Best Players’ Distance Irons 2022

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What are the best players’ distance irons? Our test team puts 13 models through their paces to find out which 2022 iron tops the data charts for lower handicap golfers.

The players’ distance irons have only been a category since 2015, when PXG founder Bob Parsons tasked his top engineers to create an iron that looked like a blade but played like a cavity-back. The original 0311 changed the shape of the irons market, with TaylorMade, Titleist and Ping all revealing models by 2018.

The category’s growth is down to aspirational aesthetics combined with faster ball speeds and more distance than traditional players’ irons.

We've tested 2022's players' distance irons to find the best model for you.

But who are players’ distance irons for? From our experience, many players who use category 1 (muscleback blades) and category 2 (players’ irons) would actually be better suited to players’ distance irons. They’re certainly not a wonder drug for all golfers… but if you’re anything from a 12-handicapper to a low single-figure player then they’re well worth your attention.

Find out more about players’ irons here. You can also read how we carried out all of our irons tests, find out what our forgiveness ratings mean, and see which irons performed best overall and in the players’mid-handicap and high-handicap categories.

If you’re in the market for any other new gear, make sure you read our guides to the year’s best equipment. And, if you can, always get fitted for your clubs, as that’s the only way to optimise new models for your game.

Let’s take a look at the best players’ distance irons of 2022.

The TaylorMade P790 is one of the best players' distance irons of 2022.

TaylorMade P790 irons

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.

The Mizuno Pro 225 is one of the best players' distance irons of 2022.

Mizuno Pro 225 irons

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.

The Srixon ZX7 is one of the best players' distance irons of 2022.

Srixon ZX5 irons

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.

The Ping i525 is one of the best players' distance irons of 2022.

Ping i525 irons

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.

The PXG 0311P Gen4 is one of the best players' distance irons of 2022.

PXG 0311 P Gen4 irons

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.

The Wilson D9 Forged is one of the best players' distance irons of 2022.

Wilson D9 Forged irons

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.

Best of the Rest: Players’ Distance Irons

The Callaway Rogue ST Pro iron.

Callaway Rogue ST Pro 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.

The Mizuno JPX921 Forged iron.

Mizuno JPX921 Forged irons

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.

The Callaway Apex 21 iron.

Callaway Apex 21 irons

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.

The Honma T//World TR20P iron.

Honma T//World TR20P irons

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.

Pro Neil Wain is our golf clubs tester.

What other players’ distance irons did we test?

We tested 13 players’ distance irons in total as part of our full irons test, which saw us test 66 sets in total to find the best of 2022. The data showing how every players’ distance model performed overall and in terms of forgiveness can be found below to help you find the best model for you.

As well as the 10 we’ve highlighted as the top performers, we also tested the Cobra King Forged Tec, Ben Hogan PTx Pro, and Titleist T200.

Best Players’ Distance Irons 2022: Launch Monitor Data

The launch monitor data from our players' distance irons test.

Best Players’ Distance Irons 2022: Forgiveness/Dispersion Launch Monitor Data

The launch monitor data from our players' distance irons test.

How we carried out our 2022 best players’ distance golf irons test

– 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 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

Pro Neil Wain tested 2022's players' distance irons.

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.

What our iron 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, 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.

RELATED: Best Golf Shot Tracking Devices

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.

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.

RELATED: Best Golf Training Aids

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

The fact this category is played by Major champions Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Shane Lowry and Jason Day (among many others), tells you all you need to know about who should be considering these clubs.

If you’re an impressive ball-striker who is seeking beautiful looking irons while still looking for some forgiveness from what is effectively a blade-shape head, then this is the right category for you.

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.

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.

READ NEXT

– Which TaylorMade iron is right for me?
– Which Callaway iron is right for me?
– Which Mizuno iron is right for me?
– Which Ping Iron is right for me?
– Which Srixon/Cleveland iron is right for me?
– Which PXG iron is right for me?

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.

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.

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