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Blades

Blades, those little shiny hard to hit clubs that golfers classify as “player” only irons. If you game blades you will undoubtedly get a look or two when you roll up to your local golf course. Maybe a comment about the pretty clubs or aren’t those impossible to hit? You must be scratch carrying those beauties. Nothing riles me more than the misconception concerning bladed irons. Why would any regular hack want to play something that undoubtedly makes the game harder?

Going to try and get it cooking a bit here. To be honest, chaffing may occur if you continue to read this post. That isn’t a guarantee though, you may come away with a different perception of the much reviled bladed golf club. Now let me go ahead and state, I’m not a bladed club snob. Having played several different types of irons, a bladed iron suits my eye and my current level of play. For a little background, I played a sublime set of Titleist DCI 962s for the better part of 10 years. Genuinely, the only cast cavity back club that somehow felt forged in the history of mankind. I’ve tinkered with numerous Titleist AP2 offerings, just haven’t bellied up to the bar to purchase a set. What do I game? An old set of Titleist 690 MBs, a set of irons that may join me in the grave. Might just have to adjust the will to account for my last earthly desire. In case you were wondering, I am jaded, and I honestly believe the two manufacturers (within a reasonable budget, Miura excluded) that are leaps and bounds above the others are Titleist and Mizuno. I happen to have an old set of Mizuno MP-14s that feel a little better than the Titleist 690 MBs, but the shafts aren’t right and the ball tends to balloon on me. A project for another day I guess. Back to my original thought….the blade and cavity back…the great divide.

The topic has burned up more than a few forums in the past. I was playing a couple of weeks ago with an older gentleman. He is an outstanding player and we were getting along great going neck and neck for the most part on the back 9. About the 14th hole, he noticed the blades in my bag. As we hit our tee shots on the next hole, he makes a comment, something to the effect, I didn’t realize people still played those clubs. Automatically, my position turns defensive, almost apologizing for these silly clubs in the bag. “Ya, I don’t know, just haven’t got around to replacing them. The new technology certainly makes the game a little easier”. Argh, you weak bastard (self talk, inside voice, does wonders for the confidence when trying to reach short par 5s in 2)…. frankly I believe that sentiment to be bogus at best. I felt dirty, almost like a politician on the campaign trail, telling the people what they want to hear. If I were a forged muscle back bladed club I’d sue for defamation. For example, we buy a car that suits our needs, taste, and desires. Some of us like the plush ride and comfort of a luxury car. A chariot that carries it’s precious cargo to and from in style. Automatic everything, the driving experience muted encapsulation. Cue up some, Pharell…..Happy…love that jam. Other people really enjoy driving a car that is more rudimentary. A base elemental experience. To them, it’s more like “driving” and there is more control. From my perspective, bladed irons are akin to a manual transmission. It’s a preference is all, I swear it isn’t a cult, though I will take donations to start one. Who can argue, unless you’ve been deprived, the feeling of taking a 5 speed down a winding road. The manual gear shift provides a deeper connection between the driver, vehicle, and the road. The same is true for your golf club. The reason you chose the irons you game has everything to do with that connection you feel. Assuming you didn’t fall for the, “you’ll hit it 2 clubs farther claims”. A connection between you, the golf ball, and the interaction with the turf. That’s what I’m talking about. You can’t quantify it, it’s absolutely intrinsic. I’ve often joked with my buddies….if you didn’t have to wear a condom….that’s what I’m talking about.

To be clear, I’m not referring to those Spalding blades from 1955 sitting in your basement. The ones you inherited from your grandfather. Let’s limit the scope to the modern blade of the muscle back variety. Though I’m partial to Titleist and Mizuno, I will have to admit there are plenty of other good manufacturers out there. Nike victory blades were a pretty stellar set of sticks, though it’s been long rumored Mizuno had something to do with those. There are others out there that will get it done, but the key to me is the muscle. The fat part in the back of the club contributes to the feel and forgiveness. Yes, I said forgiveness. At least in the case of my 690s, you don’t have to hit them dead perfect to get a decent result. What’s cool to me, I know at impact what my anticipated outcome will be. When you flush it, seriously, about as fine a feeling as well…guess I should keep it clean here. There are times a ball will be in flight and I’m talking to it and my playing partners don’t know why? The ball is flying to the target, but I now what it will do before it lands. That connection is something that is primal. To me, the conversation provides great comfort. By the way, I’ve yet to meet a player that doesn’t talk to the ball from time to time. It’s completely normal, you’re flat out weird if you don’t talk to it. I find not cussing at the ball, yeilds better results. Sometimes you are yelling for it the get down…please get down….because you know the way it came off that it was a hot lie and you felt that nothingness that means you flushed it. I don’t believe you can possibly “know” with a cast cavity back designed club. Or when you catch it toe side, it ain’t getting there but it should be alright, you accounted for it, nestle somewhere nice. When I played my 962s, that feeling was absent. When I caught it hot, I couldn’t feel it, everything felt the same. No useful feedback, just the surprise of a flown green. At which point, swearing is okay, the ball is down…it won’t get it’s feelings hurt if you cuss it out. Did I hit great shots with those irons? Absolutely! Did I score well with them? You bet. So why change?

