What you need to understand about irons is that brand new ones won’t magically fix your game overnight. That being said, if you’re a beginner or high handicapper, having an iron set that’s long and super forgiving will help you play your best golf, will boost the confidence, and will push you to get better.
Here are the 3 best irons for average golfers:
- Taylormade M6 (best overall iron set)
- Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo (most forgiving iron set)
- Cleveland Launcher CBX (best budget-friendly iron set)
If I was a beginner or higher handicap and was in the market for a new iron set, these are the ones I’d consider. They all offer the forgiveness and distances you’d be looking for, but each is slightly different. The one you decide to go with will depend on what exactly you need and your budget.
What Score Does An Average Golfer Shoot?
According to the USGA, the average golfer shoots 91 on a par 72 golf course. If you took into account every one that doesn’t record their handicap, the average score would be closer to 100.
If you’re an average golfer then your handicap is somewhere above 20. Anything under 10 would be considered a low handicap and anything between 11-19 is considered a mid handicap.
Shooting somewhere between 91 and 100 means you’re either a beginner or high handicap. I always thought most golfers shot in the 80s, but I was pretty far off with that. If you’re a complete beginner and can shoot this, I’d say you’re doing pretty well.
I looked on the internet to find the average score for all golfers and USGA said it was somewhere around 91. That’s actually a bit misleading and doesn’t paint the whole picture.
Think about the golfers who only go out a few times a month. How many of them record their handicap?
Most weekend golfers don’t track their handicap, and if they did, the average score would probably be closer to 100. This takes into account all skill levels and all age groups.
I don’t think there’s an actual definition of the different handicaps, but here’s how I look at it:
- If you shoot under 80 = low handicap.
- If you shoot 80-90 = mid handicap.
- If you shoot above 90 = high handicap.
If you can consistently break 90 then you might want to get a different set of irons. We made a different list that should perform a bit better for you.
When’s The Right Time To Upgrade Irons?
If you want to take your game to the next level, but you have an old rusty set from the 80s, it might be time for an upgrade. Clubs over the past few years have made big improvements, but that being said, you don’t need to spend a fortune and you don’t need the newest model out there.
When Your Irons Are More Than 5 Years Old
Clubs that were made over the past few years (2015 on) are way better than in previous years. They hit the ball longer, they’re almost too forgiving, and it’s way easier to launch the ball high.
I can almost guarantee that if you have clubs from before 2010, getting something newer will shave a couple of strokes off your game. Don’t think they’ll fix a slice overnight or anything like that, but you’ll notice a big difference.
What I will say though is that I really hope you don’t go out every year and buy something new. Clubs over the past 5 years pretty much go the same distance and they’re just as forgiving. Don’t waste your money.
When You Go From High To Mid Handicap
If you bought a set of irons when you were a complete beginner, it might be time to upgrade to something more suitable for a mid handicapper. A couple of the options I’ll talk about will work well for both skill levels but it is something you’ll want to be aware of.
Don’t get me wrong, you could break 100, break 90, and work your way to the low 80s with game improvement irons. All I’m saying is that you might want something a bit more versatile as you get better.
What you want as a beginner or high handicap is a club that hits the ball far, is super forgiving, and hits the ball high. You still want that as a mid handicap but you’ll also want something that has a bit more greenside spin so you can have better control.
Iron Features To Look For
As a high handicapper, you’ll want to play an iron with certain features. As I said before, you could use blades or you could use ultra game-improvement irons, but they might not perform the way you want. Here’s what you should be looking for:
- A higher ball flight.
- Forgiving on mishits.
- Enough distance to get past the ladies’ tees.
The first thing you’ll want to look for is an iron that launches the ball pretty high. Anything with a mid to high ball flight will work (a lower flight will not). This will give you the most distance and higher shots are normally more forgiving.
If you have an iron with a lower ball flight, it’ll take a lot more speed to pop the ball in the air. What’ll happen is you’ll get no distance and you’ll get a lot more side-to-side spin.
You also want something that’s really forgiving. Higher handicaps pretty much never hit the sweet spot and will need a lot of help. Certain irons are built for this, others aren’t.
I used to have one of the Nike irons Tiger used to use and when I hit it pure, it felt like nothing else I’ve ever hit. That rarely happened though. There was no forgiveness and mishits went pretty much nowhere.
