If you’re in a hurry and just want to find the Most Forgiving (Best) Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers in 2020, then we recommend the Cleveland Launcher HB.
**UPDATE FOR 2020** If you’re looking for the latest reviews of brand new products released in 2020, we’ll be updating this post as we do our research and should be finished by the summer. Please make sure to check back then!
Staring down an approach shot as it lands softly on the green is an exhilarating feeling. You get to head to the green with an opportunity to sink a birdie!
Let’s be honest though, as a beginner or someone with a high handicap, having these opportunities won’t happen often but at the very worst, you want an approach shot to still land somewhere near the green. Reason being, you’ll have a good opportunity to save par or at worst make a bogey.
We’re all going to hit bad shots but there’s a saying that the less worse your bad shots are, the better off you’ll be.
That’s why selecting the the best irons for beginners and high handicappers is such an important decision.
In this article, we’re going to be reviewing the following irons:
Before we get started about what to look for in a set of irons, let’s talk a little bit more about this often overlooked piece of equipment.
Beginners Guide To Irons
The Most Used Clubs
With irons being such a versatile and often used club, it’s important to select the correct ones for your swing in order for you to play your best. You’re allowed to carry up to 14 clubs and irons can make up about 11 (or over 75%) of them.
About half of your shots will be hit with an iron and they are generally used when you’re trying to hit an approach shot onto the green. But they can also be used when teeing off or when you’re ball is just off of the green.
While distance is an important factor, the primary attribute a beginner or high handicap golfer should be looking for is accuracy. You not only want the ball to go consistent distances but you also want them to not stray too far off your target line.
The primary goal of any golf swing is to hit the sweet spot with the highest swing speed along the ideal swing path. If you can do those things correctly, you’re guaranteed to hit awesome golf shots.
Making solid contact is difficult enough, but the biggest challenge rests on being able to do it consistently.
Unless you’re an elite athlete, producing consistent swings can take years to develop.
As a beginner, you don’t have that time available and in order to produce good golf shots on off-center hits that still land on or close to the green, forgiveness is crucial.
Irons are generally designed for golfers seeking 2 types of purposes; those wanting maximum forgiveness (game improvement irons) or those wanting maximum control (player irons). Now there are irons that blend these together but for simplicity’s sake we’re just focusing on these 2.
Game Improvement Irons
As a general rule, game improvement irons are designed more for mid and high handicap golfers.
Not to beat a dead horse but the primary struggle for beginners and high handicappers is the ability to consistently hit the sweet spot.
These irons are specifically designed with larger club heads and more perimeter weighting to make the sweet spot larger and provide maximum forgiveness. This will result in less distance lost and less dispersion from the target line on off center strikes.
Game improvement irons come with a couple big drawbacks though; the ability to control your shot and the lack of feedback.
With forgiveness comes a loss of control and the ability to shape your golf shots to put you in the best possible position.
Feedback is important because it lets you know whether or not you made solid contact which is important to determine if you made a good golf swing.
Often times with game improvement irons an off center strike can feel very similar to a sweet spot strike.
For skilled golfers where hitting a sweet spot the size of a penny isn’t an issue, then player irons are a good option.
These irons offer a golfer the ability to have more control of their ball and put them in the best possible position to shoot their lowest scores.
As opposed to game improvement irons, these clubs have smaller club heads and less perimeter weighting. As a result, off center strikes will see a significant loss in distance and feel very harsh.
When it comes to iron design, they are again generally divided into 2 types; cavity back or muscle back/blades. Similar to the iron categories listed above, there are irons that blend these together but for simplicity’s sake we’re just focusing on these 2.
These irons have a cavity on the backside of the club to allow weight to be distributed to the outside of the club.
Without needing an engineering degree and to make things simple, the more energy you can transfer from the club to the ball at impact, the farther the ball will go.
When you hit the sweet spot, the maximum amount of energy is transferred to the ball and the further you hit from the sweet spot, the greater the loss in energy transfer.
The benefit of the cavity is that with off center strikes, there is less energy lost.
Muscle Back aka “Blades”
We have to say, these things are a beauty with their sleek and minimal design!
