What if I 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.
These long irons 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, these 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 2023-09-27. 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
- Featured Recommendations
- Things to Consider When Choosing a Driving Iron
- Best Driving Irons 2023
- Questions & Answers
Things to Consider When Choosing a Driving Iron
Good driving irons need to have a hot face that sends the ball off the tee and gives you a chance to make par even when you’re not hitting the 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 a good distance.
What separates a driving iron from a traditional long iron is that it should be much easier to hit than regular 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, driving irons should inspire confidence and be a reliable source of fairways hit. So I’m condensing this feeling into a criterion I call hittability.
Driving irons 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 driving irons is too low, a stinger will be hard to hit as it’ll launch the ball too high. To me, good driving irons will let you smash it low and long.
One of the main reasons long irons have fallen out of favor with most amateurs and even many professionals is that they 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.
Good driving irons 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.
When you choose to hit driving irons off the tee, you choose 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 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 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.
Best Driving Irons 2023
TaylorMade GAPR MID Golf Club
Best Driving Irons Overall
- Loft: 18°-24°
- Lie: 59.5°-60.5°
- Shaft Length: 39.25”-40.25”
- Swing Weight: D2
- Very straight ball flight
- Surprising amount of trajectory control
- Confidence-inspiring look
- Built-in trajectory is too high
Why have we picked this as the best driving irons?
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 it can serve as both driving irons 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 LO and 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.
Foaming at the Mouth
As we also see in the TaylorMade P790 UDI, TaylorMade uses its proprietary Speedfoam technology to fill in the hollow head design.
It’s deployed to great effect here, providing an active and lively club face that the ball just jumps off of. The GAPR feels buttery smooth and has one of the best sounds of any iron I’ve hit this year.
Looks That Kill
This iron is a little odd-looking, but even though I’m generally a fan of a more traditional look, I found myself liking it a lot more than I expected to.
It has the look of an iron face with a thin topline that then has a chunk of metal backpacking behind that traditional iron face.
Perhaps it’s the great color combo of a matte charcoal face and Darth Vader-black chrome elsewhere that makes the odd look effective and confidence-inspiring.
A Pro Is Also a Con
You may have noticed that there’s an identical entry in the Pros and Cons section above: the GAPR produces a very straight ball flight.
This is a pro in that as long as you make a good swing and square the clubface to the target, the ball is going straight down the fairway.
It’s not going to impart any sidespin, and it’s tough to hook, slice, fade, or draw the ball.
However, many players in the market want to curve the ball, so an overly straight flight like this winds up being a con more than a pro.
Slower-swinging players and higher handicappers will probably love the GAPR MID, however. And if your specialty is Francesco Molinari-Esque laser straight bullets, then this is likely an excellent option for you.
TaylorMade P790 UDI Driving Iron
Best Driving Irons For Purists
- Loft: 17°
- Lie: 60°-61.5°
- Shaft Length: 60”
- Swing Weight: D2
- A true driving iron
- Great distance
- Low trajectory
- One of the top driving irons of the year
- Very workable
- Not for beginners
- Not very forgiving
Why have we picked this as our best for purists?
The TaylorMade P790 UDI is one of my favorite clubs tested this year.
It’s a traditional-looking club with excellent 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 distance losses, so I’d recommend this only for single-digit handicappers with swing speeds of 100+ mph.
17 Degrees of Stingeration
The elusive stinger is a beautiful thing: a low, penetrating shot that cheats the wind but still flies a good distance, hits the ground running, and rolls out to a position that rivals other players’ drivers or 3-woods.
The TaylorMade UDI seems like it was designed with this in mind.
Its 17-degree loft is that of a traditional 1-iron, which means you’ll need a pretty high swing speed to get it into the air at all. But put a good swing on it, and it really goes!
The steep loft and minimal offset will delight low handicappers and terrify beginners.
The classic design without much perimeter weighting makes it rather workable. However, I found it a little easier to hit draws than fades, resulting from the tungsten weight in the toe imparting extra draw spin to the ball.
But compared to most clubs I tested, it was much easier to shape shots to fight the wind and optimize the angle for the next shot.
Speedfoam and Inverted Cone
TaylorMade is always on the cutting edge of golf technology, and their patented Speedfoam is no exception.
The thin face is backed up by this unique filling, giving a springiness you won’t find in a solid forged iron.
They also tout an “inverted cone” in the face to further sweeten the sweet spot. And I can tell you. It’s one fantastic sweet spot: it feels like hitting a golf ball with a trampoline.
On windy days, I was able to hit low balls that hovered under the breeze and rolled out, even into a strong headwind.
