With 2020 stacking up as THE year for forged irons, how do you decide on your perfect set’s make up? And which model might best suit your golf game? We carried out a head-to-head forged irons test to help you decide.
TaylorMade, Mizuno, Srixon and Honma recently revealed 10 new forged iron models. Some of them, like TaylorMade’s P7MB and Honma’s TR20 B, target the very best ball strikers in the world; others, including Mizuno’s JPX921 Forged, boast new materials that have never been used in a forged iron before.
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Most of them target better players, but with choices ranging from hollow-body, fast-face forged models to one-piece muscle cavities and musclebacks, there really couldn’t be a better time to buy a new set of forged irons – especially as brands have listened to feedback from buyers and now offer every new iron individually so you can mix and match sets.
Watch our Forged Irons Test
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Since 1968, Mizuno forged irons have all been produced in a single factory, and they insist their forged heads have one-piece bodies.
While our musclebacks and players’ models were one-piece forged, it’s a very different story with the players’ distance models. Thanks to hollow bodies and thin, fast faces, TaylorMade’s P770, Honma’s TR20 P and Srixon’s ZX5 all use multiple material constructions yet still are referred too as forged models. How? They ensure the clubface is forged, so golfers get a decent forged feel and they get to say each head is ‘forged’.
It’s worth researching what you’re buying as many consumers probably won’t realise TM’s P770 and Honma’s TR20 P have cast bodies rather than forged.
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Why haven’t you tested Callaway forged irons?
The irons featured in this test are the very latest models, but if it’s really important for you to size up the whole market, you might want to hang fire for a few weeks before taking the plunge on any new set.
Callaway announced the new Apex MB iron (pictured below) several weeks after we carried out our testing in late 2020 before revealing the full range of five new Apex irons at the start of 2021, ready for release in February. Keep your eyes peeled for a full test of the new Apex family very soon.
Think about your long irons
When the PGA Championship teed off in August there was huge interest around the new set of TaylorMade P7MB irons in Rory’s bag. But Tommy Fleetwood putting the new P770 4- and 5-iron in play was just as big news for us. Fleetwood’s decision is similar to the one many good club golfers will face this year (thanks to more forged irons being available as individual clubs and combo sets) – he is trying to get more pop from the mid and long irons. So as part of our test we also hit the 5-iron from each set and got some very interesting results.
Strong-loft, fast-face irons have been much maligned over the years as some reckon they hit hard, low-spinning bullet shots that don’t stop on a green. But our results show a very different picture for this latest bunch of new irons.
Honma’s TR20 P iron (a degree stronger than the V) launched higher, peaked out higher (by 16.7 percent) and descended more steeply onto a green while also adding 15 yards more carry than the players’ TR20 V.
It was a similar story with TaylorMade’s fast-face P770. Shots launched quicker with more backspin and a steeper descent (than the weaker lofted P7MC), which means the ball will stop quickly on long approaches – which of course is just what Tour pros want.
What does it mean for you? Use the option of creating your ultimate combo set wisely. From what we’ve seen it’s a new dawn for forged irons and means you can finally get the best performance from every iron in your bag.
The Best Forged Irons 2020 Test
Meet our tester
TG Test Pro Neil Wain (below) is a highly-experience PGA Professional based at Keele Golf Centre in Staffordshire. For added consistency we work with Neil on all of our club tests.
Muscleback forged irons are for the very best ball strikers, players who insist on shaping shots at will. They’re so demanding that just 10 per cent of Tour pros choose them for their own game.
With the least amount of hosel offset, the centre of gravity (CG) of the clubhead is further forward. And that forward CG delivers a lower, more penetrating ball flight even though musclebacks have extra loft.
Head sizes are compact, sole and top lines are slender, and most blades come with heavier 120g+ stock shafts since the players who choose them typically create more speed.
Musclebacks are not for golfers who need to keep an eye on forgiveness or distance.
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Honma TR20 B iron
Honma’s relationship with former world No.1 Justin Rose might be a distant memory, but we reckon the Englishman has left a chunk of himself behind in the type of iron shape he likes to look at in the TR20 B. The shaping means there’s a typical Japanese high toe/low heel shape which blade fans cherish, plus a S20C Japanese forged head (which isn’t a common material) to heighten feedback.
