Best Irons 2017: We bring you our the best irons of 2017 - tried and tested as part of our biggest ever golf club equipment guide, Top Gear.
In our biggest ever equipment test we reviewed hundreds of golf clubs, and when it came to selecting the best irons of 2017, the only way we thought we could fairly do it was by splitting it in to three different categories: Better player, game improvement and super game improvement.
Don't know which kind of irons you should be looking for to suit your game? Our equipment editor breaks down the types of irons you should choose here
Top 10: Better Player Irons
For those blessed with a good degree of ball-striking, better player 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. So which made our top 10 of 2017?
Callaway Apex Pro 16 irons: RRP £879 (s), £1099 (g)
Availability: 3-AW (stock set 3-PW)
Stock shaft: Project X (s), UST Mamiya Recoil (g)
7i loft/length: 34° / 37"
TECH: Callaway Apex Pro 16's are a premium forged iron has a classic look that's been influenced by its tour staff. The heads are soft 1025 carbon steel to maximise feel, and progressive CGs (thanks to tungsten weighting) optimise playability through the set.
WE SAY: Somehow Callaway have managed to roll what looks like a reasonably forgiving cavity back design into a head that looks very much like a blade at address. The Callaway Apex Pro 16 irons are a cracker, and we applaud them for pulling it off. Chris Ryan really liked the soft-but-solid feel, saying it was one of the nicest feeling forged clubs he hit. His longest shots came from both slight toe and heel hits (9mm spread between them) which demonstrates a degree of playability that wasn't present in every better player iron we hit.
VERDICT: The Callaway Apex Pro 16 irons are a lovely looking iron that's aimed at the very best, but with an extra degree of forgiveness. The sole and leading edge shaping is also a little more friendly than some previous Callaway players' irons.
Mizuno MP25 irons: RRP £120 per club
Stock shaft: Pick from 16 steel and graphite options
7i loft/length: 34° / 36.75"
TECH: Mizuno's MP-25 irons are made of a 1025 boron steel gives the extra strength required to create micro-slot pocket cavities in the 3-6 irons, which means increased face ex and ball speeds.
WE SAY: The Mizuno MP-25 irons have been around for a couple of years now; it was Mizuno's first boron-infused MP better player iron. Adding boron allows engineers to play tricks with face thickness and pocket cavities that couldn't be done with forged irons before. We felt the 25 was a very good looking, stable and playable iron that combines a decent shape with a degree of forgiveness. Its loft is a couple of degrees weaker than some, so it was always going to need to bust a gut to compete in terms of distance. But in terms of ball speed drop- off between centre and off- centre hits, it's a very solid, well-balanced design.
VERDICT: If you must have the look of a better player iron, but aren't the best ball-striker, then the Mizuno MP-25 irons could be right up your street.
TaylorMade P770 irons: RRP £1049
Availability: 3-AW (stock set 4-PW or seven irons)
Stock shaft: KBS Tour FLT
7i loft/length: 33° / 36.75"
TECH: The TaylorMade 770 name refers to the 77m blade length and some serious reshaping work means the new design has a straighter top line, flatter sole radius and medium sole camber.
WE SAY: Brands hate pouring their heart and soul into new products only for their staffers to stick with an older model. Lots of TaylorMade pros still played the TaylorMade forged MB circa 2014 at the end of last season. The TaylorMade P770 irons (and their P750 smaller brothers) are out to replace them and they've got a heck of a chance. They're a superbly simple, unfussy design which are more forgiving than you'd expect. Our two amateurs loved their feel and feedback and being TaylorMade it's no surprise their ball speed was 5mph quicker and carry distance 8 yards further than test average for a 7-iron.
VERDICT: Wallet-busting, but the TaylorMade P770 irons are beautiful. If you're lucky enough to have both the money and the game for them, we applaud you.
Mizuno JPX 900 Tour irons: RRP £120 per club
Stock shaft: Choose from 16 steel and graphite options
7i loft/length: 34° / 36.75"
TECH: The Mizuno JPX 900 Tour irons have a low toe height, compact face and narrow, tapered sole are perfect for crisp ball-striking and precise shot making. A PowerFrame chassis reinforces the top edge for maximum power transfer.