Hitting it off the fairway was challenging but doable and was very useful on holes with room to run it up to the green.
You’re not going to find yourself hitting high shots that land and stop, but that’s not why you carry a driving iron. The TaylorMade UDI is built for penetrating trajectories and workability, and it does both very well.
Cobra King Utility Iron
Best All-In-One Driving Iron
- Loft: 17.5°
- Lie: 59.75°
- Shaft Length: 40”-40.25”
- Swing Weight: D2/D1
- Useful as more than a driving iron
- Longer than most hybrids
- Forged face feels great
- Lacks workability
- Focus on being a “utility iron” takes away from strengths as a driving iron
The Cobra King Utility Iron is more than just a driving iron, making it an attractive option but slightly reducing 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.
Cobra is one of the pioneers of adjustable clubs, giving players the option of several different lofts to fine-tune the trajectory to their liking.
They haven’t slacked off here, offering the MyFly adjustable hosel that’s also offered in their woods.
This lets you adjust the club’s loft while keeping the face square to the target line, quite an engineering triumph unto itself.
I found myself turning the loft to the lowest possible to get that desirable penetrating ball flight, but slower swing players will appreciate the ability to add loft to help get the ball airborne.
Hollow Body and Tungsten Toe
I’m beginning to see a pattern here of technologically forward-thinking golf manufacturers making driving irons with hollow bodies to increase hittability.
This does help driving irons become more accessible to more players, but it sacrifices a little bit of the strength of true driving irons. I found the trajectory nice but a little too high for my tastes.
When I tried to hit windcheaters, I really had to move the ball back in my stance and use an exaggerated knock-down swing to accomplish the trajectory I wanted.
However, the tradeoff is that I found myself hitting the utility iron out of tougher lies in the rough than long irons of old, and it was still useful in hitting low bullets out of the trees when I had to keep it under limbs.
So while the hallowed stinger wasn’t quite as hot as I’d like, the overall usefulness of the club was quite high.
The tungsten toe weight is another feature that’s becoming standard in driving irons these days.
It helps counteract the weight of the hosel and distribute the center of gravity more across the whole face, and it works here. The sweet spot is large and lively.
Titleist U500 Hybrid
Most Accurate Driving Iron
Check Price on Global Golf
- Loft: 17°-23°
- Lie: 59°-61°
- Shaft Length: 38.75”-39.75”
- Swing Weight: D2
- Compact shape delivers stunning accuracy
- Boosted launch with outstanding trajectory control
- High MOI reduces twisting for better balance
- Incredibly difficult to master for inexperienced golfers
- Plays like a blade iron with little room for miss-hits
Shaped like a player’s iron, the Titleist U500 delivers a compact shape that provides a high degree of workability for shaping shots.
Great for experienced golfers that can control a golf ball, it provides another dependable weapon for crafting shots that find the fairway or reach greens on long par 5s.
Compact Shape with Workability
The iron offers a versatility rarely seen in driving irons for low handicappers. Whether it be distance or control, the Titleist iron gives golfers plenty of choices in creating the best shot for attacking the pin.
Even though the iron offers the muscle-back look, the compact size offers a smaller sweet spot that directs maximum power to the golf ball.
High-Density Tungsten Weighting
Titleist has inserted a high-density tungsten weighting along the iron’s sole to ground the club and increase launch. While the weighting helps boost shot height, you won’t feel that the iron is heavier when holding.
Instead, the weighting offers outstanding trajectory control. For advanced golfers, the iron gives the option of dialing in the right height for the shot they face.
While some low handicappers might want a more forged iron look from their driving iron, the tungsten weight helps increase shotmaking reliability.
High MOI Produces Better Stability
The Titleist U500 also boasts a high MOI for reduced twisting through the impact zone. The head stays stable through impact for better balance that maintains the high shot speed that low handicappers need from their driving iron.
In concert with the tungsten weighting, the higher MOI provides a clean entry into the grass with improved turf interaction.
TaylorMade SIM DHY
Best Driving Irons for Low Handicappers
- Loft: 17°-25°
- Lie: 59.5°-61°
- Shaft Length: 38.75”-40.25”
- Swing Weight: D2
- Hollow Body Construction increases launch for easy lift
- Thru-Slot Speed Pocket boosts ball speed
- SpeedFoam injection reduces vibration and improves feel
- Better for mid-handicappers, less for low handicappers
- Plays more like a hybrid than a driving iron
TaylorMade’s SIM DHY offers the simplicity of a hybrid with the shape and shot quality of a long iron. With four different loft options, golfers can find the perfect lie angle for their needs on the course.
