What would you say is the key difference between a Super Game Improvement iron and an iron in the emerging Players Distance category?

First, let’s look at the similarities. The SGI category promises forgiveness and distance for straighter, longer shots. Workability, of course, isn’t part of the equation. Players Distance promises distance and forgiveness for longer, straighter shots, with enough potential workability to make a better player swoon.

Seeing any common threads?

Put the two irons side-by-side and the biggest difference is obvious: one looks sleek, simple and, dare I say, sexy — the other looks like what better players disdainfully refer to as a shovel, with more bling than that one crazy aunt everyone has.

With today’s release of its new D7 irons, Wilson Staff is trying to bridge the gap between those two categories – by combining distance and forgiveness the SGI player needs with the clean looks a better player wants.

It’s a neat trick, but can that gap be bridged, or is it a bridge too far?

Meet The D7

There’s plenty of performance tech to talk about with the D7, but the most startling difference is its looks. D7 bears little, if any, resemblance to the 2-year-old D300, which it’s replacing.

“We have a strong history of what I’d call very bold and very red design elements,” says Wilson Golf Club Innovation Manager Jon Pergande. “Bold features denote forgiveness, but also chunkiness, with a heavy dose of red accents.”

The first thing you notice about the new D7 is the absence of bling. The second is an absence of red. Compared to its predecessor, D7 looks sleek, simple and sexy. The flashy red cavity decoration is gone, replaced with simple black and chrome, with a whisper of blue.

“The blue cools things off and makes it look a bit sleeker,” says Pergande. “But that sleekness is tied into the design. The D300 was very abrupt, with large features in the back, with Power Holes visible on the top line.”

The goal, says Pergande, was to create a cleaner, classier looking distance iron that could appeal to that Players Distance golfer looking for a little more forgiveness.

“We started by looking at the V6 and C300 Forged irons, products we’ve had great success with, and tried to work more of a traditional looking aesthetic,” he says. “So we’re losing the Power Holes on the topline and opening up the cavity a little bit to increase the MOI.”

Ahh, the Power Holes. From an aesthetic viewpoint, folks either ignore them, find them mildly irritating or loathe them entirely. Regardless, they’re gone from D7’s top line but are still used on the sole. There’s a Power Hole performance/tech story to be told, but at least half the D7 story is about curb appeal. Wilson wants it to wink at you from across the room.

Pick Me, Pick Me!

Even though the data says there’s no real correlation between looks and performance, when it comes to grabbing something off the shelf and giving it a whack or two on the launch monitor, we do like that eye candy.

“We’re trying to improve the initial consumer experience at the point of purchase, prior to testing,” says Pergande. “Part of that experience is a very clean shape. We wanted to keep the shape as clean as possible and hide the robustness and forgiveness for that better player’s eye.”

In that respect, Wilson’s done a pretty decent job. The D7 may not be the Kate Upton of irons, but it’s no Mimi from the Drew Carey Show, either. Getting rid of the top line Power Holes helps immensely. For an SGI iron the top line isn’t bad at all (a side-by-side comparison with the C300 Forged is below) and Wilson has done a nice job hiding the offset.

“The transition of hosel to leading edge is always tricky,” says Pergande. “These are distance clubs, and you want to have offset. It helps, especially in the longer irons. But as long as you transition the blends, you can hide the offset, and as long as you camber the topline a little, you can hide that width.”

“We think the market is shifting away from super-forgiveness looking and super chunky looking, and has moved into this much cleaner, more traditional look. I don’t want to associate D7 with a purely traditional look – it still has a large blade. But there are a lot of design cues that may improve the experiences for the better player, and maybe give him or her some added distance they may need for their game.” – Jon Pergande, Wilson Golf

The D7’s styling fits in nicely in Wilson’s iron continuum, with a family resemblance to the C300, C300 Forged, and FG Tour V6 (and maybe those sweet looking new blades), as well as the Super-Duper Game Improvement D350, for branding consistency, but with enough identity to stand on its own.

Putting the D in Distance

Wilson categorizes its iron sets as well as anyone in the business. D is for Distance, F (as in FG Tour V6 or FG Tour 100) is for Feel and C is for Crossover: more distance than the F’s, more feel than the D’s. Wilson’s very good at D, with both the D300 and D350 finishing at or near the top in both ball speed and carry distance in MyGolfSpy’s 2018 Most Wanted SGI iron test. Power Holes do their job.

