Saturday, June 8, 2013

Wilson Staff FG Tour V2 Irons Review
Happy Days Are Here Again

By Pete Pappas 
On twitter @PGAPappas and BlogSpot PGAPappas.BlogSpot

When you think of Wilson Golf, odds are you think of the entertaining “Seriously” commercials that began running last year, or that the Wilson brand has won more major championship victories than any other golf club manufacturer (61).

What you might not realize however, is that Wilson has produced an absolutely beautiful set of forged irons that has quietly flown under the radar. 

The Wilson Staff FG Tour V2 irons offer stunning looks, incomparable feel, and outstanding performance - rivaling any forged iron on the market today.  Yet many people never get to see the FG V2 irons, or read much about them, or even get to try them.  And that’s because Wilson just doesn’t pour out the advertising bucks like other big OEMs.

It’s like I tell my friends, “The FG V2 irons are the best irons on the market – rarely mentioned in conversations about the best irons on the market.”

But word is slowly spreading from player to player, golf course to golf course, and weekend to weekend.  In fact, ask just about any FG V2 player and they’re probably going to tell you the FG V2 irons are one of the best, if not the best irons they’ve ever played.

When FedEx delivered my FG V2 irons, I probably didn’t do what most people would do.  I took a shower, made myself a cup of coffee, cozied up beside them, and only then began to open this box of 18-hole goodness.

Already knowing there was something dazzling inside (I took these for a quick spin at Dick’s Sporting Goods before ordering a set to my specs), I wanted to give the FG V2 irons my complete, unadulterated attention - as if I was on that first date with “the” girl.

Every detail, every nuance… these irons oozed the looks I crave.  First I addressed them.  Thin topline, check.  Short heel-to-toe profile, yup.  Raised face design, my enthusiastic favorite.

Along with mild progressive offset, and progressive bounce across the set, the FG V2 irons are very compact, very clean, and very traditional looking irons.

By way of the original FG irons, the V2s have a comparatively thinner topline, shorter profile, taller face, and less offset.

I turned them over.  It got better.  Beautiful chrome work, sexy black paint fill, clean, sharp lines.  A minimalists work of art harking back to the days when quality and simplicity trumped gimmick and gaudiness.

Wilson told me the new design was primarily developed from Tour Staff feedback.  But that just as well could be from feedback of the general player community as these are characteristics many players desire.

So there I was, maybe drooling like a wolfhound a bit, I forget.  Suffice to say the FG V2 irons definitely pulled me in on appearance.  And after ogling my new Wilson irons for a little while longer, I took the V2s to the range for an extended courtship.

Generally, nothing feels as good as the anticipation of it.  And then there’s that important first kiss.  Basking in the glory of penetrating long irons and knock-down short irons, swing after swing the FG V2 irons surpassed all expectations.

I smiled like a little kid who just tasted his first Hershey chocolate bar.  The V2s left me wanting more.

Yes they’re precision forged 8620 carbon steel.  And yes, they feel as buttery soft as you’d expect.  Not one to normally share my irons, I recently let a friend who plays Scratch irons hit them, and he gushed, “Damn Pete, these feel nice!”

Infatuated by the sweet, smooth feel of the FG V2 irons, I thought about autographing my name across the shirts of people also on the range (my favorite Wilson commercial), but a black eye or worse bodily harm would have probably put a damper on my bliss.

With 30 grams of weight concentrated behind the sweet spot, 4.5 grams on the heel side, and 7.7 grams on the toe end, you’re getting the powerful feel and distance control of a traditional muscle-back, along with the forgiveness and stability of a perimeter-weighted cavity-back.

Scoring irons with game-improvement technology built in?  The FG V2 irons are moving into the “kind of irons you bring home to meet mom” territory now.

In some degree or another, every golfer is going to want distance (and control), forgiveness, playability, and workability in their irons.  So it was time to take my FG V2s out on a few dates.  I treated them to some local gems, Painesville Country Club, Little Mountain Country Club, and Manakiki Golf Club.

It took me awhile to get my distances dialed in.  The FG V2s were longer than I expected.  My first time out with them, on a par 3, 135 yard hole at Painesville Country Club, I pulled my 9 iron and hit a beautiful ball that tracked the pin from the moment it left my clubface.

“Stone cold flag hunter” I barked out loud, twirling my club, admiring the shot… and then waved goodbye as it flew the green by a mile.



My friend caught it all on video.  My ball hit the top of a tree, bounced back onto the green, and came to rest for a 15-foot birdie try.  Maybe Wilson Golf also sprinkles a little of that magic dust in the FG V2 irons?  More on that later.

But in general, longer is better, so I was happy.  There’d be time to dial in distances the more I played.

I told Michael Vrska, Global Director of Research & Development at Wilson Golf about being pleasantly surprised with the FG V2 distances, and he said, “We’re always thinking of distance.  Padraig Harrington wants to hit it further, you want to hit it further, I want to hit it further.”

That was the first, and probably last time I’ll ever be mentioned in the same breath with Padraig Harrington, but yeah, “Paddy” and I both get more distance with the FG V2 irons, so I’ll run with it.

