Best Game-Improvement Irons of 2015 (Reviews) (UPDATED)

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.

The great thing about these irons is that because of their age, you can typically find them at very low prices, even in new condition.

Considerations

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.

What are game-improvement irons?

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.

Note that exact prices depend on the set configuration, shaft material, shaft flex, and a few other factors, 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.


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

Full Review

callawayxr
Less than $300 on eBayStrengths:
• 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
Around $500 or less on eBayStrengths:
• 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
Around $300 on eBayStrengths:
• 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
$350 or less on eBay (with free shipping options)Strengths:
• 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
Less than $300 on eBayStrengths:
• 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
N/A4.7/5
7. TaylorMade RSi 1

Full Review

taylormadersi1
$200 or less on eBayStrengths:
• 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
Around $300-$350 on eBayStrengths:
• 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
N/A4.6/5

1. Callaway XR Iron (2015)

Callaway 2015 XR Iron

Prices & Where To Buy Online

You can get a set of XR irons for less than $300 on eBay. Another place to find really great prices is Callaway Golf Pre-Owned.

Overview & Features

See the relevant section in our full XR irons review for details.

Ratings

At the time of writing, the XR irons have a 4.7/5 on Global Golf, 4.5 rating on Amazon and a 4.9/5 rating (97% recommended) with hundreds of reviews (amazing!) on the CGPO website.

These are best-selling irons and one of Callaway’s biggest successes.

Reviewers have lauded them 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

Cobra Baffler XL Iron

Prices & Where To Buy Online

You can get a set of Baffler XL irons for $300 or less on eBay, with free shipping options.

Overview & Features

See the relevant section in our full Baffler XL irons review for details.

Ratings

The Baffler XL irons have been superbly received by customers. They have a 4.9/5 (100% recommended) on the DSG website and a 4.5/5 on Amazon, among other places.

What People Like

  • easy-to-hit
  • cool-looking profile
  • very generous mis-hit forgiveness
  • reliable distance
  • fantastic value for money
  • easy to get up in the air from a variety of lies

What People Don’t Like

  • some golfers find the weight of the iron to be uncomfortable
  • some find the trajectory to be too high for their tastes

My rating: 4.8/5


3. Callaway Big Bertha Iron (2015)

Callaway 2015 Big Bertha Iron

Prices & Where To Buy Online

You can get a set of Big Bertha irons for around $500 or less on eBay. Another really great place to look is CGPO.

Overview & Features

See the relevant section in our full Big Bertha irons review for details.

Ratings

The Big Bertha irons have been received extremely good; perhaps this isn’t surprising given the fact that, well… it’s Callaway!

They have glowing reviews on Amazon (4.8/5 stars with over 29 customer reviews) and on the CGPO website (4.9/5 stars and 95% recommended).

What People Like

  • amazingly good distance (many have reported gaining 15-20 yards or more with their mid irons)
  • amazing feel even on off-center strikes
  • solid trajectory (a tendency for a straight shot or slight draw)
  • excellent forgiveness

What People Don’t Like

  • some are a little bothered by the substantial offset
  • some feel that the workability (shot shaping ability) of the irons could be better

My rating: 4.8/5


4. Callaway Apex Iron

Callaway Apex Iron

Prices & Where To Buy Online

You can get a set of Apex irons for around $300 on eBay, depending on the exact configuration. I also strongly recommend you look at this CGPO page.

Overview & Features

See the relevant section in our full Apex irons review for details.

Ratings

The reception for these irons are tremendously positive.

They have a 4.8/5 rating on Amazon and a score of 4.9/5 (96% recommended) on Callaway’s website with hundreds of 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

Nike Vapor Speed Iron

Prices & Where To Buy Online

You can get a Vapor Speed iron set for $350 or less on eBay.

Overview & Features

See the relevant section in our full Vapor Speed irons review for details.

Ratings

The Vapor speed irons have been received extremely well. They have a 4.8/5 rating on Amazon, a 4.5 rating on Nike’s official website, and a 4.7/5 on Global Golf.

What People Like

  • great feel
  • great aesthetics
  • great distance and height
  • a big improvement over the previous year’s Nike Covert 2.0 irons

What People Don’t Like

  • some feel that the forgiveness isn’t quit up to par with other irons in the game-improvement class
  • some feel that the look at address isn’t very confidence-inspiring

My rating: 4.7/5


6. PING G30 Iron

PING G30 Iron

Prices & Where To Buy Online

You can get a set of G30 irons for less than $300 on eBay. Also take a look at the stock on Global Golf (call for the price).

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.

Ratings

The G30 irons have received great ratings from consumers and professional critics alike. For example, they have a 4.8/5 rating on Global Golf.

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

TaylorMade RSi 1 Iron

Prices & Where To Buy Online

You can get a set of RSi 1 irons very cheap at $200 or less on eBay. Also take a look at what’s available on Global Golf.

Overview & Features

See the relevant section in our full RSi 1 irons review for details.

Ratings

As you might expect for a set of irons that started 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 Global Golf with over 100 reviews, which is impressive. They also have a 4.3/5 on Amazon.

What People Like

  • outstanding mis-hit forgiveness
  • consistent ball flight and long distance

What People Don’t Like

  • some find the black lines around the hitting area at address to be distracting
  • 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

Cobra Fly-Z XL Iron

Prices & Where To Buy Online

You can grab a set of Fly-Z XL irons for around $300-350 on eBay, and possibly even cheaper on Global Golf.

Overview & Features

See the relevant section in our full Fly-Z XL irons review for details.

Ratings

The Fly-Z XL irons have been received very positively. They have a solid 5/5 rating on Global Golf.

What People Like

  • solid workability (best for hitting a draw, but can be shaped any way)
  • great forgiveness
  • exceptional accuracy, look and feel
  • has nearly everything one would look for in a good iron

What People Don’t Like

  • some golfers tend to have difficulty engineering lower trajectory shots
  • some golfers have been dissatisfied with the carry distance of the irons and the clarity of mis-hit feedback

My rating: 4.6/5


Conclusion

Because these irons have succeeding models currently on the market, their prices have fallen substantially. This is great for those who want to get in on the action without paying a premium for the latest club.

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. However, none of the irons listed are expensive these days.

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

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


Have you tried any of these game-improvement irons? Are you looking for an older and cheaper model? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

13 Comments

  1. Cherie December 18, 2015
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