Irons can be pretty helpful in a wide range of situations, including extracting balls from hazards. Unfortunately, most beginners don’t know how to pick the suitable iron for a particular situation or selecting the right iron, especially with the numerous options available. So after thorough research, we decided to create the following complete guide to the iron golf club. (1)
Iron golf clubs are referred to as “iron” because their heads are made from steel or solid metal. These golf clubs have small club heads and shorter shafts than woods, and they are typically used to drive the ball towards the hole. (2)
A complete set of clubs features at least seven irons. Unfortunately, most golfers don’t know the difference between numerous types of irons. Therefore, in this article, we’ll elaborate more on the irons and what features to consider when buying your set of clubs.
What Are the Irons?
As their name suggests, these golf clubs have featured metal heads for centuries, and quite recently, golf club manufacturers introduced steel ones. The clubhead of these clubs is relatively thin from the back to the front, while the face is grooved to impart spinning on your ball. Experienced golfers prefer blade or muscle-back style of irons, whereas recreational players and newbies want cavity-back type.
The main difference between the two is that the cavity back is hollowed out, whereas the blade-style has a full back. This difference creates a unique effect referred to as perimeter weighting, which is beneficial to beginners and other less experienced golfers. And newbies should always go for the iron clubs described as “super-game improvement” or “game improvement” as they are designed to help the golfer.
Luckily, irons are pretty common among all golfers; out of the 14 clubs that a golfer is allowed to carry, about 11 are irons, including wedges. Therefore, knowing your way around this set of golf clubs is mandatory for any golfer. Generally, the different types of irons vary in shaft length, clubhead size, and lie angle.
Irons are differentiated by the numbers between 1 and 10, which shows the relative loft angles on the faces. Irons with more considerable loft angles than 9-iron are referred to as wedges, marked by letters showing their name. Wedges are ideal for shots demanding a high launching angle or short distances.
In fact, before the 1940s, these golf clubs had a name instead of numbers. Some of the previous names of irons include niblick and mashie. However, these names and clubs are currently considered obsolete, but some manufacturers are still fond of giving some new irons an old name. So here are some key things you need to know about the iron golf club.
Things You Must Know About the Irons
All irons were initially made using a flat metal that produced a unique thin head resembling a blade. Currently, the investment casting methods allow producers to mass-produce irons with outstanding, consistent characteristics. The modern investment casting made it possible for a producer to distribute the clubhead’s weight around its perimeter instead of on its back.
The cavity-back or perimeter-weighted irons made it easier for golfers to get great results on the course even when they hit the ball outside the sweet spot. Willie Ogg patented a design for distributing the weight towards the sweet spot and away from the club head’s heel in 1933. It resulted in the creation of the Wilson iron clubs, the forerunners of the cavity-back clubs.
Even though a considerable percentage of the irons are currently manufactured by a process referred to as investment casting, some producers still manufacture their high-end irons by forging. Therefore, the club heads of these high-end irons can be easily adjusted by bending to adapt to your specific needs.
Some producers merge cavity-backed irons and muscle, resulting in a design known as “split-cavity” or “cut-muscle.” Other hybrid clubs, which resemble the regular irons, combine the features of woods and irons. A considerable percentage of the clubs designed for beginners are the hybrids that replace the 4 and 3 irons in their bags.
Some of the most common designs of irons are:
When a golf club is referred to as “muscle back,” it means that the back of the clubhead is not hollowed or scooped out. (3) The muscle back region of the clubhead is known as “full back.” The muscle back design is composed of a solid metal head.
Unlike other designs that place the club head’s weight along the sole, the muscle back design helps distribute the metal evenly. And this makes the moment of inertia and center of the mass of the iron lower than the cavity-backed design. Therefore, these clubs come with a smaller sweet spot requiring more consistent swing and more extraordinary skills to make a straight, accurate shot.
In fact, beginners with less consistent swings can mishit when working with this club, causing a shot to curve or launch off of your intended target.
Why Do Experienced Golfers Prefer Muscle Back Irons?
Well, avid golfers who can repeat their swings consistently and place iron’s clubhead accurately love this type of iron. Golfers who don’t need the help of game-improvement clubs prefer specific properties of the muscle back irons. This type of iron provides greater feedback for a great shot.
Plus, they have a muscular feel that some golfers love. After all, initially, all irons had a muscle back design until Karsten Solheim, Ping’s founder, popularized the idea of perimeter weighting.
Cavity back design
Cavity back irons are made using the investment casting process. This process creates a hard metal with a thin, durable surface. The cavity back design gets its name from the cavity formed on the rear part of the clubhead.
