Best Golf Irons for Mid Handicappers 2018

Ah, the mid handicap zone. Without a doubt, when I'm choosing my betterball partner, there's no better man than a mid handicapper!

We hit the ball straight down the fairway, we can chip, we can putt and we can make those amazing pars and birdies . Mid handicappers are always in the prizes and I play a lot of golf with mid handicappers. 

What I've noticed though is hitting greens is often a concern especially as the holes get longer. We all want to hit longer with our irons but also we want it to go straighter to make more of those coveted pars and birdies. So I hope to highlight some of the best golf irons for mid handicappers below. 

What is a mid handicapper, actually?

A mid handicapper is a golfer who plays off a handicap between around 7, 8 or 10 up to about 17 or 18. That means you can generally break 90 every so often or shoot in the 80's every round. It's a wide range but the goal is always the same, break 90 consistently (guide) or break 80.  There's no hard and fast rule on the classification of low, mid and high but we all know roughly where we fall.

Rick and I winning the pairs tournament as mid handicappers (we wear flip flops after golf in Asia)

When should you buy new clubs?

My best friend, Harvey, dropped his handicap from 10 to 4 in three months after his clubs disappeared on his recent trip overseas. He bought some more forgiving irons with cavity backs because his less forgiving muscle backs just didn't suit his mid-handicap game at that moment. He almost instantly started finding the sweet spot again and now he has to give me shots on the course for a change! 

Get new clubs whenever you feel your existing clubs are holding you back from achieving that next step whether you want to become a 10 handicapper or a single digit maestro.

Top Choice for Mid Handicappers:
Taylormade M4 irons

Taylormade make such easy to hit clubs that even when you're not trying, they're a breeze to hit. The latest iteration is an improvement on their most popular line, the M2. Much sleeker in design and more formidable ball-striking.

What's the difference between irons for mid handicappers and low handicaps?

Mid handicapper irons should:

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    Contain at most a 4 iron, and continue through to pitching wedge and maybe sand wedge
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    Be cavity backed for a wider sweet spot on the face
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    Have perimeter weighting to increase the strike zone
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    Have an offset hosel to promote a straighter ball flight

Most sets nowadays don't come with a 3 or even a 4 iron because they're difficult to hit and are usually replaced by fairway woods and hybrids to complete what should be the best golf clubs for mid handicappers.

On the other hand, low handicappers often get the impression they need to upgrade to a professional style golf club. Which leads onto the next point....

Which clubs to avoid!

Low handicap golfers believe they need a more 'professional' style of club so they upgrade to a set of musclebacks or blades. Avoid any golf iron that has "muscle back", "MB", "blade", "Tour", "players irons" or "pro" in their name. Only golfers playing off a 3 handicap or less should bother with professional clubs.

The characteristics of these are the things we don't want when looking for the best golf irons for mid handicappers:

  • Contain 2 and 3 irons
  • Have no cavity back and are solid metal on the back of the club
  • Most of the weight is located behind a tiny sweet spot
  • The hosel is not offset because these golfers shape it both ways

Best Golf Irons for Mid Handicappers in 2018


Taylormade M4 Irons

Best irons for mid to high handicappers

The M4 upgrade of the M2 irons is a much sleeker, more professional golfer looking club.

But don't be fooled into thinking this is a club only a pro can hit - in fact it's almost effortless to get the ball up in the air and on target. It's difficult to hit a ball far off target with the M4s which brings real meaning to game improvement iron in the truest sense of the word.

Longer irons in the set have a deeper cavity back with a small hollowing behind the face to get more distance and forgiveness on center and mishit strikes. They come standard fit with a light weight shaft to make swinging them effortless despite the aggressive and thick top line of the club. 

The lofts are stronger in this set and keep in mind the SW is 54° when picking your wedges to go with the set.

You will probably see a distance increase but it will be due to the more upright lofts and less to do with other variables. They can decrease lofts on the clubs because they've produced them so well to come out higher and easier to get off the ground. Simply amazing technology that just wasn't around 15 years ago.

