Too Long, Didn't Read: Our Review For People In A Hurry
In a year when the market for irons is more glutted than it’s ever been, it takes a lot to stand out as the best.
TaylorMade’s engineers have been working overtime to wring every ounce of distance and forgiveness out of their iron designs, resulting in the TaylorMade M4 Iron Set.
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.
Their new “RIBCOR” technology is designed to increase the springiness of the clubface (technically referred to as the “coefficient of restitution”) across the whole face instead of focusing the spring at the middle of the clubface.
This results in incredibly precise distance control, especially on mis-hits. That translates into fewer missed greens and lost balls, and more birdie and par opportunities.
The thick topline and nice offset sit very nicely behind the ball, inspiring confidence that you’ll make a good swing on it. The offset is enough that it’ll help correct a bad slice but not so extreme that alignment is still fairly simple.
The ball flight produced is high and straight, with very good error correction on poorly struck shots.
Even the small touch of removing a bit of metal from the hosel (where the shaft enters the club) has the effect of allowing them to provide a lower center of gravity, which will help beginners get the ball up in the air quickly.
The overall performance of these clubs makes them our top pick for 2018.
TaylorMade’s other offering for 2018 is also an exceptional performer, with an exceptionally high price tag to match.
This is their first time offering a hollow iron that’s filled in with an elastomer polymer foam, which they claim will accentuate the spring effect of the clubface to create a large sweet spot and maximum distance.
However, the design of these irons is a little intimidating for true beginners. They’ve got a very thin topline and less offset than the TaylorMade M4 irons, and they just look a little bit harder to hit.
Better players will prefer this look, as it encourages workability and creative shot shapes. Beginners looking to hit shots as straight as possible should probably stick to clubs like the M4, but slightly better players looking to upgrade will find a lot to like in the P790.
If you’d like to hit draws or fades but still have good distance forgiveness across the face, the P790 will let you shape shots and still provide excellent distance on mis-hits.
There’s also a tungsten weight placed to provide better height and forgiveness on thin shots.
The addition of tungsten and elastomer foam pushes the price over $1200/set, so this iron set is tabbed as our upgrade pick, for better players looking to take their game to the next level.
Cleveland Golf has provided a solid entry for 2018 with their Launcher CBX iron set.
Looking at the clubs straight on tells you why they’re called “Launcher”: they’ve positioned a big chunk of metal along the sole of the club to position the center of gravity as low as possible.
The low center of gravity is great for beginners who often have trouble getting iron shots high enough in the air.
Cleveland has also integrated some of the technology that makes their wedges so popular into the Launcher CBX irons, most notably the “Zip Grooves” that help provide exceptional backspin.
This backspin further assists in getting the ball into the air, but also helps in forgiveness and stopping power on the green.
The price of the Cleveland Launcher CBX is quite accessible, especially for a full iron set from one of golf’s top manufacturers.
You won’t get the level of forgiveness as the TaylorMade iron sets, and they aren’t quite as long as the M4 or P790, especially on mis-hits.
But if you’re looking for an affordable iron set with graphite shafts, the Cleveland Launcher CBX are excellent performers. This makes them our budget pick for 2018.
This is a unique entry in offerings for 2018, because the WaZaki WL-IIs MX Steel Hybrid Iron Set isn’t even an iron set at all. It’s entirely made up of hybrids, from the 4-iron all the way through to the sand wedge.
However, I know some golfers have been looking for exactly this solution to their iron woes, as they have trouble hitting any decent iron shots at all during a round of golf.
If you’re a golfer who has a slow swing speed or just can’t get an iron shot off the ground for whatever reason, the all-hybrid set is worth exploring.
With an average or high clubhead speed, the ball trajectory was too high to really be useful. However, at a slower swing speed, the ball still got up into the air nicely and flew a good distance.
Roll-out was more than you’d find on a traditional iron, but golfers using all-hybrid sets will most likely be happy to make this compromise.
Fortunately, the set includes leather headcovers for all the hybrids, which is a feature you won’t find (or need) in most iron sets but is definitely useful here.
It also includes lightweight graphite shafts, a nice touch for beginners or seniors with very low swing speeds. The light weight and flexibility of the shaft will help increase swing speed and maximize distance.
