Best For Most Golfers: TaylorMade GAPR MID Club
“The TaylorMade GAPR has an iron profile, with a few of the benefits of a hybrid. With its LO, HIGH or MID versions, you’ll get a straight ball flight, trajectory control and Speedfoam tech for the head design. The best driving iron we’ve tested.”
Best For Purists: TaylorMade P790 UDI
“The P790 UDI is a true driving iron, with great workability, elite distance that rewards good swings. There’s not much forgiveness, so this club is best suited for single-digit handicappers with speeds of 100+ mph.”
Best for Advanced Players: Srixon Z Utility Iron
“Perfect for scratch golfers, the Srixon Z brings great spin control, workability and a great design. It is the most reliable driving iron on our list.”
- Best for Most Golfers: TaylorMade GAPR MID
- Best for High Swing Speeds (100+ mph): TaylorMade P790
- Best for Low Handicappers: Srixon Utility Z Iron
What if a told you there was a specific type of iron you could use to get more fairways hit and make more pars?
Enter the driving iron.
Driving irons are basically long-irons that are designed to be more forgiving and useful than the blades of the past, while taking advantage of the more penetrating ball flight and workability that irons can provide.
On top of this, driving irons are often considered more accurate and better wind performers than hybrids and fairway woods.
This article will explore the strengths of each and help you make an informed decision that will result in more fairways hit and more pars made.
Last updated on 2021-09-17. The links are affiliate links. Product images are served from Amazon Product Advertising API.
Driving irons are basically long-irons that are designed to be more forgiving and useful than the blades of the past, but take advantage of the more penetrating ball flight and workability that irons can provide. Jordan Fuller
Table of Contents
- The Rundown:
- Our Picks:
- Featured Recommendations
- Best Driving Irons in 2021
- Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation
- Questions & Answers
Best Driving Irons in 2021
TaylorMade GAPR MID Golf Club
Best Driving Iron Overall: Halfway to a hybrid, this is our editor’s choice
- Very straight ball flight
- Surprising amount of trajectory control
- Confidence-inspiring look
Why have we picked this driving iron as our editor’s pick?
The theory behind the GAPR line is that there’s too big of a distance jump from a 3-wood to a 4-iron, so a GAPR can serve as both a driving iron and a club that helps bridge that distance gap.
The TaylorMade GAPR series of clubs is designed to have an iron profile with a few of the added benefits of a hybrid.
It comes in a LO a HIGH versions (which I felt were too much of a hybrid to even consider calling a driving iron) in addition to this model, the GAPR MID.
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TaylorMade P790 UDI Driving Iron
Best For Purists: Speedfoam and tungsten and Tour-level performance
- A true driving iron
- Great distance
- Low trajectory
- One of the top driving irons of the year
- Very workable
Why have we picked this driving iron as our best for purists?
The TaylorMade P790 UDI Driving Iron is one of my favorite clubs tested this year.
It’s a traditional-looking club with great workability and elite distance that really rewards good swings.
However, there’s not much forgiveness if you miss the sweet spot. Thin and toe hits suffer significant losses of distance, so I’d recommend this only for single-digit handicappers with swing speeds of 100+ mph.
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Srixon Z Utility U85 Iron
Best For Advanced Players: Great feel and workability for better players
- Perfect for scratch golfers
- Great spin control
- One of the most workable clubs
- Just beautiful
Make no mistake, these are irons for elite golfers – players who are shooting par with regularity and contending for club championships year in and year out.
Srixon is a company known more for its golf balls than anything else, but in recent years their blades have been renowned as some of the prettiest and best-made irons out there. This is one of them.
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Cobra King Utility Iron
Best All-In-One Driving Iron: Several strengths in a well-rounded iron
- Useful as more than a driving iron
- Longer than most hybrids
- Forged face feels great
The Cobra King Utility Iron is more than just a driving iron, which makes it an attractive option but slightly reduces its effectiveness off the tee.
I found that some of its other strengths might make up for the slight reduction of performance off the tee.
Even the 2/3 utility iron was remarkably easy to hit from the fairway, but the trajectory when I teed it up (even teed very low to the ground) was higher than I’d like from a true driving iron.
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Tour Edge HL3 Hot Launch Iron-Wood
Best For Golfers On A Budget: Not quite a hybrid, not quite an iron, not quite a wood
- Very hot face
- Large sweet spot
- Trajectory can be flighted down
- Several loft options for different skill levels
Tour Edge is fast making a name for themselves as a hidden gem in the golf club market, and the HL3 Hot Launch irons are a big reason why.
While they’re offered as a complete set of “iron-woods”, the 18°, 20° and 23° are all considered driving irons.
This provides several nice options for players depending on what they’re looking for: if you want a higher launch or just a club to replace your 3-iron that’s not quite a hybrid, the 23° is a good option.
For a lower ball flight and more of a traditional driving iron, the others should fit the bill.
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Fourteen Golf HI 877 Hybrid Golf Club
Best For Average Golfers (Most Forgiving Driving Iron): They Say Hybrid, I Say Driving Iron
- Good trajectory control
- Well-designed sole adds versatility
- Good distance
Fourteen golf is a relatively new, boutique clubmaker who first made a splash on the scene in 2002 when Ernie Els won The Open Championship with a Fourteen driving iron in his bag.
After years of designing clubs for other major manufacturers like Yamaha, Fourteen Golf was finally on the worldwide stage and has been slowly but surely increasing their brand recognition with impeccably clean designs and expertly made irons and wedges.
