For many golfers forged irons are the pinnacle of the game, up there on an aspirational pedestal as the hallmark of a decent ball striker.
Forged models have grown massively in popularity over the last five years and thanks to this renaissance there are now more of them on sale than ever before.
The best options don’t just cover off the needs of the world’s best pros, either; today, there are forged irons suited to high handicappers and average golfers, too, some boasting more face flex, ball speed and forgiveness tech than a driver. Simply put, more golfers than ever are considering forged irons as their next set.
So with TaylorMade, Mizuno, Callaway and Titleist all launching new forged models recently, now seemed like the perfect time to show how 36 leading models (from muscleback blades to super game improving hollow body constructions) compare, and explain what you might put on the line by choosing a set above your ability.
The Top Performers - Blades
Wilson Staff Model iron - Verdict
Wilson have a massive heritage when it comes to forged irons, the Staff Model is the latest in the brands line up, which can be traced all the way back to 1914. Gary Woodland's the most recent Wilson convert, using a set of Staff Model's when he won his first major, the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2019.
Our test data shows just how closely blade (muscleback) irons are matched for loft, ball speed, backspin and carry distance, but right at the very top of the pile for carry distance was the Staff Model. The Wilson has a typical traditional shiny chrome finish, along with some lovely old school detailing, tiny diamond shapes focus the eye on the hitting area and knurling rings around the hosel.
Our test pro thought the Wilson was beautifully shaped, they felt good and thanks to a £899 price tag, in the current climate they're pretty sensibly priced.
Honma TWorld Rose Proto iron - Verdict
Honma have really hit the headlines since signing former world number one Justin Rose in 2019, and although we've been well aware how good their forged irons are for years, they're now starting to get some of the recgnition they deserve.
Blades are notoriously difficult to review as there's so little difference between them and so little tech involved in their construction. But we felt the Rose Proto was a cracking looking and feeling iron, which just screams for a confident ball striker to draw the best out of them. Shape wise the heads are very similar to TaylorMade's P730, which is no surprise as it's Rose's former iron.
A lovely blade that will stand the test of time, and be just as attarctive in a few years time as it is right now with Rose amongst the worlds best players. Not the cheapest or most expensive, but a lovely set of Japanese forged blades.
TaylorMade P730 iron - Verdict
Rory, DJ and Tiger Woods all have their own versions of the P730, and we can see why based on our test results. By producing the smallest ball speed and and carry distance distance drop offs the P730 is a very accurate iron, which aids control and scoring in the right hands.
And to put that into perspective we're talking less than half the drop off for ball speed and carry distance compared to some of the blades in this category. Which is really impressive. Which should at least be a consideration for any golfers considering a set of blades in 2020.
Mizuno MP-20 MB iron - Verdict
We couldn't possibly do a forged muscelback review and not include Mizuno's new MP-20 MB. Most golfers would be well advised to give blades a wide berth, but for those that can't resist playing the game in it's purest form MP-20s have to be on your radar.
Arguably the MP-20 is Mizuno's most important MP iron launch for 30 years, as it's the first model in three decades to revert to using a very thin copper layer over the head to improve feel. So if you've toyed with playing Mizuno blades for years, but never quite taken the plunge, there couldn't be a better time. Any golfer who specifically chooses blades to increase feel can't turn a blind eye to the lengths Mizuno go to, to make sure you get a feel you won't find in any other iron.
How they compare in numbers - Blades
Blades - The Verdict
Some golfers insist blades are the only true way to play golf. It’s an opinion and we’re not going to argue with it. Admittedly, blades gave the smallest carry distance drop-off of all the irons tested, but remember shots were hit by a consistent professional.Results in the hands of an 13 handicapper would be very, very different!
Only 10% of tour players now use blades, which spells out how they’re for a very small niche of golfers. Choose blades when your game calls for game improver irons and you put 13 yards of carry distance on the line with a 7-iron...
Honma TWorld 747 Vx / Cobra King Forged Tec Black / Srixon Z785 / Titleist T100 / Callaway Apex Pro 19 / Honma TWorld 747 V / Mizuno MP-20 MMC / Wilson C300 Forged / Titleist 620 CB / Ben Hogan PTx Pro / Mizuno JPX919 Tour / TaylorMade P760 / Wilson FG Tour V6
The Top Performers - Player Irons
Honma TWorld 747 Vx iron - Verdict
Where our blade category were very closely matched for loft, our player models weren't. Five degree's of difference between our strongest and weakest 7-iron is effectively a whole club of difference, so it's no surprise there's 12 yards of carry distance difference.
