What are the best golf irons available in 2022? Our test team puts 66 irons across five categories through their paces to find out.
Click on a best golf irons category to jump straight to it.
► Best Blades (Forgiveness category 1)
► Best Players Irons (Forgiveness category 2)
► Best Players Distance Irons (Forgiveness Category 2.5–3)
► Best Mid-Handicap Irons (Forgiveness Category 3–3.5)
► Best High-Handicap Irons (Forgiveness Category 3.5–5)
The best golf irons for you will depend on the individual strengths and weaknesses in your golf game, the kind of feel and sound you prefer from your irons, and what you like to look down on at address.
For 2022, the top-performing models in each category receive a Best Golf Iron Award. These are the cream of this year’s offerings; they highlight which clubs will perform for you, based on data from our launch monitor.
Our pro tested 66 irons in total across five different categories, with all of the data shown in full below. Read more on how we test clubs.
As always, we’d recommend you use our recommendations to narrow your shortlist and then get fitted by a professional, as that’s the only way to optimise new models for you.
To help simplify your selection process, we have split the best golf irons 2022 into five categories.
Our forgiveness ratings are based on muscleback blades being 1 and hybrid irons being 5, with everything else fitting in-between. Find out more about the forgiveness ratings here.
RELATED: Tested – Best Drivers
RRP: £165 per club | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 3–PW | Stock shaft: Choose from 18 premium options | Forgiveness rating: 1 | 7-iron loft: 34°
TG verdict: Hopefully most club golfers realise they’re not consistent enough to put a set of muscleback blades in play (they’re for gofers who see themselves shaping shots round the golf course).
If not, let us explain what’s on the line by choosing the beautiful 221. Our best golf irons test numbers have it very closely matched on ball speed and carry distance to the 223 (even though the 221 is 2° weaker in the 7-iron), but remember the tour cavity back 223 will offer a little more forgiveness on off-centre hits.
Compared to the 225 at a decent speed, players are likely to see 4.2mph more ball speed and nine yards more 7-iron carry distance from the hollow body 225 (its 7-iron loft is also 4° stronger). It’s an equation that shouldn’t work for most club golfers, even though the 221s are absolutely gorgeous.
Bladed Irons: Best of the rest
Sub 70 639 MB irons
RRP: From £420 | VIEW OFFER
Forgiveness rating: 1 | 7-iron loft: 32deg
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Sub 70 have taken our test team by storm this year. Their irons across the board are now proven performers for very sensible money, and the muscleback blade really didn’t let the side down.
The 639 MB isn’t quite as refined a shape and profile as some of the top brand blades (the leading edge is a fraction more curved, which the brand will argue increases playability) but for £420 a set they’re seriously good and great value for money.
RRP: £1,099 (s) £1,399 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Forgiveness category: 1 | 7-iron loft: 34°
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Give 10 players the opportunity to design their dream muscleback and a majority will come up with the new Apex MB as their perfect design. And we say that because so many top-level golfers love straight and true top lines and leading edges.
Looks are subjective, but for us the Apex is absolutely gorgeous. We love how the weight behind the centre of face allows for accurate swing-weighting without moving the centre of gravity.
RRP: From £700 | VIEW OFFER
Forgiveness rating: 1 | 7-iron loft: 34°
Today’s Golfer test verdict: We grew up when Hogan Medallion irons were all the rage and Hogan have given the Icon a lovely modern makeover.
Realistically, not too many people will buy a 4-PW set. So the brand offer a great combo set which teams 8-PW Icons with the more forgiving hollow body PTX Pro 5, 6 and 7 irons, and an option of either a 22° forgiving utility UiHi iron or hybrid.
PXG 0211 ST irons
RRP £85 per club | VIEW OFFER
Forgiveness rating: 1 | 7-iron loft: 32°
Today’s Golfer test verdict: The 0211 ST, with its straight top and leading-edge is an absolute beauty, and at £595 for a 7-piece set it could easily be argued there isn’t a better blade available for less.
Our test pro loved the feel, feedback and profile, hence why it’s amongst our favourites of the year.
Remember, with PXG you can mix and match individual irons so you could team ST blade short irons with a more forgiving long and mid-iron option.
Best Golf Irons 2022: Blades Launch Monitor Data
Best Golf Irons 2022: Blades Forgiveness/Dispersion Launch Monitor Data
RRP: £239 per club | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 3-PW | Stock shaft: Project X LS or Ping AWT 2.0 | 7-iron loft: 34° | Forgiveness rating: 2
Today’s Golfer test verdict: When Ping introduced the i59 in 2021 the company sparked a whole new era for players’ irons. By replacing the cast iBlade with a forged hollow body players’ iron the brand sent out a very clear message as to where the market was heading headed. And from what we’ve seen testing the i59 we completely understand why.
Compared to Ping’s most played tour iron (the i210), the i59 from a 1° weaker 7-iron produced a 2mph faster ball speed and two yards extra carry distance. That’s a nice gain but what’s really impressive is how the i59 with the extra speed and distance also launched and flighted shots higher, so approaches hit the green with a steeper descent angle and stopped more quickly, giving additional control.
