Ever since Barry Schneider has taken the reins at MacGregor golf, he’s done his best to excite people about MacGregor’s product lineup. One of his company’s mottos of late has been, “Better materials, better design, no matter the cost.” He describes the “passion” that MacGregor is bringing to the table with every club they produce. I was eager to see if this vision made it’s way to the finished product when given the opportunity to review MacGregor’s newest entry into the forged iron market: The M685. These created a lot of excitement, and for all the right reasons.
The modern golf ball is changing how the game is played. No longer will you be hitting a 30 yard draw into a green or around trees. Golf balls, for the most part, want to go straight. The golf ball is also traveling greater distances than ever. The design of an iron must harness that potential for distance, and pair it with the control to make that power useable. The M685 irons were definitely up to the task. Described as “hosel-face, hollow body construction,” the name elicits an image of that of a hybrid club, with high rebound face and hollow middle. I honestly didn’t know how these irons would feel going into the review. Would they feel like a hybrid? Would the forged feel come through, given the highly technical design elements of the clubhead? The answer, in short, was an emphatic “Yes” and “Yes.”
With tungsten weighting in the soles of the 3 through 6 irons of the M685’s, this portion of the iron set definitely takes on the persona of a hybrid club. Easy to elevate. Hot off the face. Forgiving on mis-hits. A “pured” shot off the face of one of these irons is like hitting an extra gear. You can feel the sheer ballspeed as the face compresses and sends the ball off at an impressive initial velocity. I was a little concerned that this extra “hot” face would lead to balls “jumping” off the face, and that distances would be erratic. Instead, the distances I found to be very accurate, and I quickly felt comfortable when selecting a club that it would go the appropriate distance. The feel off the face is fairly soft, and you can definitely tell the club is forged, but it does emit a slight “click” at impact. Off-center hits, while not as sweet feeling, still delivered good distance and directional stability. I found the ballflight to be high with the 3-6 irons, but never so high as to feel they were ballooning in the wind. Given the sweet, hot, rewarding feel, along with the excellent distance control, I was very impressed. The 3 through 6 irons utilize a slightly harder 4140 carbon steel in the face than the 7 through pitching wedge, which more than likely accounted for the slightly firmer feel at impact than conventional forged cavity backs. This harder steel is supposed to increase the ball velocity in the longer irons, which it seemed to do. But that slightly firmer feel is a small sacrifice to make to enjoy the ease of use that the long irons afford the player.
I like the scoring clubs in an iron set to offer good feel and to be able to control the ballflight from left to right, and up and down. Mission accomplished. The 7 through pitching wedge of the M685’s are forged of softer 1025 carbon steel, much like a typical forged cavity back iron. I was able to work the ball left and right, and also vary the trajectory of my shots to play punch shots into the wind, or hoist them high to land the ball softly on the green. In this sense, the M685’s felt quite conventional to me, which I really appreciated. There is still plenty of weight located low in the head to aid in getting the ball airborne, but it doesn’t inhibit shot creativity in any way. Feedback is immediate and positive, which well struck shots eliciting a more traditional soft forged feel, and mis-hits communicating where the ball has contacted the face. The yardages between the hot-faced hollow core long irons and the more traditional scoring irons seemed consistent, which I was very impressed by.
Throughout the set in the M685 irons, the soles work well to interact with the turf. Playing in variable Spring conditions ranging from very wet to fairly dry, the sole design seemed equally at home. I experienced no digging, even in the wettest of conditions, without any tendency to “bounce” off firmer lies. Shallow divots were the norm. Don White, renowned master club builder for MacGregor for many years, is said to have had a hand in the design of the M685’s sole grinds. All that experience is very evident in how well they performed in the varying conditions I played. The blunted leading edge is apparent when viewing the soles, and will do a lot to keep “fat” shots at bay. The sole widths are definitely wider than a more traditional forged cavity back design, but still narrower than most game improvement clubs. The sole on the pitching wedge, for example, is narrow enough to be effective from tight lies around the green. I liked that the forgiveness afforded by the soles doesn’t interfere with the shorter irons’ ability to be used to score around the green.
My set of M685’s came fitted with True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 shafts. MacGregor offers many custom options, as well as offering Royal Precision Flighted Rifle Lite shafts as standard. With the Dynamic Golds, the ballflight was strong, yet the clubhead design still allowed them to be easy to elevate. Exemplary of MacGregor’s commitment to quality materials, are the standard Golf Pride New Decade Multi Compound grips. With a custom black and grey color scheme, and half cord, half soft rubber materials, these grips offer great feel and traction, and are a stock grip that just isn’t matched by other manufacturers at this time. It is a very classy touch.
The overall look of the M685’s cavity is either love or hate for some people. With a bold striped cavity medallion consisting of black and silver stripes, I found them a little busy. I wished a more restrained look like that of MacGregor’s M675 Blades could have been used. But, the midsize heads are more traditional looking from the playing position, and the medallion is not visible. The toplines are not thin like those on a traditional muscleback design, but rather a more mid-thickness that is much more slender than other full-on “game improvement” designs. The offset is progressive, and is just enough to help square the long irons at impact, while minimized enough in the short irons to allow for shot-making creativity.
“Passion” is the word Mr. Schneider wants us to associate with MacGregor Golf Clubs. With the creative engineering, quality materials, and excellent performance of their M685 irons, it would appear this passion is making it way into their finished product. These clubs are appropriate for anyone from a mid-handicap, all the way to a scratch player that appreciates the forgiveness of a more modern design. Greg Norman, staff player for MacGregor, as well as staffer Spencer Levin, have been seen with the M685’s in their bags in fact. The ease of use in the long irons, and the inherent shot-shaping creativity of the short irons blend together to make a set capable of most any shot you will encounter in a round of golf. Plus, the forged construction is rewarding on well-struck shots. If you want forged irons that utilize the latest in manufacturing techniques and offer a feel all their own, be sure to include the M685 on your demo “short list.”