- With a new P790, TaylorMade has updated the quintessential player’s distance iron.
- Enhancements include a new SpeedFoam Air filling and refined cosmetics.
- Retail price is $1,399 for a seven-piece set.
Man, it sure is tough out there for a player and, by player, I mean golfers. Tee times are in short supply. New gear is even tougher to come by, especially if it’s custom. Pick any manufacturer and they’ve probably got heads. Sure, they probably don’t have shafts and they definitely don’t have much in the way of grips but two out of three ain’t bad, right?
Industry-wide, backorders, delays and outright unavailability are par for the course these days. In the best of scenarios golfers get fitted, order, cross their fingers and wait … and then wait some more.
Some of that’s on you. You should have known better than to order MCC Plus4s. Back of the line. No soup for you!
Manufacturers face a slightly different challenge. What do you sell when you don’t actually have anything to sell?
If you’re TaylorMade, you offer up something that doesn’t … or at least didn’t exist before today.
Back in my tech days, we called that vaporware.
P790 Irons – From Vaporware to Reality
After TaylorMade ran all the way out of the 2019 iteration of P790, it made the unusual decision to offer up the 2021 model pre-embargo and with no details. Information was limited to a blacked-out image and a spec sheet. That’s it.
Specifics be damned. For golfers compelled to roll the dice on the new P790, all that was needed was a credit card and a whole lot of faith in TaylorMade. The fact of the matter is you really didn’t know what you were buying.
I think I read something like that on a hat once. Regardless, it was the only choice.
Look, you’ll never hear me suggest you should buy off-the-rack, let alone near literally blind. I wince at the suggestion that any piece of golf equipment is better for everyone but if you’re going to gamble on anything in the iron category—particularly in the player’s distance category—I suppose the TaylorMade P790 offers decent odds.
TaylorMade P790 Irons – Setting the Standard
Now entering its third generation, the P790 is the talisman for the player’s distance category. Even in a time when the category wasn’t clearly defined, the original (2017) P790 and its SpeedFoam injected cavity set the standard. From there, TaylorMade has done nothing but build. In fact, it built an entire P-Series franchise around P790.
So what’s behind the success of the P790?
TaylorMade would no doubt point to its SpeedFoam-driven performance. For sure, some of TaylorMade’s competitors are dubious about the purported benefits (one industry insider refers to it as “Sound Foam”) but the story resonated with consumers which I suppose is the ultimate benchmark. So, yeah, performance plays a role for sure but I believe just as much, if not more, of the credit for P790’s success should go to TaylorMade’s increasingly clean look and the general versatility of the irons.
A Different Kind of Utility Iron
Aesthetics are subjective and we’ll come back to them but it’s TaylorMade’s fitting data that I find most compelling. The sweet spot for the P790 iron sales is right about where you probably expect. It’s exceedingly popular with high single-digit to low double-digit handicappers but the span of golfers being fitted into P790 in measurable numbers runs from +4 to 25.
That’s a hell of a range. I suppose that makes P790 an entirely different kind of utility iron.
Still, I wouldn’t suggest you order anything without seeing it (and ideally getting fitted for it) but at least we can fill in some details for you before the line gets too long.
TaylorMade P790 Irons – What’s New
By no small measure, what TaylorMade faces in trying to evolve the P790 isn’t much different than what Titleist faced when trying to make a better T100. Golfers love what they already have. Fitters love it even more and, so innovations and enhancements aside, not screwing up a good thing is at least half the battle.
While the outside of the P790 iron reveals a cosmetic evolution that’s almost certainly for the better, the most significant changes can be found on the inside.
Hollow Versus Filled
As I’ve mentioned before, there are two prevailing ideologies when it comes to how to design a hollow-body iron. Titleist, PING and Mizuno believe there’s no better filler than air. The argument is that anything behind the face slows the face and, with everyone trying to generate more speed, that approach doesn’t make much sense.
