Every year golf clubs seem to get a little bit better than the year before and this year is no different.
Whether you’re looking for your first proper set of game-improvement irons, or replacing cavity-backs with a set of blades, someone makes a game-changing set of irons for you in 2018.
With so many choices, however, what should be more exciting than an eagle on a 600-yard par five, can become a mind-numbing chore of wading through an endless number of options. There’s:
- forged vs. cast irons
- cavity-back vs. muscle-back irons
- player’s irons
Throw in hybrid irons and things get even more complicated.
The good news is that we’re here to help. We’ve sorted this year’s offerings by handicap and provided a rundown on the different styles of irons, and the features and properties for the major brands in every category.
In general, the golf clubs reviewed in this article are designed for handicaps of 20 or less. If that’s not you, head over to our review of the best irons for beginners and high handicaps and you’ll find golf clubs better designed for your game.
Best Irons of 2018 by Class
Best Game Improvement Irons on the Market for Average Golfers
Best Game Enhancement Irons on the Market for Intermediate Players
Best Irons for Good Players
Styles of Irons: Cavity-Back Irons vs. Muscle-Back Irons
Without getting too deeply into metallurgy, cast cavity-back irons are made from molten steel poured into molds in the shape of the finished product.
Once the hot metal cools, the molds are removed. From there, each manufacturer usually adds their own enhancements (Tungsten weighting, an ultra-thin face, or badges for example).
Most muscle-back irons are manufactured from forged steel. Creating a perfect forged club-head involves several levels of precise hammering, stamping, and grinding.
As you might guess, forged clubs cost somewhat more than those made with the casting process. But the advantage to forged clubs is exceptional feel.
Cavity-Back Irons – The Best Option for Most Players
Cavity back clubs have an open or hollowed out back of the club head. The cavity-back design moves more weight to the perimeter.
Perimeter weighting in turn helps keep the club from twisting and makes it more forgiving on mishits. Perimeter weighting can also improve distance and ball trajectory on clean strikes.
Cavity-back irons have changed dramatically since their introduction in the 1960s, as manufacturers continually tinker with club head designs and look for new ways to help golfers achieve longer straighter ball flight.
Some standard features that modern cavity-back clubs almost always employ are:
- A Thin Steel Club Face – Almost every club maker today uses a proprietary process to create a thin club face. A thin face flexes better and generates more ball speed on impact. More ball speed, in turn, leads to improved distance. While face thinness differs little from brand to brand, the good news is that everyone has it. That means, if you prefer one set of irons over another for some other reason (price, feel, or even looks), you won’t need to worry about getting good distance as they all play long nowadays.
- A Low Center-of-gravity – The Center-of-gravity (CG) is where the weight of the club’s head is concentrated. The CG matters because it affects both the feel and performance of the club. It determines your balls height, spin, and even its sound at impact. A low center-of-gravity helps get the ball in the air and reduce side-spin, quality’s that all players appreciate.
- A Badge – When you occasionally do make perfect contact with the golf ball, it’s nice to hear it from the club, as well as your playing partners. Some manufacturers have begun to affix badges of different types (usually plastic), to the back of the club head. Badges serve to dampen vibration and provide a satisfying sound and feel.
- Offset – If you have ever seen a righty aim left of the target, or a lefty aim right of the target because they always slice the ball, then you know why offset comes into play. Offset helps these players minimize their slice and hit the ball straighter. While this is not the best solution (fixing the swing would be the ultimate cure), who are we to judge. Not every player has the time or physical skills needed to become a good ball-striker.
Who Uses Cavity-Back Clubs?
It’s tempting to say everyone but, that’s not quite true.
Almost everyone uses cavity-back clubs.
Manufacturers make clubs for players in four general categories:
- beginners and high handicappers
- touring professionals
Of which the first three (99.9%) use cavity-backs, and the last using muscle-backs (a.k.a. blades) most of the time. The boundaries between categories can be a little fuzzy but, they definitely exist.
For beginners and high-handicappers, super-game-improvement and game-improvement irons provide the help they need to get the ball in the air and forgive their frequent mishits. If you fall into this class, we have a great review of the top irons for beginners and high handicappers.
Mid-handicappers with better swings usually want clubs with smaller heads, and different swing weights and lofts, which provide more feel and feedback than game-improvement irons.
Low-handicappers and pros use “player’s irons.” Up until recently, almost all players’ irons were blades.
