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Cleveland CG Red Irons Review

Oct. 26, 2007     By     Comments (38)

Does the red "Gelback" mean you'll soon be shooting red numbers? Read on…

Cleveland CG RedCleveland Golf builds some of the finest iron sets in the world, yet rarely seems to receive the recognition rightfully heaped on other manufacturers. Despite having a small PGA Tour staff - Cleveland famously dropped David Toms at the beginning of 2007 - Cleveland players such as Jerry Kelly, Vaughn Taylor, Brett Wetterich, and Vijay Singh continue to have success on the PGA Tour.

Cleveland marches to a slightly different drum than the other manufacturers. They don't offer a square or triangular driver, instead choosing to stay with the swooped-back HiBore model, which met with lukewarm reviews in its first incarnation before delivering an incredible club with the HiBore XL.

In 2007, Cleveland added to its venerable irons lineup with the CG Red and the CG Gold - a pair of cavity-back irons aimed squarely at separate niches in the golf community.

We've given the CG Reds a thorough testing, and the results are in. Read on to see what we think: are they duds like the first-generation HiBore drivers or has Cleveland skipped that phase and gone on to greatness?

Design and Technology
The CG Red and Gold are both cavity-back irons, and as cavity-back irons go, they're fairly standard. The cavities themselves are relatively normal in shape and appearance. What make the CG Red and Gold unique is the "Gelback" material Cleveland has put in the bottom of the cavity of each set of irons.

Cleveland CG Red xxx
The satin hitting area is framed beautifully in chrome. A solid black ferrule completes the simple look at address.

The Gelback is a lightweight, visco-elastic, vibration-dampening material. Situated directly behind the hitting area in the cavity and reaching from heel to toe, the Gelback is "vibration-tuned to remove unwanted vibration" from mis-hits. Cleveland says the Gelback will still allow the better player to feel the necessary feedback from the clubhead, yet will result in an overall softer feel.

Cleveland has also employed the next generation of their "Micro-Cavity Technology" (MCT) to provide better stability and more forgiveness. The MCT removes weight from the topline and re-distributes it to the perimeter of the clubhead. Cleveland engineers were able to re-distribute 10 grams, choosing to move the weight low in the clubhead and away from the face to improve the center of gravity "by 15%." In other words, the shifted weight will help you to get the ball up in the air more easily and the club will offer a somewhat larger, more forgiving sweet spot.

The hosel of each CG Red and CG Gold iron has three lines on it. The inner line corresponds to a standard lie angle while the outer lines correspond to flat or upright lie angles. Think Ping's color-coded system but with a few degrees less flexibility.

Cleveland CG Red xxx
The backs of the clubs present a look that I found to be a bit busy. Isn't the big red piece of rubber enough?

The irons differ from each other by more than the color of their Gelback. It turns out it's not just a fashion statement! The CG Red "Tour Spec" iron is the preferred iron for the better golfer (as well as Cleveland's Tour staff). It features a classic player's profile with a thinner topline, reduced offset, and a medium heel-toe width. The Red Gelback is firmer than the Gold, and will reduce vibrations less, transmitting more feedback to the golfer.

Esthetics
I'm a fan of simple looking irons. I've always preferred the look of a clean muscleback iron. When I play a cavity back, I like something along the lines of Titleist's 735.CM - very little writing, very little color. Just a golf club.

Cleveland CG Red xxx
The minimal offset will appeal to better players who fear yanking the ball left and will allow for workability both left and right.

Cleveland, it's readily apparent, does not share my decorating sensibilities. Instead of going the minimalist route with the CG Reds, Cleveland designers have touched up virtually every available square centimeter of the clubhead. The obvious and most prominent decoration is arguably the most functional, of course: the red Gelback that gives the club its name and purpose.

The back of the club itself has several textures, patterns, and colors along with the Cleveland logo and the words "CG RED" and "TOUR SPEC." The underside of the upper edge of the cavity has "MCT" inscribed, and the three lines that indicate the lie angle can be seen on the back of the hosel. The sole of the club features a medium-sized black number along with the word "Cleveland" in script. I wasn't a fan of the scripted "Cleveland" on the sole in the CG12 and I'm not here either - it simply gets dirty too easily and is tough to clean with only a wet towel.