The other perspective is evident in designs from PXG, TaylorMade and, to an extent, Callaway. Their position is that foams, assorted polymer goos and microspheres can be used to improve sound and feel while supporting a face that’s thinner than would be possible without the filling.
The bottom line is that there’s more than one way to create speed in an iron so there’s probably not one perfect answer here but I’d wager the effectiveness of any material (or lack of material) is tied to other design considerations. What’s clear to me is that either approach can work.
With that said, I did chuckle when I learned that TaylorMade’s new filler material for the P790 iron is called SpeedFoam Air. Best of both worlds, perhaps?
The bits that matter about SpeedFoam Air are that it’s lighter and softer than the previous SpeedFoam. Also, SpeedFoam Air is red. The original SpeedFoam was orange so there’s that.
By the numbers, SpeedFoam Air is 69-percent less dense than the original SpeedFoam.
The idea here is that you can retain feel (the foam plays a significant role in feel), save a bit of weight and presumably let the face flex a bit more for more speed.
The weight savings aren’t limited to what SpeedFoam Air allowed for. Using what it calls thin wall construction, TaylorMade shaved the upper back portion of the iron to one millimeter (down from 1.6), freeing up 15 grams of mass (in addition to the 3.5-4.5 grams saved by SpeedFoam Air).
I’ll give you one guess what TaylorMade did with all that extra weight.
(Please don’t say tungsten …)
Tungsten Weighting (sorry)
Here’s the deal. I’m guessing you care only slightly less about tungsten than I do. which is to say hardly at all, but this tungsten bit is important for explaining where the requisite performance gains come from.
Inside the 2021 P790 Iron is upwards of 31 grams of tungsten. That’s up from 13.5 grams in the previous model. And while that doesn’t put TaylorMade anywhere close to being able to claim the No. 1 use of tungsten in golf, on percentage, it’s a massive jump from the prior generation.
The tungsten weight is placed low and slightly toe-ward. The positioning servers two purposes. The first is that it drives weight down for higher launch (and lower spin) compared to the 2019 model. It also pushes the center of gravity towards the toe where it works in conjunction with other aspects of the P790 design (like TaylorMade’s inverted cone technology and the 1.5mm (at its thinnest) 4140 forged L-face) to increase the size of the sweet spot.
Intelligent Sweet Spot Design
You’ve heard similar stories. Golfers’ miss patterns consistently reveal that misses are most often either high toe or low heel. With that in mind, the goal of TaylorMade’s Intelligent Sweet Spot design wasn’t simply to make the sweet spot larger but also to extend it in directions that would help the golfer. You would likely benefit from a bit more speed preservation in the high toe region, high heel … not so much.
TaylorMade’s claim is that it has increased the size of the sweet spot by 30 percent. For reference, TaylorMade defines the sweet spot as the part of the face with a COR of .800 or higher.
Unchanged are topline and sole widths along with the offset. The thinking is that the existing values work just fine and if you’re looking for something different than what you get with P790, TaylorMade has several other P-Series offerings that might appeal to you.
The ’21 TaylorMade P790 iron performance summary reads like this: More speed, more consistent speed, higher launch, a bit lower spin and ultimately more distance.
The final piece of the 2021 P790 story is refined cosmetics. While the ’17 and ’19 iterations looked fairly similar, the ’21 model is an as-significant-as-it-can-be departure from the previous generations. The thinking inside TaylorMade was that the guy who bought ‘17s probably didn’t buy ‘19s but going on five years later, he might be ready to re-up with some ‘21s.
With that in mind, TaylorMade wants to convey the message that this isn’t a third P790, it’s an all-new P790 (even if the recipe for the secret sauce hasn’t changed dramatically). TaylorMade’s Matt Bovee describes the aesthetic, which includes a new pearlescent chrome finish as “minimalistic, yet contemporary,” going so far as to say that the P-Series is the best-looking iron family in the market.
