Best Golf Irons

Golf iron sets are classic and timeless. Often they persist much longer than drivers, fairway wood, and hybrids due to their beautiful craftsmanship and improved playability. Today, there are several categories of golf iron sets that help meet the needs of each golfer’s style and swing characteristics. Hundreds of hours of research and development are poured into each set of irons produced and it is important that you understand what makes each model unique to find the best set for your game.

Much of the decision making in choosing an iron set will depend on your specific preferences for look, feel, and performance. As you browse irons in different categories that are important distinctions to consider. Each category comes with advantages and disadvantages that players must balance when choosing their set. In this guide, we take you through each of these categories, the different playing profiles made possible by diverse iron sets and the qualification that match them to your game. 

Top 6 Best Golf Irons of 2020

Best Overall
Callaway Golf Apex Pro Iron Set
  • Forged from one piece carbon steel to dampen vibrations
  • Dense inserts to lower CG for increased launch
  • High performance wide grooves provide consistent distances
Best Feel
Mizuno MP-18 Split Cavity Golf Iron Set
  • Increased grain density for soft, solid and consistent feel
  • Carbon Steel Billets to deliver unmatched performance
  • Harmonic Impact Technology creates fine-tuned head geometry to deliver ideal impact feel and feedback
Best Spin
Titleist 718 AP3 Iron Set
  • L-Face inserts launch the ball long and high with shot-stopping spin, even on longer shots
  • High ball speed and launch through the hollow blade construction
  • rue Temper AMT Black Steel Shaft is the light- to mid-weight model
Most Distance
TaylorMade Golf P790 Iron Set
  • SpeedFoam pushes the limit of COR for groundbreaking distance
  • Refined shaping featuring a straighter topline, shallower face, and progressive offset
  • Strategically placed tungsten weighting to increase inertia
Best Value
Mizuno JPX919 Forged Iron Set
  • Back milled face: CNC milled from the sole up, the JPX919 forged boasts a larger area of minimum face thickness for consistently increased ball speeds
  • Stability frame: open at the heel portion to enhance stability and launch, while producing a Tour preferred vibration and sound
  • Grain flow forged HD: enhanced grain flow forging process that increases grain Density in the impact area for the ultimate soft, solid, consistent feel
  • A small addition of boron makes our steel billet 30% stronger
  • Pearl brush finish: chrome plating with a more durable Pearl finish to soften the jpx919's precise lines in sunlight
Best Control
Titleist 718 AP2 Iron Set
  • Both speed and MOI have been maximized to provide total control and distance
  • Forgiveness and stability are delivered through precise perimeter weighting
  • Maximizes speed and MOI, producing consistent distance on every shot

When Do You Use an Iron?

golf iron

Golf irons make up the largest part of your golf bag. Because of this, they receive thee most diverse play around the golf course. Irons are used from the tee boxes of par-3 holes or on par-4s when players need to position themselves away from trouble. Irons are also used to attack greens from the fairways, rough, and bunkers. Higher lofted irons are often preferred by golfers to escape trouble and get them back in play after an errant tee shot. This incredible breadth of play is what makes getting the right set of irons for your game so important. 

Finding the Best Irons for Your Golf Game

The right set of irons for your game will depend on your playing ability and swing dynamics. The most important thing to keep when mind when choosing a golf iron set is the balance of each club. Because each club must work together to ensure that you can hit all the different distances demanded of each golf course, it is important to build your iron set from both ends.

You will most likely only be able to test a 6 or a 7 iron during your fitting and demo process. Understanding that not all 7 irons are alike is very important. The loft of each iron will have the largest impact on how far the golf ball goes and how much spin it contains. Too much loft and your iron will spin too much and fall short of the desired distances. Too little spin and the iron will be hard to control and cause shot to fly at inconsistent distances. 


Iron sets are expensive. Luckily, most iron sets can be custom fit after purchase so many great sets can be found on the second-hand market or in previous generation models. Because of the longer life of modern irons and the need for each club to fly a specific distance, the need to play the latest technology is not as important as it can be with other club categories. Budget-conscious golfers should be assured that they can find improvements in their equipment without buying the newest iron set models. 

Top Iron Features

Single Vs Standard Irons

Each iron set is built differently depending on the desired role it is designed to perform. Larger cavity back irons are built to give players more height and higher ball speeds, especially at lower club head speeds. Slimmer cavity or muscle back irons are designed for control and help players adjust to different lies around the golf course and shape their approach shots. Each iron will be built with a specific loft and lie that helps match it to the number stamped on the club head, fitting these to your golf swing is the best way to get the most balanced set. 