While I’d recommend that most golfers use hybrids only to replace their long irons, if you’re truly in love with your hybrids and just can’t hit your short irons with any consistency, the WaZaki WL-II are worth your consideration.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Reviewed Products
- 2 Too Long, Didn't Read: Our Review For People In A Hurry
- 3 Our Top Pick - Taylor Made M4 Irons
- 4 Our Upgrade Pick - Taylor Made P790 Mens Iron Set
- 5 Our Budget Pick - Cleveland Golf Mens Launcher CBX Iron Set
- 6 Our “I Can’t Hit Irons To Save My Life” Pick - WaZaki WL-IIs Mx Steel Hybrid Irons Golf Set
- 7 Q & A: All about irons
- 8 Conclusion
Our Top Pick - Taylor Made M4 Irons
TaylorMade first made its mark on the golf world with its metal woods, but it’s since become known as one of the flat-out best manufacturers in golf.
Their irons, putters, drivers, woods, and even golf balls are used by some of the best players in the world. This year, they’ve released the TaylorMade M4 Irons, which are designed for beginner and mid-level golfers using cutting-edge technology and materials.
The TaylorMade M4 Iron Set is a Game Improvement set, with a significant offset to help prevent slicing and promote a straight ball flight, and extremely high Moment of Inertia to correct mis-hits.
The deep cavity back provides a huge sweet spot, covering almost the entire clubface. The leading edge is very thin, helping ensure crisp contact at the bottom of the downswing.
Looks-wise, these clubs are gorgeous! They have a great look at address, sitting nicely behind the ball.
The back of the clubface has a cool carbon fiber pattern, and a distinct “speed slot”, which is a narrow channel right behind the clubface that helps maximize springiness of the clubface and enhance distance on thin shots.
Together with the thin face, the “RIBCOR” technology in the M4 irons provide top-notch distance no matter where on the clubface you strike the ball.
So what is RIBCOR? Well, COR stands for “Coefficient of Restitution”, which means how springy the clubface is. The USGA has set limits on COR, so most irons made today have the max allowable COR in the sweet spot.
What TaylorMade has done with RIBCOR is to include two “ribs” on the heel and toe of the club so that the COR is maximized across the whole clubface instead of just in the sweet spot.
This provides more distance on off-center hits, and also helps ensure a straighter ball flight.
There’s also a unique-looking “fluted” hosel, with a tiny bit of weight taken off the hosel and redistributed to the clubhead to enhance forgiveness. It’s these little design touches that really make these clubs next-level.
They feel as good as any irons I’ve hit, and I found it remarkable how straight the ball flew.
Toe shots that normally hook badly just drew back towards the target, and thin shots still flew far enough to reach the green.
There’s a lot of variety available in the set makeup, depending on how much you like hitting long irons.
The set is offered starting with a 4-iron or a 5-iron, and they also offer options that include an A-Wedge (often referred to as a gap wedge) and even a sand wedge.
These multiple wedge options are nice for beginners, as it can help inspire confidence to have the same look throughout your whole set of clubs.
In today’s game, wedges are very important and I recommend carrying a gap wedge, so the inclusion of an A-Wedge option is a nice touch.
You can order these with graphite or steel shafts in flexes ranging from Ladies to Stiff, as well as both right-hand and left-hand options.
Our Upgrade Pick - Taylor Made P790 Mens Iron Set
While TaylorMade’s M4 is the top pick for this year, they did come out with another iron set that might be intriguing to some beginners, especially if they’re getting better at golf and want to spend a little bit more on irons that may help them further improve.
The TaylorMade P790 Mens Iron Set is a Game Enhancement set of irons, manufactured to offer forgiveness but also workability.
If you’ve gotten good enough to want to start hitting controlled draws or fades, you may find that Game Improvement clubs don’t work very well for that because they’re designed to hit the ball dead straight and nothing else.
Game Enhancement clubs are intended to give the best of both worlds: forgiveness on off-center hits but also workability when the ball is struck well.
And TaylorMade’s P790 irons utilize several different technological advancements to achieve this level of performance.
The design aspects under contention are a club with a hollow cavity that’s then filled with an elastomer polymer, and tungsten screws to provide great weight distribution.