A sleek looking, great sounding and impressive feeling players’ iron for 2022.
RRP: £180 per club | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-PW | Stock shaft: Choose from 18 premium options | 7-iron loft: 32° | Forgiveness rating: 2
Today’s Golfer test verdict: As much as our test pro loved the size, shape, feel and sound of the 223s it’s worth pointing out Mizuno have the model down on their website as being best fitting 5-9 handicappers, which is a very narrow window. But if you insist your game is best served by a tour-level forged cavity, the Pro 223 is an absolute beauty.
Our pro commented on how the head appears to have a slightly flatter lie, so naturally, the head has the appearance of not wanting to smother shots left of the target.
If you find yourself drawn to this model take at least a little time to consider how it compares to Mizuno’s brilliant hollow body Pro 225. For our test at least the Pro 223 was 4.4mph slower, and nine yards shorter (carry with a 7-iron) which for a majority of club golfers will be too much to put on the line.
RRP: 5-PW £899 (s) £999 (g) or from £149.50 per club | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-PW | Stock shaft: Nippon NS Pro Modus3 Tour 120 | 7-iron loft: 32° | Forgiveness category: 2
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Distance should never be a consideration for anyone choosing irons at this end of the spectrum; if it is then you’re probably looking at the wrong category.
With that in mind, it should make little difference that the ZX7 was our pro’s second-fastest (122.1mph ball speed) and second-longest players’ iron (172 yards) within the category. What should catch your eye is the ZX7’s beautiful straight lines and slightly higher-toe Japanese shaping, all features that along with great feel and sound convinced Brooks Koepka to sign for Srixon and play this iron.
We loved the ZX7 last year and it’s every bit as good in 2022.
RRP £249 per iron | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 3-PW, GW | Stock shafts: True Temper Elevate 95 or Tour (s) Mitsubishi MMT 70g or 80g (g) | 7-iron loft: 32° | Forgiveness rating: 2
Today’s Golfer test verdict: PXG’s previous Gen3 Ts were our longest players Iron last year, and the new Gen4 T’s have pulled off a similar feat this time around, which goes hand in hand with producing our fastest ball speed of the category, too.
In this particular category, there really aren’t any bad irons; in fact, players are spoilt for choice. However, if there was a determining factor for us spending our own cash on a set of 0311 Ts over anything else it would come down to being able to adjust the weight (heavier or lighter) and shaft length (longer or shorter) to your exact preference, all without altering the centre of gravity of the head. That’s something other brands will struggle to compete with.
Players’ Irons: Best of the rest
RRP £1099 (s) £1399 (g) | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 33° | Forgiveness category: 2/2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: While our pro thought the Apex Pro were a fraction louder than some of the competition there’s no doubt the model, thanks to its hollow body and tungsten laden construction, does a job on forgiveness that some of the competition can’t.
The Pro was our third fastest players’ iron, but also crucially third-best at protecting ball speed on off-centre hits.
RRP £1,299 | VIEW OFFER
7-Iron loft: 33° | Forgiveness category: 2/2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: What’s really clever about TaylorMade’s P770 is how their designers said, OK keep your traditional loft, head size and shape and let’s see how much speed and off-centre performance we can build into that chassis.
One of the best golf irons of 2022, the P770 has been a great players’ iron option for two years. An updated model is scheduled to appear later in the year.
RRP From £420 | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 32° | Forgiveness rating: 2
Today’s Golfer test verdict: It’s much less common for decent golfers to be looking for extreme value for money at this end of the market, but if you are Sub 70 absolutely has to be on your radar. The 639 CB starts from £420 a set and they’re very good.
There’s a decent-sized cavity back and a forged DT-4 stainless steel head. While our data doesn’t show the model to be the fastest or longest (two things that shouldn’t matter within the category) it’s really solid and half the price of a major brand.
RRP £849 | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 34° | Forgiveness category: 2
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Wilson have a long history when it comes to forged irons, and the brand has seen a real resurgence amongst ‘players’ over the last few years.
This is Wilson’s most-played tour iron. If you find yourself drawn to a set make sure you have decent speed, and you’re comfortable giving up 3.3mph of ball speed and 10 yards carry (with a 7-iron) over Wilson’s brilliant D9 Forged (players’ distance iron), as highlighted by our pro’s data.
RRP £1,225 | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 32° | Forgiveness category: 2
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Our data has the V down as best at protecting ball speed in the category, with a difference of just 1.8mph (1.5%) between our pro’s on and off-centre hits.
The V also created our smallest carry distance drop off of just 4 yards (2.4%), and hit shots into our second smallest dispersion area (64.4 yds2), which means the model, whilst not being the very longest, has the ability to be extremely accurate.
RRP £164 (s) £178 (g) per club | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 32° | Forgiveness rating: 2
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Our data shows the 2°stronger 7-iron added 1.8mph of ball speed and a couple of yards of carry distance over the standard T100.
