We've all seen the commercials. And they're true: TaylorMade, for all intents and purposes, "owns the tee box." Having established a dominant position in drivers with the r5 and then the r7, TaylorMade is making believers out of even the staunchest of opponents. Dave Koster, who has used Titleist drivers much of his life, recently put the r7 460 in his bag after reviewing it.
Leveraging the success TaylorMade has had with drivers, the Carlsbad, CA company is seeking to "own" other product categories as well. They make great hybrids (their "Rescue" clubs) and are widely regarded as the leader in that category. They recently introduced "TP" golf balls to compete with Titleist, Callaway, and Nike. Even their putters and apparel (via Adidas) have gotten a fair amount of acclaim.
Lost in the shuffle a bit have been TaylorMade's irons. Despite tremendous retail success with the higher-handicapper irons (see our RAC LT review), the company's better irons have fought an uphill battle against the likes of Titleist and Mizuno for the attention of lower handicappers. With the 2006 revision to their high-end model, TaylorMade's RAC MB TP irons what may be the best irons they've ever produced for better players.
Design and Technology
The RAC MB TP replaces TaylorMade's RAC Forged TP. The RAC Forged TP was a lot more "cavity back" than muscleback in both appearance and performance. Though the Forged TPs performed well, they were not a star and had trouble competing with better-player irons from Titleist, Mizuno, Ben Hogan, and Cleveland.
The RAC MB TP came about at the request of Retief Goosen, who wanted a muscleback "blade" featuring TaylorMade's "RAC" technology, very little offset, and a more compact head than the Forged TP. He got his wish.
The RAC MB TP is a muscleback blade, albeit with an unusually shaped muscle (and, I should note, they're not really a "blade" either, they just appear to be one at address). A large mass of metal sits right behind the sweet spot. A wing of metal extends towards the sole and then towards both the toe and the heel. TaylorMade calls the gaps between the wings "feel pockets" because, well, they can. These feel pockets were first introduced last year in TaylorMade's wedges and are largely responsible for changing the sound - a major component of feel - of impact.
Double stamp forged from 10-25 carbon steel, the face and grooves of the RAC MB TP are CNC milled to ensure crisp cuts and a smooth, flat face. The thin "tour-configured" sole was designed to allow aggressive play without excessive digging. The irons are finished with a Tour Satin appearance that reduces glare. The attractive "TP" logo is embedded behind the sweet spot on the back of each iron.
The RAC MB TP is for better players who have no trouble getting the ball up in the air. These clubs demand a higher swing speed (105+ MPH with the driver) and feature traditional design: a thin top line, minimal to no offset, and a thin sole with a Tour camber for easy manipulation of impact conditions. They're the most blade-like irons TaylorMade makes, so they're as workable a set of irons you'll get with "TaylorMade" stamped on them.
Feel and Performance
When it comes to my irons, I've always been a traditionalist. My first set of irons were Jack Nicklaus (by MacGregor) forged muscleback blades. Those clubs quickly taught me that there's nothing like the feeling of a purely struck blade. I credit them with my remarkably quick improvement in the game of golf, and each of my next sets of irons have been muscle-back blades up to and including the Titleist Forged 680s I was playing last year. Midway through last year, I tried Titleist's 735.CM irons. With the more cavity-back-like longer irons, they were about as far away from a muscleback set as I was willing to go.
When you talk of traditional golf equipment, "TaylorMade irons" don't spring to mind unless you need a contrary example. Yet these irons, despite the "feel pockets" and the unique manner in which the metal is placed in forming the head of the club, are overwhelmingly traditional in their appearance and performance. Those large metal masses on the back of the clubhead simply disappear in the address position. As I've said with TaylorMade's drivers, the company does a great job of hiding the technology so that all you see is a series of clean, simple, confidence-inspiring lines when you look down at the club.
I put the RAC MB TPs in my bag for the first rounds of the year and they've yet to leave, nor do I expect that they will any time soon. I've found the RAC MB TP to feature easy-to-launch long irons, reasonable forgiveness for a muscleback, and exceptional workability. Whether you want to go high, low, left, or right - it doesn't matter - these clubs obey. The modern golf ball is increasingly difficult to shape around trees or with the wind, but these irons let me do just about anything I want.
Better players manipulate the trajectory of their shots, and this is one of the areas in which the RAC MB TPs improve over the Forged TPs. With minimal to no offset, these clubs respond whether you're trying to knock down a five-iron or float a wedge. They obey when you demand a small draw or blistering power fade. Though TaylorMade did bring the trajectory up from the Forged TPs, the MB TP doesn't balloon the ball into the wind. With standard lofts and lengths, carry distance and spin rates are comparable to any other premium iron.
Rifles, Lofts, and Other Features
The RAC MB TPs come standard with Royal Precision FCM iron shafts. Mine arrived with 6.0 frequency shafts, roughly equivalent to True Temper's Dynamic Gold S300 and weighing a similar 125 grams.
As a long-time TT DG S300 user, it took me awhile to get used to these shafts. With the DG S300, I could hit a lower-trajectory punch shot fairly easily, but these shafts tended to spin the ball more than I was used to if I wasn't careful. After a few small changes to correct what was actually poor technique, these shafts have proven themselves worthy and pair beautifully with the MB TP heads. Shots not only feel softer with these shafts and the MB TP heads, but the shafts perform as advertised and create a consistent trajectory from one iron to the next without a distance gap anywhere in the set.
As with most better-player irons, the RAC MB TPs come with traditional lofts: the 3-iron has 21° and the pitching wedge has 48°. After a 3° jump from the 3-iron to the 4-iron, lofts increase by 4°. Offset ranges from 1.9mm in the 3-iron to 0.5mm in the pitching wedge.
The RAC MB TPs come stock with TaylorMade's (Golf Pride's) Tour Velvet. I'd previously been using the New Decade MultiCompound, but see no reason to move away from the Tour Velvet.
When it comes to my irons, I've been a traditionalist since my first set. I had almost assumed that my irons would always say "Titleist" or "Mizuno" on them, or perhaps "Ben Hogan" if I was feeling particularly nostalgic. That assumption was put to rest a few months ago: these TaylorMade RAC MB TPs found their way into my bag and they've yet to leave, and I don't see them leaving any time soon.
I'm not sure who first used the phrase "tradition meets technology" to describe one of their products, but with everyone from Titleist to Mizuno slowly moving away from the plain muscleback blade look of the 90s (Titleist with the "Z-Muscle" in the 695.MB, Mizuno with their "Cut Muscle" technology), the RAC MB TPs fit that bill better than perhaps any other better-player irons on the market today.
At $999 retail, these irons certainly aren't something you're likely to buy on a whim. But if you're in the market for some new musclebacks, you'll likely find that the stock Rifle shafts, the redesigned head with RAC technology (i.e. "feel pockets), and the overall appearance of the TaylorMade RAC MB TPs will suit both your eye and your game to an incredible level.