2021 Best Game-Improvement Irons (Buying Guide)

Jordan FullerEdited by: Jordan Fuller
John MarshallReviewed by: John Marshall

Last Update:

The Rundown:

Best Overall: TaylorMade M6 Irons
“The TaylorMade M6 is one of the best game improvement iron sets being made today. It is a long, great feeling iron that any player would be happy to play. It’s expensive, but the extra distance you’ll get is worth it.”

Best For Budget: Mazel Single Length Golf Clubs
“The Mazel Single Length Golf Club Irons makes it easy for beginners to use one swing for all shots at an incredibly affordable price tag.”

Runner-up Choice: Callaway Rogue Iron Set
“An attractive-looking game improvement set with a lot of technology. It combines playability with accuracy and distance.”

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What actually are the game-improvement irons? Will they be good for beginners? How do I choose the best game-improvement iron set for me? Those are the typical questions I will answer during the course of this article.

Without further ado, let us begin by reviewing the best game improvement irons and their characteristics.

Sources researched
Sources researched
Customer reviews
Customer reviews
Hours spent testing
Hours spent testing
Products tested
Products tested

Best Game-Improvement Irons

Editor's Choice
The Longest Irons
Best Value for Money
Budget Single-length Option
Most Forgiving Irons
Pro 1
Extraordinary distance
Includes 4-iron and sand wedge
Excellent forgiveness
Pro 2
Good forgiveness on thin shots
Solid option for beginners
Good distance and light shafts
Our Ranking
Our Rating: 93 / 100
Our Rating: 91.6 / 100
Our Rating: 93 / 100
Editor's Choice
The Longest Irons
Product Name
Pro 1
Extraordinary distance
Pro 2
Good forgiveness on thin shots
Our Ranking
Our Rating: 93 / 100
Best Value for Money
Budget Single-length Option
Pro 1
Includes 4-iron and sand wedge
Pro 2
Solid option for beginners
Our Ranking
Our Rating: 91.6 / 100
Most Forgiving Irons
Pro 1
Excellent forgiveness
Pro 2
Good distance and light shafts
Our Ranking
Our Rating: 93 / 100

Last updated on 2021-05-17. The links are affiliate links. Product images are served from Amazon Product Advertising API.

10 Best Game Improvement Irons

TaylorMade M6 Irons

The longest best game improvement irons tested: great feel and distance with a price tag to match

TaylorMade M6

Check Price on GlobalGolf

Overall Score92.6%


  • Extraordinary distance
  • Great sound and feel
  • Good forgiveness on thin shots


  • Expensive

TaylorMade’s newest offering in the game improvement category is the M6 iron set.

They’re a lovely set, reminiscent of recent Titleist irons, with a distinctive “Speed Bridge” that links the sole and topline to reinforce the clubface and allow for a deeper Speed Pocket. This results in a long, great feeling game improvement iron that any player would be happy to play.


Speed Bridge

The “Speed Bridge” is a raised metal bar that runs from the sole to the topline, hovering over the area where the sweet spot is. This provides reinforcement to the topline so TaylorMade can cut their Speed Pocket deeper and thinner than ever before, and the resulting distance gain is noticeable. The M6 irons are a few yards longer than any of the others tested this year.

It does make the back of the club difficult to clean, as there’s a gap under the bridge than tends to collect dirt and grass clipping. I’d suggest carrying a small brush if you’re a fan of clean clubs, which you should be: clean clubs inspire confidence and perform better.

Low CG

The center of gravity is as low as you’ll find in a set of irons, thanks in large part to the continuation of the fluted hosel feature found in the M4s reviewed above. The stabilizing bar in the bridge lets them focus the weight very low without sacrificing structural integrity. Impacts low on the face might result in low bullets have better results with the M6, actually getting some height and backspin.


The Speed Bridge bar apparently plays a role in optimizing the sound of the club. Along with HYBRAR compression dampers (that’s TaylorMade’s term and I have no idea what exactly it means, but it sure sounds good), the Speed Bridge results in a loud and immensely satisfying “thwack” on any half-decent impact. It’s the type of sound that’ll make your playing partners turn their heads and say “sounds like you flushed it!”


The TaylorMade M6 is one of the best game improvement irons being made today, with a price tag to match. If you’re looking for pure performance and money is no object, these will be right up your alley. However, there are other game improvement iron sets that cost half as much and still come through with performance close to the level of the M6. If you’re willing to pay a premium for a few extra yards, the M6 is for you.