But real players will want to know the model also gave our pro his second smallest ball drop off (3.2mph / 2.7%) and just seven yards of carry difference (third best) between his longest and shortest hits.
Best Golf Irons 2022: Players’ Irons Launch Monitor Data
Best Golf Irons 2022: Players’ Irons Forgiveness/Dispersion Launch Monitor Data
RRP £1149 (s) £1349 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 3-PW, AW | Stock shaft: Dynamic Gold 95/105 VSS (s), Mitsubishi Chemical MMT (g) | 7-iron loft: 30.5° | Forgiveness rating: 2.5 / 3
Today’s Golfer test verdict: In 2021 TaylorMade revealed the third-gen P790. It had huge shoes to fill but is every bit as good as its predecessors. We love the sleek head shaping and how TaylorMade’s engineers have made the model feel more of a part of the brand’s excellent P-Series simply through the back shaping.
Our test pro’s data has the P790 as being three yards back on carry distance (which of course is nothing) from the very longest, but the metrics that will appeal to above-average golfers are how it launched and flighted shots higher, as well as descending onto the green at a steeper angle (than our test average), which obviously helps stop approaches.
A brilliant iron for decent golfers, but a new lighter shaft opens up the regular flex to more average speed players, too.
RRP £200 per club | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-PW | Stock shafts: Choose from 18 premium options | 7-iron loft: 30° | Forgiveness rating: 2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: In the space of two product generations (MP-20 HMB and Pro 225) Mizuno have become major players in the decent players hollow-body iron arena. Coupled with our fastest ball speed (125.5 mph) in the category, the 225 also hit shots into the smallest dispersion area (89.6 yds2). That’s a seriously impressive performance at both ends of the scale.
It also protected carry distance brilliantly (third-best drop off) and was our joint longest model (tied with the PXG 0311 P Gen4) of the year. This is a fantastic set. Even Mizuno irons weren’t this good five years ago, which shows how far iron designs have come.
RRP 5-PW £899 (s) £999 (g) or from £149.50 per club | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-PW | Stock shafts: Nippon NS Pro Modus3 Tour 105 (s) Diamana ZX (g) | 7-iron loft: 31° | Forgiveness rating: 2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: After winning a ‘Best of 2021’ last year the ZX5s hit similar heights in 2022. We still adore the straight leading edge and top-line shaping and how the springy SUP 10 face, and 1° stronger loft added six yards of 7-iron carry distance over Srixon’s more player-focused ZX7.
The difference demonstrates brilliantly what modern players’ distance irons bring to the party for reasonably consistent but more distance-focused golfers. Our data has the ZX7 a yard back from our longest iron (the Mizuno Pro 225 and Mizuno Pro 225), so there’s nothing in it if you’re choosing purely on distance.
Even though the ZX5s will be two years old come August 2022 they’re still an attractive purchase for reasonable golfers who put a premium on how irons look and feel. A classically-styled model that won’t be dating any time soon.
RRP £180 (s), £190 (g) per club | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 3-PW, GW | Stock shafts: Choose between 11 premium options | 7-iron loft: 30.5° | Forgiveness rating: 2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Some players have complained about the “no spin knuckle ball” that flies forever with fast-face hollow-body irons. It’s not something we’ve really experienced in testing, but if a perceived lack of consistency has put you off hollow fast face irons before, the brilliant new i525 should be pinging your radar this year.
We love how the i525’s styling sits really well alongside the cracking i59, and how four extra face grooves build the perception the model is a really good players’ iron.
In terms of data from our best golf irons test, it was just two yards back from our very longest (179 v 177yds), so anyone looking for the best players’ distance irons of the year has to have the i525 in the frame. It’s just as powerful as it is gorgeous to look at and hit.
RRP £249 per club | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 3-PW, GW | Stock shafts: True Temper Elevate 95 or Tour (s) Mitsubishi MMT 70g or 80g (g) | 7-iron loft: 30° | Forgiveness rating: 2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: We’re not quite sure how PXG do it but their premium irons are difficult to beat. Cast your eye over our five Top Gear iron categories and their models consistently come up smelling of roses. The Gen4 P is gorgeous to look at and hit but its real difference lies in how the model can be fitted to you.
Thanks to a very clever weight system behind the centre point of the face, each iron can be weighted up or down, so you have the opportunity of trying lighter or heavier irons (which can help boost ball speed and/or impact consistency), along with the ability to use longer or shorter shafts.
The iron does all that without moving the centre of gravity by positioning weight inside the hosel or around the head like the competition. A very strong performer.
RRP £792 (s), £882 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-PW | Stock shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold 95R and 105S (s) UST Recoil (g) | 7-iron loft: 30.5° | Forgiveness rating: 2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: The D9 is a very attractive package in 2022. Wilson make a big play about how their Power Hole technology in the sole boosts ball speeds across the face. Our data supports their thinking.
The model was among our fastest irons in the category, as our pro’s 124.2mph ball speed average was only bettered by two other irons (the Mizuno Pro 225 and Mizuno JPX921 Forged). Eleven yards of carry difference covered off all 13 models tested within this category, the D9 though stood out as it was just two yards back from our very longest.
