Blade Irons: Are They More Efficient Than Cavity Backs ?
It’s been almost a year since I first wrote about the performance of blade irons versus cavity backs, and those are still the most commented on posts I’ve ever done – they pull reader feedback even today. So, I thought I would dive into that subject a little deeper.
I was having a conversation about this with a golfer last week, and they asked me “why ?”
“ Terry, why and how can you say that a more muscle-back design produces better results than a cavity back design, when the entire industry has spent millions and millions of dollars developing these high-tech irons ? ”
My answer started out simple – “ Because it’s true. ”
Compare hitting a golf ball with driving a nail. If I started three large framing nails into a board, and gave you first a framing hammer, then a small sledge hammer, then a 12” cast iron fry pan, which would drive its respective nail with the least amount of blows ?
The sledge, right ?
Followed by the framing hammer, and trailing poorly would be the frying pan. Even though the frying pan may weigh as much or more than the hammers, it does not transfer force nearly as efficiently, because all of its mass is around the perimeter.
By the same measure, a more compact iron head, with the mass more centered, will be a more efficient golf ball striking tool than an oversize head with most of the mass spread as far away from the impact point as possible.
I told you, and I’ll tell you again. If you want to really learn something, borrow the 8-9- and PW from one of your friends or pros who plays a modern blade.
Even if the shafts are too stiff, and they don’t fit you, you’ll quickly see how much more accurate and consistent those short irons are than the perimeter-weighted clubs you currently play.
It’s not just me saying so – read the nearly 100 comments on the posts I wrote last spring !
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[ comments ]
I just bought a set of Reid Lockhart irons off eBay and I'm looking forward to that increased efficiency.
Most of my 74 to 78 shots are wit the short irons and putter anyway, so increasing my efficiency in that area will renew my love of the game.
I'm relatively new to the game having taken it up a year and a half ago at the age of 53. I started playing with "game improvement irons and noticed that the offset would negatively affect my shots. I decided this year to start practicing with some MP-32s and have noticed a marked improvement in my dispersion and accuracy. The downside is that I have lost about 10 yards in distance but expect that improvements in my ball striking will take of this as well. Cheers.
After reading your articles earlier this winter I have made the switch from Ping Eye 2's to MP-32's. I am a 10 handicap and look forward dropping it into the 5's by the end of 2008.
I've had the chance to hit them about 1-2 times a month at an indoor range here up north and I can say that without a doubt they have helped my game already. The first thing I noticed with the decrease in forgiveness is that I was hitting out near the toe. I didn't really notice this too much with the cavity back Eye 2's. I am now acieving the same distance with less effort and more accuracy and I have a much easier time controlling the trajectory. I look forward to reporting back the actual on course improvements throughout the season which is finally here in Cleveland, OH!
I don't understand why so many PGA players use cavity backs if blades are better for scoring. I understand that they have endorsement deals, but they don't get those deals unless they are competitive. And with so many good golfers out there trying to get on the tour it seems like any advantage or disadvantage would make the difference between being on the tour and not. Further, at that level it seems like it'd be evident to a player if he scores better with blades (in other words, true empirical evidence, on the tour it's not opinions but scores that count).
I do not agree because when I switch to the Ping I 2 back in the early eighties my high rounds drop 4 shots and my good rounds remained the same. Most amutures need an Iron that is forgiveing and it is a proven fact that blades, muscle back Irons are not. There is no comparison between where a pro hits the sweet spot and where amutures hit the face of Iron.
Regarding my previous comment, I feel it comes off kind of snarky. I did not intend it to be, am just curious about the topic.
BTW - I own (and love using) an Eidolon 60 deg.
doug baldwin says:
I took your advice to heart - but in baby steps.
I purchased some forged blades and use them on the range but still using my TM 300's on the course.
This has improved my ball striking but on the course allows for the forgiveness of the CB until I'm ready for the blades in competition.
John K says:
I have pondered this since you first wrote your article last year on MB irons vs. Cavity (Game Improvement) irons. I missed my powerbuilt Citation irons, but thought that going the GI route was the way to go. So, I have played with those for years and my game just seemed to stagnate.
I recently bought Mizuno MP 57s to replace the MX 25s I have, and even though I have only hit them on the range - Wow, what a difference. My dispersion on what I believe to be well struck shots looks to be much tighter than with the MX 25s.
