The Best Irons for High Handicap & Beginner Golfers

Choosing the best irons as a high handicapper can seem confusing. To help, I’ve put together this guide, summarising my top advice as a PGA professional and coach. Read on to find out the best irons for high handicap golfers.

Each iron set has been tested for the top attributes you need as a high handicapper and/or beginner golfer. I’ve even added in my own fitting suggestions to help you get the ideal setup for your golfing needs.

Enjoy.

The best irons for high handicap and beginner golfers

  1. Cleveland Launcher XL Irons (overall winner)
  2. Callaway Rogue ST Max OS (runner up)
  3. TaylorMade Stealth (best for distance)
  4. Cobra F-max irons (best out of the rough)
  5. TaylorMade Sim Max OS (best for forgiveness)
  6. Mizuno JPX Hot Metal irons (best for player growth)
  7. Ping G410 (all-round performer)
  8. Tour Edge Hot Launch C522 Irons (great value)

Best irons for high handicappers

Cleveland Launcher XL Irons (Overall Winner)

Cleveland Launcher XL Irons

The Cleveland Launcher XL Irons is our favorite choice for a game improvement iron for a higher handicapper. This is a new release from Cleveland and takes quite a few of the characteristics of the Cleveland Launcher XL Halo and puts them into a clean looking cavity back golf iron.

Looks

The club head on the Cleveland Launcher XL is large. If you have trouble feeling confident standing over the ball, this club will absolutely help. The thicker top line blends in quite well, and they are better looking irons than the Cleveland hybrid golf irons.

Forgiveness

The V-Shaped Sole of the Cleveland Launcher XL is very helpful when it comes to forgiveness. Golf clubs with this V Shape will help players get through almost any type of lie. In addition, the sweet spot is large, and the perimeter weighting helps improve overall stability at impact.

Cleveland has always been a leader when it comes to forgiveness, and the new Launcher XL is undoubtedly no exception.

Power and Distance

This category, power, and distance are really what pushed the Cleveland Launcher XL Irons to the top of our list for 2022. For many years Cleveland has lacked a bit when it comes to overall distance and power. However, these new clubs are actually slightly longer and feature an 8g weight at the end of the shaft to help improve overall power.

We tested the Cleveland Launcher XL with both steel shafts and graphite shafts and had some great results in regard to swing speed and overall distance.

Feel

The best golf clubs for feel are never typically the super game improvement irons. However, even when hitting a slight off-center shot, the Cleveland Launcher XL has some pretty good feel. The only issue is that feedback is a bit tough to determine. If you hit a bad shot, it’s sometimes hard to figure out exactly what caused it.

Who Is It For

The Cleveland Launcher XL irons are for slow to moderate swing speeds that are looking for increased distance, impressive control in the short irons and plenty of forgiveness out of a difficult lie.

Callaway Rogue ST Max OS (Runner Up)

Callaway Rogue ST Lite irons

The Callaway Rogue ST Max OS is a bit of a mix of the Callaway Mavrik and the Callaway Rogue. However, we felt like a bit of the new Apex cavity back irons snuck into the Rogue ST Max OS as well. Needless to say, we were not huge fans of the original Rogue like, but the new ST Max OS is pretty good.

Looks

The Callaway Rogue ST Max is a thicker golf iron, like most of Callaway’s game improvement clubs. The thick topline combined with the wide sole and a large amount of offset makes this really forgiving looking and helps the higher handicapper straighten out shots.

Forgiveness

The new A.I. Face Optimization is something that was not in place the last time Callaway released a set of Rogue irons. The spin rate is consistent across the entire face, the launch is higher, and players are able to feel like the ball can hold a green again.

For a little while there when golf lofts were being decreased to improve distance, the ability to hold a green got really difficult, but the technology has finally caught up.

Power and Distance

The Rogue ST Max OS is said to be the fastest irons that Callaway has ever produced. To be honest, most of the new game improvement and super game improvement irons from Callaway are really great at producing distance. The thing that helps the Rogue ST Max OS stand out is the large sweet spot, even when you miss the ball still goes a long way.

Feel

Precision tungsten weighting is used to help improve the launch, and speed, and it allows for more use of the urethane microspheres in the clubhead. The microspheres have been in the Callaway iron heads for a few years, but they are starting to put more and more in the club head and further up the club face to improve ball speed while also enhancing feel.

