Best Players Irons of 2018
Conventional wisdom tells us that players irons are for better players who consistently strike the ball on the sweet spot of the club. These irons feature less technology than game improvement irons, which translates into a smaller sweet spot, maximum workability and significantly less forgiveness.
Players irons are typically forged from a single piece of steel. The steel alloys chosen by manufacturers are scientifically engineered for their combination of strength and feel. To increase forgiveness, some players irons may feature added tungsten weighting to the toe or back of the iron, but the incredible feel from all these irons is a product of forged clubhead construction.
For the most part, the clubs on this list won’t have forgiveness technologies like foam-fill and ultra-thin clubfaces that increase ball speeds on off-center strikes; or vibration dampening badges and large cavity undercuts for additional face flexing. What you will see is forging processes that are designed to manufacture control, not distance.
Forged irons are usually more expensive than game improvement irons, which are most often cast. Casting is a more economical process to produce clubheads, and while they may still incorporate forged components, the feel does not compete with a fully forged iron.
There are a lot of other design features that differentiate players irons from game improvement irons. Notably, the overall clubhead size of players irons sizes are traditionally more compact with a thinner topline and sole. The center of gravity is situated behind the impact point as versus as low and back as possible. The sweet spot is smaller and gives players maximum workability as versus a game improvement iron that would mitigate the ability to work the ball.
In wrapping up the introduction to the Best of Players Irons For 2018, I would like to issue a challenge. I challenge players who feel players irons might be a little out of their league to give them a try. There is no doubt in my mind that players irons offer better feel than game improvement irons, and in my opinion, better feel can translate to lower scores.
Callaway X Forged 18 Irons
Callaway has two no-doubt-about-it players irons, the Apex MB and the X Forged 18. Both of these iron sets impressed me immensely, and while the buttery smooth feel of the Apex MB blades is undeniable, the X Forged 18 irons got the nod for Best of Players Irons for 2018 due to their incredible weighting, consistency and shot making ability.
The Callaway X Forged 18 irons feature triple net forging and 20V grooves for superior control and predictable spin. Added weight to the perimeter combines with a muscle back cavity that lowers the CG providing ultimate playability with control. A pre-worn leading edge mitigates shots from digging into the turf, expertly utilizing the club’s bounce all through the set.
It’s no secret, a purely struck shot with a blade is the purest feel in the game (and a thinly struck shot with a blade on a cold day is without the worst!). And, while the X Forged 18 irons aren’t a blade, their feel is everything you’d demand from a premium forged iron.
Throughout my testing these irons consistently produced excellent feedback. I could feel the weight concentrated to the center of the muscle back from the moment I took my first practice swings. This focusing of the weight makes it very easy to deliver the club squarely at impact and into the back of the ball first.
A new iteration of a cult-classic, the Callaway X Forged 18 irons deliver in spades. Their appearance is sophisticated and understated, a classic finish that is neither too shiny nor too dull. The blade length is confidence-inspiring, while the top line and Tour configured sole are a constant reminder that these are for above average ball strikers. You’d be hard pressed to find a better offering in 2018.
I’ve played Mizuno irons for 8 years. It’s my opinion that year in and year out they produce the finest quality irons with the best feel. The MP-18 series of irons are no exception. Traditionally, Mizuno has offered a muscle back and a more forgivable MP option concurrently, but this is the first time Mizuno is offering three versions of one MP iteration.
The three models MP-18 are the standard MP-18, the SC or ‘Split Cavity’ and the MMC (Multi-Material Construction). Mizuno designed these irons interchangeably, so players can customize their set to include any configuration of MP-18 irons.
The classic muscle back MP-18s are the most compact of all three models. They have the shortest blade length, a cambered top line and sharper, refined short irons. The irons have the most workability and purest feel, but the least amount of forgiveness.
The MP-18 Split Cavity irons have a slightly wider, cambered sole that is designed to make these more forgivable, but they are only fractionally larger than the muscle backs. The top line is thin and tapered and the wedges are more compact. This iron has a very Tour-ready look and feel to it.
The MP-18 MMC irons feature the greatest amount of added technology which makes these the most forgiving MP-18 model. The MMC irons integrate lightweight titanium and heavier tungsten components that are sealed into the forged 1025E mild carbon steel head.
I flat out love the MP-18s. They are a more technologically advanced version of the MP-68 irons I’ve been playing for the past 8 years. They have a signature Mizuno feel and while they are compact, I feel confident over the ball every time I look down at address.
All three sets irons feature Mizuno’s Grain Flow Forged HD process that concentrates the grain in the clubhead more tightly for precise feedback. This process combined with the Harmonic Impact Technology are what gives Mizuno irons the reputation for having the smoothest, most buttery feel.
I very easily could have built a combo set of SC (possibly even an MMC 4 iron) long irons and muscle back scoring irons, but the allure of tighter dispersion from the JPX 919 Tour irons won me over. The MP-18s, especially the muscle backs are like driving a sports car at 100 MPH. It takes a great deal of control to keep these irons online and away from crashing into a tree.
The TaylorMade P770 irons are a progressive set where the long irons have a 70-gram tungsten weight bar sitting behind the impact zone and a one-piece forged construction in the scoring irons. These irons have a high MOI and a low center of gravity which made launching the ball no problem at all.
I remember when I first saw the TaylorMade P770 irons, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I thought, ‘This is what a players cavity back iron should look like.’. It is a beautiful blend of satin with shiny chrome accents that say TaylorMade spent as much time refining the appearance as they did engineer the P770s into a forgivable, yet workable players iron.
It bummed me out to see TaylorMade move on from the P770 and P750 irons in favor of the P760s. I personally think the incorporation of SpeedFoam in the long irons of the P760s will deter quite a few better players from updating. The P770 iron was a complete package for improving and better players looking for a touch of forgiveness to increase their consistency shot after shot.
Titleist 718 AP2
The AP line up of clubs are a classic and the AP2 is consistently a mainstay players iron. The 718 AP2 iteration incorporates a bit more technology into the iron than some of the other heads on this list, but it is no less a sophisticated forged iron for better ball strikers.
This is a Tour-tested iron that gives Pros like Jordan Spieth added forgiveness from a players iron profile. The added stability is achieved by strategically placed tungsten weights in the toe and sole. A refined leading edge promotes better turf interaction.
I’ve had a few opportunities to test the 718 AP2 irons and enjoyed them every time. This is a great iron for players who strike the ball purely but tend to either flip over too quickly or leave the face open at impact. The side to side dispersion was reduced compared to a muscle back iron like the MP-18. While these irons won’t cure your hook or slice, they will help to limit the most egregious misses.
The looks and feel of the 718 AP2 irons are premium. The tungsten adds not just forgiveness, but also a solid feel that balances with the smooth forged face. The top line is thin, but not as thin as it appears. Titleist did an incredible job beveling the top line to visually appear thinner to the eye. The touch gives the clubs a compact look at address.
Thanks for reading the Expert Picks: Best Players Irons of 2018 post. Leave your comments and questions below, I’m more than happy to answer your questions about Players irons.
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