You may have heard or seen two terms with respect to irons: “players” and “game improvement.”
Players irons refer to those designed for better players. The defining characteristics for these irons are typically: a thin top line and sleek appearance, smaller club heads, and a blade design.
Game improvement is a category better defined as: thicker appearance, larger club heads, and a cavity-backed design.
Naturally, club manufacturers want to make irons that will appeal to the largest market possible. So the goal is the look and feel of a players iron with the forgiveness and ease of use of a game improvement club.
Is that even possible? TaylorMade is one of the companies trying to make that happen with its P790 set of irons. Let’s take a closer look at how TaylorMade has done it, or attempted to.
Instead of merging the two types of irons, most of those efforts involve designing a club that looks like a blade but performs like a cavity-backed club.
The TaylorMade P790 has all the looks of a players iron.
There is a thin top line that, when at address, gives the golfer great confidence that they can pull off any shot necessary. Whether any golfer can actually move the ball left or right on command is up to each player’s skill level, but this iron won’t prevent it.
Forged from 4140 carbon steel, an alloy that is tougher than normal with good impact resistance, the P790 has a brushed appearance that is both attractive and reduces glare from the sun.
The head size is small, with a barely perceptible offset that gets larger the longer the iron.
If you didn’t know anything else about this iron, the offset is the only aspect that might prevent you from firmly tabbing it as a players club.
That offset, where the club’s leading edge is put back slightly from the shaft, is there to help prevent slices. Again, it is not a strong offset in the P790, aside from the longer irons.
The head of each P790 iron is created hollow, then foam is added to fill the hollowed-out area.
That foam is made from urethane and is designed to do two things.
First, it helps reduce the vibration created upon impact with the ball. This reduction allows the golfer to have greater feel, as the club acts as a bridge between the hands and the ball.
Second, it creates a faster face. You may think that the foam on the inside would have nothing to do with the face on the outside, but it actually has a large impact.
Because the foam strengthens the club, it allows for a much thinner face. A thin face is a fantastic way to increase ball speed, as it allows for a superior spring effect.
You may believe the Speedfoam name to be a bit silly, but it is an apt moniker.
Much as the offset has a progression, greater in longer irons, so does the sweet spot in the P790.
As you work from the shorter and higher lofted to the longer and less lofted irons, you strike the ball lower on the face.
Because of that, many of today’s better clubs have graduated sweet spots. What changes in each iron is the coefficient of restitution, or COR.
COR is a measure of the energy transferred between the club and the ball. A higher COR would mean greater distance but perhaps a loss of accuracy. Since accuracy is more important in the short irons, those will have a lower COR than the longer irons.
Current rules of golf do not allow for a COR of greater than 0.83, or 83 percent. As 100 percent energy transfer is a physical impossibility, that 83 percent butts up near what is even possible.
The TaylorMade P790 does a great job of maximizing COR where needed.
TaylorMade first released the P790 in 2018 but has redesigned the club. One of the elements of the redesign was a new position for its tungsten weights.
Tungsten is a terrific choice for adding weight to clubs because of its density. Tungsten has twice the density of steel and seven times the weight of aluminum.
Weight added to any golf club affects its launch angle and center of gravity. Typically used in game improvement irons to make the clubs easier to hit, the P790 has the same, a bar of tungsten slung low and in the back of the club.
This design element is the one area where the P790 more closely resembles a game improvement iron. It makes it relatively easy to get the ball airborne, while also making the club a bit more forgiving than the initial version.
The P790 must still be considered a players iron, albeit one with many aspects that bring it closer to a game improvement club.
While more forgiving than many, if not all, other irons in that category, the P790 cannot match the forgiveness of a perimeter-weighted, cavity-backed iron.
High handicappers, and those at the upper limits of the mid-handicapper range, likely more forgiveness and ease of use than the TaylorMade P790 can deliver. Those players will gladly trade feel and the ability to work the ball for forgiveness and a club that is easier to hit. And they are absolutely correct to do so.
But the P790 does have appeal to a wider range than you might otherwise get from a players iron.
Low handicappers all the way to scratch golfers will appreciate the performance of the P790. It retains the great feel of other players irons. Rarely will you find yourself in a spot where you cannot hit the shot required due to the limitations of the P790.
Those precious few times are more than made up for with the enhancements that make the P790 easier to hit than most other clubs in the same category.
That is even truer for the more talented players who haven’t quite made the leap from mid- to low handicapper.
Sure, the price tag is hefty, but most golfers who will want this club are likely serious enough about the game to handle that cost.