Is it time to drop your 5-iron?

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If the 5-iron is the least-used club in your bag, there are plenty of easier-to-hit, more versatile replacements available.

Iron lofts are getting stronger, the modern golf ball spins less and the average age of golfers is on the increase, so it’s easy to see why many club golfers struggle to launch a 5-iron from the turf nowadays. As if to prove our point Callaway’s latest Rogue X iron has a 5-iron loft (21°) the same as a 3-iron only a few years ago.

TG gear editor Simon Daddow had a reality check recently when a session on a GC Quad launch monitor helped him realise he only carries a 5-iron (from the turf) six yards further than his 6-iron, so consequently only hits a 5-iron when he can tee it up on a par 3.

It’s a story we hear a lot from club golfers and custom fitters, so we thought it was time to investigate how you know if you need to get rid of your 5-iron? And if you do, what are your best options?

How do I know if I should swap my 5-iron?

There are a few tell-tale signs. First off, be very honest about your own ability and ask yourself what’s the longest iron you hit with confidence from the turf (not a tee)? For many club players, it will be a 6-iron. Other signs include feeling you can’t launch a 5-iron (from the deck) without pulling off your Sunday best swing and strike. And if your 5-iron shots struggle to reach a peak height to maximise carry distance, they’ll struggle to stop on a green or typically end up being low and weak, fading off short and right of the green. If any of that sounds familiar, you really should be looking at ditching your 5-iron once and for all.

What’s a typical 5-iron loft?

Callaway Rogue 23 degrees

TaylorMade M4 21.5 degrees

Ping G400 23.5 degrees

Cobra King F8 22.5 degrees

I prefer fairway woods over hybrids… What are my options?

Ping Fairway Wood

High-lofted fairway woods are nothing new; Callaway first introduced the “Heavenwood” and “Divine Nine” back in the 1990s. But hybrids have seen a surge in popularity recently that’s meant seven, nine and even 11-woods have been overshadowed. For 2018 in particular they’re making a strong comeback, with more brands than ever making higher lofts than just a 7-wood.

Take a fairway wood, hybrid and 5-iron all of the same loft and the fairway will be the easiest and most forgiving to launch from the turf, because the wider head shape means the centre of gravity is furthest from the face, which is why if you’re a fan of fairway woods it makes them a seriously good option.

Just remember thanks to the extra shaft length over an iron or hybrid they’ll also be the least accurate option when it comes to averaging performance over a number of rounds.

If you’re unsure whether to go fairway or hybrid to replace a 5-iron, think about which you currently prefer to hit from the turf. If your swing is quite shallow with little or no angle of downward attack into the ball, fairways could be a great option, especially if you own a moderate or lower swing speed. And if you’re a big fan of fairways don’t be embarrassed to fill loft gaps between your driver and irons with two or three woods; there’s no rule that says you have to use hybrids.

Our favourite high-lofted fairways

Fairway Woods

Ping G400 £240 9-wood (23.5° loft)

One of our favourite fairways, a really solid performer across the board. A lighter Alta CB shaft helps flight get higher from the turf.

Callaway Rogue £269 9-wood (23° loft)

A high-performance head, and we love the shaft weight options which make it possible to tailor flight and feel to your personal preference.

Callaway Rogue £269 11-wood (25° loft)

A lot of fun to hit from all over the golf course, brilliant for getting the shot creativity juices flowing, as shots fly high and stop quickly.

TaylorMade M4 £229 7 HL (24°loft)

A brilliant wide-body option, powerful and forgiving. M4 is our favourite 2018 fairway wood, so you’re in safe hands.

Cobra King F8 £199 #7-#8 wood (21-24° loft)

I prefer hybrids over fairway woods… What are my options?

Callaway Rogue X hybrid

Without doubt hybrids are easier to hit consistently from the turf than long irons, and they’ve rightly already replaced the 3-iron and 4-iron in many club golfers’ bags.
Hybrids can be found in plenty of tour pro’s bags, too; remember that second shot Jordan Spieth hit on the 13th in the final round at Augusta?

Over the last couple of years there’s been a choice of wide or narrow-body hybrids, but the options are fast narrowing thanks mainly to the reincarnation and growing popularity (among reasonable players) of forgiving hollow-body driving irons.

If you need help choosing between the pair think about how you hit hybrids. Do you hit down with them and engage the turf like hitting an iron? And do you have a tendency to pull hybrids left of the target?

If so, narrow-body models could be a good match for you. If, though, you hit hybrids like fairway woods and sweep shots off the deck, we’ve seen how wider bodies launch higher and generally tend to fly a little further, too. 

Remember, just because you remove a 5-iron from your bag it doesn’t automatically mean you need a #5 hybrid to replace it. It’s really important to get a good distance gap between your longest iron and highest loft fairway wood, which might mean going for #4H instead. You really don’t want to end up with two clubs in your bag that go a similar distance.

Our favourite high-lofted hybrids

Hybrids

Ping G400 hybrid £200 #5 or #6 (26°/30° lofts)

An excellent mid-width body hybrid. Good looking, forgiving, but powerful and just the right size to hit from all types of lies.

Callaway Rogue/X £2295H or 6H Rogue (24°/27° lofts) #6 or #7 Rogue X (26°/29° lofts)

Rogue X have super-strong lofts and bigger, wider heads. The standard head is suited to more golfers.

TaylorMade M4 £199 #5 or #6 (25°/28°lofts)

A brilliant high-lofted hybrid; for us the #6 and #4 make a great long game solution and compliment a 6-PW iron set beautifully.

Cobra King F8 hybrid £169 5H (25° loft)

Deeper sole rails on the higher lofts make it easier to dig shots out of all sorts of lies. You also get a shot tracker in the grip.

Cobra King F8 One-Length £169 5H (25° loft)

With the shaft length of a 7-iron the F8 One Length is brilliant for boosting confidence. Very different to what you will have tried before!

Can I not just get a more forgiving 5-iron?

Mizuno MP-18 Fli-Hi

It should come as absolutely no surprise at all that to hit long and mid irons consistently well, you need a downward angle of attack (into the back of the ball) and a reasonable amount of clubhead speed. The perfect scenario is to hit down onto irons, more steeply in the short game and shallower as the clubs get longer, and in a perfect world hit slightly up on a driver.   

For golfers with both a descending angle of attack (an average tour pro hits down on 5-iron by 3.7°) and a swing speed that’s on the cusp (or faster) of regular and stiff iron shafts, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to launch long and mid irons from the turf and more accurately than a high-lofted hybrid or fairway wood.

For golfers lacking in either (downward angle of attack or swing speed) it’s likely you’ll struggle launching long/mid irons from the turf (hence why they only work well from a tee).

So the question is, can you put your hand on your heart and swear you have both a descending angle of attack (you can find yours out on a launch monitor) and a good level of clubhead speed? And if you do, will a modern hollow body 5-iron give you more help and forgiveness than a standard cavity back 5-iron? The answer from our experience is a resounding yes.

Our favourite forgiving 5-iron options

Utility irons

Ping G400 Crossover £200 #5 (25° loft)

Big, chunky, forgiving and powerful thanks to some super flex face and body technology.

Callaway X-Forged Utility iron £199 #5 or #6 (27°/30° loft)

Super sleek to look at but more forgiving than Callaway’s standard X-Forged

Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi £150 #5 or #6 (25°/28° loft)

Think higher flight with steeper descents, which mean you’ll be able to hold a green.

PXG 0311 X Gen2 from £400 #5 (24° loft)

A high-lofted driving iron that’s very easy to launch from the turf so long as you remember the long/mid iron rules.

Titleist 718 T-MB £230 (s) £255 (g) #5 (26° loft)

Originally designed as a utility iron, the T-MB has now morphed into a full set of irons.