The vast majority of beginner golfers spend hundreds of dollars and hours of valuable time selecting what they think are two of the most crucial clubs in the bag, the driver and the putter.
But here’s a reality check, although those two clubs are of vital importance, when you consider that you hit your driver no more than 10-12 times a round compared to your irons which you hit 35-40 times, it would seem more emphasis should be put on selecting your irons rather than your driver.
When it comes to buying a set of irons, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, such as your current level of play, you’re handicap, how many times a week do you play, and what kind of money are you willing to plop down?
This article will provide an in-depth look at just exactly what you need to consider before spending upwards of $2,000 on a set of irons that could make or break your game.
Cavities, Blades, or Game Changers?
Like most other clubs in the bag, golf irons come in a variety of different styles, materials, weights, and designs.
You’ve got the old school “blade style,” targeted at the pros and the low handicappers. Blades are for the “pure strikers” of the golf ball and offer little to no forgiveness, but boy, when you stripe one out of the middle, man, does it feel good.
Then you’ve got the “cavity backs” that are designed for regular players and middle-of-the-range handicappers. Cavity backs offer an astounding amount of playability and provide the golfer a reasonable amount of forgiveness on those inevitable shanks.
Last but not least are the “game-changing irons.” These irons have only recently hit the golfing scene and explicitly target junior, senior, and beginner golfers. Their wider soles and hollow clubfaces give the newcomer the ultimate feel, playability, and, most importantly, forgiveness.
Selecting the right set of irons for you will depend on what category of the above you fit into.
Cast or Forged?
Whether to choose a “cast” or “forged” set of irons is a pretty serious element to consider; some might say the most important.
Forged irons are constructed from large billets of steel that are stamped together using industrial size pressing machines. On the other hand, cast irons are made by pouring molten steel into specially designed molds that make up each iron.
The prevailing opinion amongst professional golfers is that forged irons offer a level of feel and playability that a cast iron cant match. However, in recent years with the advent of new technology and manufacturing processes, many now believe that cast irons can match the feel of their forged counterparts.
What about the type of steel?
Have you ever heard of getting caught up in the weeds? Well, this is one of those situations when overthinking can hinder your selection process.
The most critical characteristic to consider when selecting a set of irons is how they feel in your hands.
Do you like the feel of the ball off the clubface? What about the sound? Do you like the look? What about the shape of your ball flight? All these factors are much more important than the type of steel your iron was manufactured from.
Is The Sole Important?
The short answer is yes.
A golf iron with a wider or “broader sole” equates to having more weight positioned down low; this helps you get the ball airborne much quicker than with a blade. Alternatively, the blade irons are generally found with narrower soles, resulting in less forgiveness.
Manufacturers even “bevel” the edge of some irons now, which allows the iron to glide over the grass and create an exceptionally efficient shot.
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What About Offset?
You’ll typically find significant amounts of offset in game-changing irons that are targeted towards beginners. This sets the clubface slightly behind the hosel, which gives the iron more time to square up at impact.
When it comes to a blade, they couldn’t be further apart; blades come with minimal offset, and the club’s leading edge is much more closely aligned with the hosel. Having the leading edge closely in line with the hosel allows players to “shape” the ball with relative ease. This is one of the primary reasons most pros and low handicappers prefer forged irons.
Is The Distance Between Each Iron Important?
Golf club manufacturers design irons with specific distance gaps in mind of generally no more than 15 yards.
Now with that being said, you still need to do your due diligence and check to make sure you don’t have gaps in your game longer than 15-20 yards.
Specifically, it’s a good idea to check the distance gaps between your fairways wood and your hybrid. Likewise, check the distance gaps between your wedge and your nine iron.
Hollow Body Iron
In recent years hollow-body irons have seen a massive boom in popularity, mainly due to their ability to help beginner golfers get out of tricky situations.
Nike and Callaway both make hollow clubface irons, and if you’re looking for an iron that offers a fair amount of comfort while still providing distance, then they might be worth a go.
Hollow clubs give a feel that resembles a hybrid club, with the primary difference being the weight and style of the club. Before purchasing a set of hollow irons, make sure to put them through all-out testing at your local driving range.
In days gone by, I can remember when a lightweight shaft like the Dynamic Gold weighed in at 120g, which back then was super lightweight.
But golf technology has come a long way, with lightweight shafts now weighing in at a meer 80-90 grams. Apart from technology, the main reason behind the change is manufacturers believe that the lighter the shaft, the quicker the clubhead will travel, resulting in increased distance.
The different shaft types play a significant role in how the ball reacts after being hit. Steel, graphite, and composite materials are the three most commonly used shafts.
