When it comes to irons, what makes you swoon like a 14-year old girl?
Is it distance? Is it some sort of high-tech, goo-filled technology? Or is it just good old-fashioned forged goodness?
Depending on your game, it could be any one of those, or it could be all three. Today Wilson Staff is unveiling a couple of new irons sets it thinks will check-off some or all of those boxes.
2017 has been an interesting year in Wilson Staff’s journey. The year started with the hangover from the Driver Vs. Driver-Triton-USGA fiasco, but that headache was soon forgotten with the release of the universally praised – and MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted – FG Tour V6, another in Wilson's long line of impressive, forged irons for the better player.
Wilson’s ball renaissance continued this fall with the release of the new DUO Soft and DUO Soft Spin, which featured a return of the iconic Wilson Staff shield and more colors than a Summer-Of-Love acid trip.
If you paid attention to social media this past weekend, you know Wilson is hyping today’s release of the C300 and the C300 Forged irons pretty hard - or as hard as a smaller, challenger brand can (and for what it’s worth, Wilson utilizes social media as well as most OEMs today). Hype aside, Wilson is giving game-improvement players a pair of interesting iron sets to consider.
Power Holes, Part Deux
When it comes to Game Improvement irons, every OEM is on the same quest: a larger, hotter sweet spot for greater ball speed and more distance on off-center strikes. Every OEM has a name for it: PING has Cor-Eye, Callaway has 360 Face Cup, Cobra has PWRSHELL, and TaylorMade has Speed Pockets, Face Slots and the hotly contested SpeedFoam.
“The industry has achieved maximum CT (Characteristic Time – or face springiness, as regulated by the USGA) in the center of the face,” says Jon Pergande, Wilson Staff’s Global Manager of Golf Innovation. “So the center of the face is covered. We’re trying to expand face deflection into the heel and toe area of the club.”
Two years ago Wilson gave us FLX Face Technology in its C200 irons. The goal was to make the face thinner, hotter, and faster by separating it from the head using Power Holes. Only 24% of the face was connected to the club head, which allowed it to flex more at impact to deliver greater ball speed. FLX Face proved to be a polarizing look, though, as the Power Holes were filled with black urethane filler for additional support and improved feel. Haters grabbed their pitchforks and stormed the Castle of Aesthetics.
So what is Wilson doing with the C300? Why, doubling down on Power Holes, of course.
“We want to free up the face and make it as large, as thin and as unsupported as possible,” says Pergande. “Power Holes pass through the structure of the body and around the face to facilitate freedom of movement. The whole goal is to increase face deflection to increase ball speed across the entire face.”
The standard C300 set – which is the direct replacement for the C200 – features Power Holes on the topline, toe, and sole just as before. The key difference is a double row of Power Holes on the sole, compared to a single row in the C200.
On one level, this screams gimmick – but Wilson says it's seeing up to 2 MPH balls speed increases over the C200’s, with reduced spin rates and higher launch angles – all ingredients for added distance.
“If you think about the original premise of a large, unsupported face, every one of those ridges in between the power holes of the original C200 is a rigid body that’s not allowing the face to flex or deflect at impact. With the second row of Power Holes on the sole, every piece of that support structure is also allowed to deflect.” Jon Pergande, Wilson Staff
Closer Power Hole inspection shows us the first row has a long slot in the middle and shorter slots on the heel and toe. The second row features to mid-length holes centered behind the front row gaps.
“We couldn’t possibly do a double row around the entire face,” says Pergande. “We’re putting that maximum deflection toward the sole, where we have the material to do it. The front row is aligned to the center of the sole, so it has its own ability to springboard. The second row is basically adding springboard to the springboard.”
C300 Facts and Figures
The C300 irons feature a heat-treated 17-4 Stainless Steel face that's harder, stronger and thinner than C200's face. Any potential harshness in feel is mitigated by the additional urethane in the extra row of Power Holes. Two late-fall practice rounds show a club with feel on par with PING's G400 - not super-forged soft but pleasant feeling nonetheless.
The entire C300 set features dual rows of Power Holes, although Pergande does say you’ll see more Power Hole Pop in your longer irons.
“That’s where you’ll see the greatest benefit because of greater clubhead speeds,” he says. “Depending on loft structures, we’re a club longer than some people, or we’re at similar distance with improved trajectory and spin rates. You can’t really compare 6-iron to 6-iron anymore because there may be several degrees difference in loft.”
Compared to others irons in this category – TaylorMade’s M2, Callaway’s Steelhead and Cobra’s new F8 – Wilson’s lofts are a tad weaker. The C300 features a 31-degree 7-iron, compared to 28.5 for M2, 29.5 for the F8 and 30 for the Steelhead XR. However, Wilson’s shafts are anywhere from ½” to ¾” longer than M2/Steelhead and the same length as the Cobras.
Cosmetically, you’ll notice the C300 has been cleaned up considerably compared to the C200. The club head is completely devoid of red (ironic, considering what Wilson is doing with the C300 metal woods), with a clean chrome and black look that harkens back to Wilson’s FG Tour V2. Wilson is also adding an adjustability notch on the hosel, similar to notch you find on PING irons, to make loft and lie adjustments easier, something that was problematic with the C200’s.
