Top Flite has been building excellent irons for quite some time. Their “Tour” irons have always had a reputation for being strong hitting, versatile irons that work well for a wide range of players. The middle-class image of the Spalding and Top Flite names have apparently always prevented the irons from being as successful as they deserved to be. Released in 2000, the new XL 2000 irons represented a design departure for Top Flite. They are very large, game improvement irons that are obviously directed at mid- to high-handicappers.
The heads of the XL 2000’s are constructed from Titan Steel, an ultra-hard stainless steel alloy that is actually stronger than many titanium blends. This added hardness allows for a wider, thinner face that maintains its structural rigidity while providing good feel characteristics. A modified version of Top Flite’s unique, four-way cambered sole is present, but the crescent-shaped impact bar in the back of the cavities that was included in all previous Top Flite irons is gone. The new moniker was selected to capitalize upon the great success of the XL 2000 ball line. So far, the XL 2000’s have not been a great sales success. Our testing has shown that they should be. We suspect that their lack of immediate success is probably due to the unexceptional appearance of the XL’s. They look nice. Everyone likes their looks. There’s nothing unattractive here. The XL 2000’s just seem to be a bit ordinary looking – sort of like a Plymouth or a Chevy. The “up” side to this is that Top Flite has been sweetening deals recently to encourage buyers to select the XL 2000’s.
The review process for the Top Flite XL 2000’s was a simple one. Opinions were about as uniform as they come. We had five mid- to high-handicapped testers hit the XL’s. All five testers thought that they looked good – not great, but good. They especially liked the Top Flite velvet-style grips. All five testers liked the way that they the irons felt at impact. All five testers hit them well and found them to be very consistent and very forgiving. Not one member of the group expressed any aversion to playing them on the course. Three of the testers ranked them as among their very favorite game-improvement irons. The XL 2000’s hit strong with easy consistency – that was the prevailing sentiment.
We had thought that the large head sizes would be a turnoff to some, but that was not the case. The XL’s do not hit like clunky, jumbo-sized irons. Little about these irons felt unwieldy. From a tee, they were particularly friendly to use. The four-way cambered sole helps reduce turf drag substantially. From the heavy rough, the XL’s are adequate, but the wide clubfaces do make the hitter pay a moderate toll. Compared to smaller-headed, sole-weighted irons, the Top Flite’s are not as lively when ripping through the thick stuff. They get the job done, however. These Top Flite’s certainly will not appeal to players partial to small-headed cavity-blades, but such players were never intended to be part of the XL 2000’s target market.
Of the testers who used the XL 2000’s, two are of particular interest. One eighteen-year old is our least talented tester. Matt is a big, strong kid with extensive baseball experience. He is a raw hacker when it comes to golf. He likes to pound golf balls here at the range, but that’s about it. Hitting woods has always been enjoyable, but the art of irons playing had almost completely eluded him. We set him up with the XL’s to see how they would do as beginners’ clubs. Bingo. He was soon hitting 5-irons to the 200 pin. Not long afterwards, to the 215 pin. His comment, “These are the only irons I’ve ever been able to hit.” The large, solid looking heads relaxed and reassured him. For the first time, he became a player someone would be willing to accompany to the golf course – well, almost.
The other tester who took a particular shine to the Top Flite’s was one of our principle testers. Dennis is a low-mid handicapper who has extensively hit every single iron that has ever come through. He has been playing the Cobra Gravity Backs in stiff graphite for two years. Dennis has tried countless other sets, but has always stayed with his Cobra’s. The XL 2000’s have been in his bag for two weeks now. While lengths and trajectories between the two sets have been very similar, the Top Flite’s have proven to be more consistent in their patterns. He continues to prefer the look and feel of his Gravity Back’s, but has found that the less aggressive approach of the XL’s has a soothing effect on his swing. They are very stable and launch the ball well with little effort. Dennis is a strong 45-year old who hits an 8-iron from 150 to 160 yards. He is a good irons player, but due to stance irregularities, his impact pattern on the face of an iron is wider than it should be. The expanded cavities of the XL’s provide him with excellent amounts of shot correction on mishits. They are very forgiving irons that align intuitively for him.
It is not yet certain that the steel-shafted Top Flite’s will completely usurp the graphite-shafted Cobra’s from Dennis’s bag. At the range, they are the clearly the most consistently accurate irons he has ever hit. On the course, this tendency towards consistent accuracy has thrown him a bit. He’s getting too careful in his swing as he tries to guide balls directly at tight pin positions he had hitherto avoided. Also, Dennis is a little bit annoyed by the fact that he is drawn to such prosaic looking irons. He would much prefer being successful with a high-end, luxury set.
Top Flite XL 5000
Top Flite XL 7000
Overall, all of our testers have found the XL 2000’s to be very enjoyable to hit. Feel is much more solid than the massive size of the cavity would indicate that it might be. Most expanded sweetspots lose more vigor than do those of the XL’s. The super-hard Titan Steel used in the head helps puts a little spark back into that feel that doubtlessly would have been missing had the heads been made of regular stainless steel. The progressive offsets are not so exaggerated as to make accuracy a problem for stronger hitters. They have proven to be appropriate for most players. The long irons have shown themselves to be very easy to hit well. Trajectories for all clubs have been ideal. Lengths have been quite good for a steel-shafted iron, especially one that is a tad shorter than most modern irons. Chipping has required some adjustment due to the large head sizes, but the cambered soles are effective in preventing stubbing.
All in all, we recommend the Top Flite XL 2000’s to anyone in search of a user-friendly iron. These are good irons with which to learn the game. Numerous custom configurations are available on special order. (See Top Flite.com for details) Strangely, there is no Senior flex available in standard steel or graphite shafts. We have not hit the graphite versions, but the steel-shafted regular’s are a bit too firm for many slow swingspeed seniors. The Ladies’ version uses an Light flex, but has a slightly different head style. It is available only in graphite.