Bill Murray tossing an Iron during a golf round.

Best Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers

You know you can play golf. You’re getting better, little by little, round by round. If it wasn't’ for that long winter layoff, or the aerated greens, or the cement sand traps, or, well, the dozen other calamities that befall you every round, you would be halfway to Augusta by now.  Yeah right!  

Practice would help.  But, who has time for practice?  You don’t have the money for lessons.  Maybe new clubs would help.  But, you already have a new driver and putter, and a set of irons that Uncle Larry used when he started paying golf in the 70’s.  

It’s only missing the seven and nine irons, but it does have an extra pitching wedge and a two iron that works great off the tee on short par fours.  So why spend on new clubs?  

Consider that golf club manufacturers compete fiercely for your business.  They make different clubs for every age group, men, women, and every skill level from beginner to professional.  

The best irons for a beginner golfer look and play much different from the irons that a professional player uses.  

Plus, while the best irons for beginners and the best irons for the high handicapper have most of the same game improvement features, even they can be somewhat different.  

Don't want to wait?  Here's the Best Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers for 2018:


Or you can skip straight to the Best Super Game Improvement Comparison Table.

So, to put a little focus on all of this, here’s a quick primer on golf club basics, and a list of the top 6 irons for beginners and high handicappers.  What category do you fall into?

Before moving ahead, forget any skill level designations and give some thought to what properties in a club would improve your game the most.  Beginners usually struggle with getting the ball in the air, while high handicappers may need more distance and precision from their iron play.  

Think about the usual outcome of your iron shots.  If the ball rarely gets high in the air, runs along the ground, or takes off on a line drive, with the shorter irons, look for clubs designed to help beginners.  

If, however, you make good contact with your irons, are just missing the greens, or frequently coming up a little short, consider clubs that target mid handicappers.

How to select the best Irons for beginners and High Handicappers

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I’m a Beginner, What Should I Look For in a Set of Irons?

A good super game improvement iron will help you get the ball in the air, curb any slice you might have, and provide reasonable and consistent distance from club to club.  

They’ll also forgive slight to moderate mishits.  Also, look for clubs with oversized heads. The larger clubhead promotes confidence, (a good feeling for any golfer) when you look down at the ball.

I’m a High Handicapper, What Should I Look For in a Set of Irons?

While you’re not ready for your first set of “player’s irons,” you will probably want something with more feel and better feedback, clubs that still offer a solid level of forgiveness, but maybe a little less automatic.  

Most manufacturers brand these clubs as “game improvement irons.”  Consider a set that has more traditional sized heads that still incorporate game improvement technologies.

Should I Get the Three, Four, and Five Irons, or the Hybrids?

Hybrid golf clubs, a.k.a. “Trouble Woods” combine the best features of irons and fairway woods.  They have the same length shafts, but more loft than their iron counterparts, which in turn makes them more forgiving.  

Hybrids have the feel of an iron, but a compact fairway-wood-like-head that yields the distance of a fairway wood.  Hybrids also work well out of deep grass and fairway bunkers.

Almost every club maker today offers a hybrid substitution for the three, four, and five irons.  Even most mid-handicappers use hybrids, and you should too.  For a complete rundown of the best hybrids on the market, check out our roundup of the best hybrids on the market right now.

What about the Gap and Sand Wedges?

Unless you already have a gap and sand wedge that you love, it makes sense to get both with the set.  The gap-wedge fills in the yardage gap between the pitching wedge and the sand wedge.  

A golfer that hits their pitching wedge around 100 yards usually uses a sand wedge between 70 and 80 yards, thus, “the gap.”  You will also find the gap wedge invaluable on pitch shots where a sand wedge won’t quite reach.  

While many players think of the sand wedge as a specialty club that should be purchased separately, almost every manufacturer makes top-notch sand wedges nowadays.  

The matching sand wedge will give you more consistency from the fairway, and of course, it will get you out of the sand pretty good too.  

Keep in mind though, not all sets have a matching sand wedge.  If you find yourself in this situation, let us recommend the Cleveland CBX wedges or the Xe1 wedge.

If you really want to improve your short game and thereby lower your handicap, check out our guide to wedge selection for beginners and high handicaps.

Should I Get Graphite or Steel Shafts?