I like the look of the Gelback, but feel Cleveland should have stopped shortly after adding that and realized that a big red piece of rubber on the back of a club is going to do a pretty good job of grabbing attention all by itself. The rest just feels like clutter.

Cleveland CG Red xxx
I wish Cleveland would stop putting "Cleveland" on the bottom of the clubs. It's tough to clean with just a wet towel.

Fortunately, none of the decorations are visible at address. Though you might expect a dash of red on the hosel, it's plain black and sits atop a clubhead with a low to medium amount of offset. The shiny silver finish contrasts nicely with the duller, satin finish of the hitting area. The clubs, in the address position, look like the players clubs they are intended to be and easily overcome all the clutter on the back.

Performance
I'm a bit of a rare breed, I suppose. When I make a bad swing, I expect to pay the consequences. I like to be able to feel whether I've struck my ball dead-center or just a smidgen towards the toe. I'll take all the feedback I can get. I find that I get sloppy when the clubs start "helping" me more than I like, and my swing begins to deteriorate. It's a slippery slope, and one I like to avoid.

However, I'm in a very small minority. Even the PGA Tour is filled with guys playing cavity-backed, semi-game-improvement clubs. The CG Reds, like Titleist's 755 irons, TaylorMade's r7 TP irons, and others strike to blend a little game improvement with the tour-approved looks and enough feel to satisfy the good players. It's a delicate balancing act, but I think the CG Reds pull it off quite well.

Cleveland CG Red xxx
The medium-width CG Red will appeal to better players. Once again, note the austerity of the front of these irons.

The first questions people asked of me while I tested these irons was "Does that rubber thing work?" or "Do they feel okay?" The answer to both questions is yes.

The CG Red is an incredibly solid feeling club. Though center-of-the-face contact will not feel nearly as sweet as it does with a forged muscleback, slight mis-hits towards the toe, heel, or low on the clubface feel virtually the same as a pure strike. The Gelback does its job. Contact high on the face feels a bit more dead than I'd like, and the ball flies a fair amount shorter than I'd expect, but you generally only miss high when you've teed the ball up on a par three.

Turf interaction is good but, at times, can feel a bit thick, likely due more to the Gelback than the club's bounce, camber, rolled leading edges, or general design. The CG Red's leading edge is nicely curved from heel to toe, though, and made it very easy to hit the ball solidly from sidehill lies.

Cleveland CG Red xxx
Cleveland's Micro-Cavity Technology (MCT) is seen here: small cavities underneath the topline of the club allow weight to be positioned elsewhere for more forgiveness.

The CG Red's game improvement features are limited (as they should be for a "Tour"-level club). This is still a cavity-back club, so there's still a lot more shot correction than you'll find in a muscleback, but among its cavity-back peers the CG Red is clearly aimed at the better ballstrikers. The CG Reds allow a fair amount of shot shape left and right, but controlling the trajectory proved more difficult. In other words, the CG Reds feel as though they have more shot correction vertically than horizontally.

Aside from balls caught high on the face, mis-hit shots traveled nearly as far as well-struck shots. Spin levels were about what I'd expect. The stock shaft, a DG S300, does what it can to help keep the ball flight down on a more "tour-like" trajectory, but the D2 swingweight is a notch below what I like.

All told, the CG Red is a solid performer that delivers a fairly solid feeling across an ample portion of the clubface. These clubs seek to do what many clubs aimed at the better-player niche try to do: offer enough feel and enough forgiveness to appeal to both sides of the low-handicap golfer.

Unfortunately, no club can offer both - at a certain level those two goals become almost diametrically opposed to each other. The CG Reds sit squarely in the middle, performing both tasks well without excelling in either. I almost wish Cleveland had taken an approach more like the one Titleist took with their 735.CM irons and built a progressive combo set that offers a little more forgiveness in the long irons and more feel in the short irons. As it stands, performance in both categories is essentially a flat line from 3-iron right on through the pitching wedge.