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TaylorMade SIM MAX UDI Utility Iron
Best Driving Iron for Mid Handicappers: Premium performance with outstanding control
- Tour shape with refined leading edge for crisp, clean contact that improves turf interaction
- SpeedFoam interior keeps the SIM MAX UDI lightweight for high speed swings that generate maximum distance
- Forged ultra-thin face offers strength with explosive launch that creates high ball speed
Why have we picked this driving iron as best for mid handicappers?
Available in an 18-and 20-degrees option, the TaylorMade SIM MAX UDI Utility Iron offers premium performance with outstanding control. Great for mid handicappers looking to add more options for the tee box, this club is a dynamic driving iron providing unreal distance with accuracy for hitting tight fairways.
For mid handicappers looking to get to the next level, the SIM MAX UDI offers high launch with low spin for piercing ball flight that dramatically improves carry. The club’s Speed Pocket, located directly behind the club face, promotes flexibility for better forgiveness on off-center strikes while keeping the ball speed at a high level.
Testing Protocol & Criteria Used For Evaluation
Criteria 1: Distance
A good driving iron needs to have a hot face that really sends the ball off the tee and gives you a chance to make par even when you’re not hitting driver.
The ball should launch low, fly far, and roll out nicely.
They’re best used in windy, firm conditions when you need a penetrating trajectory to obtain good distance.
Criteria 2: Hittability
What separates a driving iron from a traditional long iron is that they should be much easier to hit than a normal long iron.
The sweet spot needs to be large and mis-hits should still result in decent shots.
While a 3-iron might look intimidating to the average golfer, a driving iron should inspire confidence and be a reliable source of fairways hit. I’m condensing this feeling into a criteria I call hittability.
Criteria 3: Stinger Potential
A driving iron should give you the option to hit a stinger: a low, hard shot that runs out significantly after landing.
Tiger Woods is famous for it, but one of my all-time favorite stingers is Ollie Schneiderjans’ 341-yard 1-iron from the 2017 Wyndham Championship.
The shot tracer shows that its trajectory peaks at a mere 39 feet, but it still traveled 341 yards!
If the center of gravity of a driving iron is too low, a stinger will be hard to hit as it’ll launch the ball too high. To me, a good driving iron will let you smash it low and long.
Criteria 4: Looks
One of the main reasons that long irons have fallen out of favor with most amateurs and even a lot of professionals is that they simply look intimidating and hard to hit.
Woods have less loft, but the increased body size gives you the impression that the club will help you get the ball off the ground.
Long irons with thin toplines look like they’re just sitting there, poised to blade the ball off into the woods and send shockwaves of vibration into your hands. If it’s cold out, they’re even more intimidating.
A good driving iron should overcome this: instead of being intimidating, it should paint a picture of tight dispersion, of a ball sailing straight and true down the fairway.
Criteria 5: Forgiveness
When you choose to hit a driving iron off the tee, you’re choosing to sacrifice distance for accuracy.
A well-struck driver or 3-wood will always go farther than a driving iron, and the larger heads of the woods allow manufacturers to maximize the sweet spot to help forgive mis-hits.
This is tougher to accomplish with a driving iron, as there’s less surface area with which to manipulate weight and center of gravity.
But the distance potential of a driver means that if you don’t get it online, it can go deep into the woods.
So you take a driving iron, trying to ensure that your next shot will be from the fairway. But you still want forgiveness, as not every swing will find the sweet spot.
Forgiveness really matters in this case, since you’re already sacrificing some distance. The last thing you want is to hit it slightly out on the toe and suddenly not be able to reach the green with your next shot.
Questions & Answers
Should I use a driving iron or a hybrid?
Driving irons have traditionally been geared towards better players, as they require a high clubhead speed and good contact to even get the ball in the air in the first place.
Many slow-swinging amateurs have found it hard to hit anything but worm-burners with traditional driving irons.
However, recent technological advancements like hollow heads and tungsten toe weights have brought the driving iron into the consciousness of mid-handicap amateurs who have trouble hitting woods and hybrids.
Driving irons are often seen as more accurate and better wind performers than hybrids and fairway woods. If you’re a decent player looking to find more fairways, a driving iron is certainly worth looking into. For beginners, I’d recommend sticking to hybrids and fairway woods.
How do I hit a stinger?
Before you try to hit a stinger, you should be able to consistently hit the sweet spot with your irons. It’s not a shot that the average player should attempt, as it’s difficult to pull off and has very little room for error.
However, if you’re good at making consistent contact, it’s an effective weapon to have.
You’ll want to move the ball back in your stance, take a 3/4 backswing, and focus on rotating your hips hard at the target while holding your hands off and releasing the clubhead as late as possible.
This keeps the clubface de-lofted but avoids the snap-hook that so many attempts at stingers fall victim to. Make sure you get good at them on the range before you take it to the course, as a slight miscue can easily result in either a snap-hook or a dreaded shank.
What qualities should I look for in a driving iron?
There are a few qualities I think are most desirable in a driving iron:
1: You should feel confident standing over it. The main reason to use a driving iron is to improve your chances of hitting the fairway. You should feel like you’re primed to fire the ball straight down the middle when you pull out the driving iron.
2: Forgiveness. You’re already sacrificing distance by hitting iron instead of driver, so you want a driving iron that will still deliver a useful result even if you don’t catch it dead solid pure.
3: Workability. The ideal driving iron should let you hit a hard draw or a baby fade, and should allow you to flight it down and hit a stinger.