Mazel Single Length Golf Club Irons Set 4-SW

Budget single-length option: sacrifices distance for trajectory

mazel irons

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Overall Score91.6%


  • Better trajectories than Orlimar
  • Includes 4-iron and sand wedge
  • Solid option for beginners


  • Very short distance-wise

Mazel Single-Length irons are another budget option for players interested in single-length irons. I’d recommend them to those just starting out: the price is right and the irons are easy to hit with nice trajectories making it one of the best game improvement irons on the market today.

The distance you get from them isn’t very good, but beginners won’t know that. Instead, they’ll be pleased with the ease of using one swing for all shots and hitting the ball straight every time.



Mazel’s best game improvement irons come with lightweight graphite shafts, which you’d think would help with the swing speed. I think that we’ve just become used to irons with ultra-thin, cupped faces that have trampoline-like sweet spots. These, being a budget option, don’t have that type of tech built in. But the light weight makes it possible to swing the long irons fast enough to get a great, penetrating trajectory.

Low CG Long Irons

The 4 and 5 irons are hollow-bodied with very low center of gravity, allowing them to launch the ball high enough to be useful. Many players are concerned that the short length won’t let them generate enough speed to give the ball lift, but the Mazel clubs are definitely hittable.

Wide Soles

The Mazels have a nice wide sole, which will help beginners who may have issues digging the club into the ground and hitting it fat. The thick sole is very forgiving and encourages good contact even on poor swings. It also helps for chipping around the green, which is something beginners often have difficulty with.


Experienced golfers who try these out may be soured on the single length concept if they lose yardage with the Mazel irons. That’s why I recommend these for beginners: they’re easy to hit and they do a good job of keeping the ball in play. That should be the primary concern for someone just starting out.

Once they’ve been hooked and are willing to make an investment in their game, then it may come time to upgrade to a single-length set that provides better distance. A beginner golfer won’t have any problem making the transition, and they’ll be pleased to suddenly be hitting the ball a lot further.

Callaway Golf Men’s Rogue Irons Set

Alternative Option: the Super forgiveness iron

rogue irons set

Check Price on GlobalGolf

Overall Score93.4%


  • Excellent forgiveness
  • Good distance with light graphite shafts


  • Overly firm feel

Callaway’s Rogue irons are an attractive-looking super game improvement set with a lot of technology hiding under its fairly straightforward looking surface. 

From a 360 Face Cup to Variable Face Technology to strategically placed tungsten weighting to urethane microspheres, it’s clear the engineers at Callaway have been hard at work producing these best game improvement irons set. They’re solid performers from one of the industry’s top manufacturers.


Clubface Tech

Hiding under the sort-of-hexagonal “Rogue” badge on the back of the irons is Callaway’s patented 360 Face Cup and Variable Face Technology (“VFT”). The face cup is a lining around the sweet spot of the iron, implemented to maximize the area that has a trampoline effect and gives really breakaway distance. And the VFT thins out the face at the middle, while thickening it at the edges, to expand the sweet spot and provide optimal forgiveness.

Tungsten Tech

Tungsten is a dense metal, twice as heavy as steel, that’s used to manipulate the center of gravity of each iron to improve its launch. The use of tungsten is still fairly new in iron construction, and I think the reason it’s not quite catching on yet is that it really firms up the feel of the club. Even pure contacts feel overly stiff, and if you catch it out closer to the toe with a long iron, it really stings.

Callaway has implemented urethane “microspheres” that are designed to soften the feel, but the combination of cast iron steel and tungsten weights makes for a feel that’s just not as soft as I’d like.


The feel may be lacking, but the results are quite good. These are some of the most forgiving best game improvement irons available, with a very large sweet spot that rewards mediocre swings with good shots. So even though the shots feel a bit heavy and stiff coming off the clubface, the shots that result are always better than expected.

The 60 gram Synergy graphite shafts are an attractive upgrade option. Much lighter than the stock 95 gram steel shafts, the Synergy shafts offer higher swing speeds and good forgiveness. They help soften the stiff feel of the tungsten. I’d recommend going graphite if you decide to buy the Rogue irons, as they help mitigate the issues described above.