WE SAY: What Mizuno don't know about creating a brilliant players' iron isn't worth knowing. We love the classy, satin finish of the Mizuno JPX 900 Tour irons and felt it bore some real benefits over traditional polished blades, as there are no reflections to distract the eye. Our test pro hit the 900s really well and produced some excellent numbers. A ball speed drop-off of just 1.1mph (between good and average strikes) was the lowest on test. It translated to just three yards of carry drop-off, which was also the joint lowest on test (with the Ping i200, Callaway Apex Pro and Ping iBlade). That tells us the cavity back offers extra forgiveness that you won't find in Mizuno's MP irons.
VERDICT: Who wouldn't want to play a set of Mizuno JPX 900 Tour irons? They look and feel fantastic, and perform just as well. Plus, 16 premium shaft options all at no extra cost is a huge fitting benefit.
Srixon Z765 irons: RRP £770
Availability: 3-SW (stock set 4-PW)
Stock shaft: Nippon NS Pro Modus3 Tour 120 (s)
7i loft/length: 32° / 37"
TECH: Srixon's Z765 irons have a muscle cavity which blends a players' profile with the forgiveness of a cavity back. The 1020 carbon steel heads are heat-treated to deliver the smoothest forged feel.
WE SAY: We've known for years at TG that Srixon make great golf balls, but it's only over the last few that we've gained a real respect for their forged irons, too. They're fantastic. Our pro said the Srixon Z765 irons were among his favourites and he'd happily slip them in his bag. With a 7-iron 2° stronger (loft) than many on test it's no surprise the 765s carried shots to within 3 yards of the longest on test. Ball speed was over a 1mph faster than our average, too, and a tiny drop-off of four yards of carry and 251rpm of spin between shots suggest a very consistent across-the-board performance iron.
VERDICT: The Japanese pour over every detail and it's this that makes the Srixon Z765 irons stand out. Laser face milling, a beautiful satin and polished finish, the sole detailing, a new heat treatment to improve feel and grooves that are just a tiny bit bigger... Brilliant.
Cobra King Forged Tour irons: RRP £649-£749
Availability: 4-PW (stock set 5-PW / 4-PW)
Stock shaft: KBS Tour FLT
7i loft/length: 33° / 37.25"
TECH: The Cobra King Forged Tour irons have been forged five times so the shape is extremely precise and grain structure tightened to increase feel. Tungsten weights in the toe and heel lowers and centres the CG for forgiveness.
WE SAY: Thanks to their work with guys like Rickie Fowler, Cobra have taken huge steps forward with their Cobra King Forged Tour irons. The whole set is made up of really desirable head shapes with sleek straight top and leading edges which appeal to decent golfers. It's no surprise that off a strong loft (7-iron) the Tour posted a joint second longest carry and a ball speed a good 1.5mph quicker than the average. Off-centre hit performance comes from the tungsten toe and heel weighting which aids stability.
VERDICT: It feels to us like Cobra has matured a bit over the last couple of years. Some of the crazy colours, designs and ideas have been quietened down to produce products with much more mass-market appeal. For us the Cobra King Forged Tour irons are a seriously good set of irons.
Wilson Staff FG Tour V6 irons: RRP £699
Availability: 3-PW (4-PW)
Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT
7i loft/length: 35° / 37.25"
TECH: Wilson Staff's FG Tour V6 irons have 20g of tungsten weighting in the 3-7 iron lowers the CG and increases launch without increasing spin, says Wilson.
WE SAY: The Wilson Staff FG Tour V6 irons throws up a real conundrum, as its head size is one of the smallest on test. It's natural to expect a smaller head to be less forgiving, but with one of the largest and deepest cavity backs in the category, and plenty of tungsten toe and heel weighting to boot, we wondered if the Wilson Staff FG Tour V6's could make up for its lack of size by turning in a strong performance. It does, as it certainly didn't feel unforgiving, and with our test pro posting a ball speed 1.5mph over the average and carrying shots with a 7-iron 1.5 yards further than average (with a higher loft) it speaks volumes about the V6s.
VERDICT: If you look at the Wilson Staff FG Tour V6's in the cold light of day, they're a really decent set of forged irons, with just enough tech to aid, not punish your enjoyment of the game.
