Game-Improvement Irons test 2016

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If you want help getting your handicap down this summer, look no further than this great test.

PING G

£92 (s) £104 (g) Per club

Availability: 4–LW (inc UW, SW)

Stock shafts: AWT 2.0 (s); CFS (g)

7-iron loft and length: 30.5°/37in

Tech: Heat-treated to make the heads 40% stronger than the 17-4 steel Ping traditionally use in their irons. COR-Eye technology behind the face encourages more of the face, top rail and sole to ex at impact to increase ball speeds.

We Say: The G scores very highly across the board. Looks-wise they are a massive improvement on Ping's G30, which itself was very good. The head is far less chunky, which means they'll appeal to lots more golfers. Looking at our data the G is right at the top of the class for ball speed and carry distance and with drop-offs on imperfect strikes being as low as 1.2mph (ball speed) and three yards of carry, they make for some seriously accurate and forgiving approaches on the golf course.

Verdict: Seriously good, and a step up from G30. Lots of game-improvement irons talk of combining the look of a players' iron in a game-improvement chassis, but don't quite get it right. The G pulls off that combo superbly.

TAYLORMADE PSi

£799 (s) £899 (g)

Availability: 3-SW (inc AW, stock set 4/5-PW)

Stock shafts: KBS C-Taper Lite (s); Kuro Kage (g)

7-iron loft and length: 31.5°/36.75in

Tech: There's an ultra-thin (sub 2mm) face to max face ex, along with a Cut- Thru Speed Pocket sole and Face Slots to max ball speeds particularly when shots are hit low on the face. Multi-material dampening system in the cavity badge tunes feel.

We say: TaylorMade often makes bold distance claims for its new launches – and the PSi delivered them for us. We've tried to avoid talking about distance, as with different sets having different lofts it's not really fair to compare. But the PSi recorded the joint-longest average carry distance and it didn't have the strongest loft. It goes without saying the head shape is very solid without masses of offset and we particularly liked how we hit shots a massive 1.5cm off-centre and still only lost six yards of carry distance. Thanks, face slots!

Verdict: They performed superbly. It's worth remembering that the 3-7 iron are cast while the 8-SW are forged, so you get extra playability in the longer irons and more control and feel where you need it in the short ones.

TITLEIST 716 AP2


£117 (s) £133 (g) per club

Availability: 3-GW

Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT

7-iron loft and length: 34°/37in


Tech: A co-forged construction delivers tour- proven performance, with high-density tungsten weighting on the toe and heel aligning the centre of gravity perfectly with the centre of the face for maximum ball speed and MOI performance.

We Say: With a loft of 34° the AP2 is almost a club weaker than some on test, so it was never going to challenge on pure distance, but it more than made up for it with forgiveness and playability thanks to the extreme tungsten toe and heel weighting. TG Editor Chris Jones posted some seriously consistent numbers with the AP2. Just 2mph drop-off in ball speed and only ve yards of carry distance between centre and off-centre hits means they'd deliver very consistent and accurate results on the course.

Verdict: A lovely iron that's played by the world No.1. They're for reasonable ballstrikers, and if that's you the 56g of tungsten weighting really improves MOI for consistent shotmaking.

COBRA KING F6


£499 (s) £599 (g)


Availability: 3-SW inc GW (stock set 4-PW or 5-SW)

Stock shafts: FST Flighted (s); Matrix Red Tie 65Q4 (g)

7-iron loft and length: 30°/37.25in

Tech: The 'TecFlo' set features different body constructions in the long, mid and short irons to enhance playability and maximise control. Two different types of steel and different groove shapes enhance feel and control in the short irons and deliver better playability in the long irons.

We say: Cobra has created one of the most hi- tech game improvement sets of irons ever in the F6. Everything about each individual iron is tailored to its particular use, from the steel it's made from to the body construction and type of grooves on the face. That deserves to be applauded, especially at this price. We loved how each club looks really playable, with con dence- inspiring long and mid- irons and tidy short irons that you feel you can score with. How often do we say that about game- improvement irons?

Verdict: With our longest shots coming from both the heel and toe Cobra's engineers have got a lot right with the F6. Worth a place on your shortlist.

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NIKE VAPOR FLY PRO


£699 (s)

Availability: 4-PW(stock set 4-PW)

Stock shaft: True Temper XP95

7-iron loft and length: 32°/37.75in

Tech: Hollow-body long irons are teamed with pocket cavity mid and cavity back short irons to incorporate the best of both worlds into a single set. Flybeam construction stiffens the body to deliver fast and consistent ball speeds from a wider area while Nike's RZN material lowers and deepens the CG location for higher and longer ball ights.

We say: Nike have cleverly teamed a mid-size head and limited offset of a better-player iron with the playability of a game- improvement model.
Two of the testers really warmed to the Fly Pro, liking the looks, feel and playability and both said they'd happily game the set themselves. With a loft of 32° the Pro is a couple of degrees weaker than the strongest on test, so it's unfair to compare them directly on carry distance, but they were bang on the average carry distance and ball speed for all tested.

