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Irons are typically the most expensive part of your golf equipment, and this doesn’t change in the case of mid-handicappers.
For most people, buying a set of golf irons as a mid-handicapper can be a daunting and overwhelming experience, especially when buying for the first time.
I remember many years ago when I went looking to buy a good set of irons as a mid-handicapper; I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing. Do you prioritize distance, forgiveness, or launch?
In this article, we’ll give you a few guidelines as to what you should look for in a mid-handicap golf iron set, and also review and compare a few of the best irons on the market aimed at mid-handicappers that were released for the most current golf season or any year prior.
Note: Golfstead has tested and/or conducted in-depth research into all of the products featured in this guide. Our editorial process for these rankings takes into account a mix of many factors which may include performance, reliability, usability, value for money, cost, and the general consensus from other users of the product. The list that follows may be reassessed or updated over time. We do not guarantee that other users will have the same or similar experience with the products as described on this page.
Our Top Picks For Irons For Mid-Handicappers
Based on our own testing, research, and experience, here are our top selections:
- TaylorMade 2021 P790 Irons
- Callaway Apex DCB 21 Irons
- PING G430 Irons
- Titleist T300 Irons
- PXG 0311 P GEN6 Irons
- Srixon ZX5 Mk II Irons
- Callaway Paradym Irons
- TaylorMade Stealth Irons
TaylorMade is a top golf equipment brand that has developed high-performing irons for decades.
The P790 iron, in particular, has elements of a players iron such as a forged construction and a classic design, but yet it has superb distance and forgiveness that really widen its appeal. And the 2021 model offers even better launch and forgiveness than the 2019 version.
The key technologies of the 2021 P790 iron are:
- Intelligent Sweet Spot: this is based on data of the most common impact points across thousands of iron shots. It’s said to be 15-30% larger than that of the 2019 model, and it’s positioned lower on the face to capture more off-center hits.
- SpeedFoam Air: this proprietary super-light urethane foam is injected inside the head just behind the face, improving ball speeds as well as feel. It’s 69% lighter than the 2019 model which further optimizes launch conditions.
- Thin-Wall Construction: the head up to 37.5% thinner in certain strategic locations, enabled by a new 8620 carbon steel construction. This allows the CG to be lowered substantially, and it works with a 4140 steel L-face that is just 1.5mm thick to maximize face flexibility (and hence ball speeds) without sacrificing feel.
- Tungsten Toe Weighting: up to 31 grams of tungsten, more than twice as much as the 2019 model, is placed in the toe to increase launch, stability and forgiveness.
The stock shafts are the True Temper Dynamic Gold VSS Pro, KBS TOUR LITE, and Mitsubishi MMT. The stock grip is the Golf Pride ZGRIP 360.
- more speed without sacrificing stopping power
- great forgiveness across the face
- higher trajectory than previous P790 model
- elite, premium looks
- solid, pure feel
- doesn’t do anything poorly
The TaylorMade 2021 P790 irons are well suited for golfers in the 5-20 handicap range, which includes mid handicappers.
It has a bit of everything: distance, forgiveness, a premium solid feel, playability, controllability, and looks. It’s quite pricey, but it’s well worth it. Just be sure to get a shaft and grip that suit you.
The Apex DCB 21 by Callaway is an ideal fit for the mid-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
- terrific 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
In our view, the Apex DCB 21 irons belong firmly in the game-improvement category — they’re too forgiving to be considered a players iron, and the spin rate is too low to be considered a “max” game-improvement iron.
This is why, if you’re a mid-handicapper that wants great forgiveness but nothing extreme one way or the other, this iron is an excellent choice.
Having said that, what earns the Apex DCB 21 iron a high rank on our list is that it has a wide appeal and practically no standout weaknesses. You can read our full review of it here.
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.
We consider their G430 model to be one of the best choices for mid handicappers who seek high performance in every category: outstanding forgiveness across the face, tremendous distance, a high launch, stopping power, and a compact address look.
The key technologies of the G430 irons are:
- PurFlex Technology: a new badge design consists of seven “flex zones” that increase flexion and ball speeds across the face. It also works with the lower CG to improve sound and feel.
- Hyper 17-4 Face: a stainless steel face with variable thickness created through a proprietary heat-treating process. It’s 3% thinner than the previous generation, leading to even faster ball speeds and a higher flight.
- Tungsten Weights: a very high MOI is enabled by tungsten toe and shaft tip weights, improving performance in mis-hit regions.
- Optimized Shape: a shorter hosel lowers the CG, aligning it with the force line and leading to more solid impact low on the face. In addition, bounce is increased by 1° to improve turf interaction and minimize heavy strikes.
- Hydropearl 2.0 Chrome Finish: repels moisture, maximizing performance in wet conditions.
PING offers an array of steel and graphite stock shaft options including the PING Alta CB Black, True Temper Dynamic Gold, and Nippon 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.
The G430 iron is also available in a High Loft (HL) variant, which consists of a lighter stock shaft, lighter stock grip, and lighter tip weights in the head. The G430 HL is designed to help slower swingers increase their ball speed and launch.
- longer and more forgiving than the G425s
- consistent ball flight
- stopping power is impressive
- high launch despite the strong lofts
- stable feel with quiet sound at impact
- badge aesthetic is unappealing to many
- very strong lofts
In our experience, the G430 is both more forgiving and longer than the G425 with little to no reduction in stopping power.
While its looks may be controversial, it certainly doesn’t leave you wanting in the performance department. Distance, forgiveness, launch and feel are all there for the mid handicapper.
With PING clubs in particular, I do 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.
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.
We feel that their 2021 T300 iron, which sits between the less-forgiving T200 and super-GI T400, is an excellent option for mid-handicappers. It’s designed for launch, distance, forgiveness, and premium feel in a chrome head.
The three main features of the T300 are:
- Max Impact Technology: an enhanced polymer core is located directly behind the face. This ‘hidden power source’ improves the mass efficiency of the club, improves feel and feedback, and increases ball speed.
- Variable Face Thickness: in the long and mid irons, the face gets thinner as you move towards the heel. This is designed to improve performance in what has historically been one of the worst-performing mis-hit regions.
- Tungsten Weighting: in addition to using 40% more tungsten in the head, Titleist uses a denser D18 tungsten, which is put through a 2000°F brazing process used in aerospace construction. This leads to solid Tour-like feel while providing an optimal balance of forgiveness, speed and launch.
Titleist offers an array of steel and graphite stock shaft options including the True Temper AMT, Project X, and Mitsubishi TENSEI AV. The stock grip is the Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360.
- crazy long and very consistent
- great forgiveness
- solid launch
- feels like a players iron
- on the chunky side in terms of appearance
The 2021 version of the T300 is a clear improvement over the previous T300 model. One of its greatest strengths is having a feel that resembles a premium players iron while delivering the distance and forgiveness you would expect from a game-improvement iron.
It’s geared towards golfers that want a good deal of forgiveness but aren’t willing to go as far as the “max game-improvement” category.
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 Joel Dahmen.
Their 0311 P GEN6 model is all about blending workability and forgiveness. This iron was engineered to industry-leading standards and has an even thinner face than the previous generation, resulting in the highest COR and ball speeds PXG has ever produced.
Compared to the XP model in the 0311 GEN6 family, the P has considerably less offset, a narrower sole, and a cleaner aesthetic. The key technologies are:
- Variable Ultra-Thin Face: the face of the iron is just 0.05″ thick (15% thinner than the GEN5) 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 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.
- 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 MP 95 R (steel) and Project X Cypher 60i 5.5 (graphite).
- faster ball speeds off the face compared to GEN5
- workable, but also long and forgiving
- feel is solid but sound is soft and quiet
- sharp, premium, luxurious look
- unique dark finish available
- very expensive
- spin is on the low side
PXG continues to build on their previous iron models, with the 0311 P GEN6 being even longer and more forgiving than the GEN5 model.
This does come at a bit of a cost: spin is rather low for a players iron. However, much of this is compensated for in the form of higher launch, so stopping power is still good.
If you can handle the high cost of these irons and can access a custom fitting, there’s absolutely no reason not to give them a try. You might just be blown away by the performance.
Many people are familiar with Srixon as one of the top manufacturers of golf balls. It turns out that they make excellent golf clubs too.
Srixon’s ZX5 Mk II can be considered a ‘players distance’ iron, sitting between the max game-improvement ZX4 Mk II and players ZX7 Mk II. It’s designed for low to mid handicaps and is engineered for a slim address look with game-improvement performance and playability.
The ZX5 Mk II makes some small improvements and refinements over the previous model ZX5, but the core tech is the same. The iron won a gold medal on the 2023 Golf Digest Hot List.
The main technologies of the ZX5 Mk II are:
- Mainframe: this is a milled pattern on the back of the iron that maximizes COR for more ball speed and distance. The latest iteration of this technology also lowers the CG and improves consistency.
- Tour V.T. Sole: a V-shaped sole, with higher bounce on the leading edge and lower bounce on the trailing edge, is designed to glide through the turf so that hitting behind the ball is much less penalizing.
- Progressive Grooves: grooves become sharper, narrower and deeper in the short irons and wedges in order to generate maximum spin and stopping power.
- Multi-Piece Construction: combines a forged SUP10 face with a forged 1020 carbon steel body and tungsten in the long and mid irons. The result is increase MOI, stability, forgiveness, speed and distance, as well as less vibrations on impact.
- Sole Notches: located on the heel and toe, these are designed to improve workability without sacrificing forgiveness.
The ZX5 Mk II irons come stock with the KBS TOUR LITE and UST Mamiya Recoil DART 75/65 shafts. The stock grip is the Golf Pride Tour Velvet 360.
- great balance between players and GI performance
- higher launch than the ZX5
- outstanding turf interaction
- superb forgiveness
- quality stock shaft options
- not much longer than the more workable ZX7 Mk II
- too similar to the previous-generation ZX5
The Srixon ZX5 Mk II is simply a great iron that performs just as well as irons from name brands like Callaway, TaylorMade and Titleist. The gains over the ZX5 are very marginal, but we find that the launch of the Mk II tends to be slightly higher which is always welcome.
The mix of players and game-improvement characteristics makes it an attractive option for many mid-handicappers. We just wish it was a little more affordable than the current four-figure price tag for a full set.
The Paradym is a new ‘players distance’ iron from Callaway that is the first to utilize an A.I.-designed Forged Face and Speed Frame construction. Other technologies provide soft feel, premium sound, and forgiveness.
This iron has great ratings of 4.6/5 (91% recommended) on the Callaway store and won a gold medal on the 2023 Golf Digest Hot List. Its key technologies are:
- A.I.-Designed Forged 455 Face: Callaway’s A.I. Face Technology is applied to a high-strength forged 455 stainless steel face to create their highest-performing forged face yet. This application is unique to each iron in the set, thus optimizing speed, spin and launch.
- Hollow Body W/ Speed Frame Construction: the Forged 455 Face Cup is supported and stabilized by a Speed Frame construction as part of a hollow-body design. The added stiffness leads to more face flexion and ball speeds.
- Dual Tungsten Weighting: up to 67g of internal and external tungsten weights are positioned to optimize launch conditions and greatly enhance forgiveness.
- Urethane Microspheres: combine with the forged face to deliver premium, high-quality sound and a soft feel.
- Pre-Worn Leading Edge: the leading edge is rolled into the sole so that it sits closer to the ground at address, allowing the iron to better slice through the turf in firm conditions.
The stock shafts are the 2023 True Temper Elevate MPH 95, ALDILA ASCENT PL Blue 50 HB/IR, and Project X HZRDUS Gen 4 Silver. The stock grip is the Callaway Universal (51g).
- as long as the Rogue ST MAX with better stopping power
- above average forgiveness for a “players’ distance” iron
- great playability throughout the set
- amazing bag appeal
- consistently soft feel with good mis-hit feedback
- spin could be a little higher
- doesn’t know what it wants to look like at address
With “players’ distance” irons like the Callaway Paradym, the goal is to deliver game-improvement performance in a slimmer package that looks more like a players iron.
While the Paradym achieves this goal in many respects, I think the thick top line and wide sole really hold it back from having a genuine better-player look. But on the other hand, we think this is what makes it especially suitable for mid handicappers.
The TaylorMade Stealth irons are similar to most other game-improvement irons in that they’re designed for essentially the same purpose: to produce a ton of distance and forgiveness across the face.
The goal of the Stealth irons is simple: to get you from the fairway to the green in fewer shots. It’s very popular among golfers, winning a gold medal on the 2022 and 2023 Golf Digest Hot List and enjoying average ratings of 4.8/5 (97% recommended) on the TM store and 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.
As a mid-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. They are:
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 players-like look and feel that will challenge your game, or do you want to play it safe with a chunkier profile?
In general, mid-handicappers are expected to play game-improvement irons because such irons tend to be in line with their skill level. 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 designed for low-handicappers or even scratch golfers. 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 professionals who have the skill and experience to control their ball.
A mid-handicapper might want irons that have game-improvement features but also offer the playability and feel that more skilled golfers seek.
3. Clubhead Size
Irons come is a variety of shapes and sizes. Professionals tend to prefer a smaller-sized club head because it allows for more touch, precision and control.
Medium-sized clubs are great for people who aren’t total hacks but are looking to improve their game, such as mid-handicappers.
Large club heads are very forgiving and come the closest to guaranteeing that you hit a solid shot, making them ideal for amateurs and newbies.
The shaft of the club 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.
For new or inexperienced golfers, graphite might be a good choice because it will allow those with slower swing speeds to generate more club head 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.
5. Your Handicap
While a high handicap is typically 20 or greater, a mid handicap normally falls in the range of 11-20.
You might be a mid-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 mid-handicap range (around 11), you might opt for an iron with a little less forgiveness.
Conversely, if you’re on the high end of the range (around 18), you might choose an iron with more forgiveness and a thicker profile.
Not everyone can afford iron sets that cost $2000+ like the PXG model featured on this page, 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 a $800 set than with a set that costs $1900.
This is why, unless you have a big budget, you shouldn’t worry about choosing a model that is considered “cheap”. There is a limit to this, though; if you’re looking for good performance, we wouldn’t go under $500 in terms of cost.
In this guide, we’ve included iron models that span a wide range of prices. 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 mid-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 no iron will tick every box, many do well to satisfy the majority of them.
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. Feel free to share, leave a comment below, or check out our guide for the best golf rangefinders to supplement your course play.