Should You Play Blades?

The Immortal Questions

“Is there a higher power?”

“What’s our purpose in life?”

“Is it time for me to ditch these game improvement irons for some blades?”

For a golfer, those are the big three, though perhaps not in that order.  In this lesson, I hope to help you answer at least one.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You want to play blades

You’re wondering what kind of irons are best for your game

The Facts

The question of who should play blades is fraught with opinion, so let’s start with some the objective facts.

Fact #1: Blades are less forgiving than cavity back irons.

Before we go further, let’s define what that means.  The purpose of cavity back irons is to make off-center shots perform more like shots hit on the center of the face.  That means shots toward the heel or toe will have more ball speed with a cavity back (CB) than a blade.  The club head will also twist less with a CB, so the shot will be straighter.  Thus, when you play a blade, your mishits will be shorter and more crooked than with a CB.

Fact #2: Blades have higher centers of gravity than CB irons.

Read the bullet points on any modern game improvement iron, and you’re likely to come across the phrase “Low center of gravity (CG).”  What’s so great about a low CG?  It enables you to launch the ball high in the air, it lowers spin, and it allows thin shots to get airborne.  Blades have higher CGs, so they do the opposite: launch the ball lower, spin it more, and punish thin shots.

No CG is objectively good or bad, but it’s important to make an informed choice.  If you’re a high spin player, using a lower spinning club will help you get more distance.  On the other hand, if you’re a low spin player, a low spin club could cost you distance and make it hard to keep your shots on the green.  It’s also important to recognize that more spin can translate to more curvature – for better or worse.

The Pros

With those two facts established, let’s run down a list of reasons to play blades

Low Launch

Some players will find more distance with a lower launching iron.  Those that play in the wind may find a lower launch to be more accurate and predictable.  Some just prefer to see the ball in a lower window.

Higher Spin

Higher spin is what some players need to maximize distance and improve the stopping power of their shots.  More spin also allows you to curve your shots more and more easily.

Looks & Feel

While both of these things are subjective, many players find the look and feel of blades very appealing.

Joy

Blades look awesome in the bag, and they feel sensational.  Getting a great result from a club that you know isn’t helping you…that’s joy.

The Cons

No Forgiveness

The average golfer misses the center of the club face most of the time.  A blade is going to take those mishits and turn them into shots that are shorter and further offline than they would be with a cavity back iron.

Low Launch

Due to a combination of mishits (particularly thin shots), a lack of club head speed, and other swing-related issues, most golfers will get more distance from launching their irons higher, not lower.  In addition to distance, most golfers would benefit from higher launch because it will help their balls stop on the green.

Higher Spin

While high spin is great for stopping your ball where it lands, it’s a negative for most golfers when it comes to accuracy.  If you hit slices or hooks, higher spin will make those unwanted curves even bigger.

So, Who Should Play Blades?

We’re back to the original question: who should play blades?  My answer is that you should if one of these two statements is true:

“I was fit into blades.”

There are some players – primarily high end ball strikers with lots of club head speed and shallow angles of attack – who fit into blades.  For these players, the lower launch and higher spin give them a measurable benefit (distance, trajectory control, shot shaping), and the absence of forgiveness doesn’t matter because they always hit the center of the club face.

“I’m not playing to shoot the lowest score.”

If you walk onto a basketball court or soccer field to play pickup, you better play to win or you’ll sit on the sidelines.  Tennis forces you to compete with the person across the net.

Golf is different: you don’t have to be in competition with yourself or anyone else.  You can play to enjoy the outdoors and your company.  You can play to enjoy the one shot that you hit perfectly and forget the rest.  If you’re not playing to shoot the lowest possible score, and you find enjoyment in having blades in your bag, who can say that’s wrong?

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

14 Comments

  1. Matt’s last paragraph sums it up perfectly.

  2. 9 HC here…dabbled w/ blades vs GI irons for years….my HC is lowest when I game my Mizunos….
    Here is my anecdotal take…
    – “misses” w/ GI irons usually end up in the bunker or short-sided= tougher shots for me
    – “misses” w/ blades are usually woefully short of the green= I’m better at that short game shot than the bunker/short-side shot…

    • Matt Saternus

      ATH,

      That’s a very interesting take – “I’d rather miss by more.” Strokes Gained statistics would tell you that closer is always better, but there are exceptions to every rule.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Best,

      Matt

  3. Matt,
    Just the vagaries of my game….I can chip from the throats of greens better than into-the-grain, nested lies or from the crummy bunkers at my home course….

