It wasn't that long ago when using a hybrid on the golf course was shunned by practically every weekend golfer, the purists'.
A set of irons is typically one of the most important investments for any golfers, but the irons are also notorious for being the harder clubs to use for beginners and high-handicappers.
Getting an iron set can be a huge dilemma for any high-handicappers: get one that is beginner-friendly, and you might outgrow the set as you develop as a player, making it an obsolete investment.
On the other hand, getting a ‘pro’ iron set as a long-term investment, and you might not be able to actually grow since it is too difficult for you.
This is why we create this buying guide to discuss the best iron sets for high handicappers, where we will review the Top 10 best iron sets for high-handicappers：
1. Srixon Z585 Irons
2. Mizuno MP20 Golf Iron HMB
3. Mizuno JPX919 Irons Set
4. Mazel Single Length Irons Set
5. TaylorMade M4 Iron Set
6. Callaway Mavrik Max Iron
7. TaylorMade P790 Iron
8. Wilson Staff D7 Irons
9. Callaway Golf Men’s Rouge Iron Set
10. TaylorMade Golf M6 Iron Set
Without further ado, let us begin.
Best Best Iron Set for High Handicappers
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Srixon Z585 Irons
Mizuno MP20 Golf Iron
Mizuno Golf JPX919 Iron Set
MAZEL Single Length Irons Set
TaylorMade M4 Iron Set
Callaway Mavrik Iron
TaylorMade Golf 2018 P790 Iron
Wilson Staff D7 Irons
Callaway Golf Men’s Rogue irons set
TaylorMade Golf M6 Iron
Our Best Picks For High Handicappers
What Is a High-Handicapper
‘Handicap’ is a numerical calculation system used in golf to determine a golfer’s ability. The lower the handicap number, the better the ability of the golfer on-course.
With that being said, the lowest handicap is 0, and a 0-handicap golfer is also called a scratch golfer, and the highest handicap for a male golfer is 36.4 (40.4 for ladies).
For 9-hole golf, the handicap is halved, with 18.2 being the highest handicap for male golfers.
How is the handicap number calculated? In a nutshell, the golfer’s recent scores are compiled and then compared to the difficulty of the courses played.
For instance, if the course is rated 79 and a golfer scores 90 on this course, then the handicap is 11 (90-79). So, a handicap of 11 means the golfer consistently shoots 11 strokes higher than the difficulty rating of the course they play regularly.
We call a golfer with a handicap below 10 as low-handicapper, between 10 and 18 as a moderate-handicapper or medium-handicapper, and above 18-20 as a high-handicapper.
This is why someone with a handicap of approximately 18 is called a “bogey golfer”, which produces one shot above par per hole.
Different parts of the world used to have slightly different ways to calculate handicaps, but in early 2020, World Handicap System (WHS) unified six commonly-used handicap systems for a more standardized system.
You can check this FAQ section by USGA about its WHS handicap implementation, but in general, if your handicap is above 20, you are considered a high-handicapper. Below, we will discuss how you can calculate your handicap score.
What Is The Average Handicap?
The average male golfer has a handicap of 16.1, while it is 28.9 for female golfers
What Is Course Rating?
Course rating is the number assigned to a golf course to denote how a scratch golfer (golfer with a 0 handicap) would be expected to shoot on the round. The higher the course rating, the more difficult the course is, and a course with a course rating below par is considered easy.
How To Calculate Handicap Score?
Under the new World Handicap System (WHS), the handicap score or handicap index is calculated by averaging the best 8 score differentials in your 20 most recent scores. These can include both general play and competition play scores.
For example, if the best 8 score differentials of the last 20 scores have an average of 11, then 11 is the said golfer’s handicap index.
If the golfer hasn’t yet had 20 scores on it, we will use a modified calculation to provide a temporary handicap index for this golfer, depending on the number of score differentials available in this golfer’s scoring record:
3 score differentials: the lowest score differential with an adjustment of -2.0 is the handicap index. For example, if the lowest score differential is 14, then the handicap index is 12.
4 score differentials: the lowest score differential with an adjustment of -1.0 is chosen as the handicap index.
5 score differentials: the lowest score differential without adjustment is the handicap index.
6 score differentials: an average of the lowest two differentials, adjusted by -1.0
7-8 score differentials: an average of the lowest two differentials without adjustment.