Who Is It For

The Callaway Rogue ST OS Irons are our favorite choice for the most inconsistent of high handicappers. If you feel like one shot is low, the next one high, and the next one could take out a playing partner, the Rogue ST OS helps to make the game a bit more manageable. Callaway put a lot of time, research and money into the creation of this golf club, it’s worth looking at.

TaylorMade Stealth (Best For Distance)

TaylorMade Stealth 7-iron

Some high handicappers have fast swing speed numbers and don’t need to worry about the distance. However, most will find that getting a bit of extra distance in the swing can make a really big difference. If you find that ball speed is something you struggle with, the TaylorMade Stealth is a great option to consider.

Looks

The TaylorMade Stealth is probably the best choice for those that are looking for a sleek looking iron for high handicappers. This club is a cavity back, but it has a really clean look to it, and the top down look is not as thick as it was with the TaylorMade Sim set of golf irons.

Forgiveness

The all new Cap Back Design and Tow Wrap Construction helps players get the forgiveness they need where they need it the most. The sweet spot is large, and even when you miss it, expect plenty o consistency. In addition, the center of gravity was optimized in this new set of golf irons to help improve overall launch and increase the performance from the rough.

Power and Distance

One of the things we noticed right away with the TaylorMade Stealth irons is that they are higher launching than previous models from TaylorMade. At first, this was a bit of concern in the sense that they may be too high launching. However, with the right golf shaft combination, you can get a tremendous ball flight that only further increases the distance you can hit the ball.

TaylorMade continues to make clubs that have tremendously high ball speeds, and the TaylorMade Stealth irons are just the next step in that process.

Feel

The TaylorMade Stealth irons will feel as close to a forged iron as a cavity back iron can get. Forged irons have a really pure feel at impact, and the ECHO Damping System found in this TaylorMade Stealth will ensure that there is very little vibration at impact for the high handicap golfer.

Who Is It For

If you follow golf equipment releases closely, you will likely see that many of the same technologies get repeated from one year to the next. With the TaylorMade Stealth irons, you will notice that the Speed Pocket technology is back as well as the ECHO Damping System. However, the shaping of these clubs and the feel is more modern and impressive, and we like this for the player on a mission to improve and one that wants effortless ball speed without making a swing change.

Cobra F-max irons (Best Out of the Rough)

Cobra F-max iron

The Cobra F-Max range has been around for many years, I’ve been delighted to offer the F-max range to beginners and high handicappers I coach and that continues with the new F-Max irons.

Looks

These irons fill you with confidence – a large face and chunky top line let you know you’ve got a lot of golf club in your hands to help you make contact. This is paired with a wide sole and large cavity back, again, really giving the impression of power and forgiveness as you set up to play.

Cobra has also considered that golfers want control too. The F-Max irons have a progressive design running through their set. Meaning the long irons have the most offset, but the amount of offset is reduced as you move towards the short irons – offering more control where it is needed.

Forgiveness

Each iron has a deep cavity back design allowing weight to be pushed to the perimeter of the club and low down. The result is a very forgiving set of irons (large sweet spot) and high-launching iron shots.

The F-Max irons also have more mass towards the heel and toe to further minimise club twisting for off-centre strikes. The overall result is exceptional forgiveness across all the irons in this set.

Power & distance

The Cobra F-Max irons are not the longest in this review of high handicap golf irons, but they still provide great distance. Unlike other manufacturers, Cobra has kept a little extra loft on each iron, which gives you a great blend of distance and control. The higher loft on the longer irons will also mean you’ll find them easier to hit and creates a better gapping of distances between each iron.

The Cobra F-Max irons create a high launch and great distance across the set.

Feel & control

The irons feel great and offer superb forgiveness even when you miss the sweet spot (there is a large sweet spot on these irons). The Cobra F-Max irons have additional weight added to the heel of the club which promotes a draw ball flight.

If you struggle with a fade/slice you will love the high, draw-bias flight these irons produce.

Who Is It For?

The Cobra F-Max irons are ideal for golfers looking for great forgiveness, distance and control and a great price. They also promote a slight draw, making them ideal if you struggle with a fade or slice.

