Nickent, long renowned for their hybrids, took a big step forward when it hired John B. Hoeflich as senior vice president of product development. Hoeflich's design credits include the Tommy Armour 845 irons, the original Titleist DCIs, and recently the TaylorMade RAC irons and wedges. A while ago, Donald MacKenzie wrote "Look for new Hoeflich-designed clubs to debut by year's end under the Nickent name."
Those clubs are here, and they're the Nickent 3DX Pro irons. Though one may wonder why any iron labeled "pro" features such a game improvement look to them, with cavity backs and low weights, one only needs to consider that the TaylorMade LT2, the Titleist 755, and the Callaway Fusions and X-Tours all see a lot of play on the PGA Tour and all are far from muscleback irons.
I currently play the Titleist 735.CM or the TaylorMade RAC MB TP. Do these Nickent 3DX Pros kick them out of my bag? Read on to find out…
Design and Technology
The 3DX Pro, like many of Hoeflich's prior clubs, seeks to blend cavity-back features with an at-address appearance that resembles those of traditional muscleback irons. Clearly, Hoeflich knows a thing or two about designing such clubs.
In fact, Nickent's 3DX Pro pages say "Hoeflich has designed an iron that combines the classic good looks of a blade iron with the forgiving features of a perimeter-weighted iron." It also states that the 3DX Pro is made of a special stainless steel alloy that provides a soft, responsive feel.
Like the "Pro"-less 3DX iron, the Pro features a tungsten-polymer insert (dubbed the "XW Insert") that strives to dampen vibrations, reducing shock and creating a "muscle-back forged feel."
The XW Insert is concentrated directly behind the face for greater workability in the 3DX Pro. The use of a tungsten polymer provides Nickent and Hoeflich greater flexibility in moving weight around the clubhead without detracting from the overall look or feel of the clubhead. Additionally, because the weight of the XW Insert can be modified easily, Nickent can correctly and easily create a wide range of swingweights at varying shaft lengths simply by varying the amount of tungsten polymer.
The 3DX is married to a specially-made Nippon 1180 shaft. Weighing in at 118 grams (and constant weighted throughout the set), Nickent claims the NS Pro 1180 GH is one of the few shafts that are "100 percent made in a state-of-the-art Japanese factory using unique proprietary materials and a specialized heat-treatment process." In other words, it's made differently than your typical True Temper DG S300 or your Rifle 6.0s, but likely just differently enough to mention.
Even the 3DX Pro pitching wedge features a cavity back and what appears to be a lot of weight near the sole of the club, turning off potential low-handicap players looking for something more traditional. Despite the fact that semi-game-improvement cavity backs get wide play on the PGA Tour, many better amateurs like the look and feel of a more traditional iron.
The cavity features red, black, and white "3DX Pro" markings with the "Nickent" name in black. The lower portion of the cavity is occupied by the tungsten polymer weight and a large bar of metal extending from heel to tie. The Nickent "N" is raised slightly in the middle of the wight plug. "JBH" is stamped on the bottomside of the hosel.
At address, the 3DX Pro appears to have a tad more offset, a thicker topline, and a wider sole than most "player's" or "pro" irons. Though some find the thicker topline comforting, it doesn't appeal to me. The cavity-back usually hidden behind the thick toplines and wider soles reduces my opportunity to work the ball.
I tested the 3DX Pro with the stock NS Pro 1180GH in stiff flex. I ventured to a course I've played several times and on which I trusted the yardages (having my Bushnell Pinseeker range finder didn't hurt, either). My first few iron shots flew further than I'd have expected, but I adjusted by swinging more easily and focusing on square contact.
My playing partner knew I was testing the clubs, and after awhile began joking that the marketing slogan should be "Nickent 3DX Pro: Pin High Every Time." It's true that I began sticking shots very close to the pins, yet the shots didn't come off as I thought they would. On one hole, I tried to cut a 7-iron into a right-to-left slope on the green. The ball came off higher than normal, but straight at the flag and without a cut.
Workability is an issue with these clubs, which are clearly closer to TaylorMade's LT2 series and Titleist's 755 than to the TM RAC MB TPs or the Titleist 695MBs. Again, that's to be expected, given Hoeflich's previous club designs - all "player's cavity back" irons.
Still, the clubs had a number of redeeming qualities. The weight low in the head really helped to dig the ball out of questionable lies in the rough. Ball flight was a lower, more boring ball flight than expected, but with plenty of spin to hold firm greens even into the longer irons.
After my first round, suspicious of the lofts, I checked Nickent's site and found that my suspicions were warranted:
Iron 3DX Pro RAC MB TP 695MB ---- ------- --------- ----- 3 21 21 22 4 23 24 25 5 25 28 28 6 29 32 32 7 33 36 36 8 37 40 40 9 41 44 44 PW 46 48 48
The 3DX Pro 6-iron, with 29° loft, plays closer to the TM and Titleist 5-iron (28°) than the 6-iron (32°). This discrepancy exists throughout the set, despite starting similarly (21° or 22°) in the 3-iron. Nickent's pitching wedge plays more like a 9½-iron. It's no wonder my shots went long.
In the end, I simply couldn't adjust to the 3DX Pro. Though I quickly became accustomed to the slightly thicker topline - I turned it into a reminder that I only needed a smooth swing and "all that metal" would solidly smack the ball - I crave the workability and feel of a muscleback iron.
Still, the game improvement features of the 3DX Pro are commendable. It was was extraordinarily tough to hit a ball offline. Shots that missed the sweet spot still resulted in admirable results.
Nickent 3DX Pro irons are available in 2-iron through gap wedge (51°), with a standard set consisting of 3-PW. The Nippon 1180 shaft is standard (in X, S, and R flexes), but you can order a grahite-shafted set with the UST Speedrated 2 shafts in X (105g), S (95g), and R (85g) flexes. Club length and lie are fairly standard, as is the D2 swingweight, but be wary of the decreased loft discussed above. In steel, these irons will set you back only $599, and in graphite $699.
While the Nickent 3DX Pro irons are not my cup of tea - their thicker toplines and more cavity-like look and feel don't mesh with my traditional sensibilities - I came away impressed with the irons. They haven't replaced my muscleback irons, but for the average golfer or the better golfer unconcerned with feel and workability, these irons perform quite nicely. The heavier sole really digs the ball out of bad lies and the trajectory - due in large part to the decreased loft - bores through the air.
If you're a fan of Hoeflich's previous work, you owe it to yourself to give these irons a thorough examination.