- Steel Shafts: As you would expect, the steel shaft is the heaviest of the group making it difficult to swing for seniors and beginners. However, steel shafts are highly consistent, and once you get used to them, your shots will be more accurate.
- Graphite Shafts: The polar opposite of the steel shaft, the graphite shaft is light and easy to swing. The shaft has a fair amount of flex, though, making it challenging to control ball flight.
- Composite Shafts: Made from graphite and steel, composite shafts are designed to help players maintain distance while improving their control.
Another facet to consider is that iron shafts come with varying degrees of flex and stiffness. A flex for ladies, seniors pros, and high handicappers are all available; stiff, regular, and extra stiff are also included.
Again a lot of this does come down to personal preference, and because golf is such a “feel” game, it’s essential to test each and every iron before purchasing.
Off The Shelf Or Custom Fit?
Custom-fit or off-the-shelf clubs both serve a purpose and depending on what you’re after, one of the two will be right up your alley.
With custom-fit golf clubs, you’re assured of getting a set of irons that are specifically suited to your game. Expert fitters will look at factors like your swing plane and path, your ball flight, and even your body shape and size. Yes, they do cost more, but custom-fit clubs are hard to go past.
Off-the-shelf clubs are ideal for beginners; they cost considerably less and still offer comfort, value, durability, and playability. These types of irons make good entry levels purchases and can always be upgraded when your game improves.
What About Composite Material Heads?
The vast majority of golf club manufacturers are now utilizing the latest in composite material to develop an iron that delivers distance and feel.
Golf club designers and engineers believe that ball-striking, forgiveness, feel, and playability is dramatically improved by distributing weight evenly throughout the clubhead.
These clubheads are primarily manufactured from hybrid materials such as titanium, graphite composite, and lightweight aluminum. Along with playability, balance and stability are also improved, resulting in an iron that can literally be a game-changer for a beginner just starting out.
Heavy Or lightweight?
Similar to a tennis racquet, the faster your racquet or club is traveling at impact, the more power you will create. It’s fundamentally speed over outright power or “muscling” the ball.
In Lehman’s terms, manufacturers are effectively reducing the weight of the shaft and increasing the weight of the clubhead; so, although a golfer might not necessarily improve his swing speed, because the shaft is lighter, they can generate more speed for the same output.
How Many Irons Do I Need?
Although this question may seem straightforward, it’s a bit more complex than you think.
Typically, a traditional iron set will have four iron to pitching wedge. Professional or low handicappers will even go as low as two or three iron and only up to the nine iron. The reason behind this is they generally leave space in the bag for an additional two wedges, such as the gap and lob wedge.
Beginners and seniors are better off opting for an iron set that starts from five or even six-iron right up to SW. The beauty of this strategy is you leave space in the bag for additional clubs like hybrids and fairway woods, which are much easier for beginners to use.
Categories Of Irons
Traditionally, irons are classified into three categories: long, mid, and short-range irons.
- Long irons are commonly accepted to comprise the two, three, and four irons.
- Mid Irons include the five, six, and seven irons and
- Short Irons are comprised of eight and nine irons and the pitching wedge.
The two iron, my favorite club in the bag, is becoming increasingly rare. Because of this, some experts now classify the five iron as part of the “long iron” category. As beginners will attest to, the shorter irons are by far easier to hit than their mid and long-range counterparts.
Without diving into the weeds too much, basically, as the loft of a club increases and the shaft’s length becomes shorter, the club becomes much easier to control.
Where Do I Play My Irons From?
The different positions you can play your irons from is only limited by your creativity.
A three-iron, for example, is generally played off the tee or from the fairway; but did you know the three iron can also be used around the green. These shots are called “bump and runs.” A bump and run is where you want the ball rolling on the green for as long as possible.
Mid and shorter-range irons are played closer to the green and are used as approach shots or “lay-ups.” A lay-up is where you intentionally hit the ball to a distance from the green you feel comfortable attacking the pin.
Many beginner golfers dig into the fairway and take large chunks of grass from the fairway, but this is normal and accepted in golf. Don’t feel embarrassed by it; simply pick up your divot and replace it by sprinkling in some sand from your sand bucket.
The more you play the game and get out and practice, the better understanding you will develop of which iron to use, when, and where. Developing in-depth knowledge of your game can’t be taught because the answer is different for every golfer.
Long irons are probably your best bet if you’re playing off the tee; the closer you are to the green, the mid and short irons now come into play. Irons like the nine or pitching wedge are great for hitting over obstacles like trees. In contrast, longer irons like a three iron can help you keep the ball low, avoiding any branches.
Well, there you have it; comprehensive and detailed information that will help you understand which type of irons are best for you.
Follow the recommendations above, but most importantly, seek the advice of your local golf professional to ensure you spend your money wisely when purchasing your irons.