There has been much speculation on the Golfmagic Forum about the clubs to buy if you are reasonably new to the game but perhaps cannot afford the latest equipment from the top brands.
Though perhaps best known for its world record-achieving drivers, Integra Golf is fast-emerging to challenge Progen, Hippo, Ben Ross and MD Golf in the budget irons category. The company even provides a trial 7-iron for less than £20, which it will refund if you decide to purchase the full set from £199.
It was an offer we couldn’t refuse but decided to co-opt the help of Nottingham golfer and Golfmagic visitor Garry Baker, who had recently purchased a set of R1 irons (3-iron to Sand Wedge), custom-fitted to his own specification. He paid £25 extra to have True Temper Dynamic Gold R300 steel shafts and Lamkin Crossline full cord grips fitted.
"I play to a handicap of approximately 20, on a good day but like all high handicappers I’m hoping to find that elusive ‘consistency’ to drop my handicap down to the teens and hopefully keep it there," said Garry. He recalled that when buying the irons from Integra, it was ‘hassle free.’
"Having tried some similar-looking Callaway Big Bertha irons at a demo day (I also have a Callaway VFT 6-iron which I keep permanently in the car to use on the range), I knew that the R1s would probably suit me, especially as the purchase price is one third that of the Callaway irons. "I chose Dynamic Gold shafts because I’d admired them since having them in my original Mizuno Sure clubs. The length and lie adjustments where carried out free of charge and the £25 extra for the regular flex shafts and grips, was entirely reasonable."
Garry added that the deep cavity-backed clubs will be alien to those who like the blade or shallow face designs of clubheads
"But with an engineering background, the benefits the design offers me are most attractive. It’s easy to see the help the iron is providing and that it inspires confidence," he said.
"Build quality is first rate, though the finish is not quite to Ping, Cleveland, Mizuno and Callaway standard. Initially this bugged me a little. While the chrome finish is good, the plastic inserts in the cavities, identifying the brand are at best only adequate and can spoil the effect. "However, clubs are about performance not looks and after several rounds on various courses plus many practice sessions, I can report that these clubs are great, particularly their forgiveness of toe or heel strikes. There seems no penalty in terms of distance or direction.
"This, in turn, inspires confidence and I have found myself relaxing with iron shots that previously would have caused me to consider a safe route to the green. I’m definitely hitting more irons – even the longer ones - into greens and chipping less."
Garry thought the wider sole of the R1 of the clubs might cause him to sacrifice control with the short irons while making the long irons easier to hit. But his fears were groundless. "The pitching wedge is a really capable club and with the 9- and 8-iron I can easily get through even the recent firm ground when I need to. Thinning pitches and chips are a thing of the past."
As for the flight and distance achieved with the clubs, Garry claims the shots fly high and stop impressively. "This is most pleasing," he says, "especially as the greens have been very hard of late. As for distance, these are easily a club longer than the XL2000 I’ve used until recently, much of it attributed to the new powerful, shafts which are powerful compared to the normal steel shafts found in clubs at this price range."
My own limited tests with the trial 7-iron were inconclusive, though the club with the optional UST Competition graphite shafts, produced a higher, more favourable ball flight than the basic steel version. The extra £50 per set appeared good value.
The wider sole sits similarly to the new Ping G2 irons, which purport to bring the longer irons more into play for the higher handicap golfer, while the chunky top-line certainly instills confidence.
Around the green the 7-iron is an easy club to use for those 50-yard chips on the hard ground.
"These a great clubs at the price for a player who would prefer a deep cavity back design. Forgiveness is top-notch and distance impressive, too. Integragolf offers a level of custom-fitting with shaft and grip selections, I’ve yet to find from other manufacturers, without paying far more. My only gripe is the design and fit of the black plastic labels on the back of the cavity."
|Golfmagic rating: 9/10|