Most Forgiving (Best) Irons for Beginners and High Handicappers in 2020

set of irons in stand golf bag

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 TaylorMade SIM Max OS.

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.

Iron Types

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.

Player Irons

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.

Iron Designs

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.

Cavity Back

A Set of Cavity Back Irons in a Golf Bag

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”

Muscle back blades and wedges in a golf bag

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.

Shaft Options

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.

Steel

When it comes to steel, there are 4 distinct advantages; stiffness, consistency, durability, and cost.

Stiffness

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.

Consistency

The characteristics of steel provides consistency from shaft to shaft which leads to more predictable distance control.

Durability

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.

Cost

On a per shaft basis, each one is about $10-15 less expensive than graphite.

Graphite

There and 2 main benefits when selecting graphite for irons; weight and vibration dampening

Weight

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.

Vibration Dampening

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.

Wedge Selection

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

 

Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo

The Cleveland Launcher HB Turbo Irons are “hybrid-like” clubs that have a completely different setup than your traditional iron.

Studies show that an average golfer only hits the green about 20% of the time from 150-200 yards out. This is an indication that average golfers need help and that traditional irons may no longer be working. The focus of these clubs was not on distance but on a lower center of gravity than a cavity backed iron. The result was a hollow, hybrid-like iron that focuses on getting the ball off of the ground and keeping the trajectory straight.

Pros

  • Hollow construction and a larger sweet spot offers incredible forgiveness without sacrificing feel.
  • Hi bore crown features lower and deeper weighting that produces a higher ball flight.
  • The turbocharged face offers a thin, high strength steel that allows you to maintain your distance even with the higher and straighter ball flight.
  • The short irons use a compact shape and shorter top lines to provide more control and feel in the short game.

Cons

  • The hybrid look can be a little disconcerting for golfers who are used to either cavity back or blade irons.
  • While the steel face helps to keep distance up, you loose club head speed and distance from your more traditional club heads.
  • You lose some of the feel and control in your overall iron play and in your short game in particular.
  • While they were made for more forgiveness, they are not priced that way.

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Callaway Mavrik Max

The Callaway Mavrik Max irons are the product of Callaway’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

Through a series of computer generated tests and subsequent club face tweeks, flash face technology was born. This technology was used for drivers last year and has made its way to the Callaway irons. While the technology is complicated, the results are not. With Artificial Intelligence, clubs can be tested before they are even created saving time and money while allowing for increased technological advancement. In the case of the Mavrik Max irons, there is a unique “face architecture” for every loft with improved weighting and face thickness as well. 

Pros

  • The first irons created with Callaway’s AI technology.
  • The Flash Face technology provides industry leading ball speeds and distance.
  • Unique face architecture for each loft produces a high and true ball flight for every club.
  • Use of tungsten-infused weights helps you find the sweet spot consistently.
  • Maintains great feel around the green.

Cons

  • You have to be willing to pay for the new technology.
  • Even with the focus on forgiveness, increased ball speed always equals decreased forgiveness.
  • Developed for lower handicapped golfers.

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TaylorMade SIM Max OS

The TaylorMade SIM Max OS irons were made specifically for higher handicapped golfers.

It features an oversized head and wide sole, but these features do not dominate the design. In fact, the overall shape is pleasing and, though it is a beginner’s iron, it has neither the look nor the feel of a golf club for higher handicaps. 

Pros

  • Less expensive than many of its competitors.
  • Built and designed with beginning golfers in mind.
  • Speed Bridge technology supports the topline of the iron and allows for increased clubhead speed and distance coupled with forgiveness and feel.
  • The oversized head and large face area increase forgiveness while allowing the club to interact with the turf better.
  • A low center of gravity improves ball flights and lift.
  • Slightly offset to fight against a common beginner’s mistake, the slice.

Cons

  • It lacks the look at setup that more seasoned golfers need and may not prepare beginner golfers for better clubs that they will need as they improve.
  • Game improvement irons, in general, do not have the same feel as their counterparts and the TaylorMade Sim Max OS is no exception.

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XXIO Eleven

The XXIO Eleven irons have a stated goal of taking average golfers to the next level.

Their method of doing this is providing clubs that increase peak heights and distance simultaneously. Decreasing weight and redistributing weight are the two ways that XXIO accomplishes this task. Decreasing weight increases clubhead speed, and when decreasing the weight is not an option

Pros

  • Forged titanium face for increased speed and distance.
  • Added weight in the hands of the club to produce a more consistent swing.
  • A lightweight club for higher swing speeds.
  • Double undercut cavity to increase peak height in the ball flight.

Cons

  • The most expensive clubs on the list.
  • It is not a beginner’s club, but is perfect for mid-handicappers that are trying to improve their scores.
  • Focuses on higher ball flights and distance at the expense of feel and forgiveness. 

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Cobra T-Rail 

The Cobra T-Rail irons use baffler rails on the sides to help the club slide along the turf, use a hollow head design for increased launch speeds and distance, and replace low irons with forgiving and easy-to-hit hybrids.

Everything about this set shows that it is focused on giving higher handicapped golfers everything they need to succeed.

Pros 

  • Made for high handicap golfers.
  • Baffler rails on the bottom of the club allow it to glide through the turf with little resistance.
  • Variable forged steel face with variable thickness provide distance while offering increased forgiveness to new golfers.
  • The 4 hybrid in place of an iron is perfect for golfers who are not yet used to using higher irons for approach shots.

Cons

  • The design is a little too different than a regular iron.
  • The baffler rails negatively affect feel and control around the green.
  • The clubs are less forgiving than some of the other clubs on this list.

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Our Choice

As far as the most forgiving irons go, the TaylorMade SIM Max OS irons stand above the rest in our rankings. While they may not have the technology of the Callaway’s or the forgiveness of the Clevelands, they are the most well-rounded beginner’s club on the list for the best price.

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The focus on distance, forgiveness, and ball flight are the three most important aspects of a beginner’s club. You can have all of the technology in the world and the clubs that produce the straightest ball flight, but if you cannot get your shot off the ground, nothing else matters. With the huge sweet spot and improved weighting, the TaylorMade SIM Max OS‘ are made for a beginner and can even grow with you as you improve.

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