The final thing is something that’ll hit the ball a long distance. This isn’t the most important thing to look for but it will help you shoot lower scores.
You probably don’t have the fastest swing speed and that’s why you’ll want an iron that’s easy to hit. The combination of high launches and forgiveness is usually what makes the biggest difference.
Essentially, what you don’t want to get is an iron that says “tour” or “pro”. These are normally blades or muscle backs and will be really hard to hit. That leaves you with game-improvement or super game-improvement cavity back irons. I’d prefer the standard game-improvement irons because you’ll still be able to use them as you get better,
High vs Mid vs Low Handicap Irons
Now that you know what to look for in an iron, how do you actually tell which is which? A lot of the info can be found on the company website but you can also tell a lot by looking at the iron itself. Here are a few key things to look at:
- The design of the head.
- Where the weight is located.
- The width of the sole.
- How much offset there is.
The first thing you should do is look at the shape of the clubhead. I’m sure you know that some irons are called “cavity backs”, some are called “blades”, and some are called “muscle backs”.
Cavity back irons are the most forgiving and are normally cheaper too. For all high handicappers, you’ll want to make sure you pick a cavity back iron.
Blades and muscle backs are used by better players. The reason people like these is that they can control the ball better and they feel like absolute butter when (if) you strick them well.
You’re going to want to use a cavity back because it’ll give you get more distance, they’re way more forgiving, they launch the ball higher, and they’re cheaper.
The simple way to tell whether or not it’s a cavity back is by looking at where the weight is located, what the sole of the club looks like, and how much offset it has.
If you take a look at where the weight of the clubhead is, you’ll easily be able to tell what type of iron it is. When more of the weight is around the perimeter then it’s a cavity back iron.
The middle of the club is somewhat hollow (has a cavity) and this makes it a lot more forgiving. It basically makes the sweet spot bigger and will give you straighter and longer shots on mishits.
The next thing you’ll want to do is take a look at the sole of the club (the bottom). Cavity back irons have a wider sole compared to muscle backs and blades and sometimes have a “v” shape. This is good for two reasons:
- You’ll get a higher ball flight (more weight is behind and under the ball).
- You’ll get fewer fat/chunky shots (the club won’t dig as far into the ground).
The last thing to consider is how much offset the club has. A club has an offset if the hosel (shaft) is positioned in front of the clubhead. This helps you square the club at impact and will promote more of a draw (not as easy to hit fades).
The major miss for high handicaps and beginners is a slice, and this should help straighten that out a bit. For high handicappers, offset will be your friend.
I wouldn’t want a whole lot though because it’s not something you want as you get better. Better players don’t want an offset because they want to be able to shape the ball both ways (draw/fade).
Best Shaft Flex For Average Golfers
You should have a pretty good idea of what to look for in an iron set. The next thing to do is pick the right club (we’ll talk about this next) and shaft for your swing. Both are super important but the shaft flex is normally overlooked by most.
If you have the wrong shaft it’s going to give you a lot of inconsistent shots. I’m sure you already know that we don’t need much help with being inconsistent on the course.
If your shaft is too whippy you’ll get a lot of hooks and if your shaft is too stiff you’ll get a lot of low slices. It’s not always the case but more often than not, that’s what happens.
The best way to tell what shaft is right for you is by figuring out your swing speed. You can get yourself a launch monitor (few hundred bucks) or you can go to your local golf shop. If you don’t want to do either of those, at least know how far you drive the ball.
Here’s a general guideline that will tell you what shaft to get based on your swing speed and drive distance:
- Swing speed under 80 MPH = Under 200-yard drive = Senior/Ladies shaft
- 80-90 MPH swing speed = 200-240 yard drive = Regular shaft
- 90-100 MPH swing speed = 240-275 yard drive = Stiff shaft
- Over 100 MPH swing speed = 275+ yard drive = Extra stiff shaft
Best Irons For Beginners & High Handicappers
There are a lot of good irons on the market right now. To make things easier, I wanted to narrow things down and give you a few really solid models to pick from.
If I was in the market for a new iron set these are the ones I’d consider. They all match the criteria we talked about, and the one you go with will depend on your price tag and what design you like best.
