This article on the new MaGregor MT86 irons needs to start with a mea culpa.
In fact, it needs a mea maxima culpa.
In an old History’s Mysteries article on the life and death of MacGregor, I went all Monty Python on MacGregor and dubbed it, ahem, a dead parrot.
That didn’t age very well.
The legendary MacGregor brand is back and is being reintroduced with an iron that won’t just wake up the echoes of back nine roars at Augusta. It might just find its way into your bag.
The Return of the Greatest Name in Golf
You don’t have to be a history buff to know about MacGregor. It was one of the two original companies (the other was Spalding) to manufacture golf clubs in the U.S. Its long and illustrious history dates back to 1897 and includes names like Tommy Armour, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller—and a total of 59 majors.
The sand ran out of MacGregor’s hourglass in 2010. The self-proclaimed “Greatest Name in Golf” sold what little it had left – essentially its intellectual property – to Golfsmith for less than $2 million. Six years later, Golfsmith went under, taking MacGregor down with it. DICK’S bought Golfsmith’s remaining assets out of bankruptcy, and that bargain basement pickup netted DICK’S all of Golfsmith’s inventory along with house brands Lynx, MacGregor, Ram, Zebra and TearDrop. DICK’S sold Lynx and shelved the rest.
For all intents and purposes, those four brands were indeed dead parrots.
That’s when Simon Millington entered the picture.
“I love the great brands and it’s probably just the romantic in me,” says Millington, an Englishman now living outside Las Vegas. “So to have the opportunity to get those brands, I feel a bit like a custodian of those brands. You’ve got to do something good with it.”
Millington’s company, Golf Brands, Inc., purchased the Ram, Zebra and Teardrop names from DICK’S in 2019 and bought MacGregor in 2020.
Owning old brand names is one thing. Doing something with those names and creating golf clubs that someone—anyone—would actually care about is quite another. To do that, Millington needed high-level help.
And that’s exactly what he got.
Who You Gonna Call?
Austie Rollinson has a serious resume in golf. Today, he’s the Senior Director of Putter R&D at Acushnet/Titleist. And from 1992 until 2020, he earned a reputation as one of the industry’s most influential club designers at Callaway. Rollinson spent 15 years as chief designer for Odyssey, with innovations such as White Hot, Stroke Lab, Triple Track and the iconic 2-Ball to his credit.
He also ran Callaway’s Design Studio and was responsible for iterations of the Great Big Bertha, the X-16 and X-18 irons, the Steelhead woods and irons and several Callaway-era Ben Hogan forgings.
I first met Rollinson on the driving range at Pinehurst just over a year ago. He glanced at the nearly 20-year-old Hogan Apex FTX irons in my bag and nonchalantly remarked, “Oh, I designed those.” My jaw dropped. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I guess. After all, Rollinson holds more than 300 golf club patents and his designs are responsible for more than $5 billion in club sales.
But after Callaway and before Acushnet, Rollinson spent 18 months as a consultant for Millington. The new MacGregor MT86 irons are his work.
“His knowledge and experience were fantastic,” says Millington. “He was a gentleman to work with and was first class in everything he did.”
Millington’s golf background is in retail and in golf course management. So when samples would come from the factories in Asia, he’d react as any salesman would. “I’d go, ‘Oh, these look fantastic.’ But Austie would say, ‘Yeah, the MOI’s not right and we need them to redistribute the weight.’ His level of attention to detail was amazing.”
MacGregor MT86 Irons: Decidedly Retro
The new MacGregor MT86 irons are a throwback to the brand’s Golden Age. The signature diamond-shaped muscle is a homage to the original 1950 MT irons designed by Toney Penna. Those irons were revolutionary, featuring a shallow face, a relatively thick topline and a low center of gravity. That allowed Penna to strengthen the lofts and they flew like crazy.
The new MT86 irons won’t qualify as revolutionary but there’s more to them than just the name and logo.
“It’s a nod to the heritage,” says Millington. “It’s a high-tech club that’s as good as anything out there. But when you look at it, you know the DNA of it. You know it’s a MacGregor.”
The only things missing are the MacGregor script on the sole and the diamonds framing the score lines on the face. You can’t have everything, I guess.
The MT86 Pro will be included in MyGolfSpy’s player’s iron test while the larger MT86 OS will be in the player’s distance category. Both irons are hollow-bodied with a proprietary polymer filling for sound and feel. There’s an internal co-forged tungsten weighting system to push the CG low and deep for a higher launch.
