How to choose new irons: Better player vs Game improvement vs SGI

Published:

What type of irons should you choose: Better player, game improvement or super game improvement? Read this and find out!

Buying a new set of irons is exciting, but with so many options out there the decision can be bewildering.

You need to make the right choice so you get a set that complements your game, reduces the effects of mishits and helps you hit shots closer to the flag.

Get the decision wrong and your inevitable mishits will be unduly punished, meaning more missed greens and extra pressure on your short game.

Irons are a big investment and research shows you’re likely to keep a new set for at least eight years, so making the right decision is absolutely vital.

Following our Top Gear 2017 tests we thought the time was right to explain the different anatomies of better player, game improvement and super game improvement irons and through the use of data show you the effect each can have on your game, so you can make a better-informed buying decision.  

How we did it:

To ensure accuracy we’ve used data recorded during our pro’s 2017 Top Gear tests, where we used a premium ball and a Foresight Sport GC2 launch monitor to analyse performance. Number crunching was left until after all three of these tests were complete so there was no possibility for us to manipulate any of the numbers.  

Better player irons: Who should use them?

Handicap range: 10 and under

Good golfers certainly don’t have to use better player irons, but as our game improves we feel the need to announce our arrival with a set of irons worthy of a decent player. For those blessed with a good degree of ball-striking, these irons tend to feel softer, sound crisper and give more feedback than Game-Improvement and Super-Game-Improvement irons.

Generally they have smaller heads, with less offset, narrower soles and top edges. If there’s a cavity back it’s smaller and because of the head’s reduced size, weight positioned around the perimeter is closer to the centre of gravity. That makes them easier to shape (meaning bad shots go further offline, too), but also naturally less forgiving.

Game improvement irons: Who should use them?

Handicap range: 10-plus

These irons typically make up 80% of a brand’s sales and with the average UK handicap around 14, the market for them is huge. So it’s so important for manufacturers to do game improvement clubs really well, with a design that blends good looks, excellent off-centre hit forgiveness and strong carry distance.

Typically they have a larger head with more offset (distance from the hosel to the leading edge), which positions the centre of gravity further back. The extra offset and wider sole positions more weight beneath and further back from the ball’s equator to help shots get airborne. A cavity or hollow head positions more mass around the perimeter to improve forgiveness.

Super game improvement irons: Who should use them?

Handicap range: 15-plus

Super game improvement irons are often seen as the ugly ducklings, as their designs are never quite as sleek and appealing as other options. But they boast tons of tech to help anyone hit better shots.

In a nutshell, aimed at the golfer looking for ultimate distance and complete forgiveness, without worrying too much about looks or control. They’re particularly well suited to players wanting to make the game as much fun as possible and those wanting extra forgiveness no matter what the trade-off when it comes to feel, sound and appearance.

Better player iron: Anatomy explained

Better player irons are a thing of beauty that should only really be entertained by accomplished ball-strikers. Why? Because better player irons tend to have a smaller head size, a smaller cavity back, a heavier shaft and weaker loft - all leading to a club that is less forgiving to hit and therefore won't suit a lot of golfers.

Anatomy of a better player iron

How they perform:

We’ve taken our data from our test pro hitting 7-iron from each set of the better player irons tested within Top Gear 2017. And the numbers speak for themselves. With the average loft of a BP 7-iron being higher, it’s no surprise at all ball speed is slower, backspin’s increased and that equates to a carry distance 14 yards less than our SGI irons. And for most golfers that’s well over a club of difference. 

Average ball speed: 120mph

Average backspin: 5,729rpm

Average carry distance: 171 yards

Examples of Better Player Irons:

Callaway Apex Pro, Mizuno MP-25, TaylorMade P770, Titleist 716-CB, Mizuno JPX 900 Tour, Srixon Z765, Ping iblade, Cobra King Forged Tour, Wilson Staff FG Tour V6, Yonex N1-CB

REVIEWED: Top 10 better player irons

Better player line up 2

Anatomy of a game improver iron

A game improver iron is designed to deliver if you game needs a litte bit of help – and let's face it, that’s most of us. With a slighter larger profile, a lighter shaft, stronger lofts and a slightly thinner faves gives golfers a more forgiving club that is designed to improve ball speeds and carry distance - even when shots aren't hit in the centre of the face.

Anatomy of a Game Improvement Iron

How they perform:

The real beauty of using a set of game improvement irons is knowing that even pretty poorly struck shots have a reasonable chance of hitting the green. It takes the pressure off, and we’re firm believers in not making the game harder than it needs to be. Our data shows a decent 2mph ball speed improvement (thanks to the face tech and stronger lofts) and nine yards of carry distance gain over better player irons. That, along with added playability, should swing the needle towards game improvement models for most regular golfers.

Average ball speed: 122mph

Average backspin: 5,245rpm

Average carry distance: 180 yards

Examples of Game Improvement Irons

Mizuno JPX 900 Forged, Cobra King F7, Ping G, TaylorMade M1, Wilson Staff C200, Callaway Steelhead XR, Srixon Z 565, Lynx Black Cat, Yonex Ezone Elite, Benross HTX Compressor Type R, Callaway Epic

REVIEWED: Our Top 10 game improvement irons

Game improvement irons lineup

Anatomy of a super game improver iron

The super game improvement iron might not be the prettiest of clubs, but these brutes are meant to make the game easier for all of us. With the largest profiles, strong lofts and a huge amount of face-tech, these irons are for those who need forgiveness on the course. A super-game improvement iron will mean you hit less bad shots and lower clubs in to greens - win win in our book. 

Anatomy of a super game improvement iron

How they perform

The data speaks for itself. The average ball speed (from a 7-iron) for the 14 sets of SGI irons we hit during Top Gear 2017 produced an extra 6mph of ball speed and 14 yards of carry distance (over BP irons)... that’s huge. Hands down, unless you’re looking to shape shots – which so few club golfers are – they’re a stand out performer, especially if you don’t want to make the game harder than it needs to be.

Average ball speed: 126mph

Average backspin: 5,438rpm

Average carry distance: 185 yards

Examples of Super-Game Improvement Irons

Titleist AP1, Callaway XR OS, TaylorMade M2, Ping GMax, Wilson Staff D250, Yonex Ezone XPG, Benross HTX Compressor, Lynx Predator, MD Golf Icon, Tour Edge Hot Launch 2

REVIEWEDOur Top 10 super game improver irons 

Super game improvement irons