If you’re a high handicap golfer who is struggling to get your scores down – despite regular practice and even lessons – it might be time to invest in some new irons.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Should I really be blaming my tools? Will new irons really make much of a difference?’
The answer is actually a resounding yes.
If you’re regularly shooting over 100 and have been grinding away at the driving range without making any progress, especially if you’ve been getting tutelage from a golf instructor, there’s a good chance your equipment is holding you back.
For example, if you’re using some old blades that you bought second hand thinking they’d be great to learn with (even though less and less players on the PGA Tour are gaming them), you’re probably making things harder than it needs to be.
I’ve evaluated the latest release irons from multiple golf manufacturers and found the following nine clubs to be the best suited to high handicappers:
- TaylorMade SIM 2 Max Irons
- Callaway Apex 21 Irons
- Cobra Radspeed Irons
- Cleveland Launcher XL Halo Irons
- Wilson Staff D9 Irons
- Tour Edge Hot Launch C521 Irons
- Cobra T-Rail Irons
- Callaway Big Bertha B21 Irons
- Lazrus Premium Golf Irons
But what makes these irons ideally equipped for high handicap players? Well, that brings us to the all-important next question (or click here to scroll straight down to the reviews)…
Table of contents
What irons should a high handicapper use?
As a high handicapper, you should use irons that have a wide, forgiving sole; an offset hosel; and a cavity back clubhead as these characteristics will help counteract off-centre strikes, launch the ball into the air easier and, generally, yield far better results if you struggle finding the middle of the clubface consistently.
Above all else, these three characteristics are essential if you are a high handicap player and I’ve explained why in more detail below.
Wide, forgiving sole: The wider the sole of the iron, the lower the mass is in the clubhead and the easier it glides across the turf. Having this weight at the bottom leads to a lower centre of gravity, which translates into a high ball flight and increased distance.
Offset hosel: By moving the clubface slightly back from the hosel, it means players need less forward shaft lean (getting their hands in front of the ball) in order to square the leading edge at impact. It also makes it harder to slice the ball, which is a common miss for high handicappers.
Cavity back clubhead: Cavity back irons, in contrast to muscle backs, are designed to remove excess weight from behind the centre of the clubhead and distribute it more to the edges/perimeter. This helps increase the ‘sweet spot’ on the clubface, reducing the severity of mishits (and also making it harder to impart spin onto the golf ball).
As a high handicapper on the search for new irons, or even wedges, it is essential that whatever you choose ticks these three boxes – they will be far easier to hit, which will translate to better results, improved confidence and, hopefully, lower scores.
Best irons for high handicappers in 2023
So, now that you’re clear on what characteristics to look for in game improvement irons, it’s time to reveal my top picks for high handicappers.
In compiling this list I’ve endeavoured to hit as many of these clubs myself down at my local golf shop, and where I haven’t been able to test them myself, I’ve spent many hours researching the pros and cons of each model and watching ample videos of other players testing them.
Read on to see the nine best irons that high handicappers should consider buying in 2023.
TaylorMade SIM 2 Max Irons
In all honestly, there’s barely been a TaylorMade club in recent years that I haven’t enjoyed hitting – I loved the Sim Max 2 three-wood and driver because of how solid they both felt, coupled with the incredible sound they made off the clubface.
It’s no surprise then that the TaylorMade Sim Max 2 irons would be a welcome addition to my bag, any day of the week, if I was just starting out in the game (instead, I’ve moved into the Srixon ZX7 irons as they are geared towards low-to-mid handicappers).
Now, granted, there may be better looking irons out there – the Sim Max 2 has a beefy appearance, due to the hollow body construction and Cap Back design – but it’s this technology that gives these clubs an explosive, cannon-like feel off the clubface.
High handicappers often battle with mis-strikes, however there are few irons out there that will mask those off-centre hits as well as the Sim Max 2 – made possible by TaylorMade’s Thru-Slot Speed Pocket and Fast Forgiving Face expanding the sweet spot.
Toe or heel strikes won’t fall out of the sky, with the forgiveness of these clubs ensuring your ball will land somewhere near your intended target.
Similarly, the low centre of gravity in these irons – made possible by a wide sole and ultra-thin face in conjunction with a fluted hosel – ensures even slightly thin or fat strikes will launch high and long.