I really appreciate your candid opinion, and enjoy it when you write about golf equipment and how it can effect the game.
Keep up the good work,
Steve Wozeniak PGA says:
Can't wait to get my muscle back Callaway's they will be in shortly. I have had eye 2's for 20 years. I now am fitting around 10 handicap or better players in all blades first and letting them know why! Thanks Terry, and your wedges are great.
I play Purefit MBs and I cant agree more. Cavitys are good the guy that plays twice a year. If you good feedback. Learn to truly groove a swing thats why I use them
Thanks for all the comments, readers. This subject is worth lots of dialog and sharing. As for your comment, Duffy, I didn't take it as "snarky" (good one) at all, but legitimate. What I can offer is this -- the endorsement contracts are not that good if you want to play a blade, and most of todays' players are not "ball strikers" but merely hit it to their distance as often as they can. That's why golfers like Woods, Mickelson, etc., who have learned to work the ball both directions, up and down, rule out there. Most professionals appear to play their game, make big checks and maybe get a win somewhere. And to that mentality, the endorsement dollars rule.
Thanks for the reply Terry.
"Most professionals appear to play their game, make big checks and maybe get a win somewhere. And to that mentality, the endorsement dollars rule."
I don't know what everyone on the tour plays, but Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson (for example) seem like golfers who are serious about golf and work very hard at their games. They both play cavity backs. I find it very hard to believe Titleist would not endorse them to play blades if they chose play them instead of cavity backs. No?
Seriously, I find it very difficult to believe anyone could play and stay on the professional tour if they were not obsessed with playing golf well as they possibly could. And this obsession necessarily includes obsessing over playing the best possible equipment.
Interesting discussion. I am playing Mizuno T-Zoid ProForged irons. They are perimiter weighted with the musscle bulge behind the sweetspot to promote that blade feel. I have been hitting some demo blade 6- irons and am finding that my ball stiking is much better with those clubs. Perhaps it is due to the smaller head which is easier to align. I have found that my misshits on these newest generation of blades is much more forgiving that those club sets that are 10 or 20 years old.
I went to Bridgestone J33 combos after playing the game for just 18 months. I meet players that have been playing for years and tell me they don't have the game for blades.
Take Terry's advice - hit a forged blade for a bucket. Learning comes from feedback and forged blades deliver that feedback.
Guys, this is all good dialog. Let me address Duffy's comments, as he appears to be a little skeptical, in spite of all you others who are sharing your experiences. I respect that, Duff.
I can't speak for all the players out there, and there are no doubt some very good ones who choose to play cavity back irons, Stricker and Johnson, to wit. All I've said in this entire string of dialog is that machine testing proves that blade style irons are more accurate on dead center hits -- this is not an opinion, but fact. That said, so many of the young players have grown up with cavity back irons they are totally sold on them. Their approach to the game is built around them. And there is a lot of raw talent out there, but the very best players, the ones who know how to shape the ball, and get good scores even when they are striking the ball poorly (for them), seem to gravitate to blade designs. To each his own, but the readers are sounding off pretty convincingly that my advice to at least give blades a try has some merit.
Keep it up, readers. We're all learning here, I'm sure.
I just got a set of Reid Lockhart RL Blades today and went straight to the range.
Even though it was the first balls I had hit since last October, I had no problem with the blades.
I peppered the yardage signs with the 6 iron through wedge and after a couple more buckets fully expect to be fine with the 4 and 5 iron.
The feedback on toe hits made me go thru my setup routine and pay attention to my next swing, as opposed to my Ping i3's which let me swing, swing, swing with very little feedback.
Do you think that hitting one on the toe and having it "tell" you about it is as big a benefit as I do ?
I notice that those who play Nike golf clubs, like the #1 player on the planet, are using blades.
Could it be that Tiger doesn't have to bow down to a marketing machine like some players will do for money ? You dang right.
Could it be that Nike only cares about their players having irons that they can play their best with ? Maybe so.
Could it be an accident ? Probably not.
"I notice that those who play Nike golf clubs, like the #1 player on the planet, are using blades."
Yeah, Tiger Woods would probably be an average player if weren't for those Nike blades.
Um, didn't the guy who won play Nike.
Actually several of those in the last 5 groups played blades.
