How to Choose Golf Irons – Complete Guide
With hundreds of different golf irons on the market, it can be difficult to find information on how to choose golf irons and the best golf irons to buy for your game.
Golf manufacturers will design top-rated golf irons that are targeted at different ability levels, and put their own marketing spin on some of the technological features to differentiate from their competitors.
If you are interested in the technological side, here is some basic information. Bearing in mind that if your main interest is to improve and lower your scores you can read this, but don’t worry about it too much as the act of getting the ball in the hole is always up to the individual.
Companies have spent a lot of money on research and design to create some of the best-rated golf irons that are targeted to a specific ability level.
There are two ways in which golf irons are designed. Golf irons are either going to be a cast cavity back or forged.
Cast Cavity Back Golf Irons
All cast irons are stainless steel. Cast irons generally have more weight on the perimeter, which gives the club a larger sweet spot.
These irons are created by liquid metal being poured into a premade mould and allowed to cool. The premade mould creates the ideal shape the designer wants.
The advantage of a cast golf iron is that designers have the ability to add extra components, which make them the most forigiving golf irons for a targeted golfer. When you hear of a golf club being forgiving, this means they are generally a cast cavity back club and perimeter weighted, which increases the sweet spot.
This technique is also used to make some of the best offset golf irons and best oversized golf irons for maximum forgiveness.
Forged Golf Irons
All forged irons are made of carbon steel. Forged irons maintain more weight in the centre of the club. This means they are more consistent for a better player who consistently hits out of the middle of the clubface.
These irons are one piece of metal, and heated into shape by a large pressing machine.
Design variations are limited, and the production process of forged irons is rather expensive compared to casting. They do however, offer a very soft feel when making contact with the golf ball which a lot of golfers prefer.
Forged irons also feature a thinner top line and soleplate, which will make for a smaller looking clubhead. Most of the blade golf irons will generally be forged.
When on the market for golf clubs you will hear a lot of terms in regards to technology of specific golf irons. These are general terms so companies can differentiate from their competitors and put their own marketing spin on their products. I will not go into detail about all the different terms but remember golf manufacturers have spent a lot of money on designing these golf clubs. Their main aim is to make them as forgiving as possible and give consumers a selection of the best golf irons to buy for each individual.
Club fitting needs to be considered for all ability levels when choosing golf irons. With golf irons it is very important to get the correct length of the irons and as you become a better ball striker the shaft flex and lie angle are vital.
Getting the correct grip size is also important to promote better feel. A height and wrist to floor measurement will help determine the correct length and a golf club fitting chart can help determine this. Club Fitting is an important factor when considering how to choose the right golf clubs.
Golf irons will come out with a wide range of options in terms of shafts, but generally, the original shaft that is in the iron is always a good one.
Better players like to experiment with all the different shaft options. The differences are usually subtle, and benefits from this are normally only seen from elite amateurs or professionals.
If you are not a consistent ball striker and don’t break eighty regularly, going down this path will confuse you and make learning the game more difficult in the short term.
Graphite Irons vs Steel Irons
A common question that is asked is what is the difference between graphite and steel in golf irons?
Graphite is for the below average swing speeds, and steel is for the average to fast swing speeds.
Graphite iron shafts are available in ladies flex, senior flex, regular flex and stiff flex. Graphite shafts are also lighter than steel shafts in overall weight.
Steel shafts are available in regular flex, stiff flex, and extra stiff flex. A stiff golf shaft has a lower torque level and will provide greater resistance to twisting than a regular flex. Steel shafts also come in a range of different weights. They can weigh as much as 130 grams which are designed for the strong hitters.
Let us now summarize what type of golf iron each ability level should consider to get the most benefit out of their game.
As a beginner a forgiving perimeter weighted golf club with a fairly wide soleplate is an ideal starting point for a golf iron set.
There is a lot to choose from, and generally, it comes down to what you want to spend because most companies have designed a stack of different iron heads targeted at beginners.
Make sure you get the length correct, and you can use this link for that.
There are a lot of very good discontinued models and a lot of places a golfer can purchase some good quality, cheap golf irons.
One of the best models to consider would be the Callaway Big Bertha Irons.
If you have been playing golf for a while and are after some more performance, then you can look at a more workable cast iron or one of the more forgiving forged models. A golf iron that makes it a little easier to shape the golf ball would be an ideal option.
The length, grip size and shaft flex is important for an intermediate golfer when considering how to choose golf clubs. You could also consider lie angle if you feel you hit a consistent enough ball.
Callaway Golf Irons are always a good option and one of the better models to consider would be the Callaway Steelhead XR Irons.
Elite Amateur or Professional Golfer
For the better players all things should come into consideration in regards to fitting, and most top of the range golf manufacturers will bring out at least one model that is targeted at this specific ability level.
Make sure you are happy with the iron head design and the length and grip size are correct. You are a consistent ball striker so the lie angle is important. The correct shaft flex is also very important, and if you feel your game is good enough to explore custom shaft options it is entirely up to you. For a solid golf iron swing there are lots of good golf irons to choose from to help your game.
One of the better options to consider would be the Callaway Apex Pro Irons.
I hope this helps get rid of a little of the confusion in regards to choosing golf irons. There are a lot of different models to choose from, but remember each manufacturer will design a club with a specifically targeted golf ability level in mind.
If you have any questions feel free to ask them below.
If you want to learn more about choosing golf equipment, check out the post on How to Choose a Golf Driver and How to Choose Golf Balls.
12 thoughts on “How to Choose Golf Irons – Complete Guide”
Thanks for all the helpful information here. I’ve been golfing for several years but am always looking for information to help improve my game.
