The Equipment Insider

Argolf forges ahead with new muscle-back irons

Argolf, the French company best known for its milled putters, has turned its attention to forged irons. Equipment Insider contributor Shaun Tolson reports that its new AR-F15 set offers stylish aesthetics and good playability

A single glance at Argolf’s new AR-F15 irons and I was entranced. The forged muscle backs, with their blend of perimeter curves and angular back architecture, evoke Art Deco ideals in all the right ways.

Argolf is known first and foremost for its milled putters — each one named after characters, places, or meaningful objects from the Arthurian legend — yet it’s not a stretch to find resemblances to medieval crowns or mythical swords in the F15’s styling, too.

In actuality, inspiration for Argolf’s F15 irons came from aviation and aeronautics. Olivier Colas, the owner and CEO of Argolf, is an aeronautical industrialist by trade and serves as an executive at Armor Meca, a French manufacturer of components used by NASA, Airbus, and Boeing. In addition to its latest F15s, Argolf also produces the F18s, a set of cavity-back irons that the company unveiled in early 2019.

When viewed at address, the overall sleek and streamlined shape of the F15 irons carries through to the clubs’ thin top line, which suggests that these irons offer plenty of shot-shaping capability. The F15’s lightweight S20C steel construction also conveys plenty of maneuverability potential.

Argolf — AR-F15 muscle-back iron
Argolf's AR-F15 muscle-back irons are slim, sleek and streamlined in shape, but allow for plenty of "sweet spot forgiveness," said John Buboltz, a clubfitter at Argolf.

Great aesthetics only carry a golf club so far, though. In testing the performance of the AR-F15s, I evaluated them against the performance of my everyday set of clubs — the latest generation of PXG player irons.

Admittedly, it seemed an unfair comparison. After all, the irons in my bag were engineered by a company with incredibly deep pockets and the resolve to only release new products when they significantly outperformed the brand’s existing lineup. To compare those irons against the forged clubs crafted by a company that only recently ventured into that segment of the market — especially a company that specializes mostly in milled putters — seemed a colossal mismatch.

Yet, as I worked my way down the set, starting with the pitching wedge (the F15s are available in two bundles: 5-PW or 4-PW) I was immediately impressed by the easiness of the irons’ playability. Despite their slim profile, the F15s offered enough forgiveness to not be intimidating; and with their low center of gravity, these sleek irons made solid strikes and arching ball flights a routine occurrence.

“There is a pretty good amount of sweet spot forgiveness for a muscle back,” said John Buboltz, an instructor, golf club advisor, and clubfitter at Argolf. “That low center of gravity helps to get the ball in the air — it’s how lower to mid-handicappers can get away with playing something that looks like a classic blade.”

While the F15’s design features an angular and geometric muscle back that rises to a triangular crest about three-quarters of the way up the back of the club and in line with the center of the sole (the physical evidence of where and how Argolf’s engineers have positioned the club’s low center of gravity), the thickest section of that muscle back (just above the sole) extends out to the perimeter of the club in both the toe and the heel.

Argolf — AR-F15 Side View
Argolf's AR-F15 irons are the French company's second dip into clubs other than the milled putters it built a reputation on. In 2019, Argolf introduced the AR-F18 irons.

“You can see where all the weight is specifically designed on the head,” Buboltz said, “so if you’re a little on the heel or toe, you’ll get away with it. You’ll lose a little bit in ball speed and the shot won’t go as far, but you won’t be hitting high hooks or fades.”

Surprisingly, center-face strikes and otherwise solidly struck shots hit with the F15s delivered a soft feel that was remarkably similar to what I had grown accustomed to. In fact, I felt as though I could generate a bit more speed through my swing with the F15s; however, that could likely be attributed to a 10-gram difference in shaft weight. To truly determine just how good these irons were, I realized that I had to let the numbers speak for themselves.

Equipped with Rapsodo’s mobile launch monitor, I worked my way through my everyday irons and these F15s across multiple range sessions, hitting numerous shots per iron and looking for the ways in which they were similar and how they might also be different. The results were intriguing.

As I suspected, the F15s delivered an additional one to two mph of club head speed, depending on the iron, but this can best be attributed to the F15s’ lighter shafts. Interestingly, despite that faster swing speed, ball speed numbers weren’t any faster than my everyday irons. In fact, as I worked my way down the set I discovered that the F15s began to lose ground—literally. While they delivered comparable distance and ball speeds in the short irons and pitching wedge, the F15s came up short in those areas beginning with the 7-iron.

To be fair, the difference in ball speed — an average of 3.4 mph — isn’t damning, while the average 6 yards of difference in distance can largely be attributed to discrepancies in loft. An F15 7-iron, for example, offers 34 degrees of loft, while a PXG 7-iron offers 31 degrees. The F15s delivered consistent accuracy from the wedge through the five iron, which proves Argolf’s team of engineers nailed the design of the club’s muscle back. Yet, the gradual drop in distance and ball speed through the set suggests that golfers who take the F15s to the course can expect that their off-center shots hit with mid to long irons will fly on line but they’ll likely come up a bit short of their intended targets.

Despite those shortcomings, the F15s were impressive. And at $200 per club, they’re even more impressive. After all, my everyday irons retail for more than twice that cost. Currently, the F15s are only available in right-hand configuration (the F18s can be ordered in both right and left dexterities); however, Argolf anticipates that it will expand its F15 production to left-handed sets sometime in 2021.

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