Callaway Big Bertha Irons Set

Best Game Improvement Irons Set for Improving Launch Angle

big bertha

Check Best Price on eBay.com

Overall Score91%


  • Easy to hit best game-improvement irons with high launch and outstanding feel and response
  • Long and consistent distance with the company’s 360 Face Cup Technology
  • Suspended Energy Core provides smooth launch angle with deeper center of gravity


Callaway’s Big Bertha Irons offer an enticing group of clubs for golfers looking to make a jump in their game. The company built the Big Bertha Irons to provide high launch with long distance. This reason is one of the biggest ways that the set ranks highly among the best game improvement irons on the market.


Our choice for the best feature of the latest version of the Big Bertha Irons is the Suspended Energy Core. Resting in the lower half of the iron, the core helps lift the golf ball in the air, regardless of how well you hit the golf ball. Even on off-center shots, the Big Bertha Irons provide forgiveness and reliable consistency.

Once we got these out onto the course, we were blown away with how much fun this set is to hit. For our mid handicap testers, the Big Bertha set provided more lift and distance with a nice soft landing on the green.

For more advanced golfers, shaping shots with the Big Bertha Irons isn’t entirely off-limits. Although most game-improvement irons typically provide a one-way method for getting the ball in the air, there is subtle sophistication with this collection.

Several club combinations are available with the Big Bertha Set. Most sets come with anywhere between one and three wedges and begin at either the 4, 5, or 6-iron. When buying a game improvement iron set, it is wise to understand how the set will work with your 14-club limit, so its nice that Callaway offers differing sets with a variety of clubs.

Cleveland Launcher CBX Iron Set

Best Game Improvement Irons All-Around Performance: Accuracy, distance and control

launcher hb irons

Check Price on GlobalGolf

Overall Score95.4%


  • High launch thanks to low center of gravity
  • Great spin from Zip Grooves
  • Good distance


  • Could be more forgiving
  • Thin topline may be intimidating for poor iron players

The Cleveland Golf Launcher CBX Iron Set is a game improvement iron set that’ll help a wide range of golfers, from beginners to better players trying to break 80 regularly. 

It’s a classic cavity back design with a “Cup Face” and highly effective heel-to-toe weighting that creates a large sweet spot, resulting in long, high shots.


“Launcher” brand comes to irons

Cleveland had been out of the iron game for a few years before the Launcher CBX Irons made their debut in 2018, focusing instead on their Launcher woods and their legendary wedges. But with the introduction of the Launcher CBX line of irons, they’ve put a very strong foot forward. The Launcher aspect of the name is visible when you look at where the weighting is: a thick sole designed to get the ball up off the ground easily with a nice high launch.

The low center of gravity and perimeter weighting make for a large sweet spot and good performance on shots that miss the sweet spot. What I love about these best game improvement irons set is that they hide all that tech behind a simple, elegant topline. When you stand over the ball, it feels like you’re using a beautiful set of blades. But the results are the forgiveness and extra yardage that you get from true game improvement cavity-backs.

The thin, blade-like topline may actually be intimidating if you’re used to thicker, chunkier toplines. They don’t necessarily look like they’ll provide much help to off-center strikes, but they do.

Zip Grooves

Cleveland is known best for their wedges, so it’s a no-brainer for them to bring their wedges’ Zip Groove technology to the Launcher irons. Precisely laser-milled, the Zip Grooves impart an amazing amount of backspin on the ball. This helps iron shots land softly and improves accuracy. Players with low swing speeds who are used to the ball landing on the green and rolling over the back will be pleasantly surprised to hold more greens and have more birdie opportunities.

Jack of All Trades

The Cleveland Launcher CBX irons are a great all-around set of irons. While some best game improvement irons may be longer and others more forgiving, these are a good combination of all the attributes you should look for in an iron set.

WaZaki WL-IIs All-Hybrid Iron Set

Low price best game improvement irons for hybrid-curious

wazaki irons

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Overall Score82.2%


  • Hybrid design for poor iron players
  • Good for beginners


  • Only good for beginners
  • Overly high trajectory
  • Not great durability

The WaZaki WL-IIs All-Hybrid iron set is a beginner’s set designed for players with slow swing speeds. Maybe you’ve been to a driving range and hit your friend’s hybrid great but couldn’t hit an iron to save your life. WaZaki has a set of all-hybrids at a price that won’t scare you away.


