By: Shawn Zawodni, Master Club Fitter
When looking at different iron categories on the market, one of the most popular is the “players distance” category. Players distance irons have stronger lofts and are more technologically advanced compared to solid body players irons. They also have less offset, a thinner topline, and a narrower sole than the chunkier game improvement category, making them less corrective and more neutral. Players distance irons have exploded in popularity because it fits players needing forgiveness, without giving up the look and playability of a players iron.
This category has been around for quite a while, and in 2017 TaylorMade completely turned it on its head with the introduction of the p790. This iron immediately dominated the category, and became one of our top performers.
Now in its 4th generation, the P790 continues to hold its own, but how do you continue to improve with every release when you’re the benchmark of the industry? It seems as though TaylorMade has gone with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. While they have made some external refinements to their flagship iron over the years, the feel and look have remained largely unchanged. That said, there is one subtle, but impactful update they have introduced this time around. It’s called the Intelligent Sweet Spot design.
The new P790 touts a completely redesigned internal structure for progressive performance throughout the set. A 4140 forged steel face adds strength, promoting consistent ball speed and better feel. TaylorMade have reintroduced their SpeedFoam Air technology from the previous generation. This aids in vibration dampening and supports the face.
New for this year is the Intelligent Sweet Spot, where each iron will have a unique and optimized internal structure and tungsten location. It starts with the center of gravity being located lower in the long irons and gets progressively higher as you move down through the bag. This ensures the largest possible sweet spot and ideal trajectory for each club. Together, with the forged face geometry and unique internal shaping, TaylorMade was able to significantly expand the sweet spot on each iron, improving off-center strikes, ensuring greater consistency, and maintaining ball speed.
TaylorMade has kept their lofts relatively consistent since the very first release. The specs are as follows (Fig. 1):
Figure 1, ‘23 p790 iron specs, Taylormadegolf.com
The stock steel shaft is True Temper’s Dynamic Gold 105, and the stock graphite shaft is the Mitsubishi MMT series. There are a ton of additional shafts available, and the set makeup is available from 3 iron to gap wedge in both right and left hand.
I tested the 7 iron with a Dynamic Gold X100 shaft. Both heads were measured and confirmed to have the same loft and lie angle. The testing was conducted on a TrackMan launch monitor, using Taylormade TP5x golf balls. Below is the data comparing the ‘21 and the ‘23 p790 models (Table 1).
|Land angle (degrees)|
Table 1, Shawn Zawodni ball flight data for ‘23 & ‘21 p790, 7 irons
Looking through the data, we notice that most of the numbers are extremely close:
- ball speed is within 1 mph (with the new model being 0.7 mph faster)
- launch angle difference is only 0.5 degrees
- peak height is 110 feet for both
- landing angle is also within one degree for both models (new model being 0.7 degrees steeper)
The most notable difference is the spin rate. The ‘23 model spun over 1,100 rpm higher than the previous model! This is a significant difference. Spin produces lift and drag on the golf ball. The added spin allows the golf ball to reach an identical peak height to the old model, even though it launched 0.5 degrees lower. This also created a 0.7 degree steeper descent angle into the ground, which increases the ability to stop the ball and hold greens. The added spin did come with a 3.8 yard loss in distance, however I’m not worried about the distance loss for a few reasons:
- Spin is control. I’ll gladly give up a couple yards to have more control of the ball.
- Higher spin equals steeper descent and greater stopping power on the back end of ball flight.
- The majority of players don’t hit the ball high enough with their irons, and a significant increase in spin will help them attain a higher peak height, giving them a more playable trajectory.
Trajectory is not the only part of the equation. Having a beautiful ball flight doesn’t do us any good if we can’t hit the broad side of the barn. This is where the new p790 really shines.
Typically, when I hit a player’s distance iron, I have a tendency to be inconsistent with ball speed and distance control. That is not the case with the new p790. The distance dispersion was only plus or minus 2.7 yards (over a 10 shot sample size) which is phenomenal. I also produced a tighter left to right dispersion as indicated in the TrackMan report below (Fig. 2):
Figure 2, Shawn Zawodni p790 7 iron dispersion pattern (‘23 = Blue, ‘21 = Red)
One of the hardest tasks for the manufactures is to continue to innovate and release new products that creates excitement for the consumers. This is especially difficult when the iron being replaced is already at the top of the category.
TaylorMade did a great job maintaining all of the characteristics that have made the p790 so popular, while significantly increasing one of the most valuable performance variables (spin). As stated earlier, TaylorMade has taken the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy, and until they get toppled from the top of the mountain, they will continue to refine and keep the p790 lineage moving forward.
As with any piece of equipment, it doesn’t matter how good something is on paper if it’s not properly fit for you. In order to take full advantage of TaylorMade’s flagship iron, get fit in the Cluboratory at Miles of Golf!