Monday, May 5, 2014

Your best golf on the cheap: Part 2

On Friday in Part 1, I wrote about my first impressions with the Maltby brand of clubs. More specifically the KE4 Tour Hybrid iron and the MMB-17 blade that I ordered to place up against my Titleist AP2 irons. Since then, I've taken them back to the range, and played two total rounds of golf with both clubs. Here are my findings:

KE4-Tour  4 hybrid-iron Results:

The KE4 will be permanently in my bag. While Saturday's round at Overlook Golf Course found it being used mostly for punching out from under trees and more "utility work" (which it performed smartly), my round on Sunday at Crossgates Golf Course focused on full shots from both the tee and the fairway. Don't get me wrong, this stick was a great utility club but I was more interested in the full-swing capabilities. That being said, the consistency of the club saved my butt more than once on Sunday. First, my second shot on number 9, a mid-length par 5 that presented a good layup occasion for the KE4. 180 yards to the end of the fairway, up hill (about a club) and into the teeth of a 20mph wind, the ball held it's line and trajectory better than anything I've got in the bag. It was a pure strike with absolutely no ballooning and no movement.  I had 58 yards into the green with my wedge afterward and was able to sink the putt for birdie. Money well spent already 

The second pressure use came with the tee shot on number 12.  Downhill Par 4 with tree trouble right and a ditch, trees, and water trouble left. If the tee ball is too far right, you'll be additionally blocked out by this big bastard of a tree right in front of the green. The ideal tee ball is about 215 yards off the tee box to the left of the fairway. From the elevated tee it seemed like the perfect distance for the new stick so I used it and once again it performed exactly as planned, even on a mis-hit. I came up and out of it a little bit and ended up hitting it a couple grooves low, feathering the ball to the right of my intended line. Still, It was long enough to get me to the tip of the fairway where I had a good look at the pin.

Yes, I put my 18th tee ball right in front of
the ladies tees on #10. Not Proud.
I think the biggest test between nerves and needs came on the par 5 18th hole. I stood on the tee needing a birdie for even par. Don't think that wasn't in my head just because of my back issues and club tests. I'm still out here to post a score, damnit. The 18th for me is a notoriously terrible driving hole with about 35% of my tee shots going OB left and 40% going into either the water or traps on the right. I'm 11% for fairways on this hole in the last 3 years! (stats tracked on, thanks guys!) So yea, just a few nerves on this tee box. I did what any self respecting bail out artist would do, I took a club I could swing away with without reaching trouble and bunt-sliced it into the next county. After bailing out right with my tee ball (a miss I struggled with all day long), I found myself with a distance of 177 yards, into the now two club wind, through a tree, to a safe landing area where I could have a clear and reasonable third shot into the green. The lie was average in the rough, neither buried nor was it sitting up for me. I took the 4 and decided that the play was a fade starting to the left of the tree and let the wind kill the distance, hopefully allowing the ball to land in the fairway with about 170 into the pin. In theory.  That's the shot I set up with and that's the shot I got from the club.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was ZERO drag through the rough. I expected maybe a hitch where the face got caught or turned a little with the wider sole, but the head went cleanly through the grass and I had a mostly solid strike on the ball.  There's really something to be said for the confidence felt when looking down on this club.  For you completionists... I hit a choke 7 iron from 149 (the green  is about 25 feet above the fairway) to 7 feet, leaving myself a downhill right-to-left slider.  The greens were smooth and fast at Crossgates - quite different than the punched greens at Overlook or Four Seasons previously and I'd been struggling all day with getting the speed just right. I just barely lipped it out with a little too much pace. It rolled right around the cup and I made the 7 inch comeback to post 73. The two gentleman I had been playing with had no idea what it was for and still said it was a painful lip-out, haha! 

Overall, high marks in the looks department. It's tough to make a forgiving but playable hybrid club for better players without appearing like a marshmallow, but this hits it on the money. I think even high handicappers would like this club as well.  I gave a decent score in the feel department only because the graphite shaft deadened more off-center shots. While I could feel it, it was difficult to judge how far off center I hit it.  A steel shaft would provide better feel. Distance on par with the much higher end club.  Solid marks in workability. Straight goes straight. Not a lot of over-correction on off center hits. Budget conscious at 39.99 for the head. Excellent replacement for a hybrid or a long iron, in my player's opinion.

MMB-17  #8 iron Results:

Mentioned above, the 4 iron didn't really have much of a starring role in my round at Overlook on Saturday morning. It was helpful, but when all you can do is pitch out of trees sideways, it's not really what I would call a "stroke saver" or "Pin seeker".  The 8 iron did have a more prominent role in making a good shot, however. I still didn't use it much in this round, but for what I did get out of it, I say it's a damn good purchase. Of only note was the 2nd shot into #9 from rough right of the fairway. I had 160 into the pin, which is my average 8 iron distance. The lie was semi-buried, with some grass between the face and the ball for sure. I clipped it pretty well but  fell about 10 feet short, below the hole. Yes, I missed the putt. Still, it was a good shot to a blind target from a less-than-perfect lie in the rough.  Coupled with previous range evaluation as well as the 2 small buckets I had hit on the range on Friday (1 with my AP2 and the other with MMB), that one shot was enough to satisfy my curiosity surrounding this particular combination of shaft and head. Nothing tells it like it is as well as the actual course does.  It was a demanding shot under pressure to attack the pin and it didn't let me down despite my human imperfections. It is a consistent club. I will say one thing about it and stick to my guns: Even on the range, I didn't ever feel like I hit a good shot and been "robbed" or thought I had mis-clubbed. When the ball fell short of my intended target, I could feel exactly how many grooves low or high I had hit the ball, whereas with the more "forgiving" AP2 that I've been playing I felt like I hit a solid shot more often than not and would have inconsistent feedback on distance of mis-hits and inconsistent direction on solid hits without much feedback on high/low impact.  The MMB is going into my bag and I'm going to order a 9 and PW as well with the same specs by the end of this week. 

Again, high marks for looks. If you're a player who likes a minimal top-line and offset then this is the head for you. The satin chrome, rather than full polish is a welcome change on sunny days. Solid marks for feel. Higher than the 4 iron because of the increased feedback on mis-hits.     Distance is on-par with the higher end clubs, but nothing special that will catapult you to hitting tour-distance irons. 
Excellent workability and flight capability.Some clubs are "over workable" but to get a 9 the devil is in the details and small movements. Very consistent movements and no correction to get in the way of your shot.

 Value... well, I'm still looking for the cops outside because this kind of performance is a steal at $29.99 US for the head. 

Bottom line: 

8iron:   $29.99 head + $3.99 shaft + $10.99 grip + $0.35 ferrule + a little elbow grease =  $45.00 club on par with $125.00 premium club.

4iron:  $39.99 head + $11.00 shaft + $10.99 grip + $0.25 ferrule + a little more elbow grease + $55.00 club beats $125.00 premium club.

Maltby certifies that they are 2010 groove rule compliant and playable in high-level tournaments (or honestly, I wouldn't even be trying them).  For the price of a premium head with a run-of-the-mill shaft, you can build a custom beast with these heads. I chose the rout of least investment because I like a bargain. I could only imagine what would happen if you put a $75 shaft in some of these. Still if you told me they would out-perform my AP2 710 irons even with a premium shaft, I'd never have believed it if you beat it into my head every morning.  Happy swinging!

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