Hybrids or woods?

To be honest, these are more like high-lofted woods than hybrids. The design is that of a set of fairway woods with increasingly higher lofts. They’re forgiving but not very long, and I found that the design of the 9-iron and wedges wasn’t conducive to the high, soft shots that you usually look for from short irons.

They’re also very difficult to hit out of the rough, as the sole is just too broad to dig through thick grass.

Who are these for?

These are clubs made for beginners or seniors who have trouble getting the ball up into the air. Very slow swing speeds will find a good ball flight, but anyone swinging 80 mph or faster will just hit pop-ups. It’s hard to review these properly as they’re made for a very narrow subset of golfers.

The bottom line

For senior golfers who can’t get the ball into the air any more, these clubs are ideal. And beginners who can’t hit irons but don’t want to spend the money for the Cleveland Launcher HB hybrid irons may find these to their liking. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend these.

They do come with a full set of headcovers. They’re glossy and a little tacky-looking, but they’re necessary as these aren’t very durable without protection.

Orlimar Golf Intercept Single Length Iron Set

Budget option: for those curious about single-length irons

orlimar irons

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Overall Score91.2%


  • Lower cost option if you’re interested in trying out single-length irons


  • Overly high ball flight in short irons
  • No 4-iron option
  • Poor grips

If you’re interested in single-length irons but don’t want to spend the money to get a premium brand like Cobra, Orlimar has offered the Intercept Single-Length Irons at an affordable price.

They’re well-made best game improvement irons that serve as a decent introduction to the single-length concept. However, some technological limitations keep them from performing as well as the Cobras.



Cobra’s clever center-of-gravity adjustments with the hosel and weighting help to keep ball-flights low with short irons, but Orlimar doesn’t have that feature. The intercept irons all have the same weight and center of gravity, so the short irons and wedges give you extremely high trajectories.

Some players may hear this and say “I wish I could hit the ball higher, this sounds great!” but believe me, the trajectories are almost unmanageably high. If there’s even a breath of wind, the ball flies so high that the wind effects are magnified. A 9-iron that normally flies 140 will balloon into the wind and come up under 100 yards. When you try to choke down and flight the ball down, it still flies super high.

No 4-iron

One of the advantages of single-length irons is that long irons are easier to hit, but unfortunately Orlimar doesn’t offer a 4-iron. I’m guessing that the reason behind this is that the center of gravity and short length made the 4-irons too hard to get up off the ground. Without the hosel adjustments of the Cobras, the 4-iron of the Orlimar would probably be unhittable. So you’ll need to carry a hybrid to replace the 4-iron, which starts to defeat the concept of single-length clubs and just one swing needed.

Get a grip

The grips included on the Orlimar Intercept are not very good. They feel slick out of the box and wear down quickly. I’d suggest re-gripping them soon after purchasing them, but that starts to mitigate the fact that they’re a low-cost option.

The good

Having gotten all the nitpicking aside, these are decent-feeling irons that provide very good distance and decent forgiveness on mis-hits. I can see why golfers would be hesitant to pay a steep price for what’s essentially an experimental set of clubs, so these are a good option that provide decent performance at a great price. Curious golfers may well find enough to like here to stick with them and become single-length devotees.

Cleveland Launcher HB Iron Set

Best game improvement irons set: ideal for most golfers

launcher hb irons

Check Price on GlobalGolf

Overall Score94%


  • Hybrid-style is very easy to hit
  • Very forgiving
  • Good lift for slow swing speeds


  • Subpar distance
  • Not workable at all

This Iron Set can change your game overnight – these are some of the longest, highest and most forgiving best game improvement irons we’ve ever played.

The Cleveland Launcher HB is a set of all-hybrid clubs that give the feeling of hitting a wood, even with the high-lofted short irons. It’s very forgiving.


Hollow construction

The Launcher HB has faces that look like normal irons, with hollow bodies that resemble woods or hybrids. You can tell by looking at them that they’re designed with a low center of gravity and they’ll have no trouble popping the ball up into the air. Like most drivers and fairway woods, the hollow bodies offer a good amount of forgiveness. Heel and toe shots fly straight and nearly as far as contact on the middle of the clubface.

