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Back in the day, most golfers played a blade-style iron because that’s all there really was. They’ve changed a lot over the years and in this post, I’m going to be talking about whether or not pros use cavity back irons and if so, who actually uses them.
According to Titleist, 70% of tour players use cavity backs while 30% use blades. Cavity back irons provide increased forgiveness while blades offer more control and a better feel. This is why a lot of tour players have both cavity backs and blade irons in their bags.
These numbers are always going to be changing but the main thing to note is that most golfers on tour do prefer a cavity back. Jim Furyk says he’s much more accurate with them and can hit them straighter.
I think that’s probably the main reason most guys would use them and why the majority of weekend golfers should as well. Blades are easier to work the ball around in my experience and some people prefer the feel as well. You can see the differences between the two styles of clubs below:
It probably just all depends on your personal preference and what you grew up with. Tiger grew up with a blade-style iron so that’s what he’s used to. Most of the newer guys all started with cavity backs so that’s what they’ve stuck to.
What Are Cavity Back Irons?
Cavity back irons are designed to be more forgiving compared to blades and have more of their weight on the perimeter. They generally launch the ball higher, straighter, and have a much bigger sweet spot compared to a blade.
Blade or muscle-back irons are pretty much a big chunk of steel. In order to make the club more forgiving they’ll remove part of the back to make a cavity (or hollow).
And as you probably guessed, that’s why they’re called cavity backs.
Cavity backs have been around for 50 years or something like that and were brought into the spotlight by Ping. They seemed to be the only company making them for a while but they didn’t really catch on until years later.
These irons are sometimes called “game improvement irons” because of how forgiving they are. If you’re a beginner or high handicap golfer then you should probably go with these.
They aren’t all created equal though and some are a lot more forgiving than others.
Why Are Cavity Back Irons Easier To Hit?
Cavity back irons are easier to hit and are more forgiving because the weight is removed from directly behind the clubface. More of the weight is around the perimeter and that helps with shot dispersion on mishits. It’s not going to fix your bad swing but it can ease the pain.
When they remove the weight they’re able to make a bigger sweet spot. That’ll help for forgiveness, higher launches, and more distance for a lot of average players.
You can see my favorite irons at the bottom of this page. Some of these irons are suited more for beginners while some are designed for better players. It’s important to pick the right one for your game, and the article below will talk about that.
If you have a hook or a slice with your irons you’ll still have that with cavity backs. You’ll probably see a slightly straighter shot though and you’ll definitely get more distance on mishits.
What Are Blades?
Blades are the more traditional-looking iron that is slimmer and more compact than cavity backs. You can see an example of that in the image above.
The top iron (cavity back) has a thicker base and also has some of the weight removed in certain spots. The bottom iron (blade) almost looks like a single piece of metal.
Blades are definitely harder to hit consistently compared to cavity backs, and that’s the main reason they aren’t as popular. I used to play them actually, and even though I liked them, I got a lot more distance when I switched.
Why Are Blades Better Than Cavity Backs?
Some people do prefer blade-style irons and I was one of them for a while there. I’m not a fan of the huge cavity back irons that are out there and find them too big and bulky. They give no feedback and are pretty tough to control.
I used a muscle back style iron for a while but really started to like some of the newer forged irons that are out. They aren’t as big as some of the game improvement irons but they still have a really solid feel to them.
Blade irons are normally easier to control compared to cavity backs (in my experience anyway). Control means being able to draw or fade the ball and control the trajectory. That’s one of the big differences I’ve noticed.
Another big difference is the feel at impact. I think blade-style irons feel much better at impact compared to some cavities. It didn’t happen all the time, but when you hit the sweet spot, it felt unreal.
You’ll get a lot more feedback on mishits and you can use that to improve your game. Most people should just stick with a cavity back though.
Which Pros Don’t Use Cavity Backs?
Pros do a lot of testing so they often switch up the clubs they’re using. Some also use a mix of cavity backs and blades in their set. A number of them use cavity backs for their longer irons since they’re more forgiving and hit the ball longer. They’ll then use blades for their shorter irons because of the increased control.
The list can change over time but the important thing to know is that most players use cavity backs. It’d be easier to show the players who don’t use cavity backs so here they are:
- Tiger Woods.
- Phil Mickelson.
- Adam Scott.
- Rory McIlroy.
- Justin Thomas (4 iron cavity back).
- Justin Rose.
- Ricky Fowler.
I’m sure there are more but these are the main guys. The clubs they use could change in the future but at the time of writing this these guys are mainly using blades or muscle backs.
What About Muscle Back Irons?
I’m sure you’ve probably heard the term muscle back irons. I think they’re a bit more popular than blades, but they are pretty similar. Muscle back irons fall between a blade and cavity back iron.
What they essentially do is take a bladed iron and add a bit of forgiveness. They’re normally a bit thicker, have a slightly larger sweet spot and will launch the ball a little higher.
You can see in the picture above that they look pretty similar to a blade. They still offer the increased control and better feel of a blade, but they also have a bit more forgiveness, distance, and height.