The cavity is the outcome of removing part metal making up the clubhead back from the middle and redistributing it towards the club head’s heel and toe. It helps lower this club’s center of mass by placing it below the ball’s center of mass, allowing for a high launch angle.
The cavity back design also increases the club head’s moment of inertia, which makes it resistant to twisting on impact. It resulted in a forgiving clubhead with a massive sweet spot.
What Are Game Improvement Irons?
Modern irons have borrowed a lot from the cavity and muscle-back designs. Clubs with extreme perimeter weighting, which have wide soles, are referred to as game-improvement irons since they allow casual amateurs and beginners to hit the ball more accurately and consistently. Plus, they make it easy for individuals with less experience to make accurate shots despite their poor skills.
Unfortunately, these forgiving properties make it hard for avid golfers to use this club. The tendencies for the game improvement irons to correct mishits can aggravate a professional golfer’s attempt to hit curveballs. For example, avoiding an obstacle along your path or countering a leftward or rightward slope to the fairway with a game improvement iron can be challenging for skilled golfers when using game improvement iron.
The inability for the game-improving irons to work with the balls can irritate the experienced golfers when trying to swing accurately on the fairway than it would a novice. The low center of mass and increased clubhead mass is not compatible with skilled golfers with more substantial swings. The high mass lowers the club head’s velocity, while the high launching angles will cause more spin resulting in the ball swinging into the air instead of getting out of the fairway.
The Most Crucial Features of an Iron Golf Club That Can Affect Your Game
Steel vs. Graphite Shafts
The shaft, made from either steel or graphite, is generally referred to as the iron’s true engine. A perfect shaft must improve an individual’s accuracy and increase distance. On the other hand, using a poorly suited shaft can reduce distance and wayward shots.
Even though graphite shafts made from carbon fiber are currently the standard for woods, most iron shafts are made from steel. After all, the torque of steel is higher than that of graphite shafts, allowing better swinging accuracy and consistency. Wedges come with steel shafts as consistency and accuracy are crucial when it comes to golfing.
The lower the number of the club, the taller its shaft will be, which will allow you more consistent and controlled swings. The reduction in clubhead velocity can be overwhelmed by increasing the mass of the clubhead.
The old saying about low-handicappers and steel shafts is still very true. A considerable percentage of the golfers hitting off a lower number still love the consistency offered by steel shafts. And that is not because they are better than graphite shafts; it’s because low handicappers have a fast swing speed which can become problematic if the club’s shaft is too light.
The main disadvantage of steel shafts for high handicappers is that they don’t absorb vibrations better than graphite shafts; therefore, there is a high likelihood of mishits.
The grip region includes the upper part of the shaft that enables you to hold the iron comfortably. Modern irons come with a rubber grip which is sometimes corded; however, most players love a leather wrap grip.
Even though materials have advanced to create a long-lasting, durable soft-grip, leather wrap grips demand frequent replacements when they harden, dry out or start to wear out. The golfing rules stipulate that the grip should have circular cross-sections. They can taper on the club’s grip from thin to thick, but they cannot have bulges or waistings.
The hosel of irons is quite noticeable as it forms a barrel on the heel of the iron’s sole and inside the club’s face. Unfortunately, a vast percentage of the modern iron clubs come with offset hosel that has been integrated into the clubhead at its lowest point, which is far away from its sweet spot. This design of the hosel and the perimeter weighting gives the irons the highest possible usable clubface and lowest center of gravity.
The shaft length decreases as the number of iron increases, which means that the highest numbered iron has the shortest shaft. The reducing shaft length means that the clubheads of similar mass that travel at the same angular velocity will have less momentum since the clubhead velocity will be lower. To counter this effect, manufacturers make sure that the clubheads of the higher numbered irons are heavier than the others.
Generally, there is a 0.25-ounce increase in weight between the clubs as the number increases.
Due to the need to drive the balls farther, modern irons have a smaller loft than the older ones from the late twentieth century. For instance, the loft of the modern 9-iron is equal to the loft of the 1990s 7-iron. Golf companies have been able to lower loft angles by shifting the weight to the clubhead’s sole, thus lowering the COG.
It has made it possible for golfers to launch the balls on a high trajectory for any loft angle than the clubs with a high center of mass.
Golf technology has also affected the playability of these clubs over the last few years. In the last eight decades, very little has been changed about the grooves; however, things changed in 2010 when a new USGA rule changed how grooves are designed.
