Game-Improvement Irons; Help where you need it most. Our annual review of the best game-improvement irons on the market.

 

Callaway Apex

CALLAWAY
Apex
HOT: The Apex has a classic look but with the forgiveness golfers in this category need. The two-piece forged design, with a Carpenter 455 face plate, offers distance without compromising sound and feel. The long irons have tungsten in the sole to help you get the ball in the air.
NOT: A 2013 iron might get overlooked among the new models.
COMMENTS: (L) When you hit them, you can’t feel it, but the ball rockets off the face. (M) The long irons are really easy to hit.

Callaway XR

CALLAWAY
XR
HOT: If the Apex is designed for the better player in this category, the XR is for those looking for plenty of help. The offset is comforting without being a visual distraction, and the face cup (normally reserved for metalwoods)will give some golfers a distance boost they didn’t think existed.
NOT: If you need to shape a shot, the offset will make it difficult.
COMMENTS: (M) I love the rounded look, and the turf interaction was among the best I tested.

Cleveland CG Black CB

CLEVELAND
CG Black CB
HOT: Cleveland makes quality clubs for all kinds of players, and this iron is a terrific example. The 4 through 7-iron have a high-strength steel face for more ball speed, and the centre of gravity is towards the heel to help close the face; exactly what a player in this category needs.
NOT: When you set the 4-iron down, you can see some of the back at address. Not ideal.
COMMENT: (L) The UST Recoil shaft is light like graphite but feels like it has the stability of steel.

Cobra Fly-Z

COBRA
FLY-Z
HOT: We love the Fly-Z for its innovative features at a competitive price. The deep undercut has multiple benefits, including the creation of a large, unsupported face that produces lots of spring at impact. The groove story makes sense, too: less aggressive on the 3 through 6-iron and more aggressive on the short irons where spin and precision are needed.
NOT: Some clubs in this category get a lift from tour usage. Don’t expect Fly-Z to be one of them.
COMMENTS: (M) All the technology is hidden at address, and the ball pops off the face. It produces a crisp thud at impact, too.

Mizuno JPX-350

MIZUNO
JPX-850
HOT: Mizuno shows game-improvement savvy by producing an iron where the centre of gravity is lower than the JPX-825. The lower CG is closer to where everyday players hit the ball: low on the face. The dual-relief sole can plow through the thickest rough your superintendent can grow.
NOT: Mizuno has three irons in this category.  That’s not only confusing, it’s frustrating.
COMMENTS: (L) Not really a shotmaker’s club, but if you need distance it’s a good way to go. (M) On the feel spectrum, it’s far from Mizuno’s history of buttery feeling clubs. It’s firmer.

Mizuno JPX-350 Forged

MIZUNO
JPX-850 Forged
HOT: Typically, forged clubs are made from carbon steel. But for this JPX-850 Mizuno uses boron-infused steel – a material that’s 30 per cent stronger than carbon steel. This allows for a thinner face and faster ball speeds. It also permits a cavity design where weight is pushed to the perimeter to increase forgiveness. Mizuno’s expansive custom options are worth exploring, too.
NOT: This is on the better-player side of game improvement. Make sure you have enough game before you buy.
COMMENTS: (M) Love the chrome-on-chrome look. Very classy.

Mizuno MP-H5

MIZUNO
MP-H5
HOT: Mizuno rarely overhauls an iron model, choosing instead to make meaningful tweaks. On this club that means a thinner topline and a shorter blade length (versus the MP-H4). The 3 through 6-iron have a stainless-steel frame, a hollow body and a thin maraging-steel face insert for maximum springlike effect. And for you masochists out there, the company offers a forged “Hitogami” 1-iron, too.
NOT: Sorry, left-handers. You’re out of luck.
COMMENTS: (M) The turf interaction is excellent for a wider-soled iron. The distance consistency from shot to shot is impressive.

Nike Vapor Speed

NIKE
Vapor Speed
HOT: Nike took a metal-wood approach when designing this iron, and we admire the effort and execution. In clubs down to the 7-iron, a face made of high-strength steel alloy has been slimmed down to just 2.7 millimetres in the centre and even thinner (2.2 mm) on the outside. The thin face adds zip to your ball speed and allows weight to be positioned low and back to help get the ball in the air quicker.
NOT: The 3-iron is 39.75 inches long. That’s almost a 1-iron length.
COMMENTS: (M) There is a lightweight feel to these that makes them nearly effortless to swing.

Ping G30

PING
G30
HOT: The G-series iron line has been around for more than a decade, but it gets a fresh update with the G30. The lofts are stronger than the previous G25, and the sole contours and the bounce profiles more closely match the i25 players iron. Why? To prevent digging into the ground and keep it moving on its path through the turf. Also, don’t overlook the value of the stock CFS Distance shaft.
NOT: This is not the prettiest-looking club in the address position.
COMMENTS: (L) The weight in the head helps you get through the ball without overswinging.

TaylorMade RSI 1

TAYLORMADE
RSI 1
HOT: If you’re using players irons even though you’re having trouble getting out of the first round of the club championship, these make that transition to game-improvement easier to stomach. Instantly noticeable are the vertical face slots, which produce a springboard at impact. Less visible is the thin face – the thinnest ever on a TaylorMade iron. The result: a distance iron in a pleasing shape.
NOT: With the thin face comes a slight loss of feel.
COMMENTS: (L) The face has more slots than a casino, but there is nice consistency. I had the same ball contact every time.

Titleist AP1

TITLEIST
AP1
HOT: If you’re a former single-digit struggling to break 80, these will have appeal. The topline is generous without being bulky, and the tungsten in the toe of the long irons is useful in getting the ball airborne. The narrow sole in the short irons raises the centre of gravity to produce a flatter trajectory. That’s the kind of stuff serious golfers take seriously.
NOT: The Tour Velvet is a good grip, but perhaps something a little snazzier is in order.
COMMENTS: (H) It doesn’t look forgiving, but it is. My fat shots reached the front of the green instead of coming up short.

Srixon Z545

SRIXON
Z545
HOT: It doesn’t wow you with a lot of visible technology, but that doesn’t mean the horsepower isn’t real. The face insert is SUP10 steel, a material developed for car engines, that’s 10 per cent stronger than traditional 17-4 steel. The long and middle irons make use of tungsten in the toe to position the centre of gravity more in line with the centre of the face for even more metres.
NOT: The smallish head could intimidate those looking for help.
COMMENTS: (M) You might need a high-launching angle of attack to get it off the ground, but if you do, it’s plenty hot.

Tour Edge Exotics E8

TOUR EDGE
Exotics E8
HOT: When Exotics calls something its “most advanced,” you take notice. The irons have the deepest undercut cavity of any previous Exotics model to produce faster ball speeds. Tungsten weights low in the heel and toe provide the kind of forgiveness that saves strokes. You have to love the sticker price, too.
NOT: This club has too much going on in the back and, unfortunately, you see quite a bit of it in the address position.
COMMENTS: (H) A powerful flight. Short irons are a club longer than others.

(L) Low-Handicappper  |  (M) Middle-Handicapper  |  (H) High-Handicapper