As we wait to see how the benefits or consequences of the recent purchase of TaylorMade by private equity firm KPS Financial shake out, the company has been actively teasing another round of tour fauxtotype, excuse me, prototype irons.
The wordplay shouldn't be taken as a knock on the design itself. Truth be told, I love the work TaylorMade's iron guy, Tomo Bystedt, has done since he took over the category a few years ago. Aesthetically, TaylorMade's irons have progressed to the point where they're among the best looking in golf, but this whole prototype nonsense is long since out of hand.
Once a product is ready for retail - as the two irons shown today almost certainly are (FYI - golf equipment companies don't want anyone seeing their actual prototypes), it's no longer a prototype. Can we all agree on that?
Remember when TaylorMade insisted the SLDR driver was just a prototype? Old dogs and new tricks... I promise you, the irons are ready, which means it won't be long before videos of tour players gasping over launch monitor numbers, raving about feel, and asking if they can take the clubs home with them hit YouTube.
As per usual, I digress...
P730 - The Necessary Blade
I've long maintained that a serious iron company needs a blade in its lineup. It won't ever be a retail killer, but a sexy blade that gets tour play helps cement a brand's reputation as a serious golf company.
In an earnest effort to help their tour players perform better, over the last several years, TaylorMade has repeatedly tried to transition its staffers from blades into more-forgiving, compact cavityback designs. Habits die hard among the elite, so despite its best efforts, TaylorMade hasn't had much success with designed-for-the-tour cavitybacks. So when you consider that bit of reality, along with the fact that the company's semi-current Tour MB is plenty long and the tooth and that Rory and Tiger (place your bets) are on staff now, it's easy to understand why it won't be long before the P730 finds its way to retail.
As with the previous P7 series irons, the '730' is derived from the length of the blade. From that, you can easily discern that the 730 is shorter (more compact) than the 750, which is shorter than the 770. The nomenclature coupled with the semi-industrial appearance is no doubt intended to reinforce the idea that the iron is precision engineered.
While we can't speak to the totality of performance, it's reasonable to assume it's blade-like, and that fact alone suggests that the majority of the set won't be for the average, or even above average golfer. TaylorMade knows that, but as I said, every serious golf company needs a serious MB in the lineup.
Despite a relative lack of technology, don't expect the P730 to come cheap. Given that TaylorMade competitors have already entered the premium space (and the P750 is right on the edge), I'd wager $1600 is the absolutely minimum price and I wouldn't be shocked if the ask is a bit higher still.
P790 - A Compact Driving Iron?
The potentially more compelling new model - if only for the fact it should have broader appeal is the P790. Also currently being tour validated, the P790 is almost certainly a direct replacement for the also long in the tooth, UDI (Ultimate Driving Iron), the available photos suggest it will prove to be a hollow-bodied, surprisingly compact driving iron featuring tungsten toe weighting and some form of TaylorMade's slot technology.
If reality matches the photos, it may prove to be the most svelte driving iron the market, and that alone should make it appealing to many.
Given the recent release of PXG's 0311X, and the impending release of a fresh round of Titleist TMB irons, some are actively wondering if driving irons are poised to make a comeback. The truth is they never really went away; it's simply a matter of a niche category with longer release cycles. Nearly every manufacturer is either due or past due, so don't be even a little surprised if see Callaway, Cobra, Mizuno, and possibly others offer up something new in the driving iron category. Generally speaking, nearly everyone is due for a refresh, and TaylorMade just happens to be among the first.