- Owning your own set of golf irons is a necessity for golfers of any skill level, no matter if you're just starting out or you're a veteran of the sport.
- Though iron sets vary by what's included, many have at least six clubs and come with a 5-iron through a pitching wedge. Other sets also include 3- and 4-irons suitable for anyone with a lower handicap.
- Our top pick, the Mizuno MP-20 Irons Set, offer excellent value, are great for a variety of handicaps, and comes with everything from a 2-iron to a pitching wedge.
- For more golf club recommendations, take a look at our picks of the best golf drivers.
Most golfers know the saying, "drive for show and putt for dough," meaning big-hitting drives from the tee are impressive but those who win tournaments make clutch putts.
However, that saying forgets one huge aspect of the game: Iron play. Hitting an accurate iron shot has the ability to make your putts shorter and thus, easier to make. Strong iron play can even make up for bad shots off the tee — which are an inevitable part of the game no matter how good you are.
The design of golf irons underwent quite a few changes over the past couple of decades, and now deliver greater accuracy and distance for all skill levels. Irons can be expensive, so it's important to buy the set that's best for your shot-making skills.
How to shop for a set of irons
A set of irons consists of several clubs, all featuring a similar look. However, each individual iron in the set delivers a different angle of the clubface to the ball, which results in varying distances and trajectories. Irons also have shafts of differing lengths.
An iron set should contain at least a 5-iron through a pitching wedge and include six total clubs. A 4-iron appears in many seven-club sets, while others might substitute a sand wedge. If you want a 3-iron in your set, you may have to search a bit, as many iron sets made for average and high handicap players don't offer longer irons.
Irons are split into groups based on the type of shot they deliver. Those groups are:
- Long irons: Long irons produce the greatest distance at the lowest trajectory. Some golfers even use them off the tee for a straighter shot compared to drivers (even though it sacrifices distance). The 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-irons are considered long irons, although 1-irons are rarely made for today's golfer.
- Mid-irons: Mid-irons give you the best mix of trajectory and distance, and they're easier to hit than long irons. The 5-, 6-, and 7-irons are considered mid-irons, and many average or high-handicap players find 7-irons easier to hit accurately than 5-irons.
- Short irons: The 8- and 9-iron are short irons, delivering a high trajectory on a short shot into a green with the idea that the ball hits the green and stops close to where it lands. These are the easiest irons for beginners to hit. Wedges often fall into the short iron category but since there are so many different types of wedges, they're often in a category all their own.
There are also two separate styles of golf irons, including:
- Blade: A blade-style iron features a thin club head and a small sweet spot in the middle of the clubface. This design allows for more weight behind the sweet spot, providing maximum ball speed and distance on properly struck balls. Blade-style also gives you the most feedback on the quality of the ball strike. Low handicap players get the most benefit from blade irons, too.
- Cavity: A cavity-style iron has a cavity in the back of the club. This design allows for more weight around the perimeter of the clubhead, which helps average- and high-handicap players keep the clubface on target throughout their swing. Cavity-style irons became popular in the past couple of decades. The equal distribution of weight is more forgiving for off-center ball strikes, however, this design makes it tougher to control spin and trajectory, as you can with blade irons.
To help you decide which set of irons best fits your game, we've rounded up a few of our favorite sets currently available from brands like Mizuno, Callaway, Titleist, and others.
Here are the best golf iron sets:
- Best irons overall: Mizuno MP-20 Irons Set
- Best irons for average to high handicap golfers: Callaway Big Bertha Irons Set
- Best irons for low handicap golfers: Titleist 718 AP2 Irons Set
- Best irons for extra distance: Cobra King Forged TEC Irons Set
- Best irons on a budget: Wilson Staff D300 Irons Set
Updated on 10/2/2020 by Rick Stella: Updated the section on how to shop for irons, checked the availability of each recommended set, and updated the prices and links where necessary.
The best golf irons overall
If you have enough skill to play with blade-style irons, the Mizuno MP-20 irons are a good value and accommodating of all handicaps.
Mizuno has long been one of the leading manufacturers of blade-style irons, which give experienced players the feel and control they need from their irons. And the MP-20 irons are the company's best set of irons yet.
This complete set of irons features a 2-iron through a pitching wedge to give you nine irons in total. It'll cost you a bit, but there's a reason why Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo favor the MP line.
These MP-20 irons are not quite your traditional blade style of iron, instead made with a copper underlay. PGA tour players, during a blind test, chose these across the board because of its softer feel.
Pros: Set includes nine clubs, copper underlay for increased softness upon contact with ball
Cons: Probably not a great investment for high handicap players, who will struggle with the blade style
The best for average to high handicap golfers
A new design gives the Callaway Big Bertha OS irons improvements in distance and accuracy, even on off-center ball strikes to help golfers improve their scores.
Callaway has long received high marks for its ability to create high-quality golf clubs, especially irons. The company has put together an impressive collection of design improvements and upgraded technology in the Big Bertha OS irons.
These irons start with an Exo-Cage structure that reduces weight while creating stiffness in the clubhead. Through this design, Callaway is able to keep the weight of the iron low in the clubface and deliver better speed to the golf ball.