Power Holes are Wilson’s way of creating more face-deflection, something virtually every iron-maker is doing in the quest for distance. The tech debuted in January of 2016 in the C200 iron, and Wilson has since added the technology to both the C and D series. The idea behind Power Holes? Disconnect the clubface from the head structure as much as possible, allowing the face to flex more at impact to maximize ball speed, no matter where on the face you hit it.

The top line Power Holes are gone, but Wilson is incorporating what it calls Progressive Power Hole technology on the sole, basically putting the power where you need it: three rows of Power Holes in the long irons (4-7), two rows in the 8- and 9-irons, and only one row in the Gap Wedge.

“Where do you need ball speed the most? For most players, it’s the long irons, the ones they struggle to hit the most,” says Pergande. “That’s where you need your distance advantage. People don’t need help hitting a pitching wedge farther. Besides, Power Holes don’t provide as much benefit on a more lofted club because the ball hits at such an angle.”

Previous Power Hole tech was known as FLX Face because Power Holes let the face flex. In the D7, however, Wilson is calling its ball speed tech something new: RE-AKT.

“It’s sort of an umbrella technology platform for the entire D7 series,” says Pergande. “Greater ball speed and higher MOI, so you get straighter shots that go farther. We also have the thinnest face we’ve ever had in an iron, and we do all that in a performance iron aesthetic.”

The Battle of the 7-Irons

If more on-the-shelf sex appeal is one key element of the D7, winning the battle of the 7-irons is the other.

“We’re putting a stake in the ground. We want to win with the 7-iron,” says Pergande. “The definitive consumer experience for 90% or more of golfers is the 7-iron. That’s the one you have for demo clubs; it’s where custom fit is usually centered and, generally speaking, it’s one of the longer clubs most players can hit comfortably.”

“So if we can make sure we have the best possible 7-iron experience for the consumer at his first contact, we’re going to do all we can to make that happen.”

Wilson isn’t short-changing the other clubs at the expense of the 7-iron. The 4, 5 and 6 have the same tech, but they figure the confluence of curb appeal, performance, and the club D series players use most is at the 7.

And you do have to give Wilson some credit for straight talk. Pergande says you’ll find the D7 roughly 5 yards longer than D300, but adds half of that is due to a slightly stronger loft structure, which is actually now more in line with others in the SGI world.

“It varies by clubhead speed, but you usually get an extra two-and-a-half yards per degree of loft increase. The rest is coming from the Power Holes and the club’s forgiveness.”

From an MOI standpoint, Wilson says the D7 features a roughly 10% increase in MOI over the D300, largely due to a change in the back cavity. The D300s featured large pods in the back cavity, towards the toe and heel.

“Those pods weren’t 100% filled with weight, and they weren’t putting weight toward the extreme perimeter of the club,” says Pergande. “It made the club look more forgiving, even though it’s not the most efficient use of weight.”

With D7, Pergande says that weight has been shoved more heel-ward and more toe-ward.

“When it comes to forgiveness, size rules the roost. The larger the (iron head), the more forgiveness will be in there. But once you establish a head size, it’s all about weight management.”

Price, Availability and Final Thoughts

MyGolfSpy has long suggested golfers should consider using the most forgiving club you can stand to look at. Wilson seems to have taken that to heart by giving the D7 a makeover – swapping the loud sportcoat for a black tie and tails. And while Wilson is trying to suggest D7 would be at home in the Players Distance category, the sole is still SGI-wide, and the blade is still SGI-long. Wilson’s choice of stock steel shaft – the KBS Tour 80 – is still SGI-centric.

Wilson has taken heat for the $499 price tag on the Driver Vs. Driver winning Cortex, so it needs to be noted the D7 will retail at $599 in steel and $699 in graphite (UST Mamiya Recoil is stock). That’s a full $200 price drop from D300’s original retail.

After a couple of range sessions, we can say the D7 is a worthy successor to the D300 (again, an excellent ball speed/distance performer in Most Wanted). Could it realistically bridge the gap between SGI and Players Distance? Well, at $599, an upgrade to a C-Taper, DG or any other stronger player shaft wouldn’t break the bank. If, that is, you think it’s a gap that needs bridging.

Wilson lists the KBS Tour, Tour FLT, Tour V and Tour 90 as no-upcharge options. A black Wilson-branded Lamkin grip is standard, and in keeping with the D7 austerity program, the logo and cap are in simple white, with no red or blue accents.

The D7 irons will be available at retailers and on Wilson’s website starting January 17th.