TaylorMade’s M4 irons offer the best combination of distance, forgiveness and a giant sweet spot of any of the irons reviewed. They’re great looking irons and feature a number of small details that, when combined in one fantastic clubhead, add up to the best iron set of 2020.
Here’s the products reviewed in the article:
- Our Top Pick: TaylorMade M4 Irons
- Our Upgrade Pick: TaylorMade P790 Mens Iron Set
- Our Budget Pick: Cleveland Launcher CBX Iron Set
- Our “I Can’t Hit an Iron to Save My Life” Pick: WaZaki WL-IIs Mx Iron Set
Last updated on 2019-12-07. The links are affiliate links. Product images are served from Amazon Product Advertising API.
Table of Contents
- Best Irons For Beginners & High Handicappers
- Questions & Answers
Best Irons For Beginners & High Handicappers
TaylorMade M4 Iron Set
Best irons for beginners: latest technology for high ball flight and fewer missed shots
Offered with either Graphite or Steel shafts in a variety of flexes, the M4 is an iron versatile enough to benefit both rote beginners and more experienced players.
The ball flight produced is high and straight, with very good error correction on poorly struck shots.
With a unique combination of flat-out distance and incredible forgiveness, the TaylorMade M4 is our top pick for the best beginner irons of 2020.
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Taylor Made P790 Mens Iron Set
Best premium iron set: if you’re serious about golf and want the very best
Intermediate and advanced players will likely prefer the looks of these TaylorMade P790, and should find the forgiveness and feel of the SpeedFoam along with the workability of the irons to be worth the high price.
They’re elite irons for players who aren’t just starting out, but who are looking to upgrade from their beginner set as their game improves, which makes these our Upgrade Pick for 2020.
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Cleveland Golf Mens Launcher CBX Iron Set
Best for beginners on a budget: take advantage of current technology at an affordable price
The Cleveland Launcher CBX is an attractive option for those looking to take advantage of current technology without spending an arm and a leg. That makes these our Budget Pick for 2020.
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WaZaki WL-IIs Mx Steel Hybrid Irons Golf Set
For ultra beginners: perfect to try out golf without costing an arm and a leg
The WaZaki WL-IIs are offered in a Light Gold Graphite (Regular flex) or a Pro Gold Graphite (slightly stiffer), and are the lowest price iron set I reviewed. The price point is friendly enough that if you’re intrigued, it’s worth giving them a try!
They’re my out-of-left-field pick for golfers who just can’t hit a traditional iron.
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Questions & Answers
Deciding on an iron set is one of the most important equipment choices a golfer can make.
The number of different options, even within the same brand, is downright mind-boggling.
There’s not even a general consensus of how many irons one should carry: should I use a 3-iron or a 5-wood? Do I need three wedges? Four wedges? What about hybrids?
One big factor is confidence at address. If you’re the type of golfer who stands over a 3-wood shot and feels like you can’t miss it, you’ll probably want to use a few hybrids instead of long irons.
However, if you have trouble hitting woods but feel great when you stand over an iron shot, you may want to get an iron set that goes all the way down to a 3-iron.
When should I use Irons?
Irons are the clubs used to hit approaches to the green and layup shots on par 4s and par 5s. You may also find yourself using irons to hit punch shots out of trees, tee shots on tight holes with a lot of trouble on them, and on low, running chip shots around the greens. You’ll usually use at least one iron, and maybe more, on every hole you play.
Irons can be very versatile depending on where you place the ball in your stance and how hard you swing. Put the ball off your trailing foot to hit a low, running shot. The ball in the middle of your stance should produce a standard trajectory shot that flies fairly high and has a decent roll-out. The ball forward in your stance should produce a higher trajectory that lands and stops.
Most par 3s are reachable in one good iron shot. Some long par 3s may require a wood or a hybrid, but a good rule to follow as a beginner is to play from tees short enough that you can reach all par 3s with an iron or wedge. There’s nothing more discouraging than playing from the longest tees when you’re still starting out. It makes the game unnecessarily hard and not very fun. Instead, play from forward tees and find yourself with more birdie and par opportunities.
How many irons are in a set?
When I was young, every set of irons came with 3iron through pitching wedge — an 8 club set. You’d then add a specialty sand wedge with extra bounce for sand shots, a set of woods for long shots, and a putter to complete your set. Nowadays, there’s no standard set, but it’s generally recommended that beginniners avoid hard-to-hit 3- and 4-irons. You might opt for 4- and 5-hybrids and then use irons for 6 through pitching wedge.
What characteristics should I look for when buying irons for beginners?
There are so many different options out there! However, there are generally three categories of irons: Game Improvement, Game Enhancement, and Better-Player irons. Beginners generally benefit from Game Improvement clubs — these have extreme perimeter weighting to help correct off-center hits and provide a large sweet spot. They also have a low center of gravity to help get the ball up in the air quickly.
