Best Golf Irons for Mid Handicappers 2020

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

You hit the ball straight down the fairway, you can chip, you can putt and you can make those amazing pars and birdies at the perfect moment. 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. With modern technology, the best golf irons for mid handicappers make it WAY easier to hit straighter and longer.

What is a mid handicapper, actually?

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

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 other round or shoot in the 80's every round. It's a wide range but the goal is always the same, break 90 consistently 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.

When should you buy new clubs?

I have two theories for when the right time is to buy new golf clubs.

Situation 1: IMPORTANT - You look down at your clubs and you don't LOVE them

Half your clubs are irons and you'll use them for more than 50% of your shots on the course so when you look down at them and you don't LOVE them, then there is a serious problem.

If you've seen my Youtube channel, you'll know I am all about that mental game. If you look down at clubs that fill you with confidence, you've won 70% of the damn battle!

There is no award for the guy who struggles with clubs he dislikes to prove it's the workman and not the tools. They say a bad workman blames his tools, but I say a master craftsman knows when to replace them!

If you look at a picture and LOVE the look or hold a club and LOVE the way it feels, I will bet you that you'll hit that club like a boss, immediately. Our brains are very powerful and in golf, it's especially important to be comfortable over the ball. If you're not loving your irons at address, I really suggest replacing them. Now.

Situation 2: Yours are old and out of date

Now, I don't believe most of the BS lingo and catch phrases the manufacturers throw at us every few months with the latest and greatest. But one thing I can personally confirm, is that anything made in the last 6 to 8 years is far superior to anything prior.

Modern irons have been designed to launch higher than ever. For example, an old 6 iron's loft was maybe 28° so it was easy to get it in the air. With modern technology, they've been able to reduce that loft to 25° or 26° so you get more distance but at the same time the ball still launches at the same angle as the old 6 irons. That means you can get them landing a few yards further with an improved trajectory into your target.

They've also made shafts lighter to get you swinging faster and improved the club faces of the new irons to increase the sweet spots so you hit it longer and straighter even off mis-hits, very often not knowing the difference between a good strike and a bad one. 


Best Golf Irons for Mid Handicappers


Taylormade M6 Irons

Best irons for mid to high handicappers

The M6 upgrade of the M4 irons has a meatier look to it with some fancy tech inside the club to make the ball go long distances with a nice sound. 

It's almost effortless to get the ball up in the air and on target with Taylormade game improvement irons. It's difficult to hit a ball far off target with the M6s which brings real meaning to game improvement iron. The sweet spot is so big that it's difficult to distinguish when you hit it badly. They've separated the top line and the bottom of the club with a thru-slot speedpocket. The "speed bridge" connects that top line with the rest of the club and this creates some magic.

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 PW is 45° when picking your wedges to go with the set. You might consider a 50° and 54 or 56 degree, to round off the set to give yourself a good loft gapping.

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 are able to decrease lofts on these 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 years ago.

With that being said, I strongly suggest buying up to PW, and no AW or SW. The PW is 45° and the AW and SW will be too 'hot' for consistent chipping. I'd rather see you purchase your own preferred wedges to match into your set with even loft gaps.

Pros
  • Taylormade have a great track record in the game improvement niche
  • Large address profile with firm top line for mega BDE feeling
  • Crisp sound at contact - more hollow sound toward longer irons
  • You'll be hitting one club shorter to every green
Cons
  • Not for finesse - more for power and accuracy - 4 iron is 19.5°
  • If you have a wedge set already, consider that the PW in the set is 45°

Cleveland Launcher CBX Irons

Game improvement irons to forgive mid handicappers

They're way more famous for high quality wedges made for mid to low handicappers, but 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 looks very professional. A V-shape sole promotes the club moving through the turf to give rock solid hits even if you hit it a little fat. 

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.

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. 

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

Mizuno JPX 919 Forged or Hot Metal Irons

Best for mid handicappers who love FEEL

The upgrade to the Mizuno JPX 900 come in a forged OR Hot Metal cast head. The sole has a more U-shaped appearance for less digging in the turf interaction. As always, Mizuno forged irons are buttery soft but what's normally reserved for the better players is available to anyone now. The JPX 919 look like muscle backs but are classified as a cavity back.

You'll be able to shape the ball both ways with these. there are a lot of mid handicappers who were once single figures who still like a fade or draw into a tight pin. There's still hope out there for you if you enjoy shot shaping. 

The better, lower mid handicapper will love the feel of the forged clubs but the higher mid handicapper will love the hot metal irons. They have stronger lofts but with the movement of the sweet spot to a lower position in the face, the Hot Metals launch the ball high so your strong lofts, go further but also fly higher. 

