With the multitude of club options available, pro golfers are looking to take advantage of the vase selection of irons available to give them every edge they can get.
Professional golfers use a wide variety of brands and iron sets in their bags. While you might think many of them use the traditional blade irons, this is not the case at all, with many adding different brand irons, driving/ utility clubs, and even hybrids!
Let’s investigate what irons, brands, and configurations the top 100 PGA pros carry in their bags.
What Are The Most Popular Iron Brands The Pros Use?
More than 13 brands and 59 models of irons are used by the top 100 players on the PGA Tour. The dominant brands are Ping, Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade, and Srixon, and a staggering 84% of all pros use irons from these brands.
The top irons used by most players are the Titleist T100 irons, and they are the most popular irons, with nine players using these as their primary set and three players having one or two of these in the bag.
The i210 set from Ping is second with eight players using them, and Callaway’s Apex TCB irons and Titleist’s 620 MB’s are third with seven players using them, respectively. The other brands operated by more than one player are:
- PXG 0311 ST and 0311 T GEN 2 with four players
- Srixon Z 785 – Three players
- TaylorMade P760 – Four Players
- Wilson Staff Model – Two Players.
The Elite Players Club Configurations
Before the advent of hybrids and other utility clubs, many pro players would have the traditional setup of 3-iron to pitching wedge as the standard. But, nowadays, the configuration of clubs in a pro’s bag has changed.
Only 21% of the elite top 100 players have the 3-iron pitching wedge setup in their bag. Players that use this are Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, and Dustin Johnson. So if only 21% are using this, what are the other groups using?
The highest percentage of pro players carry a 4-iron pitching wedge in their bags, and this group constitutes 29% of the top 100 PGA Players. Coming in second and just 1% above the 3-iron to PW group is a group that carries 4-iron to 9-iron in their bags, and this configuration represents 22% of players.
One of the most interesting statistics is the number of players who use the 5-iron to pitching wedge is fourth on this list, with 15% of PGA Tour players preferring this configuration. Here you can see the trend of using hybrids for the 3 and 4 iron while keeping the irons from 5-iron to pitching wedge.
From here, there are other configurations as well. The number of players that use the 5-iron to 9-iron setup is the same as those that use the 3-iron to 9-iron set up at 7%.
Last in this configuration are the players that use 6-iron to 9-iron at 2%, and the smallest group of all is the one where players have 6-iron to pitching wedge at 1%.
These percentages and configurations show that most PGA tour players prefer to have 4-iron in their bag while substituting the 3-iron for a hybrid or driving iron and choose to have the 5-iron.
It also shows that very few pro players opt for hybrids below the 5-iron level, and even less use this for 6-iron and lower. So take a look at your bag and see what your configuration looks like compared to the PGA Tour Top 100.
Blades VS Muscle Backs On The Pro Tour
Traditional blade irons were used to be the rite of passage clubs that pro players used once they achieved pro status. Standard blades were the realm of the pro golfer as they are notoriously difficult to hit sweetly, and off-center hits resulted in the poor distance and either a slice or a hook.
By weighting the perimeter of the iron and thereby moving the club’s COG backward away from the face, iron manufacturers were able to produce an iron that offered more forgiveness to higher handicap players resulting in more shots going straight from mishits.
While these clubs allowed for higher ball launch and flight, they were limited in shaping and controlling shots, which the pro players depended on in their game. Not only that, but blade irons provide the best feedback to pro players on the quality of their swing and ball striking.
Blade irons also provide better control for shaping the ball but have a more penetrating ball flight and have more roll than the cavity back irons.
Some pro players were quick to realize that having some forgiveness in their irons would be a good idea, so they began to adopt cavity back sets rather than the traditional blades.
How Many Pro Players Use Cavity Backs VS Blades
So, how many pro golfers still use traditional blades, and how many have muscle backs? While you might think that most players still prefer the blade irons – you’d be wrong!
A staggering 64% of pro players use the cavity back irons, and if you consider the number of players that may have one or two of these clubs in their bag, that number rises to an unbelievable 80%!
That’s right, 80 of the top 100 PGA players use cavity back irons or have at least one in their bag! By comparison, only 20% of pro golfers use blades exclusively, and 36% of those have one blade iron or more in their bag setup!
This statistic points to the fact that even pro players need forgiveness in their irons, so don’t feel bad if you also have the entire cavity back set- if it’s good for 80% of the pros, it’s good for you too!
There was still a demand for blade clubs among the pros, but with a modern twist. So club manufacturers created the ‘muscle back’ irons, which have some properties of the cavity back irons but are more closely related to the blade shape and design.