Ping iblade irons: RRP £130 (s), £140 (g) per club
Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold (plus four premium options)
7i loft/length: 34° / 37"
TECH: The Ping iblade irons are Ping's most forgiving blade-style model to date. A 431 stainless steel head, with a thinner top rail, minimal offset, straight leading edge and high toe is designed to appeal to the discerning golfer.
WE SAY: Forged heads are the overwhelming choice of tour players when it comes to irons. You might think that puts the cast iBlades at a disadvantage. But remember it's designed for players like Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen and Lee Westwood, so it's no surprise it performed admirably in our tests. Our data shows how the Ping iBlade was right on our pro's test average when it came to ball speed and carry, and it recorded a tiny carry drop off of just three yards (joint lowest) between on and off- centre hits, which makes for some seriously accurate shot-making.
VERDICT: Ping openly admits the iBlade irons will make up a tiny proportion of its iron sales, but that doesn't mean the iBlade isn't good. It is. But the extra forgiveness from the wider-sole, bigger-cavity Ping i200 irons will be much more satisfying for most of us.
Ping i200 irons: RPP £120 (s), £130 (g) per club
Stock shaft: Choose from seven premium steel and one graphite option
7i loft/length: 33° / 37"
TECH: The Ping i200 replaces the "i" iron, and brings some notable updates to the table. The face is 30% thinner, which means more mass in the toe and heel to nudge MOI 7% higher.
WE SAY: Speak to any designer of better player irons and they'll tell you how good golfers want forgiveness, but it can't come at any cost. So their first priority is always to create a good looking head. Then they focus on forgiveness. That's where the Ping i200 irons come into their own. Yes, some will accuse it of being a bit boxy (like our test pro), but it's a look Ping have made their own. And the club's ability to marry good looks with decent levels of playability makes it an outstanding choice for decentish club golfers. We loved the sleek hydropearl finish, it looks great in the bag. Our 11-handicap amateur now wants a set to replace his i's.
VERDICT: Our pro's numbers were bang on the test average for ball speed and carry with the Ping i200 irons, but a joint lowest carry drop-off (three yards) means it will make for some accurate shot making. A fantastic all-rounder.
Yonex N1 CB irons: RRP £1191 (s), £1249 (g)
Stock shaft: Nippon 950 (s), Yonex NST310 (g)
7i loft/length: 32° / 36.75"
TECH: The Yonex N1-CB irons have a graphite insert in the back ensures the looks of a muscleback, but the playability and forgiveness of a pocket cavity design. A 3d sole helps improve strike efficiency.
WE SAY: The Yonex N1-CB irons have put in a serious shift during testing. The soles are wider, the toe's a little higher and there's a decent cavity back and pocket cavity to increase playability. The bigger appearance fostered confidence where some of the smaller models looked more intimidating and zapped it. We tested the CB in last year's Top Gear and it performed really well; this year it recorded a ball speed and carry distance a fraction lower than our test average, which to us says that other brands have upped their game for 2017.
VERDICT: Yonex are keen to stress how the Yonex N1-CB irons are designed and made in Japan to very exacting standards, which if you're a fan of all things Japanese you'll love. This is a lovely set which marries a degree of forgiveness with a really nice looking head, but at nearly £1,200 a set they face some stiff competition.
Top 10: Game Improvement Irons
Typically game improvement irons 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.
Mizuno JPX 900 Forged irons: RRP £120 per club
Stock shafts: Project X LZ 5.5 (s) Project X LZ (g)
7i loft/length: 31° / 36.75"
TECH: The Mizuno JPX 900 Forged are mid-sized forged iron that is said to end the trade-off between precision and distance. Boron makes the Forged 30% stronger, so it's possible to create a pocket cavity with a multi- thickness face to allow it to perform like a distance iron, without losing feel.
WE SAY: It could be argued the Mizuno JPX 900 Forged irons would be better classified as a better players' iron, but Mizuno insists that because of the addition of boron and a pocket cavity, it works for a wider audience. The 900's slightly longer blade length improves MOI, but the top edge is very slender for the category. The 1025 steel head feels fantastic and the ball speed it produced was right on average across all three testers. Carry distance was a couple of yards short of the average, which highlights perfectly how such a design is more punishing on off-centre hits.