As you will see in our “Player’s Irons” rundown, however, cavities of one form or another have begun to appear in the backs of a number of options geared towards better golfers.
Muscle-back (Blades) – Only for the Best Players
The term “muscle-back” refers to irons that have a filled in or solid clubhead back as opposed to the majority of clubs on the market that we just discussed, “cavity-back.”
At one time, many years ago, everyone used this style of club because cavity-backs didn’t’ exist. Workability and feedback are the two main advantages of muscle-back irons.
Blades provide players with improved control for shot shaping and enhanced feel for precision. Some common features of today’s muscle-back clubs are:
- Smaller Club Heads – While club head size varies from set to set, on average, muscle-back club heads are smaller compared to their cavity-back counterparts.
- Higher Center-of-Gravity – While cavity-back clubs push their weight to the perimeter of the club head and have a low center-of-gravity, blade style irons focuses their weight and center-of-gravity in the middle of the club face. The higher center-of-gravity provides more feel and control but, also makes the club-face more prone to twisting out of the rough or on mishits, than cavity-backs with a low COG.
- No Bells or Whistles – Although some manufacturers have begun to hollow out their blades, add Tungsten weighting and even use casting in their processes, a true muscle-back iron comes down to little more than a precisely forged steel head and steel or chrome-plated face.
Who Uses Muscle-Back (Blade) Irons?
Well, we gave you a hint already. Most tour players use muscle-backs but, not many others.
Muscle-backs require near perfect contact to avoid punishment. Small mishits become significant problems with these unforgiving slabs of chrome-plated steel.
On the flip side, however, blades reward their owners with exceptional feel, feedback, workability, and on clean strikes – exceptional accuracy.
Hybrid Irons – Extra help for Beginners and High Handicappers
Not to be confused with hybrids, some manufacturers have begun to produce a new style of iron called “hybrid irons.” Traditional hybrids have club heads that look similar to fairway woods, just in a more compact package.
Most players replace their three, four, five, and sometimes even their six irons with the easier to hit hybrid version. Hybrid irons look just like regular irons but, with a full metal back (cavity included), almost the size of a normal hybrid.
They also come in complete sets, and the long irons don’t need to be swapped out for regular hybrids. Hybrid irons are easy to hit and play exceptionally long and forgiving. They’re great clubs for beginners and high handicappers.
The Simple Guide to Selecting the Right Irons
- Super Game Improvement Irons – For Beginners and High Handicaps
- Game Improvement Irons – For Players with Handicaps between 10 and 20
- Game Enhancement Irons – Handicaps between 5 and 15
- Player’s Irons – You better be good! Only Players carrying a 5 or better Handicap should apply.
Game Improvement Irons
What are Game Improvement Irons?
Game improvement irons help players of all levels hit the ball further and straighter than they would with traditional blade style irons. Almost all game improvement irons feature perimeter weighting, a cavity-back, and a low center-of-gravity. Some may also have offset heads, larger club faces, and a thicker topline.
Who Should Consider Game Improvement Irons?
In general, manufacturers design this type of club for players with a handicap between ten and twenty. But, that doesn’t mean you should trade in your set the day you break eighty. Plenty of scratch golfers enjoy the distance and forgiveness benefits that come with modern game improvement irons.
What Should I Look for in a Set of Game Improvement Irons?
Look for forgiveness first and foremost from a new set of game improvement irons. Most modern clubs will get you down the fairway within ten yards of each other. While nothing will help if you chunk or top the ball, a good game improvement iron will launch the ball straight and long on moderate side-to-side, or high-or-low miscues.
Who Makes the Best Game Improvement Irons for 2018?
The best game improvement irons for 2018 include the:
Their looks, price, and features vary somewhat but, if you’re playing super game improvement irons, or an older set of any style of clubs, every one of these will give your game a nice boost.
Here’s a rundown on each and the three important features – forgiveness, distance, and price – that you should look for when buying new game-improvement irons.
TaylorMade M4 Irons
Continuing the M line, the TaylorMade M4s descend directly from the M2s.
The addition of “RibCOR” technology, however, along with a low center-of-gravity design and TaylorMade’s “Speed Pocket” puts the M4s at or near the front of the pack when it comes to forgiveness.
RibCOR stiffens the outside of the clubface, improves overall face flex, and transfers more energy to the ball on mishits. Speed Pocket design improves low-face flexibility, which in turn, enhances launch on low-on-the-face mishits, a common problem for high handicappers.
