It’s my second outing at the PGA Tour Superstore down the street as I try to come closer to making a decision on what irons I’m going to put in my as-yet-to-be-purchased bag for the 2017 Goodboys Invitational and beyond. After last week’s session, I had spoken to my good friend and fellow Goodboy “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis and he suggested I take a look at the Callaway Steelhead XRs; so, because I wasn’t impressed with the Callaway XRs I had already tried, when Tyler the sales associate came over to me, I asked him for samples of three clubs:
Tyler set me up in the TaylorMade performance booth and I went to work. Strangely enough (or perhaps not so strange), I felt just a little bit out of kilter as I warmed up as compared to how I felt last week. But that was OK – I wanted to try hitting these clubs under every kind of Great White Shank condition (and when you’re a 24-handicap there are always a lot of conditions!) possible. Since I hit the Mizuno so well in last week’s trial I grabbed it again and proceeded to skull my first ball approximately (so the machine said) 50 yards. My second ball was a shank that didn’t even register on the machine – after all, it can’t measure anything the ball doesn’t hit.
I didn’t panic at this point, and was damned glad to look behind me and see that Tyler was helping another customer. I almost expected to hear over the loudspeaker, “Shank in the TaylorMade booth! I repeat, shank in the TaylorMade booth! All associates to the TaylorMade booth!!”. So I now knew that the Mizuno JPX-850s, for all their cost (they run about $1K for the iron set) didn’t feature any kind of anti-shank technology in its design. Which, in some ways, was good: it made me realize that my handicap, my swing, was just like a PGA Tour pro in the sense that it really didn’t matter what clubs I ultimately chose; there’s no set of clubs that’s going to turn me into a, say, 16-handicap no matter how good or how expensive they are.
Fortunately, I didn’t let those first two hits bother me. I grabbed another ball, striped it 156 yards – a good five yards further than I normally hit my 6 (by this time Tyler was watching and said, “good swing, really solid”). I hit a bunch more and set the Mizuno aside.
Next up was the Cobra F7 7-iron. It’s funny how your memories of recent experiences can change in such a short period of time. At that first session I remembered the Mizuno 6-iron having a kind of heavy feel to it, and the Cobra F7 7-iron as being light as a feather. Today it seemed just the opposite. Still, I seemed to hit it about the same as I remembered from last week. It’s a nice club, for sure, but nothing that stands out and screams, “HIT ME TO THE CENTER OF THE GREEN AND I’LL LEAVE YOU WITH JUST FIVE FEET FROM THE PIN, YOU DUMBASS!.”
Tyler had disappeared again at this point. He had had a pink purse in his hand (I didn’t ask), so I’m guessing (hoping) he was off to the lost and found. I grabbed the Callaway Steelhead XR 7-iron and immediate said out loud with a shake of the head and a grin, “You bastard!”. Not sure if anyone heard me, but I was talking to The Funny Guy, the one who had suggested trying out the Steelhead XRs to begin with.
(You see, here’s the thing about The Funny Guy: not only is he infuriating in the amount of times he’s right about things, but he also excels when it comes to spending other people’s money. I could tell y’all the story about when – and I’m talking years ago, like decades – he took Tracey shopping for golf-related Christmas gifts for me. But it’s best I not, and for everyone concerned!)
Like I was saying, The Funny Guy has this way of combining knowledge, audacity, and out-and-out chicanery when it comes to knowing how to spend other people’s money – especially mine. And I have this sneaking sense that after all these years he has come to know my swing better than anyone, even my swing coach, Alex Black. At any rate, after taking that first look at the Steelhead XR 7-iron, I knew it just looked right to my eyes. And the first few hits? Well, all I can say is that it is one damned forgiving club. Even the slight mis-hits I made seemed to have little difference in terms of trajectory and distance. By the fourth swing that I had hit my usually-reliable 130-135 yard 7-iron 142, 147, 149 and 138 yards, respectively, upon which Tyler remarked, “nice turn, nice swing!”.
But this is one time I refuse to fall in love with the girl simply because she looks, acts, talks, moves, and smells great. So I played it coy and set the club back down and grabbed the Mizuno for several swings. I was starting to feel a little more comfortable and made some nice shots. That Mizuno is a damned nice club, one I’d have no hesitation about with dropping in my bag (if I had one, that is). I also hit a number of decent shots with the Cobra F7, although I have to admit the feeling stayed with me that there was nothing exceptional about that particular club.
I went back to the Callaway Steelhead XR and I again hit some nice shots: a big push or two and a pull or two as well, but there was no doubt in my mind that it’s a very, very nice club. And at $699 for a set, the Steelheads are $200 cheaper than the Cobra King F7s and a whopping $400 cheaper than the Mizuno JPX-850s. I realize now that I was hitting the wrong Mizuno model – I meant to ask for the JPX-EZ (much more affordable), and hope to do that on my next – and hopefully final – trip back.
So, after two rounds here is where things stand:
1. Callaway Steelhead XR
2. Mizuno JPX-850
3. Cobra F7
It’s my plan not to let this whole process drag out a whole lot longer – I am, after all, a 24-handicap, and you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. But I will admit – and damn you, Funny Guy! – I have a feeling that as I fall asleep tonight I’m going to be thinking about those first few hits with that Callaway Steelhead XR 7-iron. After my Las Vegas disaster I never thought I’d ever be playing Callaway again (and I might still not, I gotta get my hands on those Mizuno JPX-EZs!) but I could sure do a whole lot worse.