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If you’re looking to get a new set of irons you’re probably a bit confused because there are so many different options to pick from. In this post, I’m going to be showing you the difference between cavity back, muscle back, and blade irons.
You might be thinking that cavity back irons are only for average weekend players while blades are for tour pros. Even though that’s partially true, it’s not always the case and a lot of it comes down to personal preference.
A lot of professional golfers actually have a mix of blades, muscle back, and cavity back irons because of the benefits each of them provides. We’ll also touch on the key differences between them, which one you should be playing, and examples of each type of iron.
What Is A Blade Golf Club?
A bladed golf club is one that’s forged from steel and has a more compact shape. This makes these clubs more consistent in controlling the trajectory and shape of the ball. As a result, they’re more common as wedges or in the bags of professional golfers.
A classic blade iron is like what they used back in the day. Being forged from steel (where cavity back clubs are cast), these clubs produce much more consistent shots, but that’s only true if you’re able to hit the ball in the center of the face.
They’re much thinner than modern irons and they’re a lot tougher to hit because the sweet spot is so small. The only people who should use these would be pro golfers on tour (or in your wedges).
The reason some people like these types of irons is because they provide more feedback at impact. A cavity back iron is much more forgiving, so it’s sometimes hard to feel what you did wrong. Hitting a blade will tell you right away when you hit it solid or not very well.
A blade iron will also be easier to shape the ball around. You’ll be able to draw or fade the ball much easier compared to a cavity back. You’ll also be able to control the trajectory better and that’s what most professionals would want.
An example of a classic blade iron would be the Hogan Apex or Willson Staff Blades. They’re much thinner than a cavity back and there’s not as much metal on the bottom compared to a muscle back.
What Is A Muscle Back Iron?
A muscle back iron has a more traditional look to it and is commonly referred to as a forged club. The top of the club is quite narrow but the base is thicker, which will increase forgiveness and launch the ball higher. These irons are more commonly used by low handicap golfers.
A muscle back iron is very similar to a blade but it’s slightly thicker on the base and is a bit more forgiving. I use a muscle back iron myself because I think it feels better at impact. It also forces me to improve my swing (rather than getting a club that’s super forgiving).
The sweet spot on these is bigger than the classic blade but much smaller than a cavity back. They aren’t going to launch as high and they probably aren’t going to go as far, for most golfers. Only play these if you’ve been golfing for a while (and shoot good scores).
Companies basically took a blade iron and gave it a bit more forgiveness and the ability to hit higher shots. Most people these days would play an iron like this over a blade, and if you prefer a classic look then this will probably be your best bet.
An example of a muscle back iron would be the Callaway Apex MB or the Titleist 718 MB. There are a lot of others to pick from so it’ll all depend on what brand you like.
What Is A Cavity Back Iron?
A cavity back iron is one that has a hollow section in the back of the club. This removes weight from the center of the face and distributes it to the perimeter of the club. The result is increased forgiveness, which is why these clubs are better for average golfers.
A cavity back iron is the easiest of the three to hit and should be played by most golfers. If you’re just an average golfer who’s out for fun then you’ll get the best bang for your buck with these. They’re the easiest to hit, are the highest launching, and will most likely give you the most distance.
The reason some pros don’t use them is that they don’t offer as much feedback on mishits, so it’ll be kinda tough to figure out what you did wrong. They also aren’t as good at controlling the trajectory and shape of the ball.
Pros need as much control over the ball as they can get and most cavity back irons won’t give them that. For people like you and me, it’ll do the job just fine because we’re who they’re designed for.
The downside to these clubs is that they’re made from cast steel (blades and MB are mainly forged steel). What can sometimes happen is that air pockets get trapped in the steel in random spots. That can cause inconsistent performance between two clubs of the same set.
An example of a cavity back iron would be Cleveland Launcher CBX or the Taylormade M6 iron. Again, it’ll all depend on which brand and model you like best.
Cavity Back vs Blades
The main difference is that cavity back irons are bulkier than blades and have a hollow section at the bottom of the club. Cavity backs have a bigger sweet spot, are more forgiving, and will generate more distance.
The reason most weekend golfers use cavity backs is because of the increased forgiveness. As long as you make contact somewhere on the face, you should be able to get some sort of distance. This is part of the reason why some pros use cavity backs in their longer irons.
A lot of professional golfers will actually carry both of these clubs. Since cavity backs are easier to hit, some pros will use them in their longer irons. They’ll then use a more bladed style in their shorter irons and wedges because of the increased control (shot shape and trajectory).
The other difference comes from how the clubs are actually made. Most blades and MBs are forged from steel while cavity backs are cast steel. When a club is forged, the quality and consistency is much better.
With cast clubs, you can get random air pockets in the steel. This can alter the performance of different clubs in the same set. Professionals hit the center of the face almost every time and can afford to sacrifice forgiveness for consistent performance.
Blades vs Muscle Back
The main difference is that muscle backs have a thicker bottom section compared to blades and that’s going to produce more forgiveness. Along with the increased forgiveness, a muscle back iron will generate a bit more distance.
This is the main reason pros prefer a muscle back iron over the traditional blade. Both of these irons are very similar looking and it can sometimes be tough to tell the difference. A lot of the muscle back irons will actually say “MB” somewhere on the club and that’s usually the easiest way to tell.
There are a few pros who still use pure-bladed irons and the main reason is that they grew up using them. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t use them, all I’m saying is that you’ll probably get better results with MB irons.
Should You Play Blades, Muscle Backs, Or Cavity Backs?
The choice of what to add to your bag mainly comes down to your skill level. I see no reason why most golfers wouldn’t benefit from increased forgiveness, but that said, there are a few different options that I’d recommend.
For most golfers, I’d recommend having the same irons throughout your bag. If you want cavity backs, you should use the same model for your 4-PW (or however many irons you want to carry).
The reason is that all irons are slightly different and might not feel the same. This can throw people off, especially us average hackers who need all the help we can get.
If you’re a mid to high handicapper, I’d recommend using cavity back irons. Golf doesn’t have to be complicated, if a club can help you hit straighter shots then why wouldn’t you use it? Plus, they’re usually cheaper than the other irons.
If you’re a low to mid handicapper and are set on using blades or MB irons, I don’t see any reason why that couldn’t work. If you can actually hit a bladed or MB 4-5 iron consistently, go for it.
Another option is to have a mixed set. The majority of mid to high handicappers struggle to hit their longer irons consistently. What I might recommend is that you have a 4-5 or 4-6 cavity back iron and the rest blade/MB.
Another option is to use a hybrid instead. If you’re curious about which hybrid replaces which club then you can read our guide on hybrid vs iron distances & lofts.
When it comes to the wedges, it’s not as important what you use and mainly comes down to personal preference. You’re chipping from around the green mostly, so accuracy and control are much more important than distance.
Most iron sets come with the PW being the shortest club. This means that your wedges will probably be different than your irons.
What I have in my bag is a cavity back GW and SW. The GW is a bit bulkier (like a cavity back PW) because I use it for full shots and like the forgiveness. The SW is still a cavity back but is much more compact. I like this for chipping around the green.
This is what I’d recommend to most mid to high handicappers. I think the increased forgiveness is nice to have, especially when you need to hit a full shot.
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend a fortune, there are some pretty solid wedge sets. They’re mainly bladed ones, which might not perform as well for average golfers, but they’re still really good.
For low handicappers, you could think about using a bladed wedge for increased control. Either way, you’re good enough to use any type of wedge out there.
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