Forged Irons

forged vs. cast irons

Irons that are forged are made from a single piece of metal. Cut away piece by piece similarly to how a sculptor would create a sculpture, forged irons are often more uniform in construction and offer craftsmen more tools for tighter tolerances. Forged irons often carry a higher price tag but a much softer feel that is preferred by avid golfers. Companies have begun expanding their technology to role different material into their forging process. The results are different iron sets that sound and feel distinct and help fit the desires of individual golfers.

Cast Irons

Cast irons are created by pouring metal into a pre-made mold. The pouring process leads to irregularities in the club making process. Cast irons can be made much more quickly than forged irons and this helps make them more affordable for golfers. The ability to very accurately position the metal around pre-made fixtures also allows engineers to design cast irons with more materials and extreme weight designs. The results can often be irons that help golfers achieve more height and more distance from lower lofts. 

Designs of Irons

Blade Irons

cavity back vs. forged

Blade irons are usually seen in the bags of PGA Tour Professionals and elite low handicap golfers. Many players use blade irons due to their increased consistency in spin rates and distance control. Bladed irons also typically offer golfers better turf interactions and can make getting out of difficult lies easier thanks to the increased versatility. Blades are typically only recommended to exceptionally accurate ball strikers with quick club head speeds as they demand that you hit the golf ball near the sweet spot often.

Cavity Back Irons

Cavity back irons can be either forged or cast and their main feature is a large “cavity” in the back of the clubhead that concentrates weight in the perimeter of the club. Perimeter weighting increases MOI across the entire face, affording maximum forgiveness on off-center shots. Combined with a thin face, cavity back irons are great for mid- to high-handicap players as they produce shots that fly longer and higher than bladed irons. Be careful, however, cavity back irons with too little loft can cause difficulty in controlling distances on the course especially when hitting out of the rough or during wet conditions. 

Sets of Irons

Iron sets refer to a number of up to nine irons with different lofts that are the same model. In modern golf equipment, long irons are those numbered two, three, and four, mid irons are five, six, and seven, and the short irons are eight, nine, and pitching wedge. Building a set of irons for your game may include mixing and matching different iron models to help you get the proper distance and ball flight gapping necessary to play golf. It is becoming more and more common to see iron sets consisting of multiple brands or club types in a golfer’s bag. 

Hybrid Sets of Irons

The introduction of hybrids has made difficult-to-hit long irons a thing of the past. Many amateur golfers can find relief in replacing irons of less loft with larger headed hybrids that offer more ball speed and more forgiveness. Due to the increase in popularity of hybrids, hybrid iron sets are sold that incorporate hybrids and mid and short irons into a balanced set for more convenience in club buying. 

Golf Iron Shafts

golf iron shaft
Types of Golf Shafts. Source callawaygolf

Steel Shafts

Steel shafts are the most popular iron shafts for the majority of golfers. Steel shafts offer a traditional feel and a great level of control. Steel shafts are offered in a variety of weight and flex options to help golfers fit their swing and playing styles. Trying different iron heads in a variety of shafts if the best way to know which combination is best for you. 

Graphite Shafts

Graphite iron shafts are quickly gaining traction in the club fitting and casual golfing community. Ideal for players that have slower swing speeds or are affected by physical injuries or limitations, graphite shafts can be lighter and more active than their steel counterparts. The use of multi-material graphite enables shaft engineers to position weight and flex profiles more accurately and give golfers more options. Although more expensive, graphite iron shafts can make a huge impact in your game and should not be overlooked during your golf club testing. 

Mutli-Material Shafts

Multi-material shafts are made mostly of steel with graphite tip or interlaced sections. While the graphite tip allows players to gain some added distance and reduces vibration felt on mishits, the steel portion of the shaft provides control and feel. These shafts are great options for players that need more help in their golf shots but prefer the feel of traditional steel shafts. 

Shaft Flex

All iron shafts come in a range of flex options regardless of what material they are made of. Ladies or amateur flexes are the softest flex and extra-stiff or tour-extra-stiff shafts are the least flexible. In between these two extremes are senior flex, regular flex, and stiff flex. While shaft flex loosely correlates with swing speed, do not be afraid to experiment with your new club to see if a different weight or flex offers you added performance. 

