Are you looking to buy new irons but have no idea where to start? I will walk you through everything I look for when getting ready to buy a new set. This will be an overview of everything you need to know and everything you should keep in mind. Of course, as a PGA Professional, I would recommend that you go and get fit for a set of irons, but if you don’t want to get fit or you want to do some research and get a good handle on what is going on, this is an excellent overview for it.
The first thing you should think about is if you want a hybrid set, player improvement clubs, a cavity back, a muscle back, or a blade. Each of those types has different profiles looking down at your clubs, and each has a different level of forgiveness and playability. If you are a beginner, you are looking more at a hybrid set or player improvement clubs. I’ll dive deep into each type below:
A set of irons made almost entirely out of hybrids. This will be very easy to hit, help you hit the ball much higher, and allow you massive mishits while not hurting you too much. These will also be pretty offset to help fight a slice. These are great for beginners and older golfers who have trouble with clubhead speed. As you can see below this will also have a massive top rail, which some might find unattractive.
Player Improvement Clubs
Player improvement clubs have massive cavity backs that increase forgiveness and help you to hit it higher. Mishits are generally very forgiven with a set of player improvement clubs. These are very similar to the hybrid clubs but usually have an open back instead of a closed back with a hollow interior like the hybrids. These are also usually accompanied by a significant offset to help close the club face and an oversized top rail to look down on. These top rails are often unattractive to look down on.
A cavity back is usually considered a smaller cavity than that with a player improvement club. These are generally less forgiving, have less offset, and have a thinner more attractive top rail. These are just the standard irons that you see. The Callaway Apex is an excellent example of a cavity back iron.
A muscle back is really what we consider blades right now. The Callaway Apex MB or Muscle Back are the bladiest irons Callaway makes. These are players' clubs, which the guys on tour use. These are hard to hit, have less offset, and have a tiny, gorgeous top rail. These are unforgiving. Mishits will lose 10 yards instead of 3. These are easy to work the ball with and come off the face lower.
These are the hardest irons to hit, and unless you are trying to play on tour, you probably don’t need anything that is this unforgiving. If you hit these thin, good luck to your hands because they will hurt. These clubs come out low and are difficult to hit. They have a very thin profile, like you are hitting golf balls with a butter knife.
How the Metal is Created
There are two ways to smith an iron, you can forge it or use a cast. A forged iron usually costs a little more, but it is forged out of a single block of metal, while cast is poured into a cast. But why does that matter? The most crucial difference is how the iron feels when you hit it.
Forged iron is generally preferred when it comes to impact feeling. It has a much softer feel when you hit the golf ball; however, it is usually more expensive, and because it is softer, it bends easier. This can be good or bad. It means after purchasing the iron, you can bend the lie angle pretty significantly and the loft pretty significantly, allowing you to customize your irons to you! However, this also means that when you are out hitting balls with your irons, they can bend over time, so you need to get your lies and lofts checked at least once a year, if not more often.
A cast iron on the other hand is much harder, it feels stiffer at impact, and you cannot bend it very much, maybe a degree at most, before it snaps. Once an iron snaps like that it is gone forever.
Lie angle is the angle at which the shaft goes up from the club. A more upright lie angle can help you hit the ball left, while a flat angle can help you hit the ball right. You can play with the lie angle to get the perfect launch for you. It will also help you come into impact with a flat club. So play with it and find what is best for you!
Quick Iron Head Recap
So you now know the two ways irons are created; forged and cast. You have to choose from forged and cast. If you aren’t sure which, go hit a couple of different clubs! That should give you an idea of your preference. Once you choose which creation method you prefer, you must pick which type of head you want. Your choices from above are Hybrid, player improvement, cavity back, muscle back, and blade. If you can’t break 80, you don’t even need to look at the muscle backs or the blades. If you can’t break 100, you need to be looking at a player improvement set that is super forgiving or a hybrid set. Otherwise, choose your favorite look and best-performing iron, and you will be in good shape for the head!
Shafts are undoubtedly essential to getting a new set of irons. Finding the right shaft makes the difference between loving your clubs and hating them. The club head almost doesn’t matter compared to how vital the shaft is. A shaft can do pretty much anything to fix mistakes in your swing, and if you find the right one, wow, it's a game changer.
Steel vs Graphite
For irons, you can get two types of shafts. Steel shafts or graphite shafts. The main difference is how heavy or light you can make the graphite shafts. Graphite used to be a lot lighter but also a lot weaker, which isn’t the case anymore. Any player could go out and use a graphite shaft; now, they are all strong enough to be considered for even the top players. In my opinion, steel tends to be heavier, stiffer, and more reliable. Graphite shafts are wrapped and can be flawed, while steel seems much more consistent all the way through.
There are a lot of variables that you should consider when looking at different shafts. Each of these variables is important when choosing the right shaft for you. This will detail all of those, so you at least know what is being talked about with different shafts.
Everyone pretty much knows this. A shaft’s stiffness is the most essential attribute it has. The ball will come out low and to the right, if you get a too-stiff shaft. While a shaft that is too weak will make a ball go high and left. This will also influence spin and consistency of contact.
The kick point on a shaft determines where the shaft bends the most. The kick point is referred to by its’s location along the shaft. So a high kick point means the shaft bends closer to the grip, while a low kick point means the shaft bends closer to the club head. This will affect the ball's launch angle. The lower the kick point, the higher the ball will go. The higher the kick point, the lower the ball will go. Kick point is one of the most important things to look at. Keep in mind how high or low you hit the ball; if you want it to go higher or lower, choose the shaft based on that.
Torque will determine the amount of circular rotation of the shaft during the swing. The measurements are in a 2 to 6-degree range. A low torque number means less twisting of the shaft, but it will also create a slightly harsher feel. A high torque number is going to close the clubface, and it will create a softer feel.
The weight of a shaft is the least important factor here and will help determine the swing weight of a club. If you swing slower, get a lighter shaft it will help you swing a little faster. This is primarily a feel thing. What feels best to you?
Now that you know all the phraseology and what it means for your game, it's time to hit some irons. You have decided what kind of shaft you need and what kind of head you want. So ask someone at your local golf store if they can set it up for you and you can go ahead and test it. This is all about performance, look, and feel. You need something with good performance, a great look, and a great feel. The performance here will be fairly similar between irons, and you will be able to pick a top three performer that is your favorite feel and favorite look, and that is the iron for you.
If you are on your own and looking at performance, the key things to look at are grouping, distance gaps, and spin numbers. Height is also significant, but that is mostly a shaft thing as we discussed earlier. Look at the distance of the 7 iron, and determine how different it is to your current 7 iron. If it is much shorter, or longer, you need to consider the distance gaping and where you could be losing out and adding too big of a gap. Considering the spin numbers, you should multiply the iron you are hitting by 1000, and you should be somewhere near that number, within 1200 for sure. So take your 7 iron; it should be somewhere near 7000 rpm. If you are not, look at a different head and shaft.
Keeping all of this in mind can be pretty tricky. If you can do it and pick the perfect set for you then excellent! I would highly recommend getting fit for a set though. This is quite the investment into your golf game, you need to ensure you get something that will last you 5 to 10 years when picking a set of irons. Getting fit does not cost all that much more money, and this is a great place to start. Now you can hold your own with this information.