I have to admit, I didn’t plunge directly into the bladed world of irons. Titleist produced one of the early split combination sets some years ago. To me, that seemed to be a good way to get my feet wet and see if I could handle the blades on a weekly basis. Not to mention, the stigma was removed. 15 handicaps aren’t supposed to aspire to get better. The 735 CM’s were pretty good forged irons. I won’t say they were extraordinary, just pretty good. In that combo set, the 3-7 irons were a forged cavity back design and the 8-PW were small muscle back irons. I played these clubs 4 or 5 years and enjoyed them. Anybody, and I mean anybody can hit 8-PW in a blade. If you can’t at the start, you will be able to with a little work at the range and your swing will be better for it. Entirely possible I would still be gaming those sticks today, but something happened that changed my course. A local listing on Craigslist for the 690’s. A guy was selling his whole bag of clubs but I only wanted the irons. I was fortunate to make him a good offer just for the irons and even more fortunate the first buyer didn’t show up to make the purchase. The irons he had were in almost new condition which was astonishing. He’d hit them 8 or 9 times, realized he couldn’t play them (I dare say, he gave up), so they sat in is basement for the last 9 years. In some cases, these irons are still going for $300 and up in great condition. You can get much more if they’ve been refinished. I kind of stole them for $225, no shame in my game, conscious is clear. My thought, I can give them a go and see if I could play them. If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t have a problem flipping them for a profit. The first range session lasted 2 hours, I couldn’t believe the feel of these irons. I’m always a little leery of clubs that “put out” on the first date though, so I did my best to quell future expectations…this feeling was for now and I was smiling. As the story goes, they held up and we rode off into the sunset. Re-shafted them with some KBS tours to bring down the ball flight, game on.

Are bladed irons an option for you? I implore you to experiment. I’ve talked to guys who have taken the blade challenge and have never come back to the prevalent belief that you “need” cavity backs or game improvement irons. The truth is, it’s all about your preference. Nothing to do with what the experts say. Would a 20 handicap have fun playing a blade? Probably not at first. What I will say, you have to hit the ball correctly to use these type of irons. What it’s done for me, it’s brought the smooth into my swing. Ugly shots are the result of being quick, nothing pretty about that. You will be forced to work at your game a bit and your swing can’t help but get better. The very least you can do is look for a single iron on the internet. A 5 or 7 iron. Put it in your bag when you go to the range and work at it. That will help your swing no matter what. To produce a serviceable ball flight your mechanics will need to improve. My handicap improved after going to blades. I went from a very serviceable 10 to a low of 2.9. It’s crept up to a 4 since the low, but as they say, sometimes a change is painful. This isn’t a Tiger Woods kind of change trying to get my glutes to activate. More subtle and pedestrian.

There is a reason Loudmouth golf exists….everyone is different. Some cats don’t care for the khaki shorts look, a little flavor for the Saturday round. I swear only John Daly can rock those, if I tried, pretty sure my wife would disown me. In the end, we really take ourselves far too serious. Enjoy the game, that’s why it was invented. Don’t close yourself off to the experience in the process. I know there are many of you that disagree with the sentiments in this post, but that’s okay. Chew it up and spit it out, not going dent any egos here. Manufacturers make different clubs for different people. Hell, Taylormade makes as many different clubs as there are golfers it seems. Just don’t close the door to the blade. You may surprise yourself when you leap that first hurdle of adoption.

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Brian Clay - August 11, 2015

The feeling of hitting blades pure likened to baby making, driving a 5sp down a mountain road, and essentially achieving a zen state of mind in the process???? Great, where do I sign up? Excellent stuff 4caddy! Keep it going.

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