VERDICT: The Mizuno JPX 900 Forged iron is a cracking looking iron that sits beautifully between a GI and better player model. You'll need to be a more consistent ball-striker to hit them as well as some of our other favourite game improvement models.
Cobra King F7 irons: RRP £549(s), £649(g)
Availability: 4-PW, GW, SW (stock 4-PW, 5-SW, 5-GW)
Stock shaft: True Temper King F7 (s) Fujikura Pro 63i (g)
7i loft/length: 30° / 37.25"
TECH: Cobra's King F7 irons are not a single type but rather a mix of hollow body long irons, half-hollow mid irons, cavity back short irons and blade wedges which are teamed with two different steels and groove shapes to improve distance, feel and control.
WE SAY: Each iron is designed as an individual, rather than a set like much of the competition. As one of the lower-lofted 7-irons on test it's no surprise the Cobra King F7 irons turned in a strong performance. Head shape is always subjective, and the F7 is pretty rounded, which some golfers will love but none of our three testers quite ranked among their favourites. Like Cobra's F7 driver we felt the irons were easy to generate speed with. They give a real sense of being user-friendly, where other models give the impression you need to be right on top of your game to get the best out of them.
VERDICT: There's little not to like about the Cobra King F7 irons, especially when you consider the price. The fact Cobra has invested in CNC milling each groove at this end of the market demonstrates how seriously they take every last detail.
Yonex Ezone Elite irons: RRP £399(s), £599(g)
Stock shaft: FST 115 (s) Yonex M60 (g)
7i loft/length: 29° / 37.25"
TECH: The Yonex Ezone Elite irons have a double undercut cavity means the sole is extremely thin behind the face to maximise ex at impact. Weight is removed from high in the blade by Yonex's Octaforce tech and relocated to create a progressive weighting system.
WE SAY: The Yonex Ezone Elite iron's 29° 7-iron is stronger than some 6-irons, which goes a long way to explaining its joint-longest average carry (188 yards) for our pro. There's no hiding from the head size though – it's pretty large – and because it has less offset than most, we reckon it might appeal to golfers who really don't enjoy seeing the leading edge of an iron a long way behind the hosel at address. Thanks to its size the Ezone Elite is really forgiving.
VERDICT: Even if the Yonex Ezone Elite is a bit plain, it's well worth a look, particularly if you consider the price. There might not be lots of visible tech, but across the board it's solid and will do a good job for a club golfer.
Benross HTX Compressor Type R irons: RRP £420(s), £490(g)
Stock shaft: KBS Tour 90 (s) Kuro Kage (g)
7-iron loft and length: 30° / 37"
TECH: The Benross HTX Compressor Type R irons have a heat-treated cup face provides faster ball speeds from a larger area of the face, o maximise distance and forgiveness.
WE SAY: If picking your next set of irons was just about numbers – ball speed, distance, price – many golfers wouldn't look past the Benross HTX Compressor Type R. Unfortunately, we buy with our eyes as much as we do on performance, and that's where the Benross HTX Compressor Type R comes under scrutiny. Its head has an unusually low heel/high toe design, which gives a very different appearance. None of our testers really felt any love for it. At Simon's slower swing speed the Type R recorded the joint fastest individual ball speed (109mph), while for our pro it was just behind his longest average carry.
VERDICT: The cup face on the Benross HTX Compressor Type R irons is clearly doing a job, though remember the loft's pretty strong, too. KBS shafts and Golf Pride grips are components you'll find in other top brands.
Ping G irons: RRP £92(s), £102(g) per club
Stock shaft: Ping AWT 2.0 (s) CFS Graphite (g) plus four steel options at no extra cost
7i loft/length: 30.5° / 37"
TECH: The Ping G irons have COR-Eye tech behind the face encourages more of the face, top rail and sole to ex at impact to increase ball speeds. By connecting a "custom tuning port" to the sole rather than the face lowers and deepens the CG, increasing forgiveness.
WE SAY: These are just what tons of club golfers need. In our opinion the current Ping G irons, which are now in their second year, are the best of the GI bunch, and they still stack up with the competition. Simon recorded his joint highest individual ball speed with them, while the other two testers recorded a ball speed 3mph quicker than the test average and two yards over the benchmark carry distance. They're just as good now as when they were launched last year.
Since this review, Ping have launched the G400 irons.
