This PGA Tour winner’s latest gear change is one to adopt | Fully Equipped

Fowler went from playing blades to cavity-back irons.

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Two years ago, Kevin Na made a bold statement when he admitted to GOLF.com that he couldn’t play blade irons. “I can’t play a blade,” Na said. “It’s too difficult, and I’m a pro golfer. I think a blade goes shorter. Off-center hits aren’t going to perform as well as cavity-backs. I don’t see a reason why you’d want to play a blade. I really don’t. I played blades in my early 20s, maybe one year — when I was dumb. But I’m wiser now and play a cavity-back.”

As we learned this week, Na isn’t the only tour winner who seems to be getting wise to the benefits of cavity-back irons. Rickie Fowler also added a set of unreleased Cobra King Tour irons to the bag for the PGA Tour’s season-opening event in Napa that featured a more generous profile when compared to the Cobra muscleback blades he was playing most recently.

Like Na, Fowler found a benefit that most weekend golfers crave: More consistency and stability.

“[T]he ones a groove or two low, the misses weren’t as short,” he told PGATOUR.com. “I’d see some, if I hit the MB or the CB a little thin, distances could drop anywhere from 7, 8, 9 yards. I was seeing these more in the 4, 5, 6 (range). A few yards here and there can make a big difference.”

The average golfer might not notice a carry distance delta of 3 yards between iron sets, but you can be certain a pro is going to pick up on the improvement very quickly. Improvements in technology and design have also made it possible to stay in a more compact profile and still reap the mishit benefits a perimeter-weighted cavity-back iron provides.

To be clear, this isn’t an anti-blade piece. As Fully Equipped co-host Ryan Barath noted on the latest podcast, blades still have a place — in certain situations.

“I love playing blades,” said Barath. “But I don’t play blades on a 7,200-yard golf course. If I’m playing blades, it’s on a course that’s 6,200 or 6,300 yards. I’m not hitting the 5-iron that often unless it’s on a par-3 and I know I’m going to have a great lie. Whereas if you’re a golfer in a different category and playing really long golf holes — you’re going go to want technology.

“It’s fun to hit those short irons and blades if you’re playing a shorter course. But if you need to hit those mid and long irons — and you’re not a longer player — and you start getting into a 6,600- or 6,800-yard course, that’s a lot of yardage for a lot of golfers. If you can get a little help with something that isn’t super big but still fits your eye, that’s the way to go.”

Fellow co-host Kris McCormack also pointed out a lesser-known benefit that makes cavity-back irons the preferred option for golfers of all playing abilities.

“You also take into the amount of pressure [pros] are under if they’re in contention or need to post a number to make the cut, sometimes having the ability to just miss a little bit with more tech or forgiveness in the bag, it makes more sense than having a top-to-bottom set of forged blades.”

Whether you’re coming down the stretch in a money game or have a win on the line, a little bit of forgiveness can come in handy. And if you absolutely must play blades, consider the idea of going with a split set and using them in the short irons. The misses won’t be near as penalizing.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2022? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.

JWall

Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

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.