Your golf equipment can make the game much harder or much easier. Since golf is already so challenging, it’s vital to play the right golf clubs and give yourself every advantage possible.
One of the most important areas where technology has changed the game is long irons. The running joke of the golf world has been “God himself couldn’t hit a 1-iron.”
Well, most everyday golfers can’t hit a 1, 2, 3, or 4-iron. Heck a lot of players even struggle with 5-irons too. Luckily, golf companies have noticed our struggles and started to create alternatives.
If you’re debating on carrying a 4-iron or alternative, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn everything about piecing together the right equipment for your game.
Do I Need a 4 Iron?
So, does the average golfer use a 4-iron?
Yes, some golfers… but not very many these days. So, what has made golfers ditch their 4-irons for other golf clubs?
Because golfers have learned they are a difficult club to hit. In the past, golfers had to deal with it and figure it out – but that’s not the case anymore. Now, there are so many alternatives that playing golf with a 4-iron doesn’t make sense for high handicap golfers.
Who Should Play Long Irons?
While 4-irons aren’t as common today, they’re not extinct by any means. In fact, a lot of beginner and high handicap iron sets don’t even come with them. 10-15 years ago most sets came with a 3-PW or 4-PW.
Now, most iron sets tend to come in 5-GW or 4-PW for mid handicap irons, and some replace long irons with easier to hit hybrids.
So, who should play long irons?
The main type of golfer who will benefit from a 4-iron is a single digit handicap golfer or scratch player.
These golfers have enough speed and a consistent swing that they can hit long irons consistently. They have exceptional turf interaction and can navigate a golf course with these clubs as they hit consistently and get the ball airborne easily.
Skilled golfers like 4-irons (and the compact head) as they can shape shots into greens, hit them off the tee, and flight the ball better than hybrids or woods. They also are great weapons to use when playing in the wind, flighting it low under tree branches, or playing links golf.
But for the everyday golfer, 4-irons are hard to hit and we recommend other clubs. Instead, most golfers should look at one of the three alternatives below to get the ball airborne more easily.
4-Iron vs. 7-Wood
The first option to swap out a 4-iron is with a 7-wood.
This high-lofted wood is much bigger than a longer iron and makes it significantly easier to hit. Even if you don’t get the sweet spot it’ll still produce a decent result.
A 7-wood also goes longer than a 4-iron or hybrid as it’s slightly longer. Plus, it has a lighter shaft so it’s easier to swing faster and create more clubhead speed. This will help create a high-launching shot that is nearly impossible for a beginner to create with a long iron.
A 7-wood is recommended for many golfers, from beginners to intermediate high handicap golfers. It’s easy to hit on tee shots, from the fairway, and even in light rough unlike other clubs. The only downside is they might pose a distance gap so plan accordingly.
4-Iron vs. 4 Hybrid
The second alternative you might want in your golf bag to a 4-iron is a hybrid.
Hybrid golf clubs are much easier to hit than long irons and have grown in popularity over the past 5-10 years. They’re smaller than woods but still much larger than long irons so you hit shots in the sweet spot more often.
A hybrid has a similar ball flight to a long iron but is much easier to hit thanks to the larger, more forgiving clubhead. Not to mention the graphite shaft is usually lighter and helps produce a higher ball flight.
A hybrid replacement is great for intermediate to advanced golfers. Plus, a lot of golf companies offer different sizes of hybrids to match all types of players.
For example, Titleist offers three versions. One is large and looks more like a fairway wood than a hybrid for beginners. Another version allows golfers to get extra forgiveness and still work the ball. While the smallest version is for elite ball strikers who want more shot shaping over forgiveness.
Make sure you compare hybrid vs iron distances. Remember, even if they have the same loft, the hybrid will go longer so plan accordingly if you replace it. Click here to learn how to hit a hybrid now.
4-Iron vs. Driving Iron
The final alternative to a traditional 4-iron is a driving iron.
These clubs are the most similar in terms of look of a normal long iron but the clubhead is still bigger and more forgiving. A lot of lower handicap golfers prefer these as they get the advantage of a 4-iron with the forgiveness of a hybrid.
