What Iron To Use In Golf: A Definitive Guide To Iron Play In Golf

Last updated: April 17, 2023

As any seasoned golfer knows, success on the golf course hinges on more than just raw talent; understanding how to select the suitable iron for each shot is an essential aspect of the game. With an array of options, it can be challenging to determine which iron to use for optimal performance. This comprehensive guide will break down the various golf irons available, offering insights into their specific uses and helping you make informed decisions on the course. We will also mention some popular irons by name, providing a better understanding of the top-performing clubs on the market.

History of Golf Irons

Early Golf Irons

Golf irons have come a long way since their inception in the 17th century. Early golf irons were made of hand-forged steel with hickory shafts and leather grips. As the game evolved and technology advanced, golf irons underwent significant changes in design and materials.

Transition to Steel Shafts

In the early 20th century, the introduction of steel shafts allowed for increased distance and more precise control. Steel shafts became the standard for golf irons, leading to the development of a wide variety of club designs and the classification of irons into long, mid, and short categories.

Modern Golf Irons

Today, modern golf irons are made from various materials, including stainless steel, carbon steel, and even titanium. Golf iron design has also evolved, with cavity-back, muscle-back, and game-improvement designs offering golfers a range of options to suit their skill level and playing style.

Types of Irons

Long Irons (2-iron, 3-iron, and 4-iron):

Long irons, such as the Titleist T300 2-iron, are characterized by their lower lofts and longer shafts. These irons enable golfers to achieve greater distance and more downward ball trajectories, making them ideal for tee shots on long par-3 holes or second shots on par-4 and par-5 holes.

Mid Irons (5-iron, 6-iron, and 7-iron):

Mid irons, including clubs like the Callaway Apex 6-iron, strike a balance between distance and control. These versatile clubs are commonly used for approach shots to the green and shots from the fairway.

Short Irons (8-iron, 9-iron, and pitching wedge):

Short irons, such as the TaylorMade P790 9-iron, offer higher lofts and shorter shafts for greater control and accuracy. These irons are ideal for approach shots, chipping, and other situations where precision is paramount.

Iron Design

Cavity-back Irons:

Cavity-back irons, like the Ping G425, have a hollowed-out area on the back of the clubhead, which redistributes weight to the club’s perimeter. This design creates a larger sweet spot and increases forgiveness, making them an excellent choice for beginners and high-handicap players.

Muscle-back Irons:

Muscle-back irons, also known as blades, have a solid back design with a thinner clubface. The Mizuno MP-20, for example, is a muscle-back iron that offers greater control and shot-shaping ability, making it suitable for skilled players with a low handicap.

Game-improvement Irons:

Game-improvement irons are designed to help golfers of all skill levels improve their game. The Callaway Big Bertha B21, combined with cavity-back and muscle-back design elements, is a prime example of a game-improvement iron. These irons typically feature larger clubheads and wider soles, which increase forgiveness and promote higher ball flight.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Iron:


Clubhead Speed:

Clubhead speed is a critical factor in determining the distance you can achieve with each iron. Faster clubhead speeds generate more distance, so players with a higher swing speed may benefit from using longer irons, while those with a slower swing speed may find mid or short irons more suitable.

Ball Flight:

Different irons produce varying ball flights, with long irons generating lower trajectories and short irons producing higher ones. Consider the desired ball flight when selecting an iron, as it can influence shot accuracy and distance control.

Course Conditions


Wind can significantly impact your shot, so it’s essential to adjust your club selection accordingly. In windy conditions, using a lower-lofted iron like the Titleist T100 3-iron can help keep the ball flight lower and reduce the effects of wind on your shot.


The lie of the ball on the course can influence your iron selection. If the ball is sitting down in deep rough, using a more lofted iron, such as the TaylorMade P790 8-iron, can help lift the ball out. Conversely, a better lie in the fairway may call for a lower-lofted iron for better distance and control.

Golfer Skill Level

Beginner and High-Handicap Golfers:

For those new to the game or with a high handicap, cavity-back irons or game-improvement irons are the ideal choice. These irons, like the Ping G425 or Callaway Big Bertha B21, offer increased forgiveness and a larger sweet spot, making it easier to achieve solid contact and consistent results.

Intermediate and Low-Handicap Golfers:

As players develop their skills and lower their handicaps, they may opt for muscle-back irons or a mix of cavity-back and muscle-back designs. Clubs like the Mizuno MP-20 offer increased control and shot-shaping ability, enabling more skilled players to execute a wider variety of shots.

Customizing Your Iron Set:

Standard Set Composition:

A standard set of golf irons typically includes a 3-iron through 9-iron and a pitching wedge. However, golfers can customize their sets to suit their needs and preferences better.

Hybrid Clubs:

Some golfers may choose to replace their long irons with hybrid clubs, which combine the design elements of irons and fairway woods. Hybrids, such as the Callaway Apex, are often easier to hit and provide more consistent results than traditional long irons.

Gap, Sand, and Lob Wedges:

In addition to the pitching wedge, many golfers choose to include specialized wedges in their set. Gap wedges (also called approach wedges), sand wedges, and lob wedges offer varying degrees of loft and bounce, allowing players to execute a range of shots around the green.

Understanding Shaft Options

Steel Shafts:

Steel shafts are the most common shaft material used in golf irons, providing a solid feel and consistent performance. Steel shafts are available in different flexes (regular, stiff, and extra stiff) to accommodate various swing speeds.

Graphite Shafts:

Graphite shafts are lighter than steel shafts, making them easier to swing and generate faster clubhead speeds. These shafts are ideal for players with slower swing speeds, seniors, and those with physical limitations that may affect their ability to generate power. Graphite shafts also offer a softer feel and reduced vibration, which can benefit golfers who struggle with joint pain or discomfort.

Shaft Flex:

The flex of a golf shaft refers to its bending characteristics during a swing. Golfers with faster swing speeds typically require stiffer shafts, while slower swing speeds can benefit from more flexible shafts. It’s crucial to select the appropriate shaft flex for your swing speed, as it can impact accuracy, distance, and overall shot performance.

Shaft Weight:

The weight of a golf shaft can influence your swing and shot results. Heavier shafts, such as steel, offer increased control and stability, while lighter shafts, like graphite, can improve swing speed and distance. Finding the right balance of shaft weight that complements your swing and playing style is essential.

Golf Iron Fitting

Importance of Club Fitting:

A proper golf iron fitting can significantly impact your game, as it ensures that your clubs are tailored to your swing and physical characteristics. Club fitting can result in improved accuracy, distance, and overall performance on the course.

Factors to Consider During a Fitting:

During a club fitting, several factors are considered, including your swing speed, ball flight, and shot tendencies. Additionally, club fitters will assess your height, wrist-to-floor measurement, and other physical attributes to determine the ideal club length, lie angle, and shaft flex for your unique swing.

Where to Get Fitted:

Golf iron fittings can be conducted at various locations, such as golf retail stores, golf club manufacturers, and specialized club fitting centers. Many golf courses also offer club fitting services through their PGA professionals.


Selecting the right iron to use in golf can significantly impact your game. Understanding the different types of irons, their specific uses, and the factors to consider when choosing an iron will help you make informed decisions on the course. You can also gain insight into the top-performing clubs available by recognizing popular golf irons like the Titleist T100, Callaway Apex, and TaylorMade P790. Ultimately, the perfect iron for each shot will depend on various factors, including distance, course conditions, skill level, and personal preference. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well on your way to mastering your golf game and achieving greater success on the course.