Hollow Body Construction Increases Speed
TaylorMade’s Hollow Body Construction is included with the SIM DHY to heighten swing speed. The additional distance does not come at the sacrifice of feel or response, as the hollow chamber works with the company’s SpeedFoam to provide smooth shotmaking.
The company has shaped the club’s head to offer more versatility with a rounded sole that makes it playable from any lie.
Thru-Slot Speed Pocket Produces Distance
Behind the face, the SIM DHY features a Thru-Slot Speed Pocket that reduces vibration while boosting ball speed. The added distance works very well with the club’s high launch for the tall, long-shot arc that lands softly at the target area.
The Speed Pocket also increases the flexibility of the face to help improve overall forgiveness. Off the tee box, this iron offers a tight shot dispersion for better placement when dealing with tougher hole layouts.
SpeedFoam Reduces Vibration
TaylorMade’s patented SpeedFoam fills the interior of the club head. Rather than being solid material, the SpeedFoam reduces the head’s weight, helping increase swing speed while dampening vibration and improving overall feel and response.
Great for bridging the gap between a fairway wood and long iron, the iron offers versatility that you can use on the fairway or from the tee box.
An easy-to-hit alternative to long irons, the TaylorMade SIM DHY provides low handicappers a straightforward option for attacking long par 5s and finding the fairway on tight par 4s.
Titleist U510 Hybrid
Best Driving Irons for High Handicappers
- Loft: 16°-22°
- Lie: 59°-61°
- Shaft Length: 38.75”-40.25”
- Swing Weight: D2
- Impressive distance with a wide sweet spot
- Low, deep CG offers high launch with extended carry
- Tungsten weighting offers better forgiveness and accuracy
- Low handicappers may want a more forged iron feel than U510
- Thick body helps with the launch but can cost workability for experienced golfers
Marketed as a powerful driving iron, the Titleist U510 gives high handicappers a distance-first weapon from the fairway or tee box. The driving irons offer sophistication with outstanding length.
More Forgiveness, More Distance
The iron provides a muscular iron shape with the forgiveness and distance routinely found with hybrids. The rounded head creates the power that high handicappers need when developing their game from the tee box.
On off-center strikes, the U510 maintains ball speed with a high degree of forgiveness, keeping the shot along the target line. The Titleist iron features a longer hitting area that provides a wider degree of margin when the impact point moves toward the toe or heel.
SUP-10 Face Insert
Another outstanding feature is the SUP-10 Face Insert. The insert is made from thin steel and produces maximum ball speed with an improved feel and responsiveness.
Some driving irons offer an underwhelming response at impact, but that does not happen with this Titleist club. Instead, golfers will find that the face insert produces the sound and solid feel they crave from their driving iron.
Golfers will discover that the iron delivers the high arcing shot shape with an extended length that stays along the target line on shots that strike the center of the insert.
High Launch with Low CG
With a driving iron, golfers need a high launch to generate distance. This iron delivers impressive length with an exceptional launch due to the high-density tungsten weighting.
The weight helps lower the center of gravity to create that height that golfers love from the fairway and tee box. Especially when facing a tight par 4, it creates the distance with incredible accuracy.
Along with its dynamic speed, the U510 offers the power that high handicappers need when building their game.
Srixon ZX Utility Iron
Most Forgiving Driving Irons
- Loft: 18°-23°
- Lie: 60°-60.5°
- Shaft Length: 39”-40”
- Swing Weight: D3
- Marvelous shot-shaping ability with premium control
- Hollow design increases swing speed
- Tungsten-weighting boosts ball speed and length
- Intimidating at address
- Lacks forgiveness
With the look of a forged iron, the Srixon ZX delivers versatility and total control over shotmaking from the tee box and fairway. It offers advanced golfers another tool to attack the golf course with an ideal length and high-grade accuracy.
Carbon Steel Body Produces Excellent Feel
Topping the features of the iron is the carbon steel body. Offering a lightweight but durable feel, the body offers a strong response for golfers with high swing speeds.
The iron’s sole is milled, increasing turf interaction with a clean entry into the grass for crisp divots with exceptional impact quality. The sole also features a tungsten weight that balances the iron through the impact zone for straighter results and better accuracy.
Hollow Design Improves Swing Speed
This driving iron utilizes its hollow design to maximize swing speed. The hollow body also increases forgiveness for pure shotmaking that does not compromise length. The head also features a lower half muscle back to increase launch without sacrificing yardage with each swing.
Great for golfers that need more speed from their driving iron, it delivers outstanding performance with exceptional distance.
Forged Iron Style Offers Workability
The smaller head size enables height and distance control with proficiency for golfers who like to work the golf ball from side to side. Regardless of the shot height, the iron delivers high-quality workability that crafts the perfect shape for attacking the pin.
