- Sub 70 TAIII forged blades are co-designed by Sub 70 owner Jason Hiland and PGA TOUR pro Tommy Armour III.
- Armour will play the TAIII irons on the PGA TOUR Champions this season.
- 4-PW $990; a la carte options are available. Check Sub 70’s website for details.
The new Sub 70 TAIII irons are the answer to a question you maybe never knew you had.
As in: “What happens when you cross an innovative club designer with a gear-head pro who held the PGA TOUR scoring record for 14 years and whose namesake grandfather won three majors and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame? And had his name on one of the top-selling irons of all time?”
Oh, and don’t forget big assists from Darren Clarke’s caddie and a former Purdue Boilermaker.
C’mon, aren’t you just the slightest bit intrigued?
The new Sub 70 TAIII irons are the progeny of Tommy Armour III and Sub 70’s Jason Hiland. And the story of what they are and how they came about might just be the highlight of your day.
Sub 70 TAIII Irons: A Chance Meeting
Just so we’re all starting from the same place, please make a mental note that the Sub 70 TAIII irons have absolutely nothing—zero, zip, nada—to do with the DICK’S/Golf Galaxy Tommy Armour line. These irons are the organic co-creation of Sub 70 owner, designer and resident shaman Jason Hiland and Tommy Armour III, PGA TOUR pro and grandson of the legendary Silver Scot.
“Tommy really knows his stuff,” says Hiland. “He’s a real gear head.”
So how did these two crazy kids get together and how did the Sub 70 TAIII irons come about? Well, it all started in the late ’80s with a father-son trip to see some big-time professional golf.
“When I was a kid, my dad would take me to the Western Open,” Hiland recalls. “I was 12, 13, and I just liked the way he (Tommy Armour III) carried himself. He gave us a little fan acknowledgment when my dad and I were walking with him and he seemed like a cool dude. I can root for that guy.”
“There’s a lot of dead time when you’re out there,” says Armour. “A kid follows you for a couple of holes so you toss ‘em a ball or something. The expression on that kid’s face is pure delight.”
“He had a vibe about him, an aura,” adds Hiland. “I remember he had this staff bag that just had the Roman numeral III on it. That’s pretty badass when you just put a Roman numeral on your bag.”
Fast-forward a few decades and that 12-year-old kid now owns his own golf club company. And another chance encounter sets the wheels in motion.
A Family Affair
If you believe good fortune finds the right home, then this part of the story won’t surprise you one bit. In June of 2019, Tommy’s brother Sandy, a former Tour pro and current caddie for Darren Clarke, was a guest on Hiland’s Sub 70 podcast.
“We were supposed to talk for one hour; we wound up talking for two,” says Hiland. “I stayed in touch with Sandy and wound up sending him a set of irons. And Tom saw them and really liked them.”
That led to Hiland and Armour talking about club design, specifically a set of blades Hiland was working on.
“Each iron would have its own center of gravity,” says Hiland. “The long irons would be easy to get up in the air and the short irons would be more flightable. I sent pictures to Tom and we started swapping ideas.
“Finally, I said to him, ‘What if we teamed up and co-branded these? It’d be like doing small-batch bourbon together.’ And that’s how it started.”
“I’ve been a blade guy my whole career,” says Armour. “I just wanted a nice-looking blade with a little offset and a little sexy to it. That’s what we’ve created.”
Sub 70 TAIII Irons – CG Specifics
The Sub 70 TAIII irons feature low-tungsten weighting in the 3-, 4- and 5-irons. The purpose? Get the center of gravity as low as it can go in a blade.
“Tom wants to get those long irons up in the air but still keep the profile classic,” says Hiland. “From the top down, it looks like a player’s blade. It’s clean and fairly compact but we do have the CG down low in the long irons. The modern ball doesn’t spin as much and you need that low CG to get the ball up.”
“That’s one of the reasons Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the two greatest golfers of all time,” adds Armour. “They hit their long irons so high. That’s where they beat people, from 190 to 240 yards out. Reaching par-5s in two and being close enough to come away with an eagle or at least a birdie, that’s where you beat people.”
