In the second installment of ClubTest 2019, we’re diving deep into the world of irons. They may not get as much attention as their big and flashy driver cousins, but irons have a bigger effect on your game than woods simply because you hit them more frequently. Furthermore, irons have undergone extensive technological advancement in recent years.
For this year’s ClubTest, we tested 29 of the newest (and best) iron models on the market from all the major equipment manufacturers. Below you will find full reviews for those clubs, as well as comments from professional fitters, all compiled to make it as easy as possible for you to find the perfect new set.
And remember, to truly maximize your performance on the course, a custom club fitting is essential. Even if you don’t invest in a fully customized set, spending time with an experienced fitter will help you better understand your swing and the gear that optimizes it. It’s the smartest money you’ll spend on your game.
Shafts: Many premium models
With a hollow cavity design and low CG location, the contemporary-looking HF1 irons are designed for higher-handicappers who want to launch the ball higher and straighter. Variable face thickness helps provide balanced performance across the entire strike area (even on mis-hits) while forged construction yields enhanced feel. (Trust us: The HF1 provides a sensation at impact that belies its game-improvement design.) True Temper XP 95 steel shafts come standard.
Fitter comments: A high-handicapper’s dream: higher- and straighter-flying shots paired with a solid forged feel at impact.
Shafts: Many premium models
Already getting a rep for a pure feel and pleasing sound, the HF2 irons are forged cavity-back models aimed at mid-handicappers who crave game-improvement performance with a more traditional look and solid playability. Other features include extremely thin clubfaces for higher COR and more ball speed. Rubber polymer inserts deliver less vibration and work to improve both sound and feel.
Fitter comments: Mid- and some high-handicaps will appreciate the added ball speed and forgiveness; everyone will dig the classy look and enhanced feel.
Price: $$1,399, steel; $1,499, graphite
Stock shafts: True Temper Elevate 95 steel, True Temper Project X Catalyst 50, 60 and 80 graphite
The “CF” in the Apex irons name is gone, but the 360 Cup Face (think of it as plentiful ball speed and forgiveness across the clubface) definitely remains. The new design also incorporates a VFT (variable thickness) face design in the short irons for more spin control and accuracy in the scoring zone. Feel is also significantly improved through the use of both forged mild carbon steel construction and the addition of the same urethane microsphere material used in the Rogue and Big Bertha irons, which absorbs “bad” vibrations without negatively affecting ball speed. The new Apex also features MIM ‘d (metal injection molded) tungsten weighting to more precisely position the CG of each iron in the set.
Fitter comments: The Apex 19 can work for a wide variety of players, particularly those who desire big-time distance, forgiveness, a forged feel and traditional profile.
Stock shaft: True Temper Elevate Tour 115 steel
The Pro iteration of the Apex is for players who want Tour performance and control with enhanced ball speed and distance. This one’s a gem—discerning players will appreciate the forged mild carbon steel construction, which is combined with urethane microspheres that absorb vibration for an exceptionally soft feel and a pleasing sound at impact. Distance in the long and mid-irons is enhanced by Callaway’s 360 Cup Face design, while the short irons are built with VFT for enhanced control and accuracy. A Tour-preferred shape and offset round out the package.
Fitter comments: Better players who don’t mind a little help, take note!
Price: $1,199, steel; $1,299 graphite
Stock shafts: UST Mamiya Recoil ZT9, Recoil ESX 460, KBS MAX 90 steel
The newest Big Bertha features Callaway’s “suspended energy core” technology, which is designed to greatly enhance sound and feel at impact while also improving launch and overall distance. The key is a MIM’d tungsten weight that’s encased in the urethane microsphere material used in the successful Rogue irons. Suspending the weight allows for a deeper CG location for improved launch, while also making a thinner clubface with 360 Face Cup possible, for more face flex, ball speed and distance.
Fitter comments: The ultimate in high launch and straight distance.
