Best Game-Improvement Irons of 2015 (Reviews)

by | December 16, 2015

Best Game-Improvement Irons of 2015 (Reviews)

The following is a review of several top rated golf game-improvement irons from reputable brands such as CallawayTaylorMadeCobra, Nike, PING and others, released for the 2015 golf season or any year prior.

Scroll down to view the comparison chart! 

Below the comparison chart (which compares the prices, features, pros and cons), I will list the irons according to my personal rating from highest to lowest and talk about their features, benefits and overall reception.

Any reviews of irons listed here that exist on Golfstead will be linked to in the appropriate sections.

Note that the irons that follow are game-improvement irons, which typically have wide soles, thicker top lines and larger heads overall; they usually have limited workability, great forgiveness and are designed for higher handicap players.

If you prefer a thinner head with more workability (shot shaping ability), you should look at some available better-player options.  Reviews and discussions of these other types of irons will eventually be posted to Golfstead if they haven’t been already.

Please note that the prices below (in the table and the summaries that follow) correspond to a 4-PW (pitching wedge), AW (approach wedge) right-handed iron set with a steel shaft and regular flex, unless otherwise stated.  Exact prices depend on shaft material, shaft flex and configuration and are subject to change.  Specifications for the iron, stock shafts and/or stock grips can be found in the provided individual reviews or on the manufacturer’s official website.

Want to view larger images of any of these irons?  Click on the pictures in the chart and navigate the photos on the left side!

IronPrice in USD (subject to change)Strengths and WeaknessesAmazon Review RatingMy Rating
1. Callaway XR

Full Review

callawayxr
$684.90 + free shipping on AmazonStrengths:
• shots tend to fly high and straight
• forgiveness is excellent across the face
• length is outstanding
• easy to swing
• great feel and stability

Weaknesses:
• feedback could be better -- mis-hits and center hits feel similar
• workability is limited
• hot face is sometimes inappropriate for certain shots off the green
• golfers with quick swings may experience consistency issues and trajectories that are too high
5/54.9/5
2. Cobra Baffler XL

Full Review

cobraBafflerXL
Less than $300 on eBay (with free shipping options)Strengths:
• very good forgiveness; resists sidespin
• easy to get up in the air whether from the rough or a tight lie
• solid and reliable distance
• easy to swing and hit
• cool profile
• a ton of value for the money

Weaknesses:
• weight of the iron is a little uncomfortable for some
• some struggle with trajectories that are too high
• not the longest iron
4.5/54.8/5
3. Callaway Big Bertha

Full Review

callawaybigberthaIrons
$639.99 + free shipping on AmazonStrengths:
• top quality construction and build
• distance and forgiveness are both among the best on the market
• a tendency for a high and straight ball flight helps suppress slices/hooks and allows soft landings into the greens
• impact feel is very soft and smooth

Weaknesses:
• relatively expensive
• shot shaping ability is limited, particularly out of trouble lies (rough, etc.)
• very chunky clubhead may be unsightly for some
• feedback could be a bit more distinct
4.8/54.8/5
4. Callaway Apex

Full Review

callawayapex
$799.95 + free shipping on AmazonStrengths:
• good workability (shapes and trajectories) for a game-improvement iron
• long with great distance control and accuracy on solid strikes
• very good forgiveness
• nice minimalist look
• impact feel is crisp and satisfying

Weaknesses:
• not quite as forgiving as some other game-improvement contenders
• balls can tend to fly a bit lower than desired
4.8/54.8/5
5. Nike Vapor Speed

Full Review

nikevaporspeed
$499.98 at Dick's Sporting GoodsStrengths:
• does a good job of handling tough lies
• easy to shape shots with
• ball flight is consistent
• soft impact and stability through the ball
• plenty of useful hit feedback

Weaknesses:
• some may find the iron to be a little too light
• forgiveness is decent but could be better
• thinner sole and relatively small amount of offset can make solid strikes a little more difficult to pull off, particularly with long irons
4.8/54.7/5
6. PING G30

PINGG30irons
$799.99 (black dot) at Dick's Sporting GoodsStrengths:
• incredible forgiveness, both in terms of distance and direction
• distance results are long, reliable and consistent
• impact feel is crisp and consistent across the face -- what we've come to expect from PING

Weaknesses:
• a little on the expensive side
• the large offset heads are disliked by some
• less workable than many other irons
--4.7/5
7. TaylorMade RSi 1