When it comes to irons geared towards high handicappers, the TaylorMade Sim Max 2 ticks all the necessary boxes – you can buy these with confidence knowing they will improve your game, without question.
Callaway Apex 21 Irons
If you’re after a high handicap iron that blends looks with performance, it’s really hard to go past the Callaway Apex 21s.
These clubs have the ‘classic’ Callaway appearance of years gone by – a medium top line, a slight amount of offset from the hosel (without being excessive), rounded corners and a medium-to-rounded lead edge.
The Callaway Apex 21s have a slightly more forged appearance than the TaylorMade Sim Max 2 (without being a forged iron, of course), giving you a little more workability in terms of shot shaping.
However, one of the first thing I noticed when hitting these irons were the low centre of gravity, courtesy of the Tungsten Energy Core – I could really feel the clubhead pull through impact without exerting extra effort, giving incredible launch off the face and plenty of forgiveness.
This definitely helped to minimise the damage of mis-hits strikes and still allowed the ball to launch high and long, regardless of whether it hit the centre of the clubface or not (certainly welcome news to high handicappers who struggle with consistency).
The other take-home consideration is how these clubs sound and feel – when you flush them, the solid contact is immediately noticeable both physically and audibly, which Callaway boasts is thanks to the 1025 mild carbon steel body and patented urethane microspheres blended into the design.
Whether you are someone who already uses Callaway irons, or is looking to make a switch from a different manufacturer, the Apex 21s are a wonderful set of clubs that won’t disappoint.
Cobra Radspeed Irons
When taking a first glance at the Cobra Radspeed irons, I was immediately intrigued by the 3D-printed technology weaved into the back of the clubhead.
Not only does the intricate lattice design look like something out of a sci-fi film, it also serves a very important purpose – to dampen vibrations, improving feel and feedback.
For high handicappers who are looking to improve their ball-striking, this is an essential feature as it will help you differentiate between your good and bad strikes and train you to find the middle of the clubface more often, the longer you use these irons.
The other key feature of the Cobra Radspeed irons is the radial weighting, whereby a 10g tungsten weight has been placed near the toe to balance out a 3g weight in the heel.
Placing weight at either extreme of the clubhead helps centralise its centre of gravity, which in turn reduces spin and aids ball speed – two characteristics high handicappers need in a game improvement iron.
When addressing the golf ball, you’ll also notice the slim piece of carbon embedded into the top line to allow that weight to be redistributed elsewhere, for better balance, while also giving you a visual indicator of whether the clubface is open, closed or square.
The final thing I really like about these irons are that they come in both traditional-length shafts and also the trademark ‘one-length’ shafts made famous by PGA superstar and Cobra ambassador Bryson DeChambeau, giving you options depending on your preferences.
The Cobra Radspeeds will suit both high and mid handicappers, meaning you won’t have to trade them in when you start shaving stokes off your game – saving you money, which is a huge and welcome bonus.
Cleveland Launcher XL Halo Irons
If you want clubs that are super forgiving – to the point that it almost seems like cheating (even though it’s not) – then you cannot go past the Cleveland Launcher XL Halo irons.
Simply put, these things are absolute beasts; in fact, their ultra-wide sole gives them an appearance most resembling a hybrid than an iron.
Interestingly, the design of the sole changes as you progress from the shorter to longer clubs – the ‘dual’ and sand wedges have a three-tiered base; the short irons have a V-shape; while the long irons are fixed with gliderails for optimal turf interaction (particularly important given high handicappers typically struggle hitting longer clubs).
Obviously, the look of these irons will split the opinion of players – some will be turned off instantly by how chunky they are, while other golfers (especially those who really struggle with their iron play) will love the extra confidence they gain by looking down and seeing a huge clubhead placed behind the ball.
But what cannot be debated is how easy these clubs launch the ball into the air, and the extreme forgiveness they offer.
Cleveland attributes this to its Mainframe variable face technology which increases ball speed, yet is counterbalanced by unique weight pads to minimise the impact of off-centre strikes.
Of course, there are downsides; the main ones being the size of the clubhead gives you very little workability in terms of shot shaping, meaning you’ll likely have to upgrade your entire set when your handicap starts dropping.
