What are the Best Irons For Mid Handicappers in 2018?
Let's face it:
A solid iron game can lead to more opportunities for birdies and pars, helping your game to break through to the next level.
In this article we compare and review the best irons for mid handicappers and discuss differences between the categories of players irons and game-improvement irons, helping you to narrow in on your ideal fit.
Let's dive in.
Our Roundup Selection
Editors Choice: Callaway Apex CF 16
A leader in the category of best putters for mid handicappers with their Odyssey line, Callaway makes a strong statement in the iron market with their Apex CF 16 set.
This set of irons is forged while incorporating the forgiveness of perimeter-weighting and face technology designed to add speed to off-center hits.
- 360 Face Cup technology, which provides consistent ball speed across the entire face of the club
- The progressive offset, sole widths, CG height and notch weighting, which offers a combination of forgiveness and playability
- Extremely precise quadruple net forging, precision milling, and 1025 mild carbon steel, which produces a soft feel and high level of reliability
- This set of irons is at the high end of the range of cost for this category
- Lacking in some of the ability to work the ball present in a true blade iron
Best Value: Titleist 716 AP1
Titleist has long been known as a leader in the golf ball market.
In recent years, the brand has produced some high-quality drivers, fairway woods, irons, wedges and putters that are also worthy of consideration as the leaders in their respective categories.
With the 716 AP1 set of irons, Titleist brings some innovative features and an attractive design to the market.
- An extreme 360° undercut cavity, which produces both higher speeds and launch, a combination which produces more distance
- High density tungsten construction materials, moves the center of gravity lower, which produces higher launch
- Perimeter-weighting, which stabilizes the club head at impact and produces more consistency
- Also available in a smoke finish, which allows you to customize the look of your irons
- At the higher end of the price range for the iron category
- Lacking in some of the playability associated with a pure blade iron
Best Seller: Srixon Z 565
Srixon is more known for their golf balls than club manufacturing. That might change very soon with the introduction of the Z 565 irons. These irons feature a number of unique features and are very aesthetically pleasing.
- Tour V.T. Sole, which has a sole grind design which cuts through the turf more efficiently, delivering more energy into the golf ball
- 1020 carbon steel body, which offers a strong and consistent feel throughout the set
- Double Laser Milling and 5% larger grooves, which provide more spin and control
- These irons are also at the top-end of the price range for iron sets
- Less of a track record in the iron market
- Lacking in the progressive center of gravity engineering that some brands feature
Worthy Competitor: TaylorMade M1
A leader in the categories of best drivers for mid handicappers and best fairway woods for mid handicappers,
TaylorMade brings an iron with a lot to offer players in the M1. A cavity back design with a number of other appealing features, the M1 irons are worth a look when considering your ideal fit.
- Speed Pocket Technology, which adds flex to the face and produces more ball speed
- Face Slots, which provide more forgiveness for shots struck away from the sweet spot
- A smaller club head than the M2 irons, which provides more shot-making capabilities for players who like to work the ball
- TaylorMade’s Geocoustic engineering, which produces a more pleasing sound at impact
- Another iron in this category which is priced in the upper-end of the market
- Lacking in some of the ability to work the ball as a pure blade
- Lacking in the progressive center of gravity technology that some brands feature
Worthy Competitor: Mizuno JPX 900 HM
Mizuno has long been known as a producer of quality iron sets, especially those of the blade variety in the players iron category.
With the JPX 900 Hot Metal irons, Mizuno brings a club that offers some of the forgiveness of a cavity back and some of the beauty and ability to work the ball of a blade.
- Utilization of new construction materials, which produces a stronger club head and soft feel
- New methods of construction, which produces greater ball speed and more forgiveness
- Sleek design, which provides aerodynamic benefits and an aesthetically pleasing iron
- Although not as expensive as some brands, these irons are still at the upper end of price range for the category
- Maybe, along with the Srixon Z 565 irons, the irons with the most ability to work the ball in our five reviewed iron sets, however, not as workable as the pure blade design
Although the blade design of irons used to be a much more prominent portion of the players category of irons, there are some manufacturers that still feature blade-type features in their design.
It is perhaps easiest to describe what a blade is when comparing it to the dominant style of iron design on the market today, the perimeter-weighted or cavity back design.
While the cavity back design moves weight out to the edges of the club head, which helps with forgiveness on off-center hits, the blade is a more uniform thickness from the center to the edge of the club head.
