How To Choose Golf Irons

Looking to invest in a new set of irons? We take you through a number of factors to consider before choosing your next set

How To Choose Golf Irons
(Image credit: Future)

How To Choose Golf Irons

A set of golf irons is the most expensive purchase you will likely make when it comes to your equipment, with some of the best golf irons setting you back up to thousands of dollars or pounds. That said, they tend to be the clubs that will be used most and also stay in the bag the longest, besides the putter perhaps. Therefore, it is crucial that you find a set suited to your game and allow you to achieve the perfect blend of feel, distance, flight and forgiveness.

To even the most die-hard golf fan, choosing an iron can be a difficult experience. What brand do you like? What style of iron do you want? How much are you willing to spend? Do you want new or are you ok with used golf irons? These are all factors that need to be considered and so we have created this guide to help you choose your future golf irons correctly, giving you the confidence you need over approach shots on the course.

Determine The Type Of Iron

The first and, potentially, most important aspect of choosing golf irons is determining which type of iron will best suit your game. To put it bluntly, playing and ball striking ability impacts which type of irons will give you the ideal blend of performance attributes. 

On the market there are typically five different types of irons – blades or musleback irons, players irons or low handicap irons, compact distance irons, game improvement irons and hybrid-style irons. Although you may want to play with Rory McIlroy’s irons, it doesn’t mean you will perform like the World No.1 – especially if you are a mid-to-high handicapper that would benefit from more forgiveness, which larger game-improvement irons offer.

Blade irons are the most compact and usually have the least amount of technology built in, which means they won't be long or forgiving but offer exceptional feel and feedback because they are typically forged from one piece of metal. They're best suited to elite players and tour players that don't often miss the middle. Some examples would be the Titleist 620 MB and Mizuno Pro 221.

Mizuno Pro 221 Iron Review

The Mizuno Pro 221 is regarded as one of the best golf blades around

(Image credit: Future)

Low handicap irons are still compact but have a bit more technology incorporated, be it tungsten weighting or faster faces via a cavity back design. They are usually still quite traditional in their lofts but offer a little more speed and forgiveness than blades. Some examples would be the Ping i230 and TaylorMade P770.

Compact distance irons are stronger in loft and therefore provide more distance but still have a slimline look behind the ball that appeals to the avid golfer. Examples include the Mizuno Pro 225, Ping i525 and Callaway Rogue ST Pro.

Then we have game improvement irons, where the size jumps up a notch along with the levels of distance and forgiveness. These irons are designed to be much more user-friendly, suiting higher-handicap golfers that have a varied strike pattern and need more help to launch the ball. Examples include the Cobra King LTDx and Srixon ZX4.

best callaway irons 2022

Brands often produce a variety of different models to suit an array of different golfers

(Image credit: Howard Boylan)

Most brands will offer different types of iron within their ranges so that every type of golfer is covered. Not every manufacturer will produce all five types of iron we've highlighted but some will even offer more across multiple franchises, the best Callaway irons being an example of this.

Sometimes you will be able to incorporate two types of models within a set, which is called creating a combo or combination set. This is to provide performance better tailored to where you need it, specifically more launch and forgiveness in the longer irons that tend to be harder to hit, and more consistency in the shorter irons. 

Consider Budget

With irons, there are quite a variety of price points, so how much you want to spend will dictate which irons are within your budget. There are plenty of quality iron sets available within all price brackets but the more you are willing to spend, the more likely you are to see improvements and the better durability will likely be. However, this doesn't mean you have to splash the cash to play better golf - the are some excellent choices among the best budget irons and you can also save money by going second hand, providing you avoid the common pitfalls. To keep your irons looking pristine for longer, consider investing in a set of iron headcovers to prevent dinks and scratches appearing as the irons clunk against each other in your bag.

Try As Many Heads And Shafts As Possible

It is always worthwhile trying as many irons as possible before purchasing a set. Once you are satisfied you have found the head which will provide most improvement to your game, it is just as imperative to make sure you try all available shafts as well. There are an extensive amount of shafts available and different manufacturers will offer different shafts. Depending on what shaft is in the club when you try it, your opinion of the club can be heavily influenced. Shafts are also available in numerous different flexes, ranging from ladies to extra-stiff. However, flex is not the only aspect of a shaft which needs to be considered.

First off, they feature in different weighting, ranging from roughly 40g to 130g in irons. Also, different shafts are designed to manipulate the ball in different ways, hence why it is vital to try as many head and shaft combinations as possible – even if it means the process of choosing takes a little longer.

Always Get Custom Fit

Custom fitting is the best way of ensuring your clubs are right for your height, swing speed and the way you deliver the club to the ball. As previously mentioned, irons tend to be the most expensive clubs in the bag and they also tend to be used on every hole. Therefore, getting the set tailored to your swing is essential. It may cost a little bit more for a custom fit iron set, but it is 100 percent worth it regardless of player ability.

A golfer strikes a golf ball at the range

A custom fitting will help get the most from your golf irons

(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Think About What Set Make-Up You Need

Currently, there are more irons making their way on to the market with what would traditionally be classed as strongly lofted. 7-irons range from 34° all the way down to  26° and therefore the amount of distance irons can generate varies greatly. Depending on which iron set ends up working best for you, it is worth thinking about which irons you would need to carry for gapping purposes. For instance, if you purchase a set of irons with stronger lofts it is unlikely you will need a 4-iron, but you will need to add in a gap wedge and vice versa for more traditionally lofted irons where you may need to add in an extra hybrid.

Read Our Reviews

Before making any purchase the majority of people do enjoy reading up about the product to ensure they are getting a good deal. This is exactly the same when purchasing a set of irons. You can read our extensive iron reviews to best advise and help you make an informed decision. The last thing any golfer wants is to purchase a set of irons and not enjoy them only to find reviews warning them of problems found with what they have invested in.

James Hogg

James joins the Golf Monthly team as a freelance equipment writer. He has a degree in English Language from Newcastle University and, most recently, an MA in Journalism from Kingston University, London, along with an NCTJ Diploma. James plays his golf in the North East of England where he enjoys playing links courses and fits golfers on a daily basis at a well-known UK retailer. While no other member of his family play golf or ever have, James developed a strong passion for the game in his teenage years and now plays off a 6.3 handicap index.

James' What's In The Bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero, 9°
Fairway Wood: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero, 15°
Utility: Taylormade Stealth UDI, 3 (20°)
Irons: Ping i210, 4-PW
Wedges: Cleveland RTX Zipcore, 52° & 58°
Putter: Nike Method Core MC-3i
Ball: TaylorMade Tour Response

With contributions from