The Cleveland Launcher XL Halo irons are excellent for golfers who really struggle getting the ball airborne from the fairway, but probably aren’t for players with ambitions of being mid-to-low handicappers.
Wilson Staff D9 Irons
When it comes to golf, Wilson equipment is renowned for targeting the amateur player – whether it’s their D7 driver or Staff ball, Wilson gear is usually affordable but still performs at a decent level.
It’s no surprise then that the Wilson Staff D9 irons, released in early 2021, have made the list of recommendations for high handicappers.
In terms of appearance, the Wilson D9s are one of the sleekest game improvement irons on the market today – yet they still have a wide, generous sole that gives players plenty of confidence when setting the club down behind the ball at address.
Unlike the Cobra Radspeed or TaylorMade SIM Max 2 irons – which have some interesting cavity-back technology moulded into the clubhead – the D9s are comparatively simple in design.
Wilson boasts that its hardly visible, urethane-filled ‘Power Holes’ enable maximum flex in the face, increasing forgiveness and also ball speed (you won’t be hurt as bad by those off-centre strikes).
But what is commonly noted about these clubs by golfers everywhere is just how much distance they generate – the sound at impact is noticeably louder than some other irons on this list, generating a high, towering ball flight.
This is a big bonus for players who struggle to naturally generate swing speed or get the ball up into the air enough to hold greens with their approach shots.
If you want a game improvement iron that doesn’t look overly bulky, still performs very well and is priced lower than some other ‘big name’ brands, the Wilson D9s are a great option for mid-to-high handicappers.
Tour Edge Hot Launch C521 Irons
Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘Tour Edge isn’t a popular golf brand, why would I even consider it?’
But before you discount these clubs completely, let me explain why the Tour Edge Hot Launch C521 irons are worth some serious thought.
The first reason: they are extremely affordable. A single Tour Edge iron can cost anywhere up to $60 less than other brands on this list, which can mean some significant and welcome savings if you’re someone on a budget.
The second reason: just because they’re cheaper, it doesn’t mean they perform any worse than other game improvement irons.
Personally, I really like the look of these clubs.
While the sole is wide enough to offer plenty of forgiveness, they are still slimmer than other models on this list – or the bevelled top edge at least makes them seem that way – and quite easily suit both mid and high handicappers.
The cavity back is also cleverly designed in an ‘undercut’ way that moves more weight to the rear of the clubhead, improving launch but also maximises power and stability.
In terms of forgiveness, the Tour Edge certainly performs well due to its toe-weighted construction widening the sweet spot, meaning you don’t have to strike it perfectly in the centre of the clubface every time for decent results (the slight offset also aids this).
As you can see in this review, the C521s also put up some really impressive numbers that rival other bigger name brands.
If you’re someone who might be new to the game of golf and aren’t comfortable shelling out big money for a set of clubs (especially if you’re not madly in love with the sport yet), the Tour Edge C521s are a perfect starter set of irons that still deliver excellent results.
Cobra T-Rail Irons
The marketing slogan for the Cobra T-Rail irons is “take the shortcut to a better game”, which is exactly what these clubs will do for high handicappers.
If you’re someone who is time-poor or simply can’t be bothered spending hours at the range improving your swing – but still want to perform respectably when on the course with mates – then these irons are just what you’re looking for.
Similar in appearance and design to the Cleveland Launcher XL Halo irons, the Cobra T-Rails have that chunky, hybrid look about them that will give the casual player supreme confidence when standing over the ball.
On the flip side, however, for high handicappers who are genuinely serious about lowering their handicap over time, these irons do have their limitations.
The size of the clubhead – which is designed to have a hollow centre for maximum launch and forgiveness – makes it harder to work the ball through the air, which is something you’ll want to do as you progress from being a high handicapper to mid or low handicapper.
But if you simply want a set of irons that are super easy to hit, the Cobra T-Rails will not disappoint and the hollow split rail sole and forged face insert will hide those off-centre strikes.
And if that isn’t enough to convince you, then the price might – with these clubs being very affordable.
Callaway Big Bertha B21 Irons
Released in 2020, the Callaway Big Bertha B21 irons are still excellent performers that will benefit high handicappers at a lower price that the Callaway Apex irons.