Verdict: Thanks to their excellent combination of construction style, shape and size they're suited to a very wide range of golfers.

SRIXON Z 545

£690

Availability: 3-PW (stock set 5-PW)

Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold (s)

7-iron loft and length: 31°/37in

Tech: SUP 10 spring steel faces are combined with soft 1020 carbon steel bodies for a smooth but energetic feel. A Tour VT sole improves turf interaction so less energy is lost at impact and dispersion is improved.

We say: Game-improver irons have come a long way from the massive, wide- soled beasts of old, and the Z 545 highlights perfectly how elegant the tech can look. To our eyes the head sits perfectly behind the ball, with a top edge that's not awkward or intruding; from above you have no idea how much game- improving tech is disguised under such a good-looking shell. The data proved that tech worked, too. A tiny 1.1mph ball speed drop off and less than ve yards of carry drop off between centre and off-centre hits means the spring steel faces are doing a great job at normalising ball speeds across the face for great consistency.

Verdict: A lovely-looking club with a ton of tech wrapped in a sleek exterior. Pleasantly surprised by the performance.

YONEX Z-FORCE

£349 (s) £499 (g)

Availability: 5-SW

Stock shafts: FST 115 (s); Yonex M60 (g)

7-iron loft and length: 29°/37in

Tech: A double undercut cavity construction increases the size of the sweetspot, so you get maximum power teamed with forgiveness. A deep cavity back, wide soles and offset all help to maximise playability.

We Say: All three testers said the Z-Force was the chunkiest game-improver iron they tested, but that's not a criticism. Yes, the Z's got a big bonce, but that size increases forgiveness and combining that with decent looks means you get a pretty potent mix. The head did have a strong loft, but it doesn't have any speed pocket technology and still managed to deliver a ball speed within 1mph of the very quickest, and a carry distance to match. Our longest shot came 1cm out of the toe and 1cm below the centre of the face, which shows how the Zs certainly don't punish off-centre hits.

Verdict: A very strong performance from an iron that we weren't expecting big things of. A really simple design that works incredibly well. Great value, too.

WILSON STAFF C200


£499 (s) £599 (g)

Availability: 3-GW (stock set 4-PW)

Stock shafts: KBS Tour 90 (s); Aldila Rogue Pro (g)

7-iron loft and length: 32°/37.50in

Tech: Urethane- lled 'Power Holes' surround the perimeter of the head so only 24% of the face touches the body, which Wilson says maximises face ex and ball speed.

We say: Wilson certainly haven't been backwards in coming forwards to tell us how good they think the FLXface technology is on their C200 iron. We'd love to say it ramped up ball speeds and carry distances for all three testers, but that wasn't quite the case. Yes, the C200 is powerful, but our stats show particularly at higher swing speeds the C200 imparts a lot of spin, which means the ball's energy is spent going up, rather than forward. As far as cosmetics go, the Power Holes really don't distract attention at address.

Verdict: A decent performance from a tech heavy iron. We'd say it's particularly well suited to mid swing speeds.

BENROSS HTX TYPE R


£379 (s) £429 (g)

Availability: 4-SW(stock set 5-SW)

Stock shafts: KBS Tour 90 (s); Kuro Kage (g)

7-iron loft and length: 30°/37.25in

Tech: The Type R features a heat-treated cup face to deliver the best spring face performance of any Benross iron. Progressive top line varies in width through the set to inspire con dence.

We Say: Benross is talking similar tech to Ping, Callaway and TaylorMade with heat treatments, cup faces and speed slots on the Type R. It's only fair then to say that our data showed it performed very similarly to the best game- improvement irons on test. With a ball speed just 1mph down on the very quickest and a carry distance to rival the best (albeit from a strong loft), the Type R is a very good iron. It will really appeal to its target audience with quite a long blade to to maximise playability in quite a slim
head.

Verdict: Seriously strong performance, especially when you consider the price and those stock shafts.

CALLAWAY APEX CF 16


£849 (s) £1,099 (g)

Availability: 3-SW (inc AW, stock set 4-PW)

Stock shafts: True Temper XP 95 (s); UST Mamiya (g)

7-iron loft and length: 31°/37in

Tech: Callaway took the cup face tech that's so popular in its woods and applied it to a forged iron. Each head is quadruple forged from soft 1025 carbon steel for feel.

We Say: All three testers adored the looks of the Apex; its sleek, satin nish and beautifully-crafted head shape are what so many golfers hanker for. It's not too often game- improvement irons have a full set of forged heads, but Callaway reckon their cup face tech allows the Apex to compete against anything out there. Looking at our data, we'd have to agree. It doesn't have the strongest loft, yet the Apex produced the longest single carry – which incredibly came from 1cm below the centre of the face – a convincing argument that cup face is doing the business.

Verdict: If looks are important to you, but your game demands a good degree of forgiveness, you simply have to have a look at the Apex. They prove that game-improving tech doesn't always have to come in irons that look like shovels.