As 2018 comes to a close I look back at all the products I’ve reviewed here at Hooked on Golf Blog, and post my awards for the best of the best in golf equipment, golf courses, golf apparel, golf accessories and so on.
First off is the Golf Equipment Product of the Year award. “Golf Equipment” is a category which can include golf clubs, golf balls, golf bags, golf carts and such. Typically this award goes to the best golf club, but in this case the award is for the best clubs, as in a set of irons.
New Level Golf 1031 Forged Irons
Hats off to the new golf company, New Level Golf for winning the Hooked on Golf Blog 2018 Golf Equipment Product of the Year Award. The 1031 forged irons outshined many great golf products reviewed in 2018. The irons are as buttery and deadly accurate as they are stunningly attractive.
Congratulations to New Level Golf. The HOG awards are some of the most prestigious and exclusive golf awards in the industry.
I look forward to checking out some more products from New Level Golf in 2019.
What a fun time I’ve had “working” on this review, and rejuvenating my love of the game of golf at the same time. You see, for the last 2-3 years I’ve been playing “iron roulette” between my old 2001 Hogans and many other modern models, several custom fit to my swing. The quality level of my iron play has been slowly dying and it has been all I could muster not to bail on golf and take up something less painful, like plucking my own fingernails out with a pair of pliers. My greens in regulation tanked to the lowest of lows this spring. I realized how bad it was after reviewing the Shot Scope GPS watch and shot tracker. 20% greens in regulation isn’t going to cut it. My scores had gotten worse and worse but the most frustrating part was the poor contact. The feel of bad shots was driving me nuts. I started calling myself “Colonel Klank.”
Enter New Level Golf
I had discovered New Level Golf on Twitter earlier in the year and lustfully looked at their super sharp looking selection of forged irons, almost daily. At the time of this post, New Level offers three sets of irons: 610, 902 and 1031. They also make high end wedges, and I hope to be reviewing those later.
Thankfully I somehow manifested a set of the 1031 Forged irons to review. Typically New Level irons are custom fit to the player. Since there was no place near me which dealt New Level, and since all of the fittings I’d had in the past were failures, we decided to go standard loft and lie with KBS Tour 105 steel shafts.
1031 Forged Irons
The 1031 Forged Irons are super strong irons with a mid-sized forged head. The heads are forged out of 1020 carbon steel. The fine details and texturing is milled. I must say, the milling looks fantastic. The head has such a unique look.
The 1031 is what I’d call a muscle cavity back. It’s a cavity back iron but has a lot of muscle (mass/steel) at the bottom of the head. The topline of the club is thin while the sole is wide. This design puts more of the club’s mass very low and and back. A low center of gravity makes it easier for the player to launch the ball higher and in more control.
When I said strong I meant it. The lofts, even by modern standards, are very strong. The pitching wedge is 44 degrees of loft. Old school pitching wedges are often in the 48 degree range with more “modern” ones clocking in at 46.
I chose the KBS Tour 105 steel shaft. I’m quite happy with that choice. I feel like it provides consistent feel and control and is suitable for my swing speed (driver around 95-100mph). Other than the Tour 105’s there are many shaft options, none of which cost any extra money to upgrade to. Some of the key shafts available are from Aerotech, Fujikura, KBS Tour, True Temper, Project X.
The default grip provided is a “New Level” model by Lamkin. It’s a decent grip to start with, but I’ll be changing that out soon. I tend to be very picky with my grips, and because of the golfer’s elbow issues I’ve battled with over the years. There are many other Lamkin grip models available.
Every aspect of New Level’s irons is customizable: loft, lie, shaft model, shaft flex, shaft length, grip style.
Countless times on the course I’ve had golfers walk up to my bag and ask about my irons. They are visually stunning. The 1031’s are a pleasure to look at and when standing over them, they definitely help build confidence. Lack of confidence in irons is death. Total death.
The feel of the 1031’s is terrific. The perimeter weighting and low center of gravity help increase forgiveness. I can sense where on the club face I’m making contact and make adjustments when my swing changes, as needed. Naturally, as with any club, hitting the sweet spot results in perfect distance, trajectory, and accuracy. Shots which are not quite perfect still come off like a rocket. Very little, if any distance is lost depending on how far from center mis-hits are.
I’ve been spending the summer getting used to the 1031’s and I’m gaining more and more confidence in trying to “work” the ball and control the trajectory. “Working the ball” refers to controlling left-to-right or right-to-left curves. Trajectory is what angle of ascent the ball takes off from the club. Since I play many tree-lined courses, I’m often having to hit low shots under trees when I don’t place my drive in the proper place. So far so good. Still work to do.
