When To Upgrade Your Irons

There's more to consider than just price when pondering when to upgrade your irons. Neil Tappin and Joel Tadman explain more in this video and story...

When to upgrade your irons
(Image credit: GM YouTube)

There's more to consider than just price when pondering when to upgrade your irons. Neil Tappin and Joel Tadman explain more in this video and story...

When To Upgrade Your Irons

Your iron set is one of biggest purchases you’ll make as a golfer, so it’s worth spending time researching things properly and choosing the right moment to invest in an upgrade.

Price is obviously a primary factor, but whether you’re looking to progress on to the best golf irons on the market or are looking more at the best budget irons, there are several other things to take into consideration.

WATCH: When To Upgrade Your Irons

1 Is your handicap coming down or going up?

Is your game improving or perhaps slipping the other way for whatever reason?

Try to make an honest appraisal of where you feel your iron play is at as it can impact on both the timing of when to invest and what type of iron to look at - perhaps the best game improvement models or the best compact mid-handicap irons.

Handicap coming down

Why do you think your handicap is coming down? If it’s down to improved ball-striking you might want to consider how best to keep that improvement going.

It may be that an iron that helps you achieve consistency of strike is now perhaps less important than something that gives you a more consistent ball flight.

Perhaps it could be time to move from more of a game improvement design to one of the best compact shallow cavity models to help you sustain your progress.

Could a more compact, shallow-cavity model help you achieve a more consistent ball flight

Handicap going up

Whether down to the passing years or perhaps a break from the game, your current irons may be geared towards feel and workability when what you actually now require is a little more strike assistance.

If you’re not striking it out of the middle consistently, an iron that’s more stable and forgiving on off-centre hits, or a bit more confidence-inspiring to look down on, could be the answer – more of a game improvement model.

But whichever way your handicap is going, don’t just assume that your iron play is the underlying reason.

Try and keep some stats or records to shed some light on where your weaknesses lie as it’s only worth upgrading your irons if you can see scope for potential gains.

2 Feel and sound

These are important but not always easy to quantify.

Feel and sound are perhaps where irons have improved the most in recent years.

Game improvement and mid-handicap irons in particular sound and feel much better than they did five to ten years ago, especially on off-centre hits. You’ll get better feel more often now even when you’re not finding the middle.

Best Game Improvement Irons

Today's game improvement irons feel and sound much better than their predecessors

The new breed of hollow-headed irons, geared up for more distance, also now sound much better – much less tinny and clicky than in the past.

3 Swing changes

Many golfers have lessons to improve, but as your technique changes, it can be that your current irons no longer suit your new swing and may be holding you back.

For example, if your current irons have a fair amount of offset to help counter a fade or slice and you’ve now ironed that shape out, that offset will now be causing pulls or hooks.

If lessons have straightened out your slice, you may no longer needs as much offset in your irons

Think about shaft flex too. If you’re improving and generating more swing speed, it may be that a stiffer flex is required.

Conversely, if your swing is slowing down with age, it may be that the stiff shafts you’ve played all your life are no longer suitable and are now actually holding you back.

4 Distance

Accuracy may be more important than distance with irons, but that hasn’t stopped manufacturers making big strides on the distance front.

If you’ve been losing distance, upgrading to a modern set of irons might help you recoup some of that.

It’s no secret that iron lofts have got stronger, with today’s 7-iron perhaps boasting the 5-iron loft of yesteryear.

But even though spin will be lower too, we’ve found that ball flight has remained pretty similar – so it’s still easy to get that stronger 7-iron up in the air, with descent angles remaining similarly steep for equal stopping power.

A couple of things to beware of, though – the number on the bottom of club means less than in past. We’ve seen 7-iron lofts from 26˚ up to 34˚, which can make a significant difference from set to set.

And finding more distance with your irons may create gapping issues at both ends of the bag, so an iron upgrade may also mean having to tweak or refine your hybrid and wood line-up or your wedges to prevent big gaps emerging.

5 Looks

This is a personal thing - it’s all about confidence over the ball. If you’re not comfortable with what you’re looking down on, that can lead to poor swings.

One big improvement of late has been in the looks of game improvement irons – they’re a little bit more compact and sleek-looking, which some mid- to high-handicappers may prefer.

Other golfers prefer a chunkier look over the ball, and many brands have also introduced quite large-headed irons – some even more hybrid-style throughout the set. These can be more forgiving and easier to launch.

Only you can decide what you like to look down on – for example, how thick a topline, how much offset?

When to upgrade your irons

Only you can decide what you like to look down on at address

In some irons you can even see the back of the cavity at address, which some golfers may like and others may not. If you’re not keen, always check out the long irons in particular where this will be most obvious.

So, when to upgrade your irons? We’re not going to say every five years, seven years or whatever, although the faces and grooves will deteriorate over time, especially if you play a lot of golf.

It’s less about time, and much more about what’s going on in your golf game and which way it’s heading.


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