The point is, the guys who can choose, choose blades. Mostly.
Those that get dictated to, play whatever the marketing department says they need to play and they never improve their ball striking and they don't get any closer to the #1 player in the world.
Chasing dollars by playing the next new club has ruined more golfers than it has helped.
Immelman plays cavity backs.
Guys, I know that we will all have our disagreements. let me throw out another spin on it. Perhaps the tour players are such good ballstrikers that they then choose their irons to dial in a certain characteristic? Perhaps Trevor Immelman has a lower ballflight, and wants to bring it up a bit. The one constant that any good player has is good ballstriking, and getting that ball-turf impact. Once you have that, then you can play whatever the heck you want. Watch Immelman's shot from the divot on 18.
I'm an 8, and played a lot with Callaway irons, Pings, everything under the sun, but my ballstriking fell off quite a bit last year. Too much bounce. I went back to practicing with blades, and am working on taking a good divot and compressing the ball. You can get good results with a cavity back, but I don't want to cover up a bad swing. All good players know how to hit the ball, know what good impact feels like. We have to learn it. Callaway makes good clubs, and has super customer service. Most of the game improvement irons, while making it enjoyable for the casual golfer, really are more about covering up for poor swings...turning a miss into an better miss. If I hit one fat, or miss it thin, or hit one on the toe, I'm still going to miss the green. As one of Terry's previous posts said, 'perimeter weighting doesn't make up for bad swings'. The pros all hit the ball well. They have repeatable swings. The cavity might help them with the tiny miss. Where we go wrong, is we expect to hit it 'on the chrome' and have it work out. And we have jacked up lofts so that it can make up for all of the sole weight. Kind of like trying to even up the legs of a table by sawing them off! Lastly, we don't know what the pros have done to the clubs to modify them. Sole grinds, changed lofts, different weighting, changed offsets...often the only resemblence the club the pro has to what we see in the shop is cosmetic! Have fun, and practice!
Well said John. The feel and feedback offered by higher end irons isn't really that useful unless the golfer is tuned in enough to understand and process it.
I'm amazed at how much more sensitive I am now compared to when I started learning the game. It took a few long talks with my teacher and a lot of time at the range to really understand what a huge difference a tiny fraction of an inch or a couple of degrees at impact can make.
William Marshall says:
Would it not be interesting to watch who on tour would excel if they all were required to play blades with the old "V" grooves and a the twenty year old ball technology. I see a lot of tour players who appear to be playing "game improvement" clubs which mask a lot of sins. All of the tour players are excellent ball strikers but the courses do not call for "working" the ball as much as "gun and gouge" so why not equip for that style.
Bob weseen says:
I have a set of forged blades, as well as forged cavity backs, as well as a deeper forged cavity back.
I really like my blades in the 8iron - wedge, but on the long irons I never really liked the trajectory. When I started using the deeper cavity back on my 5 and 6 irons, I started hitting the ball higher and stopping it faster. That being said, this year I am playing my deep cavity's in the 4,5,6,and 7 irons. I am playing my blades in the 8 and 9 irons, and Eidolon wedges for my 48, 52, 56, and 60 degree wedges.
I think this is all just a bit off the mark. Blades have more efficiency, when struck at center of gravity (COG) as mentioned. But take that hammer and strike 1/2" from COG on the nail. Poor transfer. They frying pan will still have poor transfer compared to a clean strike but at 1/2" off COG it loses less transferred energy. That's where most recreational golfers who don't hit every day are. Look at a pro's iron. VERY small well worn spot on the face. There was a great article in a golf magazine recently that took a robot and measured this effect, it was easily 10% for a mere 1/4" away from COG!!
Tiger has the precise strike AND the nerve and confidence to make a perfect hit under the pressure of a major and $1,000,000 prize (mostly because he has $90 millon of guaranteed endorsement money!) That is what separate these guys. Also of note, they get the endorsement to play with the bag, hat and shirt. They may get more for the clubs but they are allowed to put ANYTHING in there bag. Tiger played Titleist when he started with Nike and SLOWLY switched it all over in pieces as they earned his confidence. Review in the bag at the golfchannel.com to see if you doubt me. It's the name and the winning record that sell clubs and that's why despite often being inferior they sell better than small well made and often better engineered brands like Wishon, Eidolon, etc.
