Game improvement irons, it must be said, are tragically underused by the nation’s golfers. They tend to go further, offer more forgiveness and have a wider sole to help reduce the effect of heavy strikes.
For the 2016 game improvment irons test click here
Yet pride forces many of us to opt for a set of “better player” irons because they’re what we want to be seen using. More fool us, especially as a growing number of elite players do in fact use game-improver irons.
We took 18 of the latest models to The Belfry to be tested by resident pro James Ridyard and two mid-handicap golfers. Their feedback and Trackman stats helped us decide which are the best game improvement irons on the market today.
Our panel of testers
Club Speed: 89mph
Current Irons: Nike VR Pro
Club Speed: 74mph
Current Irons: TaylorMade R11
Club Speed: 91mph
Current Irons: Titleist 710 AP1
How We Tested The 18 Irons
We’ve split the Game Improvement irons in this test into two categories – Game Improver (typically used by golfers of 9-16 handicap) and Super Game Improver (17 and over). Ball- striking is of course not the only factor in determining your handicap, so these figures are a guide only. Super Game Improver irons tend to be larger, and therefore more forgiving, and come in stronger lofts and longer shaft lengths. Game Improver irons tend to me more compact and feature thinner top lines and narrower soles. We also appreciate there is plenty of crossover between models, which is why testers hit all models in both categories.
Who Took Part
We invited all major manufacturers to be involved in our test. They provided stiff and regular steel-shafted 7-irons in the length and lie that came as standard. Some manufacturers also provided a graphite shaft option, which James fitted to the testers where appropriate.
Our testers were selected because they have been fitted for standard length and lie irons within the last year. James also uses this spec.
Facts, Figures and Top Performers
The chart below takes represents the average overall distance and dispersion for each iron, taking into account the performances of all three testers. It is designed to provide you with some insight into how long and straight each game improvement iron was for different swing speeds and abilities. The dispersion element takes into account whether testers tended to miss the target left or right. Remember, we have not used distance or dispersion to rank the irons, so the Award Winners may not necessarily feature strongly here. We rank irons on how consistent the distance and dispersion was for all counting shots. When hitting irons into the green, accuracy and distance control is everything!
Longest on test
The Callaway XR was the longest iron on test across both categories, achieving the highest average overall distance for all three testers’ performances.
All three testers achieved their highest club speed averages with the Callaway Big Bertha. It also hit the longest shot on test, a 187-yard bomb by 12-handicapper Alex.
Ping Karsten was by far the straightest iron on test. The length of the face from heel to toe as well as the overall size made it effortless to hit well.
Consistency is king
The TaylorMade RSi 2 achieved the best distance consistency, a big part of its success. By this, we mean the distance between the shortest and longest shots was the smallest.
Wilson D200 should get a mention here. It was the highest spinning iron on test, which as a result created the steepest descent angle into landing.
Gold Award-winning Mizuno JPX 850 was the highest-launching iron on test, getting the ball in the air without generating too much spin.