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, I’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.
I have personally tested all of the iron models I review below. Each have their own set of features that set them apart from the rest, but all deliver excellent performance.
Note: This article will feature iron models from 2021 and years prior. Older iron models may be available from different sources, usually at a reduced price.
My Top Picks For Golf Irons For Mid-Handicappers
Based on my own testing, research, and experience, here are my top selections:
- Callaway Apex DCB 21 Irons
- TaylorMade P790 Irons
- Cobra KING RADSPEED Irons
- Callaway Apex 21 Irons
- PXG 0311 P GEN4 Irons
- TaylorMade SIM2 Max Irons
If I had to recommend one iron out of all the 2021 iron models I’ve tested, it would be the Apex DCB 21 by Callaway.
This would be the perfect 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 my 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 the ideal choice.
Having said that, what earns the Apex DCB 21 iron the #1 spot on our list is that it has a wide appeal and practically no standout weaknesses. You can read our full review of it here.
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.
The key technologies of the P790 iron are:
- a forged hollow-body construction: a fairly new trend in modern golf irons, this allows for sleeker, slimmer heads along with enhanced playability.
- SpeedFoam: this proprietary super-light urethane foam is injected inside the head just behind the face, improving ball speeds across the face as well as feel.
- redesigned low-profile tungsten weighting: positioned in the lower part of the head, this lowers the center of gravity (CG) and hence promotes a higher launch.
The stock shafts offered with the P790 irons are the True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 (steel) and UST Recoil 780/760 SmacWrap (graphite).
In this case, the steel shaft is recommended for more skilled players that don’t need help launching the ball high, so we generally recommend a graphite shaft for mid-handicappers.
- impressive forgiveness given low offset and other “players” characteristics
- easy to get the ball up in the air
- very long with fantastic feel
- does a beautiful job of balancing players benefits and GI benefits
- can have poor results if the shaft or grip are wrong
The TaylorMade P790 irons are geared towards more skilled players than the Apex DCB 21 irons (above) are. But what we’ve found is that the forgiveness is nearly as good.
This, along with the tremendous length, makes the P790 irons a great choice for mid-handicappers, particularly those who dislike the chunky look of super-GI irons. Just be sure to get a shaft and grip type that suit you.
Cobra Golf is another golf equipment manufacturer that has some big names behind it, including Bryson DeChambeau and Rickie Fowler.
Cobra offers a unique take on the modern performance iron. Its new KING RADSPEED iron excels in three main ways: low spin, very high forgiveness, and high ball speed.
Now, low spin isn’t strictly a good thing in irons because the goal is not to hit your iron shot as far as possible. But if you’re a mid-handicapper that doesn’t tend to have any trouble hitting high trajectories, the KING RADSPEED could be the iron for you.
The key technologies of the KING RADSPEED iron are:
- Radial Weighting Technology: weight is strategically placed relative to the CG, with a greater distance between heel and toe weighting. This improves ball speed in mis-hit areas.
- 3D-Printed Medallion: the nylon medallion of the KING RADSPEED iron is 3D-printed. Its intricate lattice structure dampens impact vibrations and saves weight that can be redistributed to optimize performance.
- ONE Length Option: sets can optionally be purchased that have a single length throughout the set. As seen with Tour players like Dechambeau, this can help promote accuracy and consistent ball striking.
- COBRA Connect Compatibility: offers GPS functionality and various analytics related to your clubs so that you can understand your game better. A mobile app is required for use.
The KING RADSPEED irons are available with KBS Tour 90 (steel) and UST Recoil 460 ESX (graphite) shafts, as well as the COBRA Connect-compatible Lamkin Crossline Black grip.
|Length (CC, not ONE Length)||35.75″-39.5″ (SW-4)|
- huge distance, with a ball that flies off the face, is a game-changer for many
- excellent speed and directional forgiveness on mis-hits, with very good dispersions
- many golfers just love the feel
- price is reasonable
- low spin can sometimes result in excessively low trajectories into greens
- the “3D-printed” marketing is a bit gimmicky
- you’re better off using a launch monitor instead of COBRA Connect
The Cobra KING RADSPEED irons are game-improvement irons through-and-through. They provide forgiveness and distance in spades.
Having said that, the low spin and strong lofts won’t suit slower swing speeds. Unless you’re a mid-handicapper who seeks a healthy amount of spin in your irons, you’re likely to do extremely well with the KING RADSPEED.
Think of Callaway’s Apex 21 iron as the Apex DCB 21 iron but slimmer and more like a true Apex.
There’s little doubt the Apex 21 is the best entry in Callaway’s Apex line, with big distance, better forgiveness than ever, and a nice “GI-players hybrid” look.
The Apex 21 irons have basically the same technologies as the Apex DCB 21, which we discussed in that section: an A.I. Flash Face Cup, Tungsten Energy Core, and forged blade feel.
