Best Players’ Irons 2022

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What are the best players’ irons? Our test team puts 17 models through their paces to find out which 2022 iron tops the data charts for lower handicap golfers.

When considering if the best players’ irons are for you, you need to understand which sort of golfer plays them. If we tell you that tour players like Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, and Shane Lowry all play irons from this category, then that should help. All are Major champions.

Brooks Koepka uses Srixon ZX7 irons.

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.

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

Best Players’ Irons 2022

The Ping i59 is one of the best players' golf irons.

Ping i59 irons

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, and one of the best for 2022.

The Mizuno Pro 223 is one of the best players' golf irons.

Mizuno Pro 223 irons

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.

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

Srixon ZX7 irons

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 – comfortably one of the best players’ irons.

The PXG Gen4 0311T is one of the best players' golf irons.

PXG 0311 T Gen4 irons

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 and helps make it one of the year’s best players’ irons.

Players’ Irons: Best of the rest

The Callaway Apex Pro 21 iron.

Callaway Apex 21 Pro irons

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.

The TaylorMade P770 iron.

TaylorMade P770 irons

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.

The P770 has been a great players’ iron option for two years, and it will continue to be that until a scheduled update appears later this year.

The Sub 70 639 CB iron.

Sub 70 639 CB irons

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 steelhead. 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.

The Wilson Staff Model CB iron.

Wilson Staff Model CB irons

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.

The Honma TR20V iron.

Honma T//World TR20V irons

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.

The Titleist T100S iron.

Titleist T100S irons

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 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.

Pro Neil Wain is our golf clubs tester.

What other players’ irons did we test?

We tested 17 players’ 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’ 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 Tour MIM, Callaway Apex TCB, Mizuno JPX921 Tour, Ping i210, TaylorMade P7MC, Titleist 620 CB, and Titleist T100.

Players’ Irons Test 2022: Launch Monitor Data

The launch monitor data from our players' irons test.

Players’ Irons Test 2022: Forgiveness/Dispersion Launch Monitor Data

The launch monitor data from our players' irons test.

How we carried out our 2022 best players’ 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

Neil Wain is Today's Golfer's test pro and put the 2022 players' irons through their paces.

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.

Looking for an older players’ iron model? Watch our 2021 test

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 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.

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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