The Tour Preferred CB irons are, I suppose, the spiritual successors to the RocketBladez Tour irons that I reviewed a year ago. They're another cast set of irons with TaylorMade's Speed Pocket technology (a polymer-filled slot cut out of the sole) that TM is hoping will appeal to a mass audience as well as the occasional better player. Ideally, these are a spectrum-spanning set of irons.
You might not expect it, but these have already made it into the bags of PGA Tour players and weekend hackers alike. Let's see if they should earn a spot in your bag.
Design and Technology
In terms of technology, the Tour Preferred CBs are more of a refinement than a reinvention. The SpeedPocket, introduced last year and filled with a 3M polymer, is back with a few twists. Still present only in the 3- through 7-irons, it has been expanded, with thicker pockets towards the heel and toe.
TaylorMade says that the SpeedPocket now includes "micro-slots," which increase ball speed and raise the launch angle. This has allowed them to bring down the lofts one degree throughout the set without losing any height, which should increase distance.
When you increase the size of the SpeedPocket, as TM has done here, you’re presented the challenge of doing something with that removed weight. Polymer is, after all, lighter than steel. TaylorMade has widened the sole a bit to make up for that loss of CoG-lowering steel. That’s great for launch, not so much for playability.
The main design conceit of these irons is that they’re a balancing act: on one hand, they have the "Tour Preferred" branding, they come with KBS Tour shafts, they have a somewhat traditional look, they have a satin chrome finish (which TM says is preferred by better players), and a few professionals have put them in play (Justin Rose, Trevor Immelman, Camilo Villegas); on the other hand, the toplines and soles are thicker, there’s a decent amount of offset, the lofts are low, and the irons are built to launch the ball way up in the air. That’s only a breakthrough if they’ve struck the right balance.
I noted in my review of the RocketBladez Tour irons that they were very grey-heavy, which is a design choice that TaylorMade has continued with the Tour Preferred line. I don’t mind that; they certainly look classy. The über-chrome finish is evocative of Mizuno's MP line, which is not a bad target to aspire to.
The cavity is styled very similarly to the RocketBladez, with the "TaylorMade" script on the muscle and a plastic sticker in the cavity. The words "Tour Preferred" are written in white and red, with "CB" in white closer to the heel.
The undercut cavity extends to the hosel of the club, where a small cutout has been made, presumably to remove weight from the heel of the club. The RocketBladez Tour irons had a similar hosel cutout, but it’s grown to Ping-sized proportions.
Keeping with the "Tour Preferred" design style, the toe of the club is more angular than, say, the TaylorMade SpeedBlade irons. That’s a nice touch that, along with the polished chrome, helps to give the club a relatively classic look from the back.
Moving to the soles, the polyurethane slot has been filled in a bit more, and is now flush with the surrounding steel. I never had any problem with dirt caking in the slots of the RocketBladez Tour irons, and can’t imagine there would be any with these. The soles are otherwise interrupted only by the club number.
The address position reveals that the Tour Preferred CB irons, while they do share superficial designs and the same metal forming process, are somewhat more of a game-improvement set of irons than the RocketBladez Tours. The toplines are noticeably thicker, and the entire head looks ever-so-slightly larger. The TP CBs have a bit more offset, and the soles and muscle portion of the back of the club are both thicker on the Tour Preferreds, so with some of the long irons you can see them at address. That’s not a huge deal, but if you’re someone like me who generally plays smaller irons, it can be slightly unnerving.
One last thing I noticed is that the face, which had a swirl-milled pattern on the RocketBladez Tour irons, has returned to a simple sandblasted finish. Not a huge deal, I suppose, though golfers who use their pitching wedge around the green might see a small bit less spin.
Though the thicker sole isn’t my favorite feature of the club, it really helps out of longer grass. Clubheads this thick have enough weight that moving through the thicker grass presented no problem.
Through some sort of engineering wizardry, I was quite surprised by how high the RocketBladez Tour irons launched last year, and I’m similarly surprised here. I was a bit worried that the stronger lofts would lower my launch, but in practice (and in a few cuts I got to take on a launch monitor) they took off at about the same angle, and reached about the same maximum height.
That also led to about the same length. I hit them approximately the same distance as the RocketBladez Tour.