Generally, the grooves impart spin on the balls and channel foreign matters and water away from the iron’s clubface, particularly for swings from rough terrains. Massive grooves on the irons allowed golfers to worry less about the rough terrains and make the swinging accuracy less crucial. It forced the USGA to tighten the rules on groove dimensions in 2010. (4)
Clubheads with deeper grooves tend to disperse more grass at impact. And this allows the golfer more control over the spins, which is a unique flight property of any shot and how well the ball will be received on the green. The deeper and sharper the grooves are, the more speed is generated, and this will result in increased flight trajectory, which makes it easier for the ball to stop once it hits the green.
Initially, each grove was supposed to be 0.02 inches deep and 0.035 inches wide; plus, the spacing between grooves was no less than 0.075 inches. The new rules, which affected all clubs except the drivers, stipulate that the groove’s cross-sectional area must never exceed 0.003 sq. inches/inch.
Therefore, broader or deeper grooves should be further apart.
What Is Included in a Set of Irons?
A considerable percentage of the irons in any golfer’s bag have numbers showing the loft angle, and the lower numbered irons have smaller lower lofts. The number of irons ranges from 0 to 12, with the standard sets including 3 to 9. An on-the-shelf iron set includes a total of 8 irons that are identified by the number on their sole, except the pitching wedge.
None of the extra clubs are mandatory for newbies, particularly 2-iron, while 1-iron has become virtually extinct. Some manufacturers have replaced the traditional long irons with the blended, also referred to as a hybrid set. Generally, irons are grouped into wedges and numbered irons.
1) Driving Iron
1-irons also referred to as the driving iron, have the longest and lowest loft with a loft angle of approximately 14 to 16 degrees. This club has the lowest surface area of all the irons and is sometimes considered the hardest to hit in any golfer’s bag. Unfortunately, this iron is obsolete since it has been replaced by the fairway woods, which can easily cover its range.
Even though it’s still included in some sets of clubs, it can still be bought separately as a customized option.
2) Long Irons
The 2-to-4 irons are considered the long irons thanks to their long shafts and lowest loft angles. These clubs are perfect for long distances ranging between 180 and 260 yards with low launching angles. Compared to other irons, the long irons are hard to hit thanks to their low loft, which gives them a smaller sweet spot and striking face; therefore, they are less common in most golfer’s bags.
Therefore, most golfers have replaced these low-lofted irons with higher-lofted woods (7 and 5) or hybrids with similar performance that are easy to use. The 2-iron is also becoming obsolete due to difficulty in hitting. When used, the long irons are usually seen with a graphite shaft that raises the clubhead speed to your swing by simply holding the downswing energy and releasing it when the clubface hits the ball.
3) Mid Irons
Generally, the mid-range includes irons ranging from 5 to 7 used for long approaches between 130 and 210 yards. However, 5-iron is positioned at the cusp between the mid and long irons and belongs to either class. Mid-range irons are also used on the hillier fairway to lower the risk of hitting low-rises associated with a long iron.
Compared to the long irons, the Mid irons are easy to use, thanks to the high loft and surface area.
The mid irons are the true irons because hybrid clubs can’t easily replace them. The mid irons come with graphite shafts that can offer better distance for average individuals. Even though shorter irons have steel shafts, the mid irons come with a graphite shaft that offers a better distance to an average golfer.
4) Short Irons
The 9-iron and 8-iron make up the short irons. These irons have the shortest shafts and highest mass clubheads of all the irons, and they are ideal for shots demanding covering the distance between 130 and 150 yards or high loft. Shots with numerous tall obstacles like trees are some of the most common short iron situations.
These irons are considered the easiest to use, but they are typically used in instances requiring extremely high accuracy to help minimize the mishit effects. Even though most of the lower-lofted irons have graphite shafts, the short irons are made from steel. The steel increases accuracy while minimizing clubhead torquing.
Any iron with a loft angle higher than the numbered irons falls under the subclass wedges. Wedges are ideal for a wide range of shots that need high back-spinning skills to lower the roll distance, high launch angle, and short distances, typically less than 130 yards.
In fact, the sand wedge was the first wedge to be invented in 1931. The sand wedge has a wide sole that’s added a higher-lofted iron to increase the clubhead’s mass.
Wedges are identified by their functions denoted by some letters like P, L, S, G, and sometimes W. Some manufacturers have labeled their wedges using their loft angle (60, 56, or 52 degrees) or bounce angle ranges between 0 and 12 degrees.
Some of the most common types of wedges include:
1) Pitching Wedge (PW)
Pitching wedges are wedges that are used to hit shorter and higher trajectories than the number of irons. They are also used for shots requiring longer and lower trajectory than gap wedges. (5) Technically, pitching wedges are treated like the numbered irons.