The C300’s are on the SGI side of Game Improvement, and anyone from a high single digit handicap looking for distance all the way to an emerging 20 handicap will want these on their demo list. If you struggle with distance, height, and ball striking, you’ll want to look elsewhere for more forgiveness.
The KBS Tour 90 is the stock steel shaft, and the Fujikura Speeder Pro 78i is the stock graphite. A slick looking new Wilson Staff branded Lamkin Crossline is the stock grip.
Wilson continues to price its irons competitively – the 8-piece 4-GW C300 set retails for $799 in steel, $899 in graphite. They can be pre-ordered starting today on Wilson’s website and will be available in stores in early January.
C300 Forged: Feel + Distance
Another new frontier for OEM’s is marrying distance technology and forgiveness with the looks and feel better players want. If you’re in this category OEM’s know busy cavities, brightly colored badges and thick toplines are definite turnoffs, while minimal or hidden offset, toplines so thin you can shave with them and sex-on-a-stick look and feel are must-haves in your eHarmony profile.
If that's you, and if Power Holes don’t bother you (which admittedly is a big if) Wilson's C300 Forged might be more your speed.
“There are traditional players out there with certain expectations of what a golf club should look like at address,” says Pergande. “That expectation includes offset, topline, overall blade shape, and size. That’s why there are no Power Holes on the topline or toe of the C300 Forged. That player doesn’t want to see distraction on the topline has an expectation of minimal offset and an expectation for looks.”
In theory, C300 Forged is the direct replacement for the two-year-old FG Tour F5 forged iron. However, Pergande says while the F5 was a great feeling iron with a fair amount of forgiveness, it lacked the distance tech the category requires.
“F5 was a cavity back, so there was some forgiveness. But we also had a bar across the cavity for added feel and blade-like performance with added mass behind the impact area. But mass behind the impact area is moving away from a large, thin, unsupported face. So what we’re doing is taking the gloves off and putting in all the distance technology we can, while still keeping a traditional look, feel and head shape.” – Jon Pergande, Wilson Staff
Pergande says that compared to the F5, Wilson is seeing 12 to 13-yard increases with 4 and 5 irons for an average player, with smaller increases as the irons get shorter.
“The F5 was distance through forgiveness,” he says. “What the C300 Forged does is add ball speed to the distance equation. On top of that, we modified and manipulated the loft structure to be fair to the discussion.”
Are we officially copping to loft-jacking?
“I don’t think the lofts in any of our products are ‘jacked,’” says Pergande. “Our lofts respond to the needs of the marketplace. There are a handful of products in the marketplace that I can say have very jacked lofts, or are very noteworthy outliers in loft.”
“When it comes to the average player, traditional lofts had us at a disadvantage when it came to ball speed numbers in a simulator or on Trackman. Consumers still experience it as 7-iron to 7-iron, or 6-iron to 6-iron. We have to make sure the experience that consumer has is the most positive we can deliver. The fine line everyone in the industry fights is what is the best way to achieve distance? It’s not always a pure increase in loft, although that’s certainly a part of it.” – Jon Pergande, Wilson Staff
The lofts on the C300 Forged are 1 to 2 degrees stronger than the F5’s, but are right there with others in the category: Callaway’s Apex Pro and the Titleist AP2 are roughly one degree weaker, while M1 and Steelhead XR Pro are 2 to 2.5 degrees stronger.
Power Holes And Other Love Songs
As mentioned earlier, you won’t see any Power Holes at address with the C300 Forged. You will find them low on the toe and on the sole, but if you're watching the sole of the club during the swing, you're probably doing it wrong.
The Power Hole pattern is slightly different in the C300 Forged compared to the standard C300. The first row features three smaller slots of the same length, backed up by two longer slots.
“The C300 Forged uses 8620 carbon steel, so the strength properties aren’t the same as the C300,” says Pergande. “We can’t have quite as large of a Power Hole right at the center of the face because of the strength of the material.” The C300 Forged has Power Holes only up to the 8-iron. The 9, PW and GW are Hole-less.
8620 is the same forging as Wilson’s FG Tour V6 and FG Tour 100 player’s irons – with a topline and head size slightly larger than those of the V6, but are virtually indistinguishable for all but the most OCD among us. And if you’re a forged feel lover, the C300 Forged will definitely make you get down and boogie. The cavity itself is very clean, mostly chrome with only the lettering and Wilson Staff shield in black. The cavity itself is virtually invisible at address.
The C300 Forged fit nicely into the category populated by the Callaway Steelhead Pro, Apex CF 16 or Apex Pro, the Titleist AP 1 or AP 2 or the Mizuno JPX 900 Forged, so any low teen or single digit handicapper looking for a little distance along with feel might find a friend here.
The C300 Forged is also an 8-piece, 4-GW set, with KBS Tour 105 the stock steel shaft and the Fujikura Speeder Pro 85i the stock graphite shaft. The Wilson Staff branded Lamkin Crossline grip is standard for both sets.
The C300 Forged retails for $899 in steel and $999 in graphite. They can be pre-ordered on Wilson’s website starting today and will be in stores in early January.