Full Review

taylormadersi1
$699.99 + free shipping on AmazonStrengths:
• very playable; fairly easy to control ball height and curvature
• superb forgiveness; minimal dispersion and great distance retention on mis-hits
• non-slotted irons, in particular, feel very solid

Weaknesses:
• sound and feel for the slotted irons are questionable -- can be described as "hollow" or "clicky"
• some might be distracted by the black lines on either side of the hitting area
4.9/54.6/5
8. Cobra Fly-Z XL

Full Review

cobraflyzxlirons
$319.99 + free shipping on AmazonStrengths:
• great accuracy and overall forgiveness
• solid shots fly a consistent distance and direction
• easy to get height on shots from almost any lie

Weaknesses:
• may not be ideal for golfers with strong swings and a high ball flight
• not the longest iron on the market
• can be difficult to engineer low-trajectory shots
--4.6/5

1. Callaway XR Iron (2015)

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the XR iron here!

Price and where to buy online new:  $684.90 on Amazon (see chart for link)Callaway XR Iron

Overview/Features:  See the “Overview and Features” section of the full XR irons review (link above) for details.

Reception:  At the time of writing, the XR irons have a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon (those customer reviews can be read right here) and a 4.7/5 rating with over 80 reviews (96% recommended) on Callaway’s official website.  These are very popular irons (#6 best selling iron on Amazon) and one of Callaway’s biggest successes.  Reviewers have lauded these irons for their great feel, relatively large sweet spot and crazy long distance.  They’re also a noticeable improvement over the previous X Hot and X2 Hot irons.

My rating:  4.9/5

2. Cobra Baffler XL Iron

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the Baffler XL iron here!

Price and where to buy online new:  Less than $300 on on eBay (see chart for link)Cobra Baffler XL Iron

Overview/Features:  See the “Overview and Features” section of the full Baffler XL irons review (link above) for details.

Reception:  The Baffler XL irons have been superbly received by customers — they have a 4.9/5 (100% recommended) on the Dick’s Sporting Goods website and a 4.5/5 on Amazon (click here to see those customer reviews), among others.  They have been praised for their easy-to-hit cool-looking profile, very generous mis-hit forgiveness, reliable distance, fantastic value for money and also being easy to get up in the air from a variety of lies.  In terms of negatives, some golfers find the weight of the iron to be uncomfortable, and others find the trajectory to be too high for their tastes.

My rating:  4.8/5

3. Callaway Big Bertha Iron (2015)

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the Big Bertha iron here!

Price and where to buy online new:  $639.99 on Amazon (see chart for link)Callaway Big Bertha Iron

Overview/Features:  See the “Overview and Features” section of the full Big Bertha irons review (link above) for details.

Reception:  The Big Bertha irons have been received extremely well — perhaps not surprising given the fact that, well… it’s Callaway!  They have glowing reviews on Amazon — 4.8/5 stars with over 29 customer reviews (see those right here) — and on the official Callaway website — 4.6/5 stars and 92% recommended.

Customers have lauded the irons for their amazingly good distance (many have reported gaining 15-20 yards or more with their mid irons), amazing feel even on off-center strikes, sound trajectory (a tendency for a straight shot or slight draw) and excellent forgiveness.  In terms of potential negatives:  some are a little bothered by the substantial offset, and others feel that the workability (shot shaping ability) of the irons could be better.

My rating:  4.8/5

4. Callaway Apex Iron

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the Apex iron here!

Price and where to buy online new:  $799.95 on Amazon (see chart for link)Callaway Apex Iron

Overview/Features:  See the “Overview and Features” section of the full Apex irons review (link above) for details.

Reception:  The reception for these irons are tremendously positive.  They have a 4.8/5 rating on Amazon and a score of 4.8/5 on Callaway’s website with over 120 reviews.  Almost all reviewers have lauded these irons for their excellent soft feel, extra distance (in part due to strong lofts) and mis-hit forgiveness.  Relatively speaking, though, it doesn’t appear to be the most forgiving iron on the market.

My rating:  4.8/5

5. Nike Vapor Speed Iron (2015)

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the Vapor Speed iron here!

Price and where to buy online new:  $499.98 at Dick’s Sporting Goods (see chart for link); stiff graphite set available on AmazonNike Vapor Speed Iron

Overview/Features:  See the “Overview and Features” section of the full Vapor Speed irons review (link above) for details.

