Anyone who likes to try and keep up to date with changes in the golf equipment world these days will know that, just like most politicians in the UK, statements are thrown around as 'facts' by manufacturers as a means of marketing, leaving golfers with no real way of verifying them.
So when Wilson announced the new super-forgiving, super game-improvement Launch Pad irons would stop you fatting the ball by 73%, you'll forgive me for feeling slightly sceptical.
But when I then saw what these irons looked like, my already-raised eyebrows were almost removed from my head altogether. They certainly will be catching golfer's eyes in the pro shop.
Now the question is, can Wilson do what virtually no politician has ever done, and live up to their promise?
What's It All About?
The new Wilson Staff Launch Pad range, which also features drivers, fairway woods and a new FYbrid, has been designed to ensure that higher handicap golfers can consistently get the ball airborne with ease for greater carry distances and more forgiveness.
Wilson is known for having more major victories with its irons than any other brands, but it's not just the elite players that they serve. The new Launch Pad iron range focuses its efforts on the sole design, with technology developed to reduce the chances of fat shots.
This wide, progressive sole, which is visible on all of the irons throughout the set, means that there is plenty of weight down at the bottom of the club head to provide easy launch for high handicap players.
The technology also helps to prevent the sole from digging into the turf during the impact zone to reduce fat shots, and adjustments in the bounce angle mean that the leading edge also avoids getting stuck in the ground when the ball is struck, helping to encourage cleaner ball-striking.
The short irons, from 7 iron down to the wedges, feature generous game-improvement sole widths, while the longer irons take things to another level altogether with even wider, more forgiving footprints.
The heads of the irons have a hollow construction, which supports an extremely thin face which can be used to generate maximum ball speed.
A lower profile in the club head also means that the CG is moved further back, increasing MOI and making the irons even easier to launch.
"Our latest research shows the Launch Pad irons reduce fat shots by 73% and help players gain an extra 10 yards distance compared to other models in the super game-improvement category."
Jon Pergande, Manager of Golf Club Innovation at Wilson Golf
Upon first inspection I felt that the Launch Pad irons looked like they'd be great driving irons or long iron alternatives for mid-to-high handicappers, but could you actually use and benefit from a full set of these?
I took them down to Bramall Park GC in Manchester, playing 18 holes in the freezing cold and wet conditions to give these irons a thorough testing, from a variety of different lies and distances. There was plenty of soft ground and thick rough, making it the perfect opportunity to really test out Wilson's claims on reducing those fat shots.
Wilson Staff Launch Pad Irons Review
I think I have to start with looks, as this is bound to be the main talking point of these irons. They're big. Very big.
You essentially get a normal iron face, with a huge, hybrid-like cavity protruding from the back. Straight away it screams forgiveness and high launch to me, but I know that it will alienate plenty because the golfer's ego kicks in and we announce that we don't need a club that looks like this and would never use something so chunky.
At address, there's a healthy bit of offset particularly in the longer irons, and the soles get wider as you reach the 5 and 6 iron too, with the back cavity becoming even more pronounced. If you've been used to standard cavity back irons then the bulging back-end may take a bit of getting used to, but for some it could definitely be confidence-inspiring.
As you'd expect, having all of that weight down at the bottom and back of the club head means that those clubs are really easy to launch up in the air, with the short irons in particular going much higher than my current irons.
The distances were all pretty impressive too as the strong lofts combined with that easy launch, and the irons were mostly able to keep up with my own fitted iron set, apart from a couple of shots from the rough which were slightly higher on the face.
Having a slight bit of offset was also producing a consistent draw shape, and I actually found it was quite difficult to shape the ball more than a few yards in the air, particularly on fade shots. However, these kind of clubs are aimed at golfers who just want a consistent strike and ball flight, rather than lots of workability, so in this regard they perform more than ably.
With heads as bulky as this, you do lose out on a little bit of feel, with the ball coming off a little dead compared to a traditional style iron. A couple of times I actually found it difficult to know straight away whether I had struck the ball well or slightly out of the bottom, whereas with my current Ping iBlade irons there's much more instant feedback.
The short irons were a little bit of a struggle at times because it's here that you start to see where the Launch Pad can potentially fall down. Part of the challenge of golf is being creative at the scoring end of the bag, but I just found that the Launch Pad short irons were a little too one-dimensional.
I like to use a variety of clubs to suit the conditions with my short irons, for example taking a pitching wedge from 100 yards out and just hitting a lower knock-down shot, but the size and style of the irons meant that this was a little more difficult. Even though the back cavity was not really visible at address, the head is still plenty big enough.
It's great if you just want to hit the same type of shot over and over again, if you're struggling with your ball-striking and just want to gain more consistency. But if you're looking to score well with the shorter irons then I think the head size and sole width could've been reduced slightly more.
The longer irons performed well though, and I was especially impressed with their versatility even in thicker rough.
At this time of year it is useful to have that wider sole because it means that, rather than just having to take your medicine and get back into play every time, you still feel like you can be positive and advance the ball up towards the green.
Wilson Staff Launch Pad Irons Verdict
A quick look on social media will tell you that Wilson's hashtag for these irons is #savethegrass - so does it work?
Well, the rounded edges and wider sole do combine nicely and although I'm not a massive divot-taker anyway, I did find it difficult to get down and through the turf with these irons.
It leaves behind more of a scorch mark where you've just shaved a couple of inches off the grass, and towards the end of the round, I grew to quite like the feeling that I could really be positive into the back of the ball without fear of a sirloin steak-sized divot if I wasn't precise enough.
Although I wasn't a fan of the short irons, I could actually see the longer irons being pretty useful for the higher handicappers who don't generate a great deal of speed and are looking for a little more consistency from the straighter-faced clubs. I also think they would combine well with the rest of the top end of the set, as the looks would blend well with something like Wilson's Launch Pad Fybrid.
But I suppose the main issue here is whether golfers are willing to set aside their ego and preconceptions of what an iron should look like, in favour of simply picking the clubs that would give them the best chance of improving their scores.
I asked two groups of golfers out on the course when I was testing, and whilst most of them said they wouldn't use them, there were a couple who said they didn't care what their clubs looked like as long as they helped to lower their scores. These are the people that Wilson is targeting here.
But one gentleman who I asked responded by saying they probably would help him, but he still wouldn't buy them because he would just never get used to it, and I think that's the main issue.
The Launch Pad irons really are worth trying for anyone who struggles with their ball-striking, or who doesn't have the speed to produce a consistent ball flight.
But the challenge is getting people to try them in the first place. No wonder Wilson has taken a leaf out of the politicians' books...
- Very easy to hit and produce a high ball flight
- Forgiving on strike particularly in the long irons
- Consistent results across the face
- Confidence-inspiring look
- Help to promote a draw shape
- Looks alone will be too off-putting for many
- Ball flight was a little one-dimensional
- Not a great deal of feel in the short irons