You either have two options to pick from when it comes to picking your set. You can buy a whole set or you can buy individual irons. I don’t think a beginner needs to have a full set, but if you do want one, get a 5/6 iron through pitching wedge. Get a hybrid instead of a 3-4 iron.
Taylormade M6 (My #1 Pick)
If you’re a beginner or high handicap, the most important thing you can do to get better is focus on hitting more fairways and getting more distance. These irons are the best overall option for doing that.
I wouldn’t call them the longest or most forgiving iron set on the market, but they are one of the best all-around clubs. They’re designed for mid to high handicaps so you’ll also be able to use them as you work your way into the 80s.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever hit the M series irons, but if you’ve liked them in the past, you’ll like the M6 even more. They’re actually the first iron set from Taylormade that I’ve actually liked (I have the M6 hybrid in my bag).
These irons did come out in 2019 so they’re not the latest and greatest model. That’s completely fine because I don’t see the newer models performing any better for you. They all hit the ball the same distance and are forgiving enough.
They aren’t the best when it comes to shaping or controlling the ball, and the wedges don’t spin the ball that much. That really isn’t something you should be looking for anyway.
What I like about these is that it’s pretty tough to hit the ball short and low with these (as long as you hit the face). The sweet spot is huge and it’s almost too easy to hit the ball decent.
So, if you’re someone who just wants to hit the ball long and straight down the fairway, these could be perfect for you. I’d recommend you get the 5-PW set. Get a hybrid instead of the longer irons and get a separate wedge set instead of the M6 wedge.
- The sweet spot covers most of the face.
- The sound is better than a lot of game-improvement irons.
- These irons hit the ball a long distance.
- They aren’t the best for controlling the shape and height of the ball.
- I’m not the biggest fan of the wedge.
Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo (My #2 Pick)
If you normally shoot north of 100 or you’re getting older and don’t swing as fast as you used to, these irons will be perfect for you. They’re pretty much a hybrid set and are the most forgiving iron I’ve ever used.
If you’ve ever hit a hybrid before, you know it’s a lot easier to hit the ball higher and longer. That’s the whole idea behind these clubs.
More of the weight is behind and under the ball and that’s what makes it so easy to hit. You won’t need to swing as fast to get the ball to pop up in the air.
Most people ignore these irons because they don’t look like traditional irons. I can kind of understand that, but if you can get past that small little detail, you might just play better golf.
The 4 iron in this set looks like a hybrid and then as you work your way down they look more and more like regular irons. You’ll still have more mass behind the face and that’ll make your shorter clubs even more forgiving.
The only downside to these irons is that they’re ultra game improvement clubs. That just means it’ll be harder to get the ball to spin on the green and it won’t be as easy to shape the ball around. The good news is that you won’t need to worry about this as a high handicap player.
- The most forgiving iron ever.
- Consistent and high shots.
- Sole glides through turf easily.
- Will take a while to get used to the hybrid look.
- Not the best for controlling the ball.
- Very little short game spin.
Cleveland Launcher CBX
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to the Taylormade M6 irons, these will be for you. These irons are best suited for mid to high handicaps and they’re actually the irons I have in my bag right now.
What you’ll notice with these is the fairly wide sole that has a “v” shape to it. This will really help you out if you hit a lot of chunky shots because it glides through the grass and dirt a lot better.
They have a middle of the range amount of offset and I think it’s the perfect amount of higher handicaps. The longer irons are long and pretty easy to hit and have a mid to high ball flight. Again, what we’re looking for.
I’ve always been a big fan of Cleveland wedges and a lot of that tech has gone into their shorter irons. They’re forgiving enough for beginners but they also have a good amount of wedge spin to keep the ball from running off the green.
Also, they’re the cheapest irons on this list and that was a big bonus for me. They came out in 2017 and that’s why the price has come down. Don’t be fooled though, these are still some solid irons.
The reason I use these clubs instead of the M6 is that they’re a bit more versatile for when I got better. It’s a bit easier to control the ball and the shorter irons seem to spin the ball a little better.
The M6 irons are still good for mid handicaps but I think they’d perform a bit better for beginners and golfers who struggle with hitting the sweet spot. Either way, both are very solid.
- Cheapest irons on this list.
- They’re long and forgiving.
- I can draw or fade the ball with them.
- They scratch up fairly easily.
- They don’t sound and feel as solid as some.