Air Force One AFX Pro Series Irons Review: Simple, Predictable, Cost-saving Performance
So, here we are. Air Force One’s first offering of higher performance irons sans the Powerbilt moniker carries a significant burden. Introducing new equipment is hard enough for established companies, companies with tour players on the payroll, it’s even harder for new companies to make any kind of impact amongst the heavyweights, but a re-branded manufacturer . . . well, we’re going to see if Air Force One and its AFX Pro Series irons have a chance and where they might fit.
If you haven’t read our post on the split between Powerbilt and the Air Force One name, do it now. It might give you an idea behind the logic of the change.
I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but the Air Force One AFX Pro Series irons are budget irons. Their looks somewhat reflect that. That’s not meant to be a slight in any way, but when you aren’t paying top dollar for your clubs, you aren’t going to be getting the fancy badging or stamping, and you aren’t going to get the shiny chrome finish, or in PXG’s case, the Diamond-like Carbon black finish. What you do get is a very simple, unoffensive satin finish.
5-PW are a cavity back design, whereas the 3 and 4-iron are a hollow design with the company’s signature nitrogen charged technology. On the toe of the 3/4-iron is the nitrogen port that looks like staring down a jet engine — it’s different, but different is fun. And don’t worry about the nitrogen leaking from the hosel if there was ever a need for re-shafting. The nitrogen is sealed in the head separate from the neck and hosel.
But the takeaway here is the word “simple”. The Air Force One AFX Pro Series iron won’t quickly be called ugly nor will they be called stunning.
FEEL & SOUND
For the majority of us, this is the difference maker. Sure, a club can put up mind-blowing numbers on a robot, but the feel of the club frequently dictates the confidence of a player, which in turn will dictate the performance. Feel is generally a big deal, it’s no different for the AFX Pro Series irons, but for them, “feel” extends beyond ball striking.
For no reason other than statistical probability, the first club I pulled from the box Air Force One sent us was a PW. In hand for the first time, the grip felt slightly slimmer than I’m used to, but, in all fairness, my regular clubs are over-wrapped in the grips. So, that sensation was explainable, but what wasn’t explainable was how long, or rather how short, the club felt at address. This is significant because, despite my average size (5’9″), my swing style calls for my irons to be very slightly cut down, and this pitching wedge felt short . . . to me.
As it turns out, the AFX Pro Series irons do appear to be shorter in shaft length than advertised, and it’s most noticeable in the lower irons. It progresses to some bit of normalcy as you go up the iron ladder, but when compared to my in-play PW — ya know, the cut down one? — it did look to be a hair under 1/2″ shorter. Food for thought.
The toplines of the Air Force One AFX Pro Series irons might be their best angle. If you were to only look down at them, you would be even more surprised by their price. They have a gamer look to them at address.
But that’s about where its attempt at a players club ends. If you have ever hit a bladed iron, you know how harsh they feel on the slightest of mishits, and that’s assuming you have hit blades enough that you got at least a handful of pure strikes out of them. So, given the look of the topline, the assumption was that the longer irons would feel closer to a muscle back on strikes, and while that was the case with mishits, strikes on the center of the face didn’t provide that warm, fuzzy feeling that makes you want to quit because you finally striped one. Ball flight, trajectory, perceived speed, that was all good, but I would have liked more of those good feels.
The sound of the Air Force One AFX Pro Series irons was somewhat representative of its feeling. It had a tendency to sound closer to a gamer’s iron than it felt, but it falls just short of the grin-inducing “thwack” you would expect from a narrow-soled, thin-toplined iron. Those mishits though . . . yeah you will still hear them.
It’s safe to assume that the non-feel players scrolled all the way down to this point, so I won’t waste your time: The Air Force One AFX Pro Series irons perform well, but they aren’t reinventing the wheel, though that was never a claim they made.
From a qualitative standpoint, ball speed seems to be right on par with current irons on the market, they launch high quickly — the 6-iron looks like it peaks just under the 40m range — and their distance will leave you saying to yourself, “Yep, that seems about right.”
What absolutely must be addressed, however, is that the AFX Pro Series irons don’t impress or disappoint on distance until you get to the 3 and 4-iron. This might be due to the nitrogen charging, but there is a very noticeable jump from the CB 5-iron to the charged 4-iron. The gap from the 5-iron to the 4 was consistently well over 15 yards, and that can be a bad thing when building your bag, but it left us asking if AFO could nitrogen charge the entire line.
If there is one takeaway from the performance of the AFO AFX Pro Series it is this: the irons are very good at either end of the spectrum. Distance and trajectory is absolutely fantastic in the PW, 9-iron, and 8-iron. Distance and trajectory is very impressive for the 3-iron and 4-iron — it’s not easy to design long irons that launch like a mid iron. The middle of the set (7, 6, and 5-iron) leaves a little to be desired, predominantly in feel progressing into distance.
AFX Pro Series Irons Review: FINAL VERDICT
Feels like blah blah blah . . . sound reminds us of blah blah blah . . . it launches at blah blah blah blah . . . All of that is meaningful analysis, but the reality is that the Air Force One AFX Pro Series irons need only to perform middle at middle of the pack in all of those categories because of their price. They are $399, and for that price, their performance becomes much more impressive. You aren’t going to find a narrow-soled iron that puts up the numbers the AFX Pro Series irons do until you nearly double that price.
If you’re willing to try something that doesn’t say “Titleist” or have a chevron on it, Air Force One might surprise you, and they’ll leave you with a lot more cash in your pocket to play the nicer courses. So far, after the split from the Powerbilt name, Air Force One is off to a pretty good start!