A 5-iron to pitching wedge is what I would suggest for most high-handicappers. This will leave room for hybrids or fairway woods to replace the long irons. However, because of the generous lofts on these irons, you could also opt for a 4-iron if you really want one.

The Cobra F-Max irons will really help you get the most out of your golf game.

TaylorMade Sim Max OS (Best for forgiveness)

TaylorMade SIM Max irons

Many high handicappers want to hit the ball longer and straighter. The TaylorMade Sim Max irons are here to solve both of these needs – without thousands of hours of practice.

The oversized (OS) version of the Sim Max irons have a slightly larger clubhead and a lower centre of gravity compared to the standard Sim Max irons. This design further increases forgiveness and generates a slightly higher ball launch.

Looks

The large club head of the TaylorMade Sim Max OS and thick top line really gives you confidence when you place these behind the golf ball.

Despite the large size of the Sim Max OS irons, TaylorMade has done a great job to make these still look like a golf club you want to have sat in your bag and hit with.

Forgiveness

Along with the larger clubhead the TM Sim Max irons feature a large cavity back design which pushes the centre of mass low down. Resulting in exceptional forgiveness and a high launch.

The large hitting area and the big cavity are finished off with a wide, rolling sole that TaylorMade say gives the most forgiving turf interaction they have created.

There is very little on the iron market that will match these for forgiveness.

Power & distance

If you are in the market for a set of irons that will give you extra distance, then this is the number one iron for you.

The Sim Max irons also include the thinnest iron face TaylorMade have produced in an iron to date. The effect is a clubhead that transfers more energy from the face to the golf ball, resulting in a powerful ball flight and greater distance.

Combined with this tech, the Sim Max OS irons have stronger lofts than most of the irons in this review, further increasing the distance you will get out of each club. This isn’t just for distance sake, but rather to create the ideal launch when considering how low and deep the centre of mass is within these irons – which naturally promotes a higher launch.

Feel & control

The trade-off for the truckload of distance these irons offer is a little control. They still offer great levels of control but will not compare to the control and feel of the Mizuno JPX 921 irons featured below.

Sim Max irons have progressed the sound and feel compared to previous iron models. The new dampening system that sits behind the length of the clubface provides a soft but solid feel that you would usually associate with a players iron rather than a high handicap club.

Suggested buying options

These are the best performing irons based on the performance ratings in this review. The only factor keeping them off the top spot is the brilliant value of the Cobra F-Max irons.

With the strong lofts on these irons, I would advise most golfers to opt for a 5-iron to pitching wedge set and consider also getting a gap wedge. The approach/gap wedge (48º) will help fill the distance between your powerful pitching wedge (42º) and current/new sand wedge (54-56º).

If you are looking for the best irons on the market for distance and forgiveness there are very options that will keep up with the TaylorMade Sim Max OS irons.

Mizuno JPX Hot Metal irons (best for player growth)

Mizuno Hot Metal pro 7 iron

The JPX 921 Hot Metal irons are Mizuno’s most forgiving and most powerful in the JPX line up. They are not designed just for high handicappers and offer great room to grow as a player, as these irons offer a brilliant blend of forgiveness, distance and feel.

Looks

The Mizuno JPX irons look great in your golf bag and behind the ball. The club heads are more refined than most irons in this review, making them ideal if you want forgiveness in a slightly more classical looking golf club.

The head lengths across the set are 5-7mm longer than the MP-HMB irons, making the Mizuno JPX Hot Metal your top choice if you are looking for large, forgiving Mizuno irons.

Forgiveness

The head size combined with a stability frame placed behind the clubface creates a high moment of inertia – which minimises twist on off-centre strikes. The result is exceptional levels of forgiveness and distance for heel and toe strikes.

The clubhead design has also created a sweet spot that is lower down than any other Mizuno iron, making these ideal if you tend to catch the odd iron shot thin.

Check out our full Mizuno 921 JPX irons review

Power & distance

The JPX 921 irons feature a COR-TECH face that is 0.2mm thinner across the centre compared to the JPX 919’s, resulting in even higher ball speeds. The face thickness also varies across the hitting surface to optimise ball speed from all areas of the clubface.

