply a matter of preference. If you play courses with very firm turf usually, the narrower sole is more playable. A wider sole is preferable for golfers with steeper angles of approach or who play softer turf most often.
i was once told by someone that nobody should be playing with blades at all. i was given a set of hogen's and i hit them pretty good but the mishits were very noticebly.
i played a couple of rounds with blades and you got to play through when you mishit and take it if someones say what you playing with those for.
Ron Monks says:
I like that skillet analogy. Look, when I think back on the best rounds I've played, the were all back in the days of my Wilson Staff blades and Orlimar persimmon driver. I've read that with all the innovations in club technology the average golf handicap has not changed.
When you're striking the ball well, that's when you want the feedback, creating increasing confidence with each successive swing. You just can't wait to hit the next shot because you know it will be pure. If you're miss-hitting the ball, the forgiveness is fine but your score will stink.
Shafts are also overrated in my opinion. You're swing can adjust to just about any shaft and most guys need to slow their swing down anyway.
Just my two cents worth as a single digit amateur the past, let's see... 45 years now.
PS. I don't think it's a well kept secret that the club manufacturers some year back took loft of the irons and lengthened the shafts to fool the player into believing he was hitting less club than with his old blades. What they did really is took the old 5 iron and mark it today as a 6 iron, and so on down through the set. Clever, eh?
Ron, I have to disagree with your one comment that "shafts are overrated". Quite to the contrary, most of the time they are quite under-appreciated and neglected. The major companies use price as a major criteria for their shafts, and we can see the result of that when we put many modern clubs to the test. Any qualified independent clubmaker/fitter can tell you some real doozies of what they've seen from the major brands.
The key thing is to have your shafts matched in performance profile from your driver through your wedges -- few golfers do. Our typical buying pattern is a set of irons here, driver there, fairway woods somewhere else, hybrids in there . . . you get the picture. There is little hope for consistent ball striking thoroughout your set when all your clubs perform a little differently.
I recently bought a set of Mizuno MP 60's Regular Shaft. This is the first set of blades I have ever bought or hit. I'm a mid handicap at about 11. After playing these clubs for about 5 rounds this year I haven't seen a big difference in my scores. I do agree when I miss hit them it is much worse than when I miss hit with cavity backs. Is there any tips that you can provide when hitting blades vs cavity backs?
Any input is much appreciated.
Ron Monks says:
You mishits are probably toe hits. Practice hitting the ball closer to the hosel.
There is no difference in your swing or any other aspect to hitting blades vs. cavity backs. What you should experience is a better quality trajectory and accuracy to your better shots, without that much fall-off to your less-than-ideal swings. It is a great exercise to get a packet of impact tapes from your golf store and use them to find out exactly where your mishits are coming from. Only then can you make corrections. And here's a little trick from tour pros. If your mishits tend to be toward the toe, simply address the ball a little toward the heel, still assuming your comfortable set up posture. Watch the "from the rear" angle on these guys on TV and you'll see that many of them do that.
Ok I will try that. Thanks for the tip.
Ron Monks says:
Bobby Jones played his best using hickory shafts. I even recall reading something about clinics he did hitting dead straight shots with an iron head attached to to a rubber hose. Players can improve their shots more by slowing down their swing than by tinkering with shafts. I've used shafts from R to X and have found if my timing is on, the shaft not a factor. Every swing regardless of shaft delivers the clubhead from an open, to square, to closed position. It is the player, not the shaft, that insures that the ball is contacted while the club is square to the target line.
In 1972, I met PGA tour player and former NCAA all-American, Johnny Miller at Snoopy's Redwood Classic in Santa Rosa, California. He was still playing with McGregor irons made in the 1940s or so. The shafts were coated with some kind of green material..not chromed..not frequency matched and who know what flex. He may have still been playing them when he won the US Open the following year.
I remain skecptical that techological "advances" are anything but marketing ploys.
You are right that timing and tempo are always important, and Bobby Jones played some awesome golf with hickory shafts, but neither negates the value of today's technology. It makes the game easier to play, for sure, though a lot of it is "marketing ploy", of course. That said, tests of the older players' equipment have found them to be surprisingly "matched" in swingweight and shaft flex/frequency. They did it by trial and error hitting dozens, if not hundreds of different clubs -- not sets, each number -- until they found the right one. They had to trust their feel since the testing equipment was not available. We can take advantage of modern technology to have a perfectly matched set with shafts that work the best for our individual swings. Don't underestimate the impact that can have on your game.
