While some golfers graduate to becoming good, or even great, at the game, most of us struggle to lower our handicap. The reasons for this are obvious. Golf is a difficult game to master. It takes time for loads of practice to become a good golfer.
For many of us, golf is a pursuit available only on the weekends. Who wants to spend the limited time we have on practice instead of playing? And while some retirees have the time to focus on the game, it is the passage of time that has robbed their physical abilities to the point it makes achieving a low handicap difficult.
The result of a lack of practice time creates one common problem for high handicappers: a lack of consistency. This manifests itself in strikes where the ball is hit off-center on the face of the club, missing the fabled “sweet spot.” The result are shots that struggle to get airborne and when they do, are off-line, sometimes dramatically so.
High handicappers are more likely to hit slices (wayward to the right for right-handed golfers) than hooks.
Older or less powerful golfers will also struggle to get the ball airborne at times. But the biggest problem for them is a lack of swing speed. That translates to a lack of distance.
There is some help for both sets of high handicappers – those lacking in ability and those lacking in strength. It comes in the form of new clubs. While a new driver, fairway woods, and hybrids can help, today, we are focusing on iron sets for the high handicapper.
Iron sets designed for a high handicapper will have several things in common, among them:
- Cavity backed club heads
- Thin club face
- Large club head
- Offset club face
- Low center of gravity (CG)
- High moment of inertia (MOI)
Let’s take a look at each of these to see how they would help improve a poor golfer’s game.
A cavity back iron is one where the opposite side of the club face is hollowed out, creating a cavity. This is done to remove weight from the center of the club to the outer edges, known as perimeter weighting. Why is this important?
Cavity back clubs are more forgiving with a larger sweet spot, which is perfect for those with a high handicap. While this will not eliminate slices and hooks, it will make them less severe.
There is a price to be paid, as muscle back or blade irons offer more feel. But the forgiveness of cavity back clubs more than compensate for any lack of feel. Most game improvement irons you see for sale today re cavity-backed.
Thin club face
A thin club face does two things for a high-handicapper. One, it allows for even greater perimeter weighting as the thin face carries little weight. Two, the thin face encourages a rebound effect that could give golfers a bit of added distance.
You need to be careful with thin club faces. Cheaply made clubs with thin faces could easily have uneven faces, creating dead spots or hot spots on the face. Since greater consistency is the goal, that could create a problem instead of solving one.
Large club head
It should stand to reason that a large club head will have a larger sweet spot. As discussed earlier, a large club head might take away from feel. Don’t let that stop you from purchasing large-faced irons.
There is a second compelling reason to like this style. A larger club head imparts greater confidence in the person holding the club. The large head makes it easier to avoid mis-hits. This greater confidence is not to be dismissed. It may seem like a dubious matter, but greater confidence leads to better shots.
Offset club face
Not every high handicapper will want offset clubs, but there is a benefit. A club is offset when the club head is positioned behind the hosel or neck of the club.
This allows more time for a golfer to square the face of the club at impact, lessening the chance of an errant shot, particularly slices.
Having your hands slightly in front of the ball at impact is a desired position and offset clubs help with this, too. Offset clubs help you avoid slices and also help you get the ball airborne. The ball gets into the air quicker due to a lower center of gravity.
Some iron sets have a progressive offset, meaning longer clubs will have a greater offset since those clubs are the ones more likely to produce a slice. The effect of offset clubs is greater in drivers than irons, but is still helpful in the latter.
That low CG is a boon to a high-handicap golfer, particularly senior golfers.
The loft of golf irons has gradually increased over the years, as players continue to seek out greater distance. The problem with this is that irons with a reduced loft creates a problem with getting the ball into the air.
This is especially true if a golfer is lacking in swing speed.
To combat this, golf manufacturers have moved the CG of a club lower and lower over time.
There are a small number of high handicappers who create plenty of speed in their swing. If you are among these high-ball hitters, a low CG might not be right for you.
Moment of inertia is a measure of how much a club resists twisting at impact. You do not need to know the technical details of how MOI is measured. Just know that higher is better for high handicappers. The less twist you have in your irons, the more forgiving those clubs will be.
