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2010 Equipment Odyssey - Irons

TECHNOLOGY CONTINUES APACE AMONG THE LEADING GOLF MANUFACTURERS WITH A COMPREHENSIVE CROP OF EXCITING NEW GEAR IN ALL CATEGORIES. HAVING TRIED MOST OF THEM AT THE PGA MERCHANDISE SHOW IN ORLANDO, DOMINIC PEDLER BRINGS YOU A SELECTION OF THE BEST

PART 1 - IRONS & WEDGES - PART I
PART 2 - IRONS & WEDGES - PART II
PART 3 - DRIVERS & FAIRWAY WOODS - PART I
PART 4 - DRIVERS & FAIRWAY WOODS - PART II
PART 5 - PUTTERS

Miura wedges

The Japanese Miura company has long had a seriously cult reputation among tour pros and discerning amateurs.

Purists claim that the extreme quality of their forging process, combined with exceptional attention to detail, is what sets their clubs apart from the pack. The company explains that their painstaking 14-step process is unique in the way it rearranges the tightness in the grain structure of the mild steel into a pattern that is uniform throughout the clubface. Miura also uses a proprietary "spin welding" process to produce a highly most consistent hosel, ensuring that the bore depths and hosel heights are identical on every head and that the shaft is perfectly centered.

The mild steel wedges are a case in point: a precision forging finished in nickel chrome or black, and available in six lofts from 50 to 60 degrees, fitted with a Velvet Full Cord grip. £170. www.golfballistix.com

Cobra S2 and S2 Forged irons

Cobra's S2 irons are a pronounced perimeter weighted design cast from 431 stainless steel but with various multi-material design features. These include an exclusive polymer topline and toe insert; an expanded urethane sole insert and a vibration dampening back plate. The lightweight materials free up mass, working together to lower the CG, increase MOI and enhance feel, all while yielding improved launch, accuracy and distance.

The unusual, mid-width stepped sole is designed to provide the forgiveness of a wide sole but with the more turf-resistant performance of a narrower sole. Meanwhile, Cobra's S2 Forged is a cavity back offering far more forgiveness than a traditional forged muscleback but with the feel and response associated with a soft 1025 carbon steel. The irons are targeted to accomplished players seeking distance and forgiveness, and come fitted with the Nippon NS Pro 1130 Shaft and Golf Pride Tour Velvet grip. Both S2 models feature the company's trademark 9-Point technology which effectively widens the sweetspot.

A third model, the ultra-forgiving S2Max model is expected to complete the 2010 series and we hope to bring you details next month. Cobra S2 irons (5-SW) £479 steel; £599 graphite (also in Women's, and Seniors). S2 Forged irons (3- PW) £749. www.cobragolf.co.uk

Cleveland CG15 wedges

"2010 is The Year Of The Wedge," pronounced Cleveland's wedge expert, Scott Carlyle, as he introduced the new Cleveland CG15 wedge at the Orlando Demo Day. "Any amateurs buying a wedge this year will be at a substantial advantage as they can play them for another 14 years," he added, referring to the end-year deadline for purchasing clubs with extra large, high spinning grooves such as Cleveland's famous Zip design. But the CG15 also features highly novel face markings made by a new laser milling method of roughening the surface of the clubface between the grooves to provide additional friction on the ball. Specifically, laser milling exploits the USGA 'roughness' limit of 0.001-inches between surface 'peak and troughs' and was developed by Cleveland while looking for ways to compensate for the reduction in spin implied by the forthcoming new rules. "Laser Milling reduces the natural tendency for a golf ball to slip up the face of a highly-lofted club - a factor which affects the amount of spin a player can put on the golf ball irrespective of the configuration of the actual grooves," says Ben Davis, Cleveland's UK Marketing chief. "When, in 2011, we have to manufacture all clubs to the new groove protocol, this technology will help compensate significantly for the reduction in spin from the rough."

Laser milling is therefore already legal and already in play on the conforming-grooved Cleveland wedges of many US Tour players, such as Vijay Singh and David Toms. With its rounded leading edge and a new S-Sole shape sporting a shallower toe section (that allows for more playable open-faced shots), the CG15 will be offered in some 70 options covering Black Pearl, Satin Chrome and Oil Quench finishes. Lofts of 46 through 64 degrees. £99. www.clevelandgolf.com

TaylorMade R9 irons

A winner at the Golf Europe product awards, last autumn, Taylor Made's R9 iron caught the judges eye for its novel Velocity Control Chamber: a fully enclosed compartment positioned behind the clubface that allows a large area of the thin face to exist unsupported.

It's a novel attempt to increase distance by increasing the flexibility of the face (especially in the long irons where the face is thinner) and hence the COR - which is not subject to the same regulations as drivers.

The chamber is also filled with a heat-treated proprietary foam and backed with a distinctive silicone insert for an exceptional feeling, high-launching iron.

The R9 also combines traditional looks and game improvement features such as a deep undercut cavity, heel toe weighting and a beveled sole to reduce turf resistance. Expect a £699/£799 price tag for eight pieces fitted with KBS steel or Fujikura Motore graphite shaft. There's also an R9TP version (£729) already a hit on tour, with Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen and Paula Creamer among those to make the immediate switch to a set which also has a forgiving 2- iron option. www.taylormadegolf.eu

Mizuno MP-58 irons

As mentioned in our Planet Golf report on the Orlando PGA Show, Mizuno's Shaft Optimiser gets our vote for the most practical new club fitting initiative of 2010 (so far) for the way it so efficiently suggests appropriate shafts for you to try, according to your personal 'swing DNA'.

