Joe Powell Blades
Blades Versus Cavity Backs: A Golf Club Epiphany
By Terry Koehler, The Wedge Guy

Terry Koehler has been in the golf industry for over 30 years and currently spends his days as the President of EIDOLON Golf, a small premium wedge company in Victoria, Texas. He's been blogging for over 3 years and has written hundreds of articles ranging from golf tips to equipment issues. His blog will appear on ClubSG twice per week. You can reach Terry to have your golf questions answered at

As I've spent 50 years playing this crazy game, and 25+ years in the equipment industry, I've had a number of eye-opening "epiphanies" (the dictionary defines "epiphany" as "a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something.").

One of those came in the mid-1990's as I was reviewing some Iron Byron results we were doing at Hogan.

Let me set this up by saying that I've always played blades - I like the shot control, trajectory and feel of them, not to mention the clean compact appearance behind the ball.

But for a few years prior to this time, I was playing Hogan Edge cavity back forgings. They felt OK, and my handicap stayed about scratch, but my game seemed different. There certainly was no question that they were forgiving.

Back to the research. I was looking at a chart of shot patterns of different irons we were testing, and was particularly struck by something I saw.

With Iron Byron set to swing a 6-iron with about 165 yards of distance, the cavity back irons we were testing were producing a pattern on dead center hits that was about 8' wide and about 15-17' long  !

These are duplicate swings, dead center impact, and these shots are coming out 3-4' right or left of the target line, and as much as 8-9' short or long !

Not just with one model of iron, but with nearly every cavity back we tested. Now, realize that as we moved the impact further from the center of the face, the forgiveness factor was excellent, but I was puzzled by that "dead center" pattern.

Then I looked at the chart for the new Apex blade we were developing. On heel misses, it was slightly worse than the cavity back models.

On toe misses, the Apex was significantly worse (blades have very little mass out on the toe).

But on dead center hits - our shot pattern was about 1/4 the size of the cavity back pattern ! In other words, the perfect shots were much better !

So that got me thinking. My next round of golf, I dusted off my old set of Joe Powell blades, and I had an eye-opening day.

I was playing very well at the time, but not making that many birdies. That day I hit it within 10' of the flag a number of times, and while I did experience some misses that were worse than I had been getting with the Edge irons, my best shots were better than they had been in some time.

One of my friends who knows my game well exclaimed, "Where's that guy been ?"

He went on to explain that he had noticed I had not been "knocking down flags" for some time, which I usually did at least once or twice a round.

So, I made a permanent switch back to blade irons, my reasoning being that I will judge my rounds much more by the quality of my best shots than the acceptability of my worse ones.

I've kept that philosophy consistent. It's a common belief that mid- to high-handicap players need all the help they can get, and maybe that's true, but I firmly believe that more golfers can play blades than you might think - maybe even you !

There are some very good ones on the market now that have worked on the toe-hit forgiveness, so you might be surprised if you took a set of demos out for a round or two.

Just food for thought and maybe a golf tip that will help you enjoy the game more.

* The Wedge Guy's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

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[ comments ]
MSchad says:
I going to be probably be getting a new set of irons next year, or the year after at the latest. I am going to have to seriously think about trying some blades after reading your comments. Great article Terry.
wedgeit says:
i've used blades and cavity backs my first set was a set of john letters trilogy which was a mixed set cavity backs on the long irons, blades from 7 to sw. i have to say blades are far better most golfs play golf accepting miss hit shots as the norm with no thought to improving the ball striking, and there fore there swing ect ect. there is no room for error with blades but persevere and your golf will improve and your ball striking
graham12121 says:
I have been thinking of going back to blades for a few months, i have never had a problem getting the ball in the air and it seems all cavity backs help you get the ball air-bourne. I'm looking for a more penetrating flight. The line above " by the quality of my best shots than the acceptability of my worse ones" might have just pushed me to start looking.
jcarrier says:
You're a scratch golfer mind you. Not trying to piss in anyones cheerios, but you're more likely to hit dead center on the face then the rest of us. I get what you're saying, but golfers should think long on a switch to blades.
scottishguyiniowa says:
I started with blades myself back in Scotland and you have to have good ball striking or you definately lose out on your distance and accuracy. I've been playing with a cavity back set for the past few years and they definately make a big difference to your misshit shots. The new technology that everyone is talking about now is forged iron sets and I've heard nothing but good things about them from single or plus handicappers, but whether they will be any good for the higher handicaps I don't know.
amandaa998 says:
Well, I decided to give it a shot. After playing many years with Callaway x18 Pro and then the Callaway Forged Iron, I went to the Nike TW Blade. I had similar experience as Terry. Having never played blades, I tried some in the golf shop and then on the range. Thinking long and hard about it, I decided to go for broke. I longer than most women and felt that I could hit more accurately with blades. Mostly I wanted to shape my shots. I can't say that my hdcp went down, but can say that my shot making and shaping has improved and my chances at lower scores have increased. Now I have to get my putter zeroed in (always an issue). Still, three cavity back sets prior to the blades. I think I'm evolving into the set.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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