There’s lots of talk around the blade length of decent player irons right now. The thinking is that longer toe-to-heel dimensions boost forgiveness a little, so while the TR20 B are a little longer, the difference in face height at the toe and heel is there to help create a little draw bias assistance, too.
If any part of you is thinking you need a set of musclebacks, our test data with the TR20 reveals how tough they are to live with. The higher-lofted B gives up 3.2mph (2.6%) of ball speed to Honma’s players’ V model and 4.9mph (3.9%) to the more distance-orientated P (players’ distance). And just because the B has the most loft doesn’t mean it flights shots highest, with the most backspin (stopping power) – it doesn’t.
As beautifully crafted as the Bs are, you’d be giving up four yards and 10 yards of 7-iron carry to the V and P respectively. For most of us that’s hard to justify for looks and increased workability alone.
RELATED: Honma TR20 B Iron review
TaylorMade P7MB iron
The P7MBs have had decent golfers excited since Charley Hull won a Rose Ladies Series event with a set back in July before they’d appeared on the mens’ Tour. The set has a constant blade length so the 3-iron and PW are very similar in length, which is very different to the P7TWs (Tiger’s irons) which have inverted blade lengths so the short irons are longer than the mid and long irons. TaylorMade say extra blade length over the previous P730 increases forgiveness a little.
But the real win with the MBs over previous TaylorMade players’ irons is that they are actively encouraging golfers to mix and match P irons to find their ideal set-up. It means you can switch from muscleback (P7MB) to cavity back (P7MC) with the 7-, 6-, 5- or 4-iron and buy just what suits your game.
If the MBs are tugging at your heart strings, let our test data spell out what’s on the line by choosing a set. TaylorMade’s hollow body P770 iron launches higher (3.2%) and faster (2.5%), while peaking shots out higher (6.25%) and dropping them on to a green at a steeper angle (2.2%), plus they give an extra six yards (3.5%) carry with a 7-iron. Giving up all that just for 400rpm more backspin (5.6%) with the P7MB would be ludicrous for most club golfers.
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Data comparison: Muscleback forged irons
Forged irons win well over 90 per cent of PGA Tour events, but with only 10 per cent of Tour pros opting for musclebacks, shallow cavity forged players’ irons have a huge gap to fill.
True, they are usually pretty similar to muscleback models in terms of hosel offset, top line thickness and sole width, but thanks to a shallow cavity putting some mass around the head’s perimeter, there’s a hint of built-in forgiveness.
You won’t find any thin, fast face technology here (certainly not in the short irons, anyway), as many purists believe face flex leads to spin and control inconsistencies.
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Honma TR20 V iron
Testing Honma’s TR20 line-up side-by-side, it’s easy to see what’s at stake by choosing each model. It also gives us a chance to showcase how there are three very solid better player options within the same iron family, which certainly hasn’t been the case until recently.
The V is very much a traditional players’ iron, with a single-piece forged head, no fast face tech but a loft that’s stronger than average for the category. It means the V is a strong 7-iron performer in terms of looks, ball speed and carry.
Just remember we saw 6.5mph more ball speed and 15 yards more carry from TR20 P 5-iron.
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Mizuno JPX921 Tour iron
The JPX921 Tour irons have big shoes to fill, after the success (in shops and on Tour) of the JPX900 and JPX919 Tour. Our test pro immediately spotted the longer blade length over Honma’s TR20 V iron, which is exactly why Mizuno say the Tour are often a good match for golfers who look to hit more straighter shots than shaped ones.
As lovely as the Tours are, our test pro felt he had to work harder with them, which should get club golfers asking why they should be making the game harder than it needs to be.
For us, and probably lots of decent club golfers, the JPX921 Forged is Mizuno’s stand-out performer. Our data shows you’ll be giving up 3.2mph of ball speed and eight yards of carry with a 7-iron to play the Tour instead, which is a big ask, especially when you see that number jumps to 12 yards (carry) with a 5-iron.
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TaylorMade P7MC iron
Don’t let the MC’s cavity fool you into thinking this is an iron for club golfers; as gorgeous as it looks, it really isn’t.
TaylorMade say the head was designed to answer the needs of top Tour players like Jon Rahm, which means the MC has a very slender top line and sole. Realistically, it shouldn’t really be an option for the vast majority of club golfers, unless of course they’re the choice for the shortest irons in your set.