These irons have slightly stronger lofts than player irons which aimed at lower handicaps. However, thanks to their head design the Mizuno JPX 921 irons still launch your iron shot high.

What I love most about these is that they offer great consistent distance. Other iron sets in this review will be longer, but these irons offer a brilliant blend of distance and control.

Feel & control

Mizuno is well known for creating beautiful feeling irons. Although these are cast, not forged, they feel superb.

Three new sound ribs have been added to the top line of the JPX clubhead to make it lighter, stiffer and to enhance acoustics. The result is a pure feel and a sound that is more like a players iron than a beginner golf club.

Suggested buying options

The Mizuno JPX 921 Hot Metal irons are ideal for a high handicapper who hits the ball well and wants room to grow. There are more forgiving clubs in this review, but none that offer better all-around performance.

Most high handicappers should opt for a 5-iron to pitching wedge setup. You can add in a 4-iron, but because the lofts are strong a 4-iron will travel more like a 3-iron. It might be worth adding in a gap wedge to your order if you want an extra option from 110 – 70 yards and when chipping around the green.

Ping G410 (all round performance)

Ping G410 iron

Ping has a long history will making great irons and their G-range is designed to pack all of their knowledge and tech into an iron for the club golfers. The result is the Ping G410 iron.

Looks

The Ping G410 irons have smaller, more refined club heads compared to most others in this review of the best irons for high handicappers. I’ve decided to include them as not all high-handicap golfers want a large club head to drop behind the ball, but they do want the performance such a club offers.

Thanks to the new toe and hosel weighting Ping were able to reduce the off-set by 10% from previous models (G400), and have shortened the blade length. The result is a clean, sleek-looking iron that is still packed with forgiveness.

Forgiveness

The Ping G410 has taken a classical cavity back design and added weighting in the toe and hosel to push the levels of forgiveness offered by a club head of this size. The result is great forgiveness across the club face.

Power & distance

The Ping G410 irons have more clever design work to provide great distance – the face is thinner and the cavity design has been tweaked to create greater flex at impact, resulting in a higher launch off the face and higher ball speeds.

This means the Ping G410s have slightly stronger lofts on all irons to generate greater distance whilst maintaining the desired launch high handicap golfers desire.

The result of all this tech is a 30º 7-iron that launches like a 32 – 33º club – meaning you’ll generate greater distance with the G410 irons with no loss in launch trajectory.

The Ping G410 irons give you really long iron shots that still offer control and consistency.

Check out our full Ping G410 iron review

Feel & control

The Ping G410 irons are cavity back in design, but the cavities are filled with a polymer insert which gives the look and feel of a solid club head.

The smaller club heads also provide more control for chip shots and pitches around the green – this is a problem that plagues many other game improvement clubs.

I personally feel this is one area where the G410 irons really stand out. Golfers want forgiveness in an iron, but they don’t want a shovel which offers little control.

Suggested buying options

The Ping G410 are ideal for high handicap players that want forgiveness and distance, without a large club head. The irons are large from heel to toe, but don’t feel clunky like other high handicap irons.

Most golfers should opt for a 5-iron to pitching wedge setup. However, the Ping wedges are brilliant, so feel free to add in a gap wedge or approach wedge to your order, you’ll not regret it.

Tour Edge Hot Launch C522 Irons (great value)

I’ve long been a fan of Tour Edge and the gear they produce. The Tour Edge Hot Launch C522 Irons are the latest release in their Hot Launch range catering for higher handicap players.

Looks

With a large face, thick top line and slight offset these will prove a firm favourite for many high handicap golfers. The longer irons sure to give the sense of confidence when placed behind the golf ball.

Despite the large club head, I feel Tour Edge have done a great job of making these look like a classy set of irons, with a great finish.

Forgiveness

The deep cavity pushes the centre of gravity low down, preventing the club from twisting and creating great forgiveness. The sole on the C522 Irons is 15% wider than previous versions which moves the centre of gravity further away from the face and create a high launch.

This wider sole also provides a more forgiving club-turf interaction for players – great news if you have a tendency to catch the ground before the ball.

As with other clubs in this review, the C522 Irons feature additional toe weighting to increase the forgiveness across the club face.

