This post is designed to give you some help and guidance if you are thinking of buying a new set of irons or are interested in learning more about the different types of Irons and how they can affect your game.
Different types of Irons
Game Improvement Irons :
Player level : Beginner to Improver
These types of Irons are designed for the newer golfer or someone who is having trouble getting any kind of consistency with their iron play. The main features of this type of golf club are a thick sole plate which will help to get the ball airborne and often excessive peripheral weighting which will give better results on off-centre hits .
These Irons often also have an offset head where the leading edge of the club is set back from the hosel, the benefit of this is that it helps to get the hands ahead of the clubface at impact with is a vital component in hitting clean iron shots.
Cavity back Irons :
Player level : Improver to Mid/Low handicap
These type of irons have a cavity in the back of the iron head which will spread weight towards the heel and toe of the club much the same as with the game improvement Irons but often not to the same degree. Cavity backed clubs with even less weight placed towards the heel and toe are referred to as muscle backed Irons, these would suit a more consistent ball striker who strikes the ball more regularly from the centre of the clubface.
Player level : Low handicap to professional/scratch player.
Bladed Irons are as the name suggests irons with a thin sole plate and no cavity in the back of the head. These types of irons are usually favoured by more experienced players usually with a very low handicap. Blades are almost always made from forged steel and the benefit of this is that it improves the feel of the club at impact and will give the players more feedback on his/her shots. The other benefit of bladed irons is it is easier to shape the ball, this means to intentionally move the ball in the air from left to right or vice versa.
The reason these irons only really suit more experienced players is that the sweetspot on the club is very small and off-centre hits will produce poor results, unless you hit the centre of the clubface on a regular basis you will get far more enjoyment from the game using the other Iron types I have mentioned.
So far we have talked about the head of the golf club but it is just as important to have the correct shaft to suit our level of play and physical abilities. Generally speaking shafts are made of 2 materials, steel and graphite.
Where woods are concerned you will very rarely if ever see a steel shaft, virtually all woods will be fitted with a graphite shaft. With Irons however whilst steel shafts are certainly more common graphite shafts are becoming increasingly popular so which shaft is right for you?
I remember when graphite shafts first came onto the market and to be honest they were pretty poor in comparison to what is available today, they would produce extremely inconsistent results and were very difficult to control due to high torque or twist during the swing. Today however graphite shafts are infinitely better and are starting to give steel shafts in irons a run for their money.
To keep things simple for customers we used to say that if you wanted more distance use a graphite shaft and if you wanted more accuracy use a steel shaft but nowadays it’s a much closer run thing. That said despite the huge steps that have been made in improving the consistency of graphite shafts steel still tends to produce more consistent results where distance is concerned and a more stable feel at impact which is why approximately 95% of tour players are still using steel shafts in their irons. Also, steel shafts can be made much lighter than previously so some of the lighter steel shafts are actually lighter than the heaviest graphite shafts but as a raw material graphite is lighter than steel.
Graphite may be a better option for you if you prefer a lighter and softer feel in your irons or like to have increased feel of the clubhead, graphite also has a ‘dampening’ effect when you strike the ball so is often favoured by players who suffer from joint aches and pains or arthritic pains.
Graphite shafts are also much thicker than steel shafts and with modern technology can now be manipulated during manufacture to enable a far greater choice of playability options to the customer, for example a shaft can be made to feel slightly heavier or lighter at different points of the shaft.
Finally, there is a difference in cost to be considered. Graphite is more expensive than steel so you will generally see an £80-£90 ($105-$120) increase in price in the same iron head fitted with a graphite shaft as opposed to a steel shaft.
To summarize the features and benefits of each shaft material :
- Lighter material allowing more clubhead speed
- Shaft walls are thicker allowing for more manipulation during manufacture
- Softer feel due to vibration absorption which can be beneficial for golfers with joint problems or arthritic pain
- More feel in the clubhead due to lighter shafts
- A more ‘stable’ feel at impact
- More predictable results where distance is concerned
Finally, without wishing to insult your intelligence the most important thing is to try the clubs out first. You probably have a graphite shaft in your driver and/or fairway woods but graphite shafts in irons will feel quite different as an iron head is considerably heavier than a modern driver head as a dead weight.
You might see huge differences in the results between the 2 different shaft materials or you may find the difference more subtle but I am certain you will notice quite a difference in the feel during the swing and at impact which is why trying them out is so important.
To sum up all the above information I would like to reiterate the importance of trying out your potential new irons but to try them alongside your current clubs to give you a true picture of any improvement that the new irons may offer you. It’s also vital that you simply like the look of the irons as well, I can promise you that you will be far less likely to blame your new irons for any bad shots they/you hit if you like the look of them.
There’s no real timescale with regards to how long you should keep your clubs, they last for many years if you look after them although most of us change our clubs before they actually wear out. It is likely however that you will have them for years rather than months so take some time in choosing your new irons and enjoy the process, it’s very exciting getting a new set of clubs, Good luck 🙂