However, the hollow bodies also mean the ball won’t curve at all. If you’re used to playing a bit of a slice or a draw, you’ll need to adjust to these. The ball flies straight with very little curve, so make sure you’re getting that clubface square at impact. Wherever it’s facing, that’s where the shot will go.

High launch sacrifices distance at mid-to-high swing speeds

For higher swing speed players, the high launch of the Launcher HB will tend to mean less overall distance. They start out high and tend to float before deflating towards their target.

Slower swingers, however, may actually find that these increase the yardage they’re able to achieve. They’re great for beginners as well, as the forgiveness level is very high. As you start to get better, though, you’ll likely want to find more workable irons.

Bag chatter

Since these are painted, hybrid-like clubs, you’ll probably want to use headcovers for all of these or they’ll get seriously scratched up. With most iron sets, headcovers aren’t necessary, but with these hybrid irons they’re important.

TaylorMade M4 Iron Set

Best For Intermediate Golfers: forged feel and elite technology

m4 irons

Check Price on GlobalGolf

Overall Score92.6%


  • Lively face provides great feel
  • Good forgiveness
  • Shafts feel great


  • Very strong lofts
  • Not as long as some other clubs

The TaylorMade M4 iron set is an excellent choice for players who value great feel and may actually want to work the ball just a little bit. 

If you’re not quite ready for blades but you may want to bridge the gap between game improvement irons and blades, the M4s are worth a look. They provide solid performance and elite feel.



I don’t know how TaylorMade did it, but these M4 Irons are a cast set that feels awfully close to forged. They’re soft and buttery, with a large sweet spot that really sends the ball. While overall distance and accuracy are good-but-not-great, they make up for it in feel. The sound, which is a major and underrated aspect of feel, is excellent: a good strike is rewarded with a click that sounds like it was produced in a studio.


TaylorMade’s version of a springy, large sweet spot is called RIBCOR technology. It reinforces the perimeter of the club, making the hitting area large and lively. The weighting is spread out nicely to the heel and toe, giving the irons a high moment of inertia, which transfers more forward motion to the ball and gets it started in the right direction. A high moment of inertia means good forgiveness and ball speed.

Strong lofts

But some of the distance found in the TaylorMade M4s is simply achieved by them making the lofts exceptionally strong. What used to be a 5-iron is now called a 6-iron. A 43-degree loft, formerly known as a 9-iron, is called a Pitching Wedge. So some of this distance is a sort of ill-gotten gain. Long irons will be a bit harder to hit because of the stronger lofts, but with the proliferation of hybrids replacing long irons, that may not be an issue for many golfers.

The hosel

If you want confirmation about how much thought TaylorMade put into the M4, look no further than the fluted hosel. They’ve shaved a tiny bit of metal off of each hosel, giving them a few more grams to use to provide a better center of gravity. This minor detail shows how far the engineers are having to go to maximize every bit of technology available to them. It’s a small but impressive detail.


The TaylorMade M4 irons are a great option for players who have started breaking 90 regularly and are looking for irons that’ll help them elevate their game. With excellent feel and good all-around performance, they’ll stay in your bag a long time.

Cobra Golf Men’s King F8 One Length Iron Set

Best Single-Length Irons: clever tech makes single-length really work

king f8

Check Best Price on eBay.com

Overall Score93.2%


  • Same length and weight for all irons
  • Forged face feels excellent


  • Single-length isn’t for everyone
  • Long wedges can be tough to control

Cobra is the first major manufacturer to offer single-length irons at the mass-production level. Their King F8 set is a set of irons all set to the length and weight of a 7-iron.

With progressive-length hosels and variations in grooves, the performance of each iron is fine-tuned to ensure good distance gapping. You can make the same swing on every club and see great results.


Single length

Bryson Dechambeau is the face of single-length clubs, and his winning ways have golfers all around the world wondering if single-length irons are right for him. His first set of single-length irons was made by Edel, but when he turned pro he signed on with Cobra and they developed a set with him. The King F8 is the result of that collaboration.

All the irons and wedges in the King F8 line have shafts that are 7-iron length. The theory is that you’ll be able to practice one setup and one swing and use it for all of your clubs. I’m a supporter of experimentation and giving everything a shot, and there’s a lot to be said for single-length irons.

I think in the coming years, we’ll see more and more players going single-length, especially if they do so from a young age.