Power & distance

The Tour Edge C522 Irons produce great distance, whilst maintaining sensible lofts. The low centre of gravity in the club heads, along with the shaft options available in these irons will make these a great option for golfers with lower swing speeds looking to optimise forgiveness, distance and carry.

Feel & control

The C522 Irons have a slight draw bias which is great news if you do suffer with a slice or fade. The Tour Edge C522 Irons are made from the extremely soft 431 stainless steel, providing the optimal feel. The feel is further enhanced by the polymer insert behind the club face which dampen vibrations from off-centre hits.

The irons feel powerful and solid when struck well and do a great job of softening the vibrations when you don’t catch the sweet spot.

Suggested buying options

These clubs provide great performance and superb value. The design is particularly well suited to high handicappers with slower swing speeds looking to maximise distance and carry.

For most golfers I would opt for the 5-PW set. However, the lofting on these irons mean the 4-iron is easier to hit than most other sets if you are keen to add one to your set.

Even better news – all Tour Edge irons come with a lifetime warranty.

How to choose the best golf irons for high handicappers and beginners? 

Now that you have an example of some of the best golf irons for high handicappers and beginners, you are faced with the difficult task of narrowing these down. Before you get too stressed out about this decision, as long as you are purchasing a game-improvement or super game improvement iron, you can’t make too big of a mistake here. Stay away from blade style irons and anything that is built for the fastest swinging players in the game. Keep these things in mind as you complete your research 

Steel Shafts vs. Graphite Shafts 

Graphite shafts are typically made for those with slower swing speeds that need a bit more distance in their game. The steel shafts are built for golfers that want control and workability and are not quite as concerned with total distance. 

The most important thing to remember about the steel shafts vs. graphite shafts decision is matching the shaft to your current swing speed. The flex of the shaft can be more important than the material. Faster swing speed players using a shaft that is too flexible will struggle with control. 

Many higher handicappers are assumed to be lower swing speed players, but this is not always the case. Always have your swing speed measured and read recommendations for the stock shaft flex and material available in the irons you purchase. 

When it comes to shaft upgrades, most high handicappers and beginners do not need to worry all that much. Although a fancy fitting may recommend a $100 per club shaft upgrade, we can’t tell you that this club is going to truly make all that much difference. 

Set Makeup 

The high handicappers should probably leave the long irons out of the bag. Long irons have consistently been less forgiving, and with modern lofted golf irons, the ability to get these golf clubs up in the air has actually gotten a bit more difficult. 

A modern 5 iron has the loft of 4 iron from just a few years ago. This opens up the idea of putting some extra wedges and hybrids in the bag but leaving the 3, 4, and sometimes even 5 iron out. 

What Do Do About The Wedges 

Another question that high handicappers tend to have is what they should be doing about the wedges in the bag. There are options to purchase the pitching wedge, approach wedge, sand wedge, and sometimes even the lob wedge to match the current set or options to purchase unique individual clubs to add to the set. 

For most high handicappers, we recommend ensuring that the pitching wedge and approach wedge match the iron set. The sand wedge and the lob wedge can sometimes be best if they are unique to the set and offer some additional spin or unique performance. 

Wedges are the scoring clubs that will turn you from a high handicapper into a mid handicapper. Therefore it makes sense to find wedges that are the right shaft and forgiveness level for your game. 

Total Price

The total price of a golf iron set for high handicappers is typically around the $800 mark. Of course, this will vary depending on the type of shaft and the number of clubs in the set. High handicappers that are on a budget should look for golf irons that were released within the last two years. 

Sometimes manufacturers have leftover sets that they will sell, and you can get them for a reduced price. This may mean that the clubs will need to be retrofitted as opposed to custom-fitted from the start, but it’s a great way to save money. 

If you are dropping your handicap fast and don’t expect to be a high handicapper for long, you may want to consider a value type set like the Tour Edge and upgrade to something like the Stealth or even the TaylorMade P790 in the next few years. 

Frequently asked questions

As I said in the introduction, buying irons can seem complicated. All of the sets mentioned in this review are ones that I would be delighted for any of my own students to buy.

You won’t go wrong with any of these options if you have a strong preference. However, below I’ve put some answers to some frequently asked questions. If you have a question that isn’t featured just leave a comment at the bottom and I will get back to you.

