It’s almost a rite of passage in golf, especially for amateurs, that when things start going really bad, we blame our tools – because it couldn’t possibly be anything else, right?
There’s nothing more frustrating than practicing all week at the range, only for you to head out on the course and hit your irons all over the place.
But while super high-handicap golfers may be better off spending their money on lessons with an instructor rather than splashing out on new irons, for mid-to-low handicap players there is merit in considering upgrading your clubs if you aren’t getting results.
Before you rush out and purchase some new sticks, let’s answer the all-important question: can golf irons really go dead and wear out?
Golf irons will go dead and wear out over time as their grooves and clubface deteriorate from repeated use. Golf technology is always rapidly changing, meaning irons that are older than five years of age are likely outdated and won’t perform as well as the latest models.
Of course, it’s an easy move to blame your clubs when things aren’t going well on the course, but if you’re using old technology – or second-hand clubs that have already seen plenty of use – then it’s likely you’re not giving yourself the best chance at succeeding.
I recently upgraded my beginner set of Srixon irons after four years of use, moving to the newer Srixon Zx7s with stiff shafts as my old regular flex set made it really difficult for me to control my clubface (due to a fast swing speed).
The improvement has been incredible – I don’t hit the big snap hooks or block slices that would previously creep into my game from time-to-time, and as a result my scores have been steadily coming down.
So, if you think your golf irons have ‘gone dead’, keep reading and I’ll explain when and why it might be time for an upgrade.
How long do golf irons last?
Golf irons, in a physical sense, can last upwards of 10 years if properly cared for. However, if you play regularly, you may start to notice deterioration of the grooves and clubhead after five years. These blemishes will negatively impact the performance of the irons.
Of course, irons can last decades. We’ve all seen videos of professional players trying to hit old persimmon clubs and old blade irons that are more than 30 years old as a bit of fun.
Many new models are made from carbon steel, meaning you can use them for many years if you so desired.
But while irons may not ‘wear out’ in a physical sense after 10-plus years to the point they are unusable, they will certainly be left for dead when it comes to technological advancements.
This is why many players will replace their irons long before they physically begin falling apart.
How often should you replace your golf irons?
For optimal performance, it’s recommended you replace your golf irons every 2.5 years. For amateurs who may be on a budget, you should still look to upgrade your irons every five years – any longer than that, and it’s likely the technology will be outdated and start hindering your game.
Golftec VP of Instruction, Nick Clearwater, says for golfers who play regularly, you should replace your irons every 30 months to ensure your clubs have the latest tech that can give you better forgiveness, workability, distance, launch and stopping power.
“Those are good numbers to live by if you play a lot of golf… that way you’re getting the latest and greatest tech.
“We see golfers come into Golftec all the time who are really just not succeeding because they’re using clubs that hold back their improvement.
Now, I must admit, for someone who tries to play at least once a week, the thought of buying another new set of irons in 2.5 years’ time seems overkill – after all, I’m not made of money, and a new set of irons can stretch into the thousands of dollars, depending on what you buy.
Personally, I think you can get away with using the same set of irons for up to five years – but if you’re serious about golf, you may benefit from replacing them a little sooner, if your budget allows.
And don’t forget, you can always sell your old set to pay for your new set to help relieve the financial burden.
How do you tell if your irons are worn out?
Sunken grooves, scratches on the clubface and sole, or chips and dints in the clubhead are all signs of deterioration with your irons. Similarly, if you notice your ball flight getting lower, or distance dropping, despite swinging at the same speed, it indicates your irons are starting to wear out.
Of course, these flaws will likely only start to emerge after years and years of use and it’s likely you will have replaced your irons to keep up with the latest technology well before these defects become an issue.
This is especially the case for casual golfers who may only hit the course once a week or fortnight.
Can you regroove golf irons?
While you cannot regroove irons, you can sharpen the existing grooves using a groove sharpening tool. These implements strip back thin layers of metal from the clubface to make the grooves more pronounced, which can impart better spin on the ball and generate better flight control.
Something like the SENHAI Golf Club Groove Sharpener will do the job just fine.
It’s important to note, however, that your modified grooves must still comply with the rules of the game regarding golf groove alignment, depth and spacing – meaning you need to give great care not to dig grooves that are too deep, or too wide when using your sharpening tool.
Once you scrape away metal from the face of your irons, it cannot be replaced.
We’ve written an extensive article explaining everything you need to know about groove sharpening that you can read here.
Do forged irons last longer than cast irons?
Forged irons use softer steel than cast irons, but unless you’re playing golf multiple times per week, the average player won’t notice much different in terms of longevity. While both are manufactured to be high quality, forged irons are purer than cast irons and, in theory, should last longer.
If you want the nitty gritty differences between forged and cast irons, it comes down to the process of manufacturing.
The process for creating cast irons involves creating a ceramic mould of the clubhead which is filled with molten metal, which then cools to be the exact shape of the clubhead (and can be fixed straight to a club shaft).
In the early days, the grade of stainless steel used was very harsh and brittle when hardened, whereas nowadays stainless-steel alloys are used and provide a little more ‘give’ when needing to bend cast iron clubs.
One of the downsides of this method is than tiny air pockets can, theoretically, embed themselves in the clubhead while it sets in the mould, which would impact longevity – however, this is highly unlikely.
By comparison, forged irons are made from a solid billet of steel which is heated and then worked into shape, which is far more labour intensive.
The fact manufacturers aren’t setting the steel in a mould means this is the purest form of creating irons, and is a reason why they cost more.
So, when it comes down to which will last longer, both forged and cast irons will stand the test of time over many, many years of use – however, forged irons are typically slightly better in quality, and for that reason should have a marginally better shelf life.
While golf irons can go dead, it typically takes them a long time – many, many years – to do so.
Keep an eye out for signs of wear and tear, such as worn grooves or deep scratches and scrapes on the clubhead, as indicators that it’s time to replace your irons.
Similarly, if you’ve had your irons longer than five years, there’s a good chance you’re not making the most of the latest technology and should seriously consider upgrading them to make use of the cutting-edge manufacturing that is designed to make modern day clubs easier to hit.