If you’re someone who struggles hitting driver off the tee but hates using fairway woods or hybrids, then a driving iron may be the solution you’ve been searching for.
Designed for the golf traditionalist, driving irons – also referred to as utility clubs – maintain that classic iron look and aren’t as beefy or bulky as many of the hybrid/rescue clubs on the market.
If you’ve landed on this article, it’s likely you’re considering adding a driving iron to your bag, and I’m here to help you decide which is the right one for you.
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What is the best driving iron on the market?
When it comes to driving irons available on the market today, I simply can’t go past the Srixon ZX Utility Iron.
As someone who games Srixon’s ZX7 irons you may think I’m a little biased, but this isn’t the case – as soon as I hit this club at my local golf shop, I fell in love with it.
If you love a soft feel off the face, like I do, then no other driving iron will compare: this is largely due to Srixon using 1020 super soft carbon steel when creating the club head.
The hollow head helps promote a higher launch angle and adds to the club’s excellent feel, while Srixon has maintained a classic iron profile which will suit players who love that traditional look (some driving irons from other brands can get a bit chunky, and look more like a hybrid).
While I ultimately opted instead to add the Sim 3-wood to my bag as my fairway finder club, if I was ever to switch to a driving iron, the Srixon ZX Utility would be a no-brainer.
The club was even used by 2019 Open Championship winner Shane Lowry during his victory at Royal Portrush, which is a great endorsement that this iron performs at the elite level, in tough, windy conditions – exactly as it’s designed to.
If you wish to read more about what makes the Srixon ZX Utility my favourite driving iron on the market, along with my other eight best choices, keep reading (you can click here to skip straight to the list of detailed reviews further down this article).
But before I reveal my choice of best driving irons in 2021, let me answer a few common questions related to this popular golf club.
What is a driving iron?
A driving iron – sometimes called a utility iron – is a specially-made iron with a thicker, more forgiving club head and wider sole designed to launch the golf ball higher in the air, with greater ease. It is used by golfers seeking better accuracy off the tee, or who struggle hitting driver.
The driving iron has risen in popularity over the years, with most big-name manufacturers – from Callaway and TaylorMade, to Srixon and Cobra – including their own unique model in their range of clubs.
There are a number of big advantages, but also some disadvantages, to driving irons, which I’ve outlined in the list below.
- Typically, easier to hit off the tee than driver, leading to greater accuracy
- Appealing for golfers who prefer the look of an iron versus a hybrid or fairway wood
- Lower flight than driver, which keeps the ball out of the wind and less likely to be impacted by breeze
- Designed to easily launch into the air
- Can be played from the tee or from the fairway
- Less forgiving than hybrids and fairway woods due to a marginally smaller club head
- Harder to strike consistently due to being a long iron, which can be difficult for beginners or high handicappers to make repeated, solid contact
- Tougher to hit out of the rough than a hybrid, making it less versatile
Is a driving iron worth using?
If you struggle getting your driver in play off the tee, a driving iron can be an excellent alternative – and be used as your ‘fairway finder’ in pressure situations, or on narrow holes – provided you’re someone who strikes their long irons relatively well.
Because a driving iron has more loft than a driver and a larger clubhead than a regular iron, and doesn’t require you to tee the ball up as high, it’s much harder to hit it significantly offline.
A famous quote from Greg Norman that will forever stick with me is: “If you can’t hit driver, don’t”.
That’s pretty good advice from someone who is considered one of the greatest, and most accurate, drivers of the golf ball of all time.
If you’re struggling with your driver, a driving iron might be the answer to your problem (either that, or it might be time to get some golf lessons).
However, there are some players who may be better off using driver, or even a hybrid, rather than a driving iron, which brings me to the next question…
Should a high handicapper use a driving iron?
Driving irons are aimed at skilled, low-to-mid handicappers who consistently strike their long irons well, rather than high handicappers. If you are a beginner, you may benefit more from using a hybrid which has a larger club head and is easier to make regular, solid contact with the golf ball.
The big downside to driving irons is their club face has a smaller surface area than a typical driver, which can make it harder to get good contact every time to take a swing (especially if you’re a beginner).
If you’re a high handicapper who struggles hitting long irons, you’d probably be better off adding a hybrid to your bag as it will be more forgiving than a driving iron and you won’t notice, or be penalised for, your off-centre strikes anywhere near as much.
