There’s a bit of a sea change going on at Wilson.

For years Wilson has used an entirely logical F-C-D classification system for its irons: F is for Feel, C is for Crossover, and D is Distance. Of course, the rest of the industry has used the even more logical Player’s irons, Game Improvement irons, and Super Game Improvement irons, but that’s another story for another day.

The advent of the Player’s Distance category, however, has thrown F-C-D out the window, and virtually every OEM has category-busting GI irons finding their way into better player’s bags. As a challenger brand, Wilson has no choice but to reshuffle its deck to keep up. We’ve seen the beginning of that sea change already with the Staff Model moniker, as well as last month’s LaunchPad lineup.

So, where does Wilson’s new D7 Forged fit in? On its face, it appears to be a direct and on-time replacement for the two-year-old C300 Forged, and it is. Only it’s not.

Confused? Let’s see if we can clear things up.

Forged Distance

The Player’s Distance category is an official thing now: irons that go like hell but don’t look like hell, at least to the better player’s eye. The C300 Forged fit that category, but only barely.

“The C300 Forged was probably a little under-spec’d for loft for the category,” Wilson’s Innovation Manager Jon Pergande tells MyGolfSpy. “We want to make sure the specs are relevant to where competitive sets are because we don’t want to lose on a technicality.”

The new D7 Forged, on the face of it, look an awful lot like a rebadged C300 Forged – not a bad thing. The C300 was a good-looking stick – but Wilson has built-in some distance technology to keep up at the launch monitor.

And – get ready to grab the pitchforks and light the torches – that includes jacking the lofts.

“These are about two degrees stronger (than C300 Forged),” says Pergande. “It has a 30.5-degree 7-iron, which is right in the mix of typical competing products.”

But, as any smart equipment junkie knows, loft-jacking alone doesn’t do the trick: you need a low enough CG and the right shaft to get a 7-iron to launch and spin like a 7-iron and, in the Player’s Distance category, looks and feel matter.

“We had a pretty good look with the C300 Forged head size, blade shape, and top line,” says Pergande. “That stays pretty similar with D7 Forged. But we wanted to ramp up distance, and the big change is what we could do to improve feel.”

So yeah, you can say the D7 Forged is a direct replacement for the C300 Forged, just with stronger lofts. But the standard C300 – a clear GI iron – is being discontinued and isn’t being replaced, leaving an apparent gap in Wilson’s lineup; one Wilson hopes the standard D7 can bridge. More on that later.

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Holy Power Holes

So yeah, the lofts are stronger, but Wilson also reconfigured its signature Power Holes for the D7 Forged. Power Hole technology debuted with the C200 GI iron as Wilson’s way of allowing the clubface to flex as much as possible at impact without annoying the USGA. A story you’ll hear a lot in 2020 is about low face deflection: maximizing face flex when you catch it a tad low. The new, reconfigured Power Holes help the face act a little more like a diving board and a little less like a trampoline.

“We’ve been mindful of face hinge since the days of D100 and D200,” says Pergande. “The Power Holes give us a low flex to absorb the impact and provide return energy to the ball. And Power Holes are constantly evolving. If you think back to the C200 where Power Holes started, every iteration becomes better and better.”

And what tool does Wilson use to make Power Holes better? Hold on to your hats, kiddies, but it’s Artificial Intelligence. Callaway, it would seem, is not the sole domain of A.I.

“With our simulation software, we’re able to fine-tune, optimize and improve,” says Pergande. “And our ability to manipulate and improve has gotten better.”

Pergande says Wilson simulated several hundred different Power Hole configurations for D7 Forged before narrowing it down to 20 specific prototypes.

“We tried different thicknesses, different spacing, and different amounts of support structure to each part of the power hole. Then we started testing ball impact across the face to ultimately pick the one to give us the best ball speed and performance.”

Face Forging and Power Chambers

The framework of the D7 Forged is virtually identical to the C300 Forged: a fully forged 8620 Carbon Steel face connected to a cast 8620 head.

“Because of the large cavity you can’t traditionally forge the head, or even post-forge it in the case of 8620 – meaning you cast it to a near net shape and then forge it,” says Pergande. “You’d just deform too much of the material.”

If there was a criticism of C300 Forged (other than distance), it was a relatively crisp feel. To improve feel, Wilson created the ominous-sounding Power Chamber: a urethane-filled cavity in the lower half of the clubhead.