One could make a reasonable argument for Mizuno or Titleist, I suppose, but there aren’t many who would reasonably dispute that TaylorMade absolutely belongs in that conversation which, if nothing else, shows just how far the company has come from the RSi days. Best? Maybe. Do they look drooly-mouth delicious? Absolutely.
Hands-On With the TaylorMade P790
I had the chance to try the new P790 at a recent TaylorMade event. It’s not an iron I’ve spent any real time with previously but I certainly didn’t find any struggle to hit them on the range (the course is always a different story) and the feel is excellent. Not pure forging excellent but more than satisfying.
Nitpicking a bit, the topline is a bit blunt for my tastes but it’s one of those things that I could easily get over if the performance proves to be there.
One media member in attendance raved about the 8-iron while another played the new P790 for the duration of the three-day event before ultimately deciding he wasn’t giving them back. We’ll see if that makes it into one of those TaylorMade “straight in the bag” commercials with four PGA TOUR Pros and a rando media guy. He was due for an upgrade anyway.
P790 Iron Specifications
As noted, the core specifications for the P790 haven’t changed. We’re still topping out at a 45-degree pitching wedge and keeping the 4-iron above 20 degrees (21). I’m all for a player’s distance iron that doesn’t cheat too far to the distance side. Ultimately, I think that gives golfers more flexibility at both ends of the bag.
With that said, there is a growing realization that, as with drivers, there’s no single iron loft specification that’s right for everyone. To that end, TaylorMade’s fitting carts will include different P790 loft options to help fitters dial in the appropriate loft progression for a given golfer.
When you’re custom fitted for P790, lofts are only as jacked as you need them to be.
For those who prefer to play combo sets, TaylorMade’s P-Series combo guide can help you choose the appropriate lofts (and gaps) no matter how you choose to blend your set.
TaylorMade P790 Stock Options
TaylorMade is taking a sensible approach to its stock shafts. This time around it has chosen a DG 105 (stiff) and DG 95 (regular) as the stock shafts. They’re lighter than past stock offerings. The thinking is that the stock off-the-rack buyer tends to be a more aspirational player … a guy more likely to reach outside of his skillset. That’s a nice way of saying a guy who isn’t as good as he thinks he is. For that guy, it makes sense to leverage a shaft that’s going to help him get the ball in the air and get more out of the P790.
For the guys who are going to get fitted, the stock shaft isn’t of much consequence anyway. With TaylorMade’s Any Shaft, Any Head program you can put whatever shaft you want in the P790 (assuming TaylorMade has it in inventory).
The stock graphite option is the Mitsubishi MMT in A (55), R (65), and S (75) flexes. Again, the idea is to help the target demographic get the ball in the air and enjoy the game a bit more.
The stock grip is a Golf Pride Z-Grip (+2).
The TaylorMade P790 iron is available in 3-PW, GW. Retail price for a seven-piece set is $1,299 (or $185 per iron).
TaylorMade P790 UDI
I love it when a story is easy to tell so I’m going to love our brief little chat about the TaylorMade P790 UDI.
The technology of the P790 UDI is identical to the irons. SpeedFoam Air, Intelligent Sweet Spot Design, Pearlescent chrome finish … you name it, the UDI has it.
Buyer beware, however. The UDI may not have exactly the same broad reach as its namesake iron. With its low/mid flight, low-spin characteristics, Bovee says the target audience for the P790 UDI is the better player (5 handicap and below) with a high swing speed.
If that’s not you, you’ll probably be better off with the SIM UDI, SIM UHI or one of TaylorMade’s Rescue offerings. It’s a safe bet that some of you are going to ignore the advice and make a bad decision but, whatever, I’ve done my part.
TaylorMade P790 UDI Specs
The TaylorMade P790 UDI is available in a 2U (17 degrees) for right-handed golfers only. The stock shaft is a Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black RDX 90S or 100X.
The stock grip is a Golf Pride Z-Grip (+2).
Retail price is $249.
For more information, visit TaylorMadeGolf.com.