Should You Play Blades?

Updated: Sep 14

Spoiler alert: Maybe. Not happy with that answer? Okay, I'll be a little more specific.


It really depends on your answer to a few simple questions.


1. How important are aesthetics to your game?

2. Is distance a big issue for your game?

3. What are your goals?


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What Is a Blade?


Many people with a small cavity back say "I just got some new blades!" No... you didn't. You got a small cavity back!


A golf blade is a muscle back golf iron. It generally features a thin topline, a higher center of gravity, typically forged and featuring no perimeter weighting technology. Below is a picture/link of the model of blades I currently play-- the 620 MBs.


If you notice, it looks as if the club head is one piece of metal and that there is no appearance of any metal having been "carved out" of the iron head. This is what is meant when we discuss blades lacking perimeter weighting technology. In other words, the mass of the clubhead is more or less evenly distributed from heel to toe on the bottom half of the clubhead.


Now, let's looks at the Cavity Back sister of this blade-- the 620 CB. Below is another picture/link to this model.



See the difference? It looks as if a bunch of metal has been carved out of the back of the clubhead. In reality, what the engineers behind this model are doing is moving mass towards the perimeter of the clubhead to increase the iron's MOI (moment of inertia). What does this do? It reduces the amount that a clubhead twists during an off center strike, thus allowing the ball flight to be less affected than that a blade's ball flight.


Here is a wonderful academic article discussing the effect of perimeter weighting on mishits. In a study by A.R. Whittaker that this article references, they were able to show that mishits by a perimeter weighted club went 4% further, and 7% straighter than an iron without this technology (blade).


So if it goes farther and straighter, shouldn't everyone play blades?


Well, not necessarily.


Note: I've played blades my whole life and never knew this about until researching for this article. I visited Wikipedia, YouTube, took club fitting classes from different equipment brands, and of course used Google. But instead of listing all those sources, I'll just leave that article link above to suffice as it contains a lot of useful information on this specific topic.


What Do the Best Tour Professionals Play?


The best PGA TOUR professionals are playing at times to the equivalent of a +9 handicap (that means they would have to give 9 shots to a scratch golfer if they were to play straight up-- that's insane!).


We know that increasing an iron's MOI is a good thing for mishits, but what about for the players who don't generally have major contact issues (see the a mishit from Hideki Matsuyama as an example).




So What's in the Bag (WITB) of the top 10 Strokes Gained Approach players for the 2019 PGA TOUR season?


1. Henrik Stenson - Cavity Backs

- Callaway Legacy Black: 3 iron - PW


2. Justin Thomas - Blades & Cavity Back

- 718 MBs: 4 iron - PW & T100: 3 iron


3. Emiliano Grillo - Blades

- Callaway Apex MBs: 9 iron - 4 iron


4. Adam Scott - Blades & Driving Iron (essentially CB because of high MOI)

- Titleist 680 MBs: PW - 4 iron & 716 T - MB


5. Hideki Matsuyama - Blades

- Srixon Prototype: 4 iron - PW


6. Jason Kokrak - Essentially a Cavity Back:

- PXG 0311 T (Generation 2): 3 iron - W.


7. Jim Furyk - Cavity Backs

- Callaway X-Forged Irons 4 iron - PW


8. Paul Casey - Blades & Cavity Backs

- Mizuno MP-5: 5 iron - PW & Mizuno JPX 919 Hot Metal Pro: 4i & Mizuno MP-25: 3i


9. Corey Conners - Cavity Backs

- Ping iBlades: 4 iron - PW


10. Patrick Cantlay - Cavity Backs

- Titleist 718 AP2: 4 iron - PW





To summarize:


50% use cavity backs (or CB equivalent)

30% use a mix of blades and cavity backs

20% use blades


So Why Blades?


Tiger Woods is currently the World No. 11 player in the Official World Golf Ranking and he is a blade user. Not to mention he has won 15 major champships! Here is what he has to say about it.


“I am very simple when it comes to my blades,” Woods told GOLF’s Jonathan Wall in 2018. “I like them a certain length. I’ve played blades basically since I was 16-years old, and so I’ve traditionally liked a longer-size blade. Not the Hogan PCs or Apex, which are basically the little bitty ones. Mine are a little bit longer...And I like the top line a little bit on the thinner side.”

There is also the common argument that blades are more "workable," meaning it is easier to curver the ball on demand. While it is true that a higher MOI can help straighten out your shots and make them fly further, these are for mishits off of the toe and heel.


On the other hand, I assume the physics that define Ball Flight Laws (the golf ball starts in the general direction where the face points at impact and curves opposite of the club path, etc.) are the same with cavities as they are with blades. So I don't think that this is necessarily more true. While maybe a draw/fade from a mishit might curve more with a blade, I'm unsure if a solidly struck shot with the same face and path conditions would really differ that much between a blade and a cavity.


Plus, we have to remember that...


Not All Cavity Backs Are Equal.


See this video below for a great comparison video by Tour Experience Golf.




I am not on any tour at the moment, but I have played blades almost exclusively since I was ten years old, despite the cautions of club fitters, instructors and equipment reps. Why? Because of what Titleist refers to as the Pyramid of Influence. I wanted to play what my heroes played. Ernie Els used the Titleist 670 MBs for awhile. Peter Uhlein, the worlds best amateur at the time used the Titleist 680 MBs, and Tiger Woods used his Nike blades.


In case you're interested, here are the clubs I played throughout junior golfer starting when I was 9 or 10.


2005-2008: Titleist 690 .MBs

2008-2009: Titleist 755 CBs (small cavity back)

2009-2010: Nike VR Blades

2010-2011: Titleist 710 MBs

2012-2014: Titleist 712 MBs


And now? Titleist 620 MBs.


And I'm not convinced they hurt me. In some ways, one can view Junior and Amateur Golf as simply prolonged practice while getting ready for the professional ranks. None of it really matters. And what is better practice than using clubs that are more demanding and difficult to hit? I'd rather my junior golf students know when they mishit a shot while practicing than see a toe'd shot fly just like a flush one.


At the beginning, I mentioned the answer to your question depends on three questions. Here is how I would answer these questions for you.


1. How important are aesthetics to your game?

- This is a game after all, and we need to like what we play.


2. Is distance a big issue for your game?

- Cavity backs will likely make you hit the ball farther and straighter, especially on mishits. If you have trouble getting the ball in the air, cavity backs often feature a lower Center of Gravity will help you get that golf ball up in the air.


3. What are your goals?

- If you're a kid and want to play on the PGA TOUR. Play blades.



What do you guys think? Let me know through an email or in the comments below.


Tired of struggling with your golf game? Head on over to Online Lessons and book an appointment with me! Temporary $50 lesson rate available through at least May 1.


If you have any questions or an article request, please hit the Contact tab at the top of the screen, and send me your message. I’ll try my best to get back to you as soon as I am able.

- Connor Black


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