Of course, being Mizuno's own device, you'll be encouraged to try out their own equipment, which is no hardship given the impressive new iron ranges on offer for 2010 in both the more workable MP category and the more forgiving MX line. The MP-58 (£105 per club, steel shaft) is grabbing particular attention for the way it seamlessly fuses a strip of lightweight titanium at the rear of the club to allow a discrete re-allocation of steel at the edges for a touch of perimeter weighting without compromising aesthetics at address, or playability. Over in the MX category, the MX-300 was also securing rave reviews (and various US media awards) for the design principle that sees a milled pocket cavity in the 3-7 irons give way to a more solid, workable 'power bar' construction in the purer 8-iron through gap wedge. Meanwhile, the hollow bodied MX-1000s (£105 steel/£125 graphite) offer the impressive Y-Tune weighting configuration that expands the sweetspot into the toe and, along with the wide soles, contributes to an exceptionally stable, high-launching and user-friendly design. www.mizunoeurope.com/golf

Srixon Z-TX irons

The centerpiece of Srixon's new Z-TX range is the set of premium forged irons whose stepped-sole design is an ingenious touch. Here, the toe and heel areas are slightly raised relative to the centre section, allowing the face itself to be reassuringly longer and larger (some 20 per cent) but without the potentially destructive turf drag at impact as only the shorter sole section interacts with the ground.

The Z-TX irons are fashioned from 1025 carbon steel and enjoy a further proprietary heat treatment before the chrome finishing stage, resulting in a great feeling club - as we can confirm from Demo Day testing. In addition, 5 grams of tungsten at the heel and toe provide increased MOI for more stability and forgiveness at impact while also contributing to the high-launching ballflight.

Finally, in a great example of Japanese attention to detail, the long, mid and short irons apparently have varying groove angles in order to create consistent spin control and distance gaps throughout the set. Be sure to check out the equally impressive Z-TX driver (with its face made from the latest highly elastic, rolled titanium dubbed Super Ti-X5), as well as the fairways and hybrids. £549 (graphite), £499 steel. www.srixon.co.uk

Titleist AP2 2010 irons

The 2010 versions of Titleist best-selling AP irons sport some subtle but important refinements.

The highly forgiving, cast AP1 and the more workable forged AP2 are both multi-material constructions with a tungsten sole bar. However, in the new models, the aluminium plate and soft elastomer in the rear cavity are now attached directly to the face plate delivering a far more 'tuned', satisfying feel and sound. The bounce angle in the 7 through PW has also been eased by one degree for better action through the turf. Meanwhile, Titleist has two other impressive new forgings in their 2010 range: the deliciously pure MB muscleback and the CB with its gently recessed cavity back. These are Titleist's latest 'classic' irons for the better golfer and feature a notably softer topline and slightly rounder toe than previous models. They can also be 'mixed 'n'matched' according to each golfer's need for workability/forgiveness through the set. Titleist AP1 irons (4-PW) £575 (steel), £675 (graphite). AP2 irons (3-PW) £835 (steel). MB and CB irons (3-PW) £835 (steel). www.titleist.co.uk

Titleist Vokey Spin Milled C.C wedges

Titleist's master wedge craftsman, Bob Vokey, wouldn't be drawn at Orlando on what he thought of the new groove rule but he has certainly been busy designing a conforming alternative to his legendary Vokey Spin Milled Series for his legions of tour pros that have had to make the switch. The C-C model stands for Condition of Competition and is the result of testing some 30 different possible groove alternatives within the USGA's new rules on volume and edge radius, which have been in the news lately. Aside from the grooves, Vokey is keen to stress that the head of this £100 club retains the classic teardrop shape of his existing Spin Milled series, cast from super soft 8620 carbon steel.

And he reminded us that amateurs can still purchase - and play - those higher-spinning versions, all with individually cut, CNC-machined grooves and three finish options. These are the rich, non-glare Tour Chrome; the Oil Can oxide finish that will age over time leaving a raw surface; and the dark, non-glare Black Nickel.

Loft options from 48 to 64 degrees (in 2-degree increments and in multiple bounce options). www.titleist.co.uk

Callaway X-Series Jaws wedges

"Jaws makes you think bite," said Callaway's wedge guru, Roger Cleveland at January's PGA Show introducing his latest model. He went onto explain that the infamous Mac Daddy grooves were affectionately named by Phil Mickelson who had demanded "the biggest, most massive groove that he could possibly get in his wedge so he could really chew the ball and get not just more spin but also more consistent distance control."

While Big Phil will no longer be able to use them on Tour, the X-Series Jaws wedges remain on sale through 2010 (and playable for amateurs until 2024). They are targeted to low-handicappers keen to exploit the sharp groove edges and extra volume while also appreciating the 'C-Grind' sole within the triple-forged head.

"The C-Grind refers to the reduced bounce in the heel and the toe - which creates a C-shaped configuration on the sole," explained Cleveland. "Especially in the case of the heel, this 'relief' allows the golfer to open up the face while still having the leading edge flush to the ground. It makes the club very versatile." Choose from a soft milky chrome (£79) and Dark Vintage (£89) finishes, in 52- up to 60-degree loft options. www.callawaygolf.com

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine





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