Cleveland CG Red xxx
Note the consistent height of the CG Red Gelback in each iron. I wonder how these clubs would perform if a more progressive approach had been taken.

Specifications
The CG Red are available for both righties and lefties, 2I-PW. A standard set of eight irons (3I-PW) will run about $700 retail - a virtual steal in this day and age of $1200 sets of irons. The CG Red has fairly standard modern lofts and lengths. The standard D2 swingweight may be a step low for some and just right for others.

            Loft      Lie      Length     Swingweight      Offset
            ----      ---      ------     ------------     ------
3-iron      21°       60°      38.75"         D2           0.181"
6-iron      30.5°     61.5°    37.25"         D2           0.123"
9-iron      42°       64°      35.75"         D2           0.074"

The stock shaft is the Dynamic Gold from True Temper (R300/S300/X100), with Rifle, Rifle Flighted, Project X, Dnamic Gold Lite and SuperLite, and Sensicore shafts available via custom order.

Overall
If the club's looks bother you as much as they bother me, do yourself a favor and look at them in the address position. You won't see the overdone back of the club - just a clean hitting area. Over time, you may come to appreciate what the "red rubber" does for you.

Cleveland has delivered a solid performer that attempts the impossible and, as is bound to happen, comes up a bit short of perfection. The two goals - feel and forgiveness - exist in an almost zero-sum game. Add feel and you take away forgiveness and vice versa.

Though each player will have to decide for themselves where on that curve they fit, the CG Red has positioned itself squarely in the middle of the "better player" section of the curve. The clubs aren't as forgiving as the r7 TP or the Titleist 755s, but they feel a bit better. They don't transmit as much feel as the Mizuno MP-67s or the Titleist 695.MBs, but they're more forgiving.

In the end, the CG Reds aren't for me. I like clubs that are closer to the MP-67s and 695.MBs. I like controlling my ball flight in both directions, vertically and horizontally, and the CG Red fought me more than I'd like vertically. I like feeling where I've struck the ball (and expect to pay a penalty for mis-hits), but the CG Red's Gelback soaked up the "bad vibrations" and the cavity back delivered a good amount of forgiveness.

If you're closer to the "forgiveness" side of the curve than I am way down here at the "all feel, no forgiveness" side, give the CG Reds a try. You may surprise yourself.

Posted in: Clubs, Review Comments (38)

Discussion

  1. Vic says:

    Great review, was actually considering these but finally decied to go with the 755s. Same red cavities, cleaner look, and great feel. Nice try Cleveland. I still love your XL though. :smile:

  2. Ryan says:

    Erik,

    Yet again another solid review. Keep them up!

  3. jcrew says:

    you mentioned vaughn taylor is a cleveland staffer?

    i'm 99% sure he's taylormade. i saw him at the at&t national with a taylormade bag and just checked on the tm site

  4. jason says:

    How do these compare with Ping's i10's? The conclusion sounds similar to me.

  5. bernd says:

    A very well review i have to say :!: I'm a 16.3 handicapper and looking for irons that improve my shot making skills. Last year-as a 24.8 handicapper- i tried the CG gold set without buying them and was impressed. Since then I've improved my swing and want to become a single handicapper as soon as possible. Some other reviews claim that these clubs are more forgiving than most tour-level irons and that they are also a nice choice for players like me. Can you agree with this statement? Could they be the right purchase :?:

  6. Sean Stratton says:

    I play the CG Reds and I enjoyed the review very much and I agree that a swingweight closer to D4 or D5 would be a little better but I still love these irons. They are very long, very consistent, and workable enough to allow a good player like myself to be a shotmaker when I choose to be.

  7. Ned says:

    I am a mid-handicapper in the market for new irons and have tested about everything it seems. The CG Reds hit VERY solid! These are my favorites to date, edging the Ping i10. But I need some foregiveness, while prefering a traditional appearance at setup.