9-11 score differentials: an average of the lowest three.
12-14 score differentials: an average of the lowest four.
15-16 score differentials: an average of the lowest five
17-18 score differentials: an average of the lowest six
19 score differentials: an average of the lowest seven
Score differentials, however, can be calculated with the following formula:
(Equitable Gross Score – Course Rating) x 113/Course Slope.
For example, if the gross score is 89 and the course rating is 72.5 and the course’s slope rating is 130, then the score differential is 14.3.
Things You Need To Know Before Purchasing Your Iron Set
1. The Iron Set
A typical iron set includes either seven or eight iron clubs, 4-,5-,6-,7-,8-, and 9-irons, a pitching wedge (PW), and depending on the set, a gap wedge (GW). There are also sets that include a 3-iron instead of a GW.
Further, the iron set can be divided into three sub-sets: the long irons (2-,3-, and 4- irons), mid-irons (5-,6-, and 7-irons), and short irons (8- and 9-irons, the pitching wedge). Since 2- and 3-irons are notorious for being difficult to use, many golfers tend to use hybrid clubs (can link to previous article if you want) to replace them, while the gap wedge can also be used to replace the 3-iron. As you can see, the 2-iron is considered a specialty club and is not typically included in a standard set, and some players might also purchase a lob wedge separately to include in their set.
In general the "longer" the iron, the shorter the loft angle, so it would produce a straighter hit to achieve more distance. On the other hand, the short irons feature higher loft angles to produce a higher ball launch that drops abruptly. This is why the short irons are described as easier to control, while the long irons are the hardest.
2. Loft Gap
If you are planning to purchase your irons separately instead of buying a full set, then it's important to consider the differences in loft between each of your clubs. As a general rule of thumb, each of your irons should be separated by at least 4-degree in loft angle, which would translate to around 12 to 15 yards difference between each.
However, you should adjust depending on your swing speed: if you can consistently produce long carry, then you can keep your irons separated by just 3 degrees to balance it out. Vice versa, if you have a slower swing speed and still struggle with distance carry, you can separate your irons by 5 degrees.
3. Blades VS Cavity-Back Iron
Nowadays, irons can be differentiated into two types based on the shape of their heads: muscle-back and cavity-back. In the past, there are only muscle-back irons, which are now also often referred to as blade irons due to their very thin heads, but technologies have allowed the production of the more forgiving, cavity-back irons.
3.1 Blade Irons
A blade-style or muscle-back iron features a very thing club head with just a very small sweet spot in the middle, making them notoriously difficult to use for beginners. However, they do offer an advantage by allowing more weight behind the sweet spot, which will allow a higher ball speed that would translate into more distance when the ball is properly struck. However, we can't say the same for off-center shots.
Muscle-back irons also produce the most feedback on whether you've produced a well-struck shot or not, and are more versatile in the hands of low-handicap players.
3.2 Cavity-Back Irons
As the name suggests, a cavity-back iron features a thicker head that has a cavity in the back of the club. This design moves the center of gravity (CG) of the club more forward around the clubhead's perimeter, which in turn will make the sweet spot of the club bigger, allowing more forgiveness.
Since they are much more forgiving than blade irons, cavity-back irons are preferred by high-handicappers and beginners, but this design does have its downside: it won't produce as much distance as a comparable blade iron, and it's harder to control trajectory and spin with a cavity-back iron.
In short, it is more forgiving but won't benefit low-handicappers with sufficient swing speed and control.
4. Forged VS Cast
We can also differentiate irons based on how the head is manufactured: forged and cast.
4.1 Forged irons
They are shaped by hammering or pressing a steel billet in its solid form into its final shape. Heat might be implemented, but in forging it's important to maintain the billet's solid shape throughout the process.
Forged metal is more uniformed in its structure and composition, and the forging process actually creates a phenomenon called metallurgical re-crystallization by repeatedly deform and reforming the metal. This can actually strengthen the final shape of the steel, so forged steel is typically stronger and more stable than cast steel.