TaylorMade also claims that RibCOR and Speed Pocket technologies improve overall distance as well as forgiveness.
To be sure that the M4s play long, designers lengthened their shafts by a half-inch, and strengthened their lofts as well.
The M4 five-iron, for example, weighs in at a three-iron like, twenty-one-and-a-half degrees. While they do lack consistency when it comes to distance control, the M4s offer their target audience (high to mid-handicappers), plenty of additional distance.
Different configurations – shaft type, hybrid substitutions, and adding or subtracting wedges will always affect the total cost for a set of new clubs.
Based on the TaylorMade website, though, the M4s come in at pretty much the same price as the Ping G400s and Callaway Rogues. In the big scheme of things, the M4s are priced quite reasonable considering the immediate results that most golfers will see.
Titleist 718 AP1 Irons
Perimeter weighting and a low center-of-gravity (thanks to a precisely placed Tungsten weight) make the Titleist AP1 irons exceptionally forgiving.
Also, in the four and five irons, Titleist closed the cavity and employed a hollow-back design in order to increase forgiveness.
“FastFace” technology and low spin give the AP1 irons their exceptional distance. Like the TaylorMade M4s, the AP1s also feature strengthened lofts.
The Titleist AP1 irons deliver exceptional distance and consistent gapping throughout the set.
Out of the box, a set of AP1s will set you back about twenty percent more than the Rogue, M4, or G400 irons.
Callaway Rogue Irons
For exceptional forgiveness on the Rogue irons, Callaway uses “Tungsten Weighting” which allows them to precisely place a Center of Gravity weight in each of the long irons.
Twice as dense as steel, the tungsten concentrates a considerable amount of weight into a small and intricately shaped space. This design promotes optimum launch angles and better control for each club.
For distance, Rogue designers employed “Face Cup” and VFT technologies. Face Cup refers to a shallow and flexible rim around the edge of the face.
This rim allows the face to flex and release on impact, which in turn, increases ball speed. VFT stands for “Variable Face Thickness” which is precisely what it sounds like – different areas of the face have different thicknesses.
Callaway claims that VFT improves ball speed even on off-center hits and helps with overall forgiveness as well.
Considering that the Rogue Irons match up well in quality against last year’s Big Bertha Epics, consider the Rogues a bargain.
Ping G400 Irons
The Ping G400 Irons appeal to a broad audience. Their smaller profile, sleek lines, and pearl finish give them the blade-like looks that better players prefer.
Ping’s Cor-Eye Technology – which provides face flex – combines with a low center of gravity and tungsten weighting to give higher handicappers the forgiveness they require.
A “Three-Piece Cavity Badge” delivers the solid sound and feel that all players enjoy.
For the most part, Ping Irons have played consistently long over the years, and the Ping G400s carry on that tradition quite well.
Ping also offers custom fitting and what they call the “Power Spec.” This option makes the G400s even longer by strengthening the lofts on the four through seven irons by one-and-a-half degrees, the eight and nine irons by one degree and the wedges by a half degree.
The Ping G400s run about the same as the Callaway Rogue and the TaylorMade M4 Irons, both considered reasonably priced.
Cobra F8 Irons
Thanks to advanced construction technologies Cobra Engineers were able to create three different cavities on the F8 Irons.
The four through seven irons have a hollow construction and focus extra weight on the sole of the club.
For better forgiveness and accuracy on approach shots, the eight irons through pitching wedge use the standard cavity-back design. The gap, sand, and lob wedges feature the usual solid wedge construction.
Cobra’s patented “Forged PWRShell withE9” technology allowed them to create a clubface that’s twenty percent thinner, and fourteen percent lighter than that of the typical iron.
Increased face flex leads to faster ball speed and in turn, more distance.
Price has always been Cobra’s strong suit as they generally cost fifteen to twenty percent less than most other major manufacturers and considerably less than the AP1s.
The Top Ranked Game Improvement Irons
Anyone of the five sets of game improvement irons we discussed will most certainly help your game get to new levels.
- Because of their strengthened lofts, the Titleist AP1s and the TaylorMade M4s play the longest.
- The Ping G400s and Callaway Rogues offer the best combination of distance and forgiveness.
- The Cobra F8s win the “bang for the buck” award thanks to their lower price.
So, if you’re more confused now than when you started, read on as we take one more look at each set, and try to sort out who does what the best out of this group of exceptional clubs:
- The Cobra F8s – The F8s are good clubs at a reasonable price. If you’re looking to save money, the F8s will do that for you. But, if you’re looking to up your game, any of the other four will do it better.