I’m in the market for a new set of clubs so I found this article particularly interesting.
Beond a shadow of a doubt I need all the help I can get so Cast Cavity Backs are my club of choice. Like you mention, the larger sweet spot helps the amateur golfer like me hit the ball truer more often.
Really interesting information about club fitting. I’ve never had it done but after reading this I’m amazed how much difference it can make.
A question for you. When you’re getting fitted, will the person fitting you also recommend graphite or steel? I know I swing fast so I’m assuming steel. But I’d certainly entertain a second opinion.
Thanks again Chris for the helpful information. Spring is right around the corner here in upstate NY so now’s the time to go get fitted!
I appreciate your comments.
Yes club fitting is important, and getting the correct length and shaft flex are only going to help your game. If you swing the club reasonably quickly then you won’t need to worry about getting graphite shafts in your irons. These target the average to slower swing speeds so they would not be beneficial to yourself.
Let me know if you have any more questions and I hope the weather warms up so you can get a game of golf in soon.
Thanks for great information on how to choose a golf iron! My family love to play golf, so I will pass on this information to them. Is there any specific brand you’re recommending for amateur golfers? I’m thinking of trying golf myself.
How much does a good beginners golf iron cost? I’m pretty tall and I guess that being tall demands more iron and maybe also increases the cost?
I appreciate your comments.
One of the leading companies in game improvement is Callaway Golf. They have a range of different golf irons targeted at beginners. Callaway Golf also has a great fitting system, and getting the length correct is as simple as doing a height and wrist to floor measurement which I explain in the following link https://basicgolfer.com/how-to-choose-golf-clubs.
You can pickup a decent set of discontinued irons for a reasonable price but most of the newer models from leading manufacturers are more expensive.
I used to play a lot of golf as as kid. I was never really great at it but I could get round the course without losing too many balls.
I haven’t played in a long time due to going to university and starting a full time job but now I am looking to get back into it.
Would you recommend starting off as a beginner again or should I invest in a more intermediate set?
Thanks for your comments.
The set you get shouldn’t matter too much. Most golf clubs these days are reasonably forgiving with a focus on game improvement, so a set targeted at a mid handicapper would be fine.
Make sure you get the length correct though as it is pretty important to achieve consistency.
Any further questions let me know.
In Lafayette, Louisiana where I live, more and more people are getting into golf for different reasons. My boss keep dragging me to his golf sessions all the time now that I have to go and find a golf set for myself.
Thumbs up to you Chris for providing such a helpful article, guiding me through the time-consuming process of looking for a golf iron. Do you have any suggestion for particular retail store or online merchants where can I get the best deals ?
Keep it up !
Thanks for dropping by all the way from Louisiana 🙂
One thing I’ve noticed through years of experience selling golf gear, is the confusion that consumers have to deal with when purchasing golf equipment. There are stacks of options, but with the correct guidance it’s actually not a difficult task.
There are a plethora of very good golf retail stores around. Online purchases have really increased in recent years with companies like Amazon providing fantastic deals. If you don’t mind a good set of used golf clubs in pretty decent condition, then you can save some money on Callawaygolfpreowned.com. They provide genuine Callaway gear at very good prices.
Any questions let me know.
As a previously 10 handicap golfer, I’m thinking of getting back into golf after 15 years lay off.
Technology has moved on so much since I used a then second-hand set of golf irons, so your straightforward explanation of how to choose irons is invaluable.
I have a very strong quick swing and slightly inconsistent club face strike, so from your advice I think I need a cast cavity back with a stiff flex shaft.
I used to like to shape the ball, so my question is can I do it with the type of irons I have selected?
Thanks for a great site.
Yes, thanks for stopping by.
A forgiving game improvement set of clubs with a slightly firmer low torque golf shaft would give you the best chance for the most consistency. You can certainly shape your shots with most golf irons, however the forged blade style irons are more workable. This is why they are a choice for a lot of better players.
If you were looking for one of the best sets for what you’re after there is no better club than the Callaway Apex CF irons in steel. These are expensive, but are a forged model and also quite forgiving. They feature some of the latest cup face technology which is a first in golf irons.
Any further questions let me know.
Hey Chris – I really liked how you approached this potentially overwhelming topic, especially those new to the golf world. As you indicated it can become exceedingly overwhelming once you begin to consider what type of clubs to get. I think it would be helpful (and maybe you have already) show a picture of the relative sweet spots of forged vs cavity back so that readers can better appreciate the differences between them. I think far too often golfers will choose equipment that is slightly exceeding their skill level. Thus, when choosing equipment golfers should rely on the help of professionals to point them in the right direction. I’ve seen far to often where average golfers have chosen forged irons or a certain shaft because that is what the pros utilize. I think having a proper club fitting as you mentioned is important so that in getting new equipment their golf game is actually improved.
I’ve had a couple club fittings done and have clubs tailored to my exact specifications, height, arm length posture etc. You are correct that this can significantly improve the quality of ball striking for both the average golfer and professional. As you progress in your skills the shift becomes more technical and takes into account ball speed club head speed etc.
Really enjoyed reading this information!!
Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate your comments.
There are so many different irons to choose from these days that it can seem overwhelming to consumers. The fact that a lot of professional players use the name brand equipment leads to a lot of amateur golfers using golf gear that could be working against them.
Golf companies as mentioned in this post will manufacturer specific clubheads for different ability levels and also make them available with some decent shaft options. Club Fitting is important, but I think some of us forget that the main aim of the game is to make solid contact with the golf ball and get it in the hole in the least amount of strokes.
A bad golf shot is rarely the fault of the golf club. It is important to build a golf swing with safety, power and strength to become more consistent on the golf course.