Ready for The Course: How to Buy Golf Irons

Looking for golf irons? Check out these tips on game-improvement and players irons before picking up your new set.

Most golfers use irons sets for shots less than 200 yards.

Traditional irons sets are comprised of eight irons—the 3 through 9 irons plus a pitching wedge. Many irons sets now include a hybrid in place of the 3, 4 and 5 irons. Many golfers believe hybrids are easier to hit than long irons.

The iron set is designed to progress from the lower-lofted, longer clubs ( numbers 3 to 5 irons) to the higher lofted shorter clubs (numbers 8 and 9 plus the pitching wedge). The progression in length from one club to the next is measured in half-inch increments.

The loft and length progression offers players the appropriate distance trajectory gaps for the different shots required while playing the course. Lower numbered irons (longer length and less loft) fly the ball farther than high-numbered irons and wedges.

Irons are made of from stainless steel or carbon steel.

Game Improvement Irons

Game improvement irons enhance performance and forgiveness. The best game improvement irons often include hybrids to replace the hard-to-hit long irons (i.e. 3, 4, 5 irons), while the remainder of the set normally features cavity back clubheads. Game improvement irons are ideal for any player looking to benefit from a forgiving design.

Their typical features include:

  • Cavity back or hollow clubheads create perimeter weighting, increasing the sweet spot for more forgiveness.
  • Longer blade (face) length accommodates off-center hits.
  • Wider soles allow for more turf forgiveness.
  • A lower center of gravity (COG) enhances trajectory.
  • More offset aids in squaring the blade at impact.
  • Lightweight steel or graphite shafts lower the overall weight, making the irons easier to swing and improving clubhead speed.
  • Usually manufactured from stainless steel using the investment casting method.

Players Irons

Players irons give more experienced golfers the ability to play a wide variety of shots. These irons feature a more traditional look, with shorter blade lengths, reduced offset, more narrow sole widths and thinner top lines. Players irons are less forgiving on off-center shots, making them ideal for the more accomplished golfer.

Typical features include:

  • Muscle back clubheads (a solid, non-cavity back design) are common in this category. They are less forgiving but offer advanced control on aggressive shots. Some players irons offer the slightly more forgiving cavity back design but still have many other features that appeal to an experienced golfer.
  • Slightly shorter blade (face) lengths, reduced offset, narrow sole widths, beveled leading edges and thinner top lines favor superior shot-making control over forgiveness.
  • Stainless steel shafts are standard and preferred by most elite players.
  • Usually manufactured from softer carbon steel using a forging process. May also be forged or investment cast from heat-treated stainless steel, which softens the steel and results in properties similar to carbon steel.