Pros
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    Lightweight shafts for more swing speed
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    Effortless to hit high and on target
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    A versatile iron for guys looking to break 80 or 90
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    Strikes low in the face perform close to standard strikes
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    Longer irons easier to hit while shorter are designed for more finesse
Cons
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    Not for finesse - more for power and accuracy
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    If you have a wedge set already, consider that the PW in the set is 43.5°; AW is 49° and SW is 54°

Callaway XR Irons

Super distance with professional golfer looks

The Callaway XR irons are aimed at mid handicappers and they've made these irons as close to a true point-and-shoot as you'll find. 

The 360 Face Cup technology in the XR irons mean that the face flexes and rebounds more than previous models which results in a much longer ball. Some golfers find a gain in distance of once club. What's more is that you have a choice of sets where you can choose which clubs to include in your set and Callaway has been well-known for this customization.

The sound from the club face is crisp and clean. Differentiating between mishits and sweet strikes is a little difficult but when the result ends up where you want it, that's a minor complaint. When we're all looking for more accuracy and greens in regulation, the Callaway XR irons deliver with effortless smooth strikes from the entire club face coupled with a high and straight ball flight. 

Are they miracle clubs? No, but if you have a smooth swing and are a well-grooved and consistent mid handicapper, these are the perfect clubs to start getting closer to the number 79. 

Pros
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    Best value for money mid handicap clubs
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    Point and shoot straight hitters
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    Suited to mid handicappers specifically
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    Distance increase after upgrading
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    Look very executive
Cons
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    Not for fast swingers (95+ mph with driver)​​​
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    Mishits are difficult to gauge from feedback on forgiving club face

Mizuno JPX EZ Irons

Forged irons of superior quality from Japan

The Mizuno JPX EZ forged irons are simply beautiful as with all Mizuno iron sets - created with care and precision. They've moved away from making irons for better players only and now make sets aimed at mid handicap golfers.

The clubs have a formidable but not bulky sole as well as a deep cavity back to help shift the center of gravity lower and move the sweet spot down in the face to get even crisper contact on the ball. 

While these clubs are precision made and feel amazing, there is a caveat: they do look chunky when you address the ball. The top line is very thick and while it doesn't appeal to some, it instills confidence in other golfers. With that chunkiness comes a large sweet spot and up to 10 yards more distance on a 6 iron compared to the previous model.

Something to keep in mind with this set is that the sand wedge is 55 degrees. The bounce on it isn't very much so if you prefer a big bounce sand wedge, you'll want to replace it with your own. Overall, this is one of the best-made iron sets for high handicappers.

Pros
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    Consistent performance across the face 
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    Light and easy to swing 
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    Low center of gravity and lowered sweet spot for easier crisp contact
Cons
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    Quite chunky top line when addressing the ball
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    Some guys won't see a distance improvement but increased accuracy is most widely experienced

Cobra King F7 Irons

Best for 15 to 18 handicap mid handicappers

Cobra King F7 irons are definitely game improvement irons but have a much more mid-sized club heads. The top line when you address the ball is not as chunky as most game improvement irons. Like with most of the new irons in this category, they've made the club face thinner to promote more ball speed off the flexible face to hit it longer. 

Progressive hollowness through the set

Progressive hollow design gets shallower further into the set

Longer irons in the set have a more hybrid appearance with a hollow area behind the entire face and as you go through to the short irons and wedge, the cavity reduces in size. You can expect to improve those mid irons greatly with the design of the cavity back. They're far more forgiving than other golf clubs. 

The lightweight of the clubs can help your swing speed enough to prevent you from moving to softer shafts.

Pros
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    Progressive hollow cavity back design for forgiveness
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    Mid sized club head more palatable than most game improvement irons
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    Very light for increased swing speed
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    One of the highest flying irons
Cons
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    Hybrid look might take time to get used to 
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    Just want to go dead straight - you won't be able to shape them much

Taylormade M2 Irons

Easy to hit for any level of mid handicap

Taylormade have gone the extra mile with the M2 Game Improvement irons. They’ve created a hollow Speed Pocket behind the face to make the face flex and give you more distance anywhere you hit it on the face.