Yes, some will argue the Honma TWorld 747 Vx (with its 30° 7-iron loft) falls into the player's distance iron category but fact is, it doesn't have any real fast face tech to speak of and it's a cracking looking player iron. Honma make masses of different forged models but don't be baffled by the choice, they also offer a first class fitting and custom build service in the UK.
If you're thinking of investing in a new set of forged irons any time soon, irrespective of your handicap or ability, Honma have very strong options that will fit the bill.
Srixon Z785 iron - Verdict
If there was an award for most underated iron brand, the Gold award would surely have to go to Srixon. Time after time, after time they come up trumps when we're testing forged irons.
The Z785's are beautifully shaped, there's a small cavity back which offers a degree of forgiveness and a very playable 32° 7-iron loft. Z785 isn't designed to be a distance iron, that's the job reserved for it's spring faced brother the Z585, yet it's reasonably quick and certainly not short, bearing in mind the traditional construction method.
For £799 a set, in our opinion, they're one of the most under-rated irons out there.
Callaway Apex Pro iron - Verdict
Both of Callaway's 2019 Apex irons had big boots to fill, because the previous models were absolutely top drawer, but the new pair have been more than a match for the task.
The Pro benefits from cup face technology (in the 3 - 7 irons) which not only means the reasonably weak 33° 7-iron punches above its weight in ball speed and carry distance, but also in terms of protecting drop offs on miss hits too.
A drop off of just 3mph of ball speed and 8 yards of carry distance was the smallest of the 'Player Iron' category, which should shout out to golfers wanting a reasonably forgiving player iron.
Ben Hogan PTx Pro iron - Verdict
We said there's more forged irons out there than ever before and thanks to the deluge there's now a wider price spectrum too. Yes, lots of the latest major brands launches nudge the £1000 or £1200 price bracket but there really are some great forged models out there for less.
Ben Hogan are fast becoming the go to company for reasonably priced, excellent forged irons. Their business model is online only, but if you can stomach ordering a set on the internet from the USA they are truly special, for what is often half the cost of a premium priced alternative.
We love the looks, feel, shaping and feedback of the PTx Pro, it's a lovely blend of tradition with a bit of technology. Where others choose to strengthen lofts to improve ball speed and carry distance, Hogan don't, so you get very traditional shot lengths.
How they compare in numbers - Player Irons
Player Irons - The Verdict
Two of our players’ irons fall into the ‘distance’ category (Honma TWorld 747 Vx and Cobra King Forged Tec Black), and the data shows the effect a 30° loft (7-iron) has on ball speed, height, descent angle and carry. The pair averaged 10.5 yards longer than the 35° loft Wilson FG Tour V6 (the shortest players’ iron) which shows how much the wrong decision could cost your game.
We don’t show dispersion numbers (left to right), as they’re a reflection of the tester rather than each iron. Ball speed and carry distance drop-offs though give a good indication of how each model protects ball speed and distance on off-centre hits.
WATCH: Which forged irons suit my game?
The Top Performers - Hollow Body Irons
PXG 0311 SGI Gen 2 iron - Verdict
Just a handful of years ago the SGI just wouldn't have seen the light of day, as generally forged irons were reserved predominantly for the 'player' market. We love how PXG have come in and opened up forging to every golfing ability.
The SGI (Super Game Improver) are aimed at golfers wanting maximum help enjoying their time on the golf course. The low profile heads boast a super high MOI performance, which means great forgiveness, and our test pro thought they'd be awesome long irons.
Admittedly not everyone will warm to their wide bodies, but thats exactly why PXG have three other forged models in their line-up. If you can expect fast ball speeds and long carries from the strong lofted SGI. We'd challenge anyone not to think forged irons can't be forgiving...they can.
TaylorMade P790 (2019) iron - Verdict
Golfers really took the original P790 to heart, so much so the model has gone down in history as TaylorMade's biggest selling forged iron ever, and it only had a forged face.