People who don't know what to buy and don't know the difference (probably well over 90% of consumers!) will play what Tiger uses or what they see Vijay holding in the picture. I'd LOVE to see what percentage of new left handed golfers own Callaway stuff!
Sorry so long! Thanks for reading.
Just my 2 cents
These are all good points but all I can say is, "Try It". You'll be surprised how often you really do hit your irons pretty near the center and the modern blades have moved more weight to the toe (where amateurs miss most) to help out. I'm not talking about the "pure" blades like Tiger plays, but the ones that offer a little help. And think about this. The only way perimeter weighting can really help is if you have the clubhead on path, on plane and square at impact . . . but miss the sweet spot. The fact is, if you have all those things correct, you're probably going to hit it in the center anyway. And there's no question that these modern blades offer more consistent distance control -- I've seen it on the Iron Byron many times. Keep on chiming in, guys.
Terry: My first comment appears to have been lost in the cosmos of this web site, since I negelected to register first. The essence of it was this: "Real Men Play Tour Blades" and can play to high levels if they will practice enough to acquire the skill & feel to use these rather "efficient tools". It is similar to the skill required to drive a 16 penny nail with a 20oz. hammer to full penetration with two strikes vs the use of a 32oz "Club" used by most framers! I can still do that all day long! My PGA R-91 wedge (reground & backweighted), that has been my favorite since 1975, is a mirror image to your rather interesting new wedges that should work quite well as mine does! In closing I will say that "Real Golfers" can play vintage type clubs in an effective manner and score low if they practice properly. I do it all the time! JWHpurist
JWHpurist, though I am a "nostalgist", my recommendation about playing blade is based on pure science and technology -- more golfers can play them than the industry would lead us to believe -- the posts on these articles bear that out. But modern blades and wedges will outperform the classics . . . that's just a fact. But if you have clubs you like, then by all means play them. This game is for enjoyment, right. It's why I play a 400 cc driver -- I can't stand the look or sound of the big tin cans. Thanks for participating, and send me any questions or topics you'd like me to address here.
Terry: Would you believe the fact that I can work a ball better and maintain better skill level with my array of drivers that are about 1/2 the size of current "tin cans" and less than 10* loft? I have several tin cans that don't produce major improvements in results and I don't care for or have offsets. JWHpurist
I would believe that completely. Think about the raw physics of the golf club. If the head weighs 195 grams, then the bigger you make it, the further you move the weight from dead behind the impact area. Which would drive a nail faster -- a one pound sledge or a one pound skillet? Though the size does increase "forgiveness" of off center hits, and has us all swinging harder because "we can't miss", but the average dead center hit off of these is more and more rare. I swing an Alpha 400 cc driver and it's very long. I don't see that I need a large head in order to accommodate misses that far away from the sweet spot. We do know that regardless of head size, a miss by 1/2" causes a 7-12% loss of distance, and a 3/4" miss increases that to 15%. So, if you want to hit it further, slow down and hit the ball in the center of the face more often. That's why you occasionally "bomb" one -- the rare perfect strike!!!
Wedgeguy: Would you recommend (in order) 5 brands and style #s of Blades? I'm wanting to buy some based on all the conversations above and the other super-long thread from a while back. Like Titleist AP2, or Mizuno blah blah... Mizuno has me confused. I'm looking for FEEDBACK with a little forgiveness on the toe. Thanks in advance!
I am a 20 handicap player and I love the feeling o. The Titleist MB 710 blades, i tried a 6 iron with 5.5 project X shaft and it felt great, I went with a 6.0 project x shaft in the end, it felt better for me. I had lost all my confidene on my previous TM R7's as I was fitted incorrectly and I regret it very much, I basically changed my whole set, driver was the 2007'burner in regular flex. Now I'm hitting my TM R11 stiff 230 meters and loving every swing, I was hitting the 6 iron mb 150 meters so I went with the stiff shaft, I wish Titleist would have offered a disscount since the 712 is coming out in December
I'd go even further, and say that playing a blade AND an extra-stiff shaft is the ONLY way to learn how to swing properly
even notice how most pros are not any bigger or stronger than you?