In an iron club, a forged head would provide the following benefits:
- Tougher than a comparable cast iron
- Much better at handling impact, so more durable
- Prevents issues like shrinkage, cavities, porosity, and other durability issues
- Tighter grain structure, so don't need expensive composite alloys to enhance the strength of the head
- Produce a distinct, "solid" sound that is only available in forged clubs
4.2 Cast irons
They are shaped by heating the metal until it is molten, then it is poured into a mold to create the desired head shape.
Cast irons are much easier to manufacture than forge irons, as the forging processes are more complicated and require more manpower/energy. As a result cast irons are generally more affordable than their forged irons counterparts.
While nowadays there are plenty of really good cast irons available in the market, the forged counterpart is always stronger and has a unique feel and sound.
What Is The Average Range for Each Iron?
You can try to hit 50 or 100 shots with each club and measure your distance with a launch monitor. Finding out how far you hit each iron club can help you decide on what kinds of iron clubs you should get, and how to improve your game.
Top 10 best iron sets for high handicappers
1. Srixon Z585 Irons
The Srixon Z585 Irons are Srixon’s game-improvement irons that were released back in 2018. It is actually not the most forgiving set by Srixon, with the Z585 setoffering more weighting in the head’s perimeter for slightly better forgiveness. However, the the Srixon Z585 offers more workability, which makes it a better long-term investment than the 585.
It is a cavity-back iron with a great look, offering more weight towards the toe while maintaining a solid mass behind the center of the face, offering very good forgiveness with a consistent flight.
It is worth noting that the Z585 is a 100% forged club, forged from a single billet of 1020 carbon steel, which is amazing considering its price tag, that has gone down since its release back in 2018.
It also doesn’t have a too bulky head that is common in game-improvement irons, making it a decent pick that combines look, forgiveness, and performance for mid to high-handicappers.
Even low-handicappers can still benefit from this iron set with its balance between distance and consistency.
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2. Mizuno MP20 Golf Iron HMB
Mizuno is obviously one of the most famous manufacturers for irons, especially for its premium-quality muscle-back blades designed for low-handicappers and Tour players.
However, the HMB (Hot Metal Blade) is actually a version dedicated to high-handicappers.
As the name Hot Metal Blade suggests, it is still technically a blade iron set, but the extra forgiveness comes from the 12g tungsten sole weight and Titanium muscle plate, complete with a larger sole to help launch the ball higher.
As a result, this is a very good-looking blade club, not just a chunky and hollow club like most of the game-improvement and super-game improvement irons out there.
Due to its blade design, it also offers very good workability and shot-shaping qualities.
While it is definitely not the most forgiving on this list—being a muscle-back—-, you get a nice-looking and nice-sounding club that can be a good long-term investment as you become a better player.
3. Mizuno JPX919
Another one from Mizuno, the JPX919 is actually their newest range of iron sets and the Hot Metal is the super-game improvement version of the JPX919 (with the Hot Metal Pro being the game-improvement version).
The difference between the two the head’s size, with the longer blade length, slightly wider sole, thicker topline, and more offset on the Hot Metal version. As we know, the larger the head, the more forgiveness.
It is a cast iron, and the JPX919 also features the Chromoly 4140M, a very strong yet flexible steel alloy containing molybdenum and chromium.
Chromoly basically allows Mizuno to create a larger head but a thinner face for maximum ball speed.
It also features a variable sole thickness, which allows the leading edge to act more like a hinge, allowing the face to take more flex to further improve distance.
Read More Here:
4. Mazel Single Length Irons Set
The Mazel single length iron set is one of the most affordable iron sets available in the market today, so it’s a great choice for beginners and high-handicappers who don’t want to spend too much on their iron set.
Offers a 100% graphite shaft that provides consistent swing and feel, but the unique thing about this set is the length of the shafts, that comes in just a single length for all nine clubs. This allows for easier usage for beginners.
While it doesn’t really feature any unique technology or feature, it is worth considering for its affordability and pretty decent overall performance for its price.
5. TaylorMade M4 Iron Set
The TaylorMade M4 iron set is TaylorMade’s flagship iron set in 2018 and is a game-improvement iron set specializes in distance and forgiveness.
It features TaylorMade’s Speed Pocket technology allowing the face to flex more at impact to produce more ball speed (thus, more distance), especially on low center strikes.
It also has a very thin leading edge, only around 1mm thick now, and TaylorMade also new bar behind the face slots in the heel and toe dubbed the RibCor to stiffen the head more.