One issue with single-length irons is that the long irons go too low and short, and the short irons go too high and far. Cobra has played with the center of gravity of each iron to rectify this issue, moving weight around from the hosel to the sole so long irons have short hosels and very lower centers of gravity. Short irons have long hosels and a high center of gravity to keep ball flight down.


The grooves are cut deeper in short irons to give better spin on short shots. V-grooves on the long irons reduce spin, resulting in higher, longer shots with more roll-out. It’s a clever twist that helps control the trajectory even further.

Final thoughts

I think these Cobra irons are worth looking into for players who struggle with long irons and don’t have a lot of time to practice. You do have to have a pretty good swing speed, and you may have an adjustment period. The long 9 iron and pitching wedge definitely look weird, but the short 4- and 5-irons are so much easier to hit. I don’t know if they’ll catch on or not, but I think there are a lot of golfers out there who would benefit from trying the Cobra King F8 out.

Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Game Improvement Iron

There are many different factors that can determine an iron’s strengths or weaknesses, even more than other club types.

However, for a general rule of thumb, here are several key qualities you should focus on before making your purchase:

Forged VS Cast, and The Materials

Which one is better, forged irons or cast irons? What materials should I look for?

These two questions are often treated as two separate ones, but the truth is, it should be asked together. Forged is a better method with certain materials, as do cast irons.

To answer the question, we should first understand the basic principle behind the two:

Forged Irons

In forged irons, the roughly-shaped metal material is hammered into shape, just like we often see from medieval blacksmiths in the movies. The hammered, commonly carbon steel clubhead is then finished by grinding, milling, and polishing.

Thus, forged method is better for an iron with a singular, one-piece material. Purists will claim that forged irons have better feel, and to some extent, it’s true.

Cast Irons

In this method, the liquid metal is poured into a mold. This method allows more complex shape, as well as using multiple materials at once. Not to mention, cast irons are also cheaper to make.

Thus, cast irons are typically better if your club is multi-material in nature.

However, as with many technologies today, there is rapid development in casting technology, allowing cast irons to close the gap in feel to forged irons.

The basic principle, however, still stands. If you are looking for a solid, one-piece iron, forged is the way to go.

You should also take into considerations that multi-material technologies today allow new ways to improve forgiveness and distance. I bet in the near future, cast irons will reach their perfection, and will be better, as well as more affordable.

Sole and offset size

The general rule of thumb is the wider the sole, the lower the center of gravity. Lower center of gravity will translate to a higher natural trajectory of your shots and will bounce more rather than dig at impact.

On the other hand, narrow sole translates to a better feel and control.

The offset is the face behind the hosel, and the larger the offset, the more forgiving the club will be. The smaller the offset, however, will give you more shot-shaping ability.

It’s important to find the right balance between both sizes, that will suit your overall playstyle and needs.

Shaft Flexibility

Choosing a proper shaft suitable for your current ability will be highly beneficial to your overall game. If you’d like to go deeper, we’ve written an in-depth guide on picking the best golf shafts.

Here are some pointers:

  1. If your 6-iron swing speed is 90mph or higher and carry distance 175 yards or more, go with X flex.
  2. If your speed is 80-90mph and carry 155 to 175 yards, go with S flex.
  3. For 70-80mph and 130 to 155 yards, go with R flex.
  4. For 60-70mph and 100 to 130 yards, go with A flex.
  5. And for speeds under 60mph and carries less than 100 yards, go with L flex.


When choosing the right game improvement iron, it is crucial to understand the difference between cost and value. Many game improvement iron sets, including those on our list, offer incredible performance and terrific value. By finding the right set for your game, while saving money, you accomplish two goals that allow you to reallocate funds onto other aspects of your equipment.

Although the cost of an iron set is significant, it should not be the final reason to discard a set of clubs. At times, spending a bit more on the ideal set of game improvement irons will save you money in the long run because the clubs last longer and perform better.

Distance vs Forgiveness

There are sets of game improvement irons that offer either more distance or forgiveness for golfers. In the perfect world, players would find sets that ultimately improve both of these aspects of their game, but since equipment manufacturers vary in their design, it is up to the golfer to find the set that works best for their game.

Irons that offer more forgiveness may have wider soles along the bottom of the club and perimeter weighting that balances the club head. Irons that focus on distance usually have a lower and deeper center of gravity to increase the launch angle for better carry.


