As we reported to you Monday, blades are the Halle Berry of golf clubs. Or Charlize Theron. Or, to be fair, Chris Hemsworth. They’re sexy and, for most of us, unattainable.
But they are the standard by which many of us judge iron companies: do you have a sexy set of blades? A yes puts you in a different category.
Wilson Staff knows blades, maybe better than anyone. The FG Tour 100 blades are at the end of their five-year mission and, by most accounts, are one of the sweetest blades of the past decade. Unless you’ve been stranded on a desert island with only a volleyball for a companion, you’ve seen Gary Woodland gaming their replacements all over the World Wide Web.
How do you improve on a blade that made nearly everyone hyperventilate?
Carefully. Very carefully.
First, Do No Harm
“The first concern was don’t do anything to mess it up,” Jon Pergande, Wilson Golf’s Global Innovation Manager tells MyGolfSpy. “A blade is truly the jewelry of the golf industry, and you just need extra time to get all the surfaces particularly right, particularly clean. You make sure they’re smooth, and you can’t cover up any blemishes in the design easily like you could with a game improvement model.”
Wilson’s new blades are called the Wilson Staff Model. Technically, it’s Wilson’s Staff Model, or the Staff Model blade from Wilson. It’s not the Wilson Staff Model. For some reason that needs to be clarified. Even though Gary Woodland was the Wilson Staffer to put the new blades in play, they have Brendan Steele’s fingerprints all over them.
“The origin goes back to a conversation with Brendan a couple of years ago,” says Pergande. “I remember sitting with him at the hotel at TPC Sawgrass, and we talked it through. His first concern was don’t do anything to mess it up.”
That can mean a lot of different things for a Tour player, but as long as the look and set up are right, designers can maybe do a little bit with weighting, sole design or the top line. The Staff Model top line, while slightly thinner than the FG Tour, is what Pergande calls moderate.
“I have a skewed view of thin top lines because I can go back into our archives and look at some super skinny stuff,” says Pergande. “The thing with blades, top lines tend to look thinner in real life versus what you see in a photo because photos tend to show all the surfaces in perfect light and perfect conditions. Outdoors, sunline tends to thin things out a little.”
Steele was very much hands-on with the development of the Staff Model. Pergande says as a Tour player, Steele was particularly concerned about the transition from the hosel to the top line.
“The big thing to Brendan was the nature of the offset,” he says. “But that’s really the visual of how the hosel enters the leading edge. Once we got that right, we started looking at muscle cuts on the back, the camber of the sole, the sole width. Again, not big changes.”
Once you look at the muscle back, you’ll see some rather stark changes from the FG Tour 100’s. Those were made specifically for Wilson Golf’s Golden 100th anniversary in 2014, and featured gold accents and decoratively curved milling harking back to classic Wilson blades. Not busy, but compared to the new Staff Models, it’s like the interstate at rush hour. The Staff Models are even cleaner, with just a hint of milling. In this case, the milling gives the Staff Model the appearance of toe weighting.
“Believe it or not, we have CG properties that are identical to the FG Tour 100’s, at least from a face center perspective,” says Pergande. “Blades are such a fine craft with a premium look and touch. To get the engineering right, we’ve put some thought into precisely locating the center of gravity. The CNC milling helps us to precisely locate it.”
You’ll also notice the signature Wilson Fluid Feel hosel, again something that’s both functional and appearance enhancing.
“The origin of Fluid Feel is the amount of weight dedicated toward the hosel, and it’s one of the reasons why golf equipment has such high toes,” says Pergande. “You have to balance out the weight that’s in the hosel to connect it to the shaft. To remove some of that weight, we take it out of the hosel. That has allowed blades to be a little bit larger over time because you have some discretionary weight.”
The benefit of Fluid Feel is that you’re putting secondary material, like urethane, rubber pieces, other things, to get a slightly better feel and produce some vibrations dampening. But it’s primarily a weight story. For the longest time, blades – because of the hosel – were a bit heel biased. Over time we’ve pushed the CG closer and closer to the center of the face.
8620 vs. 1020/1025
There are still forged purists who don’t consider 8620 irons true forged irons. Technically, 8620 carbon steel irons are initially cast to a near net shape, and then traditional forged to finish the process. 1020 or 1025 forgings are forged from a single billet of steel.
“There’s a consistency to the 8620 process,” says Pergande. “We have to forge and polish less material, so we can make a more consistent product from one iron to the next in the same set, and from one set to the next.”
Does 8620 lack the same softness as 1020 or 1025? In reality, it’s very difficult to discern a difference because the irons are so similar in design. Elite players may be able to tell the difference, but sole configuration, CG location, and muscle back properties are equally as important.
Woodland and Steele are playing the Staff Models on Tour, and Pergande says Wilson will make sets for the rest of its Tour staff to try out.
“The FG Tour V has been the go-to club for the rest of our staff, but you can never tell. As soon as you put a new toy in front of somebody, they tend to want to pick it up and give it a go.
Final Thoughts, Price and Availability
As we said Monday when Srixon released its new blade, no OEM expects to sell a ton of blades despite the category’s flagship status. Wilson does expect to sell some custom combo sets, but there’s not a reason not to expect another five-year run for the Staff Models. It’s a style the will age well and not require updating when the V6 gets its facelift.
The Staff Models will retail at $1,199.99 for a 3-PW set. The lofts are blade traditional, featuring a 34-degree 7-iron and 46-degree pitching wedge. The stock shaft is the True Temper Dynamic Golf, with the Golf Pride Tour Velvet the stock grip. As usual, Wilson will offer a variety of no-upcharge shafts and grips through its Custom Department.