The Kiwi says:
I have been clubbuilding 20 yrs, spineing shafts before any one knew about it, but the inventor the late Ted Lockie of North Palm Beach Fl, who taught me.
Yes, shafts do matter, and to get the best performance out of a blade, go with a lighter shaft 100-115 grams. (steelfibre: aerotech for graphite, DG super lite, or a little heavier project x). Dont make them longer to balance swingweight, just put some lead tape behind the sweet spot. Remember a shorter iron has more control, and a more upright swing plane for accuracy
Thanks for the input, Kiwi. As I've said, I'm a huge fan of quality graphite in blade irons. I play a set of Reid Lockhart blades with the UST ProForce V2 constant weight and love them. I'm also a fan of the aerotech SteelFiber shaft, as well as their other products. They key is to get a quality clubmaker like yourself to build your irons to exact specs.
As far as "modern" blades go, would the 2003 vintage Hogan Apex fit that description? They are being sold new at incredible prices at the moment, and it's been very hard for me not to order a set and then install some of the UST ProForce shafts in them.
Those would certainly qualify. When I say "modern" blades, I'm referring to those made in the past 20 years or so, as opposed to the old blades from the 70s and earlier that had a much more rearward center of mass, and a very small clubhead.
Bali Hai says:
I have a set of wilson staff blades from 1978 with stiff steel shafts that I am now using and some from the fifties that my dad used at one time. I also have some spalding blades from the fifties and some macgregor m2s from the early 60s which I used until 1978. Should I just get different shafts now that I am 64 with rubber versus leather grips( I like the feel of leather). I am thinking of buying Mizuno mp 68s to get a more modern blade although I am not sure it would make any difference. Separately, what are the best metal woods these days with smaller sweet spot. I was given a G5 and really would prefer a persimmon driver although I cannot hit it over 270. Thanks for any input.
Bali, This post seems to have an endless life. I would think you would be really happy with the newer blades, and let me recommend the UST Pro Force V2 constant weight iron shafts. They are remarkable, and will sell you on graphite shafts for irons. As for the metal woods, I don't like much out there, but play a 400 cc Alpha driver and Sonartec 4-wood and am quite happy with them.
I have been playing PGA Metrilite blades since the early 90s. They were given to me as a gift and I don't know much about them. Can you give some history on them? Also, I am thinking of "upgrading" soon, can you give me some insights on what direction I might go for a similar type club, e.g. light weight, slim profile, pure feel ;).
does anyone have a set of used fairly recent blades they were looking to sell? I love the mizuno line specifically the mp-60's and mp-67's but as everyone knows they easily run $1,000 if you were to get them fitted, brand new, and fully customized(a bit pricy for a struggling college student). I am 19 years old (5 handicap) and going into my first year at college. I have been using pingeye2's since I was 15 when my dad got them for me. They are great great great clubs but I think it is time for me to step into the 21st century. Especially since I have been shooting in the low to mid 70's with my old clubs made in 1989. I am trying to walk onto my college golf team this year and would love to pick up a nice set of blades to get adjusted to over summer before I go away to school to try to make the team. If anyone has ideas or a set of blades they are looking to sell please let me know.... Thanks everyone
Hey wedge guy, Im 52 years old and a solid 12-14 handicap. .(currently playing mizuno mx25's)
I am so thankful for this blog, I took a Mizuno mp58 6-8 irons to the course and intergrated it with my mx 25 mizunos, have played two rounds and dropped six strokes. My approach shots are much more accurate and laser like with the blades, consistent distance and extremely accurate,. project x 6.0's which are probably to stiff now...your post about graphite shafts for blades is a Godsend...was told that I could not get an accurate graphite shaft
I admit bad shots REALLY hurt my wrist, and I lost about five to seven yards each with them.
I am planning on going to the KZG fitter tommorow and purchasing a set of KZG or Mizunos mp58 clubs and EIDOLON wedges..any suggestions on picking the right KZG's or suggestions on Mizuno's? Wow this blog is clearing up a lot of my questions
Va Beach VA
The Kiwi says:
Have any of you tried the new Mizuno MP 63's?...if so whats your set up and how do you like them?
i play fg-17s with the original dynamic stiff shafts, and they play as good as any modern club i've ever used. when you hit them well, you really feel like a golfer.