We don’t have a confirmed price for the D9, but it’s unlikely to be that much more than its predecessor (the D7 Forged), which was £699.
WATCH: Best 2022 Players’ Distance Iron video
Best of the Rest: Players’ Distance Irons
RRP £949 (s) £1149 (g) | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 30.5° | Forgiveness rating: 2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: The ST Pro is brand new for 2022 and sits between their Apex Pro and Apex 21. Many golfers will likely choose between the three based on head construction; the Apex are forged, and the Rogue ST Pro has a cast body, which for some will likely be a sticking point within this category.
Our pro liked the feel and sound of the Pro, so we reckon many club golfers are unlikely to even spot the cast v forged differential.
RRP £150 per iron | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 31° | Forgiveness rating: 3
Today’s Golfer test verdict: If our test pro was left to choose his personal favourite models the JPX921 Forged would be among his winners this year. Just be aware the model will be two years old in August. That means at some point they’re likely to be replaced, so if you’re the type of player who likes the latest model it might be worth waiting a few months to see what comes down Mizuno’s product pipeline next.
Either that or see the Mizuno Pro 225 as a great if slightly more expensive alternative.
RRP £1,099 (s) £1,399 (g) | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 30.5° | Forgiveness rating: 3
Today’s Golfer test verdict: The Apex brings together looks, feel and forgiveness performance, and even though the Apex 21 might be a year old, in our eyes it’s every bit as good as the day the original was launched.
The Apex wasn’t quite our fastest (in fact it was 3.6mph slower than the fastest iron in the category) or longest (the model was six yards back from our longest 7-iron) but we’d still love a set in our bag this year.
RRP From £1,225 | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 30° | Forgiveness rating: 2.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: With Honma set to reveal the P’s successor soon we were asked, to avoid confusion, not to include the TR20 within our Top Gear test sessions. From sheer curiosity we did, and we wouldn’t be doing our job if we failed to showcase how well it performed.
It was best in the category at protecting both ball speed and carry drop off and grouped shots into his third-smallest dispersion area. Just two yards behind our very longest, too.
Best Golf Irons 2022: Players’ Distance Launch Monitor Data
Best Golf Irons 2022: Players’ Distance Forgiveness/Dispersion Launch Monitor Data
RRP £249 per iron | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 3-PW, GW | Stock shafts: True Temper Elevate 95 or Tour (s) Mitsubishi MMT 70g or 80g (g) | 7-iron loft: 28° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: PXG have established themselves as a brilliant maker of irons in little more than half a dozen years, and performances like the XP’s that warrant the reputation.
Put aside for a moment how it is one of the best-looking irons within the category (as it doesn’t have massively offset hosels). The XP produced our second fastest ball speed (even though it wasn’t the strongest loft) and gave our pro his smallest drop off in ball speed between on and off-centre hits (2.7mph/2.1%).
That’s impressive stuff, but the XP doesn’t stop there. It also gave our smallest drop-off in carry distance (7 yards / 3.1%) and hit shots into the second smallest dispersion area within the category, all whilst racking up a T2 finish for overall carry distance (against a 1.5° stronger 7-iron).
To say the XP is a top drawer performer is a huge understatement of its capabilities. It is comfortably one of the best golf irons of 2022.
RRP £849 (s) £949 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-PW, AW, SW, LW | Stock shafts: KBS Max MT (s) Fujikura Ventus Red (g) | 7-iron loft: 28° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5/4
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Over the last couple of years TaylorMade have talked about the benefits of using cap back technology within their irons.
In Stealth, it allowed TaylorMade’s engineers to create a sleek and desirable head that’s forgiving, too. And they’ve done such a good job in blending looks with forgiveness that our test pro said he could happily put a set into play himself.
This is a very good mid handicap iron for 2022 and beyond. The heads look really attractive in the bag and behind the ball, and we love how the lighter KBS Max shaft is brilliant at flighting shots from the strong lofted heads. Stealth produced our pro’s second-fastest ball speeds (against the 1.5° stronger Cobra King LTDx) and T2 (with the PXG 0311 XP Gen 4 and Callaway Rogue ST Max) for the longest carry distance within the category.
RRP £799 | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-PW, GW, SW | Stock shaft: KBS Tour 90 (s) KBS PGI (g) | 7-iron loft: 26.5° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: We’d love to come out all guns blazing like a top vlogger and declare this is the mid handicap iron to beat in 2022. But instead, think very seriously before taking our test pro’s data as being representative of what will happen with the LTDx in your hands.
With a 7-iron loft of 26.5°, you = need speed to launch this model successfully from the turf, especially if you have plans of stopping shots on a green. If you have the speed then please go ahead, fill your boots – the LTDx iron is our fastest and longest mid-handicap iron of 2022. In fact, the only iron to outgun it, across all five iron categories, was Wilson’s D9.
A set that must be hit before buying, just to make sure you can flight shots properly from the very strong lofts.