Armour knows a thing or two about going low. In his 2003 victory at the Valero Texas Open, Tommy set the 72-hole Tour scoring record of 254. That record stood for 14 years. He’ll be gaming these irons this year once the Champions tour gets in full swing.
The Sub 70 TAIII irons are forged from DT-4, as are all Sub 70 forged irons. DT-4 is low carbon, low sulfur and low phosphorus and is a touch or two softer than your normal 1020 carbon steel. They’ll be available in traditional Tour Satin and unplated Raw. But there’s also a new finish that may change the way you think about black irons.
And it came from a Sub 70 customer.
QPQ is the New Black
Physical Vapor Deposition, known as PVD, is the most commonly used black finish in golf. Sub 70 has been using PVD since Day 1 and also since Day 1 has been searching for something better. That search led Sub 70 to something called Quench-Polish-Quench or QPQ.
“I think QPQ is the best finish out there,” says Hiland. “But the problem is we couldn’t bend it without getting microcracks. We customize everything so we needed to find a solution so we could still use QPQ.”
Ultimately, that QPQ solution presented itself in the most Sub 70 way you can imagine. It came from a customer who already knew a thing or two about QPQ.
“We just couldn’t make it work,” says Hiland. “And one day one of our customers called and asked me if we were playing around with a QPQ finish. I said, ‘yeah.’ He asked, ‘Are you struggling with it?’ And I go, ‘yeah.’ And he says, ‘microcracks, right?’ And I go, ‘yeah.'”
Turns out this customer, Joel Pera, is the Director of Sales, Marketing and Sales Engineering at Tech Nickel, Inc., a leading metal-plating company in Michigan. Pera is a Purdue-educated engineer and a former collegiate golfer. He’d been working on his own to find a QPQ process that wouldn’t microcrack, sort of as a hobby.
“I’d done a couple of my old clubs just to see how our processes would hold up,” Pera says. “I’d seen PVD on some Titleist irons and had a set of P790 irons in black. The PVD just didn’t hold up.”
Tech Nickel is part of HEF USA which owns the patent for Melonite, a heat-treating process used on gun barrels and automotive parts. It hardens the material without adding another layer.
“Our QPQ solution is an offshoot of that,” says Pera. “We’ve come up with a proprietary QPQ process so we’ll get a good, lasting black finish without microcracking.”
Minding Your QPQs
As the name suggests, QPQ is a three-step process. An iron head is first quenched in a nearly 1,300-degree molten salt-nitrogen-carbon solution for about two hours. After rinsing and cooling, the piece is polished to reduce surface roughness before being quenched again in a new oxidizing salt bath. The process leaves the iron with a smooth, black finish infused into the surface of the metal.
“We’ve done a lot of expensive changes to a standard QPQ process,” says Pera. “Our processes hold up really well. I did some old Cleveland 588 wedges from college. One of them has 5,500 to 6,000 shots on it. It’s a little worn but not very much.”
“Joel is a golfer and he knew exactly where I was going for a black finish,” says Hiland. “What are the odds? It was like he was reading my mind. I presented it to Tom and told him we had a better black finish. He really wanted to wait for it to be done, even if we had to delay the irons. It’s that good of a finish.”
Many consider Diamond Black Metal—DBM—to be the premium black finish for golf clubs. DBM actually impregnates the steel rather than just serving as a coating. Pera says his QPQ does the same thing.
Sub 70 will, over time, transfer all of its black finished irons to the new QPQ.
Sub 70 TAIII Irons: A Different Kind of Sexy
Like all Sub 70 sticks, the Sub 70 TAIII irons have a unique look. It wouldn’t be surprising if your first reaction is a huh? or a whaa? While some design elements may look familiar, the total package is distinctly Sub 70.
“I don’t want the club to look like other people’s clubs so I use other things for inspiration,” says Hiland. “Other clubs may have a softer line to them. Ours is a little bit different.”
