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.
Best Golf Irons for Mid Handicappers
- Callaway Apex DCB irons (Apex technology for mid handicappers finally)
- Cleveland Launcher UHX Irons (best for mid to high handicapper)
- Mizuno JPX 921 Hot Metal Irons (Mizuno class for mid handicappers)
- PING G425 irons (easiest sweet spot to hit)
- Srixon ZX5 irons (best forged irons on the market for mid handicappers)
- Cobra RadSpeed Irons (best for low-hitting mid handicapper)
- Taylormade SIM 2 Max Irons (supremely easy to hit mid handicap irons)
- Titleist T300 (best for breaking into the single digits)
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 break 90 with your scores being between 83 and 92, 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, consistently.
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'm all about that mental game. If you look down at clubs that fill you with confidence, you've won 80% of the damn battle! The psychological effect your clubs have on you is clear.
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 of 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. Without guilt.
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 easier 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. To make it even better, they've i increased the size of the sweet spots so drastically that it's almost impossible to FEEL a mis-hit. Very often you can't tell the difference between a good and bad strike, and the distance loss is minimal.
Best irons for lower end of the spectrum mid handicappers
I've been a fanboy of Ben Hogan clubs since I began playing - but not so much Callaway. I can't keep them out of the list based on my own tastes. These are good clubs. Callaway have always made some of the most forgiving irons on the market and bringing in the Apex brand from Hogan makes even me like them. I always dreamed of a Hogan set as a kid.
The Apex name was always associated with clubs for better players in the Hogan range. Callaway changed that with the use of the famous name and expanded to game improvement irons for mid handicappers.
The irons are forged and cavity backed with a mid-size sole for easy turf interaction. From 4 to 9 iron, the wrap-around cupface touches the top line for a maximum spring effect off the club face.
The standard stock shaft, True Temper’s Elevate ETS 85 shaft is lightweight to increase your swing speed without creating an unstable clubhead and club face situation. The looks of the club are executive and they look like players irons for low handicappers but they certainly perform for mid handicappers in the game improvement category.
With stronger lofts, you'll notice a distance increase. While the flight is high in relation to the lofts, be careful if you're a low ball hitter as you may find some shallow landing angles when approaching greens.
Game improvement irons for max forgiveness for 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 mid handicapper to boost distance while at the same time dishing out ample forgiveness.
The Launcher UHX irons give the best of both worlds by making it easier to hit longer irons and have more control over the shorter clubs. They're the upgrade to the near perfect Cleveland Launcher CBX which my friend Rahat uses after I recommended them to him.
Like the Launcher CBX, the UHX also has the loft stamped on the bottom of the sole which I think most companies should do. The number of the club has become irrelevant and Cleveland are one of the few to stamp the loft on the club.
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. Their iron range is majorly under-appreciated especially their high handicap/beginner range in the Launcher Hi Bore hybrid style irons.
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 UHX 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.
Best for mid handicappers who love FEEL
The upgrade to the Mizuno JPX 919 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 921 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 Mizunos but the higher mid handicapper will love the hot metal irons. They have stronger lofts (-1°) than even the already-strong JPX 919. 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 921, is that once you move south of the double digit handicap, you'll still be playing these clubs. Like almost any Mizuno, 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.
Steve, on my channel, has a 17-year-old set of Mizunos. And he keeps the identical set in his storage room in case one breaks or gets lost in his current set.
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 second hand sets being traded in by someone who hates the clubs. The only 2nd hand Mizuno's I've seen have been well used!
PING ease-of-use never fails
Always the easiest drivers to hit, Ping developed the G425 irons to behave a bit more like fairway woods by making the face of the club variable in thickness. They removed some of the unwanted frequencies of sound by dampening the club behind the face with epoxy.
A tungsten screw in the toe ensure strong perimeter weighting which helps to recuperate some of the distance losses from mis-hit shots and increase ball speeds overall. The G425 are incredibly forgiving irons but are NOT ugly game improvement irons.
In fact, they've shortened the distance from heel to toe, making the head look more compact and classic looking with a moderate top line that doesn't look THICK.
The irons come standard fit with Golf Pride grips with Arccos shot-tracking sensors. The shafts are stock fitted with the PING AWT 2.0 steel shafts and in the graphite option, the ALTA CB Slate.
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 G425, you'll get forgiveness and speed in all aspects.
Best quality metals out of the top OEM
The Srixon ZX5 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've been a Srixon fan since I owned the Z585 which are still a GREAT iron. If you are on more of a budget, I would highly recommend a set of Z585 irons which can be had for bargain barrel prices for what is one of the best clubs on the market.
You can see me playing the back 9 with them here.
The clubs have a formidable but not bulky sole as well as a semi-encased 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. That sole is shaped in a way that gets through the turf easily.
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 because current game improvement irons look like shovels indeed.
If you can get them with the NS Pro shafts in them, you'll have a great time with these clubs.
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 (Powershell Face-A) is the power shell insert 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.
Cobra have placed a 10g screw into the toe of the club to create a weighting system that lower the center of gravity for max power and forgiveness.
The head looks really long as well so don't expect a small blade face.
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.
The cavity back is 3D printed which some people may find cool and hip, but to be fair, it's aesthetics. I care about the performance Cobra continue to create some of the easiest to hit clubs on the market.
Cobra continues offering the Arccos Caddie GPS system with sensors in the butt of the club, which can be paired with the Cobra Connect feature.
Easy to hit for any level of mid handicap
Taylormade have gone the extra mile with the Sim 2 Max Game Improvement irons. They’ve made a thinner and hotter face for more distance and speed.
I'm going to level with you. I like Taylormade irons. I never play them in the player's irons because I prefer Srixon. But I have tried their game improvement irons every year since RSi clubs and would rank them up there with Srixon Z5 range for forgiveness and ease of use. They are SO easy to hit and straighten up your ball flight.
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. The offset on these irons is a lot more moderate than a lot of game improvement irons and you don't feel like it's going to hit the ball way left.
Taylormade's Sim 2 Max 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 Sim 2 Max 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 Sim 2 Max are one of the best mid handicap irons on the market.
One top tip is to get yourself some cavity back wedges if possible if you're going to play these types of irons. it's difficult to go from a cavity back game improvement iron to a blade style wedge.
For the mid handicapper on the cusp of breaking 80
Some people are scared of Titleists but you haven’t tried a Titleist iron lately because of this preconceived idea that they lack distance or forgiveness, the T300 was created for you. The AP series were some of the best in the market for years and transformed peoples games.
The White Fox on my channel still loves his Titleist AP irons.
There is plenty of forgiveness for the mid handicapper, and honestly the distances are on par with any game improvement iron as they also have the same stronger lofts with a 6 iron being 26° and a pitching wedge having 43° of loft.
When it comes to Titleist, either you're a fan or ambivalent to them, but after you try their newer ranges of irons, you'll find irons that you not only like to hit because they're forgiving, but you'll realize you won't need to replace them as you move your scores into the low 80's and even high 70s.
What's the difference between irons for mid handicappers and low handicaps?
Mid handicapper irons should:
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:
Guide to what makes the best mid handicapper irons
Pair your new clubs up with a golf ball that will match your mid handicap, for maximum fun and least stress.
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:
- Get the ball into the air high and handsome with little effort
- Land softly on the greens
- 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.
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. These shafts are similar to the ones in drivers that increase the swing speed to provide 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
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:
How cavity back gives extra performance to mid handicap over 'players' irons
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.
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.
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.”
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.
If you're looking for forgiving wedges for mid handicappers, you should be looking at similarly cavity backed wedges for easy chipping and pitching.
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.