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First Look: 2017 Bridgestone JGR CB Forged Irons

The 20 Second Intro

Model: Bridgestone JGR CB Forged Irons
Available Lofts: 5-AW
Stock Shaft: True Temper XP 95
Retail Price: $899.00 steel, $949.00 graphite
Availability: 11/1/2016

If you’re a lover of forged irons, it’s hard to go wrong with Bridgestone. You’ll have to work some to find them, but those who do nearly always say the performance is well worth the effort.

With that said, yesterday’s stealth announcement of the new JGR CB Forged irons is kind of confusing. Bridgestone has been telling us for months that the J15 lineup is coming to the end of its two-year product cycle (never mind that the J15 lineup came out 4 years after its predecessor, the J40 series – but that’s another story), and that a new batch of player’s irons, wedges, and metal woods are on the way.

Bridgestone says the JGR CB Forged irons are for the mid- to high handicapper, but are these the direct replacements for the J15 CB irons? The look is somewhat similar, and Bridgestone’s press release compares them straight up with the J15 CB’s, but Bridgestone touts the J15’s as being for professionals to mid-handicap amateurs.

So what in the name of Brandt Snedeker is going on?

A CB GI?

Most OEM’s slot their iron offerings into three basic categories: Super Game Improvement, regular Game Improvement, and Better Player’s irons. Many have two offerings in each category. Bridgestone has traditionally bucked that trend by offering a series of forged choices for the mid- to low- handicapper; to wit, the J15 series. Bridgestone bucked its own bucked trend this past January with the JGR Forged Hybrid irons, essentially a Super-Duper Game Improvement iron with the same forged feel as the J15 Forged series.

So, is the JGR CB a Game Improvement iron or a forgiving player’s cavity back?

It depends on how you keep score.

The new JGR CB’s feature 75% more offset than the J15 CB’s, for higher trajectory. That alone may say Game Improvement, but keep reading. The head itself is traditionally shaped and sized, free from all of the visual technology OEM’s like to load into their GI offerings.

“It’s very unique in that it’s a combination of both looks and forgiveness. At address, it looks good. You obviously notice more offset, but in terms of the lines and the shape, the overall theme of the club is definitely clean.” – Dominic Selfa, Bridgestone Golf Marketing Coordinator, Golf Clubs

Bridgestone also says the hitting area is a tad larger than the J15 CB’s, which translates to a slightly larger head size and presumably a bit more forgiveness. And while it’s hard to tell from the pictures provided, Bridgestone says the JGR CB’s sole is slightly wider for smoother turf interaction, the rear mass is more tapered for a lower center of gravity and easier launching, and the face is longer heel-to-toe for increased MOI, again all compared to the J15 CB’s.

So it’s a replacement for the J15 CB right?

bridgestone-jgr-cb-forged-irons-3

Well, Maybe Not…

Another clue as to where the JGR CB’s lie is in the set makeup. It’s available only as a 7-club set in 5-iron thru AW, so even if you wanted one, you could not buy a 3- or a 4-iron.“We decided to go that route because of the set’s key demographics,” says Selfa.

Clearly, the target audience is golfers who don’t bag long irons.

Then there’s the stock shaft: Bridgestone is using the lightweight True Temper XP 95, a high launch, medium spin, 95-gram shaft aimed at golfers with deliberate tempos who may need a little help getting the ball up in the air. The standard J15 CB set, on the other hand, is 4-PW with an optional 3-iron. The Tour-weighted DG Pro shaft is stock, so getting the ball up in the air is pretty much your responsibility.

And check out the JGR CB’s specs. “The lofts are strong,” says Selfa. “So the 5-iron is really more like a 4-and-a-half iron.”

jgr-cb-iron-specs1

So it’s a GI iron, right?

Not so fast. Consider the look of the JGR CB’s. According to purists, the problem with Game Improvement irons is the jazzed-up appearance: big heads with colorful badges and garish color schemes are the norm, but those cosmetic baubles are nowhere to be found on the JGR CB. It’s a clean, simple design that would make any Better Player tingle, with a head size only 4% larger than the J15 CB’s.

Also, the JGR CB’s top line does not appear to be much thicker than that of the J15 CB’s, if at all. Again, it’s hard to tell from the available pictures, so we’ll have to wait until we have in-hand samples to compare really, but from what we can tell, the top line says Better Player.

Then There’s The Name…

 When the JGR driver and Forged Hybrid irons came out last in January, Bridgestone indicated the JGR nomenclature (for you scoring at home, JGR stands for Japan Gravitational Rapidity) would be reserved for their Game Improvement offerings. It also indicated the Game Improvement offerings would follow an every-other-year product cycle, alternating with Better Player offerings.

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So the calendar says 2017 should be the year of Better Player clubs for Bridgestone. Despite that, Bridgestone does confirm the JGR CB Forged irons are most definitely in the Game Improvement family, just without the visual sideshow that usually comes with GI irons. They’re clean and simple and offer mid- to high-handicappers that forged feel goodness Bridgestone is known for. And while they most likely won’t be quite as ridiculously easy to hit as the JGR Forged Hybrid irons (and Lord are those easy to hit), the JGR CB’s are intended to provide GI level forgiveness in a comparatively compact package.

As for Bridgestone’s plans to update its Better Player offerings, Selfa says the new lineup is in the works. An updated line has already been introduced in Japan, but all we’ve seen in North America are a few drivers that have made the USGA Conforming list. Earlier this year we heard rumblings the new Tour-level line would carry the “B” name. We even saw limited edition B-330 balls with the Bridgestone “B” as the logo.

We should expect to see Bridgestone’s new Better Player lineup later this year, or even early next year, perhaps coinciding with the PGA Show in January. Will those offerings be the B series, or does Bridgestone have something else up its sleeve?

As is often the case, we’ll have to simply wait and see. But expect a complete overhaul of the 2-year old J15 lineup, including updated wedges, iron sets, and metal woods.

Price and Availability

The JGR CB Forged Irons will retail at $899 in steel and $949 in graphite. Bridgestone has an array of shaft and grip options, some at no upcharge and others at a premium. The irons are listed on Bridgestone’s website now, and will available for purchase online and at retailers starting November 1st.

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