RRP £849 (s) £1049 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-PW, AW, GW, SW | Stock shaft: True Temper Elevate MPH (s) Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue or Project X Cypher (g) | 7-iron loft: 27.5° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Golfers talk a lot about looks when it comes to irons, even at this end of the scale where models are pitched at mid-handicap players. But if you’re the type of golfer who can see past looks and are happy using equipment that truly benefits your game, the Rogue ST is a bit of a monster.
Yes, the ST’s head is pretty chunky, there’s a wider top edge than much of the competition and the face has a natural tendency to want to roll closed at address. But those are the exact traits that boost forgiveness on off-centre hits and help tons of golfers eliminate weak shots that end up short and right of the green.
The ST was T2 longest mid-handicap iron of 2022 (with the PXG 0311 XP Gen4 and TaylorMade Stealth) for all our other test metrics the model was comfortably above average.
RRP £129 (s) £139 (g) per iron | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-LW | Stock shaft: Ping AWT 2.0 (s) Ping Alta CB (g) with 7 after-market no charge upgrades | 7-iron loft: 30° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: We’ve said it before and no doubt we’ll say it again – Ping’s G425 wasn’t our fastest or longest mid handicap iron. But how could it be? It’s a couple of degrees weaker in loft than much of the competition. Just like last year, though, the G425 is brimming with forgiveness.
Our data has it down as the iron that hit shots into the smallest dispersion area (175yds2), and because it was third best at protecting carry (a drop off of 10 yards / 5.6%) we can confidently say this is a brilliantly forgiving iron to live with on the course.
To put those numbers into some perspective we’re talking about slight mishit approaches still finding their way over a bunker or lake and onto the dancefloor, where the same shot with some competitor products would end up in disaster.
The G425 may not be shiny and new for this year, but it is though still the benchmark model for the category, especially when at more average swing speeds distance differences will be much less noticeable.
RRP £899 (s) £999 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Availability: 4-LW | Stock shaft: Nippon N.S Pro 950GH Neo (s) Diamana OEM (g) | 7-iron loft: 28.5° | Forgiveness rating: 3
Today’s Golfer test verdict: It’s taken years for Srixon to be accepted as a premium iron maker, but over the last 18 months it feels like the brand’s turned a corner.
We’ve known Srixon forged irons have been really good for a long time, and the hollow ZX4 builds on their success, opening Srixon up to a slightly wider audience other than just the “better player” they’ve targeted before.
The ZX4’s forged face is a similar material to fairway wood and hybrid faces, so expect fast ball speeds. And thanks to the wide hollow body there’s plenty of forgiveness for off-centre hits, too.
In terms of data that performance came through as our second-best ball speed drop-off (just 3.2mph / 2.5%) and a carry distance just a single yard behind our T2 longest. A cracking modern iron that lots of club golfers will adore.
WATCH: Best 2022 Mid-Handicap Iron video
The best of the rest: Mid-handicap irons
RRP From £560 | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 32° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: A lovely head shape and beautiful classic styling. Though it wasn’t our fastest or longest it was amongst our top three models at protecting ball speed and carry distance drop off. It also hit shots into the third smallest dispersion area of the category.
Sub 70 699 irons
RRP From £390 | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 31° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Sub 70 is a name many won’t recognise, but they’re a brand who’ve pinged our radar as a producer of excellent value for money equipment, particularly irons, which is why we wanted them in our best golf irons test for 2022.
The 699 has a modern cast hollow body which blends a good helping of forgiveness with decent looks and a stunningly attractive price.
RRP £499 (s) £599 (g) | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 29° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Everything about the Launcher is oversized hence the XL name. Expect a larger-than-life head size but not in a clumsy off-putting way; this is a refined-looking golf club, which looks really playable at address.
We love how there doesn’t appear to be oodles of hosel offset and how the lofts are set at a reasonable level so club golfers will comfortably launch shots to maximise carry distance.
RRP £135 per iron | VIEW OFFER
7-iron loft: 29° | Forgiveness rating: 3
Today’s Golfer test verdict: A really good option for golfers who struggle to live with big offset hosels within the mid-handicap iron category.
The Hot Metal Pro could easily pass for a more players’ style iron, due to the lack of offset, but unlike Mizuno’s player models the heads are cast not forged. We love the head shapes, they’re a really good fit for reasonable ball-strikers, and thanks to a good-sized and efficient cavity back design they also protect carry distance on off-centre hits, too.
Best Golf Irons 2022: Mid-Handicap Launch Monitor Data
Best Golf Irons 2022: Mid-Handicap Forgiveness/Dispersion Launch Monitor Data
RRP £849 (s) £1049 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Stock shaft: True Temper Elevate 85g (s) Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue or Project X Cypher (g) | 7-iron loft: 28.5° | Forgiveness rating: 4
Today’s Golfer test verdict: If you’ve seen the previous Mavrik and Rogue irons, ST Max are very much in the same vein, with offset hosels and a fast-face construction.
This new model has a little more loft (28.5° 7-iron) than some in the category, a feature most average speed players will appreciate, and for those who muster lesser swing speeds, there’s a MAX OS Lite model to consider.