The set make-up is another essential factor to consider when choosing your clubs. Specifically, the iron set’s make-up will affect how many hybrids or wedges the golfer carries in their bag.

Many amateurs love to use hybrids in place of their long irons because they are easier to hit. These clubs also offer a distance and shot shape advantage over long irons.

For the short game, golfers need to determine how many wedges they plan to carry in their bag and how that corresponds with their iron set.

Questions & Answers

What are golf irons?

The name iron originated from the material golf irons used to be made with.

Back then, drivers and fairway woods were made from, as you may guess, wood materials, and thus they were (and are) called woods, with the driver also often deemed as 1-wood.

Thus, we can guess that irons were made with steel materials.

They are typically smaller, clubhead size-wise, and shorter in shaft lengths compared to the woods, and are designed to propel the ball towards the hole, anywhere after your tee shots and before roughly 200-yards to the hole, where you will switch to your putter.

While wood clubs, especially the driver are designed with the emphasis on distance, irons are designed to be more well rounded, with accuracy and control on the green being the emphasis.

What Is The Number In An Iron’s Naming?

The number in front of the iron indicates the relative angle of its loft, with 1 being the steepest, and 9 being the highest.

The higher number represents a higher loft angle, and the higher the loft angle, the ball will fly in a shorter distance, but higher launch trajectory.

Generally, Irons come in sets that include six to eight individual irons.

The typical iron set consists of, but not limited to the 3-,4-,5-,6-,7-,8-, and 9-irons. A Gap/Approach Wedge (AW), and/or a Pitching Wedge (PW), is also included in the set.

Thus, when shopping for an iron set, you will see them listed as something like 3-PW, 5-PW, AW, or 4-PW.

PW or AW indicates whether a Pitching Wedge (PW), Approach Wedge (AW) or both is included, and the number upfront indicates the smaller iron included in the set, and will always include every number until the 9-irons. For example, a 3-PW would include all irons from 3- to 9- and will include a Pitching Wedge.

What Is The Game Improvement Iron Category?

To answer this question properly, we should first discuss the three different categories for irons available on the market:

  • Cavity Back: Also often known as the Max Game-Improvement Irons, and is characterized by a large hollow cavity in the back of the clubhead. The sole and toplines are significantly larger, to allow easier and more forgiving hits. Designated for beginner and those with higher (25+) handicaps.
  • Game Improvement Irons: The most popular type of the bunch can fit a wide range of players from 5 to 25 handicap. The cavity is smaller, and the sole and toplines are more compact and thinner.
  • Blades: Also called Player’s Irons, Cavity Muscle Back (CMB) or simply Muscle Back (MB), blades are designated, and used, by professionals and single-digit handicap players (below 5). Blades have a flat back with no cavity, making them less forgiving, yet producing better feeling and control when hit properly.

Our focus today is the game-improvement irons, which is suitable for players with handicap ranging from 5 to 25.

Are There Prerequisites To Using A Game Improvement Iron?

The best game-improvement irons will truly be beneficial for players with 25 handicap or below.

If you currently have a handicap above 25, you are better off with cavity-back irons, as the higher forgiveness will help you in improving your game.

On the other hand, many players with the handicap of 5 and below chose to stay with the best game-improvement irons, rather than upgrading to blade irons.

The reason is simple, in the past, blades tend to have the better overall feel, control, and shot-shaping abilities. However, newer technologies, especially in the past few years, allow game-improvement irons to close that gap.

As a result, many professional players opt to have the better consistency and forgiveness of the game-improvement irons today, with fewer sacrifices over feel and shot-shaping compared to say, a decade ago.

With that being said, your game-improvement iron set could be a sustainable investment, even after you went below 5 handicaps.

What Are The Qualities Of A Great Game-Improvement Iron?

To answer this question, let us take a look at how the three different categories of irons are classified:

  • Cavity Back: or often known as Super Game-Improvement Irons are designed for maximum forgiveness. We can often see an overly large club head designed for big sweet spot and MOI.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Blade irons, or Player’s Irons are designed for maximum responsiveness, control, and shot shaping
  • Then, we can understand that the Game-Improvement Irons are designed to sit in the middle and to have the balance between both worlds, and that is the exact quality you should look for.

The ideal best Game-Improvement Irons should have both the maximum forgiveness and maximum control. We also recommend checking out Ping’s irons. They have some great game-improvement irons.