- The Titleist 718 AP1s – The AP1s play longer than the other clubs just discussed but, that’s primarily thanks to the stronger lofts they employ. It doesn’t make sense to strengthen a clubs loft to get more distance. You could just as quickly “club up” when you need more distance. Plus, the AP1s tap the wallet for somewhat more than the other four, especially the Cobras.
- The TaylorMade M4s – TaylorMade put plenty of effort into the “M” line, and it shows. The M4s play long and forgive mishits as well as any of the others. However, their stronger lofts and half-inch longer shafts could make them harder to hit in a category where easier to hit always wins.
- The Ping G400s – A smaller profile and pearl finish make the G400s the sharpest looking club in our group. Like the Ap1s and M4s, the G400s play exceptionally long and extremely forgiving. It may be a challenge to convince Ping fans that the G400s aren’t the best in the bunch.
- The Callaway Rogues – Out of our group, the Rogues offer the best combination of distance, forgiveness, and price. While they cost a fair amount less, the Rogues look and play just like one of the best line of golf clubs introduced to date, last year’s Big Bertha Epic Irons. They’re the type of clubs that will make you forget about getting a new set of irons for a long, long time.
Top 3 Game Improvement Irons for Average Players
Best Irons on the Market for Average Golfers
Also Very Good Irons for Average Golfers
Best Game Improvement Irons for the Money
Best Game-Enhancement Irons
What are Game-Enhancement Irons?
Better players at times find that game-improvement irons lack the feel and playability needed for their finesse game.
For the most part, game-enhancement irons have all of the same features you would find in game-improvement irons but, with a few tweaks that provide added playability and better feel.
Typical characteristics of game-enhancement irons include forged bodies, weaker lofts than game-improvement irons, more compact club heads, blade-like looks, and thinner top lines.
Who Should Consider Game-Enhancement Irons?
In general, low to mid handicappers will benefit the most from game-enhancement irons. Golfers in the market for Game Enhancement Irons generally falls into the 5 to 10 range. Players who need to work the ball but aren’t ready for blades.
Consider the fact that while most professional golfers prefer blade style irons, some do carry clubs that fall under the “game-enhancement” umbrella.
What Should I Look for in a Set of Game-Enhancement Irons?
Look for the same things everyone wants from a set of irons – distance and forgiveness. But, now that your game has improved, you will also want a fair amount of workability and more feel than game-improvement irons can dish out.
Workability means bending your shots and controlling trajectory, the main reasons you’re graduating out of game improvement irons.
Manufacturers load game-improvement clubs with features that automatically straighten ball flight and increase trajectory, two things that you are now trying to take control of.
A good set of game-enhancement irons will give you that control, without sacrificing much in the way of distance and forgiveness.
Who Makes the Best Game-Enhancement Irons for 2018?
The best game-enhancement irons for 2018 include the:
- TaylorMade P790
- Titleist 718 T-MB
- Titlist 718 AP3
- Mizuno MP18 MMC
- Ping i200
- TaylorMade M3
Here’s a rundown on each and the three essential categories that we just discussed – forgiveness, distance, and workability – most sought after by low to mid handicappers.
TaylorMade P790 Irons
For the P790s, TaylorMade closes the open cavity-back with a hollow head filled with four grams of “SpeedFoam.”
This allowed them to create a thinner forged face than possible with a cavity-back.
Together, the thinner face and foam filling make the P790s as forgiving as typical game-improvement irons.
With the P790s TaylorMade claims they have created a forged distance iron for better players.
While they’re not exactly forged – the wrap around face is forged from 4140 Carbon Steel and welded onto a cast 8620 carbon steel body – they’re close enough. A “Cut-Thru Speed Pocket” on the sole of the three, four, five, six, and seven irons improves face flex and ball speed.
As with the M4s previously mentioned, they also progressively strengthened lofts from the PW down thru the three. All this adds up to as much as ten yards extra distance with the longer irons than some of the other clubs in this category.
The thinner face and SpeedFoam filled cavity-back make the P790s exceptionally long and forgiving but, these two features also give them a muted and kind of dull sound and feel.
The P790s have more of a game-improvement feel and are not the best options for players looking for shot shaping and trajectory control.
Titleist 718 T-MB Irons
Your playing partners might think you graduated to blades when they see you pull a Titleist T-MB out of the bag.