Our test data shows the 1° stronger loft (7-iron v P7MB) can bag you 2mph more ball speed and about three yards over the P7MB, without giving up anything in terms of spin. Don’t buy a set blind though, and make sure you give serious consideration to how the longer irons perform, as our 5-iron test vs. TaylorMade’s new P770 gave some very interesting results, as explained in our 'Think About Your Long Irons' panel.
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Srixon ZX7 iron
Srixon have to make the most underrated forged player irons out there. For years their head shapes, feel and performance have been absolutely top drawer and every two years, as new generations are launched, small improvements get built into their tour-proven chassis.
You shouldn’t really be buying a players’ iron and keeping an eye on distance but it’s hard to turn to turn a blind eye to the ZX7 being our longest players’ model by four yards (over Honma TR20 V) and eight over the shortest (TaylorMade P7MC).
We love the straight edges of the heads and how the tungsten toe weights nudge up MOI. The ZX7 are very clean and unfussy which is of course exactly what the very best players desire.
The ability to buy this model individually makes them much more attractive for golfers intent on creating their ultimate iron set alongside Srixon’s Z-Forged muscleback or the more distance orientated ZX5.
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Data comparison: Players' forged irons
Players’ Distance Forged Irons
The players’ distance iron is a pretty new invention and it’s aimed at a decent chunk of club golfers who love the look of a players’ model, but also want the speed and distance of a stronger lofted iron.
You can expect slightly larger head sizes, reasonably thin top lines, not too much offset and stronger lofts. It’s likely models will have some thin, fast face tech and internal tungsten weighting to boost MOI, in what generally are pretty compact head sizes.
It’s common to find hollow bodies and multi-material heads in this category, too.
Regular TG readers know we’re fans of Honma’s T//World 747 P iron. And while the TR20 P isn’t a direct replacement, we can see plenty of golfers being torn between the two at fitting days.
The 747 P isn’t forged (it’s cast 17-4 steel) and it has a 1.5° stronger loft (7-iron), so if you’re really chasing distance this will probably be the route to go.
However, if you’re after a really solid, beautiful and powerful players’ distance iron, the TR20 P data speaks for itself.Its 185-yard carry was our joint longest 7-iron (tied with the Mizuno JPX921 Forged), and that for some will be the deciding factor.
But if you’re a confident ball striker we reckon a cracking set would team the P long and mid-irons with the TR20 V short irons. Essentially, you bag yourself extra speed where you need it (the long game) and extra control for shorter approaches.
Mizuno JPX921 Forged iron
Mizuno toiled for three years working out how to forge such a lively, energetic material as chromoly steel. We’re glad they did, because it really works.
Some will bemoan the slightly stronger loft (1°) than the previous JPX919 Forged, and how backspin has dropped (11%). But our test pro really enjoyed hitting this model.
Put it like this – the Forged is faster (0.8%), higher launching (6%), higher flying (6%) and lands steeper (0.9%) as well as being six yards longer than the previous JPX919 Forged, and that’s an equation most club golfers won’t be able to ignore. Mizuno say the target is 10-14 handicappers.
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TaylorMade P770 iron
The P770’s sleek lines and looks have turned a huge number of heads. It’s not surprising, as they take everything that was great about TaylorMade’s best-selling forged iron ever (P790) and cram it into a smaller head. It’s a genius move.
Make no mistake, P770 is very much a decent players’ iron, and to demonstrate that it gave up a sizeable 12 yards of 7-iron carry to the P790 (in our initial test session), but was also six yards longer than a P7MB.
Lots of good club golfers are likely to team the P770 short and mid irons with P790 long irons, but we actually rate the P770 long irons very highly – 3mph more ball speed, 11.8 percent more backspin and a steeper landing angle over the P7MC is perfect for getting long approaches to fly high and stop quickly.
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Srixon ZX5 iron
The ZX5 are a class addition to Srixon’s forged iron family. The heads are beautifully shaped with plenty of straight lines and sit behind the ball so well. The simple new cavity design, which feels great, should win more players over as the ZX5 deserve respect – particularly at this price.
With Srixon you get oodles of great Japanese craftsmanship alongside great performance which will be as relevant in a few years as it is today. The big step forward with the ZX5 is buying them independently (£149.50 per club), so you can create your own combo set.
Sadly, the ZX5 samples missed our test and data collection session so we can’t include comparative numbers for them, but we have hit them since.
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