How far can you hit a driving iron?
How far you can hit a driving iron comes down to the amount of loft the club has, how fast you swing the club, your attack angle and the amount of spin you put on the ball at impact.
Most driving irons on the market will have a loft of between 16 and 22 degrees, and will carry anywhere between around 180 and 230 yards – with a total distance ranging from 200 to 250 yards – depending on your swing speed.
The less loft the club has, the longer you’ll be able to hit it.
If you’re a player who puts less spin rate on the golf ball and have a lower launch angle (meaning the ball flies lower through the air, and runs farther once hitting the fairway) you’re more likely to get greater distance out of your driving iron than a player who has a higher launch angle and puts more spin on the ball, meaning it will stop quicker upon landing.
But distance isn’t everything, and you should choose a driving iron with a loft that is easiest to hit, while still maximising distance – whether it be 16, 17, 18 or more degrees – as his will produce the best results on the course, and lead to greater accuracy and scoring.
Best driving irons in 2021
Now that I’ve explained the advantages of adding a driving iron to your bag, it’s time to reveal which are the best options available on the market today.
In devising this list, I tested as many clubs in person as possible at my local golf shop, and where I wasn’t able to personally swing the club, I spent hours reading and watching reviews from other golfers, and assessing all the pros and cons before reaching my conclusion.
After extensive research, these are my nine best driving irons for golfers in 2021.
Srixon ZX Utility Iron
The Srixon ZX Utility iron, released in early 2021, has arguably the softest feel of any utility club on the market, without sacrificing distance, largely due to its design.
The forged construction, which blends ultra-soft 1020 carbon steel with a high-strength SUP10 face, creates that buttery feel at impact, but also aids distance.
As part of Srixon’s Z-series, the ZX is completely hollow which improves your control (which can be difficult when using long irons) but also adds forgiveness with a high launch trajectory thanks to Tungsten being placed inside the base of the club.
But one of the most eye-catching elements of the Srixon ZX driving iron is its visual aesthetics, with the classic iron-like address profile boosting player confidence and appealing to traditionalists.
Unlike the Z U85 and Z U65 models before it, the ZX is smaller and more compact address, which makes it suited to higher-skilled, low-to-mid handicappers rather than beginners.
Lastly, the face of the club uses milled grooves, producing consistent spin from the fairway and rough to help you hit your yardages more regularly, and offer most stopping power on the greens to give you more birdie putts.
Simply put, for what you pay, the Srixon ZX Utility is the best driving iron on the market, especially for good players.
Watch a review of the Srixon ZX below:
TaylorMade SIM Max DHY 2020 Utility Iron
When it come down to selecting my favourite driving iron on the market, the TaylorMade SIM Max DHY came a very close second.
TaylorMade has really excelled with their longer clubs in recent years – the SIM series drivers are incredible, and I own the SIM 3-wood which is an amazing club that feels and sounds amazing, and has helped me find many more fairways since buying it.
It’s no surprise then that the SIM Max DHY Utility is of equally high calibre and is a much-improved version of TaylorMade’s GAPR LO Utility Iron (which I also review further down this list) and aimed more at players of all abilities, rather than low handicappers.
Shaped for versatility, the club head is wider than previous TaylorMade driving irons yet has a playable sole designed to perform in all conditions – you won’t have trouble getting out of the rough with this club, which is (as you’ll find out by reading on) is one of downsides of the GAPR LO.
The SIM Max DHY has been injected with revolutionary Speed Foam, which is an ultra-light urethane material engineered to push the design limits of the face while also improving feel.
The centre of gravity inside the hollow body is low and back, creating a more optimal ball flight and better sound off the club face, which is forged from C300 steel to produce explosive ball speeds.
TaylorMade’s Inverted Cone and Thru Slot Speed Pocket also work in unison to improve forgiveness and distance, meaning your off-centre strikes will still travel far enough down the fairway.
TaylorMade also has the SIM Max UDI Utility Iron in its range (which is slimmer and designed more at the better player), but what I liked about the SIM Max DHY is it comes in more lofts (19, 22 and 25 degrees) and can be used by golfers of all abilities.
The SIM brand has been incredibly successful, and used by some of the best golfers in the world – you can be sure the SIM Max DHY Utility Iron will perform exceptionally well if you add it to your bag.