  8. Andy Walker says:

    I am a low handicap golfer who has been playing for almost three years now. I have gone from Callaway X-18's to Mizuno MP- 32's. I have demoed just about every "tour spec" iron that is on the market today and i have to say that these are quite the club. I was expecting a cavity back that played closer to a blade as far as feel and workability goes, and I must say I was not let down. I had been due for a new iron set and had been searching around and I stumbled across this review (probably one of the most honest and accurate ones I have read yet, so kudos) and thus decided to order these. Now I have to say thank you for your detalied report because had it not been for this I would have never discovered the CG Reds, at least never hit them. They are very solid and i just wanted to thank you. :wink:

  9. Greg says:

    Thanks for the detailed and honest review. I have played MP-14s for about 5 years now and was looking for something different. I hit the CG reds and loved the feel right away. I found a set on ebay that night and they should arive in a few days.

    Greg

  10. Big Loges says:

    I feel like the cg reds will appeal to a large segment of the general golfing community... I am an 11 HCP and had previously been playing muscle back blades from high school when I was playing alot more regularly and at a higher level. The CG reds offered exactly what I was looking for in a new club, a player profile from the approach position, and a little more foregivness then blades. Great clubs and would recomend to anyone from a 6 HCP to a 16 HCP.

  11. Skins Stealer says:

    I have been playing Cleveland irons all my life started with the TA 4"s then Ta3 Form Forged then CG 2's . When these came on the market I just had to try them. It was love at first hit. So I now own the latest Cleveland Iron. The feel is increadible when I hit the sweetspot. Love the view at address, head is not to big or not to small, It is just perfect. These clubs are long as well longer than any of the other modells i have owned. I am a natural drawer of the ball and can hit draws at ease with these.It is also easy to launch the ball high and the spin off these with a tour ball is what youd expect. Overall 10 out of 10 for the CG RED's. These will be in the bag for some time.

  12. derek says:

    Great Review! I currently have the CG Gold, but I was a 12 when a bought them a year and a half ago. I am now an 7 and need something with more feel. I love the golds so I was thinking the reds would be a natural fit, but wasn't sure. After demoing the 6 iron and reading this review i am now sure and plan to buy a set this week. Thanks for the detailed review.

  13. Grant says:

    I've had my CG Red's now since April and I can tell anyone who's still on the fence about these clubs that they shouldn't wait. My HDCP has gone from 10 to 4 since April, in part due to theses clubs.
    I was all set to pick up a set of Callaway X-20 Tours, but at the last moment asked my PGA pro to order in a set of the CG Reds. I had hit the X-20 Tours numerous times and felt comfortable with them, but after reading a few reviews on the CG's just had to try them. The day they came in I went up to test drive a few. I hit the 5 and the 7 and immediately bought the CG's. The look at address is outstanding. Ball flight is nothing less than amazing. They ARE long. I'm 2 clubs longer than my 845's.
    I agree with the review about Cleveland should've offered a "mixed" set with the CG Reds and a more of a muscleback blade in the short irons. I plan to purchase a set of the CG1 Black Pearls over the winter and add the 7, 8, 9 and wedge to my bag.
    Cleveland - please make the transition to a "mixed" set as soon as possible!!

  14. frank says:

    i play to a 14 or so and had recently purchased the cg 14 wedges and love them. they make me want to give up my 20 year old pings and buy the reds. does anybody hit the wedges as well as the reds and can you give a short comparision?
    thanks frank

  15. Paul says:

    I have tried the Clevelands CG Reds and have found that they are some of the best irons out there. I am a scratch golfer and have tried everything under the sun. My brother has a set of TA 7 tours and told me to try them. I'm glad I did! One reviewer said that they are the right size, not too big, not too small. He is correct. The red jell does its job. I wanted to get sensicore in all my clubs, but with the reds, I don't think I need it. The strike would be too soft. I put stingfree grips on the clubs and it's perfect. THe DG Shaft is tip flexable more than the board Project X, so stay away from that. Great clubs.
    :smile:

  16. Mel says:

    How do these compare with Ping's i10's? The conclusion sounds similar to me.

    I tried them both and was very impressed with the i10s, but I bought the CG Reds.

