What are the Best Golf Irons?
Irons are probably not the flashiest clubs in a golfer's kit. Drivers and putters get more attention than irons since they are used to start and end a round of golf. But everything else that you do between the tee and the green, you will need a set of irons. "Workhorse" is a term that is often employed to describe irons, and for a good reason too. If you are a beginner, you need to be especially careful when looking to buy your first set of irons, because of several reasons. For starters, irons are not sold individually but is sets of up to nine clubs. And there are different kinds of irons suitable for players of different skill levels, and you don't want to end up with an expensive set that messes up your game. Keeping that in mind, we will review some of the best golf irons on sale in 2017, which includes:
An Introduction To IronsIrons are probably the first golf clubs that you ever wield when you take up the sport. They can be used virtually anywhere on a hole, from the tee (a long iron), on the fairway and in the rough, and when you get stuck in a sand bunker, or even in shallow water (any of the wedges). They have shorter shafts and are differentiated based on the angle of loft on their clubface. Higher lofted clubs will launch the ball higher into the air. You will commonly see iron sets that say something like "3-PW" or "4-PW, SW". This short overview of the different types of irons will clear up any confusion you may have:
Long ironsThese are the irons with the lowest loft and most extended shafts. Imagine a par 6 hole where you have a couple of hundreds of yards to cover even after you tee off with your 3-wood or driver. This is where you might find a long iron useful. Long irons are numbered 1 through 4, but 1 and 2-irons are not that common. Long irons are harder to hit with, and are being replaced by the more forgiving hybrids these days.
Mid IronsMid Irons: Irons from 5 to 7 are considered the mid irons, and these are much more beginner friendly, thanks to their shorter shafts and higher lofts. If you find yourself of hilly courses where you need the ball to climb high into the air on your second or third shot from the fairway (on a par 4 and above hole), you will have to reach for a mid iron. You can also use a mid-iron from the tee if you have a hazard within the range of your trusty driver.
Short IronsThese are the easiest clubs in business with their short shafts and low range. When you want the ball to climb high in the air and land softly within a distance of 150 yards, you use a short iron. Think trees, or small hillocks that you need the ball to sail over, and you get the idea. These irons can also be used to get the ball rolling on the green if you are just a few yards away, using the "bump and run" technique where you use the short iron with a putting motion. The ball will fly a few yards in the air and land in the green with a rolling motion. Numbers 8 and 9 are usually considered the short irons, and the pair is always available with steel shafts.
WedgesThese are to irons what a driver is to fairway woods. Technically, they are still irons, but they are considered specialized clubs and are often sold separately. They have very high lofts and range shorter than 120 yards. If you need the ball to launch high into the air and land without rolling, wedges are what you would use. Wedges include the Pitching Wedge (PW, basically a 10 iron), the Gap Wedge (GW), the Sand Wedge (SW) and the Lob Wedge (LW). We will discuss wedges separately in another guide. Even the best golf irons will do next to nothing to improve your game on their own. Along with the correct equipment, swing and stance is also important in golf. YouTube is a great resource for guides on how to hit irons with the perfect swing. For instance, check this video out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKqbi2VsszM
Irons Buying Guide: Blades Vs. Cavity BacksGolf clubs like irons and woods got their names from the materials used in their manufacture in the past. Fairway woods were usually made from the wood of the Persimmon tree. Irons, on the other hand, were forged from a single piece of metal, usually iron, hence the name. The traditional forged irons are called blades or muscle backs because of the way the thin clubheads look. They are considered to be better player irons, and you will see them regularly on the Pro circuit. Blade irons are best left alone if you are a beginner or high handicapper since they are very unforgiving and will punish you for all those off center shots. You might consider getting these once your handicap starts pushing closer to single digits. Cavity backs are modern irons manufactured using the cheaper casting process. They get this name from a hollow behind the clubface. This void at the back puts more weight on the corners/edge of the clubface, enlarging the sweet spot, making them ideal for beginners and high handicappers. Cavity backs fall into the category of game improvement clubs and are recommended for high handicappers.
Irons Vs. Hybrids?Hybrids are an easier alternative to the long irons, which are insanely difficult to master. They are a great addition to any club set, thanks to their extreme versatility. Regarding utility, they straddle the line between long irons and fairway woods. Game improvement iron sets with hybrids are available from almost all the great manufacturers. A typical hybrid iron set well have hybrid clubs replacing the 3, 4 and 5-irons. Should you buy a hybrid iron set of a traditional cavity back iron set? Hybrids will make the game easier for you and are highly recommended if this is to be your first ever set.
Iron Sets and Loft Spacing Guide4-iron to PW is a very standard set configuration. Some manufacturers even provide the option to buy additional wedges. Check the spacing of progressive loft angles on each club in an iron set. The loft spacing determines the distance gap between clubs. If you have a set with irregular spacing, you will sooner or later end up in a situation where you don't have the ideal club for a particular distance shot. The average recommended spacing is 4 degrees between each club for optimal performance, which translates roughly into 15 yards at their maximum range. But if you are a long hitter with good distance on your shots, consider reducing the loft spacing by a degree to 3. Conversely, if you consistently hit your shots short, increase the spacing by 5 degrees for better gapping.
1. Callaway Men's Apex CF16 Iron Set
The Apex badge denotes a premium, high-end series of forged irons from Callaway Golf. The Apex CF16 is marketed as a game improvement set, but this is a set strictly for better mid-handicap players with their handicaps closer to the 10-point mark.