Reception:  The Vapor speed irons have been received extremely well.  They have a 4.8/5 rating on Amazon and a 4.5-star rating on Nike’s official website.  Reviewers have lauded these irons for their great feel, aesthetics, distance and height, as well as being a big improvement over the previous year’s Nike Covert 2.0 irons.  Some feel that the forgiveness isn’t quit up to par with other irons in the game-improvement class, and also, some feel that the look at address isn’t very confidence-inspiring.

My rating:  4.7/5

6. PING G30 Iron

Price and where to buy online new:  Global Golf (call for price), $799.99 at Dick’s Sporting Goods for black dotPING G30 Iron

Overview/Features:  The Ping G30 irons offer progressive lengths and lofts, as well a thin face that will help you launch the ball high and long without sacrificing control.  Faster ball speeds are provided by the “Custom Tuning Port” (CTP) which sits very low and supports a thin face.  The low-back center of gravity (CG) optimizes launch and forgiveness while contributing to a solid feel.  Slightly longer heads also boost the moment of inertia (MOI), and a new sole design ensures solid contact.

For more information on the features and specifications of the G30 irons, see this page on PING’s official website.

Reception:  The G30 irons have received great ratings from consumers and professional critics alike.  They are generally regarded as being very versatile with top-of-the-line forgiveness, amazing feel and a plenty-high trajectory that still results in very satisfying distance results.  Drawbacks mostly come down to personal preferences and tastes.

My rating:  4.7/5

7. TaylorMade RSi 1 Iron (2015)

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the RSi 1 iron here!

Price and where to buy online new:  $699.99 on Amazon (see chart for link)TaylorMade RSi 1 Iron

Overview/Features:  See the “Overview and Features” section of the full RSi 1 irons review (link above) for details.

Reception:  As you might expect for a set of irons in the higher-end price range, the TaylorMade RSi 1 irons are generally rated very positively; they have a 4.9/5 customer score on Amazon.  Most reviewers have lauded these irons for their outstanding mis-hit forgiveness, consistent ball flight and long distance.  In terms of negatives, some find the black lines around the hitting area at address to be distracting.  Additionally, not everyone enjoys the feel at impact, which can be described as hollow or “clicky”.

My rating:  4.6/5

8. Cobra Fly-Z XL Iron (2015)

Check out Golfstead’s full review of the Fly-Z XL iron here!

Price and where to buy online new:  $319.99 on Amazon (see chart for link)Cobra Fly-Z XL Iron

Overview/Features:  See the “Overview and Features” section of the full Fly-Z XL irons review (link above) for details.

Reception:  The Fly-Z XL irons have been received very positively.  Customers and reviewers have lauded them for their solid workability (best for hitting a draw, but can be shaped any way), great forgiveness, accuracy, look and feel — nearly everything one would look for in a good iron.  In terms of negatives, some golfers tend to have difficulty engineering lower trajectory shots; also, some golfers have been dissatisfied with the carry distance of the irons and the clarity of mis-hit feedback.

My rating:  4.6/5


If you’re a beginner or intermediate golfer and are on a tight budget, something like the Cobra Baffler XL or Fly-Z XL would be an excellent choice.  If you’re willing to pay extra for something a little more high-end, you should check out irons like the Callaway XR or PING G30.

Like most things, which irons are best for you depends on your specific needs, preferences and budget.

Note that you can get all of the irons mentioned above used at lower prices through .

Best of luck shopping for a game-improvement iron set!


Images courtesy of:  Amazon

13 thoughts on “Best Game-Improvement Irons of 2015 (Reviews)

  1. Cherie

    Hey there,

    I just read your article all about the 2015 irons. As a casual golfer I really appreciate all the information you provided. As with any industry, equipment changes drastically from year to year and it’s hard to keep up. Your article was concise and gave me all the information I need.

    I bought my clubs several years ago and know that I should upgrade. But I really wonder if a new set of irons will help my game. I do know that practice will! ;o)

    Do you think that going to one of the many golf stores in my city and getting them to do their “test” thing is important? Can they really determine what might be the best set for me?

    Thanks for the reviews and videos.

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thank you for the comment. It’s likely that a new set of irons will help your game, but it depends on a huge number of factors — your skill level, your comfort level with your current irons, how old your current irons are relative to the new ones, your needs, your swing, etcetera. I would really need more information to be able to better help you in that regard.

      If you’re serious about getting the absolute most out of your irons, I’d say it is an excellent idea to test the ones you’re interested in at your local golf retailer. Various methods have been developed for fitting clubs to golfers, and it has been shown that it is almost always beneficial for their games. Not everyone will find it worth the extra cost, however.

