ClubTest 2020: 5 game-improvement irons offering impressive carry numbers

When attempting to determine the best set of irons for your game, it’s important to weigh what you’re seeing and feeling versus the numbers showing up on a launch monitor to ensure you’re getting a club that performs as well as it looks. Every golfer is going to have different aesthetic and performance preferences.

If you’re a single-digit handicap, chances are you don’t require an iron that goes an extra 10 yards. You have a specific number in mind and don’t want to deviate from what you know. On the other hand, if you’re in the 15-plus handicap range, it’s very likely distance and forgiveness are at the top of the wants list.

These game-improvement irons might not appeal to the better player — although you may want to consider them for a blended set — but they’re packed with the kind of technology a mid-handicapper is going to appreciate, especially if you’re looking to max out carry distance.

The latest edition of GOLF’s ClubTest 2020 spotlight takes a look at five game-improvement irons that displayed impressive carry distance numbers — how far the ball travels in the air — during robot and player testing.

Bridgestone JGR HF1

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Bridgestone JGR HF1

A Power Slit Face design raises ball speeds and launch on off-center hits.
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Set: 6-PW
Our take: Built for maximum distance and forgiveness (and true value) with a thick, hollow-cavity design and an extremely low CG. A Power Slit Face design raises ball speeds and launch on off-center hits.
ClubTester’s take (16-hdcp): “Back flange is on the wider side and gives me confidence at address.”
Robot’s take: Ranked top 3 in ball speed retention, low spin in the category.

Callaway Mavrik Max

Callaway Mavrik Max

Custom tungsten-infused weights and a 360 face cup allow for extreme center-of-gravity precision and enhanced ball speeds.
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Set: 4-PW
Our take: Callaway’s Mavrik irons are getting the Artificial Intelligence treatment this time around. With a supercomputer designing the face of all three models in the lineup, every loft now has its own unique trajectory, spin rate and peak height to bring out the best characteristics in each iron. Custom tungsten-infused weights — the location changes based on loft — and a 360 face cup allow for extreme center-of-gravity precision and enhanced ball speeds. The moderately larger profile and deeper center of gravity location ensures maximum mishit protection and an easy launch. To pump up the overall feel at impact, Callaway’s patented urethane microspheres were added just behind the face cup to absorb unwanted vibrations and tune sound. What makes the spheres even more appealing is that they don’t negatively affect speed.
Excelled in accuracy and launch during robot testing — two areas mid to high handicappers struggle with on a regular basis. Important to note Mavrik Max’s lofts were made slightly weaker (compared to the standard version) to ensure the ball gets in the air with relative ease.
ClubTester’s take (15-hdcp): “The topline doesn’t look like a game improvement iron, which I really appreciate. Effortless launch and feel have me strongly contemplating if it’s time for an iron change.”
Robot’s take: At the top in the Game Improvement category in terms of accuracy throughout the set. If you struggle with launch, the Max is there to assist.

Cobra King SpeedZone

Cobra King SpeedZone

A forged PWRShell insert and undercut design enhance the trampoline effect on the responsive face.
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Set: 4-PW
Our take: All-new topline made of carbon fiber allows more weight to be positioned low in the head to max out mishit protection. A forged PWRShell insert and undercut design enhance the trampoline effect on the responsive face.
ClubTester’s take (13-hdcp): “Carbon fiber on the crown is a nice touch. Was worried it might be too busy.”
Robot’s take: Strong speed and carry values. Cobra has a winner here.

TaylorMade SIM Max

TaylorMade SIM Max

The SIM Max checks all the boxes for a game improvement model. Robot testing revealed an iron that was, on average, three yards longer in the carry department than the competition.
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Set: 4-LW
Our take: The vast majority of high-handicap golfers don’t find the middle of the face with regularity. It’s a fact of life. TaylorMade’s SIM Max is designed to make things a bit easier with a package centered around mitigating mishits. The iron is highlighted by an ultrathin 1.5-millimeter face, along with a 360 undercut in the cavity that delivers ample horsepower. TaylorMade’s Inverted Cone Technology expands the sweet spot, but instead of continuing to place it in the center of the face for every iron, it was purposely placed closer to the toe in the long irons (historical club data contributed to the adjustment) to generate a draw bias. An Echo Dampening System in the lower portion of the cavity pairs with a mass-efficient beam spanning the back bar to remove unwanted vibrations around the perimeter. It also provides the multimaterial iron with the buttery feel of a forged-construction product.
The SIM Max checks all the boxes for a game improvement model. Robot testing revealed an iron that was, on average, three yards longer in the carry department than the competition. Mishits still produced favorable results. Positive feedback during player testing reinforced SIM Max’s spot near the top of the Game Improvement pecking order.
ClubTester’s take (15-hdcp): “Futuristic look with out-of-this-world technology. Feels like I can miss it anywhere and the ball still goes.”
Robot’s take: A top-3 Game Improvement in ball speed retention, carry and overall forgiveness.

Wilson D7

Wilson D7

With more holes located in the long irons versus the short, golfers can expect to find extra distance at the top of the set.
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Set: 5-GW
Our take: Wilson’s urethane-filled Power Holes, situated in the sole, exist to increase face deflection and speed. With more holes located in the long irons versus the short, golfers can expect to find extra distance at the top of the set.
ClubTester’s take (17-hdcp): “Has all the traits I want: forgiveness, distance and a reasonably sized profile.”
Robot’s take: A carry distance leader in the Game Improvement class.

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Jonathan Wall

Golf.com

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour.