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Irons are typically the most expensive part of your golf equipment, and this doesn’t change in the case of high handicappers.
For most people, buying a set of golf irons as a high handicapper can be a daunting and overwhelming experience, especially when buying for the first time.
Most high handicappers will want to prioritize distance and forgiveness, as this will help mitigate the effects of poor ball contact. On the other hand, some high handicappers may want to challenge themselves with well-rounded performers or even players irons.
In this article, we’ll give you a few guidelines as to what you should look for in a high-handicap golf iron set, and also review and compare a few of the best irons on the market for high handicappers that were released for the most current golf season or any year prior.
Each have their own set of features that set them apart from the rest, but all deliver excellent performance.
Our Top Picks For Irons For High Handicappers
Based on our own testing, research, and experience, here are our top selections:
- Callaway Rogue ST MAX OS Irons
- PING G425 Irons
- TaylorMade Stealth Irons
- Titleist T400 Irons
- Callaway Apex DCB 21 Irons
- LAZRUS Premium Golf Irons
- Cobra AIR-X Irons
- PXG 0311 XP GEN5 Irons
If we had to recommend one iron out of all the iron models we’ve tested, it would be the Rogue ST MAX OS by Callaway.
Designed for both high and mid-handicap players, the Rogue ST MAX OS provides a ton of forgiveness and high launch in a beefy, confidence-inspiring package that includes wide soles and significant offset.
This iron is unapologetically a game-improvement iron. It boasts a 5/5 (100% recommended) average customer rating on the Callaway store and won a gold medal on the 2022 Golf Digest Hot List.
- A.I. Flash Face: a complex face architecture unique to every iron in the set increases launch, improves spin consistency, optimizes landing angles, and boosts ball speeds (COR) to unprecedented levels.
- 450 Steel: this high-strength material combines with the Flash Face to further increase ball speeds across the face.
- Precision Tungsten Weighting: the center of gravity (CG) is precisely located with as much as 49g of high-density tungsten, improving launch conditions and speed across the entire face.
- Urethane Microspheres: these provide the benefits of urethane (absorbing unwanted vibrations and improving sound & feel) while still retaining the very high COR of the Flash Face Cup. Now, the microspheres are shifted farther up the face to the sixth groove.
The stock steel shaft is the True Temper Elevate MPH 85, and the stock graphite shafts are the Mitsubishi TENSEI AV Blue (65 and 75) and Project X Cypher Black 50 HB/IR.
- super long
- solid, satisfying feel
- great balance between distance, launch, spin, and stopping power
- very confidence-inspiring at address
- offset helps mitigate right miss
- quite affordable
- possibly a touch less forgiving than the Rogue ST MAX
- short irons can feel a bit clunky
The Callaway Rogue ST MAX OS irons address the main weakness of the Rogue ST MAX, providing more loft with a higher launch designed to hold more greens.
The thicker, more confidence-inspiring profile is meant to help higher handicaps shoot lower scores. Combine this with a high level of forgiveness, distance, great feel, and high customer ratings, and you have the perfect iron for a high handicapper.
PING was founded in 1959 by Karsten Solheim, a former General Electric engineer. It has long been known as a manufacturer of some of the finest irons in golf.
The G425 model is widely regarded as one of the best choices for high handicappers who seek well-balanced performance. This includes great forgiveness across the face, speed, launch, stopping power, and a compact profile.
The key technologies of the G425 irons are:
- Hydropearl Chrome Finish: repels moisture, maximizing performance in wet conditions.
- Tungsten Toe Screw & Hosel Weight: improve performance in mis-hit regions by expanding and reinforcing perimeter weighting.
- Hyper 17-4 Face: a stainless steel face with variable thickness and a metal-wood style design produces PING’s fastest ball speeds in the G-Series.
- Top-Rail Undercut & Patented Cascading Sole: these flex in a hinge-like fashion, resulting in increased ball speeds, higher launch, and better stopping power into greens.
- Multi-Material 3-Piece Badge: dampens unpleasant vibrations and frequencies by covering more of the face.
PING offers an array of steel and graphite stock shaft options including the PING Alta CB Slate, True Temper Dynamic Gold, and Nippus N.S. PRO MODUS 3 105. The stock grips are the Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360 and Tour Velvet Cord, which are compatible with Arccos Smart Sensors.
- elegant looks with minimal offset
- feels like a better-player iron
- straight, consistent ball flight
- pretty easy to launch up in the air
- not as long as expected
- many people dislike the Arccos Smart Grips
The PING G425 irons have characteristics of both game-improvement and players irons, which many high handicappers are sure to appreciate.
I’m a bit disappointed with the ball speed preservation on mis-hits (especially considering the forgiveness of the G425 driver line), and the performance gains over the previous G410 model are small, but other than that, there isn’t much to complain about.
With PING clubs in particular, I do highly recommend a fitting if possible so that you know what configuration will work best for you. You also might be able to score a really good deal on eBay.
The TaylorMade Stealth irons are designed to produce a ton of distance and forgiveness across the face.
Their goal is simple: to get you from the fairway to the green in fewer shots. And this is what most high handicappers strive for.
The Stealth iron is very popular among golfers, winning a gold medal on the 2022 Golf Digest Hot List and an average rating of 4.9/5 on Global Golf.
Most of the Stealth’s technologies have been featured in previous TaylorMade iron models:
- Cap Back W/ Toe Wrap: a next-generation design of the Cap Back spans the entire cavity and is designed to maximize face flexion at impact. It now wraps around the high toe area in a new “toe wrap” construction for faster ball speeds at all the common impact points.
- Echo Damping System: uses several contact points across the face to channel away harsh vibrations, providing more of a forged-like feel at impact.
- Inverted Cone Technology (ICT): a variable face thickness that expands the COR zone, increasing ball speeds over a larger area of the face around the sweet spot.
- Thru-Slot Speed Pocket: a slot at the bottom of the sole that is designed to increase flexibility, ball speed and forgiveness on shots hit low on the clubface, which is a common mis-hit area.
The stock steel shaft is the KBS MAX MT 85, and the stock graphite shaft is the Fujikura Ventus Red. The stock grip is the Lamkin Crossline 360.
- a distance machine
- forgiveness is as good as anything
- forged qualities are a nice bonus
- exceptional turf interaction
- not too expensive
- features don’t stand out much from previous models
- controllability into greens is limited by low spin
The Stealth irons should be at the top of your consideration list if you like the TaylorMade brand, want distance and forgiveness, but don’t necessarily care much about having a high level of control into greens.
The lower spin and trajectories can limit stopping power unless you have a high enough swing speed. But it’s worth noting that the vast majority of people who have tried the Stealth irons just love their performance.
You may think of Titleist as mainly catering to the professional crowd, but this isn’t really true; they also offer plenty of game-improvement options that live up to the Titleist standard of quality.
Their T400 model is the most forgiving iron in the T-Series and is is ideal for many high handicappers, particularly those who have moderate swing speeds. It’s designed for maximum distance, forgiveness, and high launch in an oversized head.
The main features of the T400 are:
- Super Thin L-Face: found in the 5-7 irons, this thin L-Face insert increases energy transfer to the ball. The L-Face wraps around the sole, preserving ball speed low on the face.
- Strategic Tungsten Weighting: up to 100 grams of tungsten is strategically placed in the toe and heel of the 5-7 irons, lowering the center of gravity (CG) and increasing launch.
- Hollow Construction: allows for substantial weight savings that are redistributed to increase MOI, resulting in more forgiveness across the face.
- Split Sole Design: this unusual design preserves excellent game-improvement distance and forgiveness while helping the turf interaction feel more like a players iron.
The featured stock shafts are the True Temper AMT Red (steel, mid-high launch) and Mitsubishi FUBUKI MV 50/45 (graphite, high launch). The stock grip is the Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360.
- amazing distance
- some of the best forgiveness on the market
- thick and confidence-inspiring at address
- doesn’t sacrifice launch for added length
- can be challenging to hold some greens
The Titleist T400 irons are insanely long and, despite the very strong lofts, manage to produce a nice high launch thanks to the low center of gravity. Stopping power is a bit lacking, however, which means it can be difficult to hold some greens.
The T400 irons are easy for high handicappers to pick up and start swinging with great results. If you’re a fan of Titleist equipment, you should give this iron very serious consideration.
The Callaway Rogue ST MAX iron featured above has a very chunky look that may be unappealing to some high handicappers.
Enter the Apex DCB 21. This is the perfect fit for a high handicapper who wants a very healthy dose of forgiveness and distance, but also with feel and looks that resemble a players iron.
The Apex DCB 21 iron has a lot going for it. Its key technologies are:
- A.I. Flash Face Cup: designed by artificial intelligence, this consists of a complex face architecture that is unique for every iron in the set. It results in unprecedented ball speeds, distance control, and spin robustness.
- Tungsten Energy Core: up to 50 grams of tungsten are contained in the mid and long irons, allowing the center of gravity (CG) to be precisely positioned for high launch and added forgiveness.
- Premium Forged Feel: the body is made from 1025 mild carbon steel, while proprietary urethane microspheres help absorb mis-hit vibrations without sacrificing feel or sound.
As is standard with Callaway, the Apex DCB 21 irons have excellent stock shaft and grip options that the majority of golfers are sure to have success with.
- produces mid-high launch, low spin & high ball speed, allowing for big distance with stopping power into greens
- exceptional forgiveness
- benefits from powerful performance-enhancing technologies
- has some of the best turf interaction out there
- lower spin can be problematic in certain situations
- has many of the drawbacks that come from more forgiving irons including reduced workability and shot feedback
We think the Apex DCB 21 irons belong firmly in the game-improvement category. They’re too forgiving to be considered a players iron, yet the spin rate is too low to be considered a “max” game-improvement iron.
This is why, if you’re a high handicapper that wants great forgiveness but nothing extreme one way or the other, this iron is an excellent choice. It has a wide appeal and practically no standout weaknesses.
We understand that some high handicappers aren’t willing to pay the premium price tag attached to “big name” brands. That’s completely understandable.
In that case, one of your best options are the LAZRUS irons. These were designed with weekend warriors and normal everyday golfers in mind, and the performance is comparable to many irons that cost at least three times as much!
These best-selling irons have glowing customer reviews and are great all-around performers, offering forgiveness, distance, spin, feel and playability in an oversized cavity-back design. Deep grooves provide enhanced spin and control.
The LAZRUS irons come with regular-flex stepped steel shafts and custom LAZRUS grips.
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- fantastic value for a very affordable price
- feels like a premium club
- good distance
- crisp sound
- good spin & control
- only one shaft and flex option
- shaft and grip are not the greatest
The LAZRUS irons are terrific for the price. Are they truly on the same level as irons from premium brands like Callaway or PXG? Probably not, but they’re plenty good enough for most people. As a nice bonus, you can even pick up a 1 or 2-iron if you want.
The main problem with these irons is that you’re locked into one mediocre shaft and one mediocre grip. In addition, many golfers would benefit from a different shaft flex but there’s only one flex option.
Founded in 1973 by amateur golf champion Thomas Crow, Cobra has grown to be one of the biggest brands in golf equipment, maintaining endorsement deals with many top pros.
If you’re looking for a lighter club that launches high and provides maximum stopping power into greens, you can’t get much better than the AIR-X, especially since many high handicappers have slower swing speeds.
The main features of the AIR-X irons are:
- Lightweight Design: the head, shaft and grip are lighter than normal, making the iron easy to swing for players with slower swing speeds.
- Variable Thickness Face: a “fast face” is thinner in the heel and toe for enhanced ball speed preservation on mis-hits.
- Low-Profile Design: an easy launch is enabled by a cavity-back design with weaker lofts.
- Offset Hosel: helps reduce or eliminate misses to the right.
- Upright Lie Angles: lie angles in the longer irons are more upright which helps promote the squaring of the club at impact.
The stock steel shaft is the Cobra FST Ultralite (97g), and the stock graphite shaft is the Cobra Ultralite (45, 50). The stock grip is the Lamkin R.E.L. Standard 58R.
- super lightweight and easy to swing
- excellent forgiveness
- no obvious weaknesses
- great for seniors and novice golfers
- very affordable
- availability outside of the Cobra store is limited
The Cobra AIR-X irons are a refreshing change from the usual expensive “maximum distance and forgiveness irons” that we see come out these days.
The light weight creates an ideal opportunity to gently build up your endurance and the strength of your golf muscles so that you can eventually grow out of the “high handicapper” classification. And the affordability is the sweet cherry on top.
Having said that, they’re probably not suitable for those with fast swing speeds or excessively high RPMs.
PXG is a relatively new golf equipment manufacturer that was founded in 2014 and has quickly gained a foothold in the industry. It is backed by a slew of PGA Tour professionals including Zach Johnson and James Hahn.
Their 0311 XP GEN5 model is all about maximum forgiveness. This iron was engineered to industry-leading standards and is claimed by PXG to be the benchmark to which all other game-improvement irons are measured.
Of all the irons in the 0311 GEN5 line, the XP has the most offset, widest sole, and longest blade. The key technologies of the 0311 XP GEN5 are:
- Ultra-Thin Face: the face of the iron is just 0.058″ thick and made from high-strength HT1770 maraging steel. Combined with the new XCOR2, this leads to maximum COR and high ball speeds in mis-hit areas.
- XCOR2: this is a proprietary polymer filling, designed specifically for GEN5 irons, that is injected behind the face. It’s very soft, and its light weight reduces the mass of the core so that more weight can be placed low and around the perimeter for higher MOI.
- Robotic Precision: a robotic polishing and laser welding process produces extremely precise sole and face perimeter geometry. This ensures high strength and consistency from iron to iron.
- Precision Weighting Technology: in addition to five tungsten heel/toe weights, a large weight on the back of the iron can be adjusted to achieve optimal personalized performance. This is meant to be used during the fitting process and not after the purchase.
- Power Channel: this U-shaped imprint on the inside of the face improves face flexion in the top region, increasing ball speed and improving launch.
- 5X Forged: forged five times from 8620 soft carbon steel, increasing strength, groove life, feel and looks.
- Milled Back Surface: improves iron aesthetics without compromising performance.
These irons are highly customizable. The stock shaft options are the True Temper Elevate 95 (steel) and Project X Cypher 60i 5.5 (graphite).
- large, confidence-inspiring clubhead
- most forgiving model in the 0311 GEN5 family
- exceptional ball speeds
- super soft feel
- wide sole for superb turf interaction
- very expensive
- strong lofts and lower spin limits stopping power into greens
PXG continues to innovate and improve with each new generation of golf clubs, and the 0311 XP GEN5 is no exception.
This iron is best suited for the high handicapper who just wants to hit it straighter and longer, thus reaching the green in fewer shots. Launch angles are impressive considering the strong lofts.
PXG also offers what they call an “Xtreme Dark” finish with a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating. This coating, which is unique to golf, has extremely high wear resistance, so it’s a nice bonus to have this option.
As a high handicapper, when you’re looking to invest in an iron set that will serve you for years to come, there are some key things that you should take into consideration.
1. Your Goals
Your performance goals will drastically change the kinds of irons you should consider.
In particular, how much forgiveness do you want in your iron? Do you want an iron with more of a balanced look and feel that will challenge your game, or do you want to play it safe with a chunkier profile?
In general, high handicappers are expected to play game-improvement irons because they would benefit from the forgiveness offered. But this certainly isn’t the only way to go.
If you play a less forgiving iron, you may score worse initially, but over time, you’ll learn to adjust and improve your ball striking.
Recreational golfers may just want to enjoy themselves with a GI iron. But those who are more serious about improving their game may want to consider irons that trade some forgiveness for added control and feel. This is why, in this guide, we tried to include irons with varying forgiveness levels.
2. Iron Style
Irons normally come in two different styles: cavity back and muscle back.
The cavity back features a hollow construction on the back of the head that is ideal for amateur golfers since it offers a lot of forgiveness both in terms of accuracy and distance.