This moves the center of gravity to the heel and toe for extra forgiveness and a 20% increase in MOI.
To keep the weight low (again, to maximize distance), TaylorMade also features the Fluted Hosel to further move the CG lower and further back to help with the launch.
In short, if you are looking for forgiveness and distance carry, the TaylorMade M4 can be your best bet.
6. Callaway Mavrik Max Iron
The Callaway Mavrik is Callaway’s 2020 flagship club line, replacing the hugely successful Rogue series. Callaway has been the best selling iron manufacturer for the past half-decade or so, so shouldn’t need any introduction.
The key highlight of the Mavrik Iron is the A.I.-designed face, dubbed the Flash Face technology, which creates a unique and optimized face architecture for every single loft included in the set.
This is truly a groundbreaking move by Callaway, allowing a very forgiving but fast face to produce high and consistent ball speed even during off-center hits.
The Mavrik Max is the super game-improvement version of the iron, offering a slightly bigger face and more offset for more forgiveness.
Also features slightly longer shafts than standard irons to help generate more speed and distance for high-handicappers that struggle with swing speed.
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7. TaylorMade P790 Iron
The TaylorMade P790’s key highlight is the forged iron head that, according to TaylorMade, was optimized for distance carry, which is pretty rare.
However, it is not actually 100% forged, as only the wrap-around face is forged from a 4140 carbon steel, while the body is cast instead of forged.
However, the face is indeed forged, so you get the amazing feel of a forged iron during impact.
It is definitely not the most forgiving iron but can produce very consistent performance in distance.
Great for high to moderate-handicappers that are looking to improve their distance carry but don’t really have much problem with mishits.
With the 3- to 7- irons, there is a high-density tungsten weight to improve the MOI, which is accompanied by a very thin face that also features TaylorMade’s Speed Pocket on the sole to increase ball speeds.
Amazing look with thin but relatively large blade size, and that impressive feedback from a forged face.
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8. Wilson Staff D7 Irons
The Wilson Staff D7 is an underrated gem, and while Wilson is not as famous as Callaway or TaylorMade as an irons manufacturer, they have done a really good job with the D7 iron set.
It features the Power Hole technology in the sole to improve distance, and the D7 irons are indeed some of the longest irons available in the market today.
What’s unique is that the number of rows of the Power Holes differs throughout the set, allowing the longer irons to provide more distance, while the shorter irons have a better overall feel.
What’s also interesting is the fact that Wilson Staff D7 Iron Set is relatively affordable for what it offers, arguably offering the best bang for the buck compared to others in this list. Not the most workable, but a great iron set overall.
Read More Here:
9. Callaway Golf Men’s Rouge Iron Set
The Callaway Rogue Iron Set is Callaway’s older model from 2018, but has been hugely successful before the introduction of the newer Mavrik range that has been discussed above. It already boasts a relatively affordable price (being a Callaway iron) back when it was launched, but now obviously the price has gone down, making it a great value pick.
It is a distance iron set, meaning it’s geared to produce longer distance carry, they feature Callaway’s 360 Face Cup technology that, albeit being obsolete new with Mavrik’s new face, is a very ‘fast’ face with consistent performance.
Another great thing about the Callaway Rouge is that although it features a cavity-back design, it doesn’t compromise the sound quality.
This is because Callaway inserted small glass spheres into the cavity, creating little air pockets that absorb unwanted sound.
All in all, the Rouge features a great balance between distance, forgiveness, and consistency. Great for high and mid-handicappers looking for extra forgiveness and consistent distance carry.
10. TaylorMade Golf M6 Iron Set
The TaylorMade M6 Irons are TaylorMade’s 2019 flagship irons and have continued the tradition of being one of the greatest irons available in the market when we are talking about distance performance.
This is a modern-looking club that speaks high-tech, which might not be for everyone, but it does offer some very interesting technologies to improve performance, forgiveness, and feel. It is a cavity back iron that features the Thru-Slot Speed Pocket in the sole of the 7- to 4-irons.
This allows the face to have variable thickness while only connected to the body by the top line, allowing it to act as a hinge. This moves the sweet spot a little down while moving the CG lower and back for easier launch.
It also produces a great sound for a cavity-back iron due to the Speed Bridge technology that reduces frequencies generated at impact to improve the sound. It sounds much better than the M4 in that case.