The iron’s workability makes it ideal for advanced golfers that want ultimate control over their shotmaking with their driving club.
Available in three different loft options, golfers of any skill level can find the face angle with the Srixon ZX that works best for their game.
Titleist U505 Utility Iron
Best Distance Driving Irons for Low Handicappers
- Loft: 16°-22°
- Lie: 60°-61.5°
- Shaft Length: 38.75”-40.25”
- Swing Weight: D2
- Shorter, compact blade delivers precision contact for better accuracy
- Exceptional feel and responsiveness
- Low, penetrating flight extends carry
- Tough to hit for mid-to-high handicappers
Titleist’s U·505 utility iron delivers a higher launch with a steep landing angle to help you hold the green or fairway as the ball lands. The iron’s compact shape works well for low handicappers that want power with impressive workability.
What I love about this iron is its low, husky shape. Similar to the Stealth HD irons from TaylorMade, the shape allows you to get under the ball for easy high launch. Since most amateurs hit low shots with their utility, Titleist built a club that does the hard work for you.
The iron also delivers solid feel and responsiveness at impact with damped vibration. If you hit your irons crisply, this iron will work well with your current set by providing a weapon on long par 5s and if you are facing a tight fairway on a tee box.
While I believe that double-digit handicappers might struggle to find consistency with this club, I feel that low handicappers and experienced golfers will find the utility iron offers premium performance.
Mizuno Fli-Hi Driving Iron
Best Distance Driving Iron for High Handicappers
Check Price on Global Golf
- Loft: 16.5°-21.5°
- Lie: 59°-60°
- Shaft Length: 38.75”-39.75”
- Swing Weight: D2/D3
- Hollow body construction improves feel
- High launch, great for mid-handicappers
- Black plating gives club sleek, impressive look
- Harder to work from side to side
The Fli-Hi driving iron from Mizuno utilizes a hybrid graphite shaft to give you the feel of a wood with the performance of a long iron. The club comes equipped with a 21-gram tungsten weight low and deep in the head to boost height and increase carry.
The club comes in either a 16.5-degree, 19-degree, or 21.5-degree loft option helping you find the perfect distance and accuracy regardless of the situation you face on the links.
Once I got this iron on the Trackman, I found it delivers first-rate ball speed with penetrating flight and high-grade forgiveness. On off-center strikes, the ball stays along the target line with maximum ball speed.
Also, I’m a sucker for a beautiful black finish and this driving iron looks incredible sitting in your bag. And the feel and sound also registers top grades from me after using this iron on the range and golf course.
Ideal for mid handicappers that want an easier-to-hit driving iron, the Fli-Hi from Mizuno offers total control and superb distance from either the fairway or tee box.
Best Distance Driving Iron for Mid Handicappers
- Loft: 18°-22.5°
- Lie: 59.5°-61.5°
- Shaft Length: 39”-40.125”
- Swing Weight: D4
- Outstanding forgiveness on off-center strikes
- Lower CG with high energy transfer
- Solid feel at impact with immediate feedback
- Thinner than game-improvement iron
Ping’s latest driving iron, the iCrossover, offers all of the high-grade construction the company is known for with better launch and more carry than most low-lofted clubs deliver.
The club’s tour-inspired design keeps the power directed to the golf ball for more distance and impressive forgiveness. The rounded leading edge offers outstanding turf interaction that moves cleanly through the soil for first-rate contact.
Along the face, the club uses precision-milled MicroMax grooves, a feature I really enjoyed as it delivers a smooth feel and workability off the hitting area. The iron also provides high MOI to keep the face square through the impact zone, helping increase launch.
Another feature I loved is the appearance of this driving iron. The iCrossover’s matte black finish looks great on the course and in your golf bag, especially if you are already playing with Ping irons.
Even though I feel high handicappers can benefit from the power of this utility iron, it may take time to find consistency with this club.
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 driving irons 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, this is certainly worth looking into. For beginners, I’d recommend sticking to hybrids and fairway woods.
Our choice for the best driving iron is the TaylorMade GAPR MID Club. It delivers staggering distance and jaw-dropping accuracy with a sleek black and teal finish.
For low handicappers that need a little help with launch from their driving iron, the GAPR MID works to assist with a low stationary weight that drops CG deep into the club head.
It also features an adjustable hosel that increases or decreases face loft, helping golfers dial in the perfect shot height for maximizing distance.
Even if you are a golfer looking to move away from hybrids and enjoy the benefits of a driving iron, the TaylorMade GAPR MID delivers excellent performance that will have you hitting more fairway and reaching the green in two with far greater accuracy.