      On the other hand, if you’re someone who just likes to have a good time on the course and only goes out once in a blue moon, it may not be that important. If you really want to try out your irons before you buy them, you can certainly go to your local golf store and see if they have them available for you to test in simulators and the like. Do remember that you can almost always find lower prices for off-the-rack irons online, and I link to several such locations in the article.

      Reply
  2. SantyG

    Hey Paul,

    Nice reviews. I used to work on a golf course as a caddy in CASA De Campo, Dominican Republic and I love golf. Your complete review is nice but I like the Ping irons because they are beautiful and comfortable.

    Thank you for the information. I am open to getting a quality set of irons and I will definitely be taking a closer look at this.

    Santy

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thanks for the nice words. PING certainly does make exceptional golf equipment. If you are considering the PING irons, I would recommend going through their online fitting process here so you have a better idea of what configuration you should be getting. Please feel free to ask me anything as you go through the buying process.

      Reply
  3. Susan

    It sounds like each of these club sets have both pros and cons, which only makes sense. There is no club that will work for everyone. However, it is nice to have someone narrow down the field of so many brands and styles to a manageable few. I’ll take this list with me when I go looking for new irons this spring. I’m sure that since each player’s swing is going to be different, it would be a good idea to try them out to find the right one for me. Thanks for posting.

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thanks for the comment Susan. It’s true — aside from the budget, there is no single “must-buy” when it comes to golf clubs (and most other golf equipment, for that matter) because everybody’s swing and body makeup are different.

      Keep in mind that things like club testing and club fitting will most likely cost a considerable amount of extra money (which not everyone finds worth it), although there are ways that you can get fitted for free.

      If you do end up looking online for great deals on irons, I would appreciate it if you could support Golfstead by clicking through my links to various retailers.

      Reply
  4. James W D

    So I would like to get into golfing now as I am getting older and finding more time & money on my hands. It all seems a bit overwhelming to me right now though.

    What would you recommend for a beginner as far as irons? I don’t have a ton to spend, but would like to get something that will help me learn the best without breaking the bank.

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Given what you’ve told me about your situation, it might be good for you to play better-player irons rather than game-improvement irons. Player irons are typically slimmer, more compact and offer more workability, but at the expense of forgiveness — this may not be a bad thing if you really want to challenge yourself to learn to hit the ball consistently solid and become a good player.

      Keep in mind that better-player irons are typically more expensive because most are forged and forging is a relatively expensive process. One example of a great player iron that is on the less expensive side is the Cobra Fly-Z+.

      Make no mistake, a good game-improvement iron can help you learn just as well. It’s really up to you. I would recommend looking at the iron(s) that is priced closest to your budget among those listed in this article or elsewhere. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
      1. James W D

        Thanks for the tips, much appreciated. I will keep your site in mind here as I move forward with this project when the weather warms up!

        Reply
  5. sameera

    Thanks for this, I’m in the market for a new set of irons, I have a mid-range budget and i can’t decide between the XRs and the RSi 1s. I’m going to do a little more research but I’ll probably end up getting the XR. I have had a lot of success with off-the-rack irons, usually steel with a regular flex. That Amazon price is awesome, cheaper than on the Callaway website. Thanks for the link!

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      It is indeed, sameera. Amazon is great for clubs; they often have the best prices aside from eBay (link at the end of the post).

      Reply
  6. bioelectrobot

    These golf clubs are quite expensive. I suppose for a golf enthusiast the price is worth it. With these prices, I would certainly hope the quality would be good and that the longevity of use is maximized.

    Very well done. You’ve reviewed a significant number of products here. Golf has been a difficult sport for me. Even at the driving range I struggle. However, I may just need better equipment. Whenever one wants to seriously improve any particular skill, without the right tool, I imagine progress will be quite limited.

    Thanks for the interesting information. These irons are very nice indeed.

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      Thanks. As you probably know, iron sets are generally the most expensive component of the bag; I try to include game-improvement irons that I believe provide the best value for the price, and this can include mid-range, low-end or high-end pricing. Any of these irons are excellent choices, even for someone who isn’t a golf enthusiast. If your budget is tight, consider something like the Cobra Baffler XL — as I mentioned, you can get a full set for less than $300. The most expensive ones have prices north of $1000, but that’s when you typically (not always) lose some value per dollar.

      Reply

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