Let's cut to the chase: you're either interested in Titleist's 695MB irons or you're not. If you're looking for a forgiving iron with no feel, these aren't the irons for you. But if you're a single-digit handicapper with a penchant for the buttery sweet feel of a modern muscleback, read on.
Titleist's Forged 695MB Irons are the successor to the previous model, the 690.MB (preceded themselves by the dotless 690MB). Sister set to the Forged 695CB, the 695MB offers an evolutionary, not revolutionary, step forward in the line.
If Titleist's irons were placed on a scale with the more forgiving Forged 775.CB irons and the rare Forged 660 at the other, the 695MB would occupy just beside the 660 and a good bit away from the combo 735.CM.
But again, we already knew that. What's new in these models and how well they work, why, that's what the rest of the review will tell you. Read on, but bring your proof-of-handicap…
Design and Technology
Leaning heavily on the traditional lines Titleist has maintained in their irons since, oh, they started making irons in the 1950s, the 695MBs take a small step forward. That step forward is called the "Z-Muscle," a design element that removes weight from the heel of the club to shift the center of gravity closer to the center of the iron's face. Forged irons have long had a sweet spot dangerously close to the the hosel, so moving the center of gravity toe-ward is a welcome change.
Of course, a heavier toe may create a face that's tougher to close, but the 695MB features progressive offset - from 0.135 inches in the 3-iron to 0.085 inches in the pitching wedge - and a constant length blade to help players square the clubface properly at impact, particularly in the longer irons.
The 695MB also has a relatively narrow sole to allow for greater shotmaking options than the wider soles found on other irons, and Titleist's (i.e. Golf Pride's) Tour Velvet Cord grip as standard.
Looks and Setup
As with most Titleist irons, the 695MB is a throwback to the traditional with a little modern flair. For the first time, Titleist is showing a bit of color with the red "695" paintfill on the back of the iron. Red is a color trend that carries into the other iron sets (like the Forged 775.CB).
At address, players will notice a traditionally thin topline that manages to hide the muscle behind the sweet spot. They'll notice a high toe, the consistent blade length, and a relatively flat leading edge that makes proper alignment a snap. The minimal offset is disguised nicely, and the simple, clean appearance inspires confidence.
Feel and Performance
Titleist calls the Forged 695MB a "contemporary, muscle back blade iron for the highly skilled player seeking maximum shot shaping control and maneuverability." And that they are.
In my 735.CM review, I said:
As is true of all Titleist's irons, they inspire confidence from the moment you pull them out of the bag, set them behind the ball, and look up at your shot as it soars against an azul sky.
That's as true of the 695MB as it is of any other iron Titleist has ever produced. The thin sole and the straight leading edge leant themselves to beautiful shotmaking capabilities with easy alignment and controllable dig and gouge properties out of the fairway, rough, and other lies.
My 695MB set was equipped with Rifle's FCM 6.0 flighted shafts. Having spent all my life playing True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 shafts, it took awhile to get used to the flight of the Rifle shafts, but once I did the results were amazing: the 3-, 4-, and 5-irons launched a bit higher than expected while the short irons launched a bit lower and really got through the air and any wind. The trajectory of every shot felt like a mid-iron, and was just as easy to control as one, too.
But make no mistake about it: these are serious clubs for the really serious player. Mishits aren't rewarded, and shots a half an inch towards the toe or heel lose ten yards and a little accuracy. I switched to the 735.CM last year from my 680s for the extra forgiveness, and these clubs immediately took it back.
But what these clubs give in return is that sweet feeling on center contact. That feeling that the ball didn't even get in the way of your swing, that sweet "nothingness" when you feel a ball compress on the face of an iron before springing into the air, dead online and flying true. That feeling is why these irons are what they are to some people. That sweet feeling of hitting a forged muscleback iron on the button keeps people coming back to the game, and these irons deliver that sweet feeling to those capable of wielding them properly.
The best shot I hit with these irons was actually a recovery shot from the right side of a par five. I had to go under a tree and cut a shot back into the wind to bend the ball back into the fairway. I chose a three iron, played it back in my stance, and took a nice, easy swing. The ball rocketed off the clubface, stayed low under the tree, and bent nicely to the right. It traveled nearly as far as I'd expect a 3-wood to travel from a lie in the fairway, leaving only a short pitch to the green. The feeling of that shot at impact is still with me today.
I've always been more of a "picker" than a "digger" of the golf ball, so the thin sole on the 695MB was right up my alley. If you play on Bermuda fairways or pick the ball relatively clean, you'll like them as well.
In playing the 735s, I made a conscious decision to give up a little workability for a little forgiveness, but I must admit it's nice to have the workability back again. Despite having the flighted Rifle shafts, I found it very easy to modify the height of my golf ball and also to vary the left-to-right and right-to-left flight, giving me excellent control over both directions (horizontal and vertical).
The Forged 695MB is constructed of Forged 1025 mild carbon steel and is available in 2-PW, with a standard set being 3-PW. The stock grip is a Titleist Tour Velvet Cord with the logo underneath, and the stock shafts are the standby True Temper Dynamic Gold S300.
Available for righties and lefties, the 695MB can be customized with an R300 shaft or a number of other shafts, including Rifle's Project X or Flighted Rifle shafts. True Temper also offers the Dynamic Gold SL in R3, S3, and X1. Naturally, custom grips can be ordered at your local pro shop. They sell for $899.
Titleist will be the first to tell you that the 695MB irons are not for everyone. Heck, their 2006 Iron Selection Guide (PDF) recommends the 695MB to players with a handicap ranging from zero to five, and my experiences mirror that recommendation.
These aren't the easiest irons in the world to hit, they're not super forgiving, and they won't do much to help you correct hooks or slices. But they will allow you to control your golf ball in both directions (horizontal and vertical), they will provide consistent playability throughout the set, and they will provide that oh-so-sweet feeling when you pure a shot.
And for some, that makes all the difference.