The head of a golf club, especially a set of irons, is a very recognisable shape, even to non-golfers. However, the process to achieve this universally recognisable shape can vary dramatically from model to model, and even between irons within the same set.
There are two options available to golf clubs designers and engineers - casting or forging the raw material into a clubhead. Casting involves pouring molten metal into a mould while forging consists of hammering the metal into the desired shape. There is also the option of using some cast and some forged components on the same clubhead - a method which is becoming more popular.
The vast majority of iron sets available are made by casting – which involves pouring molten metal into a mould. When the metal hardens, it is in the desired shape - in this case, a golf club.
As any liquid (in this case metal) fills whatever container it's poured into the very nature of casting allows manufacturers to be more creative in their designs. Given this, the process lends itself to cavity back irons, clubs primarily designed for beginners and game improvers. The process allows mass to be cast to the clubhead's outer edges to create what is known in the industry as perimeter weighting, which increases the club's forgiveness by reducing twisting on off-centre hits.
Further advances and the use of accurate computer design software to create the moulds allow designers to move minute amounts of mass (in some cases a single gram) to precisely where they need it. This detailed approach has led to the individual irons, which make up a set, designed as if they were individual clubs. The long irons will have more mass low in the head to help get the ball up in the air easier, while the shorter irons will have the centre of gravity a little higher to control the flight and distance more easily.
As the metal in cast clubs does not need to be manipulated there is far greater flexibility in the type of steel available. Using steel that sets harder makes cast irons more durable, have increase ball speed and thus add more distance than their forged counterparts.
Casting is also quicker, easier, and therefore cheaper than the forging process, meaning cast clubs are more affordable at retail than forged ones.
In simple terms, forging is hammering metal into the shape you want it. In golf, the process is a little more refined, but the premise is the same. A simple billet of steel is pressed and rolled hundreds of times to turn it from a block to a playable golf club. In order to allow this to happen, the steel needs to be much softer than the version used in casting.
Mizuno are the kings of forged irons with a look which has not changed in years.
The process is very labour intensive (forged clubs tend to cost a bit more as a result) and has far greater restrictions on what can be achieved in terms of shape and moving mass around the clubhead. Forged irons, therefore, are classically simple in their design and as a result, the centre of the club or sweet spot is where you'd expect it to be, in the middle. This means forged irons are not very forgiving and only for the best ball strikers out there.
However, what forged irons lack in forgiveness they make up for in feel. You will be able to control your shorts far easier with forged clubs as there is almost no technology helping you - this is why some PGA Tour professionals favour them - but not all.
Part Cast, Part Forged
As we mentioned above, not all of the world's best players are using fully forged irons. Developments in manufacturing have allowed engineers to blend the two processes and use the best bits of forging and casting to make a set of irons.
The favoured recipe for this is a cast body, moving weight where it needs to be for forgiveness, and then a forged face for increased feel and distance control.
As technology and time move forward, it will come as no surprise that technology from other industries makes its way into golf club manufacturing.
Metal Injection Moulding (or MIM) is used to create smaller components within iron heads - such as Titanium toe and heel weights in cast iron heads.
Another relatively new technology making its way into the golf industry is 3D printing. As the process becomes more refined, it can now be applied to make an intricate part for a clubs- like the top line cover on the Cobra RADspeed irons.
Which is best for you???
It is difficult to identify at a glance which club heads are cast and forged when you first get into golf. However, you'll quickly learn the differences that make them easy to tell apart.
Cast heads have lumps and bumps all over them as the weight is moved around to help forgiveness - best for beginners and game improvers. In contrast, forged heads are streamlined and classic in their design with no unnecessary design elements at all - only for the best ball strikers out there!
For more information or to speak to one of our PGA qualified customer services team call 0208 4016 901. Lines and emails are open and managed from 9:00am - 5:00pm , Monday – Friday and 9:00am - 1:00pm Saturday.