What's special about the Mizuno JPX 919, is that once you move south of the double digit handicap, you'll still be playing these clubs. They're timeless in design and with all the latest technology coming out being not-much-different to the previous one or two years, these will serve you a long time. Brook Koepka was playing these in the Tour edition and won a few majors with them.

They have the look of professional style clubs with more forgiving and bigger clubs heads in the long irons and more compact shorter irons for precision shots. They have a tiny bit of offset so if you prefer a more classical style head but with massive forgiveness, the Mizuno's cater to you.

Most Mizuno users are Mizuno users for life and you'll very rarely find a second hand sets being traded in by someone who hates the clubs.

Pros
  • Soft buttery forged iron feel and sound
  • They moved weight into the edges of the club face for more forgiveness and ball speed
  • Classic design and look at address appeals to purists
  • Shot-shapers will love this iron
  • It's a Mizuno, very little can be wrong
Cons
  • Not  as forgiving as some of the irons like M2, M4, Rogue and Cobra F7
  • Matte finish to the clubs is classy but over time, will wear off

Ping G710 Irons

PING ease-of-use never fails

Always the easiest drivers to hit, Ping developed the G710 irons to behave a bit more like fairway woods by making the face nice and hot at impact. They removed some of the unwanted frequencies by dampening the club behind the face with epoxy.

Tungsten in the toe and shaft help to recuperate some of the distance losses from mis-hit shots and have increase ball speeds by 5% from the previous G700 irons. The G710 are incredibly forgiving irons. 

The irons come standard fit with Golf Pride grips  with Arccos shot-tracking sensors. The black color of the irons may not be for everyone but one of the untold features of this is SUPER easy alignment with the increased contrast between the face and the ground.

These are the type of irons that do not dig into the turf. That's a major issue, especially with players who are starting to approach the 8-12 handicap range. Turf interaction is so important and with the Ping G710, you'll get forgiveness and speed in all aspects. 

Pros
  • Black looks extremely modern and chic
  • Point and shoot straight hitters
  • Suited to mid handicappers specifically but will last well into the low digits
  • Distance increase after upgrading especially on mis-hits
  • Look very executive
Cons
  • Not for fast swingers (95+ mph with driver)​​​
  • Mishits are difficult to gauge from feedback on forgiving club face

Srixon Z 585 Irons

So easy to hit

The Srixon Z 585 irons might not be on your radar, but they should be. This range has been aimed at the mid handicapper who likes shot shaping and forgiveness in one package. The best part is they will last you even as a low handicapper. I went on a recent trip to South Africa and the number of guys playing these was amazing. Every fourball had one or two bags of Srixon z 585's.

You can see me playing the back 9 with them here.

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. 

Srixon have made these clubs look easy to hit when you look down at them, but they're not oversized at all. If you're worried about your clubs looking very chunky, these ones will quell your fears.

If you can get them with the NS Pro shafts in them, you'll have a great time with these clubs.

If you want a forgiving 'player's iron' which performs extremely consistently, have a look at the Srixon Z785 as well. Easily one of the easiest to hit, and easiest to work forged muscle back clubs in the game. 

Pros
  • Consistent performance across the face 
  • Light and easy to swing 
  • Low center of gravity and lowered sweet spot for easier crisp contact
Cons
  • Very sweet hits do travel further and overshoot the mark 

Cobra King Speedzone Irons

Best for low hitting mid handicappers

Cobra 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. 

Behind the face is the power shell they've created to not only increase distance, and improve the forgiveness, as they always do, but also create a very pleasing sound at impact. 

The head looks really long as well so don't expect a small blade face. 

Progressively longer hosels and different grooves through the set

The longer irons (4-6) have shorter hosels, to lower the CG to increase launch and distance, while in the mid irons (7-9), there are medium-length hosels which create a gradual transition from the long irons to long hosels in the wedges (GW-SW). This is to promote forgiveness and accuracy but be aware of it before purchasing as it may look weird to your eyes.

Longer irons 4-6 have V shaped grooves to reduce the spin on the shots while the shorter irons from 7 down, have U shaped grooves to increase control and enhance spin properties. 

The light weight of the clubs and decreased lofts can help your swing speed and distance enough to prevent you from moving to softer shafts.

Pros
  • Progressive hosel length from long irons into the wedges for accuracy and forgiveness
  • Mid sized club head more palatable than most game improvement irons
  • V shaped grooves in longer irons and U shaped in shorter irons 
  • One of the highest flying irons
Cons
  • Very strong lofts with. 7 iron being 27.5° and PW is 42.5°
  • Extreme length on shots is because of the stronger loft

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

Titleist 718 AP3 Irons

For the mid handicapper on the cusp of breaking 80

Titleist made these irons heads bigger than the AP1 and AP2 range so they appeal to the mid handicapper a little bit more. Though to be fair, the top line of the club is not so FAT, but quite thin and definitely appeals to the eye of someone who likes a more classic iron rather than the beefy game improvment irons out there.