Stock shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold 98 steel, Miyazaki C. Kua graphite
When it comes to iron sets, you’re often left to choose between a set of streamlined clubs for enhanced shotmaking capabilities, or a thicker, heftier set designed for maximum forgiveness. In the case of the progressively designed CBX irons, you get both designs right where you need it. The longer irons have larger, thicker toplines and soles for maximum perimeter weighting and a lower, deeper CG. The short irons have a slimmer, more compact design for better shotshaping capabilities. Also, the 4-7 irons come equipped with a Cup Face design for better energy transfer—especially on off-center strikes.
Fitter comments: A forgiving and long model that’ll suit most players.
Stock shaft: KBS Tour 90 steel
A steel belt that wraps around the perimeter of the iron creates a lower and deeper CG location, enhancing launch and carry distance as well as stability at impact. The unique design of the sole, in which the bottom of the F9 extends past the belt, creates traditional turf interaction regardless of the lie. Cobra places 33g of tungsten weight in the heel and toe areas (4-7) for 10 percent higher MOI and forgiveness, while also further improving ball speed at impact. Variable face thickness with a deep undercut sole and internal speed channel actually absorb energy and return it to the ball for max speed and optimized spin rates.
Fitter comments: A great fit for mid- and high-handicappers who desire all the max-game-improvement launch, distance, and forgiveness you could want, with significantly improved turf interaction.
Stock shaft: KBS C Taper steel
Cobra can’t guarantee you’ll hit shots like Rickie Fowler, but they’ll at least give you the chance to try using the same set of sticks. The King Forged CB/MBs are a progressive set; the 4- through 6-irons are cavity backs for more forgiveness, and the 7-iron through PW are musclebacks for greater workability. Each iron comes with carefully placed tungsten weighting for optimal CG locations, a CNC-milled face texture and grooves, and a Diamondized Black Metal finish that’s said to last longer than most dark metal finishes. Last but far from least, the five-step forging process improves the grain structure of the 1025 carbon steel, which also helps give these irons the soft, buttery feel that Rickie loves.
Fitter comments: Better players will appreciate the feel, workability, accuracy and traditional profile. For more accomplished ballstrikers only.
Shafts: Wide variety of premium options
Miura’s MC-501 has the look and profile of a classic muscleback, which could make some mid-handicappers nervous. But before you completely write it off as a better-player model, take a closer look at what’s under the hood. Roughly 20 grams of weight was repositioned to the sole, which is wider than what you find on most blades. The sole also incorporates the Miura’s Y-Grind, which features a soft leading edge to help with turf interaction. From heel to toe, the 501 is the longest club Miura ever, meaning you don’t have to sweat the mis-hits as much.
Fitter comments: Aimed at better players desiring a traditional profile and feel with a bit of extra help.
Shafts: Wide variety of premium options
Mention the name Miura and one conjures the image of a forged blade as thin as a butter knife. But not every club in the lineup requires a single-digit handicap or Tour card. The new CB-301 cavity back is a blend of better-player shaping with enough forgiveness for all golfers, especially those who enjoy world-class aesthetics. The fully forged 301 has progressive offset that increases as you reach the long irons, adding a layer of forgiveness anyone will appreciate. The wide sole helps keep the club from needlessly digging into the turf at impact.
Fitter comments: A gamer for both mid-handicaps and better players. An aspirational iron.
Shafts: Wide variety of premium options
Miura’s most advanced iron takes its cues from the company’s ICL driving iron, with a hollow-cavity design and 455 Carpenter steel face that gives the club metalwood-like speed. The club includes a weight port in the muscle pad which allows the swing weight and shaft to be optimized throughout the set. The 8-gram weight that comes with each iron matches the overall weight of a standard 4-iron. (Additional custom weights are offered if you need more mass.) Also includes a larger profile with an inner cavity for a wide, playable sole and low CG.
Fitter comments: Better players and some mid-handicaps will appreciate the unique feel and traditional profile.
Stock shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold 120 AMT steel
This traditional design replaces the 900 Tour, aka the Brooks Koepka model, and features an improved shape with a bit thinner topline. A new, more durable finish reduces glare while providing a more refined look than the previous dark finish. As one would expect from a Mizuno blade, the 919 Tour features a Grain Flow Forged HD (high-density) construction from 1025 Elite carbon steel for the soft, responsive feel aficionados demand. A “stability frame” design strengthens the toe and topline while optimizing perimeter weighting for improved performance on mis-hits, while a more neutral CG location that’s closer to the center of the face improves performance on-center strikes.