Muscle Backs VS Blades- Is There A Difference?
There is a definite and distinct difference between the traditional blade irons and the modern clubs that are considered blades but blend the blade and cavity back iron into a new club called the ‘muscle back.’
The modern blade irons are far from the original blade clubs of the ’70s and ’80s, as the contemporary blade clubs are more forgiving than they used to be. Adding weight and metal to the club hitting zone, these new ‘blades’ are known as ‘muscle backs .’ When people refer to blade irons, these are usually what they are referring to.
The muscle back iron is the blend between the conventional blade iron and the cavity back clubs that emerged to change the game in the 1980s and keep the blade’s styling and sleek design but adding that bit of extra muscle for forgiveness.
Which Pro Players Use Blades?
Some top ball strikers like Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson still use blades, so it’s not that blades are not being used; it’s just that only a very small group of players is just using them.
Dustin Johnson uses the TaylorMade P730 irons, and Mickelson has the Callaway Apex MB irons. As far as the percentages go, 64% of the pro players use cavity back irons while only 20% use blades, and the other 16% use a mix of cavity backs and blades.
Mixed Sets VS Complete Sets
While most pros have a mix of wedges in their bag, the days of pros having 2-iron / 3-iron through to pitching wedge, in the current professional environment, many players are looking at having different irons in their bag.
This trend indicates that players are testing out different irons from their sponsors and picking the ones that they feel offer them the best results on their shots.
So while they are using the same brand of irons, they end with a mix of different models in their bags, which is common with 27% of Top 100 pros on the PGA tour. Typically, this trend sees the more forgiving cavity backs used for, the longer irons, and the blade irons come into play for the shorter ones.
2020 Champion Collin Morikawa has such a configuration in his bag. He uses the TaylorMade P770 4-iron, the TM P7MC irons for his 5 and 6 iron, and the 7-iron and above has the TaylorMade P730’s.
If you include the number of players with driving or utility irons, the percentage of players that use mixed sets jumps considerably to 56% of the Top 100 players having a mixed bag of irons.
The apparent result is that there is no such thing as a standard set of irons anymore, and when you throw in the adoption of hybrids by many pros, the bag becomes a real smorgasbord of clubs with mixed models and types all packed together.
Should You Play With A Mixed Set?
As an amateur, and unless you are a low handicap player, say in the low single-figure range or better, you need to carefully consider this idea of mixed bags. Remember that blades and cavity backs deliver different results in terms of ball flight.
The standard set of clubs is designed to cover all the yardages and not leave any ‘yardage gaps’ that could put you in between clubs as a choice, rather than having a defined club for matching yardage.
The pro players can bend their clubs to change the lofts and cover the yardage gaps, but then they have a highly consistent swing, and their understanding of their own game and swing mechanics allows them to do this.
But bending clubs does change the club’s bounce as well, and while this is fine for players with proper control over their swing, an amateur may find this adding to their issues rather than solving them as they could not tell which aspect of their game has been affected.
As an amateur, you wouldn’t have that skill level (or you’d be playing pro) or the control that a professional has, and as such, the mixed bag option here would not be recommended and purely because it would create more problems than it solved.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have one or two mixed irons in the bag if those clubs work for you. If using them gives you confidence and good accurate shots consistently, you want them in your bag.
Remember that the rule of golf allows for fourteen clubs in your bag; it doesn’t say which they have to be nor that they have to be the same brand or model! So legally , under the rules of the game , there is no reason why you couldn’t mix and match to suit your game.
The real key for the aspiring pro, amateur, and the single-figure player does not lie in the variation of clubs but in the focussed commitment to establishing a solid and consistent swing technique, mindset, and fitness for the game.
Until that point, there is no real value in looking at clubs or configurations beyond your ability. Don’t let the marketing fool you, as without a proper swing and the time invested to achieve that, no iron or driver will help you score or play better.
It is becoming more of a trend with professional golfers to find the irons and other clubs like hybrids and utility clubs that best suit their game and add more value and options to their shots by having a mixed bag of clubs.
At the same time, the advancements in iron design for cavity backs and muscle backs will continue to develop, and these will bring new concepts in for golf clubs as a whole and not only irons.
Good, consistent and accurate iron play continues to be the hallmark of scoring for professional golfers, and there will always be a desire to gain every possible edge, no matter how small it may be.
Whether that comes from the mixed bag or from a complete set to achieve this, only time will tell, but as long as the option to pick and choose the irons that work best remains available, we will continue to see the professional players mix and match as they see fit.