Watch a review of the TaylorMade SIM Max DHY below:
Srixon Z Utility U85/U65 Iron
Because I’m a big fan of the Srixon ZX, naturally I’m also going to have a soft spot for the earlier model Srixon Z U85 – which, despite being released around three years earlier in 2018, performs very similar for less money.
Sounds pretty good, if you ask me.
Compared to the ZX, the Z U85 has a slightly larger face – lending itself to mid-to-high handicappers or beginners – and also more of a half cavity/muscle back-type appearance, rather than the intimidating blade look, which also heightens the player’s confidence.
While Srixon would have you believe otherwise, there are very few differences between the ZX and Z U85 in terms of performance – the only real separator between these clubs is price.
Similarly, if you’d like to spend even less, the Srixon Z U65 – which is the earlier iteration of the U85 – is equally as good, but comes with a stock Miyazaki Kaula 7 shaft as opposed to a UST Recoil 95 shaft (although both are graphite).
Watch a review of the Srixon Z U85 below:
Callaway X-Forged 2020 Utility Iron
If the Srixon Z-Series are the sleek, Ferrari-like driving irons on the market today, then the Callaway X-Forged 2020 Utility is the durable, beefy, Jeep-style alternative.
Whether it’s the external Tungsten weighting that has been metal-injection-moulded (MIM’d) to the rear exterior of the club head – creating optimal ball trajectory and launch – or the longer blade length and wider sole, this club really is a beast.
Built from 1025 mild carbon steel, the X-Forged also incorporates a hollow body (seen in most of the latest driving irons) blended with Callaway’s specialised urethane microspheres to create a club that has a soft feel and booming distance, without sacrificing control.
Callaway’s AI-designed Flash Face Cup technology also promotes high ball speeds and consistent spin, which further aids control – ideal for players of all abilities.
One potential negative of the Callaway X-Forged Utility is that off-centre strikes are slightly more noticeable than other driving irons on this list, and the contact feels ‘solid’ rather than ‘buttery and smooth’ when struck well.
If you’re a player who likes that firm sensation, then the X-Forged is likely a better option than the Srixon ZX or Z U85.
The Callaway X-Forged 2020 Utility Iron is available in three lofts (18, 21 and 24 degrees) and also two different shafts (Project X U steel shaft, or Project X HZRDUS graphite shaft) catering for players who place a premium on control (steel shaft, higher loft) over distance and speed (graphite shaft, lower loft).
Watch a review of the Callaway X-Forged (2020) below:
Callaway X-Forged 2018 Utility Iron
If you’re tight on budget or are a lower-handicap player, the earlier version of Callaway’s X-Forged Utility Iron – the 2018 model – might be an option for you.
But, if you’re a higher-handicap player I’d recommend saving a little more money to get the latest version of this club (as detailed above), and I’ll explain why.
The main reason beginners may benefit more from the 2020 X-Forged Utility Iron over the 2018 version is it looks larger due to the beefed-up backing behind the club face.
While this is purely aesthetic, players who struggle to hit long irons may feel more confident with a larger-looking club head to hit with, which in turn can produce better results on course.
After all, you need to be comfortable with what you’re using, as positive mentality in golf is essential.
That aside, the 2018 X-Forged Utility Iron has all the same ground-breaking Callaway innovations – including a Tungsten-infused insert and Face Cup technology to improve control and speed – that makes it an excellent option.
Cobra King 2020 Utility Iron
In terms of adjustability, few, if any, other driving irons on the market come close to the Cobra King 2020 Utility Iron.
This is an essential feature for a club that is designed to perform in windy, linksy conditions where driver simply isn’t going to work.
Needing to hit a low stinger into the wind? Adjust the club to have less loft. Looking to launch the ball farther with a tail breeze? Tweak the club to have more loft.
Having the ability to change the set-up by a few degrees on the run – basically giving you a 2 and 3-iron all-in-one – is something virtually no other driving irons on this list provide, and really is a big feather in Cobra’s cap.
The club is visually appealing; however, some players may be put off by being able to see the ‘King’ logo on the back of the club at address.
Like most driving irons, it is designed with a hollow body and incorporates a unique PWRSHELL Face, which is inserted around the sole to create a larger sweet spot for higher launch and faster ball speed.
Lastly, a 66g Tungsten weigh positions the centre of gravity right behind the hitting area to maximise distance and aid a penetrating ball flight.