Another confusing decision can be whether to go with graphite or steel shafts. Graphite shafts are lighter than steel shafts and tend to be softer and more flexible. They tend to have less “feel” than steel shafts, muting the vibrations of off-center hits. This can be a good thing (your hands and forearms won’t get fatigued, cold-weather mis-hits won’t sting), but better players often want that feedback so they can know more about the nature of the miss. They’ll want to know if it was hit thin, out on the toe, or off the heel.
Graphite shafts are also usually more expensive than steel shafts, simply due to the cost of materials and the time they take to manufacture. So the high price might make them cost-prohibitive. However, slower swinging players will often find the higher price to be well worth the performance upgrade from graphite shafts. The lighter weight allows for higher swing speeds, and the kick point of the shaft can be tweaked to be low in the shaft to help launch the ball high.
Steel shafts have been the industry standard in irons ever since hickory shafts fell out of favor in the 1920s. Steel is a stiff, heavy material and gives great feedback on mis-hits. Even “Regular” flex steel shafts might be too stiff for beginners with slow swings. However, faster swingers and stronger players tend to like the stiff, telephone pole feel of steel shafts.
Steel shafts come in stepped and rifled varieties. Stepped shafts have visible “notches” where you can see the shafts taper in thickness from the grip to the clubhead. Rifled varieties taper smoothly down with no visible steps. Rifled shafts tend to play a little bit stiffer than stepped shafts, but they also have more options to fine-tune their stiffness.
If a golfer finds Stiff flex steel shafts too stiff but Regular shafts too flexible, rifled shafts have a halfway point, the 5.5 rating (generally 6.0 is stiff and 5.0 is Regular). Stepped shafts don’t offer this compromise.
Should I pick hybrids or irons if I am a beginner?
Long irons (3 through 5 irons) are often considered very difficult to hit. When I was growing up, you’d even see 1- and 2-irons show up frequently in iron sets, but those have long since fallen out of favor due to the difficulty of hitting good shots with them. Lee Trevino weighed in that “even God can’t hit a 1-iron.”
Fortunately for beginners, hybrids have come along to make long irons less intimidating. They’re called hybrids because they feature characteristics of both woods and irons. Beginners find that smooth swings produce high-flying shots that are nearly impossible to achieve using long irons, since long irons require high swing speeds to launch the ball in the air.
If you find yourself with a 4-iron that you just can’t hit, consider swapping it out for a 4-hybrid. You’ll hit better shots and enjoy the game more. Many players use hybrids all the way up to a 6- or 7-iron. Hybrids actually comprise the entirety of one of the sets I reviewed in this article.
What are irons made of?
Irons are manufactured from steel, though sometimes you’ll find carbon fiber or tungsten accents when manufacturers try to shift weight around. Titanium, the preferred material for today’s drivers, just isn’t found in irons. It’s too lightweight for irons, which need to have a decent amount of headweight to properly accumulate swing speed and pick the ball up off the ground.
Irons can be either cast or forged. Cast irons are made from liquid, molten metal poured into a mold. Forged irons are created from a solid piece of metal that’s shaped into the final shape while unthinkably hot. Forging is a more expensive process, but it results in a softer, smoother feeling iron. Cast irons, while not providing the butter-smooth feel of forged irons, are more durable and not as expensive as forged irons.
For this reason, I suggest beginner golfers start out with cast irons. The difference in feel is minimal, but the cost and durability of cast irons makes it easier to get into the game: you won’t have to replace your irons as often and you’ll have a bit of money left over for lessons and greens fees.
Should I pick muscle back or cavity back irons?
Muscle back irons are forged irons that are designed for elite players who want to be able to hit curving shots, intentionally drawing the ball from right to left or fading shots from left to right.
Most beginners, however, are just trying to hit the ball straight. Cavity back irons are designed for these golfers, offering larger sweet spots and perimeter weighting to help stop the ball from flying way offline even when it’s hit poorly.
Until you get your handicap down to single digits, I wouldn’t even look at muscle-back (or “blade”) irons. Some of the best golfers I know, players who are better than scratch, still use cavity back irons. Heck, over 50% of tour pros use cavity back irons, and they’re the best ball-strikers in the world! Cavity back irons have such good error correction compared to muscle backs that it can often be the difference between a mis-hit finding the green or dropping into a pond.
Picking an iron set is often the most fun but also the most confusing equipment decision a golfer can make. Should you go with a set of gorgeous forged musclebacks or spring for a more affordable cast cavity back iron and spend a little more on your driver? With so many different brands and designs out there, it’s hard to even narrow it down to several different options, much less the single best one.
This year TaylorMade really outdid themselves with an incredible offering, the M4 iron set. A design that maximizes technological innovations to provide extreme distance combined with the highest level of forgiveness, the M4 irons stand out above the crowd as the best beginner’s irons of 2019.