How to Hit Golf Irons Video

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many different dynamics that go into deciding what type of irons you should buy. Things like budget, head design, shaft material, and flex only scratch the surface. We have compiled some frequently asked questions to help you address some of these issues.

Q: How long do golf irons last?

A: A: It is rare that any one golfer will ever truly wear out a set of golf irons if they are properly cared for. Softer forged models can often become bent or dented if they are not protected during travel and in between play. Irons that are left outside or in car trunks can also wear due to weather and impacts. Typically the life of a golf iron set is between 7 and 10 years before wear pattern on the grooves affect performance. Players that practice often may see this lifespan decrease. It is recommended that each set of irons is checked once per year to make sure their loft, lies, and shaft have not moved. This is especially important for forged clubs. Changing your grip every 100 rounds is also best practice to ensure a longer life and better performance. 

Q: Where is the sweet spot on irons?

A: A: The sweet spot, or center of gravity for an iron is typically located at the geometric center of the club face or just slightly towards the heel. This spot will yield the highest ball speeds when struck. Engineers adjust this center of gravity by placing perimeter weights around the irons to attempt to give golfers more forgiveness and widen this sweet spot area. 

Q: What are game improvement irons?

A: A: Game improvement irons are often large cavity back or hybrid irons that help players get the ball airborne and improve distance. They are perimeter weighted, have thin faces, and large club head designs. Game improvement irons are a great choice for beginners, seniors, ladies, or players with slower swing speeds that have trouble making consistent contact. 

Q: How do you clean golf irons?

A: A: Taking proper care of your irons after every round will keep them looking their best and ensure they perform consistently every time you hit the links. Cleaning your irons is a simple step that only requires a bucket of warm water, some liquid soap, and a two-sided wire-and-bristle brush. Begin by dipping all your irons in a bucket of warm soapy water. Letting them sit for no more than 5 minutes allows the dirt and grime you picked up during your round to loosen without weakening the metal. With each club, gently run the bristle side of the brush along each of the grooves carefully inspecting that are completely clean. Only use the wire side of the brush for dirt that won’t come out with the bristle side. Using the wire side to excess can scratch the face and dull your grooves. Finish by wiping the club down with a dry towel. Be sure to carefully exclude the hosel from the warm water as the heat can loosen the epoxy and create separation between the club head and shaft. 

Top 10 Best Golf Irons of 2019

1. Callaway Apex Pro 2019 Iron Set

The only iron to ever receive 20 out of 20 stars from Golf Digest, the Callaway Apex Pro irons have been re-engineered for 2019. This forged players iron is beautiful and incredibly soft thanks to 1025 mild carbon steel. A tour performance iron mixed with the explosive distance of Callaway’s Face Cup technology makes the Apex Pro the ultimate blend of distance and control. Already in the golf bag of several members of the PGA Tour, the Apex Pro appeals to golfers of all skill levels and swing speeds. One of the very true players iron that packs maximum ball speed the Apex Pro is the standout performer this season.

2. Mizuno MP-18 Split Cavity Iron Set

When Mizuno released their MP18 line of they were acclaimed as some of the best-looking irons ever created. The SC or Split Cavity model in the MP18 line is the middle cavity option for the best balance of superior shot-shaping ability and forgiveness. Designed directly from tour player feedback, the Mp-18 SC iron uses a slightly wider sole than traditional blades and added weight in the heel and toe to give more distance and higher MOI in a player’s iron. The thin top line of the MP-18 SC is stunning at address and the Grain Flow Forging is what makes Mizuno irons the “best feeling irons in golf.” Golf enthusiasts will go crazy for Mizunos newest split cavity offering.

3. Titleist 718 AP3 Iron Set

For the first time ever, Titleist has created a true player’s distance iron. The 718 AP3 iron is a blend of the amateur-friendly AP1 and the tour validated AP2. The looks and feel of the forged AP2 mixed with the added forgiveness and power of AP1 make the AP3 from Titleist one of the most widely accepted irons of 2019. The AP3 use a hollow body construction and an L-Face insert to give players higher launches and plenty of spin. Golfers that have wanted to game a player’s iron from Titleist but could not find themselves into AP2 finally have an option with more forgiveness and more distance. AP3 is perfect for the golfer looking to gain more yards in their entire set without sacrificing the looks of a better players iron.