Most high handicap players strike the ball lower on the clubface than more advanced players, so these irons will deliver nice results to inexperienced players. All of these features will help average and high handicap golfers have more success in their shot-making with the Big Bertha OS irons.
Average players should notice a significant difference in the long irons in the set, too. If you normally save your long irons for scooping your golf ball out of the pond, rather than making shots with them, you'll actually be able to use these clubs for a shot on the course because of how forgiving they are.
The Big Bertha OS irons contain a larger-than-average sweet spot, allowing off-center ball strikes to stay on target better. The design of these irons also lets the ball speed to remain consistent across a larger section of the clubface, providing extra distance. For a golfer looking to cut his or her scores, having a little extra distance in the irons is helpful.
Pros: Excellent design that allows for a precise weight distribution in the club face, should deliver more distance and accuracy for off-center ball strikes, long irons are more playable in this set
Cons: Extremely expensive for inexperienced players, may cause some vibration in the hands during ball striking
The best irons for low handicap golfers
The Titleist 718 AP2 irons are its best set of irons yet, especially for low handicap players.
The Titleist 718 AP2 iron set has been proven successful on the professional tour, and the same technologies and design features in these irons that appeal to pro golfers also make them an excellent choice for low handicap amateur players.
These Titleist irons are forgiving for any shots slightly struck off-center, which allows you to maintain a precise distance control. Titleist changes the center of gravity from club to club in the individual irons in this set, maintaining a lower center of gravity in the long irons to deliver consistent performance, which is a great feature for people who struggle to hit long irons.
As you move through the shorter 718 AP2 irons, Titleist moves the center of gravity higher on the clubface, delivering a good feel for the shorter shots where low handicap players will want more control.
Titleist uses a steel face insert in its longer irons through the 6-iron. From the 7-iron through the pitching wedge, the club construction consists of a carbon-steel face and body. Along with the steel face insert in the long irons, Titleist placed tungsten in the heel and toe of the 718 AP2 long irons, which keeps the clubface on line and delivers a higher launch at impact.
Pros: Minimal but significant design upgrades from previous version, perfect design for low handicap players, long irons will deliver a consistent distance, forgiving clubface design keeps off-center shots on line
Cons: Very expensive set of irons, not really designed for average or high handicap players
The best golf irons for extra distance
The black finish on the Cobra King Forged TEC irons will grab your attention, and the extra distance you get from these clubs will impress you.
Part of the reason Tiger Woods began wearing red on the PGA Tour was the intimidation factor. If you'd like your game to deliver a little more intimidation to your regular weekend foursome, wearing red probably won't do it (unless you have a young Tiger's length off the tee and signature fist pump). So consider using golf clubs that provide a little intimidation, like the Cobra King Forged TEC iron set.
These attention-grabbing irons look amazing, but they also deliver some excellent design features that will help you hit the ball farther, which is more likely to intimidate your foursome partners than the occasional fist pump.
The Cobra King irons use a thin steel insert that delivers outstanding distance versus most irons. Additionally, the irons feature tungsten in both the heel and toe of the iron, which helps you keep these irons on the correct swing path, again leading to more distance.
Finally, these impressive irons include a carbon-fiber insert just behind the hitting zone in the face of the club. This absorbs any vibration that you may have from an off-center ball strike, which allows you to finish the swing strong and gain all of the distance you're seeking.
Pros: New design and materials deliver extra ball speed for more distance, carbon-fiber insert absorbs vibrations at impact for comfortable ball strikes
Cons: You'll pay a little extra for the new features, those with slow swing speeds won't receive a huge distance jump
The best golf irons on a budget
The affordable Wilson Staff D300 irons deliver consistently long distances, even when struck a bit off-center.
If, when shopping for new irons, you're undergoing a lot of sticker shock, the Wilson Staff D300 should be more in line with your budget. The D300 set is a little older than some of the irons we've listed previously, but it delivers helpful design features that make it the best set of irons available at a bargain price.
Additionally, most average- to high-handicap players don't need the feel and precise design features more expensive irons deliver. The Wilson Staff D300 will give you what you're seeking: a consistent distance when you strike the ball on the center and a limited penalty when you have a slightly off-center ball strike.
Wilson's irons feature a black urethane material, visible in slots around the perimeter of the clubface. This interesting design feature allows the clubface to flex just a little bit at impact, which leads to the desired combination of ball speed, accuracy, and distance. Roughly three-quarters of the face touches this urethane material, rather than the club head chassis, which allows the flex in the club to keep shots on line.
The Wilson Staff D300 irons have a lightweight feel with an all-steel construction that allows you to generate a high level of ball speed at contact. The extra speed gives you added distance versus others, as these irons (compared with our previous pick, the C200s) have a bit more size to them.
Pros: Great price point that has dropped recently, delivers more distance than most similarly priced irons, especially forgiving of off-center strikes toward the toe, good all-around irons that deliver fast ball speed
Cons: Clubs don't necessarily excel in any one area, slightly older irons, some people will not like the look of these irons
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