  4. I’m 64 and have played golf for 57 years. 48-50 years ago I hovered around 1-3 simply because of repetition, not talent. I stay around 8-9 now with a faulty putter. Driver tech allows me to hit it as far as I hit persimmon but I’ve lost 10-15 yards per iron.

    I tried a few GI irons from Ping and Callaway and picked up 5-7 yards per iron, but I hate the way they look and feel.

    I’m back with Mizuno’s and the reason why is detailed in the last paragraph above: “Golf is different: you don’t have to be in competition with yourself or anyone else. You can play to enjoy the outdoors and your company. You can play to enjoy the one shot that you hit perfectly and forget the rest. If you’re not playing to shoot the lowest possible score, and you find enjoyment in having blades in your bag, who can say that’s wrong?”

  5. Then there’s the oddball like me. Two bad knees and a multi stress fractured L# suffered 16 years ago has left me with a very low SS for a otherwise fairly strong 58 yr old male. I have both a set of Ping G10’s and several sets of good quality old (60 thru 85) forged blades. When my swing (mostly arms) is good I play them dead even outside of about 10 yr per club distance difference. When it’s bad it makes no discernable difference. The blades bring me joy. The high GI CB’s don’t.

  6. Hi Matt,
    You summerize very well the debate around playing blades.
    Your last statement applies to me. I love golf clubs and in particulier, irons.
    I am playing blades because, feel, higher center of gravity in certains models which I prefer and the look at address. I like to see a small head without lot of offset.
    Best regards,

  7. Good Evening Matt,

    I’m 56 and had my first lesson when I was 10. Grew up on blades and persimmon, migrated to game improvement and metal. Have been as low as a 4 and currently a wobbly 9 handicap. Returned to blades and persimmon 2 years ago courtesy of a great conversation with Mike Just of Louisville Golf (God bless his memory). Honestly, don’t miss the cavity backs at all and if anything, hit the blades a touch longer. Love the feel of persimmon, and from the correct tees, don’t miss any of the distance gained from metal. Handicap didn’t move at all either. Your last paragraph says it all. I’m in the game for the sheer pleasure of playing these days. Thanks very much for all the good work, really enjoy the site! All the best in 2018.

  8. Hi Matt & everyone else,

    I also play blades for the same reason all the other commentors play them too. Is there any studies or actual data that can confirm the ‘more crooked’ claims? Short mishits are undeniably, but I haven’t experienced nor do I understand how shots could be more off line with a off center shot with a blade vs cb.

    But I remember reading something from Terry Koehler a few years back, prior the Hogan relaunch, that had data about mishits with blades vs cb. All the data showed mishits with cb had a wider dispersion from the target line than blades. The blades stayed closer to the target line while lost considerable distance.

    Thanks for the article and content, also the stickers you send me a couple months back.

    • Matt Saternus

      Kip,

      You raise an interesting point that should be explained further: the difference between yards offline and % offline. These numbers will be wonky for the sake of making the math simple but please let that go – I’m deep in a post-Christmas sugar coma.

      If I hit a shot some amount toward the heel with a blade iron, it will go 100 yards and 10% offline because the face twisted due to the mishit. That means the ball is 10 yards from the target line.
      If I hit a shot with a CB iron the same amount toward the heel it will go 150 yards and 8% offline. The face twisted less because of the higher MOI, so the shot is more accurate as a percentage, however because it traveled 1.5 times as far, it’s actually further from the center line (12 yards).
      If the target is 160 yards away, I’m further left with the CB iron (2 yards) but much closer (50 yards), which is a big net win.

      All that said, perhaps it’s something we should put some data to in a future Golf Myths Unplugged.

      Best,

      Matt

      EDIT: We already did the test. Results are here: https://pluggedingolf.com/game-improvement-irons-easier-hit-golf-myths-unplugged/

  9. Kip/Matt….great point….dispersion-wise I ‘m far more accurate w/ blades….no doubt about it……the misses are online, just a lot shorter than GI irons…

  10. I’m 35 and picked up golf 7 years ago. Doing ok. Play to a 10 to 13. My first irons that u ever bought new were Adams CB2s which were obviously not blades (CB) but on the thinner side of GI. I really think the feedback they have me helped me markedly improve. Something to be said for striking the ball well being better than buying equipment to correct it. As always, love the site and reviews. Thanks!

  11. Currently I’m playing a combo set of irons, Srixon Z765 /965, and I’m very satisfied with them. I love to see my 965 for their brightness, their shape and mostly I love to play them. Even if i’m not a single digit player.

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