The sweet spot is so wide; it extends over almost the entire groove area so when you mishit the ball it still goes a long way and straight as an arrow..

Taylormade's M2 set has been specially designed to increase the height of your shots. The short irons get up quickly and mid irons are so forgiving, you'll think they're wedges. With that increase in height, the ball comes down soft to stay on the green and give you more birdie and par putts.

Easy to hit and the ball flies high

Balls launch high when you hit them and the wide soles help to get under the ball especially in deep rough to get your golf ball moving toward the green and out of the weeds. The heavy perimeter weighting means you can swing it and trust the club to do the work for you. There's no stress wondering what's going to happen next.

Taylormade has designed the M2 iron set with forgiveness in mind. They're extremely accurate irons and with the offset hosel, cavity back design, they tick all our boxes. The M2's are one of the best mid handicap irons on the market.

Pros
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    Massive sweet spot to hit it pure every time
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    Easy to hit the ball high in the air
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    Mishits go an unusually long way
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    Low stress clubs you can trust on every shot
Cons
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    Pricey
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    Looks very busy and less classic

Cleveland Launcher CBX Irons

Game improvement irons to forgive mid handicappers

The manufacturer most famous for high quality wedges made for mid to low handicappers, Cleveland have designed a set of irons aimed entirely at the average mid handicapper to boost distance while at the same time dishing out ample forgiveness. The Launcher CBX irons give the best of both worlds by making it easier to hit longer irons and have more control over the shorter clubs.

While not massive on Tour as much as when Vijay and David Toms played for them, Cleveland have remained a favorite among us mere mortals especially the easy to hit drivers. 

The top line of the club is quite hefty but the offset in the longer irons looks minimal so it shouldn't turn off the better player. A V-shape sole promotes the club moving through the turf to give rock solid hits even if you hit it a little fat. Combined with the Tour Zip grooves, the Launcher CBX irons get the ball in the air easier and make it stop quicker on the greens.

Most golfers notice an increase in distance anywhere from half a club to a full club with this set and it could be down to the stronger lofts. Cleveland actually engrave the degrees of loft on the sole of the club - a nifty idea indeed. The Cleveland CBX irons have a much larger cavity back in the long irons for more forgiveness and a larger sweet spot and as you progress to the shorter irons, the cavity back reduces for a more control-based feel to knock it close.

Pros
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    Very good for players who hit it toward the toe
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    The ball goes straight and in some cases reduce shot shapes to baby fades and draws
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    High-launching and glides through the turf
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    Crisp sound at contact
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    Lofts of the clubs printed on the bottom so you can buy the right wedges and hybrids!
Cons
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    Matte finish means scratches are much more pronounced.
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    Not for golfers who want to shape the ball flight

Guide to what makes the best mid handicapper irons


How mid handicapper irons can help your game

When you hit more greens, you're going to love going to the course. Once you know where the ball is gonna go, you'll aim at your target with confidence. And when you hit it closer, you'll make more pars and birdies and in the end drop that mid handicap into the single digits.

To do this, the best mid handicap golf irons need to:

  1. Get the ball into the air high and handsome with little effort
  2. Land softly on the greens
  3. Be very forgiving particularly on mishit shots

There's just no need to go get yourself a "player's iron set" or a muscleback or blade club because it's expected of you as you get better. The technology out there is so powerful now, while the musclebacks have remained almost identical since Arnold Palmer was a young guy.

Buying a set of irons is a big investment in yourself and the improvement in your game with a set of mid handicapper Game Improvement irons will be dramatic. There's no need to handicap yourself further with a smaller more concentrated sweet spot unless you're playing 5 days a week. But let's face it, most of us mid handicappers are out there once a week when we get to escape our wives and girlfriends.

Make it fun!


