Bridgestone J40 Cavity Back Irons Review

Sometimes some names are known for one thing and one thing only. That thing could be good or bad and breaking out of that stigma or even expanding out of it can be no small task. Take Bridgestone for instance. In the world of golf, most people associate them with golf balls targeted to every skill level and after over 141,000 live golf ball fittings I’d say that’s a fair correlation. Now what happens when a company like Bridgestone steps out of that comfort zone and begins to put the same dedication and quality into golf clubs? THP got a chance to see firsthand when Bridgestone sent their new J40 Cavity Back irons to test out. Did they build upon their golf ball success or is it back to the golf ball drawing board? Check it out.

From the Company
• Premium Forged 1020 carbon steel
• Compact head with higher face progression for tour control and feel
• Relief at trailing edge, leading edge, toe, and heel for improved versatility
• Project X flighted shaft

Click each picture for a larger image

Look
OK raise your hand, have you ever had love at first sight? You’re lying. Especially if you can see the picture above because in some states it’s illegal to look at that kind of sexiness. The J40 Cavity Back irons are some of the most sexy irons I’ve ever seen in print or in person. Believe me, pictures do not do not do these irons any justice whatsoever. Holding these irons in person really makes you respect quality craftsmanship and design. You almost feel guilty in a way because you hate to know that you’re going to get these things dirty at some point. The club head has a combination of a satin chrome finish on the club face and on the cavity back, but just above the cavity back there’s a nice brushed/matte look that compliments and accents the overall look of these irons. The satin chrome finish of the club head stretches from the club face and goes clear round to that cavity back that has never made technology look and feel so cool.

The first thing you’re drawn to is the cavity back itself. It appears to be a part of the club itself as it looks like it was made with the club and not for the club. The cavity back looks modern and yet classic all the while maintaining its sex appeal but never losing sight of its true job to help you get the ball in the air with some sort of forgiveness. A small detail that needs mentioning is that this cavity back is seamless and has no gaps in it between itself and the club head. No need to get its pretty little self dirty right? The laser etched Bridgestone ‘B’ is an elegantly cool touch that completes the overall look of the club.

After you catch your breath from the cavity back, you’ll now find yourself checking out the stock (yes, stock) Project X flighted shaft. Some people may say ‘Hanks, it’s just a shaft!’ Right, and the Mona Lisa is just a painting. The look of the Project X flighted shaft just seems to work with the overall design of the club and makes a nice pairing with the club head.

So let’s do a quick recap, you’ve got a first class club head design and a first class flighted shaft to go along with it. That’s a lot of good looking technology at your disposal isn’t it? Let’s talk about that technology real quick.

Technology
As I alluded to already, there’s a lot of technology in this sexy package that is the J40 Cavity Back irons. It all starts with the club head and only gets better from there. The club head itself is compact, clean looking, and sports a thinner top line that is sure to please even the most discerning eye. That compact head gradually increases in size as you progress up the set. This is designed to allow the lucky golfer who has these clubs in their bag to have greater control in the scoring irons and pitching wedge. This is done seamlessly and unless you’re looking for such a thing, you’ll never even notice it. I think that’s really important to the golfer as well. There’s already enough things going through your head, why add ‘hey, is my 8 iron slightly bigger than my 6 iron?’ The iron set (5-PW) has evenly distributed lofts in 4 degree increments that should make it easy to add wedges to compliment the J40 pitching wedge. Hmmm, perhaps the J40 wedges? 3 and 4 irons are sold separately but obtainable from Bridgestone directly if needed as well.

Now, about that stock Project X flighted shaft. The difference in the regular Project X shaft and the Project X flighted shaft is that there is an exaggerated change in kick point within each of the flighted shafts. What does all of that mean? It means that you have a near customized set of iron shafts that you can pick right off the shelf. The long irons have a lower kick point for a higher ball flight (gets the ball in the air faster), easy launch and greater distance. The short irons have a higher kick point which will give a lower ball flight but with more accuracy and control. The J40 CB irons I tested came with a Project X 6.0 flighted shaft and here are those individual specifications for this great shaft:

Now that you have all the ingredients for this iron set, let’s look at the baking process and see if they come together as a soufflé or as a fruitcake for me.

Testing
Testing set up: 5-PW bent 1 degree up with stock Project X 6.0 flighted shafts and stock Golf Pride Tour Velvet grips.

Hitting these irons during the testing period gave me a little bit of everything. I had good moments, bad moments, and more importantly I learned a bit about the progression of my golf game. I’m going to explain the testing process as if I was lining up to take a shot and hit on the thoughts I had as well as the subsequent results.