A great balance between distance and forgiveness. Not the best-looking and not too much workability, but a great choice overall.
Shafts: Steel or Graphite
In the past, answering this used to be pretty simple: if you have slower swing speeds than average, use graphite. If you have faster swing speeds, use steel.
However, it’s no longer the case nowadays, as we can see more and more Tour players using graphite iron shafts in professional play.
The basic principle in choosing between the two, however, remains the same: if you have a faster swing speed, you’d benefit from having a heavier club that can provide more control. On the other hand, the lighter graphite can help players with slower swing speeds to achieve more distance.
There is, however, a key consideration if you want to use a steel shaft as a high-handicapper: steel shafts don’t absorb vibration as well as graphite shafts, so they are more prone to mishits due to the vibration.
The sole is the very base of the club that touches the ground, and how thick the sole is can impact the club’s center of gravity (CG), which will, in turn, affect forgiveness and easier lift.
The thicker the club’s sole is, the more of the club’s weight is positioned at the bottom of the club (lower CG), and a lower CG would give us an easier time to launch the ball in the air. However, it is also harder to control spin and trajectory with a thicker sole.
On the other hand, it’s much harder to launch the ball with a narrower sole, but in the hands of experienced players (i.e. low-handicappers), they’ll get more control and versatility.
Long Irons VS Hybrids
As discussed, long irons are notoriously difficult to use, and so if you are a high-handicapper, most likely you’ll benefit from replacing your long irons with hybrids.
Hybrids, as the name suggests, is somewhat a ‘hybrid’ between irons and fairway woods, typically using the big, muscular head of the fairway wood while having the shorter shafts and loft angles of irons.You might want to check our previous buying guide for hybrid clubs here.
How To Choose The Best High-Handicapper Irons For You?
There are three common issues for high-handicappers in using their irons:
- Swing speed: high-handicappers tend to have slower than average swing speed, so they might need an iron that can produce naturally high ball speed to aid distance carry
- Accuracy: not only high-handicappers tend to hit off-center on the club’s face, but high-handicappers are also more likely to hit slices (the ball curving to the right for right-handed players).
- Lift: high handicappers might lack the adequate technique to lift the ball, so might need a higher loft angle or other technologies to provide easier lift.
With these three issues being the main considerations, here are some important factors to consider when choosing between different iron sets:
This is the most important consideration to have for high-handicap players.
‘Forgiveness’ generally refers to the club’s performance, especially regarding launch trajectory and distance carry when we produce off-center hits (mishits). Since high-handicappers typically are still struggling with accuracy—at least, consistency in maintaining accuracy—, then you’ll need irons that can minimize the effect of these mishits.
The more ‘forgiving’ the club is, the more consistency it’ll produce during off-center shots, so the decrease in distance carry won’t be as much as in less forgiving clubs.
However, typically more forgiveness in a club would sacrifice two things: look, since generally forgiveness is achieved by making the head (and face) bigger, and playability since it’s much harder to ‘shape’ your shots with a high-forgiveness clubs.
2. Low Center of Gravity (CG)
The lower the center of gravity of the club, the easier it will be to launch with the said club and the higher ball speeds it would produce.
This is why low CG is much preferred by high-handicappers or senior golfers that have lost their swing speeds. At the same time, companies are continuously attempting to move the CG lower and lower in their clubs.
3. High MOI (Moment of Inertia)
Moment of Inertia (MOI), is essentially how strong a club is in resisting twist when it touches the ball. Too technical? Well, in general, the higher the MOI is, the better it is for high-handicappers.
All clubs will always twist due to the applied force during impact with the ball. The thing is, as you hit the ball further away from the center of the face, the greater the twist, which will cause a decrease in distance and accuracy.
In irons, higher MOI is typically achieved by putting perimeter weight in the back of the head. The more weight there is on the edges, the higher the MOI and the more forgiving the club will be.
Although as a high-handicapper, the design of the club might not be a top priority to consider, we sure wouldn’t want an ugly club with a chunky head that screams “I am a beginner”.
With that being said, most clubs offering high forgiveness offers an oversized or large clubhead paired with a cavity-back design, while the traditional preference in golf is to have your irons thin and compact – as in the blade irons.
