At the end of each year ScottishGolf selects a 'product of the season' from all of those bits of kit - be it woods, irons, bags, balls or anything else - we have tested in the previous 12 months. So as the year progresses it's always an interesting exercise to draw up the shortlist of favoured candidates.
So far in 2004, two bits of gear have really made their mark on us - the Odyssey two-ball, DFX blade putter, and the Callaway HX Tour (black) ball. Now these two superb bits of golf equipment have a serious contender - a set of irons from what was previously regarded as a specialist company, and a specialist in woods, at that. Adams Golf was founded in 1987 and made a relatively early impact on the strength of its Tight Lies range of fairway woods - still regarded by many as the best in their category and subsequently improved by the launch of the Redline and Ovation models.
It has also moved into the irons market and its latest offering, the Adams Idea Irons, not only knock spots off any other irons it has produced in the past, they seriously challenges leaders in the field such as Mizuno, Callaway, Ping, Titleist and TaylorMade. They're that good.
The concept is not a new one - the irons offer a variation of the flow-weighting system many manufacturers have employed, in which increased cavity-backs and peripheral weighting in the longer clubs gradually give way to near-blade precision in the shorter ones. It's pretty simple really, a large cavity and lot of weight at the bottom of the clubhead to help get the ball airborne with those tricky 4 and 5-irons, gradually decreasing as you move down to the 'scoring' clubs like the wedges and 9-iron. The concept is illustrated by the picture on our home page which shows the 4-iron (top) and pitching wedge.
But no matter how good an idea - and this is certainly one of them - things can always be refined and this Adams has done in a big way. Put simply, these are the best balanced, most forgiving and easiest to hit clubs we have tested in a long time.
But even that keeps the best news until last. The longer, most difficult-to-hit clubs, such as the 3-iron (pictured above), have been made into a hybrid, part wood, part iron, and are simply superb. They are reminiscent of the sort of rescue club that has become so popular in recent years but with the loft and shaft length of an equivalent iron, which makes them remarkably easy to use and astonishingly easy to use consistently.
In 1993 when Bernhard Langer won his second Masters at Augusta National, he drove well at the notorious par five 13th on the final day and went for the green, despite only having a one-stroke lead. I was at the press conference afterwards and when asked if he'd had any doubts about taking on one of the most daunting shots in golf he laconically drawled: 'No. I had a 3-iron, and if you're not going to go for it with a 3-iron, when are you?'
I always hated him for that because, like most players with a handicap in double figures (and I played off about 17 at the time), I rarely carried a 3-iron because, when I did, I only ever hit it once - badly - in a round, before putting it back in the bag with a rueful shake of the head. But believe me, if I was at Augusta National tomorrow (dream on) and a 3-iron distance from the green, I'd go for it every time with this Adams.
My home course (Letham Grange) features one of those long par threes - about 185-yards when the flag's at the back of the green - that always gives me trouble. It's too far for me to consistently hit with a long iron but a wood always goes through the green. Oh, and it has a steep bank to the right falling down to a water hazard and a big bunker left. Usually on this hole I end up hitting a 7-wood deliberately short and playing for bogey but in the last three rounds I've used the Adams Idea 3-iron and twice been in the middle of the green for two-putt pars and once in the left bunker for a four.
In addition, the club is particularly good from the rough or semi. Okay, it won't blast you out from the bottom of a thick clump of grass - but then nothing will, save a heavy wedge and a bit of luck - but as a utility club from tee, fairway or light rough, it's difficult to beat.
The Adams thoughtful approach doesn't end there because there are, in fact, three sets of Idea Irons, depending on handicap and ability. First is the Idea, for those with an 18 handicap and above, and with this set you get the 3, 4 and 5-woods as a wood/iron hybrid. Then comes the Idea A1, for 10-18 handicap. This has the 3-iron as a hybrid and is the set we tested. Finally comes the Idea A1 Pro, with which you get a 2-iron hybrid.
Any of the clubs can be bought individually and if your wallet won't stretch to a full set of irons you might still want to consider buying one or more of the hybrids, which really are easy to hit and which double up perfectly well as rescue clubs.
The set of Idea A1 that we tested are fitted with a black Aldila graphite shaft specifically developed for the club and which boast a high launch angle. As a relatively low-ball hitter I can verify that this claim isn't just marketing blurb but works in practice, giving the ball a higher yet still penetrating flight. The result is that with longer irons you don't have to drop the ball short of the green and hope it will run on but can fly it all the way the green in the knowledge that it will stop fairly quickly.
The clubs look attractive and from face-on the clubhead has clean, uncluttered, traditional looks. The package is completed by plain, rubberised grips that continue the theme of quietly understated elegance. The only criticism - and we're really scratching around to find one you understand - is that the clubhead numbering is not on the sole of the head but on the angle where it curves around towards the toe of the club. In consequence it can take a second or two to identify the iron you want before pulling it from the bag.
And that really is the only negative thing we can say about what is, simply, a first-class bit of kit.
RRP: Steel shafts; £449.99. Graphite; £549.99
Martin Vousden, 10 handicap
|| 11 - JUNE 2004