Now for the sake of simplicity, the exact opposite of what applies to cavity back irons applies to blades.
With more concentrated weight behind the ball at impact, the greater the ability to control the shot. Likewise, with less weight behind the ball on off center strikes, the greater the loss of energy transferred to the ball and therefore a significant loss in distance.
As opposed to woods, golfers normally have a two options when selecting the shaft material for irons; steel or graphite. Steel shafts are the most common option to see with irons but graphite is definitely gaining popularity since is also a very good option.
When it comes to steel, there are 4 distinct advantages; stiffness, consistency, durability, and cost.
Compared to graphite, steel is more stiff and twists less on impact which leads to more control and accuracy. As we mentioned before, irons are often used on approach shots where accuracy and distance control is the primary goal.
The characteristics of steel provides consistency from shaft to shaft which leads to more predictable distance control.
Steel is a strong material and therefore can endure much more wear and tear. Unless you’re like the guy below, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever need to replace a shaft.
On a per shaft basis, each one is about $10-15 less expensive than graphite.
There and 2 main benefits when selecting graphite for irons; weight and vibration dampening
Graphite shafts can weigh about half the weight of steel and as a result you’re able to generate more clubhead speed and hit farther golf shots.
For those with arthritis, or just sensitivity in your arms and hands, graphite absorbs much more vibration. This benefit can lead to less pain and overall discomfort in the golf swing.
What To Consider When Choosing The Best Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers
Go Game Improvement
Unless you’re shooting in the low 80’s or occasionally breaking 80, as a beginner, game improvement is the definitive way to go.
While not as aesthetically pleasing as a set of blades, game improvement irons will save you a lot of stokes. These irons are “chunkier” looking behind the ball and are much larger but that’s all for a specific purpose.
As a beginner, off center ball strikes are going to be very common and therefore you need a lot of forgiveness so the ball still travels a good distance and doesn’t stray too far off line.
Swap Out Long Irons (Maybe Even Mid Irons) With Hybrids
Without a doubt, one of the hardest clubs to hit in your bag is a long iron (2, 3, or 4 iron). The length of the club combined with a smaller club head can make even an excellent player a little nervous.
A hybrid is a club that combines both of the features of an iron and a wood and have gained popularity over the years because of their easiness to hit over a traditional long iron. Today, you’ll even see some PGA Tour Professionals carrying a 2 or 3 hybrid instead a long iron.
Long irons can be difficult to hit because of their length, but can also be difficult to get the ball in the air. Hybrids are still relatively longer clubs but with its blended design, it allows beginners and high handicappers 2 big advantages; 1) more forgiveness with off center hits and 2) the ability to get the ball in the air quicker for slower swing speeds.
Graphite Or Steel?
This decision really relies on whether you think you’re going to gain or lose swing speed over the next few years and whether or not you struggle with your iron distances.
As a general rule, if you’re an older golfer who might lose some athletic ability over the years, graphite makes more sense. If you’re a younger golfer and you think your swing speed won’t change or you might even gain some speed over the years, we suggest you sacrifice distance in favor having more control with steel shafts.
Almost all iron sets will include a pitching wedge and some will even offer additional matching wedges in different lofts.
You’ll want at least 3 of these 4 wedges in your bag; pitching wedge, gap wedge, sand wedge, or lob wedge. Now there are some subtle differences between the design of these clubs but they primarily differ by the loft.
A pitching wedge is usually around 44-46 degrees, a gap wedge is around 50-52 degrees, a sand wedge is around 54-56 degrees, and a lob wedge is around 58-60 degrees.
The main thing is that you have a variety of options available to you depending on the shot you face.
Now selecting the best wedges is a topic for another article but for beginners, if the iron set comes with the option to add additional wedges, it’s safe bet to add those to your bag.
Best Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers Reviewed
Designed for the recreational player, this set provides a combination of performance and simplicity with a focus on higher launch, straighter shots, and more forgiveness.
Their distinctive look is what’s most notable about the Launcher HB irons. The short irons look like traditional game improvement irons but as the set progresses into the mid and long irons, the clubs begin to take on the look of a traditional hybrid.