After a few months playing the FG V2s, I figured out I was getting about 2 to 3 more yards with the short irons, and another 4 to 5 yards with my long irons.

And most importantly, I was achieving consistent distance control (thanks to those 30 grams positioned behind the impact area) with yardage gaps between 8 to 12 yards.  My buddy calls me “Pin High Pete.”  I won’t lie, a cool nickname is the next best thing to being a low handicap golfer.

For average golfers (cough, cough), one of the most difficult things to do with long irons that aren’t purely game-improvement irons, is hitting high enough shots to get optimal distance.

You’re always hearing about players wanting to lower their ball flight, and you do get low, controlled ball flights with the FG V2 short irons.

But you’re not going to get any distance from your long irons if they take off looking like Kiefer Sutherland launching himself into a Christmas tree (if you’ve never seen that, google it, it’s hysterical).

Design technologies in the FG V2 heads, along with the KBS Tour shafts (see below) give me a long iron ball flight that launches higher, and lands softer, with a bit of a fade.  Think Jack Nicklaus power fade.  OK, I’m not quite there yet, but in the hands of more skilled golfers, that’s your territory.

Tests conducted by Wilson Golf showed low-handicap players also averaging more ball speed, less spin, and more distance than they did with the original FG irons.

The FG V2 irons have a vertical COG that’s a bit lower than the previous FG irons, and a horizontal COG that’s a bit closer to the heel than the FGs.  The lower COG of course helps the ball get up, but Wilson also increased the face height of the V2s to further enhance trajectory control.

And that’s how the FG V2 irons, in the hands of either an average or accomplished golfer, allows them both to control trajectory in a way that maximizes their individual distances.

It was tempting to close the deal on the FG V2 irons based on power and precision alone.  Long and straight like the legs of a Brazilian bikini model is great when I’m firing on all cylinders.

But sometimes the pressures of golf leave me unable to perform at my manly best.  I mean… it happens to everyone, right?  So if I’m going to have a long-lasting relationship with these irons, I’ll need to trust the FG V2s will understand, and help me out when I don’t bring my A-game.



Well… I’m not going to give you the spiel how I don’t miss in bunkers, I miss on the edge of the green.  Or that I don’t lose 20 yards, I lose 2.  But?  It’s close.  I was astonished how forgiving the FG V2 irons are.  Even when my swing is at its most illogical, unreasonable worst, my V2s love me anyway.

When you hit the sweet spot with the FG V2 irons, you’ll experience a feel and distance control so refined and precise, that you might start believing you’re better than you actually are.

But even when you’re within one-quarter to one-half inch from the sweet spot, these less than perfect shots will still be good ones, many even very good ones.

There are no secrets or miracles to solid iron play.  But Wilson has managed to incorporate a convincing amount of forgiveness in the FG V2 irons… without sacrificing workability and distance control.

And whether your expectation is to be “on target,” or you’re content being “around the target,” that simplifies the game for a broad range of players.

Wilson distributed exacting weight across the V2 cavity and around the perimeter to increase MOI (resistance to twisting on off-center hits), pushed the COG just a bit lower (but not so low that you lose ball speed), and added more toe weight (another great way to increase MOI).

Combined with the right recipe of offset and heel weighting (so the face opens and closes naturally), the FG V2 irons are actually more forgiving than some game-improvement cavity-backs I’ve played from other OEMs.

Trouble lies in wait on every inch of the golf course.  Good shots find bad lies.  Bad lies create lousy shots.  And lousy shots quickly turn difficult holes into impossible ones.  You just have to take your medicine right?  Wrong.  With the FG V2 irons, you administer the medicine.

From the rough the V2s straightened lead edge shreds through grass like weapons of grass destruction.  The head weighting (already discussed) ensures powerful contact that almost compels your ball to escape the thick stuff.  And the V2 grooves are sharp enough to carve away grass from the face and still give you enough spin to avoid the dreaded flyer.

My third time out with the FG V2s at Manakiki, I found myself in a nasty lie on the very first hole.  Clumpy, sticky rough, the kind that grabs your hosel and causes chaos.  Under a tree, low branches, looking at about 130 into a slightly elevated green, I pulled my 9 iron and had a go at it.

Care to guess what happens?  Badabing, badaboom!  My ball lands softly on the green and finds bottom-cup (tips cap).

Remember that Wilson magic dust?  I’m telling you, I’ve seen these kinds of shots with my V2s many times already.  The folks at Wilson do something special to these irons.

The sole to face radius (curve from front to back) was increased to help the club make better contact from a majority of lie circumstances (turf interaction).  And the heel edge of the FG V2 sole was also given more radius.

Uphill lie, downhill lie, sidehill lie?  No problem.  The V2s are something of a great equalizer, as versatile as a Swiss Army Knife.

One of two things is certain.  Either I’ve been luckier this year than any other year in recent memory.  Or the FG V2 irons are turning my good shots into great shots.  I still play the lotto every week, and still lose the lotto every week.  Smart money’s on the V2s.