These clubs are engineered for two things only: distance and accuracy.
The 360 Face Cup flexes and releases at impact to encourage higher ball speeds – perfect for players who may lack natural clubhead speed – while the trademark curved Big Bertha sole optimises turf interaction that aids launch and squaring of the clubface.
Similarly, the urethane microspheres blended into the steel adds improved feel while the Tungsten Energy Core has allowed Callaway to deepen the centre of gravity in these irons to again get that ball soaring into the air.
All of these characteristics are perfect for high handicappers who tend to pick at the ball or hit it thin.
Tried and true, the Callaway Big Bertha B21 irons have an excellent reputation among golfers of all abilities and are a very safe choice that won’t let you down.
Lazrus Premium Golf Irons
I couldn’t compile a list of irons for high handicappers without focusing on a set that meets arguably the most important requirement for many amateur golfers – and that is being super budget friendly.
Many high handicappers only play casually, or irregularly and don’t see the value in forking out thousands of dollars for brand-new irons, which is where the Lazrus Premium Golf irons come in.
I’m going to be completely upfront, however: I have not been able to test these irons in person as, somewhat unsurprisingly, my local golf store don’t stock them given they aren’t your typical big-name brand.
But, I have trawled the internet and read what other golfers have said about these clubs – and the feedback has been surprisingly positive.
The Lazrus Premium Golf irons resemble the Callaway Big Berthas in design, and many players have been impressed by how high they launch the ball.
But on the other side of that coin are other players who have been disappointed with the somewhat ‘dead’ feel off the clubface, which doesn’t stack up against other models on this list.
If you want a truly budget, beginner set of clubs, these will do the job – but if you’re serious about your golf, and are determined to improve, you’re likely better off saving a little longer and buying a more reputable, tried and true brand.
Should I buy a 3 and 4 iron as a high handicapper?
High handicappers generally struggle to hit long irons with any consistency, so it’s likely they would benefit little from having a 3 or 4 iron in their bag. High handicappers would benefit far greater from adding either a 3 or 4 hybrid to their bag as they are far easier to use.
As we’ve explained in another article, more and more pros on the PGA Tour are swapping out long irons with hybrids because of how well they perform from both the fairway and in the rough.
This is largely due to their super-wide sole, which is designed to easily glide through thick grass or sandy lies, guaranteeing easier contact than what a standard long iron would provide.
If you’re a high handicapper who wants to add longer clubs to your bag, a 3 or 4 hybrid would be a far better choice than a 3 or 4 iron.
We’ve reviewed the best hybrids on the market here to help you make the right choice.
What shaft flex should a high handicapper use with their irons?
High handicap golfers will benefit most from regular flex shafts (or even senior flex shafts if they have a driver swing speed less than 75mph). These shafts will help you generate more lag by design, which will translate to distance. High handicappers with a swing speed over 95mph, however, may benefit from stiff shafts.
Deciding what flex shaft to use in your irons really comes down to your swing speed – just because you’re a high handicapper, doesn’t automatically mean you can’t give the ball a good rip.
As a general rule, the flex most suited to you is as followed (based on driver clubhead speed):
- Under 75mph: Ladies or senior flex
- 75-95mph: Regular flex
- 95-110mph: Stiff flex
- Over 110mph: Extra stiff flex
When I was playing off a 20+ handicap, I was using irons with regular flex – but because I swung the club with plenty of speed, I struggled greatly with knowing where the clubhead was in my backswing and, as a result, found it difficult to square the face.
It wasn’t until I moved into stiff shafts that I really got control of my irons and started to see my handicap drop dramatically (I knocked six shots off it in just 10 weeks).
What is the easiest iron to hit for a high handicapper?
Personally, I found the TaylorMade SIM Max 2 irons the easiest game improvement iron to hit and believe these are the best option for high handicappers. However, this will be different for every player. The Callaway Apex 21 irons were also incredibly easy to use and offered nice, high launch.
When it boils down to it, every set of clubs on this list are perfectly suitable for golfers who play off a handicap of 20 or more.
Hopefully, the reviews I’ve provided above have helped you with your decision-making process and given you the assurance you need to purchase your new set of irons with confidence (and start seeing that handicap trending downwards, in the right direction).