Every once in a while something comes along that makes a grown man or woman swoon like a 13-year old girl at a Shawn Mendes concert. Creepy, right?
That the something prompting all the swooning is a golf club is even creepier, but what the hell, it is what it is.
Many of you, along with many a hard-edged, cynical golf journalist jaded by years in smoke-filled press tents, most definitely swooned last January when Wilson launched its Staff Model blades. Several even gushed uncontrollably – they were that sexy.
Well, today Wilson is adding to the sex-appeal with a line of Staff Model Utility irons that just might make you swoon, gush and do the Southside Shuffle all night long.
“Anything we put the Staff Model name on is designed for the best players in the world,” says Jon Pergande, Wilson’s Global Innovation Manager. “That’s Gary Woodland, that’s Brendan Steele. The work on these started more with Brendan than anybody, but Gary has played one so he became critical in the final constructions.”
The new Staff Model Utility irons are an update to the now 5-year old FG Tour V4 Utility irons. There are plenty of similarities and just enough differences – beyond the be-still-my-heart Staff Model look – to make it worth a looksee.
Like other utility irons, the Staff Model is a hollow-body design and features a 7-gram tungsten sole weight to lower the CG. The biggest update compared to the V4 model is the face material. You may remember social media posts several years ago showing Troy Merritt’s V4 Utility with a caved-in face – a clear illustration of the breaking point between an ultra-thin (but not-quite-strong-enough) face for maximum ball speed and a Tour-level swing speed. No doubt Wilson remembered, hence the new, ultra-thin, higher-strength C300 maraging steel face in the Staff Model Utilities.
“Why do we have utilities?” asks Pergande. “It’s a hollow, thin-faced construction for greater ball speed. With all the extra weight super low in the head, that creates a higher launch angle. If you can deliver higher launch with greater speed, you can pick up crazy distance.”
Pergande says if you’re talking Woodland-Steele-Streelman level ball speed, you’ll see a 2-degree higher launch angle and upwards of 25 more yards carry distance when comparing the 21-degree Staff Model Utility compared to a 21-degree 3-iron.
“That comes from the launch angle. You get the ball up in the air with extra ball speed due to the thin face, and the ball’s just gonna go.”
We mere mortals, of course, don’t have anything remotely close to Woodland-Steele-Streelman ball speeds, so who might benefit from a utility iron?
“We’re primarily talking about higher swing speed players,” says Pergande. “Generally, it’s a little bit better player who’s trying to find a more easily controllable long game solution. You’re either pulling a hybrid or a fairway wood out to put something like this in your bag. In order to get the same height as you’d get out of a hybrid or the same distance you’d get out of a fairway wood, you’re going to need a little extra speed in order to do that.”
Length + Spin
With a hybrid or fairway wood, you tend to get relatively low spin and high launch – a recipe for distance but not necessarily control. Or stopping power.
“When you have those long shots into a Par 5, or positional shots off the tee, you don’t want the ball rolling,” says Pergande. “You want the ball to go a specific distance and then stop, and that’s what this club is designed to do.”
Our on-course experience with the Staff Model Utilities bears this out. The best example was a 190-yard downhill poke with the 24-degree model over a creek to a shallow green. The ball soared a penetrating soar: it didn’t go quite as high as a hybrid or fairway, but it did just keep going, landing with enough spin to stop on the green after maybe 10 feet of roll out. With a hybrid or fairway, you would expect the ball to roll off the back of the green and into trouble.
Woodland had a prototype in his bag during the early rounds of the US Open, and was seeing roughly 25 more yards compared to his similarly lofted irons. “Gary’s hard to get measurables on sometimes,” says Pergande. “He can kind of just hit the ball as far as he wants, when he wants. When he wants to hit it farther with a club, he just does. When he wants to hit it shorter, he hits it shorter.”
Utility irons and thin toplines are often mutually exclusive – and the Staff Model Utility certainly doesn’t qualify as a butter knife – but Wilson has done a nice job of hiding the topline by rounding off the edges slightly, giving it a clean, hidden look…for a utility. As for offset, there’s just enough.
“Offset often implies it’s a bad thing or a game improvement thing – a helping feature,” says Pergande. “In this case, it’s just the correct amount of offset. These are still long clubs, but there’s certainly been no challenges with over-drawing the ball or closing the face too fast leading to a left tendency.”
With hollow-bodies and foam-filled bodies populating the new Player’s Distance iron category, you’d think Wilson would be looking at a full set, or at least a progressive set featuring the Staff Model Utilities. Pergande says that’s not on the table currently.
“I could easily justify adding 27- and 30-degree clubs (the Staff Model Utilities will be available in 18-, 21- and 24-degree models only), but the value of ball speed and trajectory starts to break down when the irons get shorter, and that makes it hard to justify the cost of the product.”
“A full set of hollow-bodies doesn’t really fit into our line, and certainly wouldn’t have a home with our staff players. Staff Model clubs are for the best players in the world, to service a need they have in their games. If they can benefit from it, maybe the rest of the world benefit from it as well.”
Final Thoughts, Price & Availability
When you have an iron as doggone purdy as the Staff Model blades, you certainly want to make sure you get the companion Utility irons right, and Wilson seems to have done just that with a clean, uncomplicated look.
“There’s a purity to simplicity,” says Pergande. “Just a few direct lines, a simple amount of graphics. It doesn’t need color – just let the product stand on its own for what it’s trying to be. There’s a beauty and an elegance to that purposeful sort of design motif.”
Wilson is going with the KBS Hybrid graphite shaft as the stock offering for the Staff Model Utilities. You won’t find that same shaft listed on the KBS website, but Pergande says it’s the same as the KBS TOUR Graphite Hybrid Prototype shaft. The Hybrid prototype is an aftermarket shaft reserved for KBS distribution and not available to OEMs. The KBS Hybrid is the same shaft, just branded differently.
Wilson has several no-upcharge steel shaft options available, including the KBS Tour 90, Tour 105 and standard Tour, as well as Dynamic Gold. The Aerotech SteelFiber, the Hzrdus Black and the EvenFlow Blue and Black are available at an upcharge. The Golf Pride Tour Velvet is the stock grip, again with virtually every no-upcharge option you can imagine.
As mentioned earlier, the Staff Model Utility retail versions will be available in 18-, 21- and 24-degree lofts (a 15-degree model is Tour-only and won’t be available at retail). They’ll retail for $229.99 each and will be available for pre-sale on Wilson’s website starting November 12th.
They’ll be in stores December 11th.