I’m rather conservative in what I ask from my irons.  Shot-shaping requires good, consistent fundamentals, and my attempts to work the ball don’t always pan out.  Most holes I’m simply looking to put my ball on the green.  And most holes that’s a good enough strategy.

But fading the ball to a back-right hole placement, or drawing the ball to a front-left pin location is sometimes the best course of action.



So every now and then I’ll ask my FG V2s to boogie down.  And when my ball striking is on, the V2s are as thrilling as they are impressive.

Moving the ball left and right is easier thanks to the new V2 head design.  With a shorter profile from heel to toe, and a COG location closer to both the heel and face, you have more effective control in shaping shots through the impact area, no matter how you do it (stance, grip, feel, et al).

Generally a shorter profile means less face to manipulate open or closed – easier.  A COG closer to the heel means a greater degree of face rotation – easier.  And a COG closer to the face means a faster face rotation– easier.

Trajectory control with the FG V2 irons is an all-out aerial assault.  The taller face gives you boundless launch options.  And the precise COG location, forgiving area around the sweet spot, and 30 grams of central weight bolster the impact area for better energy transfer and better feel.

You can flight shots high like an infrared missile, low like a high-speed speed hovercraft, and anywhere in between.  The V2s positively shine in up and down movement.

Here are some numbers as promised:  the 7 iron is 49.5 mm tall, 73.4 mm long, with a vertical COG at 18.8 mm, and a horizontal COG at 26.4 mm.  That puts the impact area (looking at the cavity side) just below the “S” towards the topline on the W/S shield.

Mind, heart, and soul, the FG V2 irons give me everything I want in an iron.  They’re long, they’re accurate, they’re forgiving, they’re versatile.  And workability is a bonus that makes the V2s everything I need in an iron as well.

I hear church bells ringing.  Time to find a place to live together.  I’m thinking the Wilson Staff Pro FG Tour bag.

Sometimes life gives you lemons.  Other times it gives you KBS Tour shafts as the stock offering in the FG V2 irons.  And the combination of FG V2 irons and KBS Tour shafts produces a feel as smooth as aged whiskey.

It’s no accident KBS shafts are the fastest growing steel shaft brand in the industry.

If you’ve played KBS shafts you know about the legendary “feel.”  If you haven’t yet played them, you’ve probably heard of it.

What you might not know is “why” KBS shafts have that feel.  And what better place to get that answer than from the man himself, KBS inventor Kim Braly.

According to Braly, “Each section of the KBS Tour shaft, from the butt to the tip, has the same reduction in stiffness from the section above it.  When you swing the club it’s kinda like a whip, so this consistency allows the shaft to load and unload more smoothly.”

Smooth feel means better control.  Better control means tighter dispersion and increased distance.  Whip it good!  I’ve played KBS shafts in my irons from previous seasons, but those came with an upgrade charge.

The money I saved this year not having to buy KBS shafts I put to good use.  More green fees and grilled hot dogs with lots of mustard at the turn.

Stock grips aren’t ever a deal breaker for me.  They’re easy enough to replace if I don’t like them.  But when I buy premium set of irons, with a premium set of shafts, I do expect a premium set of grips.  And the Lamkin Crossline Black grips that come stock with the FG V2s are another reason to smile.

Crossline Blacks are reliable and comfortable.  This season I’ve played in a downpour, during record breaking heat and humidity, and even on a few unseasonably cool Northeast Ohio summer days.  And they always perform.  Hundreds of notched cross-lines for traction means no worry about slipping, no worry about twisting.

The hand-friendly rubber is vibration dampening, a comfortable medium feel between soft and firm.  And they don’t eat up my gloves or wear out quickly.

Lamkin’s bestselling grips for 18 years running are the Crosslines.  You can’t argue with that kind of longevity.  And I can’t argue with Crossline’s superior performance and feel.  Though I will say the Lamkin 3GENs I have on other clubs may be going on my V2s in 2014.  I like those even more.

In the mega-competitive market for your golf dollars, a humble approach isn’t always the main strategy for OEMs.  Bigger, better, newer is the message, told in as many places, in as many ways, in as many mediums as often as possible.

But Wilson’s approach to marketing the FG V2 irons reminds me of something my parents used to tell me growing up.  “Let your actions speak for themselves,” mom and dad would say.  “When you’re good, you don’t need to say you’re good.  Others will just know.”

You can now include me in that growing list of others who know the V2s are something truly special.  Well done, Wilson.

Once energized by names like Sarazen, Snead, Hagen, and Palmer, Wilson bounced back in a big way in 2013.  And next year marks the 100th anniversary of Wilson game-changing innovations.  As Vrska told me, “Be very clear, we’re pushing to get better every day.”

Well I’m not sure how much better my FG V2 irons can get.  But I am sure the recognized heritage, energy, and creative spirit of Wilson Golf is alive and kicking.  And that can only mean one thing for Wilson.  Happy days are here again.

On twitter @PGAPappas and BlogSpot PGAPappas.BlogSpot

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