If you are just starting out in golf, you are probably having similar thoughts to ones most of us have experienced when we first played. How on earth am I going to get this little ball off the ground and up in the air? We have all suffered those days of seeing our shots scuttle along the deck. And then suddenly something special happens, the ball comes off the club in the right way, it flies into the air like a golf ball should and hey presto, we have hit a proper, actual golf shot. That will happen with an iron club, so it’s why we have to think carefully which are the right ones for us.
What is an iron?
An iron is a club that has been made with an open face whose primary aim is to help us to hit the ball high into the air. These are clubs that are designed for accuracy as we typically use them for our approach shots into the green. That means the higher they go, generally the better.
What do the numbers on a golf club mean?
The lower the number, the lower the degree of loft on the club and that means the face of the club will be less open. Also, the lower the number, the further the club will go in terms of the distance of our shots. For example, a five-iron may travel 170 yards whereas a nine-iron will go 130 yards.
PW – Pitching wedge (44°): For pitch shots between 50 and 100 yards.
SW – Sand wedge (54° - 56°): For shots with an iron out of a bunker close to the green.
GW – Gap wedge (50°): This wedge fills the ‘gap’ between a pitching wedge and a sand wedge.
AW – Approach wedge (52°): For delicate short ‘approach’ shots.
LW – Lob wedge (58° - 60°): For ‘lob’ shots, eg over a bunker onto the green.
These are iron clubs with very high degrees of loft as the face (or hitting area) becomes more open. They are not meant to travel too far, but for us to be able to get the ball high into the air as quickly as possible so that they can land very softly on the ground – as close to the hole as possible!
A lot of the sets we offer vary between six and seven clubs. Famously, Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros learnt to play golf when he was younger using just a three-iron that was handed down to him by his older brother. With only one club, the great Seve learnt to play all manner of shots and his skill level increased enormously.
Quickly we can find maybe one iron club that we like more than others and we can learn how it feels and how it works for us. When I was starting out, it was a seven-iron, and I got used to the feel of it for different shots in different positions and I practised with that club a lot. We want to build up our confidence, because if we feel confident with the club in our hands, we are far more likely to hit the shot we want.
At AMERICAN GOLF, we have picked out a wide range of iron sets that we think should cater for all players. From top-of-the-range premium sets to ones that are more suited to people on a budget, we have selected the irons that we believe to be the best for those just starting out in golf.
What does forgiveness mean in golf?
Forgiveness is a hugely important factor when it comes to assessing golf clubs. Put simply, if a club is classed as ‘forgiving,’ it simply means it’s easier to hit - no matter how good the strike or connection is at impact, or which area of the clubface the ball is struck from. A forgiving golf club is also designed to improve the end results of a player’s bad shots. In other words, a forgiving club makes a “bad” shot better.
Although an easy-to-hit club sounds appealing, forgiving clubs are only appropriate for a certain type of player. Forgiving clubs are aimed toward beginner and higher handicap golfers on the basis that their ball striking will be more inconsistent and less powerful. The forgiveness factor compensates for this by providing a platform for players to hit better shots on a more consistent basis.
How do Irons provide forgiveness?
Forgiving irons will include a cavity back which is a feature of larger profile golf clubs. This helps to inspire confidence and make ball striking easier for more inconsistent players. Naturally, the sizing of the iron head also promotes further distance, ticking the boxes of ease, accuracy, and distance to make them a must-have Iron for any beginner/higher handicapper.
So, why doesn’t everyone use forgiving golf clubs? Firstly, although forgiving clubs do make ball-striking easier, more established golfers will already enjoy greater consistency and thus won’t necessarily benefit from the forgiveness factor. Instead, lower-handicap golfers would rather play with a smaller profile, and more accurate Iron, in order to achieve shot shaping and drop-and-stop accuracy features that a less-forgiving Irons possess. A beginner/higher handicap golfer would naturally struggle with a smaller profile club, likely denting their confidence.
Best Irons for Beginner Golfers
Callaway Paradym Steel Irons (£999):
Range: 5 – PW (6 clubs) Left-hand: No
Coming in at just under £1000, these are not just a purchase but more of an investment. These are clubs we should only really consider if we are ready to make golf a serious thing in our lives and we want to give it a good shot to reach a level where we can begin to enjoy the game.
However, we won’t be disappointed if we go ahead in picking these as the Callaway Paradym Steel Irons are probably the best premiumset of irons for beginners out there. These irons give us more distance and more forgiveness and it’s hard to turn away from that combination. Artificial Intelligence technology has been used to ensure the clubs offer more speed, more consistent spin and a high launch so that hopefully, we can take our iron play to a new level.
Ping G430 Steel Irons (from £839 for six clubs):
Range: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, PW, 45°, 50°, 54°, 58° Left-hand: Yes
As with Ping’s drivers, hybrids and fairway woods, their custom-fit offering is ideal to tailor our clubs to exactly how we want them. We can choose a set with either hand of anywhere between six and 11 clubs, starting with a four, five, six or seven iron working through the various wedges up to a 58°, which can alternatively be described as a lob wedge. For each extra club we choose, we must pay an extra £139.72 per club, so this should only be considered if we are prepared to give golf our serious attention.