The iron itself says “forged” but the face is two-millimeter-thin MS300 steel. MS300 is a high-grade maraging steel often used in metalwoods. Its high-tensile strength means it can be made very thin while staying highly flexible.
As you can guess, the OS version features a slightly larger face, slightly more offset and slightly stronger lofts compared to the Pro. The Pro is more compact with a slightly narrower topline. Neither iron’s topline qualifies as a butter knife, however. But then again, the original 1950 MT topline didn’t, either.
The OS, obviously, will be the more forgiving of the two.
The Welsh Connection
The new MacGregor MT86 irons premiered on the MacGregor website during the PGA Show. In the meantime, they’ve found their way into a major winner’s bag.
“I’m very lucky to have a great relationship with Ian Woosnam,” says Millington of the Welshman, former world No. 1, 1991 Masters champion and World Golf Hall of Famer. “I showed them to him last summer and he said, ‘Send me a set, send me a set.’ So I did and he’s telling me he’s hitting them 10 to 12 yards farther than what he had been playing. Then I showed him the OS set and he said, ‘I want to try that. I’m 64 and need some help.’ And they went in the bag straight away.”
Woosnam caused a bit of a ruckus on Twitter a few weeks ago when he posted a picture of his new MacGregors.
“That was unprompted. I didn’t know anything about it,” says Millington. “It’s up to something like 230,000 views.”
There in the bag pic.twitter.com/zVHTjYcbOr
— Ian Woosnam (@IWoosnam) January 14, 2023
Should You Care About the “New” MacGregor?
It’s easy to say no to that question. We golfers are cynical creatures, after all. I mean, if you strip away the history, the heritage and the memories, it’s just an old logo on a club that’ll soon get lost in the crowd, right? For the armchair cynic, the new MacGregor seems like just another nostalgia grab offering nothing of consequence. However, if Millington was just in this for nostalgia, finding an open model and slapping the MacGregor logo on it would have been a hell of a lot simpler and less expensive.
But that’s not what happened with the MT86. Rollinson’s original design places it in a slightly different arena.
“If we’d have come out and done this badly, we’d have very quickly been found out,” Millington tells MyGolfSpy. “People would have come up and gone, ‘Uhhhh, it’s just another old brand,’ as opposed to, ‘Oh, this is really nice.’”
And that, in fact, is what Millington has come up with: an iron that looks really nice. We’ll find out soon enough how well they perform in this year’s Most Wanted testing. And say what you will about Golf Digest’s Hot List but the new MacGregors did earn a silver this year without Millington spending a dime on ads.
That’s gotta be worth something.
MacGregor MT86: Final Thoughts, Specs and Price
Retro seems to be a thing in 2023. Wilson brought back Dynapower and we also saw the return of Snake Eyes and PowerBilt branded clubs at the PGA Show to join Millington’s MacGregor-Zebra-Ram revival. Retro may be cool but performance is what counts—as does marketplace mindshare.
And marketplace mindshare is the hard part. Millington’s footprint is small and for the revival to have legs, there has to be more to it than just the name and logo.
“It’s a head start,” he says. “But we still have to do it well and do it right.”
The MT86 irons are the stars of the MacGregor lineup. The rest of the offering features packaged sets and intro-level clubs at very modest prices, something Millington says is important for the industry.
“We need people to start playing golf without spending $3,000 on a set of clubs,” he explains. “I’m unashamed and happy to be selling a lot of packaged sets. We had Austie help with those as well. We believe we have the best packaged sets on the market at those prices.”
The new MT86 irons (the “86” is a nod to Jack’s Masters victory that year) are available on the MacGregor website (Millington says an exclusive with a major U.S. retailer will be announced soon). Both the Pro and the OS will run $899.99 for a seven-piece set (4-PW) in steel and $999.99 in graphite.
The standard shaft is the KBS Tour in steel and the UST Recoil 660/680 in graphite. The clubs are assembled at the Golf Brands, Inc. headquarters in Henderson, Nevada.
For more information, visit the MacGregor website.
And I gotta say: It feels really good to be able to write that sentence.
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Adrian J Cemel1 month ago
Historically, we knew there would be a PXG Phoenix rising in Scottsdale. with the advent of Slick. Hats-off to Austie and Simon! Who would have known.
Hugh1 month ago
Nice to see MacGregor making a comeback. My father handed down his Tourneys to me in the late 70’s which is when I started playing for real. I have many fond memories of those irons. I played them for many years. I am 62 now and play titleist ap1 irons. If these are anything close to those, a set just may find its way into my bag.