They look a lot more like a "players" iron but they have the backs of a mid handicapper iron where there is a hollowing out and a small cavity in the back. The result is more forgiveness and also some additional distance.

So many players are getting these and the best part is they will serve you well as a mid handicapper and you won't have to get new clubs when you eventually become the single digit handicapper you're striving for.

Pros
  • Very professional level looking clubs with semi-game improvement characteristics
  • These are clubs you can keep into single figure handicap and beyond
  • More distance and accuracy
  • The superior feeling telling people you play Titleist irons
Cons
  • Pricey
  • NOT for most 18+ handicapppers

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

Mid handicapper irons should:

  • Contain at the longest, a 5 iron, and go through to pitching wedge and maybe sand wedge
  • Be cavity backed for a wider sweet spot on the face
  • Have perimeter weighting to increase the sweet spot
  • 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 unless you really LOVE them! Generally I don't think anyone who plays less than 3 times a week or isn't off a single figure should buy blades. 

But as mentioned above, if you LOVE them and BELIEVE they will improve your game, guess what! They probably will, just through positive association.

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

  • Contain 3 and irons (difficult to hit)
  • Have no cavity back and are solid metal on the back of the club (reduced sweet spot)
  • Most of the weight is located behind a tiny sweet spot
  • The hosel is not offset because these golfers shape it both ways (easier to slice if you slice)

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
  • X Flex  - 6 iron swing speed 90 mph and carry 175 yards
  • Stiff (S) Flex - 6 iron swing 80-90 mph and carry 155 - 175 yards
  • Regular  (R) Flex - 70-80 mph and 130 - 155 yards
  • A Flex - 60-70 mph and 100 - 130 yards
  • 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:

    12 comments
    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
    Phillip Terrell says

    Very good article!

    Reply
    Chris says

    Great article! Thanks

    Reply
    Enrique Franco says

    Great article, I am a big fan, need a piece of advise, I am playing AP2 irons, I normally break 90s, my lowered score is 85, I ‘ve trained a lot to use them but I’ve thought to change my AP2s for Mizunos hot metal or Srixon Z585 but my problem is my budget, what do you recommend? still play with AP2s or pull the trigger but I don’t like too much those chunky GI. thanks for your help

    Reply
    Michael Ashurst says

    Best article I have read (for selecting clubs) in 50 years of golf. No fluff just great information.

    Reply
    Phil says

    Very useful article

    Reply
    Brian L'Henaff says

    Bought the CBX irons last year, was messed up for the first few rounds due to the added length. Really happy with the clubs and the price.

    Reply
    Carlos says

    Thank you for a superb and most informative article. I began playing golf after my retirement, about 2.5 years ago. I’m very ready to move on from my second-hand Cobra S3 Max irons, and after reading your greatly helpful article, feel confident about making a purchase soon. Excellent work!

    Reply
    Rick says

    Would girliest T200 or taylor made m4 be best for someone that shoot around 85. Initially my wife bought me titleist AP2 but I think that’s to much club for me

    Reply
    john ashjian says

    great article very helpful, considering switching from 6 year old titlesist ap1 to calloway rogue , consistent at plus 12 think i can get to 9

    Reply
    GV says

    Hey there! I love your videos and website. I agree with soooooooo much that you preach! Funny thing, I was out of golf for a while, as I used to score in the low 80’s, occassional 70’s when I was young. I am now 45 and have become obsessed with golf again now that my kids are older teens (I have some me time!) and I was so determined to score in the 70’s this year, and used a bunch of your videos and advice (I have been averaging 78 to about 83, with 2.. 74’s in there so I was so pumped). keep putting that excellent advice out there, as its so dam helpful! Love it, and it really helped me play better. So, here is the weird part in regards to irons. I have tried so many different irons, new ones, old ones, old blades, which ironically helped me more than anything, as they were blades from the 1970’a, haha, but they were so much fun to play with. Anyway, I finally settled on Ping eye 2’s and for whatever reason my scores went down, and I cant even explain why, but I am not complaining. Point here for me is that I felt as though with the new irons they were difficult to control distance wise, where I would hit a 7 iron 175 at times, or 150 at times, which I know is me and not the club, but with the Eye 2’s, its the opposite, so I know you have talked about this type of thing in the past on your youtube channel, and I figured I would let you know that you are right on the money!!! Gotta play what works for ya. Sorry so long winded, haha, but I love your stuff, and keep it up dude!!!

    Reply
    GCO says

    One other criteria for new clubs. When the bottom grooves on your short irons are starting to disappear.

    Reply
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