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Our editor's been having trouble with his irons - until he started playing these John Letters T5s
We reported a few weeks ago on John Letters the company and have subsequently had the chance to test two of its irons - the Trilogy T5 and Trilogy TXD.

Trilogy TXD Irons
I have been using Wilson Staff irons, with graphite shafts, for a number of years now. It was not a conscious decision to go down the graphite shaft route, it was more of an 'on the spot decision' than a planned one. I was therefore delighted to be given a set of John Letters Trilogy TXD irons with steel shafts on condition I write a review of them.

John Letters of Scotland was the first company to produce the 'three in one design' concept back in the early 80s. Using the latest technology and materials they have embraced all the positive aspects of previous models to develop the Trilogy TXD Iron, which was recently acclaimed 'the best club over £350' by Golf Monthly.

It took only a short time to get accustomed to the extra weight of the steel shaft . I am now getting a better more forgiving ball strike and - despite what the technologists say - I have gained significant extra yardage than with the graphite shafts - although this is probably down to the fact I am getting that better contact.

The strength of the Trilogy TXD irons is in their weight distribution. I have read a number of other reviews on the net and no one seems to have a bad word to say about them. The only slightly negative - and this is a matter of opinion - is that John Letters are not among the most well-known brands. But why on earth do people judge a product by name alone? If you were to stick a Nike label onto an old shovel I am sure someone would buy it and claim it to be the best club on the market.

Steve Fenton, 8 handicap.

Trilogy T5
The Trilogy name is the most successful that John Letters has ever produced, and this latest version is the best-seller of all - the company sold its projected volume for the year (4,000 sets) by early summer. But don't let that put you off; there are no reported problems with meeting the demand or finding the club at stockists.

As Steve points out above, a large part of this success is down to the fact that the company was the first with the three-in-one concept, in which a large cavity-back and extra weighting at the bottom of the clubhead diminishes as you make your way down through the irons. The result is intended to be extra peripheral weighting in the long irons, to help get the ball airborne and improve the quality of strike; reduced peripheral weighting in the mid, or 'neutral' clubs, and more of a blade feel for accuracy and precision in the short irons, or scoring clubs. The concept works so well that there are very few manufacturers that haven't delivered at least some version of the same principle over the years.

The clubs also come with the John Letters patented parallel grip system, in which the thickness of the grip remains constant, rather than taper as you move towards the bottom of the shaft. The rationale is: 'Why should you have less to grip with your right hand (for right-handed players) than your left?' At first I had doubts about this theory, wondering if it would inhibit my capacity to release with my right hand through impact but in practice it feels comfortable and I haven't had any problems blocking shots right, which I would expect if my hands weren't rotating properly through impact.

And there is no doubt that these grips are comfortable - among the most easy to hold that I've ever played. The company is so pleased with them that it now offers the Parallel grip as a separate item so you can enjoy the grips without necessarily buying John Letters clubs.

Appearance shouldn't really matter too much with golf clubs - functionality and performance should be the prime considerations. But the reality is, with so many good bits of kit out there, if you're hard-pushed to make a decision between competing sets, design and attractiveness obviously come into the equation and here I think the T5 scores well. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but the clean, simple lines and matt black cavity suggest understatement and class.

The most noticeable feature of the clubhead is the wide sole, reminiscent of some of the earlier Callaway models, and that's no bad thing. My own swing tends to have a narrow arc at the bottom - I rarely take a divot - so this feature is not high on my own list of priorities but if you have a tendency to dig a bit deep, it would be well worth considering these clubs.

For some reason in recent weeks I have been hitting everything towards the toe of the club. I have a lesson booked because it's obviously not a temporary blip but on the course it has been driving me nuts and, were it not for these clubs, I might well have been forced to book a lesson considerably earlier. The point is, they have been allowing me to get away with it - not with perfect shots that arced gracefully towards the centre of the green but with perhaps a 10% loss of distance and perhaps 10 yards deviation off-line. If you could see the extreme off-centre hits I have managed on occasion, and the subsequent result, you would agree that these are extremely forgiving irons.

For most of us recreational golfers, that's the key. If we could hit from the sweet spot every time we'd all be using blades but we can't - and the key to reducing or maintaining a handicap is not to suddenly start producing superb strikes but to reduce the amount of garbage we hit. These T5s certainly help with that, which is probably the greatest recommendation of all.

Oh, did I not mention the price? With the matt-black Nippon graphite shaft, these irons have a RRP of £399 (£349 in steel) which is a bargain by anyone's standards - and the John Letters after-sales service is among the best in the business.

ScottishGolf likes the John Letters company for a number of reasons but the most important is that it offers top-quality equipment at realistic, affordable prices.

Highly recommended.

Martin Vousden, 10 handicap.

©    3 - AUGUST 2004

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