Build a Better Blade

Build a Better Blade

by: Britt Lindsey - VP of Technical Services

For as long as I can remember, the term "blade", when describing an iron, meant a club that required a high level of skill to use successfully. Visions of thin top lines, no offset, narrow soles and long hosels are what come to mind. Even today, when you hear avid golfers talk about blades, they are referred to as clubs only the best players can play. "Blades" have been a synonym for unforgiving. Unfortunately, this perception of the blade iron was true because designers from decades past focused on a shape that they believed was the right shape. They had been taught by the previous generation's designers, with no thought to cg location or the mass and dimensional characteristics of a club head and how it may affect the playability and performance of the club. Even as club designed moved from the 1950's and 60's to the 70's and 80's, those companies that continued to offer blade designs made no real changes to the dimensions of the blade. Blades were incredibly short toe to heel, with long hosels and the center of gravity was in towards the heel. When the wear spots on the faces of these irons used by the tour pros were examined, they were in towards the heel, where the cg was. The conclusion was that golfers should hit the ball in towards the heel of the iron because that is where the tour pros hit it. The fact was the tour players wear patterns were in the heel because that is where the cg was. If the cg had been in the center of the face, the wear patterns would have been in the center.

There is no reason a "blade" has to be difficult to play. If careful attention is given to the mass and dimensional characteristics of the design, the center of gravity can be located in the center of the face, where it is suppose to be and where we are suppose to hit it. If we look at blade designs of today, even most of the popular brands, it is evident that many designers are still designing to a shape, without consideration to the mass and dimensional characteristics. By examining a few of the designs on the market today, you can see the difference (see Photo 1).

Due to the longer hosels and the shorter blade lengths, it is easy to see that the center of gravity is higher and towards the heel. It is important to note that for every 1/2" off the center of gravity that a ball is struck, there is a loss of 5% of the distance. At 1/4" there is a 2.5% distance loss. On a 175 yard shot, that equates to a loss of 8+ yards on the 1/2" variance and 4+ yards on the 1/4" variance, assuming the ball is struck in the center of the face. For those players that tend to miss hit the ball slightly towards the toe, which is the tendency for most amateurs, the loss of distance is magnified. Not a positive result, not to mention the feel difference.

Click Here for a larger view of Figure 1

Figure 1 shows an overlay of a popular OEM blade designed by shape only and one that is designed with the proper mass and dimensional characteristics (the Maltby MMB). The difference is quite obvious. When I get a chance to play, I usually play with pretty good players who use the hot OEM blades (no names, but you probably can pick the ones I refer to). It is comforting to know, at least to me, that in many instances I have a distinct advantage based simply on the mass and dimensional characteristics of the head design. It is not perceived. It is real.

The truth is a classic shape does not have to be sacrificed for the sake of playability. The good news is that in the last few seasons, a few manufacturers have recognized this point. It is coincidental, I suppose, that the improvement in blade design seemed to coincide with the publishing of the Ralph Maltby¹s book The Maltby Playability Factor - Understanding Golf Club Dynamics (You can go to Ralph or to to get a complete list of the ratings of irons). The book illustrates the design points that must be considered to make a solid, forgiving and playable design. For a "Blade" design, slightly shortening the hosel and slightly lowering the heel height, combined with a very slight lengthening of the blade from the heel to the toe and a proper sole width, the club goes from one that is incredibly difficult to play to one that is equal to or better than many of the so called "game improvement" irons on the market today. So you can have your cake and eat it to ­ a traditional blade design that offers playability and forgiveness, and, quite simply performs better.