  17. matt says:

    Hey guys, I am 9 right now with hand-me-down tommy armours that i need to replace, I am 22 years old with a very high swing speed but dont play too often. I play cleveland wedges and love them, so I have been reading up on the irons, and have came to conlcusion of looking at the CG2's and the CG Red's, could anybody offer any advice for me that would help in my decision? thanks

  18. Grant says:

    Hey guys, I am 9 right now with hand-me-down tommy armours that i need to replace, I am 22 years old with a very high swing speed but dont play too often. I play cleveland wedges and love them, so I have been reading up on the irons, and have came to conlcusion of looking at the CG2's and the CG Red's,

    could anybody offer any advice for me that would help in my decision? thanks

    Matt -

    Read the reviews above... there's more than enough info for you to decide whether the irons are worth a try or not. Personally, I love my CG Reds and couldn't be any happier with them. As I stated in my review, I wish Cleveland would make a mixed set with them, or at least make it available like some Mizuno dealers are doing. It would be nice to have blades (for me at least) in say the 7 - W clubs. I just picked up a slightly used set of MP 67's and MP 60's. 4-6 MP 60's, 7 - W in the MP 67. I'm anxious to spend some time with them once the weather breaks, but they're going to have to really feel great to make me move away from the Reds.
    Go to a demo day, or go to your local store that carries Cleveland's and give them a few hits. I think you'll be sold. To me they felt AND looked so much better than the X-20 Tours, that it was a no brainer (and I REALLY wanted the Callaway's).
    At the level you're currently at, it's 90% mental anyway. If you like the club, feel comfortable with it, etc., you'll get better.
    Good luck, and as always.... hit 'em straight!

  19. Deano says:

    I have been using a set of Callaway X16's for the past three years and play of 18. Recently I took a CG Red 6 iron out on the driving range following recommendation of the Golf Pro and i must say Wow! I tested along with a Taylor Made Burner and Nike Sumo 6 Iron and immedaitely took to the CG. The balance and forgiveness were second to none compared to my old Callaways, and had a better feel than both the Nike and Taylor Mades whilst adding two club lengths to my shots. I had never considered CG Reds before but will certainly be taking a trip back to the range to trade my old Callaways!

  20. John says:

    How do the CG7 red or gold compare to the TaylorMade Burner Plus? I need a forgiving iron that suits a more sweeping swing than a steep downward swing.

    Thanks!

  21. Grant says:

    How do the CG7 red or gold compare to the TaylorMade Burner Plus? I need a forgiving iron that suits a more sweeping swing than a steep downward swing.

    Thanks!

    if you're looking for forgiveness, you should probably think about the CG Golds. They're more of a "game improvement" iron like the TM Burner Plus'.

    Do yourself a favor and hit them both.. on a range.

  22. Tyrel says:

    These clubs are absolutely perfect in my opinion. I played a set of Cleveland TA2's for the past 3 years, then traded them in on a set of the CG reds. The first week was like I had just started playing. Could not make good contact at all. There was nothing wrong with the clubs, they were just that different than the sticks I was used too. A week at the range, though, and everything clicked. Every ball lands and sticks like a lawn dart and I can work my ball like nobody's business. The only difference is that the ball still goes like I intend even with a less than perfect swing. My entire bag (with the exception of my putter, an oddessey) is now cleveland gear and I could not be happier.

  23. Dannny says:

    Hello all...

    I am a 25 handicapper, sometimes play to it, sometimes play to 15, just inconsistent. Currently have rubbish pgf irons, have updated the rest of my bag already apart from the irons.
    Looking to upgrade to Golds or Reds. Have hit both, liked both and hit both well. Both had s300 shafts. Do you think i should purchase golds to get to 15 and then upgrade again? Or start with reds and persevere my way down? Thanks..

  24. Dave Smith says:

    hi...im a average golfer i would say and own the older ta5 gunmetals. I'm considering to upgrade to a more workable club but wanna stay with the cleveland line. Im worried that the red longer irons will be a bit hard to hit...i haven't gone to a hybrid replacement yet and i'm wondering if the red longer irons are forgiving enough for a 12 hand...thanks

  25. Grant says:

    Hello all...

