Every golfer dreams of the perfect irons. The golf bag full of sweet spots, that give you air when you need it, distance, precision, and controlled drop.
If you want all that, the P790s from TaylorMade have probably at least been on your radar, if not in your bag, since they launched in 2017.
The P790s quickly became the most successful irons TaylorMade had ever forged. They did that most remarkable thing – they made golfers smile when they swung.
But in 2019, the P790 irons were due for a redesign, and that caused the designers some sleepless nights because the task in front of them was a very delicate balancing act.
When you’ve already got the most successful irons ever made by your company, you don’t want to be responsible for turning them into a lame duck.
The designers had to keep hold of everything that made the P790s a tried and trusted set of irons - but also add new value to the set somehow.
In essence, the trick was not to reinvent the wheel, but to bolt four of them together and put an engine on it.
So the question is…did they do it? Do the 2019 P790 irons deliver more than their predecessors? Do they still stand up against other clubs in their class and price range? Are they now a must-buy and a must-have for your golf bag?
Well, you can tell a lot by the fact that the P790s are still called the P790s. Normally, a key part of selling new clubs is to identify them with a tweak to the name, if only so people can tell them apart from previous versions.
Nope. Not this time. P790s they’ve been, and P790s they remain.
The same is true of the look. At first glance, you’d be hard pressed to pick the pre-2019 P790s from the redesigned post-2019 P790s. That speaks to a redesign tiptoeing through a minefield, when any delicate change for the worse could end up jeopardizing the whole project.
So – they’ve kept their name. They look mmmmmore or less the same. Have they been upgraded at all, or are they still just…a set of irons good enough to beat everything else TaylorMade has ever done?
Oh yes, they’ve changed alright. Because now there are not just the P790s. There are the P790s Ti.
See what we mean about identifying newness with a tick? But the important point is that it’s not just an overwrite – as of 2019, the P790 irons got an upgrade and kept the name, but TaylorMade also added the Ti model to the family.
We’ll happily review the stroke off the P790 Ti for you, but for now, let’s focus on the new P790.
How do you improve on the best thing you’ve ever done?
Well, the answer to that is “Very, very carefully.”
So, what has TaylorMade done to the P790 irons?
Essentially, the company hasn’t so much redesigned the irons as distilled them – intensifying the impact of what they were already doing by a sequence of tiny tweaks that amount to a marked improvement in overall performance.
The profile in the shorter irons, for instance. TaylorMade has given the shorter irons a more compact profile between the toe and the heel. In the longer irons, it has reduced the offset slightly, bringing the shape more directly into the golfer’s eye-line on the backswing.
The toe depth has been raised slightly, and the toe has also had a fractional recast, rounding out the shape of the toe and the heel both.
The face has been thinned by all of 7%. Why? It’s a weight-saving, which means the club has the weight spare to add 15% more internal tungsten weight right behind the face.
Why? Why do any or all of that?
Golfer confidence – at least, that’s the plan. The idea being that the rounder cast and the more visible clubhead give the golfer more certainty of their swing, for a more confident end result, placing the ball more precisely where they want it to go.
Meanwhile, the extra tungsten behind the face helps lower the center of gravity, giving the new P790s more power (for which, read ball speed) and loft.
See? Tiny shavings of weight, a little redistribution, a little jiggery, a touch of pokery, and you end up with irons that look more or less identical to their predecessors, but which give you more loft and a higher level of golfer confidence.
Any change in the multi-material elements of the iron? Nope, none. You’re still looking at an 8620 cast body with a forged 4140 face.
That’s been the point of the P790 redesign – not to change things just for the sake of it, but to deliver improvements where they’re possible without upsetting the 2017 apple cart.
Has anything else changed about the 2019 P790s?
Yes – but again, the differences are subtle. To address a generalized bias towards the right in the longer irons, TaylorMade has given the new version a progressive inverted cone, which spreads out towards the toe in the longer irons.
The toe is where most mishits happen in longer irons, so the cone is designed to mitigate that effect, without reducing the potential ball speed.
Oh, it’s clever. It’s pretty space program clever.
Want one more tweak?
TaylorMade has changed the shafts on the post-2019 P790 irons, changing to Dynamic Gold 105 VSS steel.
Those are slightly shorter than the shafts in the pre-2019 version, and the change is designed to give golfers better control and more exact placing of their shots.
The new shafts also come with a vibration-dampening technology to boost the clubs’ forgiveness.
So does it work?
Overall, yes. As we say, the point about the 2019 update was not to produce something radically different from the 2017 version that rocked golfers’ worlds.
But shaving weight, redistributing it where it does more good for golfers, and delivering more power from shorter shafts gives a set of irons that are noticeably better than the original P790s.
Whether they’re improved enough to warrant buying a whole new set for these subtle improvements will depend on whether you already own the 2017 P790s.
If you do, you might look at the improvements in the 2019 version and decide to hang onto your cash for now.
After all, no one saw a pandemic virus coming, and that has cut down the amount of time most people have been able to spend on the golf course.
It’s also cut down on the viability of bringing out the 2021 evolution of the P790 irons – but the sooner the golfing world reaches an acceptably post-Covid level, we can expect work on that next iteration to race along, to recover lost time and lost revenue.
If you have the 2017 P790 irons then, you might be wiser to skip a generation, impressive though the delicate and intensely clever 2019 redesign is.
Of course, if you do that, you’re putting your faith in TaylorMade’s ability to bottle the same lightning a second time, adding to the performance of an existing, excellent set of irons – without sacrificing anything of what makes them well-loved in the first place.
If you don’t already own the 2017 P790 irons, then the 2019 upgrade to what was already TaylorMade’s leading set of irons may be enough to persuade you to make the leap at this point. The upgrade really is worth considering.