For the most part, professionals and low handicappers prefer steel shafts, and beginners and high handicappers benefit more from graphite shafts.  Steel-shafted clubs send more vibrations up the shaft to the hands.

Skilled players use this feedback to analyze their contact.  Also, the stiffer shaft provides more control.  Players, who swing too fast, also benefit as the heavier weight of steel-shafts, tend to reduce swing speeds and lead to a smoother and more consistent swing.

The lighter graphite shafts result in about a 4 M.P.H. increase in swing speed and ten more yards of distance.  Graphite shafts flex more than steel shafts, and the extra “whip” they provide can also add a few more yards.  

While a player with a well-grooved swing will appreciate this, it also exaggerates a poor swing and could affect accuracy.  Graphite shafts typically cost 15 - 20 percent more than steel shafts.  Most buyers automatically think that graphite shafts play better because they cost more.  

Let your swing speed determine your choice and don’t be afraid to spend less.  The choice comes down to what works best for you.  Sometimes ten extra yards is ten yards further into the woods.

What Flex is Right for Me?

Here’s a quick rundown on club flex that manufacturers recommend based on swing speed.  First, to determine your swing speed, divide your average driving distance by 2.3.  

A player that hits the ball 230 yards, for example, has a swing speed of 100 M.P.H. (230/2.3).  

A player that drives the ball 180 yards off the tee has a swing speed of about 78 M.P.H. and so on.

Once you’ve got your average swing speed, consider the following based on driving swing speed and distance:

The Simple Guide to Selecting the Right Shaft


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    X Flex (Extra Stiff) – For swings of 110mph or higher and a driver carry distance around 270 yards
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    S Flex (Stiff Flex) - For swings of 95 to 110mph and driver carry distance between 240 to 270 yards
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    R Flex (Regular) – Best for swing speeds of 85 to 95 mph which should carry a driver from 200 to 240 yards
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    A or M Flex (Amateur or Senior) – For swing speeds of 75 to 85 mph and a driving distance between 180 to 200 yards
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    L Flex (Ladies) – For swing speeds of 75 mph and below with average driver distance less than 180

Don’t think of these numbers as written in stone, but more of a general guide to point you in the right direction.  

Swing tempo and quality also play a big role in choosing a shaft flex.  Now that you have a better understanding of club basics, it’s time to focus on some specifics.  

So without further ado, here are the Top 6 game improvement irons for beginners and high handicappers.

Best Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers

TaylorMade M CGB Irons

TaylorMade combined several of their most successful technologies, from the past fifteen years, into the M CGB set of irons.  

The speed pocket from the 2012 RocketBladez irons, face slots from the 2014 RSI irons, a fluted hosel from the 2015 M2 line, Tungsten weights on the heel and toe from the 2008 R7 CGB offering, and TaylorMade’s Inverted Cone Tech which first appeared in R500 driver series in 2002, all come together to create TaylorMade’s version of a “greatest hits” set of clubs.

Cons

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    Not for Low Handicappers, but that's not you if you are reading this

Pros

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    They Get the Ball in the Air Quickly 
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    Forgiving on mishits
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    Increased distance
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    Great Feel
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    Sweet Sound

If you had asked me the best for 2017, these were clearly the winners.  Since many of these irons have not been updated for 2018, these remain near the top of the list.  Our full review of the M CGB irons is required reading.


Mizuno JPX 900 Hot Metal Irons

Mizuno’s JPX Hot Metal Irons have plenty of power to go along with the traditional good looks found in Mizuno clubs.  

This latest game improvement iron features a 2mm face made from a steel alloy called “Chromoly 4140M."  Chromoly allowed Mizuno engineers to create a larger cavity, in the back, which improves forgiveness and helps to get the ball in the air.  

Also as a result of the thinner face, Mizuno claims that players can expect an average increase in distance of about 5 yards more than their previous JPX850 irons.

Mizuno JPX-900 Hot Metal 8PC Iron Set - Steel

Pros

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    The Chromoly 4140M used on the face is stronger than stainless steel and allows for a thinner and more forgiving face.
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    The ball goes high and straight on all but the worst mishits.
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    The heavy head and wide sole easily cut through even the deepest rough.
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    These irons feature above-average top-end power and consistent distances across the entire set.
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    The large heads provide a soft feel and tamper vibrations on mishits.
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    The JPX 900 offer excellent distance compared to other clubs in the super game improvement class.
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    They’re great looking clubs with a slick satin finish and an appealing shaped head.  Your friends will never know you are playing “super game improvement irons.”