The club comes in 17.5, 19.5 or 22.5 degrees of loft, catering to all preferences.
If you’re someone who games the Cobra One Length Irons like Bryson DeChambeau, you’ll be please to know the Cobra King 2020 Utility Iron is also available in a one-length shaft.
Watch a review of the Cobra King below:
Wilson Staff Model Utility Iron
If you’re not familiar with Wilson clubs, this may seem like an odd addition to the list – but trust me, the Wilson Staff Model Utility Iron should seriously come into your considerations when choosing your new driving iron.
On appearance, this really is a beautiful club – it has a high-polished finish and a thick top edge, giving players plenty of confidence when standing over their shot.
The face is built using high strength C300 maraging steel, which helps deliver greater ball speeds and distance across the entire club, even with off centre strikes.
It really does make an explosive sound off the face courtesy of the dense material, and the hollow body construction (which also increases forgiveness).
The Wilson Staff has a number of components working in unison to deliver excellent launch, but none more important than the 7g weight positioned low in the club head to really help get that ball airborne – perfect for beginners or players will slower swing speeds.
If you’re someone who games blades or muscle-back style irons, you may not like the amount of off-set from the hosel on this club, which is more than some other driving irons on the market and designed at higher handicappers.
Available in 18, 21 and 24 degrees, and with a KBS Hybrid graphite shaft, the Wilson Staff Model Utility is a high-performing driving iron suited to players of all abilities and will, without doubt, get you hitting more fairways.
Watch a review of the Wilson Staff Model below:
TaylorMade GAPR LO Iron
With its sleek, black finish, the TaylorMade GAPR LO Iron is an absolutely stunning piece of golf manufacturing – and it’s also the second adjustable driving iron on this list.
Released in 2018, this club just looks awesome – and comes in 17, 19 and 22 degrees of loft, which can be tweaked up or down 1.5 degrees at the hosel.
Aside from its glossy appearance, which I can’t stress enough is super cool, what really sets the TaylorMade GAPR apart is the speed foam that has been injected into the club face.
Like the newer SIM Max DHY, TaylorMade has injected it with their revolutionary new material that has enabled them to design a thinner, faster face without sacrificing speed, distance and feel.
This is extremely appealing to golfers who don’t necessarily like the bulkiness of traditional hollow-head driving irons, and prefer a club that more resembles the other irons in their bag.
The LO model is one of three GAPR creations released by TaylorMade, aimed at lower-handicap players, with the other two – the GAPR Mid and GAPR Hi – drifting more towards hybrid territory, rather than maintaining a traditional iron appearance, and catering for mid-to-high handicappers.
The TaylorMade GAPR LO has a low, piercing ball flight, hence the name, that is perfect for windy, linksy conditions, but its slim face makes it far less forgiving than other driving irons on the market – you will certainly feel your mis-hits.
Similarly, the narrower sole prevents the club gliding through the rough as easy as what some others might.
The TaylorMade GAPR LO is a beautiful club, but it’s certainly targeted towards better players, with the GAPR HI a better option for someone who likes TaylorMade as a brand, but is seeking something with more forgiveness.
Watch a review of the TaylorMade GAPR LO below:
Cleveland Launcher UHX Utility Iron
Whenever you think Cleveland, you automatically think wedges – but their driving iron option shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed.
The Cleveland Launcher UHX Utility Iron may not have the reputation some of the others on this list might, but it’s still an excellent choice for the average golfer (especially those on a budget).
The club head, like most modern-day driving irons, is hollow but constructed using a variable high-strength HT1770M steel face insert which promotes an explosive ball speed and feel off the face, maximising distance and making off-centre strikes less punishing.
It incorporates a V-shaped sole to improve turf interaction, while there is considerable off-set from the hosel aimed at mid-to-high handicappers who need extra forgiveness.
One of the standout visual differences of the Cleveland Launcher is the club has the loft stamped next to the number, which is unique.
Otherwise, the club’s appearance is pretty basic and without the glossy, sleek finish that comes with the Srixon Z Series or the Wilson Staff Model.
It comes with a standard UST Recoil graphite shaft, which is available in both regular and stiff.
While Cleveland is more renowned for its excellent wedges, the Launcher UHX Utility Iron is a fine club that will make a good addition to any golfer’s bag, without breaking the bank.
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