How to choose the best set of irons
For golfers, there are few things more exciting than the moment a new set of irons arrives at the door. Unlike wedges, drivers, or even putters, a set of irons tends to have a much longer tenure in the golf bag, often leading to a familiarity and attachment to the clubs themselves. Most golfers can swap in a new driver or try out a friend's wedge for a round without any issues... but try to force an unfamiliar set of irons into a golfer's hands? Forget it.
When it comes time for you to upgrade irons, it's a big decision that can have an even bigger impact on your golf game. With so many different models out there, it can feel like a daunting task to narrow down your choices—or even know where to begin.
To help you find the best set of golf irons for your game, we asked TaylorMade's Product Creation Manager, Chandler Carr, a few frequently asked questions from the perspective of a potential buyer.
How do I know when it's time to upgrade to a new set of irons?
"First and foremost, you need to ask yourself, "are my irons worn out?" Do you need new grooves? Are the heads in bad shape?
Once you get those questions out of the way, you need to decide if you're in need of a certain performance enhancement: hitting it higher, hitting it farther, more forgiveness, more workability, etc. If you feel that there's something out there for you to gain, it's time to start looking into upgrading your irons.
This could mean that you're getting older and losing some swing speed, getting better and looking for something with better shot-shaping ability, or you could even be recovering from an injury that affects the way you swing the club. Once you find a set that meets your performance expectations and suits your style of play, you'll find the game much more enjoyable."
How should I begin to narrow down my search with so many different iron sets available?
"When I talk to customers or to other golfers, there are a few key things that stick out in terms of what the golfer is really looking for. In my experience, there are three key attributes that all golfers should rank in terms of personal preference when exploring new irons:
- Distance / Forgiveness
How you rank these three attributes will identify what set you will most likely fit into—or at the very least, begin to narrow down your choices."
Should my golf handicap index affect what type of irons I should be looking for?
"I definitely wouldn't limit your iron options based on your handicap number. If you're a high-handicap golfer, it's still OK to look at "players distance" products or other aspirational clubs, especially if you know you want to get better and utilize the workability and precision that comes with a better player's product.
At the same time, it's also important to be mindful of your current abilities and choose your irons based on what will make your experience with the game the most enjoyable. Let's say you're a really good golfer but you no longer have as much time to play or practice as you used to... you may want to consider taking advantage of game-improvement irons with a little more forgiveness, so you can have more fun and play better overall.
We're also fortunate to have irons like P790 and M3 which bridge the gap between true game-improvement irons and players irons. They enable golfers to hit it a long way while still delivering on feel, shot-shaping ability, and a more compact shaping that suits they eye of better players."
What is the difference between "game-improvement" irons and "players" irons?
"One main difference is that game-improvement irons are primarily designed for distance and forgiveness and players irons are designed primarily for workability and feel.
Going back to those three key attributes I mentioned before, distance and forgiveness go hand-in-hand, so a game-improvement iron is generally geared toward players actively seeking distance and forgiveness. These players will likely have workability at the bottom of their list. They want to hit it higher and longer with greater consistency, so they can get over the water, carry the bunker, get on the green, and get close to the hole.
The players iron category is really the exact opposite of that. They're not distance-orientated products, necessarily. They're designed for feel and workability—meaning you can better control the trajectory and shape your ball flight."
What is the difference between forged irons and cast irons?
"It comes down to what is possible in the manufacturing process. A cast product allows us to do more things within the design of the club— we can design more intricate and complex geometries to enable performance benefits via lower CG, higher MOI, etc. Forged products are essentially stamped into from using a large press and die. Because of that, you can't manipulate as much within the design of the iron. However, the benefit of this process is that you'll get a better sense of feel due to the softer material being used."
How many sets of irons does TaylorMade currently offer? How does that number compare to other club manufacturers?
In most cases, we are right on par with other manufacturers, but there are also some other brands that currently 12+ sets of irons have in their lineup.
At TaylorMade, each set is specifically dedicated to a certain type of target golfer."
True Players Irons
P730 — Tour-caliber ball-striking, minimalistic design
P750 — Tour-validated shaping and performance, multi-material construction
P770 — Tour-inspired shaping and performance, additional forgiveness
Players Distance Irons
P790 — Forged feel, players shaping, powerful & forgiving
M3 — Distance & forgiveness, compact shaping
Game Improvement Irons
M4 — Distance & forgiveness, easy launch
M CGB — Max performance technologies throughout the set
Several players on Tour use a combo set or "split set" of irons. When should amateur golfers consider a using a split set?
"Creating a combo iron set or split set is easy to do on TaylorMadeGolf.com. You can order individual irons from any set and essentially create your own custom set of irons.
If you struggle hitting a 4-iron or a 5-iron, it can definitely help to go with a more forgiving iron model for your long irons. For example, if you're playing P790, you could keep PW through 6-iron and move your 5-iron and 4-iron to M3. That'll give you a little extra distance, height, and forgiveness so you have more confidence with a long iron in your hands.
However, it's important to keep in mind that the lofts will vary from set to set... the further you go toward the game improvement irons, the more of a distance gap you will see between each set.
If you're sticking within the "True Players Irons" listed above, you can combo those pretty seamlessly. But if you're going, say, from P770 to P790, it would be important to really take a close look at the lofts and test your distances with each set, so that you don't give yourself a massive gap within your split set (in terms of yardages)."
If you're exploring a combo set, use this chart to help guide your loft selection:
How would I know when to replace a long iron with a Rescue club?
"Generally speaking, golfers will encounter more gapping problems the longer the club gets... you may have a 10-15 yard gap between each of your shorter irons, but you may find that gap gets smaller between your long irons. You may even find that you're hitting your 4-iron and your 5-iron a similar distance, essentially making your 4-iron a useless club in your bag... you want to maintain a progressive gap between every club in your bag.
If you discover that you have improper gaps in your long irons, it may be time to consider adding another Rescue club to get some extra height and distance to make a seamless transition between your longest iron and your shortest wood."
In the end, you need to find a set of irons that best suits your game and your eye. Don't let any pre-conceived notions about shaping, materials, or technology get in the way of making your choice. Take the time to assess your game and determine what you need to make every round more enjoyable.
The set of irons you have in your bag can say a lot about your golf game. But ultimately, nothing speaks louder than clubs that help you shoot lower scores.
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