Fitter comments: For better players only! This traditional blade offers elite-level feel and workability with a bit of extra forgiveness.
Stock shaft: TT Dynamic Gold 105 steel
A versatile iron that can fit anyone from pros to better weekend warriors, the 919 Forged fits snugly between the Tour and Hot Metal models. Built with the same Grain Flow Forged HD method as the Tour, the Forged is made from Boron-infused steel, which is approximately 30 percent stronger than carbon steel. This extra degree of strength allows for a thinner, more flexible clubface and enhanced ball speed at impact. The thinner clubface, along with a new hidden micro-slot in the sole, not only increases COR but also expands the effective hitting area across a larger area.
Fitter comments: A crossover model that can be played by both low and mid-handicappers.
Stock shafts: Nippon Modus3 105 steel, Project X LZ graphite
Delivering solid Mizuno looks and feel with enhanced forgiveness and distance, the new 919 Hot Metal is a progressive set with slightly larger long and mid-irons and more compact short irons and wedges. The Hot Metal isn’t forged like the other two new JPX models, but is instead made from stronger and more expensive chromoly. The stronger material allows for a multi-thickness cup face for better ball speed and distance than the previous 900 Hot Metal as well as redesigned sound ribs in the cavity for precisely tuned vibration and feel at impact.
Fitter comments: A long and forgiving iron that can be gamed by mid- and high-handicappers.
Stock shafts: PING Alta CB graphite, PING AWT 2.0 steel
Like the previous G400 irons, which were widely embraced by a wide range of players, the new G410 is PING’s workhorse model. The overall blade length was shortened a bit to tighten up the look, and offset was reduced by about 10 percent, giving these serious game-improving sticks a noticeably cleaner and more refined appearance. The slightly smaller size definitely does not make the G410s less friendly, however, as enhanced perimeter weighting increases MOI and stability by eight percent, while a new generation of COR-Eye technology creates a more flexible clubface and larger effective hitting area. Hiding the COR-Eye design is a snappy new aluminum/elastomer cavity badge that also tunes sound and feel at impact.
Fitter comments: Provides all the impressive distance and forgiveness of the previous G400 but in a slightly more compact, better-looking package. Can work for any player who wants to hit it high and straight.
Stock shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold, UST graphite
A ton of technology is packed into this compact, blade-like design that provides big-time ball speed and distance. Features include a hollow clubhead with super-strong and fast maraging steel clubfaces in a stainless steel body. Precision-milled grooves provide more consistent spin rates and control throughout the set, while a new HydroPearl finish actually helps the clubhead move through the turf with less friction. The traditional profile also enhances shotmaking control.
Fitter comments: A very long-hitting option that can work for almost anyone, but is best for better players who prefer a compact, traditional iron profile that provides max-game-improving distance.
Stock shafts: AWT 2.0 steel, CFS graphite, other premium upgrades
PING’s flagship player’s iron is designed for golfers who value feel, control and consistency over distance, forgiveness and other max-game-improvement qualities. Predictably, the i210’s traditional profile features minimal offset and moderate sole widths and toplines to help more accomplished players execute the full gamut of shots, ball flights and trajectories. It’s hardly old-school, however. A large elastomer insert (larger than that in the previous i200) in the cavity activates at impact to not only provide a very soft and responsive feel, but to transmit more energy to the ball for souped-up ball speeds. Sharper grooves and tighter spacing between them on the clubface are engineered to provide consistent shot-shaping control for players who need it, while a more forgiving leading edge and HydroPearl 2.0 finish reduce friction through the turf for easier and faster swings.
Fitter comments: Aimed at better players who prefer more traditional performance and control. It certainly delivers the feel with the added bonus of more ball speed compared to previous iterations.