VERDICT: Still a seriously good iron. Lots of game improvement irons talk of combining the look of a players' iron in a game- improvement chassis, but don't quite get it right. The Ping G irons pull it off superbly.
TaylorMade M1 irons: RRP £849(s), £1049(g)
Availability: 3-PW, AW, SW
Stock shaft: True Temper XP 95 (s) Mitsubishi Kuro Kage (g)
7i loft/length: 30.5° / 36.75"
TECH: TaylorMade's M1 irons have Face Slots and Speed Pockets increase ex at the perimeter to improve ball speed consistency and drop-off. Geocoustic engineering uses a stiff cavity badge to attach the face to the body to control unwanted vibrations and deliver great sound and feel.
WE SAY: Many golfers will want to know how the new TaylorMade M1 irons compare to the TaylorMade M2 irons. Well, if you test them on a launch monitor you're likely to go M2's. Why? They are 2° stronger in loft (half a club difference) which for our test pro equated to 5mph of ball speed and 12 yards of carry. But that absolutely doesn't mean the M1 is a slouch. All three testers recorded either their fastest individual shot or average ball speed with the TaylorMade M1 (of the Game Improvement irons here) and Simon carried them further (165 yards) than any other game improvement iron.
VERDICT: Iron designers will tell you that combining good forgiveness in a more compact head is a real challenge. So while the TaylorMade M1 is more compact than the M2, it wasn't quite as long. But it didn't stop gear ed Simon really wanting a set.
Wilson Staff C200 irons: RRP £525(s), £609(g)
Stock shaft: KBS Tour 90 (s) Aldila Rogue Pro (g)
7i loft/length: 32° / 37.50"
TECH: The Wilson Staff C200 irons have been designed for the "crossover" player seeking a midsize head shape with moderate offset, but those who also want maximum distance and the best feel in its class. Power Holes maximise face ex and ball speed, yet maintain excellent sound and feel.
WE SAY: The FLXface tech in Wilson Staff's C200 irons is certainly clever. We'd love to say it ramped up ball speeds and carry distance, but that wasn't quite the case. Yes, the WC200s are powerful, but our stats show, particularly at higher swing speeds, the Wilson Staff C200 irons impart a lot of spin, which means energy is spent going up rather than forwards, which ultimately robbed them of distance. The "Power Holes" don't distract attention at address.
VERDICT: The Wilson Staff's C200 irons did absolutely fine, without being exceptional. If you're attracted to the tech, have a good look at Wilson Staff's D300, too. Their stronger lofts meant a decent increase in ball speed and carry over the 200s.
Callaway Apex CF16 irons: RRP £879(s), £1099(g)
Availability: 3-SW inc AW (stock set 4-PW)
Stock shaft: True Temper XP 95 (s) UST Mamiya Recoil (g)
7i loft/length: 31° / 37"
TECH: In Callaway's Apex CF 16 irons, Callaway has taken the cup face that's so popular in its woods and applied it to a forged iron. Each head is quadruple forged from soft 1025 carbon steel for soft feel.
WE SAY: The Callaway Apex CF 16 iron set is now in its second year, yet all three testers still loved them. The heads are a bit smaller and sleeker than some of the irons here, but they are just adorable. So adorable, we reckon they're one of the nicest irons available in this category for years, so if you want a set now is the time to get them, as there's every chance they'll disappear at the end of 2017. Despite not having the strongest loft the Callaway Apex CF 16 irons produced the longest carry (197 yards with a 7-iron) and joint fastest single ball speed (with the TaylorMade M1) for our test pro, which is impressive from soft, forged heads.
VERDICT: If how irons look is important to you, but your game demands good forgiveness, you must look at the Callaway Apex CF 16 irons. They are a beautiful set and prove GI tech doesn't have to mean irons look like shovels.
Srixon Z565 irons: RRP: £770
Availability: 4-PW (stock set 4-PW)
Stock shaft: Nippon NS Pro 980 (s) Miyazaki Kaula 8 (g)
7i loft/length: 31° / 37"
TECH: Srixon's Z565 irons have SUP10 spring steel faces combine with soft 1020 carbon steel bodies for a smooth but energetic feel. A Tour VT sole improves turf interaction so less energy is lost at impact and dispersion is improved.