However, like all good game-improvement or game-enhancement irons, the T-MBs employ hollow body construction and perimeter weighting.
Designers also placed ninety grams of high-density tungsten in the heel and toe areas of the club to add stability at impact and encourage launch. These features make the 718 T-MBs exceptionally forgiving.
For the 718 T-MB irons, Titleist attached a “SUP-10” stainless steel face to a cast 17-4 stainless body.
The face also wraps under the leading edge and into the sole of the club head. This design enlarges the sweet spot and allows the face to flex more efficiently and produce more distance, especially on shots hit low in the face.
Titleist classifies the 718 T-MBs as distance irons, and deservedly so. The 718 T-MB irons play exceptionally long throughout the set.
The Titleist T-MB irons employ a progressive center-of-gravity system which delivers optimal spin and trajectory on every shot regardless of distance.
Although they look very much like blades, they have a hollow body design provides a soft, responsive feel. If you’re lucky enough to need workability, then the T-MBs will not disappoint.
Titleist 718 AP3 Irons
Titleist created the AP3 irons for players who find the smaller AP2s, or like sized 718 T-MBs a little too compact for their skill set.
To reach their forgiveness goals, the AP3’s actually use three different constructions within the set. The three through seven irons have hollow bodies, are fortified with tungsten inserts in the heel and the toe which help prevent twisting, and use a thin, high-strength steel face which flexes on impact.
The eight and nine irons use the same 17-4 steel face insert (but no tungsten weights in the heel and toe), while the wedges are cast from 17-4 stainless steel. Like the 718 T-MBs, the Titleist AP3s look like blades but, forgive as well as most game-improvement irons.
The AP3 Irons measure up quite well thanks to stronger lofts.
Although they’re one degree weaker than their AP1 cousins, three thru six irons are two degrees stronger, and the seven through pitching wedge are three degrees stronger than traditional lofts.
Titleist manufactured the AP3’s with distance and forgiveness as the driving factors. They have a slightly larger profile than some of the others.
So while they’re not lacking in feel and workability, some of the other options may be better if you have the skills to fade or draw on demand.
Mizuno MP18 MMC Irons
For the MP18 MMCs Mizuno took a blade and added some typical game-improvement features to make them more forgiving.
An eight-gram titanium weight fused into the head and additional weight around the perimeter of the sole, help with the occasional off-center strike.
They weren’t trying to build the most forgiving iron on the market but, may have succeeded in making the most forgiving muscle-back on the market.
For the four, five, six, and seven irons Mizuno engineers placed twenty grams of tungsten into the toe of the club. The extra weight helps offset the weight of the hosel and moves the center-of-gravity towards the middle of the hitting area.
It also makes the MP18 MMCs less prone to twisting on off-center hits and increases the MOI. These features allowed designers to strengthen long iron lofts for more distance with less spin. Simply put, the MP18 MMCs play as long as or longer than anyone in their class.
Definitely one of the more workable irons out there. If you have the skill set, the MMC’s will yield a fade, draw, and pretty much any trajectory that you want.
Ping i210 Irons
For added forgiveness, the i210s new face design features a lower center of gravity and reallocated weight to the hosel, toe, and perimeter.
For a player’s iron, the i210’s offer plenty of forgiveness.
Off the shelf, the Ping i210’s aren’t the longest but, Ping did a great job gapping the set.
The three to six irons are spaced at three-and-a-half degrees and the seven-iron through pitching wedge are spaced at four degrees.
This spacing leads to more consistent distances from club to club throughout the set. If you absolutely must have more distance, go for the “Power Spec” option we mentioned in the G400 review.
The Ping i210’s provide exceptional workability from every situation. Off the tee, off the fairway, out of a bunker, from the rough, or just a simple bump-and-run, every level of player will find the i210’s offer plenty of feedback and excellent feel.
TaylorMade M3 Irons
TaylorMade’s “Speed Pocket” coupled with a 15-gram tungsten weight optimize launch on low-on-the-face strikes, the area where most mishits occur.
As always the TaylorMade’s come in at the top of the “forgiveness” charts.
With the M3 Irons (and the M4s as well), TaylorMade introduces “RibCOR” technology. RibCOR stiffens the perimeter of the clubface which in turn increases face flexibility.
Better face flexibility, (in case you haven’t been paying attention), increases ball speed. The M3s are a longer and lower spin version of the M4s.