Last year I remarked at how the RocketBladez irons that had the SpeedPocket almost felt like I was double hitting the ball (imagine: hit-hit, hit-hit, hit-hit), but I didn’t get that with the Tour Preferred CBs. Maybe the polymer is denser, maybe slot is cut differently or a bit farther from the face, I don’t know. But it felt like any other iron.
I’m not particularly happy or upset about that because the longer irons, the ones with the SpeedPocket, are still among the softest irons that I’ve ever hit. Especially soft for cast irons made of a steel that's among the firmer steels used in clubmaking. I was somewhat disappointed with the short irons - the ones without the polymer. They felt a bit dull. Not harsh, but not a great feeling. They felt like game improvement irons, basically.
What did impress me, however, was the feel on mishits. They increased the size of the SpeedPocket towards the heel and toe of the club, and that added polymer really did help. I could still feel when a shot was off-center based on the twisting of the club in my hands, but I certainly wasn’t met with the hand-stinging sensation that most irons give you. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with the SpeedPocket-less short irons, which did feel a bit harsh. I wouldn’t worry so much about that though: how often are you badly missing the center of the face with your pitching wedge?
And if you are, the performance of these irons on mishits is great. Both ball speed and launch angle (in the x- and y-directions) were shockingly close to shots on the center of the face.
I liked the sound of the Tour Preferred CB irons. A bit muted, but enough of a metallic "pop" that I was satisfied.
The Tour Preferred CB irons come in an assortment of configurations, including 3-PW (which retails for $899.99), 4-AW ($899.99), 4-PW ($789.99), 5-PW ($674.99), 5-AW ($789.99), and 6-PW ($564.99). This allows for plenty of mixing and matching, and is a good effort to adapt to the hybrids and wedges already in your bag. TaylorMade also offers individual irons for $112.99, so if you change your mind later, don’t sweat it.
The individual irons also let you create a combo set using the three Tour Preferred styles of irons, similar to what Justin Rose has had in his bag this year (the CB 3-iron is hiding behind the 4-iron).
It’s an imperfect system, however, which is a disappointing result of the constant strengthening of lofts. I carry 60- and 54-degree wedges, so the 46-degree PW included is beginning to stretch the limits of my loft gapping. I had a similar problem at the long end. I carry a 17-degree hybrid, and the included 21-degree 4-iron leaves just enough space between those two that I’m not exactly sure what to do.
I’m used to carrying a set of better-player irons though, so golfers used to stronger lofts like this might not have much of a problem.
KBS calls their Tour shafts their most versatile shafts, and for good reason. All of the Tour Preferred irons (MB, MC, and CB) come stock with KBS Tour shafts. They fit my game well, and most golfers of average strength shouldn’t have much of a problem with their modest weight.
They come with a very basic Tour Velvet grip, with the logo on the underside. I’d replace them right away.
Club Loft Lie Length Offset Bounce Swing Weight ---- ---- --- ------ ------ ------ ------------ 3I 18 60.5 38.75" 4.2mm 0.0 D2 4I 21 61.0 38.25" 4.0mm 0.6 D2 5I 24.5 61.5 37.75" 3.6mm 2.0 D2 6I 28.5 62.0 37.25" 3.1mm 3.8 D2 7I 32.5 62.5 36.75" 2.8mm 4.5 D2 8I 36.5 63.0 36.25" 2.4mm 7.1 D2 9I 41 63.5 35.75" 2.1mm 8.7 D2 PW 46 64.0 35.50" 1.8mm 10.1 D3 AW 51 64.0 35.50" 1.5mm 12.0 D3
The first thing I noticed about these irons is that they feel and swing like a game improvement iron, even more so than they look. The toplines are thick, as are the soles, and the clubs have that top-heavy feel that most game improvement irons have. No one’s confusing the CBs for blades, but it goes a bit beyond that.
These clubs have to play the balancing game between game improvement and low-handicap irons. Both groups of golfers have to find them appealing to look at and both groups have to find them enjoyable to swing.
And to that effect, TaylorMade has pulled that off pretty well. The clubs are a little clunky, but all in all they've managed to keep much of that clunkiness out of the way. And though I'm not thrilled with the lofts, these irons really rocket the ball. They're soft, they sound great, and they are oh so shiny.