You’d probably want to find the right balance between forgiveness and looks: there are certainly game-improvement and even super game-improvement irons that are really well-designed.
5. Shaft Flex
It’s very important to choose the right shaft flex in accordance with your current swing speed. Most golfers, especially beginners, tend to focus on the features of the club but then neglect the importance of flex.
As a quick overview, here are the common shaft flex types you may see when shopping for your irons:
- L Flex (Ladies): for swing speeds less than 75 mph
- A or M Flex (Amateur): for amateurs or senior golfers, for swing speeds between 75 to 85 mph
- R Flex (Regular): for swing speeds between 85 to 95 mph, the average high-handicappers belong here
- S Flex (Stiff): for swing speeds between 95 to 110 mph
- X Flex (Extra Stiff): for golfers with a swing speed of 110 mph or above
Workability in golf clubs refers to how easy or difficult it is to ‘manipulate’ your shots: controlling the trajectory, giving your ball top/underspin, or making right/left curves.
On the course, obviously, we won’t always make our shots from our favorite position, and we are likely to be demanded to manipulate our shots in one way or another.
The thing is, the forgiveness features of the game improvement irons tend to sacrifice work-ability since low CG generally means less spin, and the less spin you can put to the ball, the less work-ability you will have.
Again, look for the right balance between forgiveness and work-ability according to your current abilities.
Bonus Section: How Can You Lower Your Handicap?
The obvious answer to this question is to practice more. The more time you put on the driving range and the golf course, the more you’ll grow as a player.
However, here are some practical tips you can try:
1. Improve Your Mindset
Sometimes the issue is not in your actual game play but in your mental game. By having a better mindset and being more objective with your current abilities, you can be more effective in improving your skills, accuracy, and produce higher scores in the process.
Before making your shots, take a few moments to visualize your shots. The clearer you can imagine it, the better chance you’ll have in actually making the shot. Make your shots with confidence, a lot of the times you fail to make your shots because your are nervous, or worse, afraid.
This is how having a club that inspires confidence can significantly help: always have the best possible club for the next shot according to your budget.
2. Practice Your Short Game
A very common mistake for beginners and many high-handicappers is to put too much focus on your ‘long’ game: driving, bunker shots, and so on. However, improving your short game is also very important, and you should practice your short game beyond just practicing a few putts every game.
Especially focus on your putts from four feet. Statistics suggested that high-handicappers only make 65% of their four-footer and 84% of their three-footers. However, a scratch golfer makes 80% of their four-footer shots and 93% conversions from three feet. Improve your short game closer to those scratch golfers, and you’ll lower your handicap.
3. Tune Up Your Clubs
Clean out the grooves on your clubs, replace any old/damaged shafts, and get new grips if necessary. In fact, upgrade to newer clubs that can better help you improve your game if your clubs are already a few years old.
Again, not only the better technologies on newer clubs can help you improve your performance –and get higher scores, but new, shiny clubs can inspire confidence and help improve your mental game.
4. Keep Your Putts Low
When putting and chipping, try to get the ball on the ground as abruptly as possible. Use clubs that can help you achieve this, so you can improve your accuracy on the greens. The better you can improve your chipping, the higher scores you’ll get, and the lower your handicap.
5. Improve Your Fitness
Don’t underestimate the importance of your fitness and flexibility.
If you really want to lower your handicap, commit to a daily stretching routine, and hit the gym as much as you can. Especially work to improve your core, hip, and arm strengths, which will significantly help in improving your swing speeds and distance.
The better you can hit the green from 150-200 yards out, the higher your scores, and the lower your handicap will be.
Selecting just the best iron set for high-handicappers is indeed a very daunting task. There are so many different products available in the market, and each product offers its unique take in making the club more forgiving for high-handicappers while maintaining decent workability.
However, we are confident that based on our tests, these ten iron sets we have reviewed above are indeed the best available in the market in 2020.
For our absolute best pick, although admittedly this is very hard, we’ll go to Callaway Mavrik Iron Max. It is definitely very affordable, but it does offer the latest technologies to date, especially the A.I.-designed Flash Face Cup that allows optimal performances and forgiveness for each individual iron throughout the set.
For a more affordable pick, we’d recommend the Wilson Staff D7, which offers a pretty well-rounded quality for its price.