WE SAY: With a 7-iron loft a couple of degrees weaker than the strongest, it's no surprise the Srixon Z565s struggled to keep up in terms of raw power for our amateurs. However, in the hands of our pro it performed very well. With more shots hit closer to the centre of the face it posted a right-on- test average carry and above average ball speed. A great package of face tech and forgiveness which should be on your short list if you're looking at forged irons in 2017.
VERDICT: Srixon makes some very solid forged irons right now, and if your game demands the extra feel and control they offer, the Srixon Z565 irons are one of a handful that legitimately can be called "forgiving".
MD Golf Superstrong irons: RRP £299(s), £399(g)
Stock shaft: Precision Rifle (s) Mitsubishi Rayn JAVLN (g)
7i loft/length: 30° / 37"
TECH: MD Golf's Superstrong irons have a wide sole, undercut cavity back and thick top edge ensure maximum playability when shots are hit off-centre.
WE SAY: We've got to hand it to MD Golf, the Superstrongs have got some serious shelf appeal. They might not boast any of the springy face or speed pocket tech like some, but they were more than capable of keeping up when it came to ball speed and carry. By posting a just above-average ball speed and carry distance across all three testers, and considering the sub- £300 price point, we'd say the STR's are a decent value option. The head has a decent sized cavity back, a reasonably wide and forgiving sole and yet the top edge doesn't swell to obese levels, either. It all stacks up to a solid iron.
VERDICT: MD are not as widely available as they once were and they're not quite as keen to offer custom fitting on their 2017 line up, either. But that doesn't take away from the STR being a decent proposition for club golfers, especially those shopping on a budget.
Top 10: Super Game Improvement Player Irons
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.
Mizuno JPX 900 Hot Metal irons: RRP £105 per club
Stock shaft: Modus Tour 105 (s) Project X LZ (g)
7i loft/length: 31° / 36.75"
TECH: Mizuno's JPX 900 Hot Metal irons have been created with a 4140M Chromoly steel and a 360 Cup Face to bring specific properties to the cast JPX Hot Metal. They reckon it's allowed them to create their thinnest club face ever for extra pop and ball speed no matter where you hit shots on the face.
WE SAY: There aren't many iron designs that boast ultimate forgiveness yet manage to marry it to an appealing head shape that masses of golfers want to play with. This is one of the very few that manage to pull off the trick. Its head really doesn't look like a Super Game Improvement model behind the ball; its satin finish and generous head size are just what lots of club golfers love. They aren't all show and no blow, either, as there's plenty of game improving tech squeezed into that chassis. From a 7-iron loft 2.5° weaker than our longest iron it posted ball speed and carry distances right on our test average across all three players.
VERDICT: The Mizuno JPX900 Hot Metal irons are a real pleasure to use. We love how just like with every other Mizuno iron you buy them individually and you get a huge selection of shafts.
Titleist 716 AP1 irons: RRP £93 (s) £107 (g) per club
Stock shaft: True Temper XP90 (s), MRC KuroKage (g)
7i loft/length: 31° / 37"
TECH: Titleist's 716 AP1 is their highest MOI iron and has a thin, fast clubface to maximise ball speeds, a 360° undercut cavity to maximise playability and a 42g tungsten toe weight to ramp up the MOI.
WE SAY: Titleist is keen not to pigeonhole their irons into categories; they prefer to t the iron to the player rather than vice versa. So while we label the AP1s as Super Game Improvement irons, you're just as likely to find the long irons at the top end of a better player's bag. For us, they have one of the nicest looking heads you'll find in this category. Compared to many the soles are a bit narrower, there's less offset and they certainly aren't anywhere near as bulky. The lofts are 2-3° weaker than the longest on test, so it's unfair to compare them for distance, but across the board they performed very solidly.
VERDICT: Titleist's 716 AP1 irons are a very strong option if how a club looks is important to you. We love how such a game improvement design doesn't have the usual "junk in the trunk" traits associated with the SGI category.
Callaway Big Bertha OS irons: RRP £849 (s) £1,099 (g)
Availability: 4-PW, AW, SW (stock set 4-PW or 5-SW)
Stock shaft: True Temper Speed Step 80 (s), UST Recoil ES 460 (g)
7i loft/length: 30° / 37.25"
TECH: Callaway's Big Bertha OS irons have a lightweight, strong Exo-Cage frame inside the head eliminates inefficient weight, meaning Callaway's engineers had more weight to position to influence forgiveness.
