Nowadays it can be an exhausting challenge to stay in the know from the major OEM golf equipment releases from year to year. Now try to add in the lesser known golf companies out there trying to make a splash in the game and that feat becomes non-existent. Well fortunately for me, I was introduced to one of those lesser known companies with my review of the Air Force One Game Improvement Irons from AFO.
One thing that will become apparent is the same when looking to purchase a vehicle, "A Caddy looks better than a KIA, but is there really that big of a difference with performance?" Well stay tuned and find out.
As many of you may know, and then again maybe you don't, AFO split off from Powerbilt Golf early this year, in what most felt was for AFO to pursue growth from a golf equipment perspective.
"I feel this is a strong move for the Air Force One brand and the Nitrogen Charged Technology. In the past we had a broad range of products from recreational to premium. This confused the consumer as to who we are and what our goals were. We have seen this in the past with the likes of MacGregor, Spalding/Top Flite and even today with Wilson and TaylorMade with the Adams Brand," - Ross Kvinge, Air Force One President
So what is Nitrogen Charged Technology? From AFO website, "Nitrogen Charging is a newly patented method to reinforce the face of the club without adding any weight." Basically the compressed nitrogen allows for a thinner face, increased ball speed and superior strength resulting in increased distances. In previously releases the Nitrogen Charged technology was only implemented in the Driver and woods, however has now been expanded into the irons as well. When I found out I would be providing a review of these clubs, I was intrigued as this was the first I had heard of "NCT".
So now let's get on to the review of the AFO Game Improvement Irons. In for review was the complete line starting with the Nitrogen Charged 3H & 4H, Nitrogen Charged 5 - 7 Irons, and finally the Nitrogen Charged 8-9-PW Cavity Back Irons. So basically within the line you had a multitude of shape and design all promoting the same benefits for the target area of iron.
3-4 NITROGEN CHARGED HYBRID:
-17-4 Stainless Steel
-FFT Face Flex Technology
-Nitrogen Pressurized Club Head
5-7 NITROGEN CHARGED IRONS
-431 Stainless Steel
-Hollow Iron Design
NITROGEN CHARGED 8-9-PW CAVITY BACK IRONS:
-431 Stainless Steel
-Deep Undercut Cavity
My first impression I noticed was that these irons weren't flashy or going to turn any heads on the range, but something that I expected from a Game Improvement set of irons. Thick top lines with a wide sole, which obviously have a benefit of cutting through thick rough. A stainless steel composite with varying design between the mid and scoring irons. Just your average design, which I feel could have been improved a tad bit.
Overall the looks of this line were average, and like I mentioned before, nothing that would turn heads. Then again is that what we are focusing on...???
Performance & Feel
A majority of my time spent with the AFO Game Improvement clubs were on the range. I wanted to pair these up to my current gamers for some base line comparisons in relation to distance and forgiveness. My first swings with these clubs and I had to take a step back and check the battery of my range finder. The ball just seemed to jump off the face across the line, which was a huge plus for someone who has lost distance over the years. I was seeing about half a club to a club longer compared to my baseline set. One thing I did notice was that when you mishit these on the face you felt it in your hands, another plus. However the distance lost or variance from the target line wasn't huge. The Nitrogen Charged Hybrids had my playing partners trying to walk off with them. The distance and launch observed from these clubs were exceptionally positive. I have had issues with my hybrids in the past and out of the 5 rounds I played with these clubs, not one swing felt off or produced that "What the heck!!!" comment. They almost reminded me of a 3W or 4W, hence the reference earlier to the Heavenwood. The forgiveness across the face of these irons had me smiling on those poor swings.
Recall what I previously mentioned about that "KIA", well here you start to see some performance worth the price.
I was surprised that after about 10 range sessions and 5 or 6 rounds of golf these clubs held up fairly well to the wear and tear of range balls. For those mishits off of the grooves a few ball marks were present, and I think that is due to the nature of the stainless steel composite used. The only other noticeable defect was that the white paint on the backside of the club seemed to be wearing off. With that being said I think as with any set of irons wear and tear will be present as you game them on the course, so nothing to be overly concerned with.
So in an era where equipment release cycles have seemed to speed up to multiples during a year, the lesser known golf equipment brands seemed to fly under the radar. Based on my review of the Air Force One Game Improvement Irons by AFO, it is apparent that it could behoove each and every one of us to stop and at least take a look. Personally I would recommend these irons to those looking for an increase in distance and forgiveness out of a set of clubs for a reasonable price ($499.00 MSRP). The design and looks may not be flashy, but the performance is definitely there. I think AFO has released an iron set that can be gamed by your high to mid handicaps out there, bring lower scores and happier times on the course.