For the near-decade that I've used them, I've taken pride in being a golfer who is (or at least feels) skilled enough to use blade irons. Blades have accounted for a tiny portion of iron sales for years, but nevertheless almost every OEM worth its billets makes a set, mostly as an aspirational item that appeases the purest of ball-strikers and plus-fours-wearing, mustache-twirling traditionalists within golf's already traditional demographic.
But it turns out blades may not be obsolete after all, and I'm not nearly as special as I thought. I watched a video posted this week by Mark Crossfield, one of YouTube's best when it comes to golf equipment content. The task: compare a 1980s-era blade iron to a contemporary "chunky" game-improvement iron of comparable loft by hitting 40 shots with each on his at-home launch monitor and analyze the results. Crossfield found something strikingly counterintuitive: the blade iron performed more consistently than the chunky one in several ways, including on slight mishits. In a more qualitative video shot last year, fellow club-reviewing Briton Rick Shiels took a new set of Wilson Staff blades to a course and invited golfers of varying handicaps, who had never before considered hitting blades, to give them a try. All seemed surprised at how hittable they were relative to what they'd heard and read.
Does this mean game-improvement irons are bogus? No; Crossfield and Shiels' respective explorations are notable but not definitive. Furthermore, some golfers genuinely prefer hitting them. Confidence is as important as anything in golf, and if a chunky iron gives you confidence, you should hit it. The truly compelling and provocative implication of Crossfield and Shiels' respective investigations is that if you're not an elite ball-striker, it needn't disqualify you from hitting blades. They're not so scary after all.