Forged Irons & Blades
Forged irons are typically made from a single piece of steel. There are different techniques for making forged irons, but in all cases, the steel is heated then molded into shape by at least one large pressing machine. These irons are also referred to as blades because the sleek slabs of metal resemble the blade of a knife. Forged clubs were the undisputed irons of choice well into the 20th century, when technical improvements made cast-iron clubs – including cavity-backs – more competitive. By the mid-1990s, only about half of the players on the PGA Tour were using forged irons. Forged irons made a comeback after the turn of the century thanks to new manufacturing techniques, including some designs borrowed from their cavity-back cousins.
Forged irons typically maintain more weight in the center of the club head when compared to cavity-back clubs. As a result, top players who consistently hit the sweet spot with their swings will enjoy greater accuracy. Although golfers can often get away with mishits when using a cavity-back club, some pros believe that the challenge of hitting with forged clubs helps their overall games. A forged club head’s construction is also more consistent than that of a cast iron club head. The casting process typically traps tiny air bubbles within the liquid metal, in contrast to a completely solid forged iron. Additionally, current manufacturing techniques allow forged irons to be constructed with cavity-back features, giving devotees of forged irons the best of both worlds.
Cast Irons & Cavity-Back Irons
Cast-iron clubs are made from liquid metal that is poured into a mold and allowed to cool. Then, the forms are broken to expose the new “blank” club heads. Additional machining transforms these “blanks” into finished clubs. The virtues of cast irons are their flexibility and price. Manufacturers can easily create club heads of any shape, and they can do it more inexpensively than making forged clubs.
Casting technology led to the introduction of cavity-back clubs, which have thick ridges around the rear perimeter of the club head, leaving a cavity in the middle. Cavity backs are typically listed as “game-improvement” clubs because their technology helps most amateur golfers improve their games, mainly by being more forgiving of mishits.
The weight of a cavity-back club head is more evenly distributed around the perimeter, making cavity backs a better choice for weekend golfers, because the clubs are much more tolerant of mishit balls. Beginning golfers in particular will find it easier to hit the ball straight with a cavity-back iron. The bottom line is that two identically designed clubs will show little or no performance differences, whether the club head is forged or cast. A casual golfer seeking a forgiving cavity-back club will do just as well with a cast-iron version as they would with a forged cavity-back iron.