Over the last couple of years there has been no company that puts out more products than TaylorMade. It seems that every time you blink an eye they have a new driver, wood or set of irons that is suppose to add another 15 or 20 yards to your game via different technologies that are built into the clubs.
That's all well and good, and during that time, they've done a great job marketing to the weekend warrior but at some point, it seemed like they lost touch with the more serious golfer. This year, that tune has changed and the company has brought back their "Tour Preferred" line of irons. The line has three different models; the first is their muscle back or MB model and is for the best of players. On the other end of the spectrum of the Tour Preferred line are the CB's. These clubs, as you can tell by the name, have a cavity back and have a much larger foot print. In the middle, there are the muscle cavity or MCs. These clubs combine ideas from the two sets around them to produce a club with a slight cavity, a smaller shape, and thin top lines in a package that also has some of the technology that's missing from the MBs.
Read on to find out if TaylorMade's newest irons are as good as they'd have you believe or if they are just another club that will be replaced in a few short months.
For the purpose of this review, I received the standard 3-PW set of the TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC irons. The set came with the stock KBS Tour shafts, which have become the go-to for many TaylorMade irons. The set has fairly standard lofting for a modern players irons. The irons also came equipped with the standard TaylorMade branded Tour Velvet grip. Detailed specs are as follows:
Club Loft Lie Length Offset Bounce Swing Weight ---- ---- --- ------ ------ ------ ------------ 3I 20 60.5 38.75" 3.0mm 0.0 D2 4I 23 61.0 38.25" 2.7mm 0.5 D2 5I 26 61.5 37.75" 2.3mm 2.0 D2 6I 30 62.0 37.25" 2.0mm 3.5 D2 7I 34 62.5 36.75" 1.8mm 5.0 D2 8I 38 63.0 36.25" 1.7mm 7.0 D2 9I 42 63.5 35.75" 1.6mm 8.0 D2 PW 47 64.0 35.50" 1.5mm 9.0 D3
Design and Technology
While these are player's clubs, no doubt, they still feature quite a lot of technology, which is something that you rarely see in a club in this category. Perhaps the most touted feature of the new set is the inclusion of the Speed Pocket. While the company's Speed Pocket technology dates back to last year and made its debut on the RocketBladez, it wasn't around for the previous version of the Tour Preferreed irons. Like the CB model, the MCs have the Speed Pocket milled into the 3-7 irons. This slot, which is filled with a specially formulated polyurethane by 3M, is said to increase ball speeds across the lower portion of the face where miss hits tend to happen the most. This is a technology not found in the MB irons.
However, the inclusion of the Speed Pocket means that the MCs aren't completely forged clubs, which they had been in the previous version. Instead, only the 8, 9, and PW (the clubs without the Speed Pocket) are forged, while the rest of the set is cast. Some would worry that might effect the feel, however, TaylorMade says that the cavity of the clubs have been precision engineered to produce the perfect blend of feel, workability, and stability. The grooves have also been precision milled onto the face to give optimal spin out of the rough. The company says that they have paid extra attention to detail with these clubs checking every curve, line and angle throughout production to give a great product. In fact, along with the irons, the company has launched the Tour Preferred 360 program. By registering your 2014 Tour Preferred irons with them, they will give you (through 2015) annual loft and lie checks, annual re-gripping, as well as access to additional content on their website and the Tour Preferred Hotline..
From a looks point of view, these clubs are among the cleanest that the company has ever produced. When you put as much technology into clubs as TaylorMade does, it isn't necessarily easy to hide. While not quite as sleek as the muscle backs in the series, they do have a very simple design, especially when compared to the previous versions of the Tour Preferred irons. While those had kind of an industrial look with the screw and weight port featured prominently in the club's cavity, these have a beautiful satin chrome chrome finish and limited markings. Above the top of the cavity is the TaylorMade word mark, and in the cavity are the words "Tour Preferred" and MC. The short irons also have "Forged" stamped on the hosel. The only bit of visible technology is the Speed Pocket which spans the length of the sole on the mid and long irons. Also, the clubs with the Speed Pocket, also have a notch cut out from the heel, presumably to save weight. Other than the Speed Pocket on the long and mid irons, the only other marking on the soles is the clubs number.
At address, the sleekness continues. The clubs have minimal offset (actually less than the MBs in the long irons and just slightly more in the short ones), and thin top lines. While they are a bit larger than their blade counterparts, they still are fairly small clubs, so if you want some meat behind the ball, you may wish to continue on to the CB irons. As stated earlier, the clubs have a satin chrome finish that not only looks great in the bag but also frames the ball beautifully at address. Being as I play my golf in sunny southern California, I like these clubs as the finish helps to reduce glare as it's kind of hard to hit the ball when you're being blinded.