The M3’s fall in a bit of a no-man’s land in the TaylorMade family right between the M4’s and the P790s. They’re long and forgiving but, not necessarily the most workable.
The Top Ranked Game Enhancement Irons
Game-enhancement irons come in a wide range of styles. Some look and play almost like game-improvement clubs while others come closer to blades. Which one will serve you best comes down to a few essential questions about the state of your game and what you need from your next set of irons. Here’s a recap of each set and their best features:
TaylorMade P790 and M3 Irons – If you still need help keeping it straight, then consider either of the TaylorMade lines. Both the P790s and M3s are easy to hit and play closer to the game-improvement end of the scale.
Tweaked lofts and longer shafts provide sufficient distance as well. They may not have quite the feel for shot-shaping as some of the others but, they’re still an excellent option for low to mid handicappers.
The Titleist 718 AP3 – Titleist crammed a good amount of both forgiveness and distance technology into the AP3 Irons. They’re also an interesting option, kind of a muscle-back without the muscle.
If you found the smaller heads on the AP2s or 718 T-MBs a little too compact for your swing, the AP3s might be a good choice.
Mizuno MP18 MMC – The Mizuno MP18 MMCs look and play closer to blades than anyone else we’ve talked about so far. They’re also fairly forgiving thanks to perimeter weighting and an eight-gram titanium weight fused into the head.
For distance, Mizuno strengthened lofts on the long irons. The MP18 MMCs play long, forgiving, and offer the enhanced control that skilled golfers look for in a set of blades. They’re also competitively priced. If you’re closer to a five handicap than a fifteen handicap, the MP18 MMCs deserve a spot on your short list.
Titleist 718 T-MB – Ninety grams of high-density tungsten in the toe and heel of the 718 T-MBs add stability, encourage launch, and make them surprisingly forgiving for a club named Titleist.
Titleist classifies the 718 T-MBs as distance irons, and they do not disappoint. Their hollow body design provides a soft, responsive feel. If you can handle the price tag, the Titleist 718 T-MBs are one of the best clubs of this type on the market today.
Ping i210 – The i210s bring together several of Pings best features in a compact club head that low handicappers will appreciate. An ultra-thin face provides distance, Ping’s proprietary tuning port offers a soft feel, and precise weight distribution makes the i210s exceptionally forgiving for a club head this size.
While the i210s aren’t the longest of our bunch, they offer the most consistency of distance from club to club. While they’re not necessarily the best in any single category, the Ping i210s offer lots of forgiveness, consistency from club to club, exceptional feel, and thanks to their reasonable price, come very close to overtaking the Titleist 718 T-MBs as this year’s best choice in the category of game-enhancement irons.
Top Game Enhancement Irons for Above Average Golfers
Best Game Enhancement Irons on the Market
Best Value Irons for Intermediate Players
Also Very Good Value Game Enhancement Irons
Best Distance Irons for Intermediate Golfers
Best Player’s Irons
What are Players Irons?
Not long ago, the term “player’s” iron meant a forged steel muscle-back club head with little or no tech to speak of. Today, however, as manufacturers learn more and more about club making, they’re beginning to rethink the entire process. Cavity-backs, tungsten weighting, and even cast-iron heads have made their way into the world of “player’s” irons.
Who Uses Player’s Irons?
Typically, good players who need more feel, who have the ability to shape shots, and who have the skill to control trajectory, prefer player’s irons. When you begin to think about not just hitting the green but, where on the green you want to land, then it’s probably time to ditch the game-improvement irons and think about a set of player’s irons. Typically, players with anywhere from around a five handicap and down will carry a set of player’s irons.
What Should I look for in a Set of Player’s Irons?
Even though this category includes the smallest sample of golfers, there’s still a considerable gap between a casual player with a five handicap and a tour pro. Club manufacturers understand that fact and produce something for everyone in this elite class. Like most golfers, you’ve probably been looking for distance since your first day on the course. It’s time to jettison those thoughts (if you’re reading this, length is no longer an issue), and start to look for consistency, feedback and feel, workability, and maybe even a little forgiveness.
Who Makes the Best Players Irons for 2018?
The top player’s irons for 2018 include the:
- Mizuno MP 18
- Titleist AP1
- Titleist 718 MB
- Titleist 718 CB
- Callaway Rogue Pro Irons
- TaylorMade P770
- Titleist 718 AP2 Irons
- Mizuno MP18 SC Irons
- Ping iBlade
Here’s a rundown on each:
Mizuno MP – 18 Irons
As with most blades, well-struck balls go where you hit them.
