Solid looks. Silky feel. Accuracy and forgiveness. The George Nicoll Precision irons have it all.
The year 2013 proved to be one of multiple centenary milestones for the St. Andrews Golf Co. (STAG). In September, the company celebrated the 100th anniversary of Francis Ouimet’s well-known victory, a victory directly tied to the company’s Tom Stewart lineage. And, after several years of development, STAG also launched its latest set of premium forged irons–dubbed the “Precision Series”–to commemorate the passing of 100 years since George Nicoll unveiled his own original “Precision” irons.
STAG initially launched just 100 sets of the Precision Series irons in 2013, despite having committed several years of research and design work to their development with valuable support from organizations such as the University of Dundee’s Department of Engineering. The result of their efforts, however, generated significant “word-of-mouth” interest, a fact that subsequently inspired STAG to produce larger quantities into 2014.
I started researching and profiling the company–which does very little active marketing–after a series of happy accidents delivered me to their doorstep at the Home of Golf. If you have a moment, I recommend you give “Built to Last: St. Andrews Golf Co.” at least a quick once-over. The story–my first about the organization–will give you some context explaining why these irons are worth more words and attention.
That story is also what gave me advanced access not just to the Precision Series irons, which I started playing regularly after their initial launch in 2013, but also the company’s earlier George Nicoll “1881” irons, which became my workhorse set in 2012.
I don’t replace my personal set often. I played (and loved) my Mizuno MP-32s for many seasons. But the 1881s–which are sadly no longer available in production–were in my experience outstanding performers. They were attractive, balanced, soft, highly workable, and ultimately great foreshadowing for what STAG would create next.
There’s a lot of praise I’d like to heap onto the 1881 irons, particularly with regard to the head design, but if there was one negative for a company such as STAG, it would be that they lacked a degree of mass appeal. A pro or highly skilled amateur would be hard-pressed to find better and even though the heads evolved throughout the set, from nearly a pure blade in the higher irons into a more-forgiving cavity back in the low and mid irons, they would likely prove challenging for even the better game-improvement categories of player.
While the Precision Series irons share some traits from its 1881 model predecessor–they’re both forged from super soft 1020 carbon steel, for example–the current set benefits from a variety of developments–advancements in CNC (computer numerical control) machine technology being just one.
The capabilities of CNC machines–the machines that essentially take computer designs as literal instructions for carving patterns from solid blocks of material (such as forged steel) have jumped forward significantly during recent years, making it possible to create more and more complex club head designs and to create prototypes more quickly. (Weight distribution can be allocated and fine-tuned at the level of microns.)
Higher quality design equipment and, not to be underestimated, more experience under the belts (kilts?) of engineers, means STAG can create a club head that meets the needs of a wider range of players–which is exactly what they’ve done here. The Precision Series irons are dangerous in the hands of shot-shaping pros, but still provide substantial forgiveness for game-improvement players seeking versatility and room to grow.
Looks, Feel, and More
Aesthetics are a highly individual matter, but in my opinion and that of pretty much all the people I’ve encountered, these sticks look fantastic. The square, cross-hatch pattern inlaid into the back of the head is a choice that looks both stylish and confident–and never presents a visual distraction during a shot.
As feel goes, “butter,” “honey,” and “velvet” would all be relevant terms yet feedback never feels dulled. The head design and material–the previously mentioned 1020 steel–are partly to credit for tactile treasures–but so is my choice of shaft.
While St. Andrews Golf Co. offers a wide variety of steel, graphite, and hybrid shafts, the Precision Series comes stock with Aerotech Steel Fiber. We’re big fans of these hybrid shafts created by Aerotech Golf Shafts, a company headquartered in the U.S. northwest state of Washington.
The company promises players the lightweight benefits of graphite and the precision benefits of steel–and we aren’t disappointed. We’ll dig deeper into this shaft in a separate story in the coming weeks, but for now allow me to assure you the shaft will likely not only add to the clubs smooth characteristics but also to the feel of the club head and extra distance (no BS!).
In truth, when I started playing these clubs my game suffered something awful because I found it hard to believe, and adjust to, performance gains. All my misses were suddenly of the over-the-green variety even with relaxed swings.
Writers aiming to create a balanced review often feel a degree of conflict when the reality is there’s nothing good or nothing bad about a product. (Suspicion typically arises when the pendulum swings heavily in favor of a single direction.) Putting aside those instinctual worries, coming up with a negative about STAG’s Precision Series irons is something I have found harder than the game of golf itself.
As it stands right now, the set holds a solid position as my “Editor’s Choice” selection in the irons category.
More info: Prices vary substantially depending on a variety of configuration options and currency exchange rate on date of purchase for customers not paying with pounds Sterling. Product page.