Think of it this way. A club is going to twist some due to the force of impact with the ball. As you hit the ball further away from the sweet spot, the greater this twisting will be, resulting in shots far off your target line. A high MOI helps combat this.
All perimeter-weighted irons will have a high MOI. The more weight there is on the edges, the greater the MOI.
Again, we are sacrificing some feel for consistency, which is by far more important for high handicap golfers.
Now that you know what to look for, we can take a look at some good options. Iron sets will vary upon what they include, usually anywhere from a 3-iron to sand wedge. Often you will see hybrid clubs included that are meant to replace some of the longer irons.
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We begin with a high-quality set of irons that can reasonably be a great choice for any level of golfer, especially when you are looking for game improvement.
High handicappers will benefit from the technology that allows for a stiffer club at the edges that focuses flexibility on the face. This, along with perimeter weighting, adds a great deal of forgiveness. Adding to that forgiveness is a thin leading edge that promotes better results from thin shots.
These irons are advertised as long, straight, and forgiving. And they deliver.
As the name suggests, these irons are intended to produce a higher launch angle, producing straighter and more forgiving shots.
An interesting feature of this iron set is that the look of each club changes as you go from the higher-numbered clubs to lower. The lower-numbered clubs are more difficult to hit, so these take on a design closer to a hybrid. That makes the more difficult to hit clubs more forgiving, while maintaining a great deal of feel for the shorter shots.
These irons are made with a hollow construction, making it easier to move the center of gravity lower and to increase MOI.
These clubs are notable in that the 4-7 irons have what is called a “Max Pocket Cavity” intended to produce a large sweet spot and maximum forgiveness. The shorter clubs have a “Deep Pocket Cavity” that gives greater accuracy.
Like others on this list, these clubs offer great forgiveness with excellent distance.
Fancy names and acronyms abound with the technology in seemingly all the irons in this category. None are better than Mizuno’s Harmonic Impact Technology (HIT). Ostensibly, HIT is engineered for maximum feel in a forgiving club. We’ll forgive them if that is wrong, as the acronym is too good.
This set has some interesting characteristics that differ slightly from others on this list.
First, two hybrid clubs replace long irons. This is an excellent choice for most high handicappers. The hybrids are much easier to hit, even though you give up a great deal of feel. Few high handicappers are worried about feel on longer shots requiring these clubs.
Every club in the set is designed to progress from forgiveness on the longer clubs to precision on the shorter ones. The longer clubs also have V-shaped grooves on longer clubs to give less spin, and U-shaped grooves on shorter clubs for greater spin.
These clubs have aluminum in the club heads to help reduce weight and produce a lower center of gravity and higher MOI.
These are highly engineered clubs that may offer the best combination of distance, feel, and forgiveness. You will pay for that luxury, as this is the most expensive iron set on this list. The clubs do deliver, though.
Designed with what Callaway calls a Suspended Energy Core that has a suspended tungsten weight within the head of the club. That weight is injected molded and helps produce a lower center of gravity that high handicappers crave.
The clubs also have a thin face that helps with the “trampoline effect” as the ball jumps off the club face.
You can add hybrids to this set, and those come with Callaway’s Jailbreak Technology, designed for great speed and easy launch.
If the Big Bertha irons are out of your price range, here is an option that is much less expensive.
These are obviously not designed as heavily as its Big Bertha sister irons, but the Steelheads are still a decent option.
Callaway has kept its 360 Face Cup technology that yields a large sweet spot.
The irons are also designed to minimize vibration on contact for greater feel. A low center of gravity means they are also forgiving clubs.
As you can see, just because you are a high handicapper does not mean you cannot use quality irons. What the best choice is for you depends on what you are looking for.
If you want to improve your game, you need a quality set of irons. You can buy something considerably cheaper in price than those listed here, but will likely get what you pay for.
These sets might give greater value, even if they are at a higher price. These iron sets should all last long enough for you to evolve from a high handicapper to a mid-level golfer or even better. While the cavity backs are mostly designed for amateurs, many pros are moving toward them as they realize greater consistency is a great trade for the loss of feel.