I have been playing Mizuno MP33's since 2003. I have the Dynamic Gold s300 shafts, and I love them. Due to injury, I've not played as much as I'd like, or as well. I have more mis-hits, but my HC is still single digit. I stay with my MP's because I love the feel when I do hit it right, and I get the result I'm looking for. Plus, they just look so dang cool when I address the ball!
Blades! Scary right? Not so, even a higher handicap player can hit them. But before you by any new set of irons, get properly fitted. It makes all the difference. For the past two seasons I've played Taylormade rac TP mb's with project x 6.0s. No 12 handicapper should even swing these. The reason is the shaft. Find the right shaft and your on the way to lower scores. I was fitted and I tried everything. I told the the pro to find me the best match and he did. I now own a set of Mizuno MP68's with Dynalite Gold S300 shafts and all I can say is WOW!!! I've only played 3 rounds with them and they are dead straight. 10 more yards per club and the feel is incredible. My point is get a set of blades if you like them, just make sure you also get the right shaft as well.
I was once told by an old Scotsman " Ye can hit the ball with a Mars Bar if ye have the right shaft"!!!
I know what he meant and I believe him to be correct!!!
I've been a single digit handicap for 23 of the last 25 years. In the past 2 years I've grown old and fat (I'm now 54) and my handicap has gone up in the 10-12 range. One obvious reason is my irons don't go anywhere anymore and my small brain compensates with the right hand, yanking most of my shots short left. In my career I've played Wilson Staffs, Hogan PCs, Hogan Apexs, Mizuno 33s, Titliest DCIs, and most recently Titliest CBs. All of these except the Staffs and PCs are still in my basement. I was fitted with the CBs with a titliest fitting system by my pro 3 years ago when I was still a 5 handicap. The result was inch long Dynamic Gold S300s. I'm wondering if I should reshaft the CBs or 33s with a lite steel or graphite shaft or get new Mizuno-67s. Any opinions would be most helpful.
@ mikeatpcc: I'd still try out head/shaft combinations. I thought I'd never find better than my current set of KZG CBs with AeroTech 110s in them. But low and behold while getting my grips changed at my fitter, I played around with a Wishon blade head and KBS Tour 90s. Absolutely the softest and most wonderful irons I've tried. Bottom line is nothing's definite I think.
I have my original set of Tour Grind Irons from early 80’s. I have played with PW-1i until early 90’s when someone talked me into Ping Eye2+. These are very well made irons but my game got worth and then I quit all together. Recently, 15 years later, I am back at the range and doing quite well (I was 2 handicap once), but I just can’t stand Pings the way they look at setup with this offset. I’d like to go back to my Tour Grinds, re-shafted and refitted. Clubs need to re-chromed, re-grooved and lofts and lies adjusted. My question – Is it worth to do this. I would use The Iron Factory for that.
TourGrind, those Rams are more similar to the blades of the 1970s and prior, and in my opinion not worth the $$$ to refurbish them. I would look at more modern examples from Mizuno, Titleist or even Nike as a better alternative.
I agree but at the same time don't. For most golfers it is the Indian and not the arrows. Sure anyone can play a blade but that doesn't mean they can play a blade well. Most don't have an understanding of their own swing, not the golf swing but their very own. They chase the immortal club that get them into the seventies. I carried a 4.9 index that would hover from 4.2-5.2 for two years. I can work a golf ball, on command not once in awhile and not know how I did it. I'm a good ball striker, not a blade ball striker though. In my mind anyone above a legitimate 8 index shouldn't touch them. Get to the point where you understand a swing and then the feedback the club gives you means something.
Now to totally contradict what I just wrote, for a better player the right clubs make all the difference. I researched your scoring system and think it's genius. Being the cynic I am when it comes to equipment it was with a tempered enthusiasm that I ordered a 44, 48 & 52 degree wedge. I already carry a 56 & 60 degree Miura K grind wedges and won't replace them. Your theory is dead on point. Distance control in scoring irons is problematic because of gap issues. Most jump from a 50* gap wedge to only a 56* sand wedge. DOA. I've lowered my index to 1.7, at 43, just diagnosed with Parkinson's and two left shoulder replacements. Your wedges are the deal. One gripe, put some technology into the grooves and the face. Good players want more spin. Bravo though. Genius idea and geniusously made sticks. So much so I made up a new word!
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