The key differences lie in shape and weighting. The Apex 21 has a slightly smaller body, narrower sole, shallower cavity, less offset, and less MOI.
The stock shafts offered are excellent: the True Temper Elevate ETS (steel, 95g) and the UST Recoil DART (graphite, 70g). The stock grip is the Golf Pride ZGRIP Soft.
There is also a women’s version of the Apex 21 iron with altered swingweights, shafts and grips designed to maximize their performance.
- a better choice for golfers that don’t necessarily want an “ultra-forgiving” iron
- has the same performance power as the Apex DCB 21 iron
- is an improvement over previous Apex iron models, both in terms of performance and price at release
- soft yet solid feel that isn’t overly jarring around the perimeter
- golfers that need some help launching the ball should consider other models
- the price may not justify an upgrade, depending on the model and age of your current gamers
In a nutshell, the Apex 21 irons are perfect for the mid-handicapper who likes Callaway irons but would like to trade some forgiveness for more feel and workability.
Mid-handicappers may also prefer the Apex 21s if they naturally have a quick swing speed and/or hit a high trajectory. You can read our full review of them here.
PXG is a 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.
The 0311 P GEN4 is claimed by PXG to be the best iron they’ve ever made. It’s designed to provide an optimal balance of the big three performance measures: distance, forgiveness, and workability.
The 0311 P GEN4 irons have an average-size profile and are meant to appeal to wide range of golfers. The main technologies behind it are:
- XCOR: this is a proprietary polymer filling that is injected behind the face. Developed over the course of many years, it’s very soft and results in a highly explosive face with a very large sweet spot.
- Ultra-Thin Face: the face of the iron is just 0.058″ thick and made from high-strength HT1770 maraging steel. This leads to maximum COR and high ball speeds in mis-hit areas.
- Precision Weighting Technology: an (unprecedented) 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.
- Milled Back Surface: improves iron aesthetics without compromising performance.
- 5X Forged: forged five times from 8620 soft carbon steel, increasing strength, groove life, feel and looks.
These irons are highly customizable. The stock shaft options are the True Temper Elevate 95 (steel) and Mitsubishi MMT 70/80 (graphite).
- more ball speed than previous generations
- feel is just amazing
- ball flight is high and forgiveness is top-notch
- premium, very high-quality looks
- very expensive and unaffordable for many
- made by a relatively unknown company that doesn’t have decades of reputation backing it up
As a mid-handicapper, the PXG 0311 P GEN4 irons should be a top consideration if:
- you want a good amount of forgiveness balanced with other performance measures
- you want to try something different and go with a new, fresh brand
- you can handle the high cost
It’s especially advantageous to get fit for these irons in order to take advantage of the adjustable weight and ensure that you’re extracting the most performance possible.
Some mid-handicappers appreciate oversized irons that have a larger sweet spot and perhaps even a draw bias. If that’s you, then you should definitely take a look at TaylorMade’s SIM2 Max OS iron.
The defining feature of this iron is a new, proprietary Cap Back design that ultimately leads to more distance and forgiveness than previous models.
In comparison to the standard SIM2 Max iron, the SIM2 Max OS has an oversized profile that increases the size of the sweet spot, increases forgiveness, and adds stability for better mis-hit performance.
The main technologies of the SIM2 Max OS iron are:
- Cap Back Design: this consists of a lightweight composite material spanning the entire cavity. It adds rigidity to the upper part of the face, ultimately leading to a face that is more flexible and produces faster ball speeds in the most common impact points.
- Thru-Slot Speed Pocket: enhances face flexibility low on the face, resulting in more ball speed and forgiveness in that region. This works in tandem with the Cap Back to deliver unprecedented forgiveness across the face.
- ECHO Damping System: consists of a soft polymer blend placed in multiple contact points across the face. This greatly mitigates harsh mis-hit vibrations and promotes more of a forged-like feel.
- Inverted Cone Technology (ICT): each iron has a special distribution of face thickness that optimizes accuracy and performance. ICT also helps to mitigate the common right miss.
The stock shafts are the KBS Max 85 MT (steel, ideal for mid-high handicaps) and Fujikura Ventus Blue (graphite). The stock grip is the Lamkin Crossline 360.
- very easy to hit (just grip and rip)
- draw bias helps slicers a great deal
- very long, but also quite easy to get the ball up in the air
- solid, crisp feel
- affordably priced
- strong lofts can limit stopping power into greens
- high bounce can make skulls more likely
If you’re a mid-handicapper who is interested in a high-forgiveness iron (what they call a “super game-improvement iron”), the SIM2 Max OS is the perfect candidate.
We have found that it also really helps golfers who struggle with a slice hit straighter shots.
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, I tried to including 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
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 10), 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 I 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 good performance, I wouldn’t go under $500 in terms of cost.
In this guide, I have included iron models that span a wide price range, from around $800 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 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. I’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.