Mike1 month ago
John, interesting article. Pretty much like any other line of clubs, I would definitely try them. The only problem I would see is where could I get fitted for them. I don’t recall the big box stores carrying McGregor’s and certainly not going to do it at Dick’s or online. And only offering a 4-PW set is not a winner for me
Josh1 month ago
With major players like Wilson having a hard enough time attracting mindshare, let alone sales attention, it’s fascinating to see all of the impending niche brand revivals take a step up to the plate.. I haven’t really heard anyone under the age of 40 remotely excited for MacGregor/RAM/Zebra/Whatever-Other-Brand-Zombie was being revived at the PGA Show this year.
There were so many DTC brands crawling out of the woodwork in the last half decade, and they almost all universally have hideous resale because there is just no demand after the extremely limited upfront Retail buyers. When you can’t sell these irons for 50% of what you paid for them less than a year after release, you’d better hope they do something other than trigger carefully calculated boomer nostalgia…
Mike1 month ago
I totally get what you’re saying as I used to be the type of golfer for who switched clubs very frequently. However, you absolutely can’t think of golf clubs as “investments”. Last year’s Stealth driver sold for $550. I checked several trading websites, including second swing and the PGA value guide. The most anyone was offering was $165. That’s embarrassing to think how much that club has depreciated. Yes, these off brand clubs will definitely be harder to sell in the secondary market, such as eBay. But I’ve learned to buy the “correct” clubs for me (after being fitted) and then play the heck out of them. If I realize I purchased a club by mistake, it’s out of my house within two or three months, forget waiting till next season.
Handicap Police1 month ago
Does this mean that the Japanese side of MacGregor has been cleared up??? Because that part was a separate company, separate label. Are they all together now? What’s happening with that?
Chas1 month ago
I like the Art Deco winged stamp on the back.
jcc1 month ago
the badge side is similar to penick professional designed by tom wishon, those were very playable irons
Kansas King1 month ago
Ben Hogan part deux?
Seems like a very similar business plan but I could be completely wrong. Perhaps they have a better business plan by not coming out with a true players blade and instead more of a game improvement type iron. I’m not against the company and I hope the clubs perform well but my senses tell me that it’s going to be a massive challenge getting this company very far off the ground.
Mark2 months ago
These irons will not be available in the UK 🇬🇧 not sure why
anybody throw some light on this
Dean2 months ago
I hit these irons last Friday and was extremely impressed! High launch irons with a hot face and look really nice behind the ball. Compared to my $1400 T100 Titleist irons I honestly didn’t see a difference in how the ball flew. Only thing I noticed was a slightly thicker top line which gave me some confidence for off center strikes. Excited to try the new Zebra putters next.
Jeff2 months ago
Just took a look at the website, I’d be hesitant to buy these for a couple of reasons: 1.) No real sense of customization. Only 2 shaft choices – a graphite and steel. Know for a fact the KBS Tour option is not a good shaft for me 2.) Sold as a whole set only, 4-PW. I haven’t played a 4 iron in over a decade, wasteful to have to buy a club only to never use it.
Scott1 month ago
FYI. I did see an option for heads only, for those that wish to have their local shop build with a shaft of your choosing. Or for the DIY’er.
Geno2 months ago
Just went to their website and took a look around. Just about everything there looked pretty good. Beats me how they can sell a titanium adjustable driver for $149 when all the other OEMs seem to have to charge $500-$600 for almost the same thing. The head still needs to be manufactured and they all have graphite shafts, granted the shaft in the $600 club is probably more expensive, but not $450 worth of expensive. Too bad that many out there that play with their ego will call them junk but I can’t see paying the higher price for basically the same club. Just my opinion so no haters please.
Cody2 months ago
Because it’s old driver tech? China can stamp out a club for a few bucks a head if you’re not looking for the latest and greatest.
I think current driver prices have gone out of control, but this is probably a 20 year old driver design- doesn’t look much different than the Big Bertha 454 I was playing in the early 2000s.
Geno1 month ago
As was stated in the article “”Austie Rollinson has a serious resume in golf. Rollinson holds more than 300 golf club patents and his designs are responsible for more than $5 billion in club sales.””
