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2010 Equipment Odyssey - Irons



Cleveland Golf HB3 irons

Cleveland was one of the first companies to exploit hybrid technology throughout a complete set of irons to stunning effect. Twelve months ago we suggested the second generation HiBore XLi model was among the most forgiving sets we have ever tested. As one rival journo volunteered at a media day: "if you can't hit these, you shouldn't be playing golf!".

Well, in the spirit of progress, Cleveland's R&D department have refined the concept still further with the HB3 which the company claims are now even lighter, faster and longer than previous HiBores. Part of this is down to latest Action Ultralite graphite shafts which are 15g lighter and have a lower kick point than those of their predecessor, promoting both faster clubhead speeds for the same swing energy and an even higher launch.

And as with the XLi, the shafts are ½-an inch longer than standard, which also explains some of the distance benefit. Yet any fears of loss of control are comfortably eased by the extremely forgiving head which now offers advanced internal weighting and an even more forgiving sole design where contouring has been subtly improved to reduce turf drag on impact.

Yes, the HB3s sport supremely chunky soles and an almost metalwood like appearance in what is a seamless transition all the way from long irons to wedge, but they genuinely deliver on their promise of easy-to-hit, hybrid-like performance. It goes without saying that the HB3 is not a set for shot-shaping purists, and the blatant game improvement features will invite accusations that this as the ultimate set for the well-heeled hacker. Don't listen to them, if you can swallow your macho pride, the reality is that the HB3 will suit golfers of any skill level who just want to make the game a hell of a lot easier.

Guide price: £499 (steel) and £599 (graphite).

Cobra S2 Max irons

In Part I we introduced the first two of Cobra's S2 iron trilogy. These were the stainless steel, perimeter-weighted S2 with its polymer topline and toe insert and expanded urethane sole insert with a vibration-dampening back plate. Also, the S2 Forged, a soft 1025 carbon steel cavity back targeted to more accomplished players seeking distance, feel and response - but also more forgiveness than a traditional forged muscleback.

These are now joined by the S2 Max, an ultra-game improvement iron for the mid- to high-handicapper seeking maximum forgiveness. As well as featuring Cobra's trademark 9-Point technology which effectively widens the sweetspot, the club has very low-profile, widesole design which updates the previous S9 model with contouring that considerably reduces turf drag.

We especially like the fact that the S2 Max is available as an Iron- Hybrid set, kicking off with three chunky metalwood-style hybrids clearly inspired by Cobra's famous Baffler (see below) but with even larger heads for a high-MOI, ultra-stable performance. There's also been close attention to gapping with the S2 Max showing consistent and reliable distances from one club to the next.

There was much talk in Orlando that the pitching wedge measures just 43° of loft, but we had no trouble getting an appropriate ball flight - presumably due to the compensating effect of the heads' exceptionally low centre of gravity and the low kick-point of the Aldila NVS-HL (High Launch) graphite shafts.

Cobra S2 Max (5-SW) £379 (steel)/ £449 (graphite); S2 Max Iron- Hybrid set £589 (graphite only; 4, 5, 6 hybrid & 7-SW irons).

Srixon XX10 "6" irons

Perennially huge in Japan, Srixon's special XX10 brand continues to treat European golfers to select models from their very stylish range.

The "6" series is a premium offering in terms of quality, technology and design (not to mention price!) and comes in a complete range of drivers, fairways and utilities with the centerpiece being a sumptuous set of titanium-headed irons.

Requiring considerably more R&D than steel to exploit fully the forgiving potential of the lightweight material, Srixon's scientists have combined a lighter face with a special "Power dumbbell weight" in the hollow sole. This makes the clubs deliberately heavier in the toe and heel for an expanded MOI for extra stability, while also optimizing ball speed on shots hit toward the peripheries of the face. As well as accuracy considerations, the MP 600 shafts are especially designed for the "6" series heads and feature a flexible tip to help increase dynamic loft but also more head speed and distance when combined with the Auto Impact Technology of the clubhead. There is also a comprehensive range of new Lady XX10 irons with their own stylish cosmetics.

XX10 Mens Irons: £1,100, set of 8 clubs (5- 9 PW, AW & SW), 4-iron optional. XX10 Lady Irons. £825, set of 6 clubs (7-9 PW, AW & SW), 5- & 6-irons optional.

Benross VX Proto Irons

Last year we raved about Benross's ability to deliver premium quality irons at exceptional value prices, with the VX51 Forged model being a prime example. Continuing the trend are the new VX Proto irons combining a forgiving cavity back for very effective perimeter weighting and a head shape which will be appreciated by mid-handicappers and more accomplished golfers requiring forgiveness.

But the VX Proto is also a 'player's club' in the sense of the narrower sole and generally compact head of both the irons and the specialist 52° and 56° 'Zip It' wedges included in the set. The key to the design is the thin face technology which frees enough weight for a subtly undercut cavity and the extreme heel and toe weighting. The irons come standard with a choice of True Temper Dynamic Lite steel or Aldila DVS-I graphite shafts. £279 (steel), £329 (graphite).

MD Golf Norman Drew Signature Wedges

While MD Golf's design collaboration with Seve Ballesteros has taken most of the headlines, the company's Norman Drew Signature series of wedges has been one of their most popular products and is now offered in a new standard bounce model for 2010.

MD teamed up with the legendary Irish shortgame specialist (and former Walker Cup and Ryder Cup player) back in 2007, and his first wedge was an immediate success - especially with links players. By reducing the bounce by some 50% compared to a standard design, the leading edge sat distinctively flush to the ground to allow the golfer to nip the ball and maximize spin from the tight lies associated with close-cropped turf. But the aesthetically pleasing head shape, CNC milled face and receptive grooves were also so well received that the line is now extended to include a more standard bounce model. Directed this time more to parkland players, the new sole is designed to limit turf drag on heavier grass and wetter ground.

The new model also comes in a fashionable black PVD finish and is available in lofts of between 52° and 60°, in 2° increments.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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