Callaway has incorporated multi-material technology from their drivers into these irons and that Cup Face technology does make a serious difference in the distance department.
These could be the best game improvement irons for low to mid handicappers if they are willing to sacrifice some forgiveness for a boost in the distance on shots. These irons are available in configurations ranging from 4-PW to 6-PW, with graphite or steel shafts, and with optional Gap or Sand Wedges.
What we like
- Premium looking clubs with a matte satin chrome finish and black badging.
- They are more forgiving than pure blade irons, and give good feedback and feel.
- The distance improvement from the driver technology is palpable, with at least 15 yards gained on each shot.
- A wide variety of configuration options is available.
What we dislike
- They are rather expensive.
- The irons are quite long, and have very compact heads, making them unsuitable for players with higher handicaps above 13 or 14.
2. Cobra King F7 Single Length Iron Set
This is a busy iron as far as incorporated technology is concerned, with no less than four different styles involved. While the long irons have hollow backs (3-5), the mid irons have half-hollow (6-7), the short irons are cavity backs (8-PW), and the wedges are bladed.
What it means is that each iron is optimized for the job at hand. But it may not be everybody’s cup of tea, as there are golfers out there who like some uniformity throughout their iron sets.
As if to counter all that diversity, Cobra has kept the shaft lengths uniform across the set. But we feel that this could backfire as it will further polarize the opinion among golfers, even though there is keen interest in the concept these days.
What we like
- Excellent accuracy and forgiveness, make these ideal mid handicapper irons.
- The combination of variable head design and single length seems to give a unique feel to this iron set.
- Good looking set of irons with minimalistic design and badging.
- Quite affordable with mid-range pricing.
What we dislike
- The single length shafts will take some time to get used to, and might require a visit to a clubfitter.
- The distance game does suffer somewhat, probably due to the increased forgiveness.
- Less choice as far as set configuration is concerned.
3. TaylorMade M2 Irons
With face slots reducing the Center of Gravity and improving accuracy and distance, this iron set could very well be on the top of the best game improvement irons pile this year.
The multi-material clubheads have been optimized with tungsten weights, and we felt a tangible improvement in both overall feel, feedback and shot distance. The shorter irons and wedges have a traditional cavity back design and perform well enough. The exceptionally well made set is available in a wide variety of configurations, from 4-PW to 5-PW, with additional options for wedges.
What we like
- Consistent improvement in every department, from the distance to height, and feedback.
- Excellent forgiveness makes this an ideal choice for mid-handicap players.
- They look great and sound great too.
- There is a decent amount of choice, with the option of additional wedges.
What we dislike
- If we were to nitpick, the wedges could have been better.
- The spin levels are a bit on the lower side and might affect shots onto the green while using the longer irons.
4. Callaway Men's Big Bertha Iron Set
If you want some generous help and forgiveness from your irons as a beginner, this set of irons from Callaway might be the ideal choice. They belong to the super game improvement category, which includes the best golf irons for beginners.
These Big Bertha irons have almost ridiculously huge clubheads that offer maximum forgiveness and ball speed. If you are early in your life as a golfer, we feel that this set ideal for you. Callaway even gives you the option of a hybrid set, with 3-5 hybrids replacing the long irons.
What we like
- Extremely forgiving clubs with large faces and large sweet spots.
- Has the option for choosing hybrid clubs instead of long irons.
- The sound is among the best in this category.
- The longer irons/hybrids also give a good distance on shots from the fairway.
What we dislike
- Not the best looking irons, but that is a common complaint about super game improvement irons.
- The feedback suffers due to increased forgiveness.
- Not suitable if you are a mid-handicapper, there are better options available.
5. Wilson Velocity HDX Iron Set
As a beginner, you don’t necessarily have to buy the most expensive set of clubs to have fun on the course. The Wilson Velocity is a clean and straightforward set of steel irons ideal for starters and high handicappers.
Priced attractively and with excellent build quality, they offer a fair bit of forgiveness without looking unduly awkward. These irons fall squarely into the game improvement category with their undercut cavity design.
Though there are no configuration options in the 8 club set, we feel that they could be considered the best golf clubs for the money that is being asked of you.
What we like
- Sober and clean looking set of steel irons.
- Excellent forgiveness and improved flight on each shot.
- The steel shafts offer excellent control and feedback.
- A basic irons set that is suitable for beginners and even mid-handicappers.
What we dislike
- Not the best in the business at anything.
- The set offers no configuration choices at all.
- There are no options for hybrid clubs or graphite shafts.
The market for golfing irons is a pretty complex landscape. Newer products are released every passing month in a variety of categories that target specific player demographics.
In our shortlist, we have tried to provide the top performers from a variety of categories. While the Apex C16 might be considered as the best golf irons for aspiring players/low handicappers, the Big Bertha is unapologetically focused on high handicappers.
The Wilson Velocity is a fantastic budget choice for beginners, while the Cobra King F7 is for those who are adventurous enough to try something a bit different. But in our opinion, the top pick amongst them all has to be the TaylorMade M2, simply because we could not find many things to criticize.
The irons offer above average performance across the whole set, and there is a healthy amount of choice in configurations.
If you want the best golf irons for mid handicappers and don’t need hybrids, the M2 could be the best performing set for you.