While both clubs utilize similar technology, TaylorMade has been allowed to continue selling the P790 irons despite PXG’s protests.
The P790 irons bear some similarities to the TaylorMade M4 irons reviewed above. Most notably, they have a “cut-through speed pocket” to enhance forgiveness on thin shots.
However, the P790s add in a tungsten channel for perimeter weight distribution, and the elastomer polymer “SpeedFoam” that fills the interior cavity of the club is a pricey addition that TaylorMade says produces soft feel and groundbreaking distance.
The SpeedFoam does seem to work well on mis-hits across the face, as the feel is consistent on impacts everywhere on the clubface.
I found it difficult to tell if I’d hit it purely or missed the sweet spot, as the foam made all contact feel smooth and buttery. The results were hard to complain about, as most of the balls flew the expected distance and wound up near the target.
However, the looks and the price of these irons are what make me hesitate to recommend these to pure beginners. The topline is very thin, which can be intimidating.
While professionals usually prefer a thin topline, beginners often think they’ll be hard to hit. There’s also a slight “progressive offset”, but overall not much offset at all in the shorter irons.
So there won’t be quite as much slice correction as you’ll find in the M4 irons, and the lack of offset can make it hard to get the ball into the air quickly unless you have a high swing speed.
The TaylorMade P790 irons are available with graphite shafts in Senior, Regular or Stiff flex, or steel shafts in Regular, Stiff or Extra Stiff shafts.
You’ll only want Extra Stiff shafts if you’re swinging the club well over 100 mph and your 5 iron travels about 195 yards. Most golfers need either regular or stiff shafts, depending on clubhead speed and tempo.
The smoother your tempo, the more flex your shafts should have. If you have a quick tempo with a fast transition, you’ll want to go with a stiff flex to hold up to the quickness.
The sets are offered with either 3-iron through pitching wedge, or 4-iron through A-Wedge. Unless you’re nearly a scratch golfer, I’d suggest going with the 4-iron through A-Wedge set and using either a hybrid or 5-wood instead of a 3-iron.
Our Budget Pick - Cleveland Golf Mens Launcher CBX Iron Set
Cleveland golf is a company known best for its wedges. They started as a company producing replicas of classic golf clubs, but quickly became known for their clean, simple wedge designs. Their 588 wedge, released in the late 1980s, is still a hot seller today.
However, they also make some great drivers and iron sets. Corey Pavin famously used their oddly designed VAS irons to win the 1995 US Open at Shinnecock Hills.
The Cleveland Golf Mens Launcher CBX iron set is a much more traditional look than Pavin’s VAS irons, one that should appeal to both beginner and intermediate players.
The look at address is a medium topline, not as thin as the TaylorMade P790 but not quite as thick as the M4. Hidden behind that topline is a large cavity back with lots of weight positioned low on the sole to help get the ball high in the air.
There’s a reason they called these irons the “Launcher” — the ball gets up in the air quickly and flies as high as any iron sets I’ve hit.
This is more pronounced in the long irons, which have a thicker topline and a thicker sole than the more scoring-focused short irons. The long irons are engineered for forgiveness, while the short irons focus more on providing workability and less forgiveness.
The Cleveland Launcher CBX irons also use some of the technology that’s made Cleveland wedges so popular over the years. The “zip grooves” take advantage of Cleveland’s unique face-milling pattern to provide more backspin for better forgiveness and height.
The “Dual-V” sole shape helps with turf interaction; that is, it prevents the club from digging too much on fat shots and cuts through thick rough to make it a little easier to dig out from trouble.
Their “feel balancing” technology locates the sweet spot right in the middle of the clubface and the low center of gravity provides a nice assist for players who have a hard time getting the ball up high in the air.
The Launcher CBX irons are offered with steel shafts or a slightly more expensive graphite option.
However, even the graphite shafted iron set costs less than the steel-shafted TaylorMade M4 iron set. The sweet spot of the Cleveland Launcher CBX irons is smaller, and while the forgiveness is pretty good, you won’t see as much distance from mis-hits as you will with the huge sweet spot on the TaylorMade iron sets.
However, if you’re a slower swinger who might want to try out graphite shafts but you don’t want to break the bank, the Launcher CBX iron set is a great option.