  • Titleist AP3 718
  • With AP3 you get the off-center performance of a game improvement iron packed into a club that delivers the feel of a player’s iron. Precise when you pure it, and forgiving when you don’t.
  • Look down and you’ll see a player-preferred shape that inspires confidence. Feel even better knowing this beauty of an iron possesses all the distance and forgiveness you demand to play your best.

4. TaylorMade P790 Iron Set

TaylorMade rolled more technology into the new P790 irons than any set before. The P790 combine beauty with incredible distance to give players the ideal balance of more power and control. The P790 is made with Spead Foam, a material that generates more ball speed while dampening impact and creating a softer feeling iron. An ultra-thin face and tungsten weights for higher MOI, the P790 is unrivaled in terms of ball speed and forgiveness on mishits. An ideal option for players that need more distance or are looking to replace their long irons with easier-to-launch options can get the performance of game-improvement clubs with the looks and feels of a cavity back player’s iron.

  • SpeedFoam pushes the limit of COR for groundbreaking distance; Ultra-thin 1.75mm face thickness with mini-ICT; High-strength forged 4140 carbon steel
  • SpeedFoam produces soft feel and responsive feedback; Refined shaping featuring a straighter topline, shallower face, and progressive offset; Elegantly Design includes minimalistic cosmetic details
  • Strategically placed tungsten weighting to increase inertia; ultra-thin internal leading edge with cut-thru speed pocket for low-face forgiveness; hollow construction for optimal weight placement

5. Mizuno JPX919 Forged Golf Iron Set

Breathtakingly beautiful with performance to match is a staple of Mizuno iron technology. The JPX919 Forged iron continues that trend. Boron is added during Mizuno’s patented Grain Flow Forging process to give engineers more precise control over weight distribution and center of gravity alignment. The result is a player’s iron with forgiveness levels of much larger cavity back irons. The blend of tour-inspired looks with the added perimeter stability of large cavity back designs is accomplished by the stability frame positioned mostly in the toe of the golf club. More weight in the toe lines the center of gravity with the middle of the club face and gives players more speed on their best swings and more protection on their worst. Often billed as the more friendly line of irons by Mizuno, the JPX range has one of its best ever with the 919 Forged.

  • Back milled face: CNC milled from the sole up, the JPX919 forged boasts a larger area of minimum face thickness for consistently increased ball speeds
  • Stability frame: open at the heel portion to enhance stability and launch, while producing a Tour preferred vibration and sound
  • Grain flow forged HD: enhanced grain flow forging process that increases grain Density in the impact area for the ultimate soft, solid, consistent feel
  • A small addition of boron makes our steel billet 30% stronger
  • Pearl brush finish: chrome plating with a more durable Pearl finish to soften the jpx919's precise lines in sunlight

6. Titleist 718 AP2 Iron Set

One of the most popular irons on world-wide golfing tours, the Titleist 718 AP2s are the absolute standard for control and performance. The AP2 uses precision placed high-density tungsten weights in the heel and toe to properly align the center of gravity in each iron throughout the set. The entire set is blended to ensure players get balanced distance in the short and mid-irons and more ball speed in the lower lofted long irons. Tour-proven looks, feels, and sounds help make the AP2 one of the premier options for better players who seek more help than is offered by traditional blades. If you want to give yourself the options of the best players in the world without the burden of making your best swing every time, the AP2 is a great choice.

7. PING G410 Blue Dot Iron Set

Ping has been the industry leader in recent years for creating some of the most forgiving and easiest to hit irons in the game-improvement category. This season, the G410 irons introduce golfers to that same level of performance in a shape that is more appealing to the eye. Less offset and a shorter blade length help the G410 iron to look more like a players cavity back and less like the chunky irons needed for maximum distance. The G410 gives nothing back in distance or forgiveness thanks to a larger flexing zone, COR-eye technology, and more weight moved to the toe and hosel. 8% more weight in the extreme perimeter of the club increases MOI without giving the G410 irons a clunky shape. Better aesthetics without a reduction of performance help the G410 to be one of the best all-around game-improvement irons this year.

8. Callaway Apex Irons Set

The perfect compliment to the best performing irons in this years class, the Callaway Apex 19 irons are game-improvement irons made for the traditional golfer. Players that want the maximum amount of help and power retention but do not want to look at huge hybrid-like irons will be amazed at the performance packed into the relatively small profile of the Apex 19. The Apex 19 not only look the part, they feel amazing too. One of the only maximum game-improvement irons to be forged from 1025 carbon steel, the Apex 19 truly are performance irons inspired by bladed components. Urethane microspheres help make the Apex 19 irons sound and feel great without robbing the club of ball speed and the more traditional shape will help you stay attached to the game you love without giving up performance to the field.