From their slightly weaker lofts, the OS weren’t quite our fastest or longest high handicap iron (as we’d expect), but they do offer a very solid mix of speed, launch, spin, height, descent angle and power.
RRP £499 (s) £599 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Stock shaft: True Temper XP 90 (s) Project X Catalyst (g) | 7-iron loft: 30° | Forgiveness rating: 5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Every time our pro tests hybrid irons he ends the sessions with a smile and asks why golfers insist on making the game harder than it needs to be by using smaller, more compact irons.
The Halo was among our highest launching, flying and spinning irons, all traits that are brilliant for keeping shots in the air for longer at moderate swing speeds.
It won’t win any beauty contests, but what it will do is help a mishit shot carry a lake, bunker or hazard, which will aid enjoyment, cut down on lost balls and shave strokes from your game.
RRP £600 (s) £699 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Stock shaft: KBS Max Ultralite (s) Project X Evenflow (g) | 7-iron loft: 30° | Forgiveness rating: 5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: With new and returning golfers flooding into the game lots more players are willing to accept the benefits of using hybrid irons, so brands are putting resources behind developing irons for this category.
Wilson have come up with a really attractive second-gen Launch Pad. Our pro said it produced the easiest 180 yard shot he’s ever hit, which is a ringing endorsement of all hybrid irons, and the Launch Pad’s cleverly disguised wider body didn’t distract his eye unnecessarily during our best golf irons test.
RRP £499 (s) £599 (g) | VIEW OFFER
Stock shaft: KBS Max Ultralite (s) Mitsubishi Tensei AV Silver (g) | 7-iron loft: 27° | Forgiveness rating: 3.5
Today’s Golfer test verdict: Try not to be immediately seduced by how the D9 was both our fastest and longest iron of 2022. It’s quite an accolade considering we tested 68 different models across all of the iron categories, but remember our pro has decent levels of head speed to launch the D9’s strong (7-iron 27°) loft high and long.
The D9 heads are big, the soles are wide, and that’s where the forgiveness comes from. We’re big fans of the super easy launch KBS Max shafts and how Wilson manage to bring the D9s in for less than £500.
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Stock shaft: Nippon N.S. Pro 950GH Neo (s) Honma Speed Tuned 55 (g) | 7-iron loft: 29° | Forgiveness rating: 4
Today’s Golfer test verdict: GS stands for Gain Speed, which spells out loud and clear how this model targets low and moderate swing speed players. The GS performed brilliantly for us last year and its performance in 2022 has been nothing short of remarkable again.
It sports a decent looking mid/high handicapper chassis. For our test pro, it gave both his smallest carry drop-off (10 yards / 5.5%) and hit shots into his smallest dispersion area (153 yds2) which is a serious endorsement of the model’s accuracy capabilities for golfers who don’t quite have the stomach for playing a set of hybrid irons.
Best Golf Irons Test 2022: High Handicap Irons Launch Monitor Data
Best Golf Irons Test 2022: High Handicap Forgiveness/Dispersion Launch Monitor Data
– We created an indoor test lab at Keele Golf Centre to ensure a controlled environment
– The leading brands supplied their 2022 irons in our Test Pro Neil Wain’s spec.
– We rejected major misses but recorded how shots launched, span, peaked and dropped out of the air, before crunching the numbers to come up with our conclusions.
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How we analysed our best golf irons data
Before we came to any conclusions, we analysed the data for each club tested; on distance, spin rates, forgiveness. The latter we refer to as drop-offs; the differences in ball speed, spin and carry between our test pro’s on- and off-centre hits.
This insight gives a reliable indication of how forgiving each model will be on the course, as we’ve argued for years that dispersion can be very misleading as it’s based on how you swing on a particular day. We analysed all that data before choosing winners.
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Category 5: Hybrid Irons
Hybrid irons have been the much-maligned black sheep of irons for years, but they now represent a huge opportunity to keep golfers – who typically lose 0.5 mph of clubhead speed each year once they hit 60 – in the game for longer.
There has been a growing trend in this area in recent years. Not only are brands showing more interest in producing hybrid irons, but golfers are also more willing to use them. The extra playability that hybrids have brought to the long game has transformed many golfers’ games in the past decade.
If your game or swing speed has gone south, hybrid irons are a brilliant option.
Typical performance traits
In the hands of average club golfers, hybrid irons are more forgiving than any other model. They have big wide soles to launch shots high with increased forgiveness, while designers claim they also help prevent digging into the turf, thereby reducing fat shots.
It’s exactly the type of styling that led golfers to fall in love with long iron replacement hybrids/rescues. The centre of gravity in hybrid irons is far lower and deeper than in a typical cavity-back iron.
Who should use hybrid irons?
Golf should be fun and hybrid Irons can turn a frustrating round into an enjoyable one. The extra playability means more shots carry sand and water hazards. Hybrid Irons aren’t just for players with slower swings. They’re for anybody who wants to reduce frustration and have more fun.