I would think with Mr. Rollinson on board they would not use 20 year old technology in any of their clubs. Sure it doesn’t have all the catch phrase stuff… carbon face…jailbreak tech… AI design…. etc etc…. but for $150 bucks it’s worth a try. Much rather spend the 150 to find out I don’t like it than the $600…. just my .02 cents.
Jeff P2 months ago
Thrilled to see the greatest name in golf is back, but I fear few under the age of 55 will care. Good news is the 55+ folks have lots of $$ to spend on sticks! Can’t wait to hit them!
Stevenhp2 months ago
Like Mark, my father got his while stationed in Korea 1960/61. He handed down them to me and played them until the woods could no longer be repaired (cracked hosels). When you hit them right it was great and when you didn’t it was misery.
Lacou2 months ago
Their wedges look very good. I would love to know how they perform. Will they be included in your testing as well?
I’ve never had a MacGregor golf club but I did have their gorgeous white and green carry golf bag as a kid!
Tim W.2 months ago
Wow! M86 irons were my first clubs.
Played a lot of good golf with those.
Traded them in for the Ping eye.
Good to see them back.
Paired with the correct shaft. — MT86 irons should be killer.
austin aiu2 months ago
Wow! Simply amazing! Hopefully MacGregor will be a Phoenix out of the ashes and become a World Brand again. I started playing golf with a set of Tony Pennas, then a handful of brand changes over the years. Oddly, I still play a set of MacGregor PCB Tour irons. Yeah, I know. Square grooves are no longer legal, but I’m no longer an elite level amateur. So who cares right? But those MT86s look pretty darn good. Might be worth testing them out.
Ritch2 months ago
I was without irons for a few weeks while awaiting the arrival of my new Mizunos. I took the 6 and 8 iron from my son-in-law’s ancient set of MacGregor VIPs out to the range. I have to say after a few swings, I was having second thoughts about the new irons. I hope they can get a foot hold of some sort in the market.
BCCCGolfer2 months ago
My first set of clubs were MacGregor Tourneys which I purchased second hand from a player I caddied for back in the mid- 70s. I don’t know what model mine were, but I was amazed to see the look of the new club is quite similar.
Mark Smolens2 months ago
Back in 1950 my dad (stationed in the Philipines in the USAF) flew over to Japan to Koganei Country Club in Japan because he could get a set of Macgregor MT’s in their pro shop cheaper than in the PX on base. They got passed down to me, then to my brothers (one of whom lost the 9 iron). One day while playing with a stranger he looked in my brother’s bag, saw the clubs and offered him $400 for the 6 iron. I immediately took the bag, told him they weren’t for sale — and switched the old MTs for the later version that I had received. I look forward to comparing the old MTs with the new ones — if only for nostalgia’s sake.
Thomas A2 months ago
I saw these along with the new Ram’s at the PGA show. I’m curious to know the difference between the two. They both are hollow body but blade style irons. The Ram looks more traditional blade like. Is the construction similar? Is it only cosmetic difference? Because the Ram’s are going for <$500. That's a big jump for a similar iron.
Jim Wilkie2 months ago
I am 81 yrs of age and my first set of irons were Ben Hogan, which i played with for 30 yrs. I loved those clubs but I sold them due to peer pressure and I’ve struggled with different irons ever since
Gary Pelletier2 months ago
My father talked my wife into buying me a set of Tourney blades forged in 1963. This to me was confirmation he didn’t like me much as it took me 20 years to break 100 with these things. 70 now and I always look at Wilson offerings and game their D9 hybrids but unfortunately have no fond memories of MacGregor.
Daniel Janyja1 month ago
Me too! My father-in-law gave me a set of MTs he struggled with for 4 years, I struggled with them for a few years. They had a “stepped sole” design raising the COG and making them very unforgiving.
M2 months ago
My first new set of clubs were Macgregor MCX irons, purchased in the early 70s. As a matter of fact, I still have in my bag (and play) the original sand wedge.
Hopp2 months ago
My first set of full irons were MacGregor MCX irons purchased in 1982,felt good in my hands but I couldn’t hit them very well, a lot of Army golf. I tried to trade them in for some new irons in the mid 90s and the place I tried to trade them in with said no thanks for blades, Eventually sold the whole set, 2-P to a coworker for 50$ so he could have a spare set for visitors.
Steve2 months ago
John, nice review. Might you look at reviewing their hybrid iron set as part of the ultra-super game improvement clubs? The price is about half of Cleveland and Cobra. Which shows you what it really costs to make clubs.
tscdave2 months ago
Looking good, welcome back MacGregor!