First, when you set up to the ball with the J40 CB’s you immediately notice the thin top-line and almost line it and the club head up to the target line without even thinking about it. You have some fleeting thoughts of ‘how are these skinny irons going to hit the ball with any sort of power?’ Then you remember you have the cavity back working for you so you don’t feel as worrisome as you did a second ago. I quickly remember the shape of the cavity back being an inverted triangle which actually helped me think of an aiming point and where the club should ideally meet the ball at impact.

As you draw the club back during your takeaway you remember the shape of the cavity back and this helps you take (or try to take) the club straight back from your target line. This may or not be the intention of Bridgestone in the design of these irons but I found this to be very helpful at times when my swing would begin to falter. Executing the swing after remembering all of these details is entirely up to you but I think these are all indirect ways to help you hit these irons better, if not well. Swinging these irons are not difficult at all. The weighting is great, although at times I thought you could feel the weight of the shaft more so than the club head. Every now and then it felt like the club head was lagging behind the shaft a bit but nothing too severe. I think that if the club head had slightly more weight to it that this would be the perfect balance of weighting.

Hitting the ball with these irons is a very precise process. Don’t worry I’m going to explain that a little more. Although these are a ‘cavity back’ iron I don’t think they act like your typical cavity back. At least not the ones I’ve hit in my golfing life. When you hit the ball flush the feeling, or lack thereof, is second to none. This is true of many clubs, yes, but where the difference lies to me is the forgiveness on the heel and toe of the club. Other cavity backs irons I’ve hit seem to carry the forgiveness out to the heel and toe on their clubs but the J40 Cavity Backs don’t seem to have as much in these areas as you may believe. The focus of the cavity back seems to be dead center and reached about half a ball width to the heel and toe. If you have any issues with not hitting the club face dead center or slightly missing it to either side of center then you may experience some forgiveness issues that may be covered by other cavity back designs. This gives the Bridgestone J40 Cavity Back irons somewhat of a players feel that matches well with the players look they have.

Performance? Oh yeah these have them but not what you may be thinking. Are these irons long hitting? For me and where my game is right now, no. In today’s age where stronger lofted irons are all the rage, these irons are sort of a ‘throw back’ to when lofts weren’t so strong. What does this mean? Results may vary for the individual but this tester found that the ‘higher lofts’ translated into less distance. How much? Maybe a full club up to a club and a half shorter compared to a stronger lofted iron set I’m currently playing. Where these irons make up for their lack of distance is found in their accuracy. While not point and shoot accurate, these were sure close. I became very mindful of my alignment because these irons will go where you aim and if your aim is off they will let you know it. In particular, I found the PW to be right on the money from 105-110 yards, the 9 iron to be rock solid from 115-120 yards, and the 8 iron spot on from 125-130. It’s a great feeling to know that you can have this sort of accuracy from your scoring irons and these sure provide that. Ball flight I found to be higher than I’d like and that could be a result of anything from the loft of the clubs, the flighted shaft, flighted shaft/loft combo, ball position, or angle of attack. No matter where I seemed to position the ball it wanted to get up and up in a hurry. I found this to be nice for the scoring irons which would help land the ball soft on the greens but found it a little troublesome with the longer irons.

However, you will see some considerable distance loss if you’re not hitting center/near-center with these clubs. Any exaggerated misses on the heel and toe with the J40 CB’s and you’ll know it right away by seeing your shot not go far in addition to the feeling you’ll have in your hands. While not a harsh feeling, it’s still a feeling that will tell you that you missed the sweet spot. Towards the end of my testing period I discovered that these irons responded best to ¾ shots vs full shots. This was something I discovered by accident yet out of necessity. I was having issues making solid contact and getting a good ball flight going with my normal full shot so I had to cut my swing down a little and once I did I noticed more consistent performance with these sexy clubs.

Overall
Bridgestone has done a good job with following up on its success with its ball fittings, its current line of golf balls with the introduction of the J40 line of clubs. If you have a consistent swing, are a good ball striker, and place a premium on accuracy then these irons are definitely worth a swing. The Bridgestone J40 Cavity Back irons retail for $699 and are available on www.Bridgestonegolf.com Click on over there and you’ll see a vast array of custom options for the J40 irons ranging from different shaft options as well as different grips. While you’re on their site check out to see if there may be a demo day near you and if so, hit these irons. There’s a little bit of something in these irons for everyone so see for yourself the kind of technology that Bridgestone has put in these irons. You’ll be glad you did, I know I was.

T. Hanks

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