The muscle back, which is almost always forged, gives the golfer better feel and better control to shape shots. Hence, it is preferred by seasoned players who have the skill and experience to control their ball.
As you might guess, a high handicapper should generally steer clear of muscle back irons as they’re just very unlikely to do well with them. Cavity back irons will offer the forgiveness across the face that the typical high handicapper needs.
3. Clubhead Size
Irons come is a variety of shapes and sizes. Better players tend to prefer a smaller-sized club head because it allows for more touch, precision and control.
Larger club heads, which are ideal for high handicappers, typically fall into one of two categories: game-improvement or max game-improvement.
Game improvement irons normally have more offset, longer blade lengths, thicker top lines, and wider soles, all of which are designed so that the club is easier to hit and sub-optimal contact still produces a decent result.
Max (or super) game-improvement irons have more of all of this — the most offset, thickest top lines, widest soles, and longest blade lengths. The goal of this is to provide as much forgiveness as possible.
The shaft of an iron has a big influence on swingweight, feel, trajectory and spin. Choosing the right shaft is a highly individual matter.
When you’re looking for a good iron set for your needs, pay attention to the shaft. Shafts are made out of two types of materials: graphite and steel.
Graphite shafts tend to be lighter and more flexible than steel shafts, but they are less common with irons than with woods and drivers.
For some high handicappers with slower swing speeds, graphite might be a good choice because it will allow them to generate more clubhead speed through the ball.
If you’re strong enough or have a high enough swing speed, steel can be preferable because it is generally heavier and is less liable to deviate from the plane during the swing.
These days though, there is not a clear cut answer as to whether amateurs would benefit more from steel or graphite shafts. Professionals use both. You’ll have to figure out yourself whether you perform better with steel or graphite shafts.
Another important factor related to the shaft is flex. It’s important to know which flex suits you best because it can make a big difference in your performance. In general, faster swing speeds call for a stiffer flex.
5. Your Handicap
While a mid handicap typically falls in the range of 11-20, a high handicap is normally 20 or greater.
You might be a high handicapper, but where you are on that handicap range can give you a hint as to what type of iron you’d play best with.
For example, if you’re on the low end of the high-handicap range (around 20), you might opt for a standard game-improvement iron or players-GI hybrid type iron.
On the other hand, if your handicap is closer to 30 or beyond, you might choose a super GI iron which offers the most forgiveness.
The price of irons and golf equipment in general continues to go up due to inflation, supply conditions, and other factors.
These days, not everyone can afford iron sets that cost $1500+, and fortunately, there are options that cost well below this amount.
When it comes to irons, it’s not at all uncommon to find that you perform better with an $800 set than with a $2000 set. This is why, unless you have a big budget, you shouldn’t worry about an iron being “too cheap”.
There is a limit to this, though; if you’re looking for great performance, we wouldn’t go under $500 in terms of cost.
In this guide, we’ve included iron models that span a wide price range, from around $300 to $2000+. But the great thing is that there are ways to reduce both the final cost and risk of the purchase.
For example, one of our top recommended online golf equipment stores, Global Golf, offers club trade-ins as well as a program called Utry that lets you try an iron before you buy it. There has never been this much allowance for finding your ideal clubs, and you should take advantage.
A set of reliable, quality irons can be a huge boon to a golfer’s toolkit. Finding a model that does the job you want it to do as a high handicapper is certainly possible with some research.
There are many things to look out for. Some irons provide better forgiveness and more distance, while others sacrifice some of this in order to provide better control and feel.
While it’s suggested that high handicappers play game-improvement irons because of their forgiveness and distance, they could do well with other types of irons as well.
Each of the iron models reviewed above deliver exceptional performance. We’ve given you the information you need to make a decision; now it’s up to you to go the rest of the way.
I highly recommend reading consumer and professional reviews to acquire some useful insights as to how iron models actually perform. This will help you a lot in the decision-making process.
Thanks for reading this guide. Which irons are you interested in as a high handicapper? Feel free to share by leaving a comment below.