Specifically, the Sub 70 TAIII irons have an angular, minimalist and almost industrial look. They’d look very much at home in one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian homes. Blades, however, are often the crown jewels of an OEM’s irons line. And in that case, the TAIII is more Hublot and less Rolex.
“If you look at Hublot, they use carbon fiber and the lines aren’t as soft as a Rolex,” says Hiland. “If you look at a Hublot Big Bang watch, it looks nothing like a Rolex but it’s still a watch.”
Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But once you get past the fact the Sub 70 TAIII irons are just plain different looking, the more this beholder started thinking damn, those are pretty sweet.
“That’s what everybody who has seen them in person says,” says Armour. “There’s some pretty nice detail on the millwork. They’re sexy, I think.”
Sexy? I can see that. But I told Armour I didn’t think they were sexy in the classic, Raquel Welch sense. We’re both about the same age so I figured he’d get the reference.
“Hey, I’ve had dinner with Raquel Welch before,” he told me. “It was about two years ago. She’s 80 now and I tell you what, she’s still a classic beauty.”
That’s when I knew I was out of my league.
More Special Touches
The Sub 70 TAIII irons are a big deal to Hiland and he wants to make sure the entire experience is something you’ll remember. “It’s a unique experience with what Tom brings to the table so we want it to be awesome. We want this to feel really special when you get it.”
He won’t give away too many details but he hopes customers will even think the box is memorable and will hang on to it as a keepsake. “It’s like when you get a really nice bottle of scotch, you definitely keep the box it came in and it makes the scotch feel special. And when you open our box, there will be a couple of cool things inside that’ll come with it, stuff you can’t buy. We want you to go, ‘Wow, that is really cool!’
“Tom’s hands have really been in this project. It’s not like we just gave him a club and a sponsorship deal. He really worked to develop this thing and that’s what makes it really, really special.”
The Armour Mystique
While the Armour name may not carry the same glamour as a Palmer, Nicklaus or Hogan, there is a certain fascination to it. The original Tommy Armour won 25 tournaments in his Hall of Fame career, including the 1927 U.S. Open, the 1930 PGA Championship and the 1931 Open Championship. His book How To Play Your Best Golf All The Time was published in 1953 and remains one of the best-selling golf instruction books ever.
“I’ve always been connected with him since I’m the third and he was the original,” says Armour, who was only nine when his grandfather died in 1968. “It’s always been a plus for me, never a burden or anything. It opened a lot of doors for me that might not have opened otherwise.”
And even though there was no connection other than the name, he still hears stories about the legendary irons that bore his grandfather’s name. “I can’t tell you how many people tell me their first set of irons were the Tommy Armour 845s.”
Armour has eight professional wins including two on the PGA TOUR (1990 Phoenix Open, 2003 Valero Texas Open). He’s been on and off the Champions tour since 2010 and, at age 61, is definitely enjoying his back nine.
“You only get one trip around life,” he’s been quoted as saying. “Golf is just something I love to do. I don’t play for the money. I never have. I’ve made a lot of good friends playing golf professionally.”
Specs, Price and Availability
The Sub 70 TAIII irons are true blades so you won’t find any game-improvement lofts here. There’s also minimal offset, so you better bring your ball-striking chops to the tee.
“They’re definitely for the better player,” says Armour. “But there’s certainly enough forgiveness for a high single-digit handicapper.”
The Sub 70 TAIII irons are available now in the Raw finish on the Sub 70 website. The company says the Black and Tour Satin options should be available by late April or early May. The standard set (4-PW) will sell for $990 with the True Temper Dynamic Gold shaft and Golf Pride Tour Velvet grip stock. An optional gap wedge is available and you can custom order any setup you want. For example, if you only want a 5-PW set or a 6-AW set, you can order a la carte.
A wide variety of upcharge and no-upcharge shaft and grip options is also available.
As with all Sub 70 irons, the TAIII’s are custom assembled at the company’s Sycamore, Ill., headquarters. Loft, length and lie adjustments, as well as hard- or soft-stepping, are no extra charge.
For more information, visit the Sub 70 website.