The Ultimate Guide on Golf Irons

For golfers of all skill levels, having the right set of irons is essential to playing your best. What’s best for Dustin Johnson likely isn’t what’s best for you. Irons make up the majority of clubs we use during a round and having a set that is properly fitted instills confidence and maximizes performance. With so many different brands, shafts, and heads to choose from, deciding what irons are best for you can be overwhelming. In order to simplify the process and help you better understand what to look for, we’ve created the ultimate guide to buying irons below. 

When Do You Use an Iron?

golf iron

Irons are numbered clubs with varying lofts designed to hit the golf balls a specific yardage. Irons are most often used off the tee on par threes and out of the fairway or rough on par fours and fives. In some cases, they can make great chipping clubs as well. 

Finding the Best Irons for Your Golf Game

Finding a set of irons that maximizes distance, accuracy, and control is an intricate and complex process. While some preliminary research on your part can expedite the process, consulting a Certified Club Fitter or PGA Professional will ensure that your irons are properly fitted to your swing


More than any other piece of equipment in your bag, irons are worth making an investment in. Prices for full sets of irons can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Researching what irons are best for you across several different brands will help you find a set that is within your budget. 

Top Iron Features

The technology in modern irons is highly advanced. From irons that are cast or forged, game improvement or precision focus, cavity back, muscle back or blade, graphite shafts or steel shafts, the combinations are endless and having even an elementary understanding of what is best for you will help you narrow your focus. 

Forged Irons

forged vs. cast irons

The term forged refers to an iron that is hand made from a single piece of metal. Carbon steel is heated and molded into a rough shape and then hammered out, grinded, milled and polished by hand into the finished product. Forged irons usually have a smaller club head and sweet spot that is preferred by highly skilled players who value control and feel over forgiveness and distance.

Cast Irons

Cast irons are produced en masse by pouring liquid metal into a mold. This process allows manufacturers to produce highly complex head designs that incorporate features like perimeter weighting and multi-material composites. Cast clubs tend to be better for higher handicap players as they are more forgiving, promote a higher ball flight, and increase distance. 

Designs of Irons

Blade Irons

cavity back vs. forged

Like drivers and fairway woods, many hybrids come with loft adjustability. Lofts can be adjusted up to five degrees; allowing you to dial in your exact preferred distance. Some hybrids also allow you to adjust face angle either open or closed. This is a great option for players who struggle either hitting slices or hooks. Adjustable sole weights may be available as well. By adjusting sole weight, you’re able to change the center of gravity to raise or lower ball flight.

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, higher and straighter than blade irons. 

Sets of Irons

The term “set” refers to a number of up to nine irons with different lofts that are the same model. Although rare in the modern game, long irons are those numbered two, three, and four. Mid irons are five, six, and seven. Short irons are eight, nine, and pitching wedge. When buying a set of irons, it’s important to buy a complete set of the same brand and model to ensure consistency in length, lie angle, and loft. 

Hybrid Sets of Irons

Hybrid iron sets have exploded in popularity in recent years. Aimed at players that struggle hitting traditional irons or getting the ball in the air, hybrid iron sets start with forgiving cavity back heads in the short irons and progress all the way to hybrid head designs in the middle and long irons. The design of these clubs affords maximum forgiveness and helps get the ball in the air with greater consistency. 

Golf Iron Shafts

golf shaft
Types of Golf Shafts. Source callawaygolf

Steel Shafts

Steel shafts are the most popular iron shafts on the market. Because they are considerably heavier, steel shafts flex less than graphite and allow for greater consistency in both accuracy and distance control. Consistent torque in steel shafts ensures that you’ll have the same amount of flex in all of your irons. 

Graphite Shafts

Graphite shafts are substantially lighter and more flexible than steel shafts. Intended for players with slower swing speeds, graphite shafts help players hit the ball higher and increase distance. A drawback in graphite shafts is that they may lack the consistent feel throughout your iron set compared to steel shafts. Graphite shafts are also more expensive to produce than steel shafts and that cost is passed on to the consumer. If you’re a junior, senior, or lady that likes the feel of a lighter club and added distance, then graphite shafts are a great option. 

Mutli-Material Shafts

Multi-material shafts are made mostly of steel with a graphite tip. 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. 

Shaft Flex

All iron shafts come in a range of flex options regardless of what material they are made of. Ladies’ flex shafts are the most flexible and extra stiff shafts are the least flexible. In between are senior flex, regular flex, and stiff flex.
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. Once you’ve made the right choice for your game, there are a number of things to consider when maintaining your irons. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long do golf irons last?

A: Most manufacturers come out with several new models of irons each year. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest technological jargon and features that are “guaranteed” to improve your game. Buying new sets of irons on a regular basis can quickly become an expensive habit. The good news is that irons last a long time if you care for them properly. While you may need to sharpen the grooves and replace the grips occasionally, the material in the heads and shafts will last a long time. Our recommendation is that when you buy a new set of irons, you should play with them enough to where you become comfortable and know how they are going to perform day in and day out. 

Q: Where is the sweet spot on irons?

A: A: You know that buttery sensation when you don’t even feel the ball hitting the clubface? These shots come right out of the sweet spot. Contrary to popular belief, the sweet spot on most irons is not directly in the center of the face. Manufacturers have realized that because the majority of golfers have an outside-to-in swing path, they catch the majority of shots toward the toe, which can be due to their golf stance. For this reason, modern irons are engineered so that the sweet spot is just slightly on the toe-side of center. 

Q: What are game improvement irons?

A: A: Game improvement irons are either cavity back or hybrid irons that help players get the ball airborne and increase distance. They are almost always perimeter weighted, have thin faces, and are large 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-side wire-and-bristle brush. Begin by soaking all your irons in a bucket of warm soapy water. Letting them sit for a few minutes allows the dirt and grime you picked up during your round to loosen. 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. 


Making an informed decision about which irons to buy can be daunting. Between new products coming out all the time and so many different dynamics to consider, it’s easy to feel lost. For this reason, doing some minimal research and scheduling a professional fitting are well worth the time and money to guarantee you get the most out of your irons, shoot lower scores, and have more fun.

Paul Liberatore
Paul Liberatore

As the Founder of Golfers Authority Paul Liberatore Esq. has spent the last 7+ years writing about the best golf equipment or instruction from the top golf instructors in the world. He has been a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated Golf and GolfWRX. After graduating with honors from Purdue University, he realized that he had a passion for the golf business and the law. When he's not practicing law, or creating golf content on YouTube, he can be found on his syndicated Behind the Golf Brand podcast both on Apple and Spotify talking with the most prolific leaders in the golf industry. 

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