And that is because before adopting the name “wedges,” this iron was referred to as 10-iron. The pitching wedge is the lowest-lofted wedge, and it’s ideal for both semi-soft and soft lies. Traditionally, the loft angle of the pitching wedge ranged between 50 and 52 degrees, but thanks to the modern cavity-back iron, it was lowered to 48 degrees.
2) The Gap Wedge
The gap wedges also referred to as approach wedges, are a club used to swing with a shorter and higher trajectory than pitching wedges. (6) This club fills the space created between the SW and PW. The loft angle of the gaps ranges between 50 to 54 degrees.
3) Sand Wedge (SW)
Sand wedges or sand irons are unique open-faced clubs designed to help you get out of a sand bunker. Sand iron has the widest sole of all wedges, which provide the highest bounce that allows the clubhead to glide through the sand bunkers without digging in. Besides getting the ball out of a sand bunker, this club can also be advantageous in other soft places like the mud, soggy ground, firmer grass, and thick rough. (7)
4) Lob Wedge
Lob wedges are known as the shortest-hitting club that provides the most loft angle per shot. These clubs can produce a shot with high arcs and are ideal for shorts over numerous obstructions and hazards. Lob wedges are known for producing little roll after hitting the putting green; plus, they can produce back-spins if need be. (8)
Lob irons, together with the gap and sand wedges that golf club manufacturers did not produce before 1931, are the latest addition to the current golf club collection. A special lob iron known as the ultra-lob wedge, whose loft ranges between 62 and 64 degrees, is a perfect alternative to the lob wedges, especially when dealing with unique shots.
How Long Should You Hit Each Iron?
- 2-iron: The average yardage men are allowed to hit this iron is 190-yards.
- 3-iron: men are allowed to cover about 180-yards with 3-iron.
- 4-iron: the average yardage for women with this iron is 150 yards, and for men, it’s 170 yards.
- Mid irons 5-iron to 7-irons: the average distance for men is between 140 and 160 yards, and women are 120 to 140 yards.
- Short irons (8 and 9 irons): the average distance for men is 130 and 120 yards, respectively, and for women, it’s 110 yards and 100 yards. (9)
Knowing the average yardage that a specific iron can cover can help you pick the right club when on the course. It will also show you when to pick a different club, like a wedge for accurate shots.
Do Golfers Still Use a 3-Iron?
The idea of customizing clubs has made it easy for people to dial the required loft specification to replace this club with fairway woods. And while most golfers still own the 3-iron, they rarely use them, thanks to the alternatives.
Should I Purchase a 3-Iron or 2-Iron?
The 2-iron clubs have the same loft as the 5-wood, but without the launch assistance and forgiveness of the fairway woods. On the other hand, 3-iron offers 3-to -4-degrees extra loft angle over 2-irons and is more forgiving and easier to use to launch the balls airborne. Therefore, the choice will depend on your skill level, but most avid golfers carry a 2-iron in their bag.
Can an Experienced Golfer Hit 7-Iron About 200 Yards?
To hit this iron about 200 yards, you need to produce a clubhead speed of around 95mph. Unfortunately, the PGA tour average of this club is 90mph. So to hit this distance with a 7-iron, you need proper training and a launch monitor to help you monitor your progress.
The irons are divided into two groups: the wedges with a higher loft and the numbered irons, with all the irons serving a specific function for all golfers. So before selecting your ideal pair for a course, you need to understand your handicap and pick the iron clubs that can improve your game. Remember, as a higher handicapped golfer, you can replace some of these irons with woods for an excellent game.
- Wikipedia contributors, iron (golf), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_(golf)/ Accessed July 3, 2021
- Brent Kelley, meet the irons: an intro for golf beginners, https://www.tripsavvy.com/meet-the-irons-1560506/ Accessed July 3, 2021
- Liveabout contributors, Muslce back irons: what they are, who should play them, https://www.liveabout.com/muscleback-in-golf-1560923/ Accessed July 3, 2021
- Don Patron, The rules on groove types on golf clubs, https://golftips.golfweek.usatoday.com/rules-groove-types-golf-clubs-2373.html/ Accessed July 3, 2021
- Wikipedia contributors, Pitching wedge, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitching_wedge/ Accessed July 3, 2021
- Wikipedia contributors, Gap wedge, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gap_wedge/ Accessed July 6, 2021
- Wikipedia contributors, Sand Wedge, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_wedge/ Accessed July 5, 2021
- Wikipedia contributors, Lob Wedge, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lob_wedge/ Accessed July 4, 2021
- Dummies.com contributors, How to know which golf club to use, https://www.dummies.com/sports/golf/how-to-know-which-golf-club-to-use/ Accessed July 4, 2021