I’ve gamed the 1031’s in a very wide variety of conditions. My current home conditions are very soft and heavily watered due to the summer heat and the attempts of greenskeepers to keep the grass green. In these conditions I’m able to throw darts with the 1031’s and watch them stick when they hit the green, even the long irons.
I also had the pleasure of playing the 1031’s in very different conditions at Bandon Dunes Golf resort. Bandon Dunes is “hard and fast” where the fairways and greens are so firm that it is nearly impossible to take a divot. Tight lies abound and there’s plenty of wind. Think Scotland. In those conditions low punch shots are best. I was able to club down and follow through lower to execute low punches and running shots, instead of the high shots needed for soft conditions.
I still have some work to do with the 1031’s in certain conditions. If I come down too quickly or too far behind the ball in thick rough the club can grab hard, killing distance and sometimes shutting the face down and sending the ball left. I need to make sure my angle of ascent to the ball is right on in those situations.
The New Level Golf 1031 Forged Irons are precision golf instruments which offer fantastic feel, accuracy, control, and massive distance. They’ve rekindled my game and helped me resurrect my greens in regulation by 40%.
Don’t be afraid to try forged irons. Some golfers hear the word “forged” and think the clubs are too hard to hit or are only for scratch players or pros. That is far from the case with the 1031’s from New Level Golf. The 1031’s design helps the golfer launch the ball easier, longer and more accurately.
New Level Golf image gallery
Last week was painful for two reasons. First, I’d had a major flareup of tendonitis in a tournament. The pain was so bad I couldn’t even take a club out of my bag with my right arm. So I had to take a break from hitting any kind of balls, pound the ibuprofen, ice the hell out of it, and wear an arm brace. The first day of my rest was naturally the day the New Level 1031 forged irons arrived for me to review. I tried to give them a go a couple days later, but 4-5 balls into a bucket I had to bail. It took a week to get back to being able to hit a ball, with my old arm brace back on. Yesterday I hit a bucket with the irons, then hit the course for 18 holes.
I hit balls from the south end of the range, which faces due north. There was a solid 2-3 club wind right in my face. I like hitting into the wind on the range because the wind magnifies any unwanted spin on the ball. A small slice spin dead into a 2-3 club wind will kill the distance and force the ball offline considerably. I started with some pitching wedges which were very solid and straight. I moved to 8-irons and was killing them dead on line with virtually zero sidespin. Straight into the wind 8 after 8 was on a laser right at my target. I continued to move down the line, hitting each club down to the 4-iron. Solid. The only really bad shot I hit was the last range ball. That brought me back to reality I suppose.
I continued hitting solid shots on the course. I hit a solid 7-iron onto the par-5 first from 189 yards, with a tailwind. Nice two-putt birdie. On a few holes I laid up with 4-iron off the tee with great success. Other highlights included a 8-iron to the par-5 13th from 170, and solid 7-iron to the par-3 18th.
I did have some bad shots. The round wasn’t all unicorns. There were a couple of pulls, my default miss. And a couple of heavy shots out of the rough where I caught a little too much grass. I attribute those to simple swing breakdowns.
To be able to shoot a 75 in my first full round with the New Level 1031’s is very promising. Especially following an injury were I could barely grip a corn chip hard enough to scoop up some guacamole. I feel like with these irons and shafts I can swing aggressively and with confidence. I’m still dialing in the distance as these do definitely go farther than my previous gamers.
I look forward to really dialing these in and hope to finally fix what has turned into the weakest link of my game, greens in regulation. I’ve got two club championships and a trip to Bandon Dunes coming up within two months. Time to nail it down.
I’m extremely excited to share that I’ve got a set of New Level Golf’s 1031 Forged Irons in for review. New Level Golf is a new company which makes three different sets of dead sexy irons, as well as offering a wedge line (hope to review those as well).
New Level irons are different from many other forged clubs in that they’re forged from one piece of steel, then CNC milled to their final appearance. Look closely at the milling in the images. I did my best to try and capture the fine details of the milling in the photos.
I hurt my arm this past weekend in a tournament. I think it is a quick, bad flareup of golfer’s elbow or some extremely strained muscles.
I’m trying to find my old tennis elbow brace so I can try and give Wednesday league a go this week. It’s going to be painful not to try these beauties, but I hope trying them isn’t painful. That would be a shame. UPDATE: Found it!
Stay tuned here and on the Hooked on Golf Blog Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for some more “live” updates from my testing on the range and the course with these beauties. I’ll be testing for several weeks, then posting my full review.
New Level Golf website
New Level photo gallery