Driving irons are great for using off the tee, hitting from the fairway and even from the rough too. The biggest benefit is that most driving irons have lighter graphite shafts that are much easier to swing vs. standard iron shafts. Paired with the larger clubhead, these are much easier to hit.
Driving irons are great for long par 3s, getting into position on tight par 4s, and to attack par 5s in two. They’re very versatile and so much easier to swing with confidence compared to a typical long iron.
FAQs About Long Irons
Do you have more questions about picking the right equipment for your game for a lower overall score? If so, keep scrolling to find out more information to help your golf game.
What club does a 4-iron replace?
A 4-iron is most equivalent to a 5 hybrid or a 7-wood. All three of these clubs have about 21 degrees of loft but all produce different types of shots.
Does a 5-wood replace a 4-iron?
No, a 5-wood is more of a 2 or 3-iron replacement, depending on the loft. The equivalent wood to a 4-iron is a 7-wood.
Both have about 21 degrees of loft. But a 7-wood is a much easier club for the average golfer to hit. It launches higher, is more forgiving, and tends to go longer as well.
While a 5-hybrid is the closest hybrid to replace a 4-iron. Most golfers think they can just swap a 4-iron for a 4H but that’s not the case.
Even if the loft of an iron and hybrid are the same, a hybrid club will produce more ball speed and distance thanks to the larger head. Not to mention a lot of hybrids tend to have lighter shafts which also make the club longer and more forgiving.
Is a 7-wood easier to hit than a 4-iron?
Yes, a 7-wood is significantly easier to hit than a 4-iron. The larger clubhead, lighter shaft, and overall design make it a great substitute for long irons.
Do pro golfers use 4-irons?
Yes, most professional golfers use 4-irons and some even use 3-irons too. While a small number of players use 2-irons, it’s very uncommon these days. Even if they do carry longer irons, a lot of them are easier to hit utility irons as well (even Tiger Woods).
Learn this vital lesson from the pros – play golf clubs that are easier to hit. Don’t make golf even more challenging by playing hard to hit long irons if your swing isn’t good enough!
Do I need a 4-iron as a beginner?
No, beginner golfers should stay away from 4-irons.
These clubs are long, heavy, have low loft, and aren’t easy to hit. In fact, these clubs should almost exclusively be used by elite scratch golfers and single digit handicaps.
Even those types of players might benefit more from a hybrid or high-lofted fairway wood instead. Or, possibly using a utility 4-iron which is more forgiving than most long irons that come in a standard set.
How far does Tiger Woods hit a 4-iron?
Tiger is one of the few golfers who can hit long irons with extreme precision almost every single swing. His 4-iron can go anywhere from 200-240 yards depending on wind, weather, and playing conditions. If there’s anyone I trust with using a long iron, it’s Tiger.
Why is a 4-iron so hard to hit? Why are long irons so hard to hit?
Traditional long irons are so challenging for average golfers for several reasons.
First, the head of the golf club is very small. In the old days longer blade style irons looked more like butter knives than golf clubs. This smaller head requires a precise swing for exceptional turf interaction. If you miss it, the results aren’t great either. (Read our full article on blade vs cavity back irons.)
Second, they’re heavy and hard to swing with enough swing speed. If you use long irons that match the rest of your set, it’s hard to generate enough clubhead speed to hit them consistently well.
Finally, it’s a mental thing for a lot of golfers. Too often players try to swing too hard and it throws off their tempo when hitting long irons.
For all these reasons, we suggest using a hybrid, driving iron, or fairway wood instead.
Final Thoughts on Using Long Irons
Most everyday golfers should stay away from a difficult club like a 4-iron and use a hybrid or wood instead. The higher launch of these alternative clubs will:
- Help approach shots land softly on the greens
- Find more fairways off the tee compared to long irons
- Improve ball speed and find the sweet spot more often
- The longer shaft of hybrid helps hit it longer (and make misses better)
And a lot more benefits for high handicappers. Even good iron players who have consistent swings might benefit from a utility 4-iron vs. a 4-iron from the set.
Even if you love and carry a 4-iron, I challenge you to hit a driving iron with a different shaft to see the results. I think you’ll be impressed with the difference in distance, clubhead speed, and the ability to work the golf ball.
Finally, make sure to test out different clubs with a launch monitor to see what works best for your game.