  • The Callaway Apex 19 is the ultimate forged players distance iron.
  • Extremely soft feel comes from a forged 1025 mild carbon steel body, and for the first time Callaway has put Urethane Microspheres into a forged iron.
  • The 360 Face Cup creates fast ball speeds for consistent distance, and the spin control VFT Face in the short irons promotes aggressive shot-making.
  • The tungsten-infused, multi-material construction allows us to locate the Center of Gravity with extraordinary precision for optimum ball flight and control.
  • Apex is expertly crafted with a beautiful players shape, a platinum chrome finish and a new True Temper Elevate 95 Shaft.

9. Cobra Forged Tec Black Iron Set

The most visually stunning iron set in recent memory is the Forged Tec Black set from Cobra Golf. The Forged Tec Black is a Diamonized Black Metal (DBM) iron that offers maximum performance in a tour-inspired shape. The DBM coating gives the Forged Tec irons extreme wear resistance, less glare, and a slimmer appearance. Forged from 4140 Chromoly steel, the Forged Tec irons feature a higher strength-to-weight ratio than other irons giving them superior performance for their size. More ball speed, tungsten wrapped perimeter weights for improved MOI, and a breathtaking appearance makes the Forged Tec Black irons standout in your golf bag and on the course.

  • Forged 4140 stainless steel FACE-A thinner, high strength forged stainless steel face increases deflection for faster ball speeds and increased distance
  • DBM Black Finish-Cobra's most durable satin black finish. DBM (Demonized Black Metal) provides extreme resistance to wear for longer lasting, better looking irons
  • Carbon feel technology-a lightweight, carbon fiber medallion dampens vibrations at impact for a soft, yet solid feel
  • Tungsten weighting-high Density tungsten weights are strategically positioned on the heel and toe to lower and center the CG to deliver more forgiveness and precision
  • Cobra Connect technology-seamless in grip-electronic sensor technology allows you to Track your improvement using detailed stats and analysis of every aspect of your iron game

10. TaylorMade Golf M6 Iron Set

Engineered for ultimate distance and forgiveness, the TaylorMade M6 irons are built to help the game’s beginners and high-handicap golfers. The M6 irons are reenforced with a Speed Bridge and Inverted Cone Technology for higher ball speeds and increased stiffness. Less energy loss at impact regardless of the quality of your strike, the M6 offer the most protection of any iron on the market. Optimized for playability and to enhance the abilities of each golfer, the M6 uses a fluted hosel for more club head speed and a low center of gravity for higher launches and more distance. If you are a player looking for the most help possible, the M6 from TaylorMade is an outstanding option.

  • MORE SPEED WITH SPEED BRIDGE : The new Speed Bridge structure unlocks the ability to use our fastest thru-slot Speed Pocket for the first time in our players distance category
  • IMPROVED SOUND AND FEEL : Speed Bridge supports the topline to reduce low frequency vibrations for a more satisfying sound at impact; Advanced HYBRAR compression damper effectively filters unwanted face vibrations for a soft and solid feel on all shots
  • OPTIMIZED FOR FORGIVENESS AND PLAYABILITY : Fluted Hosel and 360 degree undercut effectively lowers CG to increase launch angle and ball speed to generate a strong, penetrating ball flight even on low face impacts

What Golf Iron Should You Buy?

The large visual differences in iron sets can make it difficult knowing where to start to look for your new clubs. Understand the benefits of the different sizes and shapes of irons can help you narrow your choice and make your testing list. Knowing your game and where you can make the most improvement will likely lead you to choose equipment that matches your goals.

Remember that buying irons is not a distance contest and each club should be gapped to give you complete distance covered tee-to-green. Modern cavity back irons can help you gain height and distance but bladed irons will give you consistent spin and distance control. Balancing your performance objectives with iron models that fit your visual and feel preferences is the best place to begin.

End by completing your iron set up by mixing in hybrids, fairway woods, and wedge that give you an ability to play the golf course from anywhere and in any weather condition. Make sure to choose a shaft and grip that fit your swing and help you feel comfortable swinging your new set for 18 holes and beyond. Have fun testing new equipment and use it as an opportunity to learn more about your game and improve your scores. Happy testing and thanks for reading!


Paul Liberatore

Founder of Golfers Authority

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