What Type Of Player Should Use Game Improvement Irons?

The game-improvement irons will be suitable for a lot of players with handicap ranging from 5 to 25.

That is a very broad range, and we can imagine there are a wide array of different types of players within the range.

Players striving for a well-rounded, balanced game will definitely benefit from using the game-improvement irons.

Do any PGA tour players using the Game-Improvement Irons? Yes! Based on PGA Tours’s official report, there is an increasing trend of using game-improvement irons on tour, especially the long irons.

Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell, Brian Harman, and Sean O’Hair are some notable examples of such players using Game-Improvement Irons.

Let us see Keegan Bradley’s statistics during 2016 for example. Bradley is exceptionally strong on the Tee-to-Green game, ranked 17th overall for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.

Using a game-improvement iron for his 3-iron helped him achieved such feat, boosting his overall flight height will reducing mistakes.

To summarize, if you are looking for a balanced and well-rounded game, especially between the tee and the greens, the game-improvement irons might improve your game further.

Should A Game Improvement Iron Replace The Golf Irons Currently In My Bag?

In this modern era of golf, with seemingly you will get new technologies and new trends in club developments every few months, it’s true that the clubs in your bag can be outdated faster than half a decade ago.

It’s hard to judge whether it is time for an upgrade, but as a consideration, here are some questions you should ask yourself.

Are Your Golf Irons At Least 3-years old?

Three years of a club age has been deemed as the average benchmark for obsoleteness. If your irons are at least 3-years old from when it was released, you will definitely feel the upgrade in buying new ones.

Has Your Game Changed?

Do you have a significant increase in your swing speed or accuracy in hitting the sweet spot? (Hey, congrats!)

If you feel you are hitting a wall to improve more as a player, then it’s definitely the time for a change.

On the other hand, you might be hitting your ‘senior’ year, and your swing speed is simply not what it used to be. It’s maybe time to switch from that blade to game-improvement irons with more flexible shafts.

Are Your Irons Still in Good Conditions?

It may be obvious, but if you see too much wear and tear, then it’s definitely the time to buy new ones.

You might want to check Golf Digest’s obsolete list, and see whether your current iron set already deserved the upgrade.

Can I Use Game Improvement Irons With Any Golf Balls? If Not, What Are The Best Golf Balls For Game Improvement Irons?

Yes, If you are using high-quality game-improvement irons, you will definitely get the benefits by using any golf balls.

Golf balls have different qualities to each other and will suit different types of player. As we have mentioned, game-improvement irons can cater those with 5 to 25 handicap, a very broad range.

Golf Balls

And within that range, we can expect all sorts of different types of player. Some might have a problem with straightness and will need the ball to help them with that issue. Others might need more distance to improve their overall game.

Check out our previous guide on the best golf balls for high handicappers. Although the article is mostly focused on high-handicap players, any players can get some insights on choosing their golf balls.

Should I go for graphite or steel shafts on my game improvement club?

Both graphite and steel shafts are viable options in game improvement irons. Traditional knowledge dictates that faster swing speeds and better players will prefer the accuracy of stiff or extra stiff steel shafts. Indeed, you see most professionals using steel iron shafts. Graphite is typically for slower swingers who are looking for lighter, more flexible shafts.

However, current graphite shafts such as the UST Recoil combine the best of both worlds, with steel-like weight and accuracy but the soft feel and vibration absorption of graphite shafts.

If you typically hit your 5-iron longer than 175 yards, I’d go with steel or a steel-like graphite shaft. If you’re hitting 5-iron less than 175, I’d suggest graphite shafts to get more distance.

Do all clubs come with a head cover?

Most of the best game improvement irons neither include a head cover nor do they need them. Perfectionists may purchase headcovers to keep their clubs looking brand new, or people just trying out clubs who might want to re-sell them might as well. But most players don’t use head covers on their irons. The minor marks, known as “bag chatter”, don’t affect performance and add a bit of character to the clubs’ look. And even if you do use head covers, they’ll still get marked up from normal use. So it’s mostly just an unnecessary expenditure that slows play down.

The exception would be if you use hybrids or hybrid-style irons such as the Cleveland Launcher HB reviewed above. These have black paint that will get scratched up and look bad if you don’t use headcovers. But for 99% of iron sets, they’re unnecessary.