When you think about TaylorMade, you probably think metal woods, particularly drivers. Which makes sense as the company pioneered those game-changing clubs back in the late 1970s, and continues to dominate the category.
But overlooked is TaylorMade’s stature, both in sales and technology, in irons, with the company reporting a 27 percent share of the iron market in the U.S. last year. It has quietly captured first place in iron sales, and given my recent test of the newest game-improvement iron, called SpeedBlade, that lead could grow—and not so quietly. These irons are worth shouting about.
The claims made for SpeedBlade are simple: longer shots and higher launch. In the company’s own testing, the 6-iron picked up almost 10 yards and a 4 percent higher peak trajectory that their Tour Burner iron, which debuted in 2009. My experience matches theirs: I picked up significant extra yardage and hit the ball noticeably higher. I must amend that by saying that I went for a club-fitting at a TaylorMade Performance Lab first, so the SpeedBlades I tried have a lightweight steel shaft, about 25 percent lighter than the shafts I’d used in previous TaylorMade irons. Still, the yardage and flight differences are very real.
Making the irons hot is a combination of a lower center of gravity (CG) and a bit of visible technology called Speed Pocket. TaylorMade’s engineers lowered the CG, to get shots in the air higher and faster, without changing the clean lines and look of the club, particularly the sole. We’ve all seen low-CG clubs with bulbous, unsightly bottoms. There’s obviously more weight down there but the Speed Blades still look sleek and sit well on the turf.
Turn the head over to see the Speed Pocket, a slot in the sole of the 3-7 irons that allows the clubface to flex and rebound at impact for added speed and power. (You can see it in the three clubs from the left, above.) I also found, as promised, that the feel is enhanced: I can’t remember hitting so many good, and good feeling, long irons. I was nearly a club longer with the 4- and 5-irons, easing the transition to my hybrid and fairway woods, smoothing out the gaps and providing me with other options off the tee. (TaylorMade obviously likes its Speed Pocket, which also shows up in the new Tour Preferred clubs it just released for better players.)
Two other characteristics worth noting. First, while Speed Blade is a game-improvement club, it is very workable, high and low, left and right. Second, shots hit away from the sizeable sweetspot didn’t lose much juice.
Again, I have to give credit to the club-fitting I underwent for these clubs, a process I wrote about a few weeks back. With Performance Labs situated around the country, TaylorMade has made a strong commitment to fitting. I was able to try at least half-a-dozen different shafts in the irons and see precise—and eye-opening—readouts of the results.
As Speed Blades show, clubs have never been better. But along with that, the options, particularly shafts, have never been greater, and the ability to determine your perfect set make-up and specifications, never easier. That’s a win-win-win for the golf consumer.
Set of eight clubs: $799, steel; $899, graphite
By: James A. Frank