What are the best golf irons for high handicappers?

The best golf irons for high handicappers in 2022 are the Cleveland Launcher XL Irons. These golf clubs have a tremendous ability to make golf from the rough easier while increasing overall consistency for players. For the first time in a long time, Cleveland is also starting to compete from a distance perspective.

What are the best irons for a 20 handicapper?

If you are a 20 handicapper and progressing well I would push you towards the Mizuno JPX 921 Hot Metal irons or the Ping G410 irons. Both of these offer greater control and precision rather than all out distance and forgiveness.

Both options will all you to grow as a golfer as you keep moving through into a teen handicap player and will still serve you well if you get down to a 7 or 8 handicap. For more information on irons when you reach this level check out this article.

What irons are the most forgiving?

The Callaway Rogue ST OS and the TaylorMade SIM Max OS irons are two excellent game improvement iron choices that allow for increased forgiveness. If you are a player that never knows where the next shot may go, the more forgiving irons are a great option to consider.

What is the easiest iron to hit?

This will depend on your golf swing and performance requirements. I personally feel the setup and technology in the Cobra F-max irons will suit most high handicap players well.

The TaylorMade Sim Max OS irons are very easy to hit, but the stronger lofts make, the longer irons slightly more challenging to hit off the ground.

What are the best game improvement irons?

The best game improvement irons are those that allow golfers with mid to high handicaps the ability to lower their scores and enjoy their time on the golf course. Of all the irons we tested this year, the TaylorMade Stealth stood out to be the best overall option for the game improvement irons. These clubs have incredible feel, long distance, and the ability to launch them quite high.

Should a high handicapper use a 3 iron?

As you may have noticed, most of the golf clubs on our list for the best irons for high handicappers do not even come with the option for a 3 iron. This is simply because the 3 iron is typically very low in the loft, hard to launch, and considerably less forgiving than other irons in the bag. Players that are trying to lower their scores, and make things easier for themselves on the golf course, should think of a 3 hybrid or a utility as opposed to a 3 iron golf club in the bag.

Best irons for high handicap golfers – Summary

I hope this review has helped you on your journey to find some great irons. Do check out the rest of Golf Insider UK for more ideas on how to optimise your practice and our golf instruction guides. Check out this guide for more on the best cavity back irons, or head here to learn more about the best golf balls for high handicappers and best golf balls for beginners.

Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK

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A PGA golf professional, with a PhD in Biomedical Science and MSc in Sports Biomechanics & Psychology. I currently spend my time lecturing part-time at Leeds Beckett University and working with elite athletes. In my spare time I build Golf Insider UK.

1 thought on “The Best Irons for High Handicap & Beginner Golfers”

  1. This was a great comparison, but I find it interesting that you did not include the Titleist T400 irons in this review. They are far and away the longest-hitting iron with high launch and great forgiveness. They are THE go-to irons for those looking for high ball trajectory greatest distance. The T400’s have a very balanced and consistent feel with each club within the set. They do have a very thick top line, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. I find that the look is very confidence-inspiring. Looks like you just can’t miss!

    I used to be a 3 hdcp player using muscle back irons. As Mother Nature and Father Time came along reducing my strength and flexibility I found myself looking for something more forgiving and easier to hit the ball a long way yet still launching the ball high. I have tried every one of the clubs you reviewed in this article. With the exception of the TM Sim2 Max OS, the T400, with its strong lofts and long shaft lengths, blew the rest away. The Sim2 was a close 2nd. I am thrilled to have found an iron that helps me get back some of my “youth” thus making the game so much fun once again. I don’t have to swing out of my shoes to get my length back.

    No matter what golf club one swings, the golfer still needs to work on developing a good swing to get the best performance out of any golf club. I found that swinging blades/muscle-backs forced me to be very precise. Conversely I found myself developing sloppy habits with game improvement irons because I could get away with it. My new T400s are great for helping me get great straight distance without straining every muscle in my old body! I find myself looking forward to going to the driving range every day.

    In all fairness, you should have included these fabulous clubs in this comparison. They seem to be golf’s best-kept secret in game improvement irons. Expensive yes, but worth every penny!

    Reply

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