Category 4: Super Game Improver Irons
This category is as forgiving as it gets if you insist that an iron needs to look like an iron and you’re resistant to exploring hybrid iron alternatives.
Historically, golfers have traded looks for forgiveness in this category, but modern models have come a long way in recent years. It’s now possible to get your hands on an iron like the Ping G710, which is not only great looking but also super forgiving and powerful.
Better yet, it won’t highlight you as a hacker before you’ve even hit a shot!
Typical performance traits
Historically, super game-improver models have big chunky heads, thick toplines and even wider soles. The best of the latest models challenge that thinking, though, thanks to dense tungsten weighting that places critical mass in very specific areas of the head.
Category 4 models have either a deep cavity-back or a hollow head and they’re very often the lightest in a brand’s iron range. Shafts are often lighter with softer tip sections to increase launch and spin, which helps maximise distance at lower speeds.
Some models unashamedly reduce weight to naturally add speed. This is great as long as your swing isn’t too weight-sensitive and you lose the ability to ‘time’ shots. It’s worth remembering that the larger the head size, the easier it is to get an iron face to flex and add speed.
Who should use super game improver irons?
Golfers who aren’t afraid to admit that their game needs as much help as they can get their hands on is a reasonable rule of thumb here. Whereas game-improver models often suit 20-handicap golfers and below, super game-improver models fill the gap above this really nicely.
However, make sure that you’re well aware of which models are lightweight and/or strong lofted and make a decision on which best suits your game after trialling both. Get that right and the irons within this category can seriously raise your enjoyment of the game.
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Forgiveness Category 3.5: Game Improver Irons
This area of the market produces the most sales simply because there are more mid-high handicappers. Brands invest huge sums in developing new technology in this area.
Typical performance traits
There’s disagreement among brands as to whether this category should be home to their strongest loft irons and there’s a discussion to be had around whether strong loft irons are suited to the highest handicappers with the slowest swings. These players often struggle to launch strong loft irons high enough to optimise carry and backspin.
The extra offset pushes the CG back to aid launch. It’s not uncommon for these irons to be 10mm+ longer with sole widths some 45% wider than a Category 1 blade. Toplines are often twice the width of a blade, too.
Who should use game improver irons?
Fitted with slightly lighter shafts and, sometimes, a lighter swing weight, these irons help maximise swing speed. It’s no secret the engineers target 18–20 handicappers with these clubs.
Forgiveness Category 3: Game Improver Plus
When it comes to matching an iron to your ability, it’s really important not to confuse this category with full out game-improver models. Simply put, they’re not.
As a benchmark, the Ping G iron has always been a stalwart of the traditional game-improver category but the current G410 falls into our Category 3.5. Category 3 models are a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Very often, Category 3 and Category 3.5 irons end up in the hands of improving golfers, but they subtly target different players, hence why Callaway make both an Apex 19 (forged and in Category 3) and a Mavrik (cast and in Category 3.5).
Typical performance traits
The fact that five of our eight Category 3 irons are forged tells the story of who they’re aimed at. And just to highlight the point, none of the Category 3.5 models are forged.
Models in this category will have either a decent-sized/depth cavity-back or a hollow head. The cast PXG 0211s are a great example of a set that combines compact, less offset short-irons with larger, more forgiving mid- and long-irons to appeal to golfers seeking both looks and performance within a single set.
Offset will often be a fraction less than with full-on game-improver models, while toplines will be a fraction wider than in Player Irons. Lofts will likely be a little stronger than those of a Players’ Distance iron. On average, our eight Category 3 models had 1.4° less 7-iron loft (30.1°) than Category 2.5 models, which means they can target ball speed and distance.
Who should use game improver plus irons?
If you’re a mid-handicap golfer, you absolutely should look at some of the models within this category. To be the best match, though, it’s highly likely your handicap will be 15 or below – depending on your ball-striking confidence.
Category 3.5 models bring together traits often best-suited to 18-20 handicappers and below. Category 3 models usually offer a decent-looking clubhead, which is often forged, along with added speed and distance for golfers who don’t quite have the ball striking prowess to use one of the two Player Iron categories.
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Forgiveness Category 2.5: Players’ Distance Irons
In 2015, PXG founder Bob Parsons tasked his top engineers with the unenviable challenge of creating an iron that looked like a blade but played like a cavity-back. What they came back with – the original 0311 – changed the iron market.
TaylorMade joined the hollow-body players distance iron market in 2017 with the P790. It became the brand’s biggest-selling forged iron ever. Titleist then launched the popular 718 AP3 and Ping joined the party in 2018 with their i500.
The rapid growth of this category can not only be attributed to aspirational aesthetics but faster ball speeds and more distance than traditional players’ irons.
Typical performance traits
In many instances, the clubhead size in this category will be a little larger to inspire more confidence at address. And don’t expect too much hosel offset, either. The toplines are reasonably thin and shaft weights tend to be a little lighter than those found in blades.
The face might be forged – as found in the TaylorMade P790, Ping i500 and Cobra King Forged Tec – while several models favour hollow body technology. The average 7-iron loft in this category was 2° stronger than in the Category 1 models, which inevitably means extra ball speed and distance.
