Gear Test: 2017 Bladed Irons
Irons in their purest form, blades or muscleback irons, are aimed predominantly at tour players and elite amateurs known for their ball striking prowess and for golfers that prioritise a soft feel and workability over forgiveness or distance. They normally come around every 3-4 years but this year, four new models from leading manufacturers have been launched and we’re really spoilt for choice!
With the differences in performance as well as feel and sound so difficult to detect, we even enlisted the help of a decibel meter on our phone to detect subtle differences between the four irons.
We hit all four using premium golf balls on our GC2 Launch Monitor to collect performance data, hitting 10 shots and deleting the three worst to leave seven counting shots for each club.
All the blades have got some sort of channel through the middle of the back of the clubhead, to position mass behind the face while creating a thin topline. They’ve all got a shiny, polished finish apart from the Mizuno, which has more of a matte finish. The Titleist has the thinnest topline, the Mizuno the thickest with the Callaway and TaylorMade somewhere in between.
The TaylorMade and Mizuno have a much flatter soles, which means you’ve got to be more precise with your ball striking, while the sole on the Titleist 718 MB is more rounded, which should be more forgiving through the turf.
Sound plays a big part in how we interpret a golf club’s feel. Generally, a quieter sound translates into a softer feel and vice versa.
So did our decibel meter help us? Before we used it, we had an inkling that the Mizuno was marginally the quieter of the four, the Titleist was perhaps the loudest and the Callaway and TaylorMade somewhere in between.
As we suspected, the Mizuno generated the quietest sound at 63 decibels, the Callaway and TaylorMade 64 decibels and Titleist 65 decibels. So not much in it, but it appeared to back up our theory of the Mizuno being the softest feeling of the four blades.
As expected, the irons with the higher lofts (the Titleist and TaylorMade) averaged 155 yards of carry while the Mizuno and Callaway averaged 157 and 158 yards respectively.
Interestingly, the Titleist 718 MB produced the highest peak height and spin, surely contributing the extra stopping power due to a steeper descent angle, while the TaylorMade, despite being 35˚, produced the lowest spin.
Ball speed was slightly down on the TaylorMade by 2mph compared to the rest but all of them offered consistent distance control and a surprising level of forgiveness for irons of such a compact size.
You’ll notice the performance of the Callaway Apex MB and Mizuno MP-18 was almost identical, with the Apex MB offering marginally less spin, which could well have been the reason for the extra yards of distance.
So with all four blades sounding and performing very similarly, how could we pick a winner? We’re nit picking, but the Titleist perhaps flew a touch too high, which would be a worry in the wind, while the TaylorMade didn’t quite offer the forgiveness of the others. All of them were able to shape the ball at will, so were equal in that regard.
The only deciding factors we could come up with the separate the Mizuno and Callaway was the looks and value for money. We preferred the matte finish of the Mizuno over the shiny finish on the Callaway and the Mizuno MP-18 comes in a touch cheaper – £135 per club which equates to £945 for a seven-piece set, around £100 less expensive than the Callaway Apex MB.
For these reasons, we’re crowning the Mizuno MP-18 the king of the musclebacks.