Generally, a blade starts thicker at the bottom of the club or sole, and tapers off to a thin top-edge.
Professional-level players will gravitate more towards a blade-style club head because they are not as worried about off-center hits, and have less of a need for the forgiveness that a cavity back design offers.
Low-handicap players also tend to like to be able to work or shape the ball flight more and the blade provides the ability to hit a wider range of shot shapes.
All of the forgiving features that are built into a cavity back design make it more likely to produce straighter shots, something that is sought after by the mid-to-high-handicap players, but perhaps not as needed or preferred by those who like to hit a wide range of shot shapes.
All that being said, nowadays, the cavity back design has taken a firm hold on even the players-style iron category, with the forgiveness and speed technology that is built into these irons winning out over shot shape versatility, even for some of the best players in the world.
Generally speaking, whether you are looking at the best irons for high handicappers in the category of super game improvement irons, the best irons for intermediate golfers in the category of best game improvement irons, or the best irons for professional-level players in the category of players irons, the cavity back design will almost always be featured in the conversation.
Center of gravity
One of the biggest trends on the market in the wedge and iron categories has been the concept of progressive center of gravity (CG).
This is a phrase that comes up regularly on websites of numerous manufacturers in the industry. The concept has to do with stability at the moment of impact (MOI) and launch angle.
By moving the center of gravity around in club heads, brands tout that this produces a more stable face, which produces a more reliable result.
Additionally, by moving the CG lower in the head, launch angle is heightened, making it easier to get the ball airborne.
Although sole grind is a more discussed feature in wedges, there are certain manufacturers who make it a point of emphasis in their iron sets as well. The sole of the club is the bottom portion that rests on the ground at address.
The grind of the sole refers to portions of a flat sole that have be ground out, with preferences for forgiveness and ability to cut through the turf.
Generally, a more forgiving club will feature a wider sole, which allows the club to bounce off the surface and skip more into the ball, reducing fat shots which produce little distance.
With the USGA placing restrictions on grooves, each brand has taken creative measures to offer the highest amount of spin possible that stays within the rules.
Very commonly, you will see manufacturers utilize laser etching between the grooves, in order to aid in the amount of spin that their clubs produce.
Each company also approaches the limitations in grooves through their own processes which claim to use stronger materials and more precision in the cutting machines that produce the grooves.
Finding the right shaft fit
Finding the right shaft for your irons is not something that will assist you in choosing the best iron head design for you on the market, however, it is a vital aspect of dialing in the right fit for your game.
When talking about shafts, we have both the material composition and the flex of the shaft to consider.
Basically, we have two material types to consider in finding the right shaft for your game.
The first option is steel, which provides a more solid and stable construction material and generally more weight.
Although, we should mention that manufacturers are able to build lighter weight steel shafts with a thinner shaft design. The second option is graphite, whose major innovation was being able to produce a lighter-weight shaft.
Finding the right overall weight and correct swing weight of your ideal clubs is a more complicated topic than we will discuss here.
We recommend working with a local club-fitting professional to help you dial in this aspect of determining your ideal irons.
Simply speaking, the correct flex of your irons will have to do with your average club head speed and the tempo with which you swing the club.
Shafts flex types include Extra-stiff (X), Stiff (S), Regular (R), Senior (A) and Ladies (L).
Generally, players with higher swing speed will gravitate towards the stiffer shafts for their stability, while lower swing speeds will benefit from added flex to deliver more speed into the golf ball.
When you are looking for your ideal fit in an iron set, factors such as cavity back versus blade design, progressive center of gravity engineering, groove effectiveness, sole grind and finding the right shaft materials and flex, all go into making the right decision for what set of irons go into your bag.
As we discussed, even the best players in the world have embraced a cavity back design in some form or another and this design has become common, even in iron sets that would be called players irons.
Progressive center of gravity design is a promoted feature of a few of the sets we reviewed and sole grind and grooves were highlighted by a couple of the manufacturers that we looked at.
Taking into consideration the company’s overall reputation in the industry for quality, the innovative design features, ability to straddle the balance between forgiveness and ability to work the ball and the overall aesthetic appeal of the irons, we give the nod to the Mizuno JPX 900 HM irons in the category of best irons for mid handicappers.
These irons set up well behind the ball and feature a combination of solid materials and engineering while staying on the lower end of price of the models we reviewed.