Surprisingly though, the MP-18s provide reasonably consistent and positive results on small misses, especially those struck low on the face.
As pure blades, the Mizuno MP-18 irons require pure ball striking. They offer no bells and whistles to get you to the pin.
On center-strikes send the ball a long way with plenty of power and good trajectory, however, “hit it wrong and you won’t go long.”
The Mizuno MP-18 MBs provide absolute control over your ball. The long irons play just as nicely as the pitching wedge. If you have the skill to shape your shots, these clubs deliver and then some.
Their shorter blade length, cambered top line and soft feel, make the MP-18 MBs one of the most workable clubs on the market today.
Titleist 718 MB Irons
The 718 MBs feature a traditional shape with clean lines and a classic forged feel.
They’re designed for better players who need precision. These blades go where you hit them.
No “life-changing” distance with the 718 MB Irons. They’ll play as far as you hit them, which at this level, should be far enough.
The 718 MBs feel smooth and responsive when struck in the center of the face. They require precise ball striking for best results but, also provide excellent feedback with a nice soft click when properly struck. No doubt these are very workable irons, you will always know exactly what you did right, or wrong with the 718 MBs.
Titleist 718 CB Irons
If it isn’t apparent, the “CB” in the 718 CB stands for cavity back while the MB stands for muscle back.
Like the muscle backs, the 718 CBs are forged, and you can expect similar accuracy from the CBs but, with a little forgiveness built in.
Overall, Titleist built these clubs for players with great swings who already smoke the ball on pretty much every shot.
The built-in forgiveness, however, will get you a little more distance on mishits. The CBs also have the same lofts as the MBs which make blending easier as well.
Most players will have no trouble working the ball with the CBs. But, that said, by nature, cavity backed clubs fall lower on the workability scale than muscle backs and again, another reason for players to consider blending with the 718 MBs.
Callaway Rogue Pro Irons
The Rogue Pros border on the game-enhancement category. They’re cavity-backs, not muscle-backs.
They also use some of the same technologies seen in the standard version such as Variable Face Thickness, Tungsten weighting, and a microsphere badge.
They’re more accurate on mishits but, not as precise as the standard blade on perfect strikes.
If you’re looking for a little extra length, then you are in the right place.
The Rogue Pro Irons offer the distance of a game-improvement iron like the standard Rogue but, their more compact profile lends itself to better overall shot-shaping.
They also produce excellent ball speed over most of the clubface.
The cavity-back might help you a bit out of the rough or a fairway bunker but, again, they’re not blades.
Their softer lofts give them the edge over the standard Rogues but, that’s still not enough to go toe-to-toe with most of today’s competition in this category. For workability, the Rogue Pros are not the highest on the scale.
TaylorMade P770 Irons
The three thru seven irons use a Tungsten Back Bar that lowers the center-of-gravity and increases the MOI.
So the P770s launch a little higher than expected for a club of this type, and also, combined with the cavity backing, add a small measure of forgiveness.
Together, these features make the P770s about as accurate as traditional blades on pure strikes, and a little more forgiving on mishits
Like their competitors in this class, TaylorMade designed these clubs for players who need precision over distance.
There’s also a bit of an apparent distance trade-off with the higher launch.
If you’re frequently missing greens left or right, and have no distance issues of note, then the P770s might be worth a hard look.
The tungsten weighting comes in handy plowing through thick rough or out of a fairway bunker. For feel and feedback, however, a pure blade will always win on shots off the fairway or for shaping fades and draws, at least for the three thru seven irons.
The pitching wedge, as well as the eight and nine irons, lose the tungsten but keep the cavity-back. The P770s don’t feel as crisp as you might expect from a forged club.
Titleist 718 AP2 Irons
Tungsten weights in the heel and toe provide stability against twisting on the three through seven irons.
The two weights give enough help to cover slight mistakes, but like most blades, they’re only as accurate as the player holding them.
A forged steel body and thin-flexible steel face insert improve long- and middle-iron distance.
Overall, expect consistent carry and above-average than most of their competitors in the class.
Even with the Tungsten weighting, the 718 AP2 Irons are scoring clubs. They’re forged from soft carbon steel for Tour-caliber feedback and built for precision.
Their mid-trajectory makes them exceptionally versatile and easy to shape. The 716 AP2s were the number one iron on tour at one point, and the 718s may yet claim that status as well.