    I am a 25 handicapper, sometimes play to it, sometimes play to 15, just inconsistent. Currently have rubbish pgf irons, have updated the rest of my bag already apart from the irons.
    Looking to upgrade to Golds or Reds. Have hit both, liked both and hit both well. Both had s300 shafts. Do you think i should purchase golds to get to 15 and then upgrade again? Or start with reds and persevere my way down? Thanks..

    IMHO it depends on you and how much time and work you plan on investing into your swing and your game. If you're just going to play weekends, or a couple times a month, buy the golds. You'll be happier. If instead you're going to spend time at the range, maybe invest in a lesson or five, and intend to spend more time and improve your game, get the reds. I own the reds and thought about moving up to the new CG7 reds this year. Instead, I invested in Project X 5.5 shafts on my year old reds. Huge difference. Have a swing analysis done and see what shaft really fits you then make your choice.

  26. Grant says:

    hi...im a average golfer i would say and own the older ta5 gunmetals. I'm considering to upgrade to a more workable club but wanna stay with the cleveland line. Im worried that the red longer irons will be a bit hard to hit...i haven't gone to a hybrid replacement yet and i'm wondering if the red longer irons are forgiving enough for a 12 hand...thanks

    I thought the same thing. I'm happy with my 3 and 4 iron reds. Very happy. I went ahead and joined the crowd of hybrid users and replaced my 5 wood with a 21 deg. hybrid. I'm a very strong iron player however. If you're concerned about it, first go out and hit a couple of hybrids. Make sure you set up and swing at the ball as if it were an iron. More and more bags have 5-W or 6-W irons and fill in the gaps with hybrids. It's just a personal choice.
    Also I've seen a few "mixed" sets of the gold/red irons. You might consider special ordering a set from Cleveland if they'll do it from the factory.
    Good luck!

  27. Frank says:

    I'm a 15-17 handicapper and I bought the CG Gold irons back in March and now have played about 8 rounds with them. I love the feel of them and they are very forgiving. The Gelback on the clubs work great and performs very well in keeping the vibration down on off center hits. Thumbs up to Cleveland!

  28. sean says:

    i love this club well so far i just bought them today after upgrading them from the cg4s i am currently 15 and at a handicap around 15 or 16 i love how this club feels and how consistant i am with them..

    hoping to go far in golf

    sean,

  29. tony says:

    bought a set of CG red irons on sale. I was playing with X14's which I tended to draw too much. So far the reds are going well, about the same distance as the X14, but much more controlable.

  30. Sean Stratton says:

    I am still a scratch player and still playing the cg reds two plus years after i purchased them. I have tried out many other "players irons" and nothing compares to the look and feel and overall consistency of the cg reds. If you are a pure ball striker (you can hit the sweet spot)then you should be playing these clubs!

  31. jaypi says:

    Hi guys,

    very helpful comments here. I am a 25 handicapper too and thinking about new clubs. Does anybody know the difference between CG red and CG 7 tour irons?

  32. Steve says:

    I bought a new set of these at a golf store clearout sale. They are definitely 1/2-1 club longer and fell really good. I can see my 18 handicap coming down to a 12 this year.

  33. Linley Hackworth says:

    tested x22 tour and titleist ap2 both were excellent but the reds which are a couple of years old technology wise were superior.I just can't find anything better.

  34. Roy says:

    I'm a Cleveland man through and through, even down to my putter, driver and woods, nothing else in my bag but Titleist balls. I play the CG1 irons presently, and when I hit the age that its difficult to shape my balls due to lack of flexibility, (almost there) I will certainly switch to the CG red, no doubt about it.

  35. paul says:

    whats the difference in the reds and the golds. or the cg7 and the cg7 tours?

  36. bryan says:

    i have ta5's currently but they are worn out... which newer clevland irons would compare the best , i shoot 80-110 and every where in between lol

  37. J Hood says:

    I used the 7 iron, serial no. D9779U10. It is a solid club, but it seems heavier than my Ping I-10 one.

  1. [... Cleveland Golf builds some of the finest iron sets in the world, yet rarely seems to receive the recognition rightfully heaped on other manufacturers. Despite having a small PGA Tour ...]

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