“We already had a small amount of urethane in the Power Holes,” says Pergande. “So instead of just filling the Power Holes with about a thousandth of an inch of urethane, we fill the hole Power Chamber up. It goes a long way toward dampening the vibrations caused at impact.”

Any time you add urethane, Urethane Microspheres, or Speed Foam to an otherwise hollow cavity, you have a balancing act. The goo definitely improves sound and feel, but as it fills the cavity, it also counteracts face flex, which is kind of important in a Player’s Distance iron.

“That goes back to structure,” says Pergande. “As long as you know you’re using urethane, it changes what you can do for limits you’d put on face thickness. You can go extra thin. You treat the Power Holes differently – they’re larger with more space because there’s more support provided by the urethane so that they can handle a bigger load.”

“It’s about making sure we have the correct balance.”

Although far from a formal test, we can share a few observations based on a range session. From a feel standpoint, when you flush the D7 Forged, you know it: both sound and feel are improved over the C300 Forged. Miss the center, though, and you know it, as well: a noticeable crack you’ll feel in your metacarpals and phalanges.

Distance, of course, was the shortcoming of the C300 Forged compared to other Player’s Distance irons. A brief, unscientific launch monitor session showed the D7 Forged to be on par with the TaylorMade P790 for launch angle, spin, and carry distance. Most Wanted testing, of course, will shine a brighter light on performance.

The Death of F-C-D

Remember the old days of the NBA? You had point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards, and centers. Everyone had a job and a position. Today, it’s guards, wings, bigs, and “3-and-D’s” – all can shoot, rebound, pass and handle the ball.

I miss Bird, McHale, and Parrish. And yes, you can get off my grass.

Lines are getting blurry in irons, too. Yeah, you have obvious SGI and GI irons, but OEMs have GI irons that appeal to better players, and then there are the Player’s Distance irons. As irons have evolved, Wilson’s Feel-Crossover-Distance classification has lost its meaning.

“People understand distance, and they understand forged technology within the distance category,” says Pergande. “That’s D7 and D7 Forged. And they understand our better player stuff in the FG Tour/Staff Model family. The challenge we had with the C category was it just became the one in the middle.”

Wilson’s entire line is in transition. You have the new LaunchPad irons – a Super-Duper Game Improvement anti-chunk iron. The year-old D7 is Wilson’s longest iron and is, ostensibly, an SGI iron. However, Wilson says nearly 40% of last year’s D7 sales were through the Custom Department and, based on the shafts and specs, were made for better players looking for distance.

D7 Forged replaces both the C300 and C300 Forged in the GI/Player’s Distance category, and then you have the Staff Model blades.

The three-year-old FG Tour V6, MyGolfSpy’s 2017 Most Wanted Player’s iron, is kind of in limbo.

“We try to keep our irons on a two-year life cycle,” says Pergande. “But there’s a lot of appeal to that V6, so there’s no compelling reason to change it. We’re still maintaining sales, so we’re going to run with it for another year.”

Several Wilson Staff Tour players game the V6, but the new Staff Model moniker is for clubs Wilson designs specifically with and for its Tour staff. Pergande says whatever replaces the V6 will most likely have the Staff Model name.

Specs, Price, Availability

The D7 Forged is designed for the Player’s Distance category, so the lofts – while not SGI strong – are strong nonetheless, with a 30.5-degree 7-iron designed to be competitive in the hitting bay battles at retail.

The stock steel shaft is the KBS $-Taper Lite – which KBS touts as a low-to-mid spin shaft with a mid-to-high trajectory. It features a firm tip and a higher balance point and, as the name would suggest, is light – the Regular flex is 95 grams, Stiff is 100 grams, and X-Stiff is 105 grams.

The True Temper Catalyst Black 80 is the stock graphite shaft, which weighs in at 85 grams. True Temper says the 6.0 Flex is low-to mid-launch and mid-spin, while the 6.5 flex is low-launch, low-spin.

The stock grip is the Golf Pride Tour velvet, and as always, Wilson will offer a variety of no upcharge and upcharge shaft and grip options through its custom department.

The D7 Forged are available in both right- and left-handed models. A 7-piece 4-PW set will retail for $899.99 in steel, $999.99 in graphite.

You can pre-order on Wilson’s website starting January 14th. The D7 Forged will be in stores on January 21st.