The Ping G430 irons have been designed with a thinner, more forgiving sole that should help produce better turf interaction, and a lower centre of gravity. While good for adding distance, they are also big on forgiveness as they help mishit shots to go that bit further, making this set a smart choice for any player, and especially a beginner, who wants as much help as they can get with their game.
Cobra AeroJet Hybrid Steel Irons (£689/£789):
Range: 5 – PW (6 Clubs); 5 – GW (7 clubs) Left-hand: Yes
The people at Cobra understand golf down to a tee. They recognise that most of us need a bit of help with our game and they have got to work on the AeroJet range, which stand out as the irons for beginners that are best for forgiveness.
They have used high-end technology like A. I. and machine learning to create a ‘hotter’ face that makes the ball go faster and spin more once we have hit it. These irons have more of an explosive feel than some of the other irons and may almost have the same feel as a fairway wood. But what is important is that there are no vibrations or clunky feel if we don’t strike the ball out of the centre of the club.
Mizuno JPX923 Hot Metal High Launch Steel Irons (£899):
Range: 5 – PW (6 clubs): Left-hand: No
Produced at their factory in Hiroshima, these Mizuno irons have all the Japanese hallmarks of quality. A layer of copper has been added to produce a smooth feel, so our good shots will feel so nice off the club. The JPX 923 series has five different models and the Hot Metal is the one specifically aimed at mid to high handicappers and therefore is very suitable for those new, or coming back, to the game.
We consider these to be the best all-rounder for iron sets in terms of price and quality. Players who have used the irons already have fallen in love with them, finding them easy to hit and easy on the eye when you look down (and that does make a difference). Mizuno have made sure they are forgiving and great for distance, so we can certainly work with those qualities!
Callaway Rogue ST Max Steel Irons (£689):
Range: Left-hand: Yes
4 – PW (7 clubs)
4 – SW (8 clubs)
4 – GW (7 clubs)
The heads on these Rogue ST Max irons looks a little chunky, but we must overlook that and not let it dissuade us from using them. Callaway are specifically targeting these at mid to high handicap golfers and they are a good beginners’ option, too, as we can opt for anywhere between six and eight new clubs.
The wide soles are designed for a high launch and there is an enhanced soft feel for when the ball flies off the club. Visually it is good, too, because the white score lines are very good for our alignment so we can line up to try to find the club’s sweet spot with our shots.
Wilson Staff Launch Pads Steel Irons (£379):
Range: Left-hand: Yes
5 – PW (6 clubs);
5 – SW (7 clubs);
5 – GW (7 clubs)
The Wilson Staff Launch Pads range is without doubt the best budget option for a new set of irons. We can opt for either six or seven clubs depending on whether we want to add a sand wedge or a gap wedge into our bag. We can also have our own custom shaft, length of shaft, grip and thickness of grip for far less money than other makes.
In terms of the clubs, they have more forgiving soles that are designed to prevent digging into the ground – something we don’t want with our irons where we take huge divots but duff our shots. There is also an anti-scratch finish on the clubs to prevent them being scuffed or chipped, so they stay looking like shiny new clubs for longer.
TaylorMade Stealth Steel Irons (£769):
Range: 5 – SW (7 clubs) Left-hand: Yes (Left-hand only)
An excellent option for any left-handed beginners looking for a set of irons. These clubs have been designed with a sweet spot that has been positioned in the exacts parts of the club face where we are most likely to strike the ball. With more weight towards the sole of the club, it is intended to help us get the ball higher into the air – always a good sign with an iron shot!
These are very forgiving clubs which are very useful when we are starting out because some of our shots are going to require a lot of forgiveness! A mix of that and extra distance generated is so important in the early days of our golfing life because we do not want to feel too disheartened as we are learning the game.
Wilson D9 Steel Irons (£399):
Range: 5 – GW (7 clubs) Left-hand: No
The first thing that users of the Wilson D9 Steel Irons notice is how lightweight they are. That is thanks to their KBS Max Ultralite steel shafts, which give golfers about to hit with these clubs a welcome shot of confidence. They have been designed with Wilson’s lowest ever centre of gravity which means shots are going just as high up in the air, but they are now travelling a further distance. That should help us when we are stood over the ball wondering what is going to happen with our shots. They do not generate as much spin as some of the irons in this blog, but a beginner should always take distance over spin when starting out.
These Wilson irons also offer excellent value for money and as manufacturers, they really know their market. By consistently making clubs that offer extra distance and forgiveness as key selling points, these are a very realistic option for beginners and higher handicap players.
Tour Edge Exotics E722 Steel Irons (£399):
Range: 5 – PW (6 clubs) Left-hand: No
Tour Edge are relative newcomers on the golf scene given that they were only founded in 1986, but one big selling point is that their clubs are used by some of the best over-50s golfers in the world, and there is no better example than Bernhard Langer. Now 65 and still regularly beating players at least a decade younger than him, the German has always been regarded as a great iron player. If he is using Tour Edge irons, that is an excellent endorsement of their quality.
Golfers who have already purchased these irons have noticed how forgiving and easy to hit they are – perfect then for those just starting out. The manufacturers have tried to make clubs that provide distance, forgiveness and feel – all big ticks for a beginner’s set of irons. To this purpose, extra weighting has been put into the toe of the club to improve performance when we don’t hit a perfect shot and to make the sweet spot even bigger.