The players distance iron category isn't all that old, but it's quickly evolved into a favorite among manufacturers because it allows them to offer more forgiving, tech-forward clubs to golfers who had long convinced themselves they shouldn't be buying irons with those kinds of specs.
However, even in the brief life of the category, two sub-categories have emerged. There are players distance irons that are more geared toward retaining a players iron shape and offering enhance performance, and there are player's distance irons that are borderline game-improvement irons in a more acceptable aesthetic.
With their new TR21X irons, Honma is leaning into distance for better players.
The TR21X is a successor to the T World TW-X players distance iron, looking to deliver an iron that launches high, spins low in the longer irons and carries far through the bag.
Just like many irons in the category, the TR21X looks like a blade, but it's really a hollow-body iron. The blade is a little big longer than the TR20OP and inspired aesthetically by the TR20B. The back of the iron is going to make a golfer think of some utility irons and maybe aesthetic from competitors, but the shaping creates more of a gradual angle from back of the sole to the back of the topline, almost looking like a right triangle if you look at it from the side view.
Inside, though, is where players distance irons are different. The foam backing injected behind the face helps the flexing, L-shaped insert deliver higher ball speeds and dials in acoustics and feel. The tungsten ported into the toe and low-and-back in the cavity -- with increasing amounts going from long irons (42 grams) to mid-irons (50 grams) to short irons (73 grams) -- drives down the center of gravity for higher launch characteristics and a steeper landing despite slightly stronger lofts. Tungsten also hikes the moment of inertia (MOI) to improve ball speeds across the face.
Typically the goal with face inserts in irons is to make them as thin as possible to create more trampoline effect and ramp up ball speeds. Honma believes, though, that a face that's too thin can work against those goals, so they settled in a 2.2 mm of thickness for the insert. That's nowhere near thinnest, but it should offer more consistency from strike to strike and prevent more fliers.
The Honma TR21X irons are available Nov. 1 for $188 per club in Nippon NSPro 95 NEO steel shafts and for $212 per club with proprietary Sakata Vizard shafts, though plenty of other options are available.