And if you’re a decent ball-striker but have trouble getting the ball up high in the air, the Launcher is an iron set that should fit nicely in your budget.
The Cleveland Launcher CBX irons are available in two configurations: 4-iron through pitching wedge or 4-iron through gap wedge.
It’s a nod to the fact that these are irons made for beginners that they don’t even offer a 3-iron option. The steel shafts are available in regular or stiff flex, and the graphite shafts offer those plus a senior flex option.
Amateurs often have trouble generating enough backspin to get this “tour sauce” action, but with Cleveland’s Zip Grooves, I found the short irons to spin plenty on well-struck shots.
The irons also performed remarkably well out of the rough, really digging into the grass and popping the ball out even on wet mornings in deep rough.
However, mis-hits did experience a significant distance loss compared to the TaylorMade irons and overall, I felt like distance control was a bit inconsistent. One well-struck shot tended to fly longer than another, and I couldn’t figure out why.
Our “I Can’t Hit Irons To Save My Life” Pick - WaZaki WL-IIs Mx Steel Hybrid Irons Golf Set
I’m going to guess that there’s a few of you out there who found this article because you’re just starting out as a golfer, and whatever clubs you’re using just aren’t working at all.
Maybe you can hit your driver or 3-wood ok, and you can pop your hybrid up into the air and on the green, but every time you hit an iron you stand there terrified, just knowing that a worm-burner or hosel-rocket is impending.
You can count on one hand the number of high, straight shots you’ve hit with any iron. The thought of hitting a wedge is slightly scarier than climbing a cliff without a rope.
What hope is there for you if you just cannot hit an iron? WaZaki is there for you with a set of all hybrids, 4-iron through sand wedge.
This is a set for a narrow subset of golfers who either can’t generate enough swing speed to launch the ball into the air with an iron, or whose confidence just won’t allow them to produce a good enough swing to hit an iron well.
The hybrid design has become common as a replacement for long irons, and some major manufacturers like Cleveland even offer progressive hybrid sets that resemble hybrids all the way through the 8-iron.
This has been a saving grace for some golfers who love the forgiveness and ease of hitting high shots with hybrids. And now WaZaki has taken this to its extreme, logical conclusion by making a set of hybrids all the way through the sand wedge.
The WaZaki WL-IIs Mx Steel hybrid set is a good, budget-friendly way to see if this hybrid-only lifestyle is the right way for you to go. They’re well-made clubs and come with a 5-year warranty and a high quality graphite shaft, surprising at this price point. They do provide a nice high launch, though all but the slowest swingers will probably find that it’s too high.
I had a hard time getting a good, penetrating trajectory. All the shots went straight up into the air, ballooning and landing softly but always short of the target.
On windy days it became very difficult to control as the ball went so high that it was simply at the mercy of the wind.
However, I have a fairly high swing speed and I’m not the target market. When I made slower half-swings, these clubs started to make sense.
They’d pop the ball up nicely and roll out a good distance. For seniors and slow-swinging beginners, this could be the right iron set to make golf enjoyable for you.
Another place these come in very handy is on par 3s over water. Many amateurs run to their bag for an old, beaten up ball because they know they’re going to blade or fat an iron shot right into the pond.
With these hybrids, you’re all but guaranteed to launch the ball into the air. So you’ll be able to keep on using that nice new ball, even on a water hole.
Forgiveness is very good, with a low center of gravity providing a large sweet spot and the big head design providing a nice level of perimeter weighting.
Distance was unimpressive, but I don’t think that really matters here. If you’re interested in the all-hybrid set, you’d actually notice an increase in distance because these are so much easier to hit than a standard iron.
However, it’s tough to get these out of the rough as the thick bottom of the club makes it hard to get the club through the longer grass. And the sand wedge is not easy to use out of bunkers.
You may want to add a traditional sand wedge to use from the sand, and just use the hybrid sand wedge for short shots off of grass.
As a nice added touch, WaZaki has included headcovers for all of the clubs. This will help prevent the paint from scratching, which isn’t usually a problem with irons (as they’re usually unpainted metal) but could be an issue here. I’d suggest using the headcovers every time to keep them looking great.
Q & A: All about irons
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2018.