Most Forgiving Golf Irons: Best for High Handicaps

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What are the most forgiving golf irons? We tested 2022’s best irons for high handicappers head-to-head-on a launch monitor to find the standout models.

Whether you’re just starting out in golf, you’re a high handicapper who is trying to improve, or you simply want irons that will offer you the maximum level of forgiveness on those poor strikes, these are the best models for you.

You can read how we carried out all of our irons testing, find out what the forgiveness ratings mean here, and see which irons performed best overall and in the mid-handicap category.

And you’re in the market for any other new equipment this year, make sure you read our guides to the best driversfairway woodshybridsironsmid-handicap ironswedgesputters and golf balls and use our recommendations to narrow your shortlist. If you can, always get fitted for your clubs, as that’s the only way to optimise new models for your game.

Best High Handicap Irons

The Callaway Rogue ST Max OS iron is one of the most forgiving and best for high handicappers.

Callaway Rogue ST Max OS iron

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, the 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.

RELATED: Test your new irons on one of Golf World’s Top 100 Best Courses in the UK and Ireland

The Cleveland Launcher XL Halo iron is one of the most forgiving and best for high handicappers.

Cleveland Launcher XL Halo iron 

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.

The Wilson Launch Pad iron is one of the most forgiving and best for high handicappers.

Wilson Launch Pad iron

RRP £600 (s) £699 (g) | NOT YET AVAILABLE

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 resource 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.

The Wilson D9 iron is one of the most forgiving and best for high handicappers.

Wilson D9 iron

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 D9’s in for less than £500. 

The Honma T//World GS iron is one of the most forgiving and best for high handicappers.

Honma T//World GS iron

RRP £1,155 | VIEW OFFER
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. 

WATCH: Best 2022 High-Handicap Iron video

How we tested 2022’s high handicap irons

– 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. Draw models and those aimed at more moderate speeds were sent in Equipment Editor Simon Daddow’s spec.

– We used premium TaylorMade TP5x golf balls and a Foresight GC Quad launch monitor to create the most reliable data possible.

– 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.

RELATED: Best Golf Launch Monitors

What our forgiveness ratings mean

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, golfers are more willing to use them. The extra playability that hybrids have brought to the long game have transformed many golfers’ games in the past decade.

If your game or swing speed have 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 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 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.

Forgiveness Category 3.5: Game Improver Irons

This area of the market produces the most sales simply because there’s more mid-high handicappers. Brands invest huge sums 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.

READ NEXT: Most Forgiving Drivers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Today's Golfer Equipment Editor Simon Daddow.

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.

You can contact Simon here.

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