Companies strengthening the lofts of their irons is nothing new in the world of golf equipment. In fact, it's come to be viewed by many golf consumers as the ultimate marketing ploy: decrease the loft on the irons, then watch as consumers express wonder over how much farther they are hitting the ball.
But the decrease in lofts isn't just a marketing ploy. There's a real-world reason why lofts have been decreasing over the years in irons: perimeter weighting. It was the advent of perimeter weighting, introduced by Ping and popularized by Callaway, that allowed for some strengthening of lofts. A more forgiving club, in theory, could stand to have its loft decreased while maintaining the same ballflight characteristics, because its lower center of gravity would increase the launch angle.
And so lofts have come down. The loft on pitching wedges of today is akin to the lofts of 8-irons from 30 years ago. Today's 5-iron loft is yesteryear's 3-iron loft.
The real prize would be coming up with an iron that would allow for distance gains through further strengthening of lofts, while maintaining the same ballflight characteristics - the same height on the resulting trajectory - to maintain the control and accuracy found at higher lofts.
To take, for example, a club lofted at 27 degrees and have it produce shots that travel as far as those produced by a 24-degree club without losing the trajectory of the higher loft.
Nickent Golf says its 3DX Hybrid Irons are just that prize. In fact, Nickent calls the 3DX Hybrid Iron set "the longest iron in the history of golf."
I'm not willing to go that far, mostly because I haven't played every iron out there, much less every iron in the history of golf. But I am willing to watch my shots go farther with the Nickent 3DX Iron set. Playing with this set takes some adjusting - as in, re-learning yardages - because it does play at least a full club longer than any other iron I've tried.
I spent time at a driving range with a teaching professional friend, a plus-handicapper, as we alternated hitting the 3DX Hybrid Irons with our own Titleist and TaylorMade irons. The 3DX was, as noted, a full club longer (at least), yet did a great job of keeping the desired trajectory on shots. We saw all the benefits of an ultra-game improvement club, but with even more distance.
While his shot with the 3DX Hybrid 8-iron was still in the air, my friend commented, "That's longer than my 7-iron." And he knew nothing about the set at that point, except that it was made by Nickent.
The Nickent 3DX Hybrid Iron set is another of designer John B. Hoeflich's creations for the company that he joined in 2005, the latest move in a career that has included creating or having a hand in the creation of some of the best-known iron sets in golf: the Tommy Armour 845 irons, Titleist DCI irons and TaylorMade rac irons, to name a few.
Hoeflich's design of the 3DX Hybrid irons incorporated a very thin face with a huge cavity back that is filled by a carbon-composite cap weighing only 5 grams. Thirty-five grams of weight are saved, and repositioned to the bottom and back of the irons in the form of two steel plugs. The result is a hollow iron with an extremely low and deep center of gravity that produces a higher launch angle.
So high that, as Hoeflich had been working toward for 10 years, he was able to take the next step and strengthen the lofts.
Here's how the Nickent 3DX Iron set is built: It starts with two of Nickent's very popular and successful hybrid ironwoods, Nos. 3 and 4 of the 3DX Ironwood DC line. Next come the 3DX Hybrid Irons, with their distinctive carbon caps on the backs of their hollow heads. The irons start with No. 5, and clubs up through sand wedge are available.
The lofts of the 5-, 6- and 7-irons were strengthened 4 degrees compared to traditional lofts. The 5-iron has a loft of just 22 degrees, the 6-iron of just 26 degrees and the 7-iron of just 30 degrees.
The 8-iron (34 degrees) is 3 degrees stronger than the norm, and the 9-iron (39 degrees) is 2 degrees stronger.
The pitching wedge (48 degrees), gap wedge (52 degrees) and sand wedge (56) are "normal."
But wait - that's a huge gap between the 9-iron and PW. Has Nickent shot itself in the foot? Strengthening lofts in the lower irons while keeping the scoring clubs unchanged has created a huge gap between the 9-iron and PW. What to do?
Add the 10-iron, lofted at 44 degrees!
The gap wedge and sand wedge are sold separately. There is also a senior version of the 3DX Hybrid Iron set in which the Nos. 3 and 4 ironwoods become 4 and 5 ironwoods, and a sand wedge is included.
My experience using this set, and the comments received from others who've tried it along with me, make it clear that Nickent has another big winner in the 3DX Hybrid Iron set.