You may find some fast-face technology in these clubs, too, while some kind of internal tungsten weighting is also common. This gives the manufacturers’ engineers the ability to manipulate the centre-of-gravity location in the clubhead to help shots launch higher from a stronger loft as well as deliver more forgiveness over Category 1 and Category 2 models. That’s some seriously good food for thought.
Who should use players’ distance irons?
Don’t be fooled by our data into thinking that Players’ Distance Irons are the wonder drug for all golfers… they’re not. What the data does show, though, is what’s on the line when a golfer chooses either a Category 1 or Category 2 model when, in fact, they should be playing a Category 2.5 iron.
While the typical shaft weight and profile were perfect for our test pro, many mid-handicap and above golfers would benefit from the slightly lighter weight and added consistency of a Category 3, Category 4 or even a Category 5 model. Irons in this category bridge the gap from traditional game-improver to player models brilliantly, which means they usually work best for golfers with handicaps of 12 and below.
Forgiveness Category 2: Players’ Irons
If you need any evidence to support which type of golfer this category is aimed at, you only need to look at tour players like Jordan Spieth, Shane Lowry and Jason Day. All are major champions and currently play irons that fall within this category.
These types of irons are very good options for impressive ball-strikers who don’t necessarily want to compromise on looks, but still want some forgiveness built into what is essentially a blade shape clubhead.
Typical performance traits
Player irons generally are pretty similar to blades for hosel offset, topline thickness and sole width. The majority are forged (with the exception of Ping’s models) as the decent players who use them often believe forging delivers a premium feel/sound. Plus, it’s worth remembering that more than 90% of tour events are won by players using forged models.
For us, a Category 2 model must have some type of cavity-back, either shallow as with the Mizuno JPX919 Tour or deeper as found in the Honma T//World 747 Vx. There absolutely will be no thin fast-face tech (not in the mid-to short-irons anyway), as many purists believe that face flex leads to inconsistencies.
Lofts generally are fairly traditional, since golfers at this level want very consistent gapping and predictable yardages, even on slight mishits.
Who should use players’ irons?
It goes without saying that you need to be a decent ball-striker to get the best out of Player irons. That means you’ll need to be very close to a category one golfer. There’s a very good reason why Players Distance irons (forgiveness Category 2.5) have become so popular over the last few years.
It’s because they bridge the gap that was really difficult to cover when golf didn’t have fast-face tech, strong lofts or hollow body constructions. If you can tolerate some modern tech, you can not only get extra ball speed and distance but more forgiveness, too.
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Forgiveness Category 1: Muscleback Irons
Musclebacks, also known as blades, are not only the most traditional irons, they’re also the most unforgiving, hence our forgiveness rating of 1. Any golfer thinking of buying a set of blades should have no real desire to add any extra speed, distance or forgiveness to their game.
In fact, the 10% of tour pros who use blades typically do so because the forgiveness levels are so low. It means they can shape shots at will while barely needing to alter their swing.
Typical performance traits
Blades are typically forged rather than cast. The forging process that stamps the irons into shape under high pressure compresses and aligns the grain of the metal more closely, which is said to improve feel and feedback. Musclebacks also have the least amount of hosel offset, which means the centre of gravity (CG) of the clubhead is further forward.
A forward CG delivers a lower, more penetrating ball flight, even though blades tend to have the highest lofts of any iron category. Head sizes are generally very compact, while soles and top lines are typically very slender, which means they should appeal only to the very best ball-strikers.
Most blades come as standard with heavy 120g+ shafts since the more accomplished golfers who use them typically create more swing speed.
Who should use muscleback irons?
There’s a strong school of thought among some hardcore golfers that blades are the only true way to play the game. Some also swear that blades are the best way to learn the game because you’re severely punished for mishits and therefore have to focus more intently on developing a robust swing technique.
Regardless, to get the best out of Category 1 irons you’ll need a handicap of low single figures or better. It’s our opinion that you shouldn’t really consider using them until you get close to scratch.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Daddow is the Equipment Editor at todaysgolfer.co.uk
Simon has worked in the golf industry for 30 years. Starting out as trainee professional at Downes Crediton GC where he learned the art of golf club making, before going onto work for Clubhaus Plc and Tony Charles Ltd as a golf club maker, and running Product Development at Benross Golf.
Joining EMAP Active (now Bauer Media) in 2006 as Equipment Editor Simon has worked for Today’s Golfer and Golf World magazines and the Today’s Golfer website.
Simon is 46 years old, he’s played golf for 40 years and plays to a handicap of 10. A lack of club speed means he’s short off the tee, but very handy from 125 yards and in.
He uses a Ping G400 SFT driver, PXG 0341 X Gen4 3-Wood, PXG 0341 X Gen4 7-wood, PXG 0317 X Gen2 hybrid, Callaway Rogue X irons (6 – PW), Cleveland CBX2 wedges (52°, 58°), Bettinardi Inovai 6.0 putter and a TaylorMade Tour Response golf ball.
You can contact Simon here.