WE SAY: The construction method of this latest model is nothing like the very successful originals. The Callaway Big Bertha OS iron's new cage head has parts welded onto a very lightweight frame to create a seriously forgiving iron, unlike others. Simon was a big fan of the very tidy shape and chunky top edge, and from a loft 1.5° weaker than our longest iron the Callaway Big Bertha OS posted a ball speed 3mph faster and carried shots 7 yards further than our test average. Impressive.
VERDICT: If your game needs full-on forgiveness, the Callaway Big Bertha OS irons are a great option. How all that forgiveness is rolled together into a design that's much more appealing than the original is very impressive.
Cobra King Oversize irons: RRP £699 (s) £799 (g)
Availability: 4-PW, GW, SW (stock set 4-PW/5-SW)
Stock shaft: True Temper XP 85 (s) UST Recoil 460 (g)
7i loft/length: 30° / 37.50"
TECH: The Cobra King Oversize irons are 12% bigger than last year's F6. A PWRShell face has springiness very close to the driver limit.
WE SAY: Hollow bodies are proven for forgiveness, as they offer new opportunities to preserve ball speed no matter where you impact shots on the face. If we gave out awards for the largest head, this would be our winner; it's huge. The Cobra King Oversize irons felt really good and flighted shots really easily, but because of the head size and the distracting ball-shaped pattern in the grooves (which some golfers will feel gives a good impression of where they should be impacting shots), along with the just above average numbers, it didn't quite beat the best.
VERDICT: They feel very easy to launch, which is partly down to the excellent True Temper XP shaft (which you'll also find in Callaway's Apex CF 16 and TaylorMade's M1). Thanks to the size there's excellent off-centre forgiveness.
Wilson Staff D300 irons: RRP £579 (s) £659 (g)
Stock shaft: KBS Tour 80 (s) Matrix Speed Rulz A-Type (g)
7i loft/length: 29.5° / 37.5"
TECH: The Wilson Staff D300's FLX Face tech means just 26% of the face touches the head which Wilson say improves face deflection by 16% over the previous D200 model. More face ex equals more ball speed.
WE SAY: Not many golfers will pick the Wilson Staff D300 irons from a rack and fall for its head shape. But the beauty lies in its performance, not its looks. It's certainly not a criticism when we say the head's a typical Super Game Improvement design, which focuses on forgiveness rather than looks. It turned in a very strong performance for all three testers. With an average ball speed 3mph faster and 6 yards further than the average, the D300's ability to produce speed (which is enhanced by an excellent lightweight KBS Tour 80 shaft) and distance, as well as preserve ball speed on off-centre hits, speaks for itself.
VERDICT: If you want forgiveness, distance and decent value, the Wilson Staff D300 irons should be on your list. Trust us, get over the big long, shiny heads and the FLX Face tech and tons of toe and heel weighting will come into their own.
Yonex Ezone XPG irons: RRP £699 (s) £799 (g)
Stock shaft: KBS C-Taper 90+ (s) Yonex EX310 (g)
7i loft/length: 29.5° / 37"
TECH: The Yonex XPG irons features a double undercut cavity behind an ultra-thin chromoly spring steel clubface to maximise ball speeds even on mishits. A "Dual Tungsten Power" system adds 4g to the headweight, meaning you swing at the same speed but the head travels quicker.
WE SAY: The head on the Yonex Ezone XPG's is quite large from toe to heel, there's not much offset and a slimmed down top- edge gives a sleek look. For us it's much more a club for those after a good looking but forgiving iron, instead of golfers wanting out and out distance and forgiveness. Loft-wise the Yonex Ezone XPG irons are pretty strong so it's natural they gave us powerful carry numbers. Interestingly Chris Ryan's two longest shots came from toe (10mm) and heel (9mm) strikes, suggesting Yonex's "chromoly" steel faces are doing exactly what they should and maximising face ex.
VERDICT: The Yonex Ezone XPG is a really solid iron. We particularly like how the lightweight KBS C-Taper 90 comes as the standard steel shaft, which thanks to its lower weight has the ability to improve club speed.