Mizuno MP18 SC Irons
Mizuno added some peripheral weighting for little extra forgiveness and accuracy over the MP 18 muscle backs.
Their sole is also slightly wider than the MP 18s but, a compact top line and overall head size makes them look like a proper blade.
Most of you, in this rarified air, are already exceptionally accurate but, the MP 18 SC Irons may come in handy on the occasional off-center hit.
Credit to Mizuno for sticking to traditional lofts throughout the MP 18 lines. They probably did this for the benefit of players who wish to blend between sets.
They’re not designed as distance clubs but, at this level do you need help anyway?
Mizuno used a new forging process for the MP18s. It enhances feel by tightening the grains of the carbon steel low on the face. This makes for a low-muscle-back with an upper cavity that performs and feels like a true muscle-back blade.
Mizuno designed the MP 18 SC Irons for players who demand a high level of feel and control. If you like to shape your shots, you will like the MP 18 SC Irons.
Ping iBlade Irons
“Blade” is a little bit of a misnomer as the Ping iBlades are another in this category that uses a cast head and a little tech to improve accuracy and forgiveness.
In this case, Ping uses a pocket cavity filled with a thermoplastic insert that they call a “Custom Tuning Port.”
There’s also a tungsten weight in the toe which balances the head and improves MOI. This construction makes the iBlades one of the more accurate and forgiving offerings in this class.
The iBlades are by no means a “distance” club but, they’re not a distance challenged club either. Ping stuck to traditional lofts and in the case of the seven-iron, even went one degree weaker.
They also employed a thin-steel face for a little extra oomph. The best part is that the iBlades provide consistent distance throughout the bag, a feature every player appreciates.
The iBlades aren’t blades and do not have quite the same feel as a typical forged club. That said, they do provide surprisingly good feedback, especially from the mid to short irons.
If you play Pings now and want to stay within the brand, the iBlades are an excellent choice. They’re certainly workable, and like most weighted cavity-backs, may even play a little better out of the sand and rough than a traditional blade.
For distance, if you’re browsing around here in the “Player’s” section, you’re probably not looking for help in the way of distance, which is good. Because most of these clubs send the ball only as far as your swing speed permits, except for the Callaway Rogue Pros and the Titleist 718 AP2 Irons, both of which play a bit longer.
For accuracy and workability manufacturers have learned plenty from their efforts in making clubs more forgiving over the years, and even scratch golfers don’t mind a little help from time to time.
For short game accuracy and overall workability, the Mizuno MP 18s and the Titleist 718 MBs (both traditional muscle-backs) will get the best results on quality strikes.
From the fairway, the rough, or the fairway bunkers, the Titleist 718 AP1, the Titleist 718 CB, the Callaway Rogue Pro, the TaylorMade P770, the Titleist 718 AP2, and the Ping iBlade irons all infuse some form of proprietary technology that makes them somewhat forgiving (therefore more accurate from a distance), without giving up feel.
Both, Mizuno with the MP 18 and MP 18 SC Irons, and Titleist with the 718 MB and 718 CB irons gave their respective lines the same lofts to allow for seamless blending between their own muscleback and cavity-backed sets. Blending allows players to enjoy the best of both worlds, a muscle-back for up close, and a more forgiving cavity-back for longer shots.
Manufacturers go all out to win the hearts of players in this small and elite group. In the right hands, every one of these clubs offers an incredible level of feel and workability.
With that said, however, a set of either the Mizuno MP-18 or the Titleist 718 MB Irons standout as an excellent choice in this category of outstanding clubs.
If you are a little hesitant about moving up to this class of club, we believe the Titliest 718 AP2 is a good set of clubs for players that want some of the benefits of player’s clubs but still could use a little forgiveness.
Best Player’s Irons for Good Golfers
Best Irons for Good Players
Also a Very Good Players Iron
Best Irons for Low Handicaps who could benefit from some Forgiveness
The Bottom Line
Thanks to a wide selection of game-improvement irons, game-enhancement irons, player’s irons, and even hybrid irons, this year, more than ever before, manufacturers make a set of irons for golfers of every ability and skillset.
Whether you’re new to golf, a weekend warrior, tearing it up at member/guest tournaments, or playing on tour, there’s a set out there with your name on them.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the “Best Golf Irons of 2018”, all you need to do is pull the trigger on that new set you’ve been eyeing.