Cons

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    The heavy head and wide sole make these irons less maneuverable than some irons in this class.
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    Not the best feel around the greens or on short pitch shots.
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    While the JPX 900’s sound better than the JPX 850’s, they still sound a little on the hollow side.

Even though these clubs do not offer all the game improvement features of our top picks, I really like these clubs.  So much that I recently recommended these to a friend of mine who at one time was a pretty good golfer (before kids and life happened) but whose game has gotten rusty and significantly declined.

Mizuno just released the JPX 919 Hot Metal Irons and we have a full review of the JPX 919 Hot Metal Irons posted on our site.  While the 919s are the newest model and an upgrade from the 900s, you can still pick up the 900 models and save a little money.


Ping G700 Irons

The PING G700 irons replace their Ping GMAX irons from a couple of years ago.  However, this is such a good iron that it draws comparisons to big time irons such as the TaylorMade P790 and PXG irons, both designed for a totally different type of player.

PING G700 7PC Iron Set - Steel

The G700s offer extreme forgiveness, distance and super high launch.  And if that's not good enough, they are actually great looking clubs.

Pros

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    Extreme forgiveness
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    Exceptional launch and distance. Long, high and straight works, right?
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    They sure look good with the satin finish and clean design

Cons

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    The G700s make a slight pingy sound at impact, which could be a deterrent to a certain segment of the golfing public
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    Lower handicap golfers might not fall in love with the overpowering distance and oversized heads
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    Because Ping essentially instilled metalwood or hybrid technology into an iron, some golfers sacrifice more feel than they would prefer

The Hydro Pearl finish is not only satin and sassy, offering a classy looking club but it also wicks away moisture at impact, which is designed to reduce those pesky flyer shots from the long grass.

Ping may have just thought of everything on this iron.  Our full review of the Ping G700 irons should be next on your reading list.


Cobra FMax Irons

If you’re looking for a club with a light feel that swings easy, consider the Cobra FMax Irons.  

As with any max game improvement iron, they get the ball up quickly, forgive mishits, and send the ball far enough to satisfy even the most distance challenged players.  

To do this, Cobra employs a low profile design that moves the center of gravity to the bottom and back of the club head.

A deep undercut cavity provides flex that creates good ball speed across the entire face.  As with many of their prior offerings, Cobra employs an offset head to help players minimize their slice.

Pros

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    Players on a budget will appreciate the reasonable sticker price.
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    The Cobra offset head helps take the edge of a slice or hook (see the cons section).
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    The long irons launch nicely and are easier to hit than most of the competitors.
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    The shorter irons fly straight, get good height, and land soft.
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    The low center of gravity yields plenty of forgiveness on left to right and fat to thin mishits
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    The FMax irons sport good looks throughout.
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    Contact, even on mishits, feels solid and they provide a fair amount of feedback not usually associated with max-game-improvement irons.

Cons

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    The lighter overall design that makes them easy to swing on the fairway, works against them out of deep rough or bad lies.
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    While easy to hit, and launch the ball nicely, the long irons tend to fly low and long.
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    Cobra built these clubs to help golfers with the dreaded slice.  Players that hit the ball straight will find an unintended draw bias on some shots.


Callaway Big Bertha OS Irons

The Callaway Big Bertha OS Irons feature thick top lines, wide soles, a fair amount of offset, and lots of Callaway technology.  

Minimal branding and a slate gray finish provide plenty of curb appeal.  Callaway’s new Exo-Cage Technology creates a space in the center of the club head and pushes weight to the edges, where it can be used more efficiently.  

Callaway also places what they call a Tungsten-Loaded Standing Wave deep in the sole of the iron.  According to Callaway, this keeps the weight and center of gravity low in the head and promotes a higher launch.

Pros

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    Beginners and high handicappers that struggle with getting the long iron to fly will love the Big Bertha OS irons as they tend to get the ball in the air better than other offerings in their class.
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    The large weighted head easily rips through the deep grass.
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    They lift balls out of fairway bunkers with almost no sacrifice in the distance.
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    A Progressive Center of Gravity design places a lower center of gravity in the long irons to help get the ball in the air.  The short irons have a higher center of gravity which helps with control.
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    The wide sole resists digging in on steep shots.  This leads to fewer chunks and fat mishits

Cons

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    Players with good short games will find these clubs lack finesse.
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    They’re more of an automatic club and provide little feedback.
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    They look a little too oversized at setup, almost like a hybrid.
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    Great for beginners, but may not go the distance to mid-handicap.