Stock shafts: Nippon Pro Modus3 Tour 105 and 120 steel
The Z 785 Irons are crafted for better players who crave the buttery feel and enhanced workability found in a compact, clean-lined forged carbon steel iron. The redesigned Tour V.T. Sole ensures maximum versatility, and the added mass behind the sweet spot further enhances ball maneuverability, making these irons ideal for golfers who want to shape their shots high, low and to either side. Put it this way: The Z 785 ions are the epitome of a modern player’s club, combining the feel and performance of a blade with a hint of cavity-back forgiveness.
Fitter comments: Better players and some mid-handicappers can game the 785 irons, which provide exceptional feel and surprising distance and forgiveness in a very traditional-looking forged blade.
Stock shafts: Nippon Pro Modus3 105 steel, Miyazaki Kaula graphite
Mixing Tour-level maneuverability with added forgiveness, the forged Z 585 irons are some of Srixon’s most advanced irons to date (surpassing the previous Z 565s). The Speed Groove located around the rear perimeter of the clubface houses an SUP10 face insert for more face flex, resulting in added forgiveness and distance. Speaking of forgiveness, the longer irons have wider soles for less digging through impact, and all irons in the set have Laser Milling technology on the face for added spin. It’s not uncommon for golfers to mix this set with the Z 785s in the shorter irons for even greater shotmaking versatility.
Fitter comments: Almost anyone can benefit from the impressive distance, feel and enhanced turf interaction, though these are best for low- and mid-handicappers. Could be worth a look from some higher-handicaps, too.
Lofts: 18˚, 20˚, 23˚, 26˚, 29˚
Stock shaft: UST Recoil 95 graphite
Sporting a hollow body and compact shape, the Z U85 utility irons combine forgiveness with shotmaking control from the tee or fairway. The all-forged design has a 1020 carbon steel frame and Srixon’s Laser Milled SUP10 face, resulting in a classic, soft feel with a boost in distance. You’d never know that the Z U85s are two-piece, hollow-body clubs, thanks to the iron-like address profile. And that buttery feel is a welcome surprise considering how long these irons are. Available in 2- through 6-iron models, the Z U85s fit in nicely with Srixon’s Z 585 irons for an ideal mixed set.
Fitter comments: Exceptional performer for low- and mid-handicappers who want serious ball speeds and easy launch from just about anywhere on the course.
Price: $999, steel; $1,199, graphite
Stock shafts: True Temper XP100 steel, Mitsubishi Tensei Orange graphite
With a relatively compact profile and more traditional shape, the M5 represents a major upgrade over the previous M3 for those who want both playability and distance. The big change is a thru-slot Speed Pocket in the sole that’s the most flexible ever made by TaylorMade, and a new Speed Bridge design that connects the topline of the clubhead to the back bar. This arrangement stiffens the upper area of the clubhead, reducing vibration for improved sound and feel while also improving shots struck low on the face (a common miss area). At impact, the larger thru-slot Speed Pocket is activated to an even greater degree, creating more flex, ball speed and—you guessed it—distance. The Speed Bridge and Speed Pocket combine with an extremely thin clubface and patented Inverted Cone Technology in the 4-7 irons to make them not only longer but also more forgiving across a larger area of the face. There’s advanced tech everywhere you turn.
Fitter comments: Designed to provide big-time distance and forgiveness in a more traditional package than the standard game-improvement model. Mid-handicappers are the target, but no player should sleep on the M5.
Price: $899, steel; $999, graphite
Stock shafts: KBS Max 85 steel, TM Tuned Performance 45 graphite
Built as a replacement for the M4, the new M6 is TaylorMade’s most high-performance game-improvement iron yet. Built with the same technologies as the M5 but with a larger clubhead and more offset, the M6 irons feature the aforementioned thru-slot Speed Pocket (see left) in the 4-7 irons for enhanced ball speed, distance and forgiveness on shots struck low on the face. The Speed Bridge, extremely thin clubface, Inverted Cone Technology, HYBRAR vibration damping and all the other goodies featured in the M5 irons are also in the M6 set, which pair nicely with the company’s new line of user-friendly wedges.
Fitter comments: Aimed at players looking for easy launch with max distance and forgiveness. Enhanced sound and feel are a bonus.