I started a thread a couple years back about my clubs being stolen and while it's never fun to have that happen to you, I was lucky enough to have the clubs covered and wound up with the previous version of the Tour Preferred MC clubs. I played those for a little over a year, and ended up selling them off after getting some new sticks. That maybe one of the only times I've regretted selling clubs. Those clubs had great feel and performed well for me, and while the looks of them weren't loved by all, I liked them. Because of this, I when the opportunity to review these clubs came about I jumped all over it and had high expectations for them. I must say, that I am not one bit disappointed with these clubs.
To start, as I mentioned, I received these with the stock steel shafts, which in this case were KBS Tour. I have found this to be my favorite shaft as it has a softer feeling compared to either the True Temper Dynamic Gold or Project X shafts that I've played previously while launching the ball high. At 120 grams, the shafts are among the heavier ones out there, but, the balance of the club feels right to me and I feel that I can control the shot with them.
One of the more touted features of the club is the Speed Pocket, which TaylorMade says adds distance by increasing ball speed and consistency across the face of the club. In fact, when they debuted the Speed Pocket in last years RocketBladez they challenged consumers to try their 7 iron versus their own, guaranteeing that their's would be longer. So, is this true, does the Speed Pocket really give more distance? Quite simply, yes. For me, I've seen an increase of about 1/2 club in the irons; which while not a huge amount is still nice. With the addition of the Speed Pocket comes a couple of questions and one of those is about the durability of the pocket itself. The pocket is milled into the sole of each of the clubs and then, to prevent dirt and debris from getting in, is filled with a specially formulated polyurethane by 3M. While I've only had the clubs a few months I've played an average of 3 rounds a week plus practice sessions with them, and they have held up just fine. As far as I'm concerned, durability here shouldn't be an issue.
Probably the bigger plus of the Speed Pocket is the increased consistency of the club rather than the added distance. Especially as the clubs get longer, the swing tends to get a little bit more inconsistent leading some shots a little towards the heel or toe or maybe a little thin or fat. The simple truth is that long irons are harder to hit than the short ones. While the Speed Pocket doesn't completely change this, I've noticed a lot more consistency in my distances. No longer is a 4 or 5 iron 10 yards short of where I thought it should be and just as important, shots that I feel like I absolutely got a hold of aren't flying the green. Sure those shots go a few yards further, but it's a few yards, not 10.
Another big question that comes up due to the addition of the Speed Pocket is feel. With the Tour Preferred MC irons, only the short irons (8-PW) are forged, and those clubs are also missing the speed pocket. I was curious if, and a bit concerned that, the long and mid irons would feel substantially different from the short irons due to the Speed Pocket and different processes by which they would made. The short irons, as expected, felt just as good as any other forged iron I've ever hit. Center hits feel almost like nothing. In the long and mid irons, I don't really think that the feel is really any different. Good strikes still feel very solid, and not so good strikes feel just a little bit worse. I had a friend hit both the 7 and 8 irons without seeing the clubs sole, and he couldn't tell a difference in feel. If this is a concern for you, I don't think it should be.
Playing in some rather windy conditions as of late has led to situations where it was necessary to hit a few variety of shots. Whether I needed to flight the ball low to stay out of the wind or high to take advantage of it, I don't feel that these clubs limited me at all. That's not to say that I pulled the shot off every time, but I'm an 11 handicap. Though these clubs come with the KBS Tour shafts, which tend to hit the ball a bit higher in my experience than Dynamic Golds, I haven't seen any issues with hitting the ball too high. However, I never would describe myself as a high ball hitter anyways, so if you are, maybe a different shaft choice would be in order. As always, it's probably best to get fitted and see what works well for you.
So, what's the bottom line on these clubs? I feel that in the TaylorMade Tour Preferred MCs, the company has created a set of irons both for everybody and nobody at the same time. What I mean by that is even as a low double digit handicap, I don't find these clubs all that hard to hit, which is good news, but much worse than my level, and I might suggest the Tour Preferred CB irons instead. On the other hand, players with better ball striking abilities than myself might prefer the all forged MBs. On the other hand, these clubs kind of give the best of both worlds; you still an iron with a smallish profile and thin top lines as you would in the MBs as well as forged short irons, but you don't give up the benefits of having the Speed Pocket in the long and mid irons.
However you want to look at it, I truly believe that TaylorMade has created a set that will last for years in the bags of many. I said earlier that I had high expectations for these clubs based upon my experience with the previous Tour Preferred MC irons, and these clubs have more than lived up to those expectations. The looks of the irons have been toned down since the last version and where they were once a bit industrial looking are now the sleekest that TaylorMade has produced in a long time. Couple that with the fact that these irons perform great and you have a recipe for a set worthy of the Tour Preferred name. While I'm sure that I'll be trying different irons out in the future, it's going to take something really special to get these out of my bag for good.