Wilson Staff‘s new “mystery iron,” is official, although those paying attention to social media the last few days realize it’s the kind of mystery Scooby Doo could have solved. And I’ll bet you my autographed picture of Patty Berg you’ll be reading about Wilson’s journey from Empire to has-been in the coming days, as writers take stock of the 2016 lineup.
And I’ll double down and bet you my entire autographed Meghan Hardin collection that the obligatory, yet utterly pointless, “is Wilson back?” question will be asked time and time again.
Look, Wilson Staff was what it was (for the full story, check out MyGolfSpy’s Wilson “trilogy”). It’s far more useful to accept that Wilson Staff is what it is – a roughly $120 million dollar ball, bag and club company that’s been growing slowly but steadily over the past 4 years and, in today’s insane equipment market, is actually turning a profit.
What’s been lacking, however, is that “grab-you-by-the-shirt-gotta-have-it” club that gets the industry as geeked-out as a Star Wars nerd at the premier of The Force Awakens.
Could the long-rumored and much-anticipated C200 iron be that club? The folks in Chicago are sure hoping so.
C200 – A New Hope
On the surface, the C200 is the next-phase replacement for Wilson’s C100 Game Improvement iron, sliding into the “C” or “Crossover” category in Wilson’s Feel-Crossover-Distance, 0r F-C-D, program. In plain English, D equates to Super Game-Improvement, C is Game Improvement and F is for better players.
More or less.
But according to Michael Vrska, Wilson’s Global Director of R&D, the C200 packs an innovative punch unlike anything Wilson’s ever delivered before, and that’s due to something called FLX Face Technology.
FLX Face? Power Holes?
What in the name of Kylo Ren is going on here?
CT, FLX Face and You
Any discussion on FLX Face Technology requires a brief primer on Characteristic Time, or CT.
Simply stated, CT measures – in microseconds – how much time the ball spends on the clubface at impact. USGA rules limit CT to 239 microseconds, with a max tolerance of 18, for a maximum CT of 257 microseconds. Essentially CT measures and limits the spring-like flex, or deflection, of the clubface, which, in turn, limits how hot the clubface can be. That, in turn, potentially limits ball speed.
And that, in turn, potentially limits distance.
You’ll be hearing a lot about face deflection, or flexing, in irons this year. TaylorMade started it all last year with Face Slot Technology in the RSi’s, while Ping’s G-Max irons introduced Cor-Eye technology last summer. Both technologies are designed to create more deflection across the club face, maximizing distance on sweet spot strikes while minimzing distance loss on off-center strikes (remember #misshitshappen?).
FLX Face Technology is Wilson’s unique method of trying to do the same thing.
Take a good look at the C200’s head and two things jump up and say howdy – little slots all the way around the sole, toe and topline, called “Power Holes,” and black goo filling those slots. Both are integral to the FLX Face goal: maximum clubface flex for more “facetime” at impact.
May The FLX Be With You
Those Power Holes are a key element of FLX Face Technology. Their purpose is to separate the face from the body, allowing the face to flex at impact. Only 24% of the face actually connects to the body, isolated only to the perimeter, while 76% of the topline, toe and sole aren’t connected to the club body at all.
That, says Wilson, is how you flex a face.
C200’s face and head are made of 17-4 stainless steel, not a particularly exotic or innovative material in golf. Wilson says it tested other materials, but found 17-4 with FLX Face trumped any performance benefits more exotic materials could offer.
“Some of the early prototypes had CT’s over 270, which is incredible for an iron,” says Vrska. “However, some of those prototypes only lasted a few impacts before breaking. Bottom line is the 17-4 face gives us a great combination of strength and power, with a CT at the limit.”
The Force Awakens
Wilson’s design team went though batches of concept irons using CAD and FEA (Finite Element Analysis) before settling on the final FLX Face/Power Hole design. According to Wilson, that design produced over 1.5 MPH faster ball speeds than earlier prototypes without FLX Face, translating to 5-yards more carry.
Wilson also says FLX Face increases launch angle slightly and allows weight to be moved around the head, making the C200 about 8% more forgiving than previous models.
We can already hear the hue and cry from purists already over the Power Holes, but it’s important to remember the C200 is a Game Improvement iron, in all its wide-soled and back-face-badged glory.