Stock shafts: True Temper AMT Red, Mitsubishi Tensei Pro Red AMC
The Holy Grail in game-improvement club design is to make it look sleek while also being long and forgiving. Titleist nails it with the 718 AP1. The 4- and 5-irons in the 718 AP1 iron set feature a hollow-body design for enhanced perimeter weighting and a lower and deeper CG. The remaining irons have an Undercut Cavity construction, blending forgiveness with a compact look and shape. This one’s tough to beat.
Fitter comments: A max-game-improvement iron for every golfer.
Stock shaft: True Temper AMT Tour White
The 718 AP2 irons are the ideal blend of technology and tradition in a single set. The 3- through 6-irons sport a thin SUP10 face insert for faster ball speed, and tungsten weighting for maximum distance and forgiveness. The set transitions at the 7-iron with a carbon steel body, tungsten weights and a SUP10 face insert. The remainder feature a classic one-piece, forged carbon steel construction.
Fitter comments: The standard for competitive play.
Stock shaft: True Temper AMT Black
Dubbed Titleist’s “distance player’s set,” the stainless steel 3- through 7-irons have a hollow-blade construction, a high-strength steel L-Face insert and tungsten weighting. The 8- and 9-irons feature a similar stainless steel chassis, but the face is stainless as well. The wedges on the other hand, are solid 17-4 stainless steel. The result is a set that has almost as much playability as the AP2s, with almost as much forgiveness as the AP1s.
Fitter comments: An impressive crossover model for any player.
Stock shaft: Project X PXi graphite
The T-MB irons from Titleist are perhaps the club manufacturer’s finest attempt to make an iron that looks like a blade but plays like a game-improvement model. The muscleback appearance is more of an illusion than reality, because every iron in the set features hollow-body stainless steel construction, tungsten heel-toe weighting, a SUP10 L-face insert for maximum distance and a higher MOI. Each iron also has a PVD finish on the rear/sole, lending a unique, high-end look. The result is a set of “blades” that have the forgiveness and distance you’d expect from a midsized cavity-back.
Fitter comments: Enhanced launch and distance for low- and mid-handicappers who desire a traditional profile. Can be used as a driving iron or as a full set.
Stock shafts: KBS MAX 80 steel, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Blue 2G graphite
The Exotics EXS long irons feature a hollow-body design and a TPU insert for forgiveness and shock-absorption, while the shorter irons have an undercut design with a tungsten toe weight for better control. Both long and short irons come with a forged cup face and SpiderWeb variable face thickness, a Ramped Sole and relatively strong lofts. The result? One of the longest-hitting iron sets you can buy—possibly a club longer than your current set of gamers.
Fitter comments: Provide max distance and forgiveness for mid- and high-handicaps who aren’t afraid of technology.
Stock shafts: KBS Tour 80 steel, UST Mamiya Recoil 460 graphite
Wilson’s new D7 blends the aesthetics of the better-player FG Tour V6 with the urethane-filled pocket design found on the more forgiving C300 model. The urethane holes are combined with the company’s thinnest iron face ever created (in the long and mid-irons) to produce a trampoline effect on steroids for the ball. With distance being less of a priority in the scoring clubs, weighting was optimized, and fewer urethane holes were positioned around the perimeter of the head. Straighter scoring lines and a thinned-out topline give the irons a clean look.
Fitter comments: Solid performers aimed at mid- and high-handicappers who desire max ball speeds with enhanced forgiveness and feel.
Stock shaft: MP1000 lightweight
Designed with a thin titanium face insert for a larger sweet spot that fits an average player’s contact area, the X irons are a great choice for those who want high launch and maximum distance with less effort. Like the other sticks in the X lineup, the irons are fitted with lightweight shafts (and a lighter overall weight) for less strain and easier speed on every swing. In addition, progressively shaped tungsten-nickel sole weights lower the CG location, promoting higher launch angles and more forgiveness on mis-hits. As an added bonus, the X irons also feel pretty darn buttery at impact.
Fitter comments: High- and some mid-handicappers will appreciate the plentiful distance and forgiveness in this easy-to-swing package.