in fact, you're probably bigger and stronger than they are
and almost all of them play X or more
the only advantage they have is proper technique
until you try an X shaft, you do not need to learn how to lead with the hands, or how to grip the club properly
but if you DON'T do that w/ an X, it'll sting you bad
you'll say 'damn, this thing is a tree trunk'
but it's not
lean on it and you'll see how easily it bends
it's just that your swing sucks
but when you DO start gripping properly, and leading with your hands (and not spilling your turn etc etc)
THEN you'll see how much straighter AND further a stiffer shaft flights the ball
and when you add the extra mass of a blade behind the ball, it goes even further
there's a reason pros hit a 5 iron 210 these days, and it's not just technique
a blade + an X is longer AND straighter
This comparison to a frying pan and hammer is only half correct.For one the best cavity back irons are forged today they literally jump off the face and will travel farther more often than blades so in essence they are actually more effecctive for distance than blades. Blades when hit dead center will go shorter but be more consistent the ball speed off the face will always be the same and so will the distance. Cavity backs will be around the same but sometimes jump of the face and get an extra 8 yards. Pga tour pros play them because they are effective and work great they launch higher and are more forgiving off the toe so the bottom line Today's cavity backs are better than some 90's ben hogan apex he was talking about,but on the other hand so are blades on pure strikes they will have more consistent distance control.
Another comparison to why this anology to a hammer and frying pan is bunk is 5 woods and tour 3 woods.Ever notice that good players and pros hit them like 250 and 275 yards yet they are hollow and with the comparison to cavitys they would then be ineffectice tools yet they perform 2 x better than old school solid persimmon woods. Im not knocking blades in fact I just traded a set of taylormade tour preferred irons for some mizuno mp-67 and the blades feel great but after comparison it's clear blades are straighter and do not fly as hot of the face. This is a great topic as we see technology progress Im sure the forged cavity will win out over blades simply get the loft and offset right and you have blade like control and trajectory with increased distance.
I have taken up playing golf in the last 2-3 months and I bought a cheap set of second hand Spalding blades. They must be 20 years old. Initially I found them hard to play with, but after a couple of lessons I'm hitting good distance with them and fairly accurate direction. I've looked at cavity backs but I don't get the right feel from them. I think when it comes to investing in a new set of clubs I'll be looking at blades. Can anyone recommend a good set of blades? David Robertson - Dundee, Scotland.
Rob Swanson says:
Absolutely not - maybe, for sure. Please read. This unfortunately is not at all accurate. I could spend more time explaining this, but if I hit a pure blade and a cavity back iron, both 1 mm from the center of gravity of the respective clubs, I will put much more spin on the ball struck with the blade than the cavity back. Conservation of momentum, however, says that regardless of how hard I try, momentum is conserved. That means that the spin (which involves angular momentum) must take away from the forward momentum of the ball. Simple as that. The question is, what is the trade-off, as one departs from the center of gravity of the two club faces, given the particular golfer's distribution or pattern of strikes on the club face. Any other view is simply way off base.
I absolutely agree. The bottom line is that if you mishit (not on the center of gravity - ie the sweet spot) you will create side spin.....turn the face and ultimately loose distance and accuracy.
When I was a 1-handicap (late teens-early 20's) I played with Ram Tour grinds (small head blade) - but I was playing at least 18 holes a day and hitting balls daily. The wear pattern on my mid-short irons was right on the sweet-spot. Since getting married (and having kids) - I play and practice a lot less (while the swing is roughly the same); I just didn't have the repeat-ability in my swing to have that small of a wear pattern. I switched to Ping Eye 2+ and gained an offset (for long irons) but gave up some feel and thus pin-point accuracy on short irons.
Now - with the kids teenagers and getting back to some more practice time ---- planning on trying to strike a balance with some cavity back forged clubs (like Adams CMB) for a blended set.
You have to take into consideration what cavity backs they play. It could be a small headed cavity back, which in turn gives the same effect as the sledge hammer annolgy. I hit a set of Mizuno MP 64 blades and could not believe the feel, and pop off the club. I to will be switching at some point. Also I have a set of Ping I 5 irons, they are smaller heads same effect somewhat.
slightly off topic but i feel the same way about drivers. these super huge heads that are so light just don't seem as solid to me as my old 195cc warbird driver. i know all the physics goes against this and all the pro's hit it further today...blah blah...blah...but i hit the warbird way more consistent and solid than any 460cc driver i tried.
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