- Progressive head design removes need to buy separate hybrids
- Great forgiveness on off center strikes
- Easy to hit the ball high and far
- Very accurate and low shot dispersion
- Slight distance loss when compared to other irons on well struck shots
- Chunky look and feel can be unappealing to traditionalists
Featuring a Radical Distance Tech Package, the Rogue X is a light weight, long shaft length, stronger lofted set.
Its side sole places the center of gravity low and deep for easy, high launch and long carry.
The 360 Face Cup places a shallow, flexible rim around the perimeter of the club face that flexes and releases at impact to increase ball speed. Variable Face Technology (VFT) affects how the face flexes to promote more ball speed on off-center hits. These two technologies promote incredible ball speed and distance.
Finally, the Urethane Microspheres provide phenomenal sound and feel without compromising distance
- Exceptional distance on well struck shots especially in mid and long irons
- Premium looking club with the brand recognition of Callaway
- Traditional design doesn’t feel too chunky on setup
- Distance loss on off center strikes
- Higher shot dispersion on off center strikes
- A bit more pricey than other irons
These irons are made with REAKT Technology that promotes power and precise distance control to help you play your best.
The Progressive Power Holes provides the right combination of distance and precision when you need it. Long irons have three rows of Power Holes to maximize distance. Mid and short irons have two to one rows, while the wedges have one to no rows to optimize weighting for maximum feel and accuracy.
Featuring an ultra-thin face (the thinnest, highest face Wilson has ever made), the D7 irons helps you hit it longer and straighter with better feel.
Straight and clean top lines give the D7 irons the look of a players iron, but improved weighting provides all the benefits of super game improvement technology.
- Excellent distance and easy to hit especially for mid and long irons
- Standard set includes pitching wedge and gap wedge
- Sleek and simple design
- Standard set begins at 5 iron and a 4 iron needs to be special ordered
- Less brand recognition than the big boys like Callaway and TaylorMade
These irons were designed to push the limits on ball speed and distance.
According to TaylorMade “The CGB name (Center Gravity Back) is iconic and represents some of the longest and most forgiving irons we’ve ever created. The concept has now been re-created with all our latest technology to bring never-before seen performance to golfers of all levels.“
A sub-2mm face thickness in each iron pushes the limit on ball speed and distance while the ultra-low center of gravity location promotes high-trajectory and optimized spin rates.
The multi-material head construction and thin, flexible sole with Speed Pocket provide amazing forgiveness on every club.
Advanced Hybrar damper and stiff 3D sound-managing badge dampen vibrations and soften feel without sacrificing distance.
- Excellent forgiveness on off center strikes
- Great distance on well struck shots
- Standard set includes 8 clubs including pitching wedge and gap wedge
- Filled with all kinds of new tech, the look can be unappealing to the traditionalist
XXIO (pronounced zek-si-oh) is a smaller manufacturer based out of Japan with a great reputation.
The X Irons combine their most advanced technologies to give you the ideal performance in each club.
A Hi-Energy Impact Head design with titanium enlarges the sweet spot on the club face, giving you more ball speed and greater distance from more impact locations.
Progressive sole weights are positioned as low as possible in each club to promote higher launch and more forgiveness that is specifically engineered for each iron.
The Smart Impact Shaft is designed to reduce the force on your body during the swing to promote more consistent sweet spot contact.
- Excellent distance on well struck and off center strikes especially for mid and long irons
- Low shot dispersion on off center strikes
- Simple, traditional design
- Significantly more pricey than other irons
- Low brand recognition
There are multiple options available from several manufacturers when it comes to choosing the best irons for beginners and high handicappers. The five sets of irons reviewed above are some of the best options available on the market in 2019.
We feel that for beginners, the single most important factor for irons are forgiveness and consistency which will lead to hitting more greens (or just being off the green) on approach shots.
With all this being said, we decided the best choice is the Cleveland Launcher HB.
Although these irons aren’t your traditional looking set and overall distance wasn’t the greatest, it’s progressive design allowed for consistent and predictable shots. Combined with the overall forgiveness on off center strikes, the Cleveland Launcher HB are the clear cut winner.