What makes a set of irons forgiving for mid handicappers?

Two things: shafts and club head design will define the best golf irons for mid handicappers.

Shafts

There are two types of shaft for your irons – steel and graphite. Graphite is popular in drivers and hybrids. For irons, the extra weight offered by steel gives golfers a better “feel” than graphite.

Graphite can help with distance and should be looked at if your swing speed is very low. The reduced weight of the shaft can help you pick up a few more mph in swing speed and with that, more distance.

As a general rule, steel shafts are the best option for the vast majority of golfers and a Regular flex is going to be the best for most golfers based on swing speeds. 

Tips for shaft flex based on 6 iron swing speed and carry distance
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    X Flex  - 6 iron swing speed 90 mph and carry 175 yards
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    Stiff (S) Flex - 6 iron swing 80-90 mph and carry 155 - 175 yards
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    Regular  (R) Flex - 70-80 mph and 130 - 155 yards
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    A Flex - 60-70 mph and 100 - 130 yards
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    L Flex - Less than 60 mph and carry under 100 yards

It's always best to go get tested and get advice from a fitter or a local pro to truly maximize your purchase to your requirements.

Club Head Design

There are 2 club head designs: 

Muscleback vs cavity back

    • Muscle Back/Blade irons - used almost exclusively by low single digit handicappers and professionals
    • Cavity Back irons - this is what we are looking for and the most forgiving irons ever have all been cavity back. 

    How cavity back gives extra performance to mid handicap over 'players' irons

    Perimeter Weighting

    Cavity back irons usually have perimeter weighting, which is just a jargon term to mean they hollow out the back of a muscle back iron and put that spare metal around the border of the back of the club.

    Jargon explained

    The perimeter weighting thus adds more weight behind the ball on off-centre strikes.

    A muscle back iron the pros use has the majority of its weight mainly behind the TINY sweet spot. If you miss the sweet spot on a muscleback, the pain that shoots up the club into your fingers is stunning!

    The cavity back iron with perimeter weighting has a massive sweet spot because the face is encased with reinforcement through the perimeter weight.

    Moderately Wide Sole

    The wider sole lowers the clubs center of gravity which means more weight can get under and behind the golf ball on your shots. This produces an arching high ball flight even on mishits.

    The extra beef on the sole will improve shots where you hit the ground before the ball too. That extra weight will “bounce” off the ground instead of digging into the earth like a thin sole would.

    ​For newer golfers, it's better to have a really really fat sole but for mid handicappers we are looking for a moderately fat sole. Those Super Max Game improvement irons don't work as well because mid handicappers have much more skill to be able to already get the ball airborne.

    Offset Hosel

    According to club designer Tom Wishon, “Offset is a design in clubheads in which the neck or hosel of the head is positioned in front of the face of the clubhead, so that the clubface appears to be set back a little from the neck of the club.”

    “The more offset, the farther the head's center of gravity is back from the shaft. And the farther the CG is back from the shaft, the higher the trajectory will be for any given loft on the face. More offset can help increase the height of the shot for golfers who have a difficult time getting the ball well up in the air.”

    Offset vs Standard hosels

    The most forgiving irons on the market are going to have offset hosels. The low handicappers playing blades or muscle backs have such skill to square the club face at impact, they don't need the offset. The offset encourages a draw and reduces workability of the club to hit fades. Highly skilled players want to hit the ball both ways.

    Avoid irons with 'Tour Preferred', 'Tour' or 'Pro' in the name

    These are for low handicap and professional players. You'll get there one day but for now they wouldn't be a wise investment. It would be like starting a video game on Expert setting from the beginning. These 'Tour' clubs are not the most forgiving irons as you can imagine.

    Leave a Comment:

    1 comment
    James says

    Noticed on the Mizuno description you have two different versions. JPX EZ Iron vs JPX EZ Forges Iron. I believe you meant the former but listed the later at the top of the article. just an FYI.

    Great stuff by the way. I am learning a lot about what I should be using.

    Reply
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