Cleveland Launcher HB Irons

Cleveland returns to the super game improvement category with the Launcher HB Irons.  Aimed at players with mid to low swing speeds, they come through with ample distance and launch as advertised.  

Much like their predecessor - the Cleveland 588 Altitude irons – the Launchers get the ball in the air with minimum effort.  They accomplish all this through a hybrid-like design with a hollow club head.  

Cleveland also uses high-COR steel clubfaces for more ball speed across the hitting area.  A low and deep center-of-gravity improves launch, distance, and forgiveness.  Cleveland calls the Launchers “irons” but, they fall into the new class of clubs known as “hybrid irons.”

Pros

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    The huge sole and raised center section cuts through the fairway grass and second cut with ease.
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    You won’t need to swap out the three, four, and five irons for their hybrid counterparts.
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    A true set of beginner’s clubs offering plenty of forgiveness, desirable launch angles throughout the set, and good overall distance.
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    Great feel and sound on solid contact and mishits as well.
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    The ball gets up in the air even on the thinnest of hits.

Cons

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    These clubs are not irons, but hybrids, and provide little feel around the greens.
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    Even though the shorter irons have near-typical sized club heads, they still lack the control that you’ll want as your game improves.
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    They look a little too oversized at setup, almost like a hybrid.
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    The soft feel provides little feedback on mishits.

Best Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers Comparison Table

Distance

Forgiveness

Feel

Price

Overall

Longest

Very Good

Good Feel

Pricey

Very Long

Very Good

Good Feel

Pricey

Very Long

Good

Best Feel in Class, Can be used by intermediate players

Affordable

Very Long

Runner up for easiest to Hit

adequate

Pricey

Good, but can launch Low

Best Irons for Slicers in class


adequate

Very Affordable

Good

easiest to Hit

not much

Very Affordable

And the best super game improvement irons for beginners and high handicappers are..

Each of the six different sets of clubs has their own merits and drawbacks.  


The Callaway Big Bertha OS Irons or the Cleveland Launchers might be the best set for a beginner, but most golfers, as their play improves, will require something with more feel and better control.  


The Cobras offer the most bang for the buck, but their slice correcting feature could become a negative as your swing improves.  


The Mizuno irons play long and smooth off the fairway, but may lack some of the extreme game improvement found in the other models.  The Mizuno may not be the best club for beginners and high handicaps, but it has the best chance of all these irons to stay in your bag as you progress to the next level.  Plus, the Mizuno's are the most affordable of top three irons.


The TaylorMade M CGB Irons are packed with technology and game improvement.  As I said earlier, if this was 2017, the TaylorMade M CGB are the hands down winner.  


But in 2018, there is a new king and he goes by the name of the Ping G700.  Ping threw everything but the kitchens sink into the G700 irons.  Like the other five, they play straight on mishits, feel great to swing, and sound solid when hit.  They offer the most consistency from club to club.  You will fall in love with the high launch.  And..... they look great.  


If you are serious about getting a new set of super game improvement irons, head over to our review of the Ping G700s and get a set of these in your bag today.

Still confused?

Maybe you don't quite fall into the beginner or high handicap category.  We have plenty of other reviews in the iron section of our website, or you can check out out comprehensive guide to the best irons of 2018.


The next step up in clubs are going to be the TaylorMade M3 & M4, Callaway Rogue, Ping G400 and Cobra King F8.  Our reviews on these clubs will point you in the right direction.


If you are a better player and just read this article because you were bored, head on over to our review of TayorMade P790s, or Mizuno's MP18 Irons and the Titleist 718 Irons.

4 thoughts on “Best Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers”

  1. Good, honest, informative and straight to the point.
    I like this site.
    Can’t wait to check out any tuition sections that may be here.

    1. Thanks for the compliment Chopper. We are working diligently to grow the site and get some instructional content going soon.

  2. Thoroughly interesting and informative. I’ve opened a new avenue of clubs to ponder over for hours on the internet. Great stuff. Got anything on chipping?

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