The Power Holes are filled with a soft polymer goo called TE031 Urethane. It’s the first time Wilson has used this material and they believe it may be the first time it’s been used in golf, period. What is clear after gaming the C200’s for several rounds is the combination of FLX Face, Power Holes and TE031 Urethane produce a very muted sound and a remarkably soft and very unique feel, especially for a GI iron.
Lookswise, the C200’s larger head and face is consistent with the GI category. You’d think the Power Holes would detract from the topline appearance, but in reality the TE031’s black color actually makes the top line appear thinner than it is, giving the club a more classic appearance.
Wilson’s lofts are, for the most part, consistent with others in the Game Improvement category:
Closer inspection show a few key differences:
Callaway Apex CF16: 1° stronger lofts than the C200 thru the 8 iron, 9-iron is the same, PW/GW lofts are 1° weaker. Wilson stock length is 0.5″ longer through the 9-iron, 0.25″ longer in the PW/GW.
Titleist AP-1: Same lofts through the 6-iron, 1° stronger 7-GW. Wilsons are 0.5″ longer through the 9 iron, 0.25″ in PW/GW.
Mizuno JPX-EZ: Same lofts through the 9, 1° weaker PW/GW. Wilsons are 0.75″ longer through the 9-iron, 0.5″ in PW/GW.
Taylormade PSi: 0.5° stronger lofts in the 4-8 irons, 0.5 degree weaker in 9/PW. Gap wedge is 2.5° weaker. Wilsons are 0.75″ longer through the 9-iron, 0.5″ longer in PW/GW.
A check of other OEM’s is consistent: the C200’s are generally weaker in loft but longer in shaft. Depending on your release point, an extra 1/2″ in club length could equal 5 to 7 yards in shot length. If you have an earlier release, however, the extra 1/2″ probably doesn’t help much.
What does this mean? Well, in theory, the FLX Face alone should benefit the higher handicap golfer with an early to mid release, while FLX Face plus the extra 1/2″ should make the lower handicap golfer with a later release say “golly.”
Does It Deliver?
So, with all of this information, the question remains: do FLX Face, Power Holes and TE031 goo deliver the distance?
According to Wilson, various player testings have shown distance increases ranging from 5 to 13 yards compared to competitive products. Do these claims stand up? Our initial launch monitor testing showed some promising results.
We compared the stock C200 6-iron to 3 other off the shelf GI 6-irons to see what we could see. The irons in question are the Mizuno JPX-EZ, The Callaway Apex CF16 and the Titleist AP-1:
Keep in mind the JPX-EZ and AP-1 irons have the same loft as the C200, but shorter shafts. The Apex CF16 has a 1° stronger loft, but also has a shorter shaft.
So in this stock-to-stock comparison, the C200 and AP-1 show the highest balls speeds. However, the higher launch angle and overall higher flight of the C200 led to 3 yards more carry and 6 yards more overall distance than the Titleist. At first blush you could say that’s due to the Wilson’s 1/2″ longer shaft, but the swing speeds for both irons were the same at 80 MPH.
So, does FLX Face Technology deliver distance? To a degree, it would seem so. It would also appear custom fitting could unleash more of the C200’s potential. Another consideration: the C200’s are priced the same as the JPX EZ, but $200 less than the AP-1’s and $400 less than the Apex CF16’s.
Who’s It For?
The C200’s are “Crossover” or “C” irons (as are the new FG Tour F5 irons) in Wilson’s F-C-D program. It’s a Game Improvement iron in both looks and performance, but has a unique sound and feel. One of the raps on GI irons is a harsh, clicky feel, but FLX Face and TE031 goo give the C200’s a unique, muted sound and feel that’s fun to hit.
The C200’s are also stupid-easy to hit, although the stock KBS Tour 90 shaft may be a little whippy for more aggressive swingers. It’s not a problem with the long irons, however, as the 4-5-6 irons are very easy to get airborne.
While the KBS Tour 90 is stock, Wilson offers several no-charge options: KBS Tour, KBS Tour 105 and KBS Tour-V as well as True Temper’s Dynamic Gold, Dynamic Gold DG Pro, Dynamic Gold XP and SL85.
For graphite, Wilson is the first OEM offering the new Aldila Rogue Pro.
Lamkin Crossline Black grips are stock.
MSRP is $799.99 in steel. The C200’s will be in stores January 8th, and are available for purchase on Wilson’s website.