Benross HTX Compressor irons: RRP £350 (s) £420 (g)
Stock shaft: KBS Tour 90 (s) Kuro Kage Black (g)
7i loft/length: 30.5° / 37"
TECH: The Benross HTX Compressor irons have a heat-treated face is teamed with a compression cavity in sole to minimise ball speed drop-off on off- centre hits.
WE SAY: You only get you pay for? Rubbish. us, a lower price doesn't necessarily mean lower quality, but it does mean you often get less tech. Compare the HTX to the Benross HTX Compressor Type R and there's no face cup or compression channel in the sole, which accounts for some of the £70 price difference (on a steel shafted set at RRP). The HTX has a similar low- heel, high-toe appearance to the Type R, which wasn't a massive hit with any of our testers. But to be fair it posted a ball speed 2mph quicker and carried shots 4 yards further than our average.
VERDICT: There's not huge amounts of obvious tech like some of the more expensive models, but the Benross HTX Compressor can hold its own. We couldn't all quite agree we loved the head shape, but that's personal. We did however like the solid performance and obvious cost saving.
Ping G Max irons: RRP £92 (s) £102 (g) per club
Stock shaft: CFS Distance (s) CFS Graphite (g) plus 4 s options at no extra cost
7i loft/length: 30.5° / 37"
TECH: Ping's G Max irons have COR-Eye technology allows the clubface to be thinner, which increases ex and Ping say allows the face to behave like a diving board to increase ball speeds.
WE SAY: The Ping G MAX is designed for ultimate forgiveness. Understand that and you'll realise straight away why the head is so big. When we say big, we actually mean stretched longer from toe to heel to improve off-centre hit performance. Looks aside the Ping G MAX irons performed really well, producing some of the highest- flighted shots within the category. Yes, the heat- treated faces sound a bit "tinky" at impact, which some purists won't like, but let's remember this iron's not aimed at them.
VERDICT: Ball speed drop-off between centre and off-centre hits is slightly lower than Ping's G irons, meaning the head is more efficient. If your game demands ultimate forgiveness, this offers it.
TaylorMade M2 irons: RRP £699(s), £799(g)
Availability: 4-PW, AW, SW, LW
Stock shaft: TM REAX HL 88 (s) TM REAX (g)
7i loft/length: 28.5° / 37"
TECH: The TaylorMade M2 irons have Face Slots and a thinner Speed Pocket combine to increase face ex irrespective of where shots hit he face. Geocoustic engineering improves the sound and feel.
WE SAY: The new TaylorMade M2 is as sleek as an Super Game Improvement iron can be. Its head is nowhere near as large as lots of the competition and some very clever bevelling across the top edge means it looks really appealing behind the ball, almost like a Game Improvement iron. As you'd expect from the strongest loft (7-iron) it posted the longest single and average carry, along with the quickest single and average ball speeds. By all accounts it's a hands-down victory in this category.
VERDICT: A stronger loft (even if it's only 1°) means they are absolute rockets. But – and this is crucial – they went the same height (if not higher) than the test average. That means you're getting extra carry, but great stopping power; the ultimate SGI combo.
Wilson Staff D250 irons: RRP £425(s), £509(g)
Stock shaft: Wilson Staff D250 by FST (s) UST ProForce (g)
7i loft/length: 31° / 37.5"
TECH: The Wilson Staff D250 irons have Right Light Technology which removes every last gram of mass from the golf club's head, shaft and grip to allow players to swing faster with the same amount of effort. A new Speed Sole expands the sweetspot lower in the face where amateurs typically impact shots.
WE SAY: With the new Wilson Staff D300's price going up (because of the latest FLX Face tech) Wilson realised they needed to cover off a slightly lower price point with the D250s. We're always asked about how much difference tech really makes, and the D250s offer the perfect chance for comparison. A 4mph slower ball speed and 7 yards less carry distance compared to the D300 isn't ideal. But compared to the test average the Wilson Staff D250 irons was a yard shorter and 1mph slower in terms of ball speed, which isn't bad at all considering the cost.
VERDICT: It couldn't quite keep up with its more expensive brother, but then it was never designed to. For those wanting a decent set of forgiving irons on a budget in 2017 the Wilson Staff D250 irons certainly stack up.