The numbers produced by the P790 (2019) speak entirely for themselves. It's fast and long and achieves power without dropping a ton of backspin, so shots stop on the dance floor. The P790 was our leading hollow iron for ball speed and carry distance drop off, which increases scoring consistency on the golf course in the right hands. The updates for the 2019 model are subtle, a little less offset in the long irons, more compact blade lengths in the short and some extra tungsten weighting thanks to thinning down the face thickness.
If you're looking for a player's iron profile and want to keep an eye on distance, or just simply desire the longest player's distance iron, you cannot discount the P790 without hitting them.
PXG 0311 T Gen 2 iron - Verdict
During their four life span PXG have changed the golf equipment market. So much so every leading golf brand now has at least one hollow and one super premium priced iron in their line-up for 2020.
Our test pro was particularly fond of the '0311 T Gen 2' because the size and shaping absolutely fit his eye, but most club golfers will get slightly more forgiveness from the brands 'P' (Player) model.
At £400 a club, whichever set you choose, PXG aren't cheap. Brilliantly clever though is how the trademark weighting layout (found on the forged 0311 models) ups forgiveness by 7 -10% over their cast 0211 iron. That is essentially what you pay for.
How they compare in numbers - Hollow Body Irons
Hollow Body Irons - The Verdict
The performance of the latest hollow body tech speaks for itself. A gain of over 2mph ball speed and almost six yards extra carry distance (with a 7-iron) over our better player irons explains exactly why they’re so popular.
They also boast of smaller drop-offs in ball speed and carry distance than our player models, showing how their extra forgiveness helps preserve both ball speed and carry distance on off-centre hits.
The Top Performers - Game Improver Irons
Callaway Epic Forged iron - Verdict
As brilliantly fast and powerful as the Epic Forged look on a spreadsheet be very careful about deciding they're the perfect set for you without hitting them. We're fans of strong lofted irons so long as they do the jobthey're supposed to for golfers. But we reckon Epic Forged, thanks to having less offset than Callaway's similarly strong lofted Rogue X iron are close to being a borderline decision for mere mortals.
We can't take anything away from the numbers Epic produced, just make sure you launch shots super high from the turf (not a tee) and are happy to spend £2K on irons, before even considering a set. Hit them on a launch monitor and understand how a reduction in backspin affects how shots land on a green, before opening your wallet.
Honma TWorld 747 P iron - Verdict
Honma have come out of this test smeling of roses, irrespective of whether we're talking forged blades, player or game improver irons. Simply put Honma knew a thing or two about making great forged irons.
The '747 P' is strong lofted (28.5° / 7-iron) so it could be argued it should be fast and long, but the iron isn't just all about power. By limiting ball speed drop off to 3mph it was in a four way tie as our most efficient iron too, which is seriously impressive.
The '747 P' is also a realy good looking iron sat behind the ball, which isn't always the case with game improver irons, a fraction more hosel offset than the TWorld 747 Vx aids playability for club golfers.
Callaway Apex 19 iron - Verdict
An absolute beauty of an all-rounder. Apex 19 is every bit as good as it's predecessor, the Apex CF16, which was one of the best irons of the last few years. Cup face technology throughout the set aid ball speed from what is a reasonable loft, which makes them a great package for a massive audience of club golfers.
The new True Temper Elevate shafts have an uncanny knack of powering shots up into the air, but still achieving excellent distance and plenty enough spin to stop shots quickly on a green.
A timeless classic iron which will see club golfers through many years of golfing enjoyment, whilst keeping you feeling like you own one of the most desirable sets on the market.
How they compare in numbers - Game Improver Irons
Game Improver Irons - The Verdict
Very few golfers turn down extra distance, but don’t be seduced by the Epic Forged carry numbers. We’re all for strong lofts so long as they work, but Epic is bordering on a step too far.
Callaway’s Rogue X irons (not forged) are our longest irons of 2019, and Epic Forged has the same 7-iron loft. But – crucially –Epic has less offset. And less offset usually means shot fly lower which isn’t a great combination for club golfers.
Game Improver